Answer to a Critic
Appendix III from The Soul After Death
by Father Seraphim Rose of Platina
As the present book was being printed in serial form in The Orthodox Word, the
editor of another Orthodox periodical began publishing a long series of attacks on the
teaching of life after death set forth here (The Tlingit Herald, published by the
St. Nectarios American Orthodox Church, Seattle, Washington; vol. 5, no. 6 and following
issues). These attacks were directed, not only against the teaching of the present book,
but also against the teaching set forth in the publications of Holy Trinity Monastery in
Jordanville, New York (especially the issue of Orthodox Life of
January-February, 1978, the booklet "Unbelievable for
Many but Actually a True Occurrence," which appeared in Orthodox Life for
July-August, 1976, and the anthology Eternal Mysteries
Beyond the Grave); against the sermon of Archbishop John Maximovitch, "Life After Death", which appeared in The Orthodox Word, 1971,
no. 4, and is reprinted above in Chapter Ten of this book; against the whole teaching of
Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov which has inspired this book; and in general against the
teaching which has been set forth in so many Orthodox sources in the past several
centuries and expresses the living piety of the Orthodox faithful even today.
After reading these attacks I have not found it necessary to change anything I have
written here; I have only added a few paragraphs here and there to make more clear the
Orthodox teaching which, I believe, is most unfairly caricatured and misinterpreted in
There would be no purpose in making a point-by-point reply to this critic. His
Patristic citations hardly ever make the points he thinks they are making, and the only
reply to them is to indicate that they have been misapplied. Thus, for example: all the
quotes showing that man is composed of both soul and body (7:2, p. 26, etc.)which no
one deniessay nothing whatever against the independent activity of the soul after
death, which has so much evidence in its favor as to seem quite beyond
"refutation" if one trusts the Orthodox sources; the many places in Scripture
and in Patristic texts where death is expressed metaphorically as a "sleep" say
nothing whatever of the "literal truth" of this metaphor, which has been taught
by only a very few Christian teachers over the centuries and certainly is in disagreement
with the Church's accepted teaching; etc. A collection of "proof texts" makes
sense only if it actually proves an issue in dispute, not if it talks about something a
little different or does not speak clearly and explicitly to the issue.
While on the one hand the critic amasses long lists of often irrelevant quotations, his
more usual polemical technique is to dismiss his opponents with a sweeping statement that
either has no evidence behind it at all, or else obviously contradicts a good part of the
evidence. Thus, if the critic wishes to dispute the possibility of communications from
people who have come back to life from the dead, he categorically declares: "These
things are simply not possible" (vol. 5, no. 6, p. 25)despite the fact that
Orthodox literature contains numerous such communications; if he wants to deny that demons
are seen by men after death, he proclaims: "The fathers teach no such thing"
(6:12, p. 24) despite the numerous Patristic references, for example, to the
"toll-houses" encountered after death. If the critic does acknowledge the
existence of evidence which disputes his point, he dismisses it with a sweeping
accusation: it is all "allegories" or "moral fables" (5:6, p. 26).
The critic is also much addicted to rather cruel ad hominem arguments which
attempt to discredit anyone who disagrees with him: "It is interesting that some
people, together with the Latins, seem to think that the Scripture need not necessarily be
conformed with" (6:12, p. 30)this is said in a context where he has just
"swept away" the teaching of Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, who, at least
indirectly, is thus accused of disrespect for the Scriptures. The views of others who
disagree with the critic are liable to be smeared with such unflattering epithets as
"Origenistic" (6:12, p. 31) or "blasphemous" (5:6, P. 23), and the
opponents themselves dismissed as having a "Platonic-Origenistic mind" or as
being "under heavy Latin-Scholastic-Hellenistic influence, in a state of spiritual
delusion ... or simply abysmally ignorant" (6:12, p. 39).
It may already be seen, perhaps, that the polemical level of the critic in his attacks
against respected Orthodox theological authorities is not very high. But because this
critic, in his own way, does seem to reflect the misconceptions of some Orthodox people
who are not at home in the Orthodox literature which describes life after death, it may be
useful to answer some of the objections he has to the traditional Orthodox teaching on
life after death.
1. The "Contradictions" of Orthodox Literature on the Soul after Death
Despite the common opinion that the Orthodox literature on life after death is
"naive" and "simple," if one looks at it carefully one discovers that
it is actually quite subtle and even "sophisticated." Some of it, it is true,
can be read by a child on his own levelas a fascinating "story" on the
same level as other incidents in the Lives of Saints (which is where some of the Orthodox
after-death literature is to be found). But this material has been handed down to us by
the Church not because of its "story" qualities, but precisely because it is true;
and indeed, a chief source of this material is the ascetic treatises of the Holy
Fathers, where this teaching is presented in a very sober and straightforward manner, and
not at all in "story" form. Therefore, a more "sophisticated"
examination of this material can also bear fruit. We have tried to do something like this
in Chapter Six above, in the section called "How to Understand the Toll-Houses,"
where, following the explanations of St. Gregory the Dialogist and other Orthodox
authorities who have examined these questions, we distinguished between the spiritual
reality which the soul encounters after death and the figurative or interpretative
devices which are sometimes used to express this spiritual reality. The Orthodox
person who is at home in this kind of literature (often through having heard it from
childhood) automatically reads it on his own level and interprets its images in accordance
with his own spiritual understanding. "Bags of gold," "pyres of wood,"
"dwellings of gold," and such things in the other world are not interpreted by
adult readers in a literal sense, and the attempt of our critic to discredit such Orthodox
sources because they contain such figurative images only reveals that he does not
understand how to read these sources.
Thus, many of the supposed "contradictions" in Orthodox literature concerning
the other world exist in the minds of those who try to read this literature in an overly
literal mannerfor adults who artificially try to understand it in a childish way.
