Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ghost hunting and Christianity; Are they Compatible?

Although more a post than a complete article, I hope that at least some of what I have concluded will permeate. I am going to take a different twist in this post. I started writing and compiling a post for Halloween but now have to say it has been done before and better than I could anyways. So I am going to address one of the more popular aspects of modern day spooky pop culture; ghost hunting.
This is not just a criticism or ideological difference sparking this short article, but comes from direct experience. I am not trying to offend or attack, trying to argue, but instead have a genuine concern for the mental and spiritual well being of those who partake in paranormal investigations.

In my late teens and into my early to mid-twenties I had the opportunity to investigate well over 125 legitimate cases, historical sites and even was present for exorcisms conducted in the Roman Catholic, traditionalist catholic and Old Catholic faiths. I worked with or for John Zaffis and Ed and Lorraine Warren (most notably associated with the Amityville Horror case) during this time. I was, plain and simple, interested and intrigued, even thinking that such endeavors could solidify my faith. As a nominal Roman Catholic, at that time, even many of my priest friends even embraced such efforts as a sort of ministry. I also wrote a book on the subject entitled Shadows of the Dark.

So what is my take on investigating the realm of ghosts? The answer is simple; don’t. Now in my thirties, Orthodox, a priest and more critical in my thinking, I feel that this specialized field is dangerous spiritually and psychologically and promotes false belief systems, fantasy and can be classified as spiritual delusion (plani or prelest). Although I studied this field very seriously and made it a priority to work on cases where people were genuinely scared (especially children), I have put it behind me as almost of an embarrassment due to the craziness that has occurred in the field.

During my years, there was, but not the extreme of most recent years, all of the hoopla that exists now with all the paranormal reality shows that pepper the spectrum of our television dials. Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures, just to name a few, were not the household names they are today. I had a chance to meet or work with some of such recognized folks, many of which were sincere, good people looking for answers or investigating after experiencing something that happened to them personally.

Thoughts on the subject range dramatically with various theories such as ghosts being:
-Spirits of the dead
-Projections of the mind (subconscious)
-Historical recording in the environment, a moment in time
-A parallel existence or multiple existences in the Multiverse
-a product of mental illness
-Misinterpretation of the senses

Communicating with the dead:
Otherworldly communication using devices such Ouija boards, tarot cards, pendulums and so forth is something many indeed do perform. I would like to state that EVP (electronic voice phenomena), basically attempting to record the voices of the dead, is no different. It is just a modern means of attempting to communicate. The intent is there to communicate; the means is just a little different. …"There shall not be found among you any one that useth divination, one that practiseth augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a necromancer. For whosoever doeth these things is an abomination unto the Lord" (Deut. 18:10-12; see also Lev. 20:6). With that being said one cannot be a practicing Christian and ghost hunter, in my opinion. It resonates the same cafeteria pick and choose nonsense we see in American pop-Christianity.

Another trick being employed is provoking where the ghost hunter tries to anger or appeal to the spirits as a means to make them manifest. One, if they actually make contact with the spirit realm, cannot guarantee its origin (demonic, hallucinatory, etc.) Spirits do not submit to man, man instead becomes the pawn in a game of lies and deceit with the soul being the ransom. Experiences can be produced by spiritual deception wishful thinking, by those eager for power and by truly believing yet disillusioned people and of course dark spirits in opposition to God masking themselves from what they really are. "They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They have perverted the words of the living God." Jeremiah 23:16, 36
Also much of it, the results are open to speculation on to what their origin actually is, the philosophical lens of the researcher ultimately dictating the results. For instance, there may be auditory hallucinatory experiences, visions and the like produced by the psyche, induced by stress, organic illness or an inherent psychological desire to experience an altered state or some otherworldly experience. There may also be misinterpreted natural sound data, totally natural and explainable, but mistaken for the mystical. There are the hoaxers and those craving power, monetary gain and attention and of course an experience of true supernatural or preternatural metaphysical experiences.

Psychics, New age thought, pop-paganism and other experiences:
There certainly are groups that employ so-called scientific means to investigate paranormal claims. However it appears most of what passes for ghost hunting is instead a blending off all sorts of new age practices. The use of psychic mediums, the taboo has instead become the norm, accepted and promoted without question. One may find it strange to profess Christ publicly while spirit communication, paganism and the use of so-called psychics is just another part of popular culture. Fringe elements of the mysterious such as the famous Foxx sisters, Jeane Dixon’s newspaper columns, ghost stories and horoscopes take a back seat to outright devil worship and praise of demonic beliefs. Such beliefs are made evident in Amanda Byrne’s book “The Secret”, Shirley Maclaine’s writings, the popular work “A Course in Miracles” , publication of psychic development texts and sprit communication guides and endless other resources. The Satanic Bible, the Necromonicon, guides to invocation rituals and magic books are best sellers, never going out of print. Just peruse the new age section of your local book retailer as viewing the metaphysical texts, philosophical tomes and even the “Christian” section such as the Ennegram.

