The Fall, the Cure and the Jesus Prayer
(Xlibris Corporation, 2010; ISBN: 978-1-4500-1632-2)
Spiritual Alchemy surfaces at a crucial juncture of modern history and intends to serve as a catalyst for humanity’s return to the Christ-centered life. This objective is accomplished in three parts: Part One (The Fall) addresses our need for healing, Part Two (The Cure) focuses on ways to pursue this requisite path to spiritual health, and Part Three (The Jesus Prayer) concentrates on how the Prayer of the Heart exists as the ultimate vehicle for spiritual alchemy.
While an indispensable domain of concentration must always be mankind’s stature amidst the cosmos, awareness of this basic facet of existence seems to be an even more urgent necessity in this day and age. This premise assumes support from developments in what have heretofore been perceived as bastions of Christianity. By way of example please consider how in the United States of America reliance on God as society’s guiding light is being replaced by individual autonomy; as is evidenced via homosexuality being trumpeted as a desirable alternative lifestyle (a recent pro-homosexual film, Brokeback Mountain, has been nominated for seven awards), the insistence on abortion as a right, belief in the self as god/goddess giving rise to a breathtaking increase in New Age involvement (as seen by the phenomenal popularity of Harry Potter books and movies), and other tragic departures from Christ-centered existence. The sweeping mania of Harry Potter serves as an especially revealing development in that the author, J.K. Rowling, acknowledged the fact that over a third of all content involves actual occult practices (cf., 20 October 1999 National Public Radio interview on the Diane Rheim Show). Actually, the seven Harry Potter books trace the seven year Ordo Anno Mundi training in a witchcraft course of studies program.
Consequently, Spiritual Alchemy surfaces at a crucial juncture of modern history and intends to serve as a catalyst for humanity’s return to the Christ-centered life. This objective is accomplished in three parts: Part One (The Fall) addresses mankind’s need for healing, Part Two (The Cure) focuses on ways to pursue this requisite path to spiritual health, and Part Three (The Jesus Prayer) concentrates on how the Prayer of the Heart exists as the ultimate vehicle for spiritual alchemy.
This pilgrimage through the landscapes of our human condition commences in Part One (The Fall) with a brief snapshot of man’s pre-Fall state in order to both explicate our primordial mode of existence and to erect a paradigm for us to pursue. When apprehending the way of being into which God created us we then possess a glimpse of His intent and can then endeavor to return to the Garden.
Having outlined mankind’s condition in the Garden of Eden’s pre-Fall residence, Spiritual Alchemy voyages onward to confront variant consequences of the Fall. An essential component in the struggle for reunification with God encompasses a firm knowledge of what occurred to each and every person at the Fall and Spiritual Alchemy covers this realm with care. The reader will learn that the soul possesses three intrinsic components – the intelligent (knowing), appetitive (desiring), and incensive (fervent) aspects – which were intended to be focused solely on God. From this platform the reader will then encounter how these three parts of the soul were corrupted at the Fall. Further elaboration on this infected turn of events points to not only losing the single focus on God but ventures on to expose the vast array of damage inflicted by this fatal occurrence; including impacts on the body and the soul, such as the heart’s six primary illnesses of ignorance, forgetfulness, hardness, blindness, contamination, and impudence.
In this poisoned, and thusly weakened, condition the enemy gains easier access to inner space and Spiritual Alchemy traces how demons employ this state of vulnerabilrity to pursue their agenda of evil. For instance, the list of eight chief vices – gluttony, lust, avarice, dejection, anger, despondency, vainglory, and pride – are discussed and the five-step cycle toward sin is outlined. The five-step cycle toward sin serves as a particularly revealing movement by which foul attendants of Satan (1) engage in an initial assault by presenting the suggestion of sin, (2) move on to coupling, the stage where we entertain their nefarious approach, (3) encourage consent, or yielding, to evil, (4) secure a capturing, or abduction, of the heart, (5) which culminates in passion, a state wherein evil has become entrenched in the soul. From the soul’s single-minded focus on God (the Uncreated), to it having been scattered onto external (created) things, to enslavement is one consequence of the Fall traced by Spiritual Alchemy.
