You can listen to an audio podcast of this post at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/osc63
And when he came to himself…he arose, and came to his father – Luke 15:17, 20
The tempting word would not have led into sin those who were tempted if the tempter had not been guided by their own desire. Even if the tempter had not come, the tree itself by its beauty would have led their desire into battle. Although the first ancestors sought an excuse for themselves in the counsel of the serpent, they were harmed more by their own desire than by the counsel of the serpent. – St. Ephraim the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis, Chapter Three
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Idolatry of the Body, continued
At the end of my last talk, I promised to do something rather uncomfortable but necessary:
“In our next class, we plan to continue our discussion of the idolatry of the body by critiquing specific aspects of contemporary society that trap us in this problem, and by offering practical ideas to help us form an alternative, Orthodox way of life that puts our priorities in the right order, and sets the body, soul, and spirit in right order to each other. May God grant!”
Why is this both uncomfortable but necessary? It is because to do this honestly, and actually to help anyone, we must not simply discuss abstract errors like Epicureanism or philosophical Hedonism, but we must also identify specific idolatrous patterns of behavior that have come to form an integral part of the lives of many if not most Orthodox Christians. It is easy to speak in generalities that don’t make anyone uncomfortable – a kind of cheap virtue that does not cost the speaker anything – but it does not help anyone if you don’t apply the general principles to real life. This is when people start to squirm, because no one likes to have his false beliefs and excuses for sinful behavior pointed out. The most difficult thing is that people who regard themselves as religious will make pseudo-religious excuses for their behavior, often, sadly, backed up by authorities – clergy, parents, et al – who misuse churchy, pious-sounding talk in order to justify behavior that is obviously sinful.
The two sub-topics relating to the human body that I shall address in this talk and our next talk are the worship of medicine and the worship of erotic pleasure. Each of these problems, of course, requires much more in-depth discussion than I can offer in these short talks, but, with God’s help, we shall try to live up to the old Latin expression multum in parvo – to say much in a few words. Today we shall speak chiefly of the worship of medicine.
We Forge Our Own Chains
As we have said more than once, the totalitarian world government that is rapidly coming into power over us was made possible by our compromises and our cooperation with evil over many generations. They have been “boiling the frog slowly” for a long time, but now the process is nearly complete. The Luciferian elite have exploited sinful man’s two greatest motivators – the fear of pain and the desire for pleasure – in order to enslave men to their passions and make them amenable to being dominated by these people who control the vast mechanism of contemporary governance, a “happiness machine” that promises security from suffering and an unending supply of pleasure without negative consequences, on the condition of our forswearing any higher allegiance and sacrilegiously rendering unto Caesar that which is God’s – control over our bodies and our souls. In the quote above, St. Ephraim states that our First Parents’ own desire was a greater enemy than the devil. So too, our sinful desires are our real enemy: the devil and all his invisible and visible servants are but a circumstance that God allows so that our wills may be tested in the arena of spiritual struggle. If only we can be brought to recognize how our own ignorance and passions have brought about the state in which we find ourselves, we can begin truly “to come to ourselves” and by God’s grace to become free within, no matter how much our enemies act to enslave us from without.
The Return to Human Sacrifice
Our two topics for this talk – the worship of medicine and the worship of erotic pleasure – are closely related, because both the medical art and the procreative function are godlike powers: by procreation man brings life into being, and by medicine he preserves it from illness and death. Of course both of these powers are in themselves goods, and they are not only good but extremely good: They are gifts of God, intended for the good, though ultimately not merely for an earthly good but for our salvation. The secondary goods of procreation and the preservation of physical life are truly good only insofar as they serve the primary good of eternal salvation. In this temporal and fallen world, man’s use of these gifts is neither intended to be unlimited nor is it without the tendency to sin, because man is both limited and sinful. Because both of these gifts are so powerful, however, they can give man the illusion that he is God, that somehow these powers are absolute and that he can wield them arbitrarily, according to his own fallen desires and fallen will, and not according to God’s commandments. And, dreadful to relate, because these gifts are so godlike man not only abuses them but even endows his abuses with a religious garb and fashions a demonic cult of magical medicine on the one hand and “sacred sex” on the other, both culminating in the ultimate satanic ritual, which is human sacrifice. Abortion means murdering your own child in order to escape God’s laws governing the procreative act. Abortion is ritual murder disguised as a medical procedure, an offering of innocent blood to the demon of fornication.
