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Illusions

“In chapter 3 of Genesis, the tragic moments of what we call the Fall are described. People ‘rebelled’ and sought to become gods themselves, ‘an illusion of autonomy’. Instead they achieved rupture, division, separation and solitude.” (Archimandrite Iakovos Kanakis)


“When something…painful…occurs, it seems to me that at least one of its results is the fostering of a greater and more sensitized sense of our dependency on God than is usually encountered in our country. And this is in some ways natural because the enviable level of material well-being and the technological advances of our great land are, in some respects, a spiritual liability in that they blind us to our utter weakness in the face of events such as these. Both the prosperity and the technology we enjoy are indeed great blessings in our lives, but they nonetheless give us a sense of empowerment and drive us to triumphant feeling of self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and independence-a sense that we are somehow both strong and invulnerable. And this illusion of strength, for indeed it is an illusion and only that, stands as a hindrance to the proper relationship with God that each of us as Christians should actively be seeking in our lives.” (Fr. Andrew Demotses)


“The illusion of choice and management also has a great propensity to create anxiety and depression. We do not have a culture of “acceptance,” even though most of our lives lies beyond our control. Our lack of power over what cannot be controlled and managed is thus perceived as failure and breeds anxiety and depression. And strangely, even the suggestion of nurturing “acceptance” will create an anxiety in the mind of some readers who will say, “But we must do something!” Imagine yourself in a situation of life and work in which you have no access to the internet. Nor do you have any newspapers or magazines. All you see or know is what you actually encounter. Strangely, all you could actually do would be to “live.” This, in the best of situations, is the culture of a monastery. They are not “cut off” from the world. They are on this planet. But they are absent from the “matrix” of modern concern and anxiety, the illusion of managing history’s outcomes.” (Father Stephen Freeman)


“Anxiety is…an “impaired emotion,” stemming from fear, which has a future-oriented component to it. Often with anxiety we try to control or establish an illusion of control around issues that may cause us distress, even though we may have very little control in reality. Anxiety comes in two predominant forms…“Acute anxiety” is one of the body’s best survival tools and helps us to respond quickly when we are in imminent danger….This present-focused form of anxiety resolves itself quickly as the threat passes, and can be understood as the body’s way of energizing you to keep yourself safe. Conversely, “generalized anxiety” or “chronic anxiety” is the type of anxiety that stays with us even in the absence of an immediate threat. This second type of anxiety can cause intrusive and ruminating thoughts, restlessness, insomnia, and headaches, among others symptoms….it is this chronic type that causes disruptions in the quality of our life and causes us to lose our overall sense of peace and stillness or “hesychia.” (Marcus Geromes M.Div, LMFT)


“We live under the illusion that if we can acquire complete control, we can understand God. But the only way we can brush against the hem of the Lord or hope to be part of the creative process, is to have the courage, the faith, to abandon control…when we try to control our lives totally with the self we think we know, the result is that growth in self-awareness is inhibited.” (Madeleine L'Engle)


“Because God is the ground of our being, the relationship between creature and Creator is such that, by sheer grace, separation is not possible. God does not know how to be absent. The fact that most of us experience throughout most of our lives a sense of absence or distance from God is the great illusion that we are caught up in; it is the human condition…People who have traveled far along the contemplative path are often aware that the sense of separation from God is itself pasted up out of a mass of thoughts and feelings. When the mind comes into its own stillness and enters the silent land, the sense of separation goes…The grace of salvation, the grace of Christian wholeness that flowers in silence, dispels this illusion of separation. For when the mind is brought to stillness, and all our strategies of acquisition have dropped, a deeper truth presents itself: we are and have always been one with God and we are all one in God (Jn 17:21).” (Martin Laird)


“As a pillar of its religion of progress and cult of technology, our society cultivates its great illusion, which is also related to time It leads modern man to believe that technological progress will enhance his quality of life far more than the machines, the means of transport, and communications of the last century. Since time has such an important place in human life and contributes so much to its quality, he is tricked into believing that technological progress in every domain will free up time, which he can devote to everything that makes him happy in life. In fact, the opposite happens.” (Jean-Claude Larchet)


“Thus the enemy tries to produce an illusion of some spiritual experience within us, offering us a mirage instead of the real thing, unruly burning instead of true spiritual warmth, and instead of joy, irrational excitement and physical pleasure which in turn gives rise to pride and conceit and he even succeeds in concealing himself from the inexperienced behind such seducements, so they think his diabolic illusion is really the working of grace. Yet time, experience, and feeling will reveal him to those who are not altogether ignorant of his evil wiles. ‘The palate discriminates between different foods,’ says the Scriptures. In the same way spiritual taste shows all things as they are, without any illusion.” (St. Gregory of Sinai)


“Genetics, environment, and trauma can all contribute to anxiety, so it’s a complex experience that takes a multi-faceted approach when working to reduce symptoms.  Anxiety is what psychologist Chip Dodd refers to as an “impaired emotion,” stemming from fear, which has a future-oriented component to it.  Often with anxiety we try to control or establish an illusion of control around issues that may cause us distress, even though we may have very little control in reality…Not only is St. Paul advocating that we rely on God rather than retreating to our own illusions of control [Philippians 4:6-8], but he exhorts us to focus on those things which are truly beautiful.  By training our minds to focus on content that brings us joy, we begin to indirectly influence the emotions that cause us distress.” (Marcus Geromes M.Div, LMFT)


“In order to become mature we must cultivate the skill of speaking honestly about ourselves without illusion or evasion. Because we were made in the image of God and yet reveal to the world something far less, the truth about ourselves is some ugliness layered over great beauty.” (Rev. Christopher H. Martin)


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