“God is the life of all beings. He is the salvation of all= believers or unbelievers; of the just or the unjust; of the pious or the impious; of those freed from the fallen passions or those caught in them; of monks or those living in the world; of the educated or the illiterate; of the healthy or the sick; of the young or the very old. He is like the outpouring of the light, the glimpse of the sun, or the changes in the weather, which are the same for everyone without exception.”
– John Climacos
“Abba Mios was asked by a soldier whether God would forgive a sinner. After instructing him at some length, the old man asked him, ‘Tell me, my dear, if your cloak were torn, would you throw it away?’ ‘No’, he replied, ‘I would mend it and wear it again.’ The old man said to him, ‘Well, if you care so much for your cloak, will not God show mercy on his own creature’?”
– Sayings of the Desert Tradition
“Abba Zeno said, ‘If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Because of this action, God will hear all that he is asking’.”
– Sayings of the Desert Tradition.
“They said of Abba Macarius the Great that he became as it were a god on earth because just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults that he saw as if he did not see them, and cover those which he heard, as if he did not hear them.”
– Sayings of the Desert Tradition
“When someone asked Abba Isaiah what avarice is, he replied, ‘Not to believe that God cares for you, to despair of the promises of God, and to hate one’s neighbour’.”
– Sayings of the Desert Tradition
“Abba Anthony said, ‘I saw all the snares that the enemy spreads out over the whole world and I said, groaning, ‘What can get through such snares?’ Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Humility.’
– Sayings of the Desert Tradition
“Do not be afraid to hear about virtue and do not be a stranger to the term. For it is not distant from us nor is it external to us; its realisation lies within us and the work is easy if only we want it. The Greeks leave home and cross the sea in order to gain an education, but there is no need for us to go away.. For the Lord has told us, ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’ All that is needed for goodness is that which is within, the human heart.”
– Abba Anthony the Great
It is a Western Christian, mostly Protestant, and mostly Evangelical and Fundamentalist, heresy–a heresy that has arisen due to Satan the Accuser possessing the innards of those who promote it–to contend that God decided before time to save an elect of humanity, and condemn everyone else. The Lamb Slain Before the Foundation of the World is the foundation of the world because this sacrifice of God commits God to redeeming every hair on every head of every creature who ever has, or ever will, live. All human beings are forgiven by the Cross, or none are. The Cross ends the Satanic division of humanity into good guys and bad guys, winners and losers, saved and damned. If I carry you, if I pay for you, as Christ did with me, you will be redeemed, whatever your inability to respond. For as Christ said to the Apostles, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you release on earth will be released in heaven” [Matthew, 16,19]. Human forgiveness of transgressions, hurts, damage, will not be over-ruled by some supposedly divine predetermination to condemn, or by some divine ‘keeping score’ that takes revenge on human wickedness by divinely punishing it. But the real point is, God has more trust in the human response than we do, and certainly it is the devil’s game to cause us to end up without trust in ourselves. God entrusted the world to the human heart, and God entrusted his heart to the human heart. The Cross declares that both of these foolish trusts in humanity will not be given up on.
Western Christianity has always had the tendency, in its cruellest form, to worship Satan the Accuser as ‘god.’ This is evident in Augustine of Hippo, becomes more so in Anselm and then in Calvin, and reaches its apogee in the Evangelical-Fundamentalist wing of current Christianity. It is not the true Daemonic Father, but it is Satan worshipped in his place who creates the ‘patriarchal’ scenario of the angry, sadistic, murderous ‘god’ out to repay his creatures for defying his dictates; this evil father is only mollified in his thirst for human blood by accepting his son to be punished in humanity’s place—entailing we must either embrace this son as letting us off the hook, or forever remain on the hook, like meat roasting in ever raging flames. As a Greek Orthodox theologian has recently put it, this Western version of Christ’s ‘Atonement’ for mankind entails that in reality it is ‘god’ we must be saved from! The ‘father god’ is out to get us, and by his son taking the heat meant for us, we are delivered from him; he is the real threat to us, not the evil one, not our own foolishness. Speaking of divine love in the context of Western Atonement is simply impossible. The West has always distorted the Jewish Daemonic, making it Satanic.
