From the book of Metropolitan Hierotheus (Vlahos), “Spiritual landmarks for modern society”:
People who resort to spells and wizards point out as a pretext that they do so because they have special reasons. In fact, this is what is present in every sin. Sin is apostasy from God, alienation from Him, loss of fellowship and connection with Him. But worse than sin is that we justify our actions. The same thing happens in this case we are considering.
What pretext do those who resort to wizards point out?
The first pretext, according to St. Nicodemus of Mount Athos, is that they seek healing from some disease that torments them. They are convinced that in this way they will be healed, they will regain their physical health, which they consider very important.
In response, St. Nicodemus of Mount Athos used many biblical and patriarchal passages to confirm the notion that the devil could not heal people. This follows from the fact that he himself is a murderer and hates man endlessly. How is it possible to heal people when he does not even pity the animals, as is seen in the case when he asked Christ to allow him to enter the swine? Furthermore, he does not cure even the sorcerers and poisoners themselves, who are his servants. Demons cannot feel sympathy for the human body, since they do not feel the same for his soul.
At the same time, demons harm and conspire, not heal. St. John Chrysostom says that the demons are trying to take us out of the Kingdom of heaven and therefore it is not possible to save us from diseases. St. Basil the Great teaches that the devil takes great pleasure in grieving and punishing man in various ways. St. Nicodemus of Mount Athos says on this occasion: “Neither the wolf ever becomes a sheep, according to the proverb, nor the devil ever becomes a doctor; it is easier for the fire to cool and the snow to warm than for the devil to really heal; because even if he wants to cure you, he can’t. “
Therefore, demons cannot heal. But even if, with God’s permission, they help with something, it is to the detriment of the soul. “Even if the demon heals, it will do more harm than good; it will benefit the body, which will die a little later and rot, but will harm the immortal soul. Mentioning this place, St. Nicodemus of Mount Athos says that even if a person can be healed of some disease through demons – “to lose this health! To lose this life! Death is preferable to such life and health countless times. ” We see this in those weakened by the gospel, in poor Lazarus, and in Job, who chose to endure adversity rather than resort to demons and wizards.
In the case of sickness, instead of resorting to the devil, Christians should turn to God, Who is the only Physician of men, because He loves them very much. In addition to Christ, they must turn to the apostles, martyrs, holy silversmiths, hierarchs, monks and other saints. They must resort in the Church, to the priests, to the Sacraments which the Church has, to receive power from the Cross, sanctification “and the other saving and healing Sacraments of faith.” St. Nicodemus says very affectionately: “How can your heart endure to leave God, in Whom you believe, and go to the accursed devil? How do you look at the sweet Jesus Christ, your Creator, your Redeemer, your true Physician, and go to the murderer, to the tyrant, to your villain? How can your soul endure to despise so many saints, your friends and benefactors, and to resort to evil sorcerers and unclean demons, your last enemies? How can you bear to leave the holy Church of Christ, your mother, and run to the gatherings of the devil and to the dwellings of demons and wizards?
Even if the devil can restore the health of the sick person, the latter must turn away from him, because otherwise he rejects God, betrays Christ, violates piety and faith, serves the devil, worships his servants and becomes their slave. He who avoids demons in case of illness receives a crown from God himself and, of course, has a good conscience and hence inner peace.
The second pretext that people who resort to wizards and ultimately to the devil point out is that they are curious to know what will happen to them in the future; or even because they want to find treasures and lost property. But they also sin for many reasons.
First, only God knows the hidden things. Angels and saints know future things not through their human ability, but through God’s action and enlightenment. Therefore, the demons, because they are darkened and have no communion with God, cannot know the future and the hidden things. Demons do not know the future of man, because man is free and autocratic, which means that doing evil or good depends on his free will.
The devil does not know this, because “the end of man is not manifest.” Of course, demons also know in part, but about natural things because of “the proportions and laws of nature”; the things connected with the will, which are in the depths of the human heart, are known “by the movements of the body,” while God knows them with precision.
This means that if we reveal them, and with various movements let them manifest, then the devil learns or foresees them. But even those things which we exhibit are natural or will-dependent, the devil knows “doubtful, vague, obscure, and ambiguous.”