To be completely sober, then, about the situation in which we find ourselves, one must arrive at the understanding that the power behind the New World Order consists of demonic energies and demonic intelligence granted to evil men in return for their promotion and sponsorship of human sacrifice in the form of the unspeakably horrifying ritual murder of living human beings, either as so-called vital organ donors or as infants in the womb. More recently, also, we see the ritual mutilation of children and young people in “transgendering” procedures, which is also murder, because it condemns them to a living death. The fact that all of these rituals take the form of medical procedures does not change their essential spiritual character, but, on the contrary, serves to emphasize the reality that, as we have said earlier, scientific technology and magic are twins, and that in the hands of graceless and demonized men, scientific technology naturally tends to become an advanced form of magic. Magic is the demonically inspired and demonically energized manipulation of nature for the acquisition of power over men’s bodies and souls, and the current power structure of the technocracy bases its power precisely on this.
A lot of ordinary people are coming to this dreadful realization, that with this New World Order we are dealing not just with men, but with demons, and that abortion, trafficking in vital organs and fetal body parts for transplants and research, transgenderism, genetic engineering, and so forth, are somehow integral ritual aspects of the power system of the global elite. On the other hand, when views like this are presented to highly credentialed people – not the truly wise or even well-read people, but merely the social elite who hold advanced formal degrees from universities – they are usually both shocked and incredulous that you or I see it this way, and they hold such views in contempt. “How medieval, how paranoid, how bizarre!” they say. “This has nothing to do with religion or magic or demonic powers. Globalism is just politics and economics. Medicine is just science. These are secular matters that have nothing to do with ‘spirituality’.” Of course, this reveals not a true or deep education, not true learning, but rather a boring, bland, and uncritical groupthink combining a naive 18th century trust in “reason” with a naive 19th century trust in “science,” springing from a childish, woefully superficial, compartmentalized, and materialistic conception of life, according to which religion is purely a matter of individual psychological experiences – what secular people call “spirituality” – while familial, institutional, societal, and political life in the supposedly enlightened contemporary world is rightly governed by the dictates of human reason unfettered by outmoded religious conceptions.
By contrast, our whole project in this Survival Course has been to acquire an integral and coherent Orthodox worldview from which to view current events in the light of history understood from the framework of the Scriptures and the Fathers, and we are not at all surprised that apostate man has come full circle back to the idolatrous worship specifically and graphically described and condemned by the prophets of the Old Testament, which offers its practitioners power through the magical manipulation of nature based on perverted sexual behavior, human sacrifice, and alchemical financial dealings that make money not from honest labor but from trickery and manipulation. The Old Israel, the Old Testament Church, never succeeded in uprooting these practices among Her members, but, on the contrary, Her leadership persecuted and killed the prophets who spoke against them. It was only with the coming of grace through Christ that the New Testament Church powerfully went forth and cleansed entire nations of these terrible practices, of the religion and “science falsely so-called” of the demons, which two things go hand in hand. But with the falling away of the Western Church in the High Middle Ages, an entire millennium of degeneration began, and now, at the end of that millennium, both the Western Christian world, and now the formerly Orthodox nations, have been returned to a society dominated by paganism.
As we have seen, then, throughout our Survival Course, the entire trajectory of Christian civilization since the High Middle Ages has gone farther and farther away from God in every succeeding epoch, and therefore all you have to do is to extend the lines in order to understand that the whole process would necessarily and naturally culminate in open satanism. What is going on today is precisely what we would predict. The Renaissance in Western Europe re-introduced classical paganism as the standard by which to judge art, literature, and philosophy. Meanwhile, in secret, the supposedly rational neoclassicists, including high ranking churchmen, were indulging in occult religion and founding secret societies for this purpose, which bifurcated their own lives into private, occult practices and associations on the one hand and public Christian worship and institutional identification on the other hand. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Enlightenment intensified this worship of Reason on the one hand, while preparing the ground for the wildly irrational and destructive power of Revolution to overrun Europe, beginning with the French Revolution.