Some other "contradictions," on the other hand, are not really contradictions
at all. That some saints and others whose accounts are accepted in the Church speak of
their "after-death" experience and others do not is no more a
"contradiction" than the fact that some saints oppose having their relics moved,
while others bless such a move: this is a matter of individual need and circumstances. The
critic cites the example of St. Athanasius the Resurrected of the Kiev Caves, who would
say nothing of what he experienced after death, and uses this to make the categorical
assertion: "Nor have such people ever told us anything of what took
place" (7: 1, p. 31; emphasis his). But the Soldier Taxiotes (Lives of Saints, March
28), St. Salvius of AN, and many others did speak of their experience, and it is surely a
most unscholarly and "selective" use of sources to deny their testimony. Some,
like St. Salvius, at first were very hesitant to speak of this experience, but
nevertheless they did speak of it; and this fact, far from proving that there is no such
thing as experiences after death, only indicate how rich this experience is and how
difficult it is to communicate it to the living.
Again, the fact that many Fathers (and the Church in general) warn against the
acceptance of demonic visions (and sometimes, due to particular circumstances, they do
this in very categorical terms) does not in the least "contradict" the fact that
many true visions are accepted in the Church.
Often the critic in his attacks falsely applies a general Patristic statement, divorced
from its context, to a particular situation which it does not fit. When St. John
Chrysostom, for example, in Homily 28:3 on St. Matthew, states "nor is it possible
for a soul, torn away from the body, to wander here any more," he is speaking
specifically against the pagan idea that dead souls can become demons and remain
indefinitely on earth; but this general truth in no way contradicts or even touches on the
specific fact that, as numerous Orthodox testimonies show, many souls do indeed stay near
earth for a few hours or days after death before departing to the truly "other"
world. In this same passage St. Chrysostom adds that "after their departure hence our
souls are led away into some place, having no more power of themselves to come back
again"and this likewise does not contradict the fact that, at God's command and
for His purposes, some souls do indeed appear to the living (see the article of Photios Kontoglou above in Appendix II).
Again the fact that Christ cleared the air of the malignity of demons, as St.
Athanasius the Great teaches, does not in any way deny the existence of the demonic
toll-houses in the air, as the critic implies (6:8-9, p. 13); indeed, the critic himself
in another place quotes the Orthodox teaching that the evil spirits Which are still in the
air cause many temptations and fantasies (6:6-7, p. 33). The Church's teaching is that
whereas before our redemption by Christ, no one could pass through the air to
heaven, the path being closed by demons, and all men went down to hell, now it has
become possible for men to pass through the demons of the air, and their power now
is restricted to men whose own sins convict them. In the same way, we know that even
though Christ "destroyed the power of hell" (Kontakion of Pascha), any one of us
can still fall into hell by rejecting salvation in Christ.
Still again, the fact that our spiritual battle against "principalities and
powers" takes place in this life by no means contradicts the fact that this battle
occurs also as we leave this life. The section in Chapter Six above entitled "The
Toll-Houses Experienced before Death" explains the connection between these two
aspects of the Orthodox unseen warfare.
That the third, ninth, and fortieth-day memorials for the dead are sometimes explained
by the symbolism of the Trinity, the nine ranks of angels, and the Ascension of Christ, in
no way denies the fact that these days are somehow bound up also with what is
happening to the soul on those days (according to the "model" described above in
Chapter Ten). Neither explanation is a dogma, neither "contradicts" the other;
there is no need for an Orthodox Christian to deny either of them.
The undeniable fact that our fate after death depends on what we do in this life is not
at all contradicted by the equally undeniable fact that prayer for the dead can alleviate
their lot and even change their state, in accordance with the Orthodox teaching set forth by St. Mark of Ephesus and by the Orthodox Church in
general (see above, Chapter Ten and Appendix I). The critic is so intent on finding
"contradictions" in this teaching that he finds them even in one and the same
Orthodox teacher, stating that St. John of Kronstadt sometimes teaches the "Patristic
understanding" and sometimes the "Scholastic concept" (7:3, p. 28). St.
Mark of Ephesus is also guilty of the same "contradiction"; for, while making
statements on prayer for the dead which the critic thinks are "Patristic," he
also teaches clearly that "the souls of the departed are delivered by prayer from
confinement in hell as if from a certain prison" (see above, p. 202), which the
critic regards as a "Scholastic concept, since he regards it as impossible that
prayers for the dead can change their condition or obtain repose for them (7:3, p. 23).
The answer to all these and many other supposed "contradictions" which the
critic thinks he has found in the Orthodox teaching on life after death is to be found in
a fairer and less simple-minded reading of the Orthodox texts themselves. The Patristic
and hagiographical texts do not "contradict" themselves; if we will read the
Orthodox literature on life after death more deeply and thoroughly, we will find that it
is not the texts that are a problem, but our own imperfect understanding of them.
2. Is there such a thing as an "out-of-body" experience (whether
before or after death), or an "Other world" which souls inhabit?
The critic's opinion about "out-of-body" experiences is categorical:
"These things are simply not possible" (5:6, p. 25). He gives no evidence for
this assertion, but only his own opinion that all the many Orthodox texts that discuss
such things are "allegories" or "moral fables" (5:6, p. 26). Heaven,
paradise, and hell are not "Places," according to him, but only
"states" (6:2, p. 23); "the soul cannot function on its own, but only by
means of the body" (6:8-9, p. 22), and therefore not only can be in no "place
" after death, but cannot even function at all (6:8-9, p. 19); "to
suppose that this complex realm is yonder beyond one's repose is sheer madness"
(6:6-7, p. 34).
But is it really possible that the soul in itself is nothing but "inwardness"
and "repose" and has no "outward" aspect whatever, no
"place" where it functions? This is surely a radical teaching for Orthodox
Christianity, and, if true, would certainly require (as the critic already suggests) a
radical reinterpretation and indeed revision of the Patristic and hagiographical texts
which describe the soul's activities in precisely the "outward" formas
knowing, seeing, communicating, etc.