Having elucidated results of the Fall in Part One Spiritual Alchemy journeys on to investigate different modes of treatment in Part Two (The Cure). That is, once having exposed humanity’s disease Spiritual Alchemy then turns its focus on healing our rnaligned condition. Several chapters go into detail on repairing various parts of our unhealthy being; including the body, soul, nous, thoughts, and heart. The constituency of the mind is discussed and prayer as a curative agency is prescribed, which leads to the actuality of Christ as our supreme Medicant.
Part Three (The Jesus Prayer) possesses a comprehensive colloquy on the Prayer of the Heart. Spiritual Alchemy begins this exposition with some historical framework before then discussing the myriad benefits of reciting the Jesus Prayer. Focus then turns to setting up a daily Jesus Prayer practice in exquisitely detailed fashion while elaborating on our ultimate aim of cleansing the mind via the Jesus Prayer and then inciting its descent into, and purification of, the heart it is Spiritual Alchemy’s treatment of establishing a Jesus Prayer routine that facilitates a greater likelihood of returning to likeness of God.
Mention must also be made of the addenda contained in Spiritual Alchemy. There exists a comprehensive glossary that presents many obscure terms in a readily coherent manner. This glossary is accompanied by, among other things, a bibliography that provides easy reference to additional materials that will further the reader’s journey to reunification.
It is hoped that amongst these most challenging times that Spiritual Alchemy will provide a clear understanding of our common disease; an awareness that will motivate the onset of treatment and which will lead to the transformation of interior terrain. May we ceaselessly call upon the Physician of our souls.
Anthony of the Desert
Florence, AZ (USA)
Discussion opens with an in-depth examination of man’s pre-fall ineffable state of glory in he Garden and painstaking analysis of the myriad infections mankind contracted when single-minded focus on movement toward God became disrupted; the heart’s illnesses, darkening of the nous, evil thoughts, and passions are topics of profound scrutiny.
The text then explores cures that have been established by our Holy Eastern Orthodox Church and its spiritual physicians (i.e., the Church Fathers); ascetic practice, prayer, sacraments, and extensive quotations from the Church Fathers comprise the essence of this discourse.
The final area of conversation presents the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”) as our ultimate curative. The historical background of the Prayer has been covered and comprehensive treatment on the Prayer of the Heart resides in this component of Spiritual Alchemy; thus, an excellent understanding of this ancient medicant will be possessed.
Sample – Chapter 6 – THE FALL OF THE NOUS
Generally, the term “nous” speaks of the power of the soul but has also included essence (heart) and energy (thoughts and conceptual images). The Church Fathers mostly referred to the nous as the heart and/or the soul, without having excluded other designations. Moreover, the terms nous and soul – as well as nous and heart, nous and intelligence, and nous and reason (or attention, as a more subtle form of reason) – are often used interchangeably. However, the more accurate patristic definition of nous, as proffered by the early Church Fathers, is “the eye of the soul.” This means the soul’s power and purest part.
The natural state of the nous encompasses unification with the nous of Christ (which our nous pursues through constant remembrance of God) and dispassion, where the nous repels every thought that is contrary to God’s love. When sick, the nous becomes contaminated by the senses and withdraws from the heart. This demonstrates how the nous can be changed by any conceptual image that it accepts, an actuality that results in the defilement of and the leading astray of the entire soul. Thus, the nous determines our condition and when sickened the term “darkened” is used to describe its state.
There are three movements of the nous:
- Natural: Where the nous gains awareness that it has been the cause of evil and confesses all sins to God.
- Unnatural: When the nous forgets God and fights against others, a state in which the nous believes that it has been unjustly treated.
