Eastern-orthodox-Christianity

A German Wehrmacht soldier shows a Greek Eastern Orthodox monk a Greek-language copy of the Wehrmacht published Signal magazine atop of Mount Athos. Signal was a modern, glossy, illustrated photo journal and army propaganda tool, meant specifically for audiences in neutral, allied, and occupied countries. Mount Athos and the entire peninsula is exclusively home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries under the direct jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople. Following the German invasion and occupation of Greece in April 1941, the Epistassia, Athos’s four-member executive committee, formally asked Hitler to place the Autonomous Monastic State under his personal protection, a request with which the Führer gladly complied. In gratitude for his protection, the monks displayed and revered Hitler images, including a portrait that hung directly in the center of a wall of paintings in the great reception room of St. Panteleimon monastery. Mount Athos, Athonite monastic state, Greece. July 1943.  

The Cross is the guardian of all the world, the Cross is the beauty of the Church, the Cross is the might of kings,the Cross is the support of the faithful, the Cross is the glory of the angels, and a scourge to demons.

Weekday Exaposteilaria for the Cross

Illumination of the Heart: Yogic Chakras and Hesychast Spirituality

     The life of the spirit is a very abstract and understated experience for many. We are continually exposed to teachings about the spirit and how it is interconnected with the nature of our very identity and existence. We question whether this physical existence is all that comprises our being, or if there is more to our very essence. These questions seem to focus on whether there is more to our physical reality than meets the eye, and what that means for the possibilities that reside within us. When we ponder these questions of man’s spiritual nature, we wonder if there is a way to understand and comprehend such possibilities if they truly do exist. If we want an answer specifically within a spiritual or religious context, then we may be able to find some answers in teachings that may seem archaic, but still have proven valuable today.

            Spiritual disciplines have not only been apt vehicles in disseminating philosophical and ethical teachings, but have also been useful in answering significant questions of how to understand our intrinsic nature, or “inner self”. Yet, even though we are made aware of the spiritual nature of our existence, how are we then to properly understand and access it? There are many different ways that the answer to this question has been characterized through unique methodologies. Taoism developed the system of meridian points that specifies certain points of spiritual energy which map out the flow of a body’s life force. Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, sets up a system of ten sefirot, which are emanations of God, through which man can come to closer knowledge of the divine presence and seek to reach the ultimate source of God and His holy presence.

            While these have their place within certain spiritual traditions, they are not the primary spiritual methodologies that will be focused on. Within the context of our comparative study between Hinduism and Greek Orthodox spirituality, these two religious traditions also have certain spiritual methodologies that explain certain spiritual processes of physical practice and coming to know the inner self. While Hinduism has yoga and other forms of meditation, the Orthodox tradition has also put forth a number of meditative teachings. There are certain processes and concepts of Orthodox spiritual practice that seem to have parallels within the chakra system of Hinduism. Looked at side by side, the chakra methodology and the synthesis of certain Eastern Orthodox spiritual practices and thought can show a similarity between the two that transcends the confines of their defined religious parameters and find common ground within the soul of man itself.

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            The chakra system plays an integral part in certain types of yoga by helping a person integrate the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of spiritual practice. There are many ways that this system is represented, but the most general representation involves seven circles of different colors that are based at specific points from the crown of the skull down to the base of the spinal column. These are usually viewed as small centers of swirling spiritual energy that help people access their intimate emotional and spiritual potential, but can also be used to access the energy of the universe. While this may all sound somewhat esoteric, it is all used for the sake of expressing our emotional and mental relationship with ourselves and the world, and how we can ultimately express that through a physical manner.

            Thus, the way we act and are able to find balance within our lives has a lot to do with how we are able to understand and manifest our chakras. If we express attachment or possessiveness towards people or things, we are radiating the root chakra’s survival drive in our lives. If we express creativity and uniqueness, the throat chakra is a dominant force in whatever endeavor we may be caught in at a particular moment. Other chakras focus on love, ego, desire, and intuition, all expressing what are usually regular human traits and conditions. These all play a larger role than we normally understand them to though when it comes to the process of spiritual maturation that is a part of us “opening” our chakras. By opening our chakras, we fulfill the potential we have of fully manifesting the certain powers and traits that the chakras are able to provide us, coming to fully understand what we are capable of and the nature of our own character.