Now, it is one thing to say (as the Orthodox authorities who have examined such
questions invariably say) that one must be careful not to read the Orthodox texts on the
other world and life after death in too literal or earthly a manner, since that reality is
in many obvious ways very different from earthly reality; but it is quite something else
to "sweep away" all these texts and deny that they refer to anything at all in
an outward way, and are nothing but "allegories" and "fables." The
Orthodox literature on this subject describes it rather matter-of-factly as it appears to
the person undergoing such experiences, and the Orthodox Church and faithful have always
accepted these descriptions as corresponding faithfully to reality, even while making
allowances for the peculiar, other-worldly nature of this reality.
It is probably no exaggeration to say that no Orthodox writer has ever been so dogmatic
in describing the nature of this other-worldly reality as the present critic is in
denying it altogether. This is not a sphere for categorical assertions. St. Paul, in
describing his own spiritual experiences in the most general terms, is careful to say
"whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God
knoweth" (II Cor. 12:2). St. John Chrysostom in his interpretation of this passage
shows the same caution in saying: "Were only his mind and soul caught up, while the
body remained dead? Or was the body also caught up? This cannot be said for certain. If
the Apostle Paul himself, who was caught up and was vouchsafed so many and such
unutterable revelations, did not know this, how much less do we know it.... And if anyone
should say: How is it possible to be caught up out of the body? I will ask him: How is it
possible to be caught up in the body? The latter is even more difficult than the
former, if one is to examine it according to reason and not submit oneself to faith"
(Homily 26:1 on II Corinthians, in Volume 10: 1 of his Works in Russian, Saint
Petersburg, 1904, p. 690).
Similarly, St. Andrew the Fool for Christ, in describing his state during his own
experience of heaven, says: "I saw myself as if without flesh, because I did not feel
the flesh.... In appearance I was in the body, but I did not feel the weight of the body;
I felt no natural needs for the course of the whole two weeks when I was caught up. This
leads me to the thought that I was out of the body. I do not know how to say for sure;
this is known to God, the Knower of hearts" (from his complete Life by Nicephorus,
quoted in Bishop Ignatius, vol. III, p. 88).
Such Orthodox authorities, thenan Apostle, a great Father, a Saint of the most
exalted lifeall regard it as at least possible to speak of an experience of heaven
as occurring "out of the body "; and it is certainly clear from their words that
such experiences, whether they are "in" or "out" of the body, have
something bodily and outward about themotherwise there would be no need to speak of
the "body" at all in connection with them. In this book we have tried to
describe such experiences as simply as possible in the language of the Orthodox sources
themselves, without attempting to give a precise definition of this state. Bishop Theophan
the Recluse, in his commentary on St. Paul's statement in II Corinthians 12:2, says
perhaps as much as need be said on this subject: "Within or in the depths of the
world that is visible to us is hidden another world, just as real as this onewhether
spiritual or finely material, God knows; what is certain is that in it the angels and
saints dwell.... He (St. Paul) cannot say whether he was caught up in the body or out of
the body; this, he says, God alone knows. Evidently, for us this knowledge is not
necessary... A great precision in these details is not required, and it cannot be expected
that anyone should say something absolutely certain when the Apostle Paul himself is
silent" (Bishop Theophan, Commentary on the Second Epistle of the Holy Apostle
Paul to the Corinthians, Moscow, 1894, pp. 401-403).
Probably every Orthodox reader of the "other-worldly" elements in the Lives
of Saints is to some extent aware that the nature of this world and these experiences is
not to be precisely defined; the way they are expressed in these sources is exactly the
most appropriate and accurate way they can be expressed in the language of this
world. The attempt to dismiss these experiences as "allegories" or
"fables," and to define precisely the fact that they cannot occur as
stated, has no justification in Orthodox teaching and tradition.
3. Does the soul "sleep" after death?
The critic is so opposed to the activities of the soul in the other world, especially
after death, such as are described in numerous Lives of Saints, that he ends by teaching a
whole doctrine of the soul's "repose" or "slumber" after deatha
device which renders all these activities simply impossible! He states: "In the
Orthodox understanding, at death, the soul is held to be assigned to a state of repose by
an act of the Will of God, and enter into a condition of inactivity, a sort of sleep in
which it does not function, hear or see" (6:3-9, p. 19); the soul in this state
"can know nothing at all, nor remember anything at all" (6:2, p. 23).
Even among the heterodox, such a doctrine of "soul-slumber" is to be found in
our times only in a few of the sects which are far from historical Christianity (Jehovah's
Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists); how astonishing it is, therefore, to find it here
proclaimed so categorically as Orthodox! If one or two early teachers in the Church
(Aphraates of Syria, St. Anastasius of Sinai), as the critic claims, did perhaps teach
such a doctrine in an unambiguous way, it is abundantly clear that the Orthodox Church
herself never followed them, but in its Divine services, in the works of its great
Fathers, in its ascetic treatises, and in its Lives of Saints has taught so clearly that
the soul is active and "awake" after death that one is justly appalled at the
radicalness of the critic's teaching.
The critic himself seems to waver in his idea of what the "sleep" of the soul
means, sometimes defining it in terms of an exalted "hesychast" vocabulary that
somewhat softens its radicalness; but at least he is consistent in saying that the
supposed "sleep" of the soul after death makes absolutely impossible any
"outward" experiences of the soul. And as long as he continues to speak of death
as a state of "inactivity" in which the soul "can know nothing at all, nor
remember anything at all," it is clear that for him the word "sleep" does
have a meaning that is more than metaphorical.
There would be little point in searching in the Fathers for specific
"refutations" of this doctrine, for it was seldom taken seriously enough in the
Church to require a specific refutation. In Chapter Ten above we have cited the teaching
of St. Ambrose that the soul is "more active" when freed from the body after
death, St. Abba Dorotheus' statement that the soul "remembers everything at its exit
from this body more clearly and distinctly once freed from the earthliness of the
body," and St. John Cassian's teaching that the soul "becomes yet more
alive" after death; and similar statements could be found in many Fathers. But such
citations are only a small part of the Orthodox evidence that refutes the theory of
"soul-slumber." The whole Orthodox piety and practice of prayer for the dead
surely presupposes that souls are "awake" in the other world and that their lot
can be alleviated; the Orthodox calling on the saints in prayer, and the saints' response
to this prayer, is unthinkable without the conscious activity of the saints in heaven; the
immense Orthodox literature on the manifestations of saints after death cannot simply all
be cast away as "fables." If the critic is right, then the Church has certainly
been "wrong" for quite a few centuries.
