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ON SUPERSTITIOUS BELIEFS

In all times, there have been magicians/mages, sorcerers, and seers. Today, most mages insist that their gift is from God. In Russia, they employ crosses, icons, and prayers. Nonetheless, to link the words Orthodox and extra-sensoric [one who claims a gift of extrasensory perception, ESP] would be absurd.

This is a spiritual substitute, the age-old reception of the demonic disguised as Orthodoxy so as to attract clients, says Hieromonk Anatoly (Berestov), who directs the work of the St. John of Kronstadt Spiritual Assistance Center in Moscow. Thousands of victims of magic have turned to the center over the course of its existence. There have also been cases in which practitioners of witchcraft, clairvoyance, and sorcery have sought the help of the Center. They repented of their sins, confessed, later participated in the rite of renouncing occultism and being joined to the Church.

No other civilized country has as many magicians and sorcerers as there are in Russia. Moreover, the statistics take into account only the numbers of folk healers. No one has compiled statistics on the numbers of witches, sorcerers, seers, and babas [old women considered to be ogresses].

According to Victor Makarov, a doctor of medicine, a professor, and the president of Russias League of Professional Psychotherapy and of the Asian Psychotherapy Federation, In Russia today, there are approximately 4,000 physicians/psychotherapists and about 30,000 psychologists involved in psychotherapy, and there are about 500,000 practitioners of ESP, warlocks, and sorcerers who in our country are referred to as folk healers. By that measure, we are quite competitive with the African continent and with a number of countries in Asia.

Go to any folk healer, and he will invariably tell you that you have had a hex put on you. He will also suggest who has done it to you (so that you might then suffer years of unremitting hatred toward that person). Also, he will immediately comfort you by offering to remove the cursed spell by means of folk medicine, a field in which he has achieved mastery. However, dont be surprised if after undergoing such treatment, you wind up in a psychiatric hospital.

Superstition, i.e. vain faith that is of no real use to ones soul, is a kind of spiritual disease. Without fear of exaggeration, it can be compared to narcotic addiction. It comes into being where there has been a weakening in true knowledge of faith and of spiritual life. Faith without understanding very quickly turns into superstition, i.e. into a quite strange amalgam of disparate opinions, finding room for both Angels and demons, and even for the Lord God, but lacking any understanding of repentance, battle against sin, or transformation in ones way of life.

The superstitious person believes that his personal happiness depends upon how successfully he can fend off evil powers. Any understanding of Gods love, Gods will, or Gods providence, is entirely alien to that concept. Such a person neither knows nor wants to know that sorrows and sufferings allowed by God are manifestation of Gods love for us, are a means to educate us, are something that enables one to recognize his own weakness, to sense and recognize that Gods help is essential, and to repent and change ones life. How such sorrows visit us does not matter whether through illness or loss of loved ones, whether as the result of a tragic event, or through sorcerers slander. Does this mean that warlocks, wizards and sorcerers really do exist, and that they can inflict harm?

Yes, the connection between satanic forces in the guise of magic, sorcery, and curses, and the practice of healing, has existed since ancient times; to deny that would be the same thing as denying the existence of the prince of evil himself, the devil. However, we must remember that neither a sorcerer nor Satan himself can exert any influence on us unless that is something permitted by God, something that always has a very concrete purpose to strengthen a persons faith and bring him to the recognition that God alone is our only Helper.

God is wise and merciful, while the devil is cunning and insidious. Yes, many omens come true, and fortunes prove correct. However, the Lord warned us, let it be unto you according to your faith. What you believe in will be what guides you along lifes path, and what directs you in life. That is self-evident. At every day and every hour, the Lord tests our faith in our life, our works, our actions, and our responses to what happens to us and around us. If our faith has descended to the level of superstition, then the Lord often allows what was presaged in signs and omens to come to pass, and the magicians charms and curses to have an effect, so that a person of little faith might be enlightened, might open his spiritual eyes to his sins, passions, and vices, and clear away the filth. However, the superstitious person does not want to admit that. Quite the contrary: he is quite satisfied with his sinful way of life, and does not want to change it. That is why he gets the evil idea that, as he is a good person undeserving of sorrows, it follows that someone is ruining his life. In that regard, the superstitious person thinks that if sorrows and woes have entered his life through a mystical action, a different action will set everything right, and he will go on living in clover, in the same sinful manner.

Here it is essential to turn our attention to the kind of people who spread this kind of superstition. In these matters ignorant little old ladies make up only a very small percentage. In the main, this is a well-known army of warlocks, magicians, extrasensorics, parapsychologists, healers, astrologers, fortune-tellers, soothsayers, false messiahs, false prophets, hypnotists, and a wide variety of sectarians. What an array of miracles these servants of darkness employ in their attempts to buttress their authority! Healing on demand before the eyes of the amazed crowd, predictions of future events, resolution of family conflicts and romantic difficulties, etc. There is no method they will be too squeamish to employ to gain peoples trust! They lie about supposed blessings from priests or even bishops, but for some reason never allude to a blessing from a Buddhist lama, Roman Catholic priest, or a rabbi from some synagogue. They employ little icons, crosses, and prayers. Sometimes, these healers themselves adopt quite a religious appearance.