            If we are to understand chakras as a methodology of spiritual discipline, we have to be made aware that this methodology also requires discipline and balancing if we are ever to fully grasp the serious side of it. The discipline that goes hand in hand with the methodology is very much like that which the early Hindu teacher, Patanjali, described through his moral principles of yoga. The moral principles are not only precepts that the yogin is expected to follow his life by for the sake of his practice, but are a way that we balance out our own mind and body for the sake of our emotional welfare. To be angry throws our power of transformation into disarray, causing havoc with our self-esteem and power to affect change (e.g. navel chakra). Violence would harm our natural sense of empathy and compassion that the heart chakra provides. As such, the moral principles and the chakra methodology are systems that implore that we become aware of what to do and what not to do in the way we live and act. If a practitioner takes the process of spiritual genesis seriously, they must understand that there are extremes they must avoid for the sake of finding balance in their lives.

Once a practitioner is aware of how to properly approach chakras and the traits and certain powers that each manifest, then the crucial step is to understand the part they play in the process of spiritual realization that is related to Hinduism and yoga. The process of realization the chakras are a part of is one of the many methods that exist within Hinduism which helps a person realize the Oneness of the Universe they are a part of, as exemplified by the merging of atman, or personal self, with the universal and ineffable divine power termed Brahman. This is achieved within the context of the chakra system and yoga by the rising of the kundalini energy to the crown chakra.

Within the yogic mystical tradition, kundalini energy is psychospiritual potential latent within the root chakra. By “snaking” its way up the spine, it acts as an active process of spiritual consciousness along the way, focusing the life force along a stream of spiritual awakening. Where the chakras lie in this process of awakening is as the rhythm that the life force follows along the path towards unity with the divine. The latent potential that is the kundalini uses these foci of spiritual energy as stepping stones, fully experiencing the power of each until the kundalini finds its way to the storehouse of spirituality. By fully experiencing each chakra and the emotions and traits that are identified with it, the kundalini prepares itself for the next stage of the process so that it is not overwhelmed. The practitioner may not be able to handle the power of the ego if they do not first understand the aspects of pleasure and rootedness that are core to our being for example. Once each and every chakra is fully understood, opened, and balanced, the kundalini is able to reach the crown chakra, where the spiritual doorway is open and a “bright illumination” is said to be experienced.

Yogic discipline through focus on the chakras is not the only effective method to come to a sort of illumined union with the divine. Eastern Orthodox Christianity may not have a spiritual methodology that exactly mirrors the chakras, nor does it place focus on the same traits and emotional states that the chakras focus on, though there may be a bit of overlap. Whereas the chakra system and the kundalini are somewhat symbolic representations of the spiritual process and power that is within an individual, the Eastern Orthodox tradition puts more emphasis on the work, learning, and devotion that is worked out by the faithful practitioners. These lead to an elucidation upon the interior realm of the spirit as it progresses along the path that is termed as Hesychia.

Hesychia, or hesychasm as it is usually called, is a process of spiritual growth that “signifies concentration combined with tranquility”. The practice is seen as a quest for inner growth, much how like those who undergo the practice of yoga are seen as practitioners that are on a process of spiritual realization. Hesychasm then becomes a journey of the soul and the body together, the practitioner using the Jesus or Mercy Prayer as a way to keep their attention of the spiritual path and God. The intense focus on prayer that is expected of the practitioner ultimately becomes a way they integrate themselves with the prayer, so that they come to forget individual ego. The focusing of their attention on the presence and mystery of God becomes a way to delve deeper into their inner nature. This is very similar to the way a yoga practitioner can become engrossed in the kundalini process and delve into the many aspects of the chakra energies.

This intense focus on the relationship that one has to Christ and the internal spiritual journey that it begins becomes a deeper process of understanding and maturation that along the way leads to a genuine sense of spirituality that is engendered within the individual by directing one’s whole mind and energy towards God.  Whereas in the chakra methodology this begins a process of balancing within the different chakras by a steady ascension up from the root to the crown, the process of hesychasm can be said to include a process that can be expressed more as purification. This is because the process begins by confronting our amartia, or sin. By overcoming this distancing from God that we ourselves have caused out of our own misunderstandings and fears, we start metanoia or repentance. This is a purging of our materialistic ways that were/are not in line with the ways of the spirit. This transition from a sinful life into the embrace of a new spirituality brings about nepsis, known as the watchfulness of the present moment. Through this, we perceive all that is going on around us, tapping into more of an intuitive way of processing our environment and ourselves. Much like how opening the chakras leads to a healthier and more balanced spirit, the same can also be said of how this threefold process leads to a more perceptive and inherently spiritual attitude.

