Delusion: Proverbs 12:8-22, especially vs. 17: “The ways of undiscerning men are right in their own eyes, but a wise man hearkens to counsels.” We should pity those self-assured people who brazenly assert that they hold the correct opinions about everything! How often do we meet people who confidently publish their views concerning everyone else’s problems (vs. 17), tossing out insensitive and hurtful words along the way (vs. 15). Sadly, many such people base their thinking on current popular ideas that suit their fancy – or twist their interpretation of events to fit their own reality (vs. 21).
Saint John Chrysostom characterizes this type of person as one who “sees everything as a vision . . . sees nothing in its true light, but is full of dreams, and oftentimes unreasonable actions; and if he sees anything good, he has no firmness, no fixedness” (Homily 9 on First Thessalonians 5:6-8, NPNF vol. 13, First Series, p. 363). Many find it much easier to adjust the facts to suit themselves than to face life.
Saint Gregory of Sinai explains why this is so: “The mind has in itself a natural power of dreaming and can easily build fantastic images of what it desires in those who do not apprehensively pay attention, and so cause themselves harm. Memories, too, of good and bad things will often and suddenly imprint their images in the mind, and thus entice it to dreaming” (Writings from the Philokalia on the Prayer of the Heart, p. 81).
Furthermore, according to Saint Gregory, “human self-will is easily inclined to the enemies’ side, especially in the case of the inexperienced, since these are more assiduously pursued by them. All around, near to beginners and the self-willed, the demons are wont to spread the nets of thoughts and pernicious fantasies and prepare moats for their downfall” (p. 80). Let us tremble!
Saint John Chrysostom reminds us of the vast “mysteries and secrets of which [God] has made us partakers” and warns, “It is not possible for us to understand [these] otherwise than by being partakers of the Holy Spirit, and by receiving abundant grace.” This caution echoes the words of the Apostle Paul: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Cor 2:12).
These teachings underscore the fact that we have received superior truths from Christ, which are far greater than anything the self-confident person can imagine, since he “does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (1 Cor 2:14). We have a priceless endowment in “the mind of Christ” (vs. 16), if we will but turn to Him in our struggles in life.
Indeed, it is essential for us, as Christians, to be conscious of our limitations and of our dependence on the Holy Spirit that moves in the Church. If we attempt to live life on our own terms, we quickly discover how easy it is to err. This is why the wily enemy constantly invites us to operate “right in [our] own eyes (Prv 12:17).
Saint Theophan the Recluse points out that too often we unwittingly act against ourselves by failing to go “for advice and guidance to the teachers of righteous life.” The wise servant of God relies on “the good judgment of his teachers, his priests in the parishes in the case of laymen, experienced startzi [elders] in monasteries” (Unseen Warfare, p. 165). These wise teachers are God’s gifts and help save us from the delusion of the enemy. Let us walk humbly before God!
O Master, deliver me from bondage to the enemy; open the eyes of my understanding that the light of Thy Gospel may shine brightly in me to keep me from delusion and evil vision. – Service of Baptism