It is telling to note that at every stage of this revolt against God, the anti-Christian movements invoked “science” and “reason” as their justification for what they were doing. But it was always science as they defined it, which makes no room for the true God Who is the source and foundation of all true science. Of course, throughout this modern period, there have continued to be scientists who were truly Christian, and, especially, physicians and medical institutions often operated not only under the auspices of the Church but with an expressly Christian outlook on the body, the art of healing, and the purpose of life, which ultimately is the salvation of the body and the soul for eternity. Sadly, however, with the violent overthrow of the Christian order that finally succeeded in the 20th century, even these outposts of goodness and sanity have fallen under the rule of the anti-Christians.
But remember: Our purpose is not only to point out the evil and identify the evildoers. For our exploration to be salvific and not merely voyeuristic or Pharisaical, we must also identify within ourselves the delusions, ignorance, and sinful desires which allow the evildoers to take power over our souls and bodies. Our Lord promised that the truth will make us free: Let us resolve to be free indeed, by acceptance of the truth and its fruit, repentance, through grace.
Killing the God Your Worship, and Killing Yourself
Worshipping medicine and worshipping erotic pleasure are, then, forms of idolatry. The irony of idolatry is that one ends up hating and ruining the thing that you have set up as your false god. You end up killing this god that you have worshipped and, finally, destroying yourself. After awhile, someone addicted to sexual pleasure hates sex, because the more he indulges himself, the more miserable he gets. The godlike power and thrills have disappeared: by making it a god, he has destroyed its authentic purpose and reduced from being something truly godlike to something diabolical. After awhile, someone who puts all of his trust in doctors and drugs, hates the doctors and hates the drug companies, because they are not the gods he set them up to be; they are just limited and sinful people, mere creatures like himself. Let us examine ourselves honestly and recognize to what extent we have fallen into these idolatries ourselves. To what extent are we subject to such illusions and act upon them?
The Medical Art Is Not an Absolute or Autonomous Good
It is essential, a matter of life or death, that the Church not abdicate her authority over Her children’s fundamental moral decisions regarding the stewardship of their bodies, which St. Paul tells us are the temples of the Holy Spirit. We can go to the medical researchers and practitioners to benefit from their technical knowledge, but they must not become the new arbiters of what constitutes ethical behavior. The medical art is simply that, an art, τέχνη (techne), and any art can be used for good or for evil: the technical expertise of the artist does not qualify him as a guide for the spiritual and moral decisions of other people’s lives, including those relating to the application of the technician’s art to their lives. As with any art, medicine can be good or evil, and increasingly we see today that its practice is often not unto good but unto evil.
It is true, however, that at one time, and not long ago, many if not most physicians in the Christian nations were in fact not mere technicians but also truly learned and sincerely religious men, and they understood that the practice of their art must be submitted to the judgment of the Church. Physicians today, however, for the most part, even if they are nominally Christian (which increasingly most are not – medical organizations today are dominated by Jews, Moslems, Hindus, and plain old atheists) are not truly learned or truly believing – neither deeply read in humane letters (much less Christian theology!) and history, nor deeply cultured nor humanly wise nor capable of independent judgment. Simply from growing up in the environment we all live in, they tend to be superficial corporation men, typical of their generation, creatures of the Matrix like everybody else, products of the Great Stereopticon who think in cliches and follow orders from above, mechanics who work on human bodies as if they were machines, in order to make money, have power, and achieve social status. This or that doctor may indeed have a lot of knowledge in the isolated fragment of science and technology which he has made his life’s study, but this does not make him a wise or a moral human being, only a highly trained technician. You should be grateful for whatever limited good he can do for you, but don’t entrust him with guiding decisions about your religious and moral responsibilities! There are exceptions to this general characterization, of course – thank God! I am blessed to number among my friends learned and pious Orthodox doctors, nurses, and medical students who struggle daily to practice medicine wisely, morally, and with compassion. But, again, they are exceptional, and the exceptions are not the rule.