This growing affinity towards a way of life that is characterized by the practitioner’s inner focus and devotion slowly moves away from the repetition of prayer to the simple understanding of spiritual feeling. We go from having to rely on the words and the process of repentance to a slow realization of the spiritual power that lies within our own conscience, which is very similar to how one moves from the earthly chakras (root, sacral, navel) to the chakras that manifest our more spiritual aspects (heart, throat, third eye). This process is understood as “bringing the mind down into the heart”. This term signifies a letting go of our intellectual and physical capacities to bring forth the power of intuition and deeper devotion to God. This is a focused watchfulness on our part of the prayer and mental power that we can focus on God, acting as a process corresponding to that of the inner illumination the kundalini is said to provide. As our process of repentance deepens and we become more spiritually attuned to our relationship with God, we start to perceive the inherent nature of divine creation that lies within all and ourselves.

This focus on the internal spiritual matter and make-up of the practitioner, consisting of mind and spirit, comes into direct contact and alignment with the body when the nepsis seems to be focused on the whole divine nature of creation from outside and within. This leads to the directing of one’s spiritual energy to God, which is more similar to how the chakra energies of the yogic practitioner seem to ascend to the uppermost crown chakra. For the practitioner of hesychasm, this leads to the realm of nous or spiritual intellect. Nous is the intuitive and mystical mind and vision that the practitioner is able to access through the process of the forgetting of one’s self for the matter of coming into a deeper relationship with God. From nous, the only step then is theosis, or union with the divine. In this state, the practitioner finally achieves their personal relationship and revelation of God. We finally fully experience God as he has been communicated through the Scriptures and teachings by participating in God’s love and truth with our whole being.

Understanding the certain specifics the Hesychia process involves, would there a comparable methodology or form of teaching that can be applied to it as was possible for the chakras? There in fact seems to be examples that suffice for both. Theophan the Recluse, an Orthodox saint, gives a number of precepts, teachings and suggestions throughout The Art of Prayer anthology that are somewhat in line with those of Patanjali. Where Patanjali calls for observance and concentration in meditation, Theophan also instructs those in prayer to concentrate on the heart and God, as well as observing and studying the teachings that accompany their progression as practitioners. Theophan also makes it clear that the process of prayer means that one has to leave behind the realm of self-importance and ego, encouraging us to free ourselves from the perception of our self as a separate entity. This is due to the fact that we need to increase in humility and sympathy to access the deeper powers of prayer that lead us on an ascent towards God.

These teachings give a clear picture of what the path of hesychasm expects out of those who seek union with God, but is there a framework that can neatly summarize and organize the process of spiritual progression within hesychasm as is seen in the chakra system? The answer to this can be found within a poem authored by someone called Theophanis the Monk titled “The Ladder of Divine Graces”. Put simply, this ladder delineates a methodical and step-by-step process whereby spiritual discipline and the act of prayer become integrated into a journey that leads from the words of prayer, to the domain of peace, to the ending of perfection with the divine. This is a change in consciousness that is enacted by divesting ourselves from emotions and attachments that only block the path we journey on. It is a comeuppance that is a continuous pondering of our place in the universe and the way that we use hesychasm to forgo the thoughts and understanding of ourselves that we accepted.

This readies us to delve into the mysteries that are present within the heart of the light that is the presence of God within the practitioner and as the direct reality that we come to comprehend as we peel away the layers of ego and mind. This is akin to the chakra system and the rising of the kundalini energy in that we seek to progress through the understanding of our spiritual character. The chakra system differs though in that it involves a process whereby we can fully integrate and balance our emotions, but in a way that we understand the more subtle aspects of each. The framework of Theophanis contrasts from this in that it seems to be more a denial that regards the yielding of our human nature to a sort of inner divine metamorphosis as the way that brings us closer to understanding. Whether it is through ways of purging or integration, the spiritual paths and methodologies within each tradition are apt outlines and guides to understanding the spiritual journey that practitioners from either tradition may seek to undertake.

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We have seen that there are traditions, practices, and spiritual moments of maturation and realization from Hesychia that coincide with the chakra system, but there are two points that can be specifically highlighted that further illustrate their comparative mystical nature. This has to do with two certain areas that the two seem to overlap in terms of understanding: the heart and the idea of divine light. Within “The Art of Prayer”, the heart is seen as a seat of spiritual consciousness and an important aspect of prayer. It is seen as a seat of intuitive spiritual power that helps rewire our connection with the divine. The heart is the place that brings about humility and compassion and defeats the ignorance of the ego, allowing us to access a sense of freedom that comes from knowing our “inner man”.

This Eastern Orthodox view of the heart aligns with the characteristics and emotions that are assigned to the heart chakra. The heart chakra is seen as repository of empathy and compassion that can be tapped into when we have properly overcome our attachments and feelings of possessiveness which our passions and ego can create. When we have properly balanced this chakra and found the freedom that our compassion affords us, the heart chakra acts as the gateway chakra to the upper chakras that connect more directly with the spirit than the lower three. In both, we find that that the heart is a starting point of where we can purge the focus on ourselves and begin a more thorough relationship with the divine and those around us, recognizing our interconnectedness with all of creation.

