Another example is the greatly increased interest in Eastern religions, which in these past two or three decades have become tremendously fashionable. Now there are Western-born, American and English gurus and Zen masters, and so forth. And people take it quite seriously. All these Eastern things have become quite an American institution, with people bowing down to the ground before Maharaj-ji and others who proclaim themselves to be God. This has been quite unheard of until the last two or three decades. And these are ordinary, idealistic Americans who are quite capable of bowing to the ground before Maharaj-ji.
Interest in Eastern religions has been present for a hundred years and more in the West, and has been gaining especially in the 20th century; but it has always been a fringe movement in society, and only in the last decade or so have we seen the institution of native Western temples and monasteries, with seemingly normal American young men and women bowing to the ground before Buddhist and Hindu gods…
Eastern religions have obviously gone deep into the Western soul. Their appeal is understandable: Western Christianity, especially Protestantism but also Catholicism in recent years, has been deprived of the element of the true worship of God which Orthodoxy has, and the human soul feels empty. Also, most Eastern religions offer a rather simple kind of “peace” through meditation or chanting which is not as demanding as true Christianity, since the latter gives one a peace not of this world and prepares one for eternal life in a Kingdom not of this world.
In Western Christianity – because the element of the true worship of God which Orthodoxy preserved has been lost – there has occurred a reaction, which takes the form of the searching after signs. This is very strong in the “charismatic” movement. Quite a few spectacular things happen: people speak in tongues, they give so-called prophecies, there are some kind of “healings,” and so on. These are not in accordance with what we Orthodox Christians know of real spiritual life. It is a whole false outlook on spiritual life, which causes people to seen these things and to attain them.
And of course, there “transcendental meditation” and other such ways of seeking “peace” – a this-worldly feeling of contentment which has nothing to do with true spiritual striving.
Then one could name all kinds of occult and paranormal phenomena which are so prevalent in our times. Research into various kinds of extrasensory perception (ESP) is very strong in the Soviet Union, probably much more so than in America. In the Soviet Union, people who claim to be atheists allow and in fact promote research into things like mental telepathy, hypnotism, faith-healing, prophecies, auras of plants and humans, the action of mind over matter, etc. They take special photographs, attempting to see the boundary between matter and psyche. All kinds of weird things come up in the midst of these experiments. One contemporary psychic, Uri Geller, whom you have probably heard about, is able to bend spoons by looking intently at them, and he claims he gets his power from beings in outer space.
Some people, of course, hear about this and laugh. They think it is very funny that people are so stupid as to think things like that. But the phenomena which are occurring are quite real. The descriptions which people give of them have a remarkable similarity to what we Orthodox Christians know in the ancient Lives of Saints – especially the descriptions of phenomena given by people who claim to be abducted by UFO spacecraft and so forth. Whatever you might think about these stories, what they describe is exactly what we have heard described in Lives of Saints as to how demons operate, i.e. their remarkable ability to switch from matter to psyche, to instantly vanish or appear, or to move very quickly from one place to the other. This is the way the demons operate, and this is the way these so-called space beings operate also. It is very interesting that demons come back into modern history through this means.
The subject of the flying saucers – the UFOs – is very much part of the atmosphere of our times. Science-fiction literature is very popular both in the free West and in the USSR. Several recent movies with science-fiction themes have been enormously popular: several years ago there was 2001: A Space Odyssey and the television series Star Trek, and just now there is Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Therefore, whether or not there are actual flying saucers and flying-saucer people, this phenomenon is a significant indicator of what people are feeling and thinking now.
One sober investigator has examined in great detail many of the best cases of supposed sightings and landings of UFOs, and he says that with few exceptions they can be explained by other means, or are fraudulent. He calls UFOs a “fairy tale for grown-ups,” because 20th-century man – i.e. humanist, agnostic, or atheist – has lost other supposed fairy tales.
But at the same time many people claim not merely to have seen them, but to have contracted beings in them and been kidnapped or ridden with them. If one reads a few descriptions of such contacts (this is what is called “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”), reads contemporary science-fiction or sees some of today’s movies, one gets a strange feeling: here are described strange beings, some of them almost human but much more “advanced,” able to do extraordinary things like turning sticks into swords, causing themselves and others to disappear, assuming different shapes at will, flying through the air, probing into the mind, or creating whole imaginary scenes before one’s eyes. Perhaps for modern man this is all “fairy tales,” but for an Orthodox Christian the phenomena which appear in these very popular literary and artistic forms are very familiar – most of them can be found in the Lives of Saints and are often a very realistic description of the way demons act.
Most contemporary men, of course, laugh at the mention of demons – but this is precisely what they are describing and seeing under the guise of “extraterrestrial intelligences” or “flying-saucer aliens.”
Some recent books by Evangelical Protestants suggest that the best explanation of UFOs is that encounters with them – when they are real and not fraudulent – are actually encounters with demons who contact men in accordance with the ideas and expectations of the times. What is significant for us is that many ordinary people today consider it possible or desirable to enter into contact with “advanced beings” from other worlds – this is exactly what demons are, and increased contact with them is precisely one of the characteristics of the period towards the end of the world.
All these are signs of occult or strange spiritual attitudes, which produce what nowadays cannot be called anything but miracles, i.e. something which does not accord with the normal way of natural processes. This is just what is needed to prepare the world for the acceptance of Antichrist, who will come with a great deception, with demonic wonders and miracles in order to deceive people.
Other sources of contact with other worlds and beings are to be seen in contemporary “after-death” experiences and closely related “out-of-body” experiences. Many of these experiences are without doubt real – but people who have them are almost all unprepared to protect themselves against demonic deceptions.
Many followers of the charismatic movement – who do not of course believe in occultism, and in fact are very much against it – nevertheless accept very strange phenomena as being in a Christian context: for example, the modern “gift of tongues.” People involved in these experiences are similarly uninformed about the nature of demonic temptations and apparitions. These experiences have become much more common today than heretofore because the Orthodox Christian doctrine of spiritual experiences has been lost in the West because of the apostasy; and from various modern influences (such as television) men have become more passive and open to mediumistic influences than ever before. Many of these people believe that what they are seeing is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In fact, our times have been called the “New Age of the Holy Spirit. People think this is a sign that Christ is coming soon; however, the actual prophecies of the Scriptures, as well as Holy Fathers of the early Church, indicate exactly the opposite. Christ Himself said in Luke 8:18: “When the Son of man returns, will He find faith on the earth?” That is, the true flock of Christ, at the end, will be very small, and most of the people who call themselves Christians will follow Antichrist. The idea of the “New Age of the Holy Spirit” is, again, a chiliastic idea, looking forward to a this-worldly adaptation of Paradise. Actually, it is the outpouring of the spirit of Antichrist that is being prepared now; true Christians will save their souls by enduring to the end all the trials of the last times.