Often these people send their victims to be baptized, or have them go to confession and communion. This is a very subtle measure, a step taken to distract the most skeptical and suspicious person. It creates the illusion that the wizard is cooperating with the Church, instills the idea that the person is in the hands of good, benevolent, bright powers, and achieves the most secret goal: trampling and desecration of the holy, and instilling a magical approach to the Mysteries of the Church. It is an approach through which people believe that God is obligated to help them in response to some external ritual action: lighting a candle, reading a prayer, going through the formality of confession or the formality of communion. It is hard to watch oneself, to try to correct oneself, to seriously internally prepare for the Mysteries of the Church; it is easier to go through some formality, and then expect God to work a miracle. Many people want to meet a starets (an elder) and a clairvoyant, and they dream of getting into the hands of a priest who performs exorcisms. All this, so that with one or two visits to such people, they might quickly rid themselves of lifes sorrows. We must remember that such a path will not lead us to see our sins, to repent, or to truly commune with our loving God.

As is well known, in faith we give up our will to the one in whom we trust. God calls us to submit our will, for our own good, to His holy direction. This is to say that God calls us to live according to His commandments. One could compare those commandments to a physicians orders. Suppose the doctor says that when you have a stomachache you must avoid certain foods; no one would see that as a restriction of our free will. Likewise, in His commandments, God helps us to recognize that it is our sins that inflict harm upon the soul, and helps us to avoid committing them. In placing faith in an extrasensoric, we submit our will to him, and thereby relinquish our freedom. Thus, through healers and superstitions, the forces of darkness gain access to the souls of their victims. Even God, the Creator and Giver of Life, does not violate our freedom of will. He says, I stand and knock, and He enters only into an open, pure, believing heart. Satan strives to take every possible means to have us submit to him, but is impeded by Gods concern for us.

The sorcerer, the worker of magic charms, turns himself over into the hands of the devil. Unfortunately he becomes, while yet alive, a child of perdition and damnation. Often he trades on the illnesses and woes of unfortunate people, and counts on their wanting healing, by any possible means, the quicker the better. Disguising themselves, magicians of all stripes shift the center of gravity of all discussions and accusations away from themselves. Thus a perception is firmly rooted: that there are two different things - black magic and white magic. In fact, Christians understand that there is but one magic of the devil and that no different shades or colors are involved.

Extrasensorics vehemently insist that the serious consequences of their craft (loss of the faculty to reason, disturbance of spiritual state, depression and many other things) are the result of work by unqualified, amateur ESP practitioners. But it is not the work of dilettantes that is at the root of the problem. It is that one cannot make contact with demonic forces without sustaining harm, just as one cannot touch a high-tension electrical cable without suffering harm. It is essential to note that even if one who has dealings with healers does not sustain spiritual damage, he does at the very least contract a spiritual disease, some kind of contempt for and enmity toward certain people, a sense of smugness, vanity and pride.

The awful phenomenon of serving the devil is becoming increasingly commonplace. Sorcerers appear on the radio and on television. Others boast of being hereditary wizards, of the fact that their ancestors had horns. From their advertising posters, their otherwise externally seemly faces look out through evil piercing eyes. They print massive amounts of literature, and there are schools for sorcerers and extrasensorics. It is important to remember that while the names they think up for themselves are varied, the foundation of their work is one.

In conclusion I would like to call upon all the faithful children of the Church to consider the fact that to a great extent we are also guilty of this growing abomination. If each faithful Christian were but to warn their unchurched friends and relatives, dissuade them from taking that dangerous step, tell them about the true Orthodox view of the world, and direct them to take their misfortunes and sorrows to church, the frightening rate of growth in the numbers of worshippers of Satan would not be so enormous. What we have now is that, using the seemingly innocent and harmless sins of superstition, belief in omens etc., the enemy of the salvation of mankind is continuing to pursue his destructive campaign. There is an all-too-close connection between faith in black cats, empty buckets, the evil eye, charms and hexes, and direct Satan-worship.

How then can we rid ourselves of hexes and charms?

First of all, by utterly forgetting about them. Secondly, by recognizing that the real misfortunes and woes that beset us are the result of a sinful life, and that the action of Gods grace calls us to repentance. Thirdly, by responding to that call and entering under the protection of Christs Church not on the level of attending s?ances of confession, but rather, with a sincere desire to heal ourselves of our sins, with the intention to whole-heartedly accept the Churchs instructions, its teachings with respect to the faith and to piety, and with a desire to commune of the grace of the Mysteries of the Church, Mysteries that heal and grant us birth into a new life in Christ.

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