- Supranatural: Where the nous rises and finds the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the nous can either be concerned with material things, or derailed by conceptual images of them, or it can identify with the divine and lose configuration and form altogether. That is, the nous is either moving toward illness or toward puritication, it is never static.
Before the Fall the nous was able to clearly perceive God and the intelligent aspect of the soul expressed these experiences of the nous in comprehensible terms. The intelligent power – as logiki/logistikon, or as the Word (Christ, being the Word or Logos) – of the soul submits to the Logos, which occurs as the mind turns what the nous experiences into “thinkable” concepts (thoughts, or logismoi). This can be envisioned as God revealing to the nous and mind, which then records the revelatory experience in intelligible forms.
Tragically, after the Fall the nous became hidden by the passions, was overcome by darkness, and the intelligent aspect of the soul rose above the nous to usurp the nous’ position as the dominant inner force. The nous sickened, or darkened, and the soul’s intelligent power assumed the role as man’s source of existence. This corruption has manifested as pride, arrogance, and egoism, all of which culminate in judging the sins of others (ref., Mt. 7:1-5) as a way by which to institute the intelligent power’s pseudo-superiority.
The need to return the nous to its pre-Fall state of purity and single preoccupation with God is readily visible when distinguishing between human and divine knowledge. Human knowledge, being confined to matter, is inferior and useless. Thus, we must exchange matter for spirit through an absolute reliance on God which, in part, requires shunning the temptation to pose scientific or philosophical questions such as “what is truth” and to instead ask “Who (God) is the truth.” Consider how philosophy misbelieves that only what is uncreated can be immortal, a fallacious precept that aids in explaining philosophy’s errant view of the body as created (material) and mortal and the soul as uncreated (i.e., from the realm of ideas) and immortal. This misconception includes the Platonic theory of the soul having fallen from the world of ideas and then becoming imprisoned in the human body. According to this incorrect belief the salvation of souls occurs when an “uncreated” soul gravitates back toward God after having been eternally freed from the prison of the body. Orthodoxy espouses the authentic state of reality: humans (a soul and a body) as immortal, from God’s grace rather than as a product of nature, and created yet living eternally either in unity with or separated from God.
Obviously, care must be taken to contrast philosophy, as a product of the mind and human action, with Eastern Orthodox Christianity (revelation from God). Orthodox theology is the Word of God, as opposed to the manufactured words of one’s mind that are unable to speak to the soul. Consequently, “theology” that is taught like a science is usually only understood externally and this kind of doctrine is fraught with uncertainty and questions (since the mind is unable to grasp the divine). Conversely, the most prevalent disease of the West, the spiritual malady of rationalism, merely trusts the conclusions of one’s fallen nature and logical mind; which can be summed up by Rene Decartes’ postulate of “I think, therefore I am.” Modern rationalism results in the belief that our thoughts are who we are, that we are the sum total of our thoughts, and this compels placing an absolute trust in any and all of the mind’s imaginings – the misguided idea that since they “are us” we must take a stand for and defend them as if they were our own flesh and blood. Moreover, modern rationalism, and its devastating spiritual consequences, is the prime fallacy of today’s worldview in that it is precisely by placing absolute trust in the formulations of the fallen human nature – rather than in divine revelation – that the modern West has come to water down or abandon the once cherished Christian faith; western man has undermined the apostolic faith with his logic.
As has now been evidenced, eventually the corrupted intelligent aspect of the soul will reject God (being unable to any longer apprehend God) or will guide one into mistakenly believing they are a god. This unmasks the fatal danger of attempting to theologize via the fallen human intellect (i.e., by a philosophy and a darkened nous, see 1 Co. 2:14). To be ruled by reason exists as the very foundation of all internal and extemal anomalies, the soul’s intelligent power must be restored to its proper function as the interpreter of the nous. Only then can obedience to God’s will ensue, only then will the renouncing of one’s own life/will become possible, an occurrence that will then facilitate the cure of interior illness and transformation of the inner world.