The light that the heart is able to provide along these paths of mindful development is what will ultimately lead to the divine light that is at the end of each tradition’s spiritual path. This has already been explained somewhat through the process of the kundalini. When the kundalini reached the uppermost chakra, the crown chakra, the practitioner experiences an illuminating light that is usually expressed as a blinding and dazzling pure light that totally consumes the individual. This is an experience that correlates with the common explanation of the light in Eastern Orthodox spirituality, but is perceived in a decidedly specific way. While we assume that the divine light in the chakra system is an apprehension of the higher spiritual energies of the universe, the divine light is expressed within the Orthodox tradition as the manifestation and perception of the raw energies of God Himself. We are permeated by this divine light as we continue to perceive it, our humanity becoming one with the power of God.

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The journey that results from the questions of what our inner nature consists of is an arduous and somewhat complicated process due to the mental, emotional, and physical challenges along the way. The methodologies of hesychasm and chakras though are two ways that this journey can be comprehended and carried out. Both leading the practitioner down a path of self-discovery, they each implore us to put aside the ego and directly confront the inner self that lies dormant within us and fully come to comprehend or upend the traits and characteristics of ourselves that hinder us from experiencing the illuminating warmth of the presence of the divine. They each set out different ways to begin, but the different paths that each seem to take crisscross from time to time. The opening of the heart to true compassion, the focus on the energies and emotions within us, and the raising of our spiritual energy from the base of our nature to the highest potential possible are all highlights that display two comprehensive methodologies that, whether they are put side by side or not, continue to give seekers a meaningful experience that allows us sight of a higher goal and an enrichment of man’s soul.

Joanna Crosse, Chakras and Meridians, Encyclopedia of Mind, Body, Spirit, and Earth (Boston: Element Children’s Books, 1998) 52

Mary Jo Meadow, “Yogic Chakra Symbols: Mirrors of the Human Mind/Heart”, Journal of Religion and Health, Vol.32, No.1, pp. 67-78 (New York: Springer, 1993)

For an explanation of chakras, refer to Appendix A  before the Works Cited page

“1) When one perseveres in nonviolence, hostility vanishes in its presence…”– Barbara Stoler Miller, Part Two: The Practice of Yoga, Yoga: The Discipline of Freedom, (New York: Bantam Books, 1998) 54

Barbara Kaplan Herring. April 18 2012.  http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/898, pp.4-5

Georg Feuerstein, The Serpent Power: Kundalini-Shakti, The Shambala Guide to Yoga (Boston: Shambala Publications, Inc., 1996) 113-123

Bishop Kallistos Ware, God as Prayer, The Orthodox Way, (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995)  122

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”

Kyriacos C Markides, The Mountain of Silence, (New York: Random House Inc., 2002) 195-197

Ibid. pp. 196-197

Bishop Kallistos Ware, God as Prayer, The Orthodox Way, (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995)  114

Igumen Chariton, The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology, (Boston: Faber and Faber, 2002) 180-191

Dr. Milica Bakic-Hayden, Lecture on March 29th, 2012, Mysticism East and East (University of Pittsburgh Religious Studies Department, 2012)

Igumen Chariton, The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology, (Boston: Faber and Faber, 2002) 180-199

“The journey passes through the several stages of prayer, heart, energy, tears, peace, purging, vision, light, illumination, and perfection.” - James S. Cutsinger, “The Yoga of Hesychasm”, Merton and Hesychasm: The Prayer of the Heart of the Eastern Church, (Sandpoint: Morning Light Press, 2007)

Ibid. 6-7

Igumen Chariton, The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology, (Boston: Faber and Faber, 2002) 186-191

Barbara Kaplan Herring. April 18 2012.  http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/898, pg. 5

Bishop Kallistos Ware, God as Prayer, The Orthodox Way, (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995)  127

Promise of Rebirth and Regeneration

“[T]he Old European sacred images and symbols were never totally uprooted; these persistent features in human history were too deeply implanted in the psyche. They could have disappeared only with the total extermination of the female population."—Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, 318.

August 15 is known to Greek Christians as the date of the Koimisi, "Falling Asleep” or Dormition of the Panagia, She Who Is All Holy. December 25 is a minor holiday in the Orthodox tradition, while Easter and August 15 are major festivals. The mysteries of Easter and August 15 concern the relation of life and death. In Orthodox theology, both Easter and August 15 teach that death is overcome: Jesus dies and is resurrected; Mary falls asleep and is assumed into heaven. These mysteries contain the promise that death is not the final end of human life. Yet this may not be the meaning of the rituals for many of those who participate in them.

