The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios
Posted by Wayfarer
Tue May 5, 2009 06:56:31 PDT
I just finished a magnificent book. It is titled The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios
It is the gripping and true story of a young man and his search for the truth. Like many people, the young man was a product of a secular environment and in his search for true spirituality; he encountered many bizarre people who were peddling many strange philosophies. However, he was blessed to have met Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain. A true Holy man and modern Saint. Although he was instructed in the Christian Faith by a Saint. The young man traveled to India to compare Orthodox Christianity and its faithful to yogis and their devotees. I will finish the discription here because, I do not spoil the enjoyment of future readers. However, I would like to share this part were the young man experiences for himself the allure of darkness, and the blessing of the Light. Enjoy;)
One day, sometime after my experience with “my friend” ( the demon that was possessing him that Elder Paisios exorcised ) in the elders yard, I asked the elder about the yogis. By that time, I had become convinced that the yogis worked in cooperation with demons – but I couldn’t understand how it was possible for anyone to make such a choice. “Elder, I just can’t understand why they would want to be evil men. They are intelligent, educated people with many abilities. They don’t have any reason to be evil.” The elder looked at me and shook his head, but didn’t say anything. Shortly afterwards, as planned, I left the Holy Mountain ( Mt. Athos the monastic republic in Greece) in order to be with my family for Pascha ( Easter ) which we would spend in my childhood home of Florina, to which my parents had returned in their retirement.
& nbsp; One afternoon at the beginning of Holy Week ( the week preceding Orthodox Easter ), having made a stop in Thessaloniki, I was by myself in our home there, when, suddenly, my surroundings vanished. There were no images to be seen, sounds to be heard, or objects to be touched. My five senses had ceased functioning. It was as though the light switch had been flicked and the room plunged into total darkness.
& nbsp; My mind turned its full attention to a spiritual realm that it found utterly riveting and captivating. In one direction, I saw a soft but intense light – brilliant but gentle. In the other direction, I saw a thick, cavernous darkness. Initially, I turned my attention towards the awesome, yet fearful, darkness. It made my flesh crawl, but I was overcome by curiosity, the desire to understand what it was. My mind advanced towards the darkness. It had vast power and, if I dare put it this way, a certain grandeur. It represented a negative perspective on reality, unhesitatingly extending into reality as depth, even as the light stretched infinitely into reality as height. On one side , there was immense love; on the other immense hatred. The light was overflowing with unconditional altruism, while the darkness pulled away in utter self-centeredness.
& nbsp; Though I couldn’t see into the darkness, I could feel the presence of souls in it, leaping about, and shrieking with insane, wicked laughter as they were pulled deeper and deeper into the ocean of darkness, until the sound of their voices disappeared altogether. Frightened by this savage madness, I headed towards the light, seeking it’s protection. Just reaching its outskirts, I felt the relief of having been rescued from a grave danger.
& nbsp; Although I didn’t advance very far at all into the darkness, I was able to feel the depths of its evil ocean. I could understand the very essence of the enticing power of sin to tempt, as well as its laughable powerlessness, utter dependence, and shadowy nonexistence. The darkness, I saw, is fearsome when it has won you over, but it is absurd and feeble when you reject it --- it can not defeat even a small child if he does not fall on his own. In the same way I didn’t advance far into the light --- only so to speak, skating its edge --- but even there I felt confident and comforted by a fullness of life, peace, joy, and knowledge. The light loved me greatly in spite of my unworthiness and granted me its gifts I never dreamed existed. At this point, I realized that the light created the world and every living being. The existential space in which each person dwells is itself a creation fashioned by the light, which also fills and permeates these spaces. On being decided to stay outside of the existential space created by the light, thus creating a sort of space for itself, though only by denying the light, turning from it, and driving it away. The darkness has no existence of its own, but only denies the ever-existing and sovereign light. That is to say, the existence of darkness would have been impossible without the existence of the light; though the light had no need of the darkness for existence, for its existence is self-sufficient. The light respected the free decision of its creation to reject it, and so kept its distance. In this way, a dark existential space made its appearance---the darkness, in this sense became a reality.
& nbsp; The darkness resulted from the inclination of a conscious being, called Satan, who chose such a form of existence though he had no reason to. And this denial made the darkness a reality. Although this act of denial may have resembled God’s act of creation, it was not creation, but an imitation of creation performed in reverse. That is the devil tried to behave like God, but, since he did not have the ability to create on his own, he was capable of only denying God’s creation, energies, light, and grace. He pulled away from the very borders of reality and made non-existence a way of being, thus “creating” death and darkness, but all things are filled with light and life.
& nbsp; Just as the light ‘s love wishes to unite all things, being the source of existence and creation, so the hatred of the darkness wants to divide all things, being the source of nonexistence and destruction. Just as the light extends out into infinite beyond, so the darkness seems to extend into its infinite beyond. Just as there is a grandeur about the simple, yet infinite light of God, with all His attributes and energies, so there is a certain grandeur about the blunt, yet apparently infinite darkness of the devil, with all his deep- rooted and ferocious self-destructiveness, full of stubborn and manic rage.
& nbsp; Having come to such realization, I found myself as with a flip of a switch, surrounded again by familiar sights and sounds of my room. Within a matter of minutes, I had a lesson of immeasurable depth. It was not only a revelation beyond word, of subtle differences of profound meaning and great importance, but also --- and even more --- a test and a trial of the deepest inclinations and intentions of my heart, to see whom I would follow and who I would leave behind. Fortunately, although my heart initially moved towards the darkness, it ultimately found repose in the light --- and fortunately, the light still accepted me.
& nbsp; This experience taught me that, just as God surpasses the human mind, so do His works, His creations, and His gifts. On its own, the human mind can only acquire a relative idea about these realities, producing hypothesis, conjectures, opinions, and imaginary presuppositions to justify its views. However aided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, it can begin to fathom these mysteries.
& nbsp; I also received from this experience a deep appreciation of the mystery of human and angelic freedom, a divine gift beyond human understanding. My experience of light and dark helped me to grasp the fact that God endowed angels and men with free will so that they could move independently, freely and without compulsion in the moral sphere. The elder once told me. “God would forgive the devil if he would just say one ‘Lord have mercy.’ There’s a dear old monk near here who used to pray for the devil, because he felt compassion for him. After all the devil was one of god’s creatures --- in fact, he was an archangel before he fell into such a sorry state. While the elder was praying for him, the evil one appeared in the corner and started to make fun of him. The devil is unrepentant.” He concluded. As I would learn latter, this elder was actually Father Paisios. & nbsp;