The ancient Greeks called Apollo Loxias [from λοξός (Greek) – “indirect”, “indirect” – Bell. Prev], because his predictions were ambiguous, which means that they could be interpreted ambiguously. Furthermore, even when demons know the truth about an event, they, being liars, do not want to share it unless there is a great need.
If something of what the demons say comes true, it happens for two main reasons. The first is that God allows this because of the unbelief of Christians and their faith in the devil, and the second is because they have become slaves to the devil, love “his devil’s works and passions,” and so the demons have gained power over them. But in these cases, people who resort to demons to find out about things from the future or about hidden treasures suffer and suffer a lot. Thus, those who seek help from magicians for such things suffer, as “some have lost their minds and gone mad, others have lost their own lives.” Then the demons, out of envy, do not want to give people the treasures of the world. They also have no right to do so, because if they had, then they would give treasures first to the wizards who are their friends. When a person works for God and does His will, then, if God deems it useful for him, he will also give him material goods. And if someone loses some things, then better to resort to God and His saints.
The third pretext pointed out by those who resort to demons is that they do so out of fear of evil forces because of their hatred of people, and thus want to alleviate their malice. Of course, this is also a very insidious and reprehensible occasion.
There are many reasons why Christians should not be afraid of the devil. One of them is that while before the incarnation of Christ the devil was a tyrant and master of the world, after the Incarnation he lost this power and authority. Now the devil attacks man through thoughts, but it is up to our will and choice to accept or reject the thought, because our freedom and will are favored by Christ. And when Christians are united with Christ and keep His commandments, they have great power and can oppose the power of the devil.
In this case, the devil is afraid of man, not man of the devil. Furthermore, in order to do anything, demons receive permission from God, and without it they cannot harm man. And not only that, but without God’s permission, as St. Maximus the Confessor says, the demons themselves cannot serve the devil.
Therefore, there is no reason to justify man in resorting to wizards and making his life dependent on the devil.
His health, future and security must depend only on God. Demons are spirits of destruction who hate man endlessly, and if they had the power of God, they would to destroy the whole world.
Consequences of magic
When a Christian turns to demons and their instruments, for the reasons we mentioned before, he suffers in his life. This is a spiritual mistake, not just simple frivolity. We know very well that spiritual errors are costly. No one can play with their salvation. We will focus on several such consequences, as described by St. Nicodemus of Mount Athos.
The first consequence is that man rejects the forbidden commandments of God. Naturally, God’s commandments are healing medicines that point the way to healing and protect man from becoming spiritually ill. There are clear commandments of God both in the Holy Scriptures and in other church texts regarding turning to sorcerers.
In Deuteronomy, God commands “you shall not be found in one who spends his son or daughter through fire, soothsayer, soothsayer, soothsayer, or sorcerer” (Deut. 18:10). The book of Leviticus also says, “Eat nothing with blood; do not heal or foretell ”(Lev. 19:26). This is because spells cause great harm and destruction both in the soul of the magician and in the soul of the person who receives them. Therefore, the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles says, “My child, do not be a bird-seeker, nor a sorcerer, nor a star-giver, nor a purifier, and do not want to see such, because all this gives rise to idolatry.”
Also, resorting to magic means rejecting the grace of the sacrament of Baptism and, accordingly, rejecting the confession we have given during the Sacrament. There, through our receiver, we confessed that we renounce Satan and all his works, angels, and ministry. The word “I deny” according to St. John Chrysostom is “a vow to the Lord” (συνθήκη πρὸς τὸν Δεσπότην). Hence, resorting to demons means rejecting the confession we made then.
Through magic, the Christian expels God’s grace and the Holy Spirit from his heart and receives the unclean spirit. St. Nicodemus says, “Will anyone deny that sorcerers separate from Christ and surrender to demons, and then, with the help and action of demons, say and do satanic and strange things?” Through wizards, man enters into communion with demons.
Therefore, both sorcerers and those who come in contact with them and seek their help deny and reject Christ and unite with the devil. Through the sacrament of Holy Baptism we deny the devil and unite with Christ, while by resorting to the demon we do the opposite.
Therefore, these people should not be called Christians, because how is it possible for someone to accept Christ and turn to demons? St. John Chrysostom writes: “In words many are Christians, and in character few are rare; outwardly they are Christians and disciples of Christ, and by nature traitors; in word pious, and in character wicked, and in deeds Gentiles. ‘ Although these people were baptized, they are worse than the Gentiles.