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yeah so a bunch of Baptists just came to my door an hour ago and told me that the rapture is coming and that the satanist world order has taken over and has manifested as the democratic party and that im going to burn in Hell (I’m eastern orthodox christian and have the orthodox crucifix on my front door which they could clearly see) and they still put this in my mailbox

I wanted to say something like “im gay” and leave but I’d probably have something like a crucifix burning on my lawn later

it just has biblical verses in it which talk about hell and you’re going to go to hell, unless you sign the back of it and mail it back to them, also just provided the address of the church and more clip art flame graphics

nothing says “join our church” by preaching about how eternal damnation and agony awaits you if you don’t listen to them, rather than the peaceful teachings and the way of life of Jesus of Nazareth

On the Reappropriation of Ancient (Hellenic) Music

One thing I found beautiful about Hellenismos when I first came to it was the vast array of hymns honoring the Gods and telling Their many stories.  When I began to incorporate these hymns and prayers into my worship, I spoke them, but as time went on, I felt the need to sing.  After all, reference to the hymns as actual “songs” comes up again and again from hymn to hymn.

So, I was left with a big question and predicament.  How was I to sing a hymn without any written music?  At first, I was confused and at a loss.  I studied classical music and musical theatre in college, so reading sheet music was something I was comfortable with, but with ancient music from Hellas, there was nothing to be found, at least that I could understand or follow in its written notation.  Despite this barrier, I sang anyway, and I turned to the one thing I knew and grew up with as sacred music, Eastern Orthodox Christian Byzantine Chant.

When I grew up in the Orthodox Church, I sang, and in doing so, I followed the various tones and modes of Byzantine Chant.  This is the sacred music I was used to.  It’s versatile, can be improvised on without notated music on a sheet in front of you, and it’s simply beautiful.  When first starting to sing these chants growing up, I remember being told some of the history of this music.  The Byzantine Chant didn’t appear out of a vacuum.  It is of a composite origin, drawing from Ancient Greek musical harmonies, the “harmonikai” and technical theories from the Classical Period as well as Jewish musical traditions and the monophonic approach to vocal music that appeared and developed in early Greek, Christian cities, including Alexandria, Antioch, and Ephesus.  It was through this understanding, that because Ancient Greek music had at least some influence on Byzantine Chant, that I felt even more empowered singing in this style to the Homeric and Orphic Hymns.  

What I’m doing, in a way, is called “re-appropriation.”  A definition one might find for this is “the cultural process by which a group (such as modern-day Hellenic Polytheists) reclaims terms or artifacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group (such as taking the music of the Theoi-worshiping ancient Greeks and applying it to the early Christian religion).”  The “artifact” I feel like I am reclaiming is the not so small portion of influence of Ancient Greek music found in the Byzantine Chant.  There is much evidence that Christianity appropriated Pagan imagery from hymns, and Ancient Hellas was on the receiving end of that appropriation.  The same can be said for ancient music itself.  So, with all this said, I have pretty much no qualms with incorporating Byzantine Chant into my worship of the Theoi, and I haven’t gotten any messages of displeasure over this choice.

I’m grateful for my Christian past.  It helped form me into a person who deeply values spirituality.  I don’t demonize it, even though I do have major issues with how some Christians act and enforce their dogma on the uninterested these days.  The same sort of attitude can happen in any religion though.  On the whole, I found the imagery, worship, sights, sounds, and smells of Orthodox Christianity to be a beautiful thing.  I’m glad that I’m still singing, even though this “revivalist” aspect to my practice of Hellenic Polytheism is of mixed origin.  At least some of it feels like taking back what rightfully belongs to the Theoi.

Below, you may listen to two very different selections of Christian Byzantine Chant in different “tones,” one in Greek and one in English.  This sounds a lot like how I sing some of the hymns and prayers to the Theoi in my personal ritual and worship.  Then, following that, you will find a reconstructed hymn to Apollon that we do have.  Enjoy.

anonymous asked:

Did you know the "mosque" in Istanbul was originally an christian eastern orthodox cathedral that was taken over and converted into a mosque. Look it up on wikipedia. The truth is that Muslims are not native to Istanbul either, nor are they to anywhere in the middle east north of Israel. All of those places were jewish christian and even buddhist before Arabs invaded and forced the people they colonized to convert to Islam. The only place Islam is native to is the Arabian peninsula.

Even Afghanistan has statues if Buddhas