The disciple: Make me understand exactly and precisely everything about deception. What is deception?
The starets: Deception is the harming of the human nature by falsehood. All men are in deceit and this condition is generated by the fall of our ancestors. We are all in deceit (the beginning of the third Word of the pious Simeon the New Theologian, Optina Monastery Publishing, 1852) The awareness of this fact is the best shield against deceit. The greatest deceit is to consider yourself free of deceit. We are all deluded, we are all beguiled, we are all in a state of falsehood, needing to be freed by the Truth; and the Truth is our Lord, Jesus Christ (John 8, 14-32)
Let us make ourselves belong to this Truth by faith in Him. Let us call this Truth in our prayer and He shall take us out of the abyss of self delusion and deceit caused by demons. Our condition is miserable. This is the prison from where we pray to be freed our soul so that we could confess the name of the Lord (Psalm 141, 10)This is the darkened earth where our life was ruined by our enemy who hates and persecutes us (Psalm 142, 3) This comprises the fleshly thoughts (Romans 8,6) and the science with a false name (1 Timotheus 6,20)which affected the whole world, who does not admit its ailment, naming it loudly as flourishing health. This is the body and the blood, which cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15,50) This is our permanent death, cured and destroyed by our Lord, Jesus Christ Who is the Resurrection and Life (John 11, 25) This is our condition. Its sight is lamentable. Let us cry and call our Lord Jesus Christ to free us from our prison, to take us out of the precipices of the earth, to save us from the jaws of death. That is why our Lord Jesus Christ descended to us, because He wanted to free us from our slavery and from our bitter deceit (The beginning of the third Word)
The wrong work of the heart leads us to self deceit and delusion in the same way like the wrong work of the mind.
The desire and hope to have spiritual revelations with a mind that is not purified of passions, not renewed and not rebuilt by the Holy Spirit are full of thoughtless arrogance. Full of the same arrogance and thoughtlessness are the wish and the hope of the heart to sweeten itself by experiencing spiritual, divine feelings when it is not worthy of such sweetening.
As the unclean mind wishing to have divine visions and being incapable to see them, imagines visions from itself, deluding and deceiving itself with them, the heart, trying to taste the divine sweetness and other divine feelings and not finding them in itself, it deludes and deceives itself, loosing itself, entering the land od falsehood, subduing itself to the influence of demons, leaving itself enslaved by them…
Everyone knows what a disaster fell over the Jewish scholars and Pharisees because of their evil souls. They estranged themselves of God and became His enemies, killers of God. The same disasters is experienced by those who endeavour to pray but renounce at repentance when they strive, trying to arouse in their heart the love for God and to feel delight and ecstasy. They give water to the mill of their fall, estranging themselves of God and partying with the devil, infecting themselves with the hate against thr Holy Spirit. This kind of delusion is terrible…The holy fathers called it reckoning, because of the mental condition it generates (Pious Gregory the Sinaite, word 108,128,saint John the Carpathian, chapter 49, Philocaly volume 4)
To this kind of cheating refers saint Paul when he says: Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.(Colossians 2, 18)
The man who is held captive of this deceit has high self esteem, concocts about himself the opinion that he has virtues and merits, even if we assumed he had a plenty of gifts from the Holy Spirit. The reckoning is composed of false thoughts and feelings; in accordance with this character it entirely belongs to the father of all lie, the devil. The man who pays and tries to discover in his heart the feelings of the new man, without being capable of doing this, replaces them with thoughtless feelings concocted by himself and he adds to this the works of the fallen spirits. Considering as true and springing from the divine grace the wrong feelings he has and those brought by the demons, he acquires opinions in accordance with those false feelings sheltering them within his heart and they nourish themselves in it and multiply the deceitful opinions; of course from such a wrong strive are born the self delusion and the demonic delusion – the reckoning. The reckoning does not allow to those that seem to be to come into being for true, said saint Simeon the New Theologian. Whoever thinks he void of passions, will never get rid of them; whoever thinks he is full of grace, will never receive grace; whoever thinks he is a saint will never reach holiness.
Let it be clear: whoever thinks he has spiritual work, virtues, merits, gracious gifts, flattering and delighting himself in his reckoning, impedes the entry of the spiritual works, Christian virtues and divine grace within himself and opens widely the gate to demons and to catching the disease of sin. For those affected by their reckoning, there is no more chance of spiritual progress: they destroyed this chance by sacrificing on the altar of falsehood the principles on which is founded the work of his salvation, meaning the way in which he looks at the truth. In those suffering from this deceit, appears an uncommon vanity: they seem to be drunk of themselves, of their condition of self delusion, seeing in it a gracious condition. They are excessively proud and vain, still seeming humble in the eyes of many who judge after look and cannot appreciate things after their fruits, according to the command of the Savior (Matthew 7,16; 12,33) or the spiritual feeling mentioned by the Apostle (Jews 5,14)
Prophet Isaiah depicted in vivid colors the work of deceit through reckoning by which the archangel fell, this work deluding and causing his fall
You said in your heart, `I will ascend to the heavens;I will raise my throne above the stars of God;I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. `But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.(Isaiah 14, 13-15)
God rebukes that one who is affected by his self reckoning in the following way: You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. (Revelation 3, 17)
God advices the deceived to repent; He invites him to purchase from Himself those absolutely necessary for repentance (Revelation 3,18) These purchases are necessary indeed, without them there is no salvation. There is no salvation without repentance and repentance receives from God only those who for receiving it are ready to sell their entire fortune, meaning that they are ready to get rid of everything they acquired due to reckoning.
Disciple: From the deceit called reckoning may be drawn certain sad consequences felt and seen?
Starets: From this deceit sprang the devastating consequences, the heresies, the schisms, the faithlessness, the blasphemy. The sad obvious consequence of these things is the wrong and harming work both for himself and for the neighbor – an evil which even if it is obvious and widely spread is slightly noticed and little understood. Those who pray and are affected by their own reckoning sometimes suffer obvious troubles seen by all. But this happens only rarely because reckoning bringing the mind in the most terrible delusion, does not lead it however to madness in the same way it does the shaken delusion. On the island Valaam in a remote hut lived the Schemamonk Porphyrios. I saw him myself. He devoted himself to mprayer. What kind of strife he had I do not know well. However that strife was wrong and this is proved by the reading that Schemamonk loved the most. He was very fond of the book written by the Western writer Thomas de Kempes about the Following of Christ and guided himself upon it. This book is written from reckoning. Once in an autumn Porphyrios visited the elders of the skete from his neighbourhood. While saying them farewell the elders told him: Beware not to cross on the ice. The ice is very thin. The place where he lived was separated from the skete by a deep inlet of the lake Ladoga which had to be passed off. The monk said with false humility in a quiet voice: I am already light. And he left. Not long after that there was a desperate cry. The elders worried and ran outside. It was dark. The place where it took place the tragedy was not easily found. Neither they easily found the means to take out the body of the drowned man. When they took it out, the man was already dead.