The critic has tried to take unfair advantage of the fact that the teaching of the
Orthodox Church on life after death has many elements in it that are not "precisely
defined"not because the Church does not know what it thinks on this subject,
but because the reality of the other world is (to state the obvious once again) quite
different from this-worldly reality and does not easily lend itself to the
"dogmatic" approach the critic has taken towards it. The living contact of the
saints of heaven, and sometimes of other of the dead also, with the earthly Church is
known in the piety and experience of Orthodox Christians and does not need to be precisely
defined; but to make this want of a "precise definition" an excuse for teaching
that the souls even of the saints are in a state of "repose" that prevents any
"outward" contact with men on earth, surely oversteps the bounds permissible for
Orthodox Christian belief.
Among the other "after-death" experiences which the theory of
"soul-slumber" does away with is one universally believed in the Church from the
very beginning: the descent of the dead Christ into hell. "In the grave bodily, in
hell with the soul as God, in paradise with the thief, and on the Throne with the Father
and the Spirit was Thou Who fillest all things, O Christ the Infinite" (Troparion of
the Hours of Pascha, used as one of the secret prayers after the Cherubic Hymn at the
Divine Liturgy). The earliest generation of Christians knew without a doubt that Christ,
while he was "asleep" in the tomb (as stated in the Exapostilarion of Pascha,
the Kontakion of Great Saturday, etc.), went and preached unto the spirits in prison (hell)
(I Peter 3:19). Is this also an "allegory"? The Church's tradition is also very
strong that, even before this, St. John the Baptist "went rejoicing to declare to
those in hell the good tidings of God having appeared in the flesh," as the troparion
for the feast of his Beheading states. And what was it that the three disciples saw on the
Mount of Transfiguration when they beheld Moses, if it was not his soul, which appeared in
quite an "outward" manner (Matt. 17:3)? This manifestation, indeed, as it were,
confirms St. Paul's hesitancy in declaring whether his own vision of heaven was
"in" or "out" of the bodyfor Elias dwells in heaven
"in" the body, having never died, while Moses is there "out of the
body," his body being in the grave; but both of them appeared at Christ's
Transfiguration. We earth-dwellers cannot even define the difference between these two
states, but there is no need to; the simple description of such manifestations, as well as
of experiences of the "dead" in the other world, evidently give us our best
understanding of these matters, and there is no need for us to try to understand them in
any way but the simple way the Church presents them to us.
The critic, apparently, has fallen into the very accusation he has made against
others: he has taken an image, that of the "sleep" of death, which
is universally accepted in the Church as a metaphor, and interpreted it in some
way as a "literal truth." He often does not even notice that the very
sources he quotes to support his ideas are, on the contrary, the surest disproof
of his theory. He quotes St. Mark of Ephesus (using our translation which
first appeared in The Orthodox Word, no. 79, p. 90) that the righteous
"are in heaven with the angels before God Himself, and already as if in
the paradise from which Adam fell (into which the good thief entered before
others) and often visit us in those temples where they are venerated, and hear
those who call on them and pray for them to God...." (6:12, p. 18). If
all this (which certainly involves "outward" activity) can be done
by a soul that is actually "sleeping"that is, in "a condition
of inactivity in which it does not function, hear or see" (6:8-9, p. 19)then
the theory of "soul-slumber" has no real function because it explains
nothing at all, and the critic only confuses the faithful by using it.
4. Are the toll-houses "imaginary"?
The critic's greatest wrath is directed against the Orthodox ascetic teaching
on the demonic toll-houses encountered by the soul after death, and one suspects
that it is his desire to destroy the very concept of them that has led him into
such a self-contradictory theory as that of "soul-slumber." The language
he uses to describe the toll-houses is quite categorical and rather immoderate.
He speaks of the "imaginary after-death toll-houses" (6:8-9, p. 18)
and calls the accounts of them in Orthodox literature "wild tales"
(6:8-9, p. 24) and "tales of horror well calculated to cast the soul into
despair and unbelief" (7: 1, p. 33); "the toll-house myth is ... utterly
alien to God and His Holy Church" (7:1, p. 23). But when he tries to describe
his own understanding of the toll-houses, the result is a caricature so preposterous
that one cannot believe he has even read the texts in question. For him the
accounts of the toll-houses would have us believe that satan owns 'the road
to God's kingdom' and can collect a tariff of those who travel on it.... The
demons grant an indulgence of passage in return for the excess merits of a saint"
(6:2, p. 22). The toll-houses, he thinks, describe "a wandering soul needing
to be prayed to rest (as the pagans believed)"; it is an "occult concept
about the journey of the soul being paid for by prayers and alms" (6:2,
p. 26). He looks for "foreign influences" to explain how such a concept
ever got into the Orthodox Church, and concludes (without a shred of evidence,
however, apart from the same kind of vague parallels that lead anthropologists
to conclude that Christianity is just another pagan "resurrection cult")
that "the toll-house myth is the direct product of the oriental astrology
cults which hold that all creation is not in the care of a just and loving God"
(7: 1, p. 23); "these toll-houses are merely an illogical mutation of these
pagan myths" (6:8-9, p. 24). He finds the toll-houses to be virtually identical
with the Latin doctrine of "purgatory,"
and states that "the difference between the purgatory myth and that of
the aerial toll-houses is that the one gives God satisfaction by means of physical
torment, while the other gives Him His needed satisfaction by means of mental
torture" (6:12, p. 23).* The account of Theodora's
passage through the tollhouses (Lives of Saints, March 26) the critic calls
a "heresy-filled tale" (6:8-9, p. 24) based upon a "hallucination"
(7:2, p. 14) of someone who, in Old Testament times, "would have justly
been taken out and stoned" because he "was in a state of abject spiritual
delusion" (6:6-7, p. 28). (Why the critic should be so angry against Theodora's
account is not clear; it is only one of many similar accounts and teaches nothing
different from themso much so that I saw no need to quote it above in
the chapter on the toll-houses.)
