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Prelest

4 bytes removed, 05:37, June 3, 2017
advices -> advice
Identifying prelest in its particular manifestations is called discernment (or discrimination) of spirits. The virtue of discrimination "is greater than any other virtue; and is the queen and crown of all the virtues".<ref>Philokalia, Vol.2, St. John of Damaskos, On the Virtues and the Vices.</ref> It corresponds to a very high degree of spiritual age and requires "three renunciations" (St. John Climacus): of the worldly concerns, selfishness and vainglory.<ref>St. John Climacus. The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Step 2.</ref> True discrimination comes after a long previous experience of fighting with passions. The source of discrimination is in the action of Divine grace and the virtue of humility.
Professor N.E. Pestov in his book<ref>{{Ru icon}}[http://azbyka.ru/tserkov/duhovnaya_zhizn/osnovy/pestov_praktika_pravoslavnogo_blagochestiya_27-all.shtml N.E. Pestov. Practice of Orthodox Devoutness.]</ref> writes that in general, the safest spiritual path in relation to prelest is to live in obedience to an experienced and holy elder, or at least to live on the advice of others. The fastest way to fall into prelest is the opposite - to trust own thoughts and not to listen to any advicesadvice.
==General prelest and prelest proper==
Teaching can be a king of prelest in the following situations:
* arbitrary teaching and advices advice without being asked (except for the cases when the person was explicitly appointed to teach without being asked);
* teaching someone who is not interested in the topic or who does not have previous experience and knowledge to understand;
* teaching of something that the teacher does not know well, in particular, that he knows only from the books, not from experience;
* arbitrary acquisition of the dignity of a teacher belonging to bishops and priests, e.g. teaching publicly on faith in the church.
One of correct motivations of teaching is the obedience to share information with others according to the commandment "Give to every man that asketh of thee" (Luke 6:30, Matthew 5:42). In particular, Elder Joseph the Hesychast quotes these words in his letters when he explains why he gives advices advice not arbitrary, but only when being asked.<ref>Elder Joseph the Hesychast. Monastic Wisdom. Letters 41,45</ref> The same commandment is mentioned by St. [[Gregory Palamas]] in a letter to nun Xenia when he explains why he decided to give her instructions.<ref>{{Ru icon}}[http://azbyka.ru/otechnik/?Dobrotoljubie/dobrotoljubie_tom_5=18 St. Gregory Palamas. To honorable Xenia about passions and virtues and fruits of noetic doing. Ch. 2.]</ref> St. Ignatius (Briachaninov) also writes about arbitrary teaching that "fathers forbid advising neighbors on own accord, without questioning from the neighbor; unauthorized council is a sign of presence of a consciousness of own competence and spiritual dignity – which is obvious pride and self-deception (Opinion of hieromartyr Peter, Metropolitan of Damascus, and other Fathers. Philokalia, Vol. 3). This does not apply to the rectors and superiors, who are required to teach the brotherhood handed to them at all times and on every encountered need without being asked (2 Tim 4, 2). But when they visit other monasteries, they should be guided by the advice of St. Macarius of Alexandria given to St. Pachomius the Great. Pachomius said to Macarius about the guidance of the brethren and judgment over them. Abba Macarius said, "Teach and judge your subordinates and do not judge anyone outside" (Patericon and Memorable Tales of Abba Macarius of the City, Ch. 2). This rule was and is respected by all the abbots wishing to please God."<ref>[http://lib.eparhia-saratov.ru/books/09i/ignatii/charm/6.html St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov). On Prelest. On Living with Advice.]</ref>
The conceited teacher often does not notice that he does harm to his students because they do not understand, understand incorrectly or even cannot understand at all some subject not having enough experience or knowledge, but the teacher does not cease his teaching. Lord Jesus warns against teaching those who are unprepared and cannot understand: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." (Matthew 7:6). St. [[John Chrysostom]] in the interpretation of these words says that the corruption of life is the reason why the teaching is not understood.<ref>[http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf110.iii.XXIII.html St. John Chrysostom. Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew. VII.]</ref> St. Symeon the New Theologian speaks in a similar way about teaching of something that cannot be understood: "the one who speaks about the ultimate steps of perfection to the novices and especially to the most lazy of them, not only does not help them, but also makes them to go back".<ref>{{Ru icon}}[http://azbyka.ru/otechnik/?Dobrotoljubie/dobrotoljubie_tom_5=2 St. Symeon the New Theologian. Practical and theological chapters. Ch. 160.]</ref> The same idea about teaching of high matters is expressed by [[Apostle Paul]]: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)
* Work therapy.
Nevertheless, as there is no common pattern of development of prelest, there is no universal and suitable for everyone advice for curing it. From the general point of view, fight with prelest is a fight with demonic thoughts mostly containing pride, which, as St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) notes<ref name="ign1"/>, in the deluded persons sometimes changes into deep sadness and desire of suicide. Keeping this in mind, the means of curing prelest should include some means of fighting with sinful thoughts and decreasing their influence on the deluded person. Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain says<ref name="paisios"/> that if a spiritual person trusts his thoughts - that is already the beginning of delusion. Pride darkens the mind and even the prayers of holy people do not help such person. He should understand that keeping such thoughts (like "I am holy", "I am better than others" etc.) in the mind - that is prelest. Such thoughts should be disclosed either to the elder, or to the spiritual father, or to the abbess of the monastery, and then thrown away. Because of that, the first way to get rid of prelest is the Sacrament of Confession. If the person saw any vision, he should tell it immediately to his spiritual father not concealing anything.<ref>[http://www.saintseraphimbookstore.com/?page_id=243 Nun Macaria, The Angel of Light and Spiritual Discernment in the Orthodox Tradition.] The article contains a story about a deluded monk who concealed from his elder the fact of talking with an "angel". Concealment of something from the elder can be a sign of delusion or can cause delusion.</ref> Then the person should follow exactly the specific advices advice of the spiritual father. Other Sacraments are needed as well but sometimes deluded persons are forbidden to take the Holy [[Communion]] by their spiritual father for some period of time, sometimes rather long (1–3 years).
For example, it is written in Patericon of Mt. Athos about one monk who was living with his elder in a skete at Mt. Athos. Because of conceit, he gradually started to fulfill his own will, prayed more and more but without asking his elder about it. Then he was deluded by false visions, almost died and finally revealed everything to his elder. The elder sent him to a monastery and forbade to take Holy Communion for 3 years. The monk started to live there with many brethren, washed dishes and recovered.<ref>{{Ru icon}} Архимандрит Иоанникий (Коцонис). Афонский отечник. 2011. Стр. 352. ISBN 9785985990645.</ref>
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