How did such a misunderstanding that one hears today – that the Church should hand over Her authoritative role in bioethical decisions to the medical practitioners – come about? Ironically, it is the very success of the Church in baptizing and guiding the medical art for so many centuries that has created this assumption that the practice of medicine is always unquestionably trustworthy and good. Historically, up to very recent times, most Christians did experience that their family doctor was a religious and truly educated Christian man, with a wise understanding of life guided by the Church, a kind of second priest after one’s parish priest, a deeply self-sacrificial person dedicated primarily to the service of God and neighbor, and not to money. Hospitals in Christian nations were either directly owned by a church institution or even if not, they still had a chapel with daily services and clergy ministering regularly to the majority if not all of the patients. Last year, for example, Bishop Christodoulos, of our Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece, produced a short film about the power of Holy Communion over earthly diseases. This film includes testimony from his father about his father, the bishop’s grandfather, who was an in-house, full-time priest at a leprosarium and afterwards in a tuberculosis ward at a hospital on the island of Chios. The unquestioning faith, dedication, and courage of such a man typifies the traditional synergeia between the Church and the medical profession. The film is very edifying, and I encourage you to watch it, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j81vYUp273A&list=PLCKW16X–kPyxDbetRXmU_mKsKAzeGWHg
In non-Orthodox but historically Christian nations also, people of my generation have distinct memories of such wonderful people from our Roman Catholic or Protestant childhoods, and perhaps it is true that most people our age, by inertia, act on the basis of believing that this beneficent, wise, and fundamentally Christian medical establishment still exists today. But the sad reality is that, for the most part, it does not.
Once Again – We Must Repent of the Illusion of Earthly Immortality!
I am not saying all this to beat up on the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others who work in the medical field. There are still real Christians – or simply moral and thoughtful people – in the field, and they are suffering too! We are all suffering. We are all alike guilty of creating this monster, because of our idolatry of the body. We accept the Cartesian dualism, isolate the body from the soul, worship the wellbeing of the body, and ignore the good of the soul. Yet simultaneously we somehow also worship Descartes’s god – reason – as an autonomous entity that will give the body earthly immortality through the unlimited and uncontrolled progress of science. As with all idolatries, we want too much of a good thing. We isolate it and blow its importance out of proportion, and it becomes a monster. There is such a thing as too much medicine and too medical technology. Its unlimited growth and application are not pleasing to God, because they partake of hubris, the self-worship of the religion of the Tower of Babel. And, again, remember: When the people at the top of this Tower are the ones making the decisions about the direction that science and medicine will take, it is bound to be the wrong direction. We must approach our own making use of this great art with humility and sobriety, always remembering that the purpose of Christian medicine is not the unlimited extension of life or the continuous avoidance of suffering, but only that moderate degree of health we need to serve God and neighbor, with humble allowance for the suffering we all need and cannot escape, to attain our salvation.
How can we repent of this idolatry of the body in respect to medicine? Let us examine ourselves and see to what extent we have these false – indeed heretical – assumptions, and let us repent and deeply believe the countervailing truths that correct them:
False Belief: That the body is essentially a machine and can always be fixed by mechanical techniques, whether chemical or surgical. This is not true. The body is integrally connected to the soul as a unified organism, and its true character is ultimately sacred and mysterious, known to God alone and to His deified saints. A good doctor approaches the care of the body with great humility and restraint, with prayer and sobriety, not thinking he knows everything and can fix everything. The good patient understands this, too, and does not lay a burden of continuous, godlike perfection on his physician, who is a mortal and limited creature like himself.
False Belief: That science and medicine are an all-encompassing system, a new paradigm by which we define ourselves. This is not true. It is catastrophic to regard the therapeutic paradigm and therapeutic institutions as a system of which we form a part, rather than as an instrumentality, a tool, outside of ourselves and below ourselves like any tool, which we use when we need them. At one time, and not long ago, doctors and hospitals were something one made use of on occasion when needed. Normal life meant health and healthy activity, and was not dominated by concern over pathologies. You lived, you suffered, and you died. That was all right. Not only was it all right: It was noble, and there was an art to dying which informed our art of living, with joy, courage, and gratitude. But today we have reduced ourselves to passive and fearful recipients of constant attention from and control by a vast and impersonal system or network, which defines us in terms of actual or potential pathologies, and which holds life or death power over us. This is idolatry on several levels: It grants Godlike status to this impersonal thing, a kind of blind, technological god of Fate that holds a sword over our heads at all times, and it destroys the nobility of man, the image of God, and takes away our capacity for independent thought and action. Any art, including medicine, is simply a tool, an instrument used by man, not a god over man. With medicine, as with any technique, when man places himself in subjection to his technique, to his tool, he makes himself something less than human. We will see this illustrated again when we give our talk about electronic addictions.