These extreme accusations are personal opinions of the critic which certainly have no
evidence behind them. One wonders why he insists on making up his own interpretation of
the toll-houses and refuses to understand them as the Church has always understood them;
the caricature which he is railing against has never been taught in the Orthodox Church,
and one is at a loss to know from what source he has taken his preposterous
For some sixteen centuries the Fathers of the Church have spoken of the toll-houses as
a part of the Orthodox ascetic teaching, the final and decisive stage of the "unseen
warfare" which each Christian wages upon earth. For the same period of time numerous
Lives of Saints and other Orthodox texts have described the actual experiences of Orthodox
Christians, both Saints and sinners, who have encountered these toll-houses after death
(and sometimes before). It is obvious to all but the youngest children that the name of
"toll-house" is not to be taken literally; it is a metaphor which the Eastern
Fathers have thought appropriate for describing the reality which the soul encounters
after death. It is also obvious to all that some of the elements in the descriptions of
these toll-houses are metaphorical or figurative. The accounts themselves, however, are
neither "allegories" nor "fables," but straightforward accounts of
personal experiences in the most adequate language at the disposal of the teller. If the
descriptions of the toll-houses seem too "vivid" for some, it is probably
because they have not been aware of the actual nature of the unseen warfare waged during
this life. Now too we are constantly beset by demonic tempters and accusers, but our
spiritual eyes are closed and we see only the results of their activities the sins into
which we fall, the passions which develop in us. But after death, the eyes of the soul are
open to spiritual reality and see (usually for the first time) the actual beings who have
been attacking us during our lifetime.
There is no paganism, no occultism, no "oriental astrology," no
"purgatory" whatever to be found in the Orthodox accounts of the toll-houses.
These toll-houses teach us, rather, of the accountability of each man for his own sins, of
the fact that at death there is a summing up of his success or failure in battling against
sin (the Particular Judgment), and that the demons who have tempted him throughout life
make their final assault upon him at the end of his life, but have power only over those
who have not sufficiently fought the unseen warfare in this lifetime.
As for the literary forms in which they are expressed, the toll-houses appear alike in
the Divine services of the Church (the Church's poetry), in the ascetic writings of the
Fathers, and in the Lives of Saints. No Orthodox person reads any of these texts in the
crudely literal way the critic has read them, but approaches them with respect and the
fear of God, looking for spiritual benefit. Any spiritual father who has tried to educate
his spiritual children in the age-old tradition of Orthodox piety can testify to the
beneficial effect of the Orthodox sources which mention the toll-houses; indeed, the late
Archbishop Andrew of Novo-Diveyevo, a widely loved and respected spiritual father, used
precisely the twenty toll-houses through which Theodora is described as passing as the
foundation for a very effective preparation for the sacrament of confession by his
spiritual children. If there is any "disharmony" of these texts with
20th-century man, the fault lies in our pampered, permissive times, which encourage
disbelief in and a lax attitude towards the truly awesome realities of the other world,
and especially those of hell and judgment.
The teaching of the toll-houses in Orthodox sources has never been defined as a
"dogma," belonging rather to the tradition of Orthodox piety; but this does not
mean that it is something "unimportant" or something that is a matter of
"personal opinion." It has been taught everywhere and at all times in the Church
wherever the Orthodox ascetic tradition has been handed down. If it is a subject that has
been rather outside the area of concern of many recent Orthodox theologians, this is
precisely because these theologians belong first of all to the academic world and not to
the ascetic tradition. Theologians of a more traditional bent, however, as well as those
for whom the Orthodox ascetic tradition is a living thing, have given this subject much
attention. Outside of the Russian Church, where the teaching of the toll-houses has been
much discussed and defended by Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, Bishop Theophan the Recluse,
Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow, St. John of Kronstadt, Archbishop John Maximovitch,
Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, and numerous other teachers and theologians, it has
been most emphasized in the Serbian Church, where it occupies an honored place in the Dogmatic
Theology of the late Archimandrite Justin Popovich (vol. III). However, it has become
more noticed in recent years as translations especially of Orthodox ascetical literature
and the Divine services have become more available in Western languages. We will note here
a few passages on the toll-houses that have appeared in English editions in the past few
years and have not yet been quoted in the course of this book:
From the Fifty Spiritual Homilies of St. Macarius the Great, one of the basic
works of Orthodox ascetic literature (A. J. Mason translation, Eastern Orthodox Books,
Willits, California, 1974):
When the soul of a man departs out of the body, a great mystery is there
accomplished. If it is under the guilt of sins there come bands of devils, and angels of
the left hand, and powers of darkness take over that soul, and hold it fast on their side.
No one ought to be surprised at this. If, while alive and in this world, the man was
subject and compliant to them, and made himself their bondman, how much more, when he
departs out of this world, is he kept down and held fast by them (Homily 22, p. 171).
Like tax-collectors sitting in the narrow ways, and laying hold upon the passers-by,
and extorting from them, so do the devils spy upon souls, and lay hold of them; and when
they pass out of the body, if they are not perfectly cleansed, they do not suffer them to
mount up to the mansions of heaven and to meet their Lord, and they are driven down by the
devils of the air. But if whilst they are yet in the flesh, they shall with much labor and
effort obtain from the Lord the grace from on high, assuredly these, together with those
who through virtuous living are at rest, shall go to the Lord, as He promised.... (Homily
43, p. 274).
From the Ladder of Divine Ascent, another standard Orthodox ascetic text
(Archimandrite Lazarus Moore translation, revised by Holy Transfiguration Monastery,
Others (of the dying) said dolefully: "Will our soul pass through
the irresistible water of the spirits of the air?"not having complete
confidence, but looking to see what would happen in that rendering of accounts (Step 5, p.