Eastern Christianity has always had a tendency, in its ascetical and mystical form, to only evade the Satanic patriarchal ‘god’, drooling with glee at the prospect of sending humanity to perdition, by a bias in favour of seeking only the Greek Eros of God: the God who is the Lover of mankind, and seeks union with us. This bias had a vital mission in the ascetical and mystical realm, for it defeated there the Lucifer of false divinisation who is worshipped as ‘god’ in Gnosticism and all the other esoteric and occultist movements, from the ancient world down to Jung. Lucifer inspires us to want to ‘divinise the soul without first sanctifying it’ [Buber’s critique of Jung], and therefore this mystical spirituality goes wrong, becoming a love only of the ‘god’ of one’s own being who transforms it into something special and charismatic, far superior to the humdrum horde and needing no one and nothing else: Luciferianism is an ultimate polishing of one’s own diamond cold and diamond hard ‘Self.’ Such a Self never cries or bleeds for any Other. It has everything, is everything, and can do whatever it pleases, for its only law is to express, and be fulfilled, as a complete, extraordinary, Self. To become such a Self is what it means to be divinised, according to Lucifer, for he is himself just such a pseudo ‘god.’
Moreover, the Greek Eros that is –as St Dionysus established against the loveless impersonality of Neo-Platonism –personal and loving in its ecstaticness, also defeats Western rationalism, puritanism, moralism: none of these dire disfigurements ever got any hold in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Yet, despite these two important victories won by the real Eros, this Eros still contains a problem, for even if it attains the genuinely divine mysticism, and shines a visionary eye on the creation, it is also tempted to regard that sufficient, and therefore to put mysticism in the place of redemption. Redemption can include mysticism as a smaller part of it, but if mysticism is given the bigger part, then redemption is forgotten. This airbrushes the Daemonic out of redemption history. Redemption cannot work only through the Greek Eros, without the Jewish Daemonic. Why? The Eros of God is never in contention with us, and thus appeals to people frightened of the Biblical teaching that there is a very basic contention between God and humanity that must be reconciled. Love understood through the Daemonic is different to Eros. The Daemonic God is in contention with us because we are in contention with our own heart over its ability to be true and to be false to the more paradoxical and problematic love revealed by him.
What is really at issue in the contention of God and humanity in the heart is shown in the Biblical story of Jacob. Abraham encounters the Daemonic as sacrifice, yet it is Jacob who is hurt and injured by it, but wins its benediction only from this wounding [Genesis, 32, 24-33]. All night Jacob fights with a mysterious stranger he can neither see nor name, and he does not falter even when the stranger hurts Jacob’s thigh. At daybreak, this dark presence, clearly exhausted, tries to withdraw, but Jacob will not let go of him until he grants a blessing. The fight stops. The man of no name asks Jacob his name, and when told, says it is his name no longer. From now on his name is ‘Israel’, because ‘he has power with God, and with men, on account of having contended with God, and prevailed in battle with a spirit.’ Jacob still demands the stranger’s name, but is not given it: instead he receives the blessing he had sought. Jacob names the place Peniel, for he has seen God ‘face to face’ and not died from it. The whole purpose and meaning of the Jewish people is prefigured in Jacob’s wrestling with the Daemonic. This event reveals the Cross of Christ in its true light as the climax of the entire Biblical history of the wave-tossed and fire-burnt Jewish relationship to the Daemonic God.
We should well understand, in the heart, that this Daemonic God who respects our contending with him, and indeed encourages it, is not prepared to let us play fast and loose with it, but requires us to be honest about it. This is not the Satan who tolerates no deviation from himself, but lays down the law as an action of imposition, and tyranny, over the Other, whom he wants to dominate. Equally, the Daemonic contending between God and us is nothing to do with any Luciferian self-stroking and self-generating that follows its solitary path of ‘the alone with the alone’, which renders the Other irrelevant.
Christians, West and East, need to respond to both the right hand of God, Eros, and the left hand of God, the Daemonic, not split them, and not distort each arm by denying its relationship with the converse arm. The Biblical teaching honours both, but it makes the left side primal, and the right side dependent upon it: through the fight in the Daemonic, the marriage in Eros.
Eros: A light that beautifies what it embraces is itself beautiful.
Daemonic: A dark that destroys what is destroyed to remake it is the supreme love beyond all words, for which no gratitude is adequate.
Kazantzakis on Eros: “I said to the almond tree, ‘Speak to me of God’, and the almond tree blossomed.”
Kazantzakis on the Daemonic: “The doors of heaven and hell are adjacent and identical.”
In Hebrew, ‘justice’ [tsedaka] is related to ‘mercy’ [hesed], and both to ‘fidelity’ to truth [emeth]. This is the heart of God that fights the heart of humanity—to make humanity stand up, and grow to God’s stature.