False Belief: That concern over our bodily health should dominate our daily consciousness. This is not true. Remember, the health of the body is a secondary, not a primary good. The body is an instrument of virtue, not virtue itself. If a violinist spent all day caring for his violin and never played it, he would be a poor violinist indeed! When an Orthodox Christian spends countless hours thinking about, researching, and trying this or that remedy or this or that doctor, to treat or prevent ailments, he is wasting his life on a vain pursuit, because we are all going to get sick, and we are all going to die, and God wants us also to use illness and death also – not only health and biological life – for our eternal salvation. As with all good things, there has to be a limit! We see this passionate, obsessive behavior not only in the “normies,” those who trust the Big Brother of the medical establishment, but also, and perhaps even more strikingly, in the “red-pilled” anti-establishment alternative medicine devotees. Whether you believe in mainstream medicine or in alternative medicine, you should not spend all your time thinking about medicine, unless it is your profession, and even the professionals need to leave time for other pursuits and, above all, time for prayer!
False Belief: That somehow with the right medicine we can live forever in this world. Of course, consciously and rationally we know this is not true, but unconsciously and irrationally, in the depths of the heart, the fallen ego does have this conviction and this desire. We inherit this lie of Satan at our conception and birth, in the heart, because of the Fall of our First Parents. So we make a god out of the doctor, and when our god doesn’t prevent us from getting sick or from dying, we resent it. How foolish! Let us be grateful for the limited and temporary good that medicine offers, but always look forward to our true life, which is not of this world.
May all of us, Orthodox Christian practitioners of the medical art and patients alike, pray fervently to the Holy Unmercenary Physicians to teach us by their example and help us by their prayers, to understand where true healing lies, both in this age and the age to come, with Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only true Physician of our bodies and our souls. To Him be the glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages, Amen.
As we record these words in the spring of 2021, we are approaching the Great and Holy Week of Our Lord’s Passion. Here is one of the most beloved Passiontide hymns of the ancient Western Church, the hymn to the Holy Cross titled Vexilla Regis, by Venantius Fortunatus. It is from the 6th century.
|VEXILLA Regis prodeunt;|
fulget Crucis mysterium,
qua vita mortem pertulit, Et mortem vitam protulit.
|ABROAD the regal banners fly,|
now shines the Cross’s mystery:
upon it Life did death endure,
and yet by death did life procure.
|Quae vulnerata lanceae,|
mucrone diro criminum,
ut nos lavaret sordibus,2
manavit unda et sanguine.
|Who, wounded with a direful spear,|
did purposely to wash us clear
from stain of sin, pour out a flood
of precious water mixed with blood.
|Impleta sunt quae concinit|
David fideli carmine,
regnavit a ligno Deus.
|That which the prophet-king of old|
hath in mysterious verse foretold,
is now accomplished, whilst we see
God ruling the nations from a Tree.
|Arbor decora et fulgida,|
ornata Regis purpura,
electa digno stipite
tam sancta membra tangere.
|O lovely and refulgent Tree,|
adorned with purpled majesty;
culled from a worthy stock, to bear
those limbs which sanctified were.
|Beata, cuius brachiis|
pretium pependit saeculi:
statera facta corporis,
tulitque praedam tartari.
|Blest Tree, whose happy branches bore|
the wealth that did the world restore;
the beam that did that Body weigh
which raised up Hell’s expected prey.
|O Crux ave, spes unica,|
hoc Passionis tempore!
piis adauge gratiam,
reisque dele crimina.
|Hail Cross, of hopes the most sublime!|
Now, in the mournful Passion time; *
grant to the just increase of grace,
and every sinner’s crimes efface.
|Te, fons salutis Trinitas,|
collaudet omnis spiritus:
quibus Crucis victoriam largiris adde praemium. Amen
|Blest Trinity, salvation’s spring|
may every soul Thy praises sing;
to those Thou grantest conquest by
the Holy Cross, rewards supply. Amen.