My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
The Spiritual Battle and Dangers of IMAGINATION and FANTASY
“A dream is a stirring of the mind during the body’s rest, while a fantasy
is something that tricks the eyes when the intellect is asleep. Fantasy
occurs when the mind wanders, while the body is awake. A fantasy is the
contemplation of something that does not actually exist” (Saint John
“Never brood by day over the fantasies that have occurred in your
dreams during sleep, for the aim of the demons is to defile us while
we are still awake by causing us to harp on our dreams.” (Saint John
One of the most significant spiritual obstacles to our spiritual struggle to overcome is imagination and fantasy. Imagination according to the Holy Fathers is one of the faculties of the soul that plays an important role in the action and development of passions. It forms the image of a person or things within us, then provokes sensual pleasure to capture our nous. Once taken captive we commit sin.
We ought, therefore, to study the significant role of imagination and fantasy in committing sins and also how important it is to be delivered from fantasy in order to lead a Christian life. This is one of the basic themes of ascetic teaching in the Orthodox Church. The Holy Fathers, as experts on the ascetic way of life, help us to see this problem clearly.
As fantasy and imagination are closely connected with the soul’s illness and existing passions, they are healed by our endeavor to cure our soul and free ourselves from the passions. As Saint Maximos says, “Once the soul starts to be aware of its own good health, then even its imaginings during sleep become simple and calm.”
The Holy Fathers, who took an interest in this subject and wrote about it did not start by doing psychological research or attempting to study man’s inner world scientifically. We know from the teaching of the Orthodox Church that the Holy Fathers were not deskbound academics, but Shepherds of the people of God. They knew from experience how God’s grace works in human beings.
The Holy Fathers were experts on the state of man’s soul following the devastating event of the Fall, and subsequently they learnt what the soul and man’s whole inner world is like when regenerated by God’s grace. Their observations on the subject of fantasy and imagination were not motivated by their own experience through the Holy Spirit. Their aim was to lead people to salvation. They were aware of how fantasy and imagination function in fallen human beings and in those who are spiritual and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Saint John Climacus defines imagination or fantasy as follows: “Fantasy is an ILLUSION of the eyes when the mind is asleep. Fantasy IS ECSTASY OF THE NOUS, when the body is awake. Fantasy is the vision of something which DOES NOT EXIST IN REALITY.” Fantasy IS A VISION OF SOMETHING WITH NO REAL EXISTENCE, SOMETHING UNFOUNDED. Fantasy is activated when the mind is idle. This is obvious from dreams, when the mind is not alert. However, fantasy is also present when we see we are awake, and then it is possible for the nous to come out of itself.
“Like pleasure, pain, forgetfulness, and ignorance, fantasy and imagination are a phenomenon that appeared after the FAll, so in order to arrive at theosis (deification), we must be delivered and set free from all these things.” Guarding the nous is a very good way of getting rid of the burden of imagination and fantasy. The only way to achieve spiritual vigilance is “by examining the imagination closely,” because the devil cannot proceed and deceive the nous in the absence of thoughts linked with fantasy and imagination according to Saint Hesychios the Priest.
The most effective method of getting rid of fantasy and imagination is repentance. We can only purify our imagination, faculty through profound repentance. The Holy Fathers have much to say about the act of repentance. Fantasy is expelled “through repentance and contrition, mourning and humility.” Repentance is associated with hardship and tears. Weeping completely burns up all our anthropocentric attitudes to life.“
Repentance is linked with humility, Or rather, repentance comes about in a climate of humility. Wherever there is deep humility it is impossible for imagination and fantasy to develop as they thrive on pride , egotism and conceit. The proud man usually daydreams and has a high opinion of himself, he sets himself high goals to achieve and thus stimulates his imaginative faculty. Since many fantasies are also expressed in dreams, the holy Fathers recommend that we should say many prayers before going to sleep. Much prayer, reading holy books and reciting the Creed can free us from the attacks of imagination and fantasy.
Saint John Climacus writes: “When prayer is over, wait quietly and you will observe HOW MOBS OF DEMONS, AS THOUGH CHALLENGED BY US, WILL TRY TO ATTACK US AFTER PRAYER BY MEANS OF WILD FANTASIES. Watch carefully and you will note those that are accustomed to snatch away the first fruits of the soul.” Saint John Climacus emphasizes the urgency to keep alert. “Alertness keeps the mind clean… Alertness is a quenching of lust, deliverance from fantasies in dreams, a tearful eye, a heart made soft and gentle, thoughts restrained, food digested, passions tamed, spirits subdued, tongue controlled, idle imaginings banished.”
Spiritual warfare is a constant experience for those who are willing to engage in it and triumph over it. The evil one uses every possible means, including fantasy and imagination to weaken our defences. We ought it to ourselves to be aware of our enemy to be well armed with the spiritual weapons given to us to combat him. “Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” [Ephesians 6:13-17]. Just as important as spiritual armor is a Christian’s readiness and alertness: diligent prayer and watchfulness in submission to the Holy Spirit.
Being alert in today’s society means to be aware of all the modern tools and technology used not only to indoctrinate us but to also to lead us to temptations. Every commercial and many of the shows on Television, internet, radio, etc. promote some vice i.e., greed, gluttony, vanity, pride, infidelity, murder, abortion, alcoholism, deception, materialism, loudness, disrespect for others, laziness, iSexual mmorality, sensuality, depravity, wickedness, hate, jealousy, prostitution, pornography, etc. Many of the messages coming through this media are subliminal or at times, even most blatant. The intent is to corrupt the mind, the heart, character, and the conscience of the person watching or listening. Be always alert and be extremely selective on what you read, watch, and listen to. All these vices are deliberate and the intent also is to desensitize a person who is convinced by them that everything is acceptable and condoned by society as harmless. “BE sober, be VIGILANT, because your Adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion,seeking whom he may devour. RESIST HIM, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” [1 Peter 5:8-9].
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God