Punishments for magicians and those who resort to them
Everything we have presented so far shows the terrible consequences both for those who practice magic and for those who resort to magicians to solve various problems. It is for this reason that the Church protects people from falling into this great sin, and if they do fall, it tries in various ways to heal them. Within this framework are the (educational) punishments from God, as well as the church rules.
In Scripture, God commands that those who practice magic be punished with death because it causes great evil in society. The book of Leviticus says, “If a man or woman cries out the dead or heals, they are put to death: they are stoned to death; their blood is upon them” (20:27). Elsewhere, God says, “I will turn my face against that soul, and will cut it off from among its people” (Lev. 20: 6), and St. Nicodemus writes: , slaughter, slavery and destruction due to magic ”. He mentions Jerusalem, Nineveh, Babylon.
Church law is also very strict with those who practice magic. The time of excommunication from Holy Communion, i.e. the abstinence from Holy Communion is great.
This, as we have said before, is necessary not as punishment and revenge, but for the realization of sin and for healing. In his rules, St. Basil the Great equates sorcerers and poisoners with those who have intentionally committed murder, because here, too, it is a matter of murder. In his rules, St. Gregory of Nyssa equates those who resort to divination with those who deny Christ of their own free will. In the same spirit, both ecumenical and local councils enacted various penances for fortune tellers, wizards, and those who resorted to such actions.
Protection from spells
Of course, there are people who claim that others have done magic to them and therefore suffer in their lives. We can say that this is the easiest way out of the problem we are considering. Most of the time we suffer and are tormented because of the passions we have in us, because of the distance from the sacramental life of the Church, because of the absence of prayer, and not because of the magic that others do. For, when the man repents and lives the sacramental life of the Church, when he has God’s grace, then the devil has no power over him. Also, not all psychological problems and physical illnesses arise under the influence of demonic influence. One who has the gift of discernment can discern whether it is a demonic act, a divine energy, or some other bodily problem.
St. Nicodemus of Mount Athos gives some practical advice to Christians to protect themselves from the spells that others do to them. Christians must bear the cross of honor, as did the ancient Christians. The devil is terrified and trembles when he sees the sign of the cross. There must also be a holy gospel in the homes of Christians, because where there is a gospel, the devil does not enter. These are the words of St. John Chrysostom, who says: “If the devil does not dare to enter a house where there is a Gospel, the more the soul that has assimilated such thoughts will not be touched or attacked by rage or the nature of sin.
This means that when the words of Scripture are in our minds, then the devil cannot enter us, because then our nature is not the nature of sin. Man joins the devil’s action only when his nature is prone to passions. Purity of heart and mind, enduring sobriety and repentance help a lot in the fight against demons.
Often spells are directed against husbands to separate them, and so St. Nicodemus exhorts: fast for three days and get married during the Liturgy and thus partake of the divine Mysteries. Also, when a problem arises in the home or the person enters a new home, then “a priest must be called, the water sanctified, the place sprinkled, and by divine grace the action of the demons will be destroyed.”
In general, only through the power of Christ and his abiding in the Church can we protect ourselves from demonic power and energy. This means that we must participate in the sacraments and fight against the passions. Orthodox therapy, which consists in cleansing the heart of sin, enlightening the mind and deification, is the only method by which one can remain unaffected by the glowing arrows of demons, which are also fired by magicians. Indifference is a good conductor of divine energy, while passion is a good conductor of satanic energy.
We live in an age in which we pay attention only to the forces that are outside of us. We are afraid that we will be attacked by demons, by non-existent beings who are outside our planet, by evil people who are hostile to us, etc., as if the greatest evil is outside us. At some point, we have to admit that the biggest problem in our selves is created by ourselves. Because when we turn away from God, when we lose His grace, when we live through the world of imagination and apparitions, then our nature becomes vulnerable to the entry of satanic energy. Thus, instead of paying attention to the power of the antichrist, which is largely real, let us turn it to Christ. To live united with Christ; then the devil will have no power over us. Let us fervently pray to Christ: “Calm the impulses of the passions, extinguish the glowing arrows of the wicked, which are seductively directed at us. Calm our carnal arousals and put to sleep every sinful thought of ours, earthly and material. Grant us, God, a cheerful mind, a chaste thought, a sober heart, a light sleep and free from all satanic dreams.