Perhaps one of our biggest largest spiritual problems is that of the neo-paganism that runs rampant and for the most part undetected since there is no official, earthly visible head of this network of harmful, soul-destroying heresies. There is of course an architect behind the movement known as the prince of this world, but this deceitful blanket clause of “new age” seems to cover all of the neo-pagan and Gnostic falsehoods, delusions and blasphemies. Neo-paganism continually grows in worldly stature and acceptance. Today, new age materials are readily available in many print avenues as well as mass market media. The New Age mind-set has touched almost every area of life: education, culture, history, religion, politics, psychology, science and healthcare. A look at the overall atmosphere of New Age philosophy appears to be one of tolerance and even peaceful sincerity, but closer investigation reveals otherwise. It is the systematic weeding out, destruction and intolerance of Christ. Anti-Christ not necessarily obvious by being against Christ but intends to negate the reign of Christ in the hearts of mankind. As the church Fathers indicate this spirit wants to place its self in place of Christ.

We must remember that dabbling in the occult is expressively a damnable practice, but it is accepted among society in its many deceptive forms. All paganism really does is systematically exalt one’s self to a seemingly god-like status. It is the original goal of the devil; to attempt to be like God. In their quest for so-called power they traffic with spirits, perform blasphemous pseudo-sacraments with crystals, incense, herbs and offerings which are geared towards union with the earth, with nature, with elemental energy. This supposed empowerment is deceptive. There will be no powers gained and any favors granted through suggestion or the actual assistance of fallen spirits will need to be paid for in full, the price one’s own soul. Curiosity will only open the doors to hellish perdition.

Deliverance and Exorcism:
In regards to deliverance and exorcism, there can be a real danger in western understanding which may lead one to not take responsibility for their actions and not work to shedding the passions and receiving proper help to cope with mental illness, human passions and recurrent sin. Instead the exorcist becomes an exterminator of sorts with the client not taking any responsibility for their faults and inherent human nature which needs restoration and healing. Exorcism does exist in the Holy Orthodox Church but does not entertain much of the views and hype which we see in the west with the exorcist being seen as a romantic character or superhero. It is obvious that the popular movie “The Exorcist” and recent films such as “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” have distorted the notion of what exorcism really is. All those who are properly baptized are exorcized and baptism by three immersions by a valid clergyman will remove Satanic influence from the inner recesses of the heart as evident in the teachings of the fathers.

What I find almost insane is that a ghost hunting group will use psychics, conjuring and means that are quite sketchy to attempt to receive perceivable results or evidence, then bring in a minister of some denomination to rid the premises, person, object or family of the problem like an exterminator. Archbishop Averky of blessed memory, a hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad once taught: “We are living in a strange time, when all the true and healthy Christian concepts are being replaced by false and deceitful concepts, discovered often with an evil intention with the undoubted intention, naturally, of drawing people away from the right path of a truly Christian life. In all of this there can be discerned some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all.”

A brief conclusion:
Saint Basil the Great warns us as follows: Be attentive to yourself (Deut. 15:9). That is, observe yourself carefully from every side. Let the eye of your soul be sleepless to guard you. You walk in the midst of snares (cSirach 9:13). Hidden traps have been set by the enemy in many places. Therefore observe everything that you may be saved like a gazelle from traps and like a bird from snares (Prov. 6:5)

The “ghost experience” is right from the annals of time and it is evident that the ghost experience transcends almost all boundaries, exists in the anthropological mind of all cultures and religions for the entirety of human existence. We are all looking for answers, and here is where human weakness can certainly kick in. We crave answers and will often go to great lengths to get them. By ghost hunting we instead, in my humble opinion, delve into a realm we are not equipped for and what for?

Man’s attempt at defining the meaning of the reality and cosmos is futile when separated from the Creator which we understand to be the Triune God. Trying to prove something spiritually, like many practices involved in pop ghost hunting are deceptive entrapments to further separate man from God…. “Unless I see…I will not believe” (John 20:25).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Great Podcast Series

Although a priest I do work a secular job. Being an office position I am confined to a cage(cubicle). I am so thankful for podcasts! This is my friend Fr. Anthony Perkin's blog/podcast site. I would suggest checking it out.

Do Christians have the same God as Muslims, Pagans and other non-Christian Groups?

I recieve interesting questions from time to time. One that comes to mind is the following. Do Christians have the same God as non christians?  As God is the Creator of all technically yes, but we do not worship the same God by any means. We, as Orthodox Christians worship the Holy Trinity. Not being harsh, just honest. The answer is ultimately "no". Here is some more specific information:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Consider voting for my screenplay

Well I wrote a screenplay entitled "Lords of Glory". It is in a prestigious competition and made it through to the general public voting stage. The competition is much like American Idol and now is the part that really counts. I made it this far, help me to get this film optioned! Please consider voting for it at the following link:

The link has the visual component and also the synopsis. There is a 1-5 star voting scale at the bottom of the page. Also I believe it will make you sign in as they do not allow ballot box stuffing, only one vote per person.