Indeed, the "Letter of Abba John of Raithu" that introduces the Ladder indicates
the very purpose why such books are written:
As a ladder set up, (this book) will lead aspirants to the gates of
Heaven pure and blameless, so that they may pass unhindered the spirits of wickedness, and
the world-rulers of darkness, and the princes of the air (Ibid., p. xlii).
From "On Watchfulness and Holiness" by St. Hesychios the Priest, in Volume I
of the complete Greek Philokalia (Palmer-Sherrard-Ware translation, Faber and
Faber, London, 1979):
If the soul has Christ with it, it will not be disgraced by its enemies
even at death, when it rises to heaven's entrance; but then, as now, it will boldly
confront them. But let it not tire in calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
day and night until the time of its departure from this mortal life, and He will speedily
avenge it.... Indeed, He will avenge it both in this present life and after its departure
from its body (#149, p. 188).
The hour of death will come upon us, it will come and we shall not escape it. May the
prince of this world and of the air find our misdeeds few and petty when he comes, so that
he will not have good grounds for convicting us. Otherwise we shall weep in vain (#161, p.
[An unwatchful man] cannot free himself from evil thoughts, words and actions, and
because of these thoughts and actions he will not be able freely to pass the lords of hell
when he dies (#4, P. 163).
From "On Spiritual Knowledge" by St. Diadochos of Photike:
If we do not confess our involuntary sins as we should, we shall
discover an ill-defined fear in ourselves at the hour of our death. We who love the Lord
should pray that we may be without fear at that time; for if we are afraid then, we will
not be able freely to pass by the rulers of the nether world. They will have as their
advocate to plead against us the fear which our soul experiences because of its own
wickedness. But the soul which rejoices in the love of God, at the hour of its departure,
is lifted with the angels of peace above all the hosts of darkness (#100, p. 295).
From "Texts for the Monks in India" by St. John of Karpathos, from
the same Volume I of the new translation of the Philokalia:
When the soul leaves the body, the enemy advances to attack it,
fiercely reviling it and accusing it of its sins in a harsh and terrifying manner. But if
a soul enjoys the love of God and has faith in Him, even though in the past it has often
been wounded by sin, it is not frightened by the enemy's attacks and threats. Strengthened
by the Lord, winged by joy, filled with courage by the holy angels that guide it,
encircled and protected by the light of faith, it answers the malicious devil with great
boldness.... When the soul says all this fearlessly, the devil turns his back, howling
aloud and unable to withstand the name of Christ (pp. 303-304).
From the Sunday Octoechos, translated by Mother Mary of Bussy-en-Othe, in a
troparion addressed to the Mother of God:
... In the dread hour of death pluck me out from the midst of the
accusing demons and from every punishment (Sunday Midnight Office, Tone 1, Canticle 7).
Some of these references, it will be noted are partial and do not give the whole
Orthodox teaching on this subject. This is obviously because they are references to a
teaching with which the ascetical and hymnological writers themselves and their readers
are already familiar and which they accept, and there is no need to "define"
it or justify this teaching whenever it is mentioned. The attempt of the critic, who has
noted the existence of some of these references, to distinguish between such experiences
which occur "before" and those which occur "after" death, and to deny
the very possibility of those that occur "after" (6:12, p. 24), is quite
artificial, being only a "logical deduction" from his own false teaching on the
"steep" of the soul, and has no support in the ascetic and Divine service texts
themselves. The reality of demonic "testing" is one and the same, and the
toll-houses are only the final phase of it, sometimes beginning at the end of this life,
and sometimes only after death.
Innumerable other references to the toll-houses occur throughout Orthodox ascetic
literature, Lives of Saints, and Divine services; most of these have not yet appeared in
English. The critic, when he does take notice of such references, is forced to interpret
them, not in accordance with the context in which they occur, but rather in accordance
with his own "logical deductions" about life after death.
For example, in quoting the Prayer of St. Eustratius (Saturday Midnight Office),
"May my soul not see the dark gaze of the evil demons, but may it be received by Thy
bright and most radiant angels" (6:12, p. 23), the critic regards this as a proof
that the soul does not (and cannot) see demons after death (this
being a necessity for his theory that the soul is "sleeping" then). But it is
surely clear to any unprejudiced reader that it means just the opposite: that
the Saint prays not to see demons precisely because that is the normal lot of the
soul after death! This is even clearer from the whole context of the Prayer of St.
Eustratius, where the words which immediately precede this sentence are: "My soul is
troubled and pained at its departure from my wretched and vile body. May the evil design
of the adversary not overtake it and cause it to stumble in the darkness for the unknown
and known sins which I have performed during this life." It is clear that the
teaching of the testing by demons after death (whether or not it is given the name of
"toll-houses") was familiar to St. Eustratius and forms the background and
context of his prayer; and this is why Bishop Ignatius uses this prayer as an indication
that this teaching was well known to the Church even at this early day (the beginning of
the 4th century) (Bishop Ignatius, vol. III, pp. 140-141).
Again, the critic quotes the reply of St. Barsanuphius of Gaza to a monk who had asked
him to escort him "through the air and along that way which I do not know" as
though this reply is a refutation of the idea of the toll-houses. But once more, it is
clear that the context both of the question and the answer is one wherein the aerial
toll-houses encountered after death are accepted as a matter of course, and St.
Barsanuphius, in wishing that Christ "make the ascent of your soul unhindered and
vouchsafe you to worship the Holy Trinity with boldness, that is, as one
delivered"is only expressing part of the standard teaching on the toll-houses,
which was present in the ascetic tradition of Gaza as much as in the rest of the East.
(St. Barsanuphius and John, Questions and Answers, no. 145). This incident is also used by
Bishop Ignatius as another of his numerous citations from Holy Fathers in defense of the
teaching of the toll-houses (p. 145).
