Life after Death | Orthodox | 14

With god’s spirit or with demons - torturers

The Church tradition speaks about evil spirits, who torture the soul for its sins.

How should we understand this?

An interesting idea was outspoken in this regard by St. Theophan the Recluse (Govorov) in his interpretation of the 80th verse of psalm 118 (119):

May my heart be blameless towards your decrees, that I may not be put to shame”.

Here is how he explains the last words:

The second moment of not putting to shame is the time of death and passing through the trials.

No matter, how wild the idea of passing through the after-death sufferings can appear to clever men, but they cannot avoid this crossing.

What are these torturers search for in those people passing through? Whether those have the commodities belonging to them? What are their goods? Passions!

So it happens, those who have pure heart and are free from passions, they cannot possess anything evil to be clung to; on the contrary, the opposite to them goodness will hit the torturers as if with arrows of lightening.

A commentary was given by one of the scientists in this regard:

after death sufferings are represented as something awful, but it is quite possible that demons represent something very tempting instead very awful.

They represent something seducing and tempting- one by one on all kinds of passions to each of the passing by soul.

When within the period of the earthy life all passions have been withdrawn from the soul, and the opposite to them virtues have been planted instead, the soul, having no sympathy for the former, will turn away from them with disgust.

And when the heart is not purified, then to which passion the soul feels particular sympathy, it will throw itself on it.

Demons take it as if they are friends, then they know, where to send it to.

It means, it is very doubtful, that the soul does not feel shame at the trying experience until it has sympathies for objects of some passions.

The shame here lies in the fact that “the soul will throw itself into the hell”.

A very interesting idea.

According to it, this trying experience – is the test of the spiritual condition of a soul in front of the passionate devils temptations.

It turns out that the soul throws itself into the hell and this occurs due to the reason of those passions, into possessions of which the soul had given itself voluntary during the earthy life.

The idea of St. Theophan, in fact, proceeds from the admonition of venerable Anthony the Great. I’ll cite his remarkable words:

God is good and passionless and unchangeable.

If someone while recognizing as good and truthful the fact that God does not change, is puzzled at the same time,

how He (being as such) is glad for the good ones and turns away from the evil ones, is angry at the sinful, and when they repent He becomes merciful towards them;

it should be explained that God neither rejoices, nor gets angry:
because joy and anger are passions.

It is ridiculous to think that God will feel good and bad because of the human deeds.

God is good and He creates only good, he does not make any harm to anyone, He stays the same all the time;

but we when we are kind, we enter the communion with God, in His likeness, and when we become evil we depart from Him according to unlikeness with Him.

Living virtuously, we are sons of God, when we become evil we become rejected from Him,

and this does not mean, that He has anger on us because our sins do not let God begin to shine in us, they link us with demons, tortures.

If afterwards we win the absolution of our sins by prayers and deeds of mercy, that does not mean, that we had pleased God and had changed Him,

but through these actions and our conversion to God, by having healed the evil existing in us, we again make ourselves capable of enjoying God’s grace;

so, to say that God turns away from the evil ones is the same thing as to say: the sun hides itself from those who are blind”.

So, it means when we conduct a correct life (that is pious), when we live according to the commandments and repent when we violate them, our spirit unites with God’s spirit, and we feel good.

When we act against conscience, break commandments, our spirit becomes similar to demons-tortures,

and accordingly to the degree of our voluntary submission to a sin on earth, the soul there naturally is allured by them and subordinates to their cruel power.

In one of his letters Hegumen Nikon Vorobev wrote:

Demons are proud and capture arrogant men, it means, that we must humble.

Demons are angry, it means, we should acquire gentleness in order not to let them seize us, as being akin in soul.

Demons are rancorous, unmerciful, it means we are to forgive shortly and to keep peace with everybody, who offended us and to be merciful to everyone.

And so in everything.

We must suppress demonic features in ourselves, and to plant angel’s substance, indicated in the saint Gospel.

If after death our soul contains more demons’ qualities, demons will master us.

If while still being here we are aware of our demons features, and we ask God to forgive us for them and we ourselves forgive, God will forgive us, will demolish everything evil in us and will not give us into the hands of demons”.

The idea is clear:

God does not punish us for our sins, and it is not demons who torture us for them due to their arbitrariness, but by our passions we give ourselves into the hands of tortures.

And then their reckless ‘work” begins.

By tempting the soul by different sins and thinking that they will ruin it, they, in reality, open to the soul its spiritual illnesses by these temptations, passions, which it didn’t see in earthy life due to its carelessness.

By doing so, demons, wishing to make harm to the soul, do it a lot of good.

Because the salvation is possible only in case when the soul sees its sins and passions and understands the extreme need in God –Savour.

It is mainly in this, that the fallen soul makes itself clear, when it crosses trying experience, that becomes a token of its healing, following prayers of relatives, prayers of the Church.

So, the trying experience is becoming a kind of required remedy for an enslaved soul which reveals its spiritual illnesses - such is the wise and loving Divine Providence.

Saint Isaac of Syria, a great hermit of VII century, wrote in this connection:

God does nothing for the sake of retribution but He gazes at the benefit which must occur thanks to His actions.

One of these objects is Gehenna.

As for myself, I think that He meant to show a wonderful outcome and influence of a great and unexplainable mercy…relative to this hardest torture,

set by Him, in order that, thanks to that the richness of His love, his power and His wisdom, as well as a crushing blow of waves of His grace, will become more evident.

The merciful Lord has created these reasonable creatures not with the aim to subject them to endless sorrow – those about whom before their creation He knew what would come out of them after their coming into being, but whom He, despite, created”.

So the after-death suffering is the last means of Providence, given by God’s mercy (but neither by anger nor punishment),

thanks to it a man, having come to know himself, what he is in fact, not in his imaginative ideas, – becomes capable for unfallen perception of the Kingdom of Heaven.