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Talk 41: Type 1 Deception: Striving for a High Spiritual State

For quite a few decades now there has been an increasing interest in the practice of the Jesus Prayer. A large number of books and pamphlets have been made available to the faithful giving detailed instructions on this prayer, which even include breathing techniques. The main focus of this teaching is to force the mind into the heart in order to acquire prayer of the heart. Orthodox Christians, including beginners, are encouraged to practice the Jesus Prayer with the aim of acquiring unceasing prayer. The question arises, is this always advisable?

In this talk, Father Kosmas mainly uses contemporary saints and elders to explain not only the benefits but also the dangers of the Jesus Prayer, something that is rarely mentioned. Most importantly, he emphasizes that Orthodox Christians must begin the spiritual life at the lowest step and not attempt to reach spiritual states which are beyond their abilities, in order to avoid spiritual catastrophe and even diabolical deception.

The following questions are also discussed: how can the Jesus Prayer lead to self-hypnosis? What is spiritual indigestion? Can it be more beneficial at times to marvel at the spiritual heights of the saints rather than imitate them? Why is it dangerous to interpret events in one’s life? What are the five levels of prayer? Can imitating the saints at times be dangerous? Why did an elder strictly warn Christians not to force themselves to pray?

Other topics covered in this talk include: body heat during prayer; a saint’s positive and negative attitudes toward the Philokalia; the dangers of reading books beyond one’s level; married people and monastic books; sexual lust and prayer; the difference between prayer of the heart and prayer in the heart or with the heart; the danger of fantasy in prayer; and the danger of seeing lights during prayer.