Other citations by Bishop Ignatius of ascetic Fathers who clearly teach of the
St. Abba Dorotheus of Gaza: "When the soul is insensitive it is
profitable to read frequently the Divine Scripture and the sermons of the God-bearing
Fathers that inspire contrition, and to remember the fearful judgment of God, the
departure of the soul from the body, and the fearful powers that are to meet it, with
whose participation it performed evil in this short and miserable life" (p. 146).
St. Theognostes, another Father of the Philokalia: "Unutterable and
unspeakable is the sweetness of the soul that departs from the body and is informed of its
salvation.... Accompanied by the angel (sent for it), it goes without hindrance through
the aerial spaces, not in the least disturbed by the evil spirits; joyfully and boldly it
ascends to exclamations of thanksgiving to God, and comes finally to worship its
Creator" (p. 147).
Evagrius of Scetis: "Come to your senses and think how you will bear your sudden
departure from the body, when the threatening angels will come for you and seize you in an
hour when you are not expecting it and at a time you know not! What deeds will you send
before you into the air, when your enemies who are in the air begin to test you?"
(pp. 148-149; Prologue, Oct. 27).
St. John the Almsgiver: "When the soul departs the body and begins to ascend to
heaven, it is met by ranks of demons, and they subject it to many hindrances and tests.
They test it in lying, slander" (etc.a long list of sins similar to the twenty
given in the life of St. Basil the New). "During the journey of the soul from earth
to heaven, the holy angels themselves cannot help it; it is helped only by its own
repentance, its good deeds, and most of all by almsgiving. If we do not repent of every
sin here due to forgetfulness, then by almsgiving we can be delivered from the violence of
the demonic toll-houses" (P. 143; Prologue, Dec. 19).
Another Father of the Philokalia, St. Peter Damascene, speaks of "the time
of death, when the demons will surround my poor soul, holding the records of all the evil
I have committed" (in his Works, Kiev Caves Lavra, 1905, p. 68).
In the Divine services, as has already been noted, there are many prayers, especially
addressed to the Mother of God, which imply or directly state the ascetic teaching
regarding the tollhouses. A number of these have been quoted in the course of this book.
Bishop Ignatius, in quoting many more of them (from the Octoechos, the Euchologion,
from prayers on the departure of the soul, from Akathists and canons to the Mother of
God and various saints), concludes that "the teaching of the toll-houses is
encountered as a generally known and accepted teaching throughout the Divine services of
the Orthodox Church. The Church declares and reminds its children of it in order to sow in
their hearts a soul-saving fear and to prepare them for a safe transition from temporal
life to eternal" (vol. III, p. 149).
Typical of the references to the toll-houses in the Orthodox Menaia (the twelve
volumes of daily services to the saints) is this troparion from the service to St. John
Chrysostom (Jan. 27); it occurs in the Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos (Canticle 5),
written by "John" (evidently St. John Damascene):
Grant me to pass through the noetic satraps and the tormenting aerial
legions without sorrow at the time of my departure, that I may cry joyfully to Thee, O
Theotokos, Who heard the cry "Hail": Rejoice, O unashamed hope of all.
But there is no point in simply multiplying citations in Orthodox literature which show
how clearly this teaching has been set forth in the Church over the centuries; Bishop
Ignatius gives twenty pages of such citations, and many more could be found. But for those
who do not like this teaching, it will always be possible somehow to
"reinterpret" it or subject it to caricature. Still, even our critic is forced
to admit the existence of at least a few of the Orthodox texts that indicate the demonic
testing at death, and he defends his position that the toll-houses are
"imaginary" by saying that "such visions are avoidable if we struggle in
this life and repent of our sins and acquire virtues" (6:12, p. 24). But this is
the very meaning of the teaching of the toll-houses which he has caricatured and denied! The
teaching of the toll-houses is given to us precisely so that we might labor now, might
struggle against the demons of the air in this lifeand then our meeting with
them after death will be a victory and not a defeat for us! How many ascetic strugglers
has it inspired to do precisely this! But who among us can say that he has won this battle
already and need not fear the demonic testing after death?
The present writer remembers well the solemn services for the repose of Archbishop John
Maximovitch in 1966, culminating in the day of his funeral. All present felt they were
witnessing the burial of a saint; the sadness at parting from him was swallowed up by the
joy of acquiring a new heavenly intercessor. And yet several of the hierarchs present, and
especially Bishop Savva of Edmonton, inspired the more fervent prayer of the people by
citing the "fearful toll-houses" through which even this holy man, this miracle
of God's grace in our times, had to pass. No one present thought that our prayers alone
would save him from the "tests" of the demons, and no one pictured in his mind
an exchange of "tolls" at some "houses" in the sky; but these appeals
helped to inspire the fervent piety of the faithful, and doubtless this helped him to get
through these toll-houses. The holy man's own life of good deeds and almsgiving, the
intercession of the saints whom he glorified on earth, the prayer of the faithful which
was actually another product of his love for themdoubtless all this, in a way known
to God, and which we need not search out, helped him to repel the assaults of the dark
spirits of the air. And when Bishop Savva made a special trip to San Francisco to be
present at the services for the fortieth day after Archbishop John's repose, and told the
faithful: "I have come to pray together with you for the repose of his soul on this
significant and decisive fortieth day, the day when the place is determined where his soul
will dwell until the general and terrible Judgment of God" (Blessed John, The
Chronicle of the Veneration of Archbishop John Maximovitch, St. Herman Brotherhood,
1979, p. 20)he was again inspiring the prayer of the faithful by citing another
belief of the Orthodox teaching on life after death. Such things are seldom heard by
Orthodox Christians nowadays, and therefore we should all the more treasure the contact we
still have with such representatives of the Orthodox ascetic tradition.
Among Russian Orthodox Church writers, opposition to the teaching of the toll-houses
has long been recognized as one of the signs of ecclesiastical "modernism."
Thus, Bishop Ignatius devoted a large part of his volume on life after death to the
defense of this teaching, which was already under attack in mid-19th century Russia; and
incidentally, contrary to the unfounded opinion of the critic that the toll-houses
themselves are accepted only by those under "Western influence," the Roman
Catholic and Protestant West has no notion whatever of the toll-houses, which exist only
in the Orthodox ascetic teaching, and the attack against them in the Church today is
precisely from those (as in the modernist Orthodox seminaries) who are strongly
"Western" in mentality and have little respect for traditional Orthodox piety.
