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Dear Tarwater,

I don't think a fast is called for with a severe major depression. First of all, this is a medical diagnosis, and may (and probably does) require medical treatment. There is nothing wrong with medical treatment if there is a physical component of the problem. I am only arguing against the denial and neglect of the greater spiritual realities of psychopathology.

If there is a passion of dejection underlying the physical/neurological problem of depression, then it should be fought against without exacerbating the physical disorder.

Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, in his great work Orthodox Psychtherapy (for which I shall always be indebted) summarizes the Fathers' prescription for the passion of dejection:

... dejection must be cured first of all by a constant warfare against all passions within
... “We must struggle against the demon of dejection which casts the soul into despair … we must drive him away from our heart”
... The only sorrow permitted to a Christian is mourning in sympathy with the grief and pain of others, and the mourning in repentance for our sins — WHICH IS ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY HOPE IN GOD
... Dejection is cured when, by the grace of God and our own courage, we turn it into the spiritual and healing sorrow of repentance!

Hope this helps.

What type of fast have you seen to be effective in resolving severe major depression?

The demonic is all around us, but the One who is in us is greater and HE bids us to pray and fast.

His Grace,Metropolitan Phillip, wrote to his parishes in the USA, urging that we reach out to young people in our communities, seeking to bring them to baptism and chrismation. This is one of the Church's ways to address the demonic and to seal those who come in faith.

A thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Thanks.

Thanks for this post. I was disturbed by The Excorcist because I felt it portrayed the demonic as much more powerful that it really is, especially given that the priest could not even expel the demon. I would love to know more of your thoughts on this topic or book recommendations about how Christians are to perceive the power (and lack of power) of the demonic.


You note that demons are psychic entities and are by no means physical monsters. Fair enough. Yet what are we to make of the foul-looking and smelling demons who repeatedly appeared to St Silouan to obstruct his prayer?

Thank you for this most illuminating post.

VERY good post. Like you said, we look for demonic possession to be some razzle dazzle head spinning kinda thing.

I think it's an incorrect and dualist question to ask, "Well, was it demons or was he just mentally ill? Or physically ill?" All three! Spiritual, physical, mental, all three--to be sick in any one area is to be sick in all three, as a unified person.

Get a cold, then you're cranky, then you get wrathful.

Get envious, then you're lonely, then you become sickly.

Become dispairing, then you're depressed, then you don't eat well.

Again, great post.

Thanks, Och., for the kind words. While I cast some aspersions on Mssrs. Wink and Stringfellow, I liked them both all the same. I went to a revivalist/anabaptist seminary, and to an evangelical quaker undergrad school, so I was introduced to the writings of folk like Wink and Yoder, and actually met (and was scared by) Stringfellow. The latter let it be known that being with a bunch of evangelical groupies was not his thing. Nevertheless, his presentation helped some of us start to hope that there was life outside the second work lifestyle and rapturo-phobia -- a lifestyle you described eloquently in your last post. Pax, Phos, & Zoe Dad (and Mom)!

Your last three posts have been profound and brilliant. I find this post quite hopeful and encouraging in light of the events which brought you to write it. I have now read several things on the horror, but this is the first thing which has caused me to feel that there is a concrete and real way to directly confront the evil at hand. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

As an aside - I am pleased that you mention Wink and Stringfellow. Walter Wink's trilogy was quite influential to me in my early twenties and over the years, as my opinion on several things Wink likes to posit about has become contrary to that of Wink, I still find his method and categories persuasive. He is right, it seems to me, when it comes to confronting the powers in a way that is real, direct, and maintains integrity. As for Stringfellow, I was spent a weekend at his old house on Block Island - where the Berrigans hid out - when I was buying Daniel Berrigan's library for a former employer of mine. Somewhere around the house I have a couple of old cassettes of Stringfellow giving lectures. I think I will have to dig those out and give them a listen again. In one lecture he was speaking in NYC the same time a Billy Graham crusade was going on there and as I recall his comments on the uselessness of revival religion where spot on. Though again I would disagree with Stringfellow over any number of issues, I think that writers like Wink and Stringfellow give light to the fact that the lines drawn in the "culture wars" are largely false. I agree with David B. Hart that there really is no war because we do not know who to fight. This post has brought many strands of thought together for me in a way that is most helpful.

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