Quite recently Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, perhaps the greatest living
theologian of the Orthodox Church, has written an article in
defense of the toll-houses, written in part as an answer to the present critic (Orthodox
Russia, 1979, no. 7; English translation in Nikodemos, Summer, 1979). In this
article he warns that in our contemporary non-Orthodox society there are often
"questions of our Faith (which are) raised and treated from an un-Orthodox point of
view by persons of other confessions, and sometimes by Orthodox Christians who no longer
have a firm Orthodox foundation under their feet.... In recent years a critical approach
to a whole series of out Church views has become more noticeable; these views are accused
of being 'primitive,' the result of a 'naive' world view or piety, and they are
characterized by such words as 'myths, 'magic,' and the like. It is our duty to respond to
And Bishop Theophan the Recluse gives perhaps the soberest and most down-to-earth
answer to those who are unwilling to accept the Orthodox ascetic teaching: "No matter
how absurd the idea of the toll-houses may seem to our 'wise men,' they will not escape
passing through them" (see above, p. 86).
The toll-houses are not a "moral fable" made up for "simple
people," as the critic believes (5:6, p. 26), they are not a "myth" or
"imaginary" or a "wild tale," as he saysbut a true account,
handed down in the Orthodox ascetic tradition from the earliest centuries, of what awaits
each of us at death.
The preservation of the age-old tradition of Orthodox piety in the contemporary world
has become a battle against overwhelming odds. The Orthodox flocks for the most part have
become so worldly that an Orthodox priest who wishes to hand down and teach this tradition
is tempted to despair over the very possibility of such a task. Most priests and bishops
end by following their flocks and "adapting" the tradition to the worldliness of
the flocks; and thus the tradition fades and dies....
The sermons, lectures, and books of the clergy of most Orthodox jurisdictions today on
the subject of life after death show that very little has been preserved of the
traditional Orthodox teaching and piety. When the other world is mentioned at all, save in
the most general and abstract terms, it is usually as a subject for jokes about "St.
Peter" and "pearly gates" such as are often used by worldly Roman Catholic
and Protestant clergy. Among many Orthodox Christians the other world has become something
far away and very hazy, with which one has no living contact and about which one can say
nothing very definite at all.
The suffering Church of Russiaprobably due to its sufferings as much as to its
innate conservatismhas preserved the traditional Orthodox attitude towards the other
world much better than other Orthodox Churches today. In the free world, it is the Russian
Church Outside of Russia almost alone that continues to publish the traditional Orthodox
literature on this subject, continuing the tradition of the Prologue and other
pious anthologies of old Russia, and fortunate are those Orthodox Christians who have
access to this literature and can accept it in simplicity and piety, avoiding the spirit
of "criticism" which leads so many, especially among converts, away from the
true tradition and feeling of Orthodoxy.
It need hardly be said how "old-fashioned" the worldeven the Orthodox
worldregards those who publish and read such literature. It has been the chief
purpose of this book to make this "old-fashioned" literature understandable and
accessible to today's Orthodox Christians, who can only benefit from reading what has
brought such spiritual profit to Orthodox Christian readers for many centuries.
The aim of our critic is exactly the opposite: thoroughly to discredit this literature,
to dismiss it as "moral fables" or "wild tales," and to submit the
Divine services and Lives of Saints to a thorough "criticism" that will expunge
all such elements in them. (See, for example, his elaborate attempt to discredit the Life
of St. Basil the New because it contains descriptions of the toll-houses: Tlingit
Herald, 7:2, p. 14).
Let us give this undertaking the name it deserves: it is the work of the same Western
rationalism which has attacked the Orthodox Church so many times in the past and has
led so many to lose the true understanding and feeling of Orthodox Christianity. In the
Roman Catholic and Protestant West, this attack has been thoroughly successful, and
whatever Lives of Saints are left there have indeed been expunged of supernatural elements
and are often considered "moral fables." While accusing all who oppose his
teaching of "scholasticism," the critic proves himself to be perhaps the most
"scholastic" of all: his teaching is founded not on the clear and simple texts
handed down in the Church from the earliest centuries to our own, but on a series of his
own "logical deductions" which require a radical reinterpretation and revision
of the evident meaning of the basic Orthodox texts.
It is bad enough that the critic's tone and language are so crude, that he makes such
an evil caricature of the Orthodox teaching he is attacking, and that he is so
disrespectful of many venerable Orthodox teachersthe very best of those few teachers
who have kept alive the Orthodox tradition of piety to our own days. Here is what he says,
for example, about the sermon "Life
after Death" by Archbishop John Maximovitch (see above, page 176), a holy
man and great theologian of our own days: It is "a wild tale about the soul departing
and being pursued and tormented by demons.... In this tale, the faithful were told that
when someone reposed, they must quickly begin to have services said for the repose of the
departed soul, since the soul was in such desperate need of our prayers, and death was a
matter of great terror (evidently, God was unable to move Himself to mercy or to help the
pitiful soul without being prodded or awakened by the shouts and cries of mortals). This
tale also included a patently blasphemous description of the repose of the Most Holy
Theotokos" (6:2, p. 22). Archbishop John's name is not mentioned here, although from
the description it is precisely clear what sermon the critic is referring to; but such
language shows an intolerable disrespect no matter which Orthodox authority he
might be attacking!
But what is truly tragic is that the critic, by whatever means, is trying to deprive
Orthodox Christians of that very thing which, even without him, is already disappearing so
fast in our midst: the traditional Orthodox piety towards the other world, revealed not
only in the kind of literature we read (which the critic is striving to discredit), but
even more in our attitude towards the dead and what we do for them. It is obvious from the
above quote that the critic, unlike Archbishop John, regards it as unimportant to pray for
the reposed immediately after death, and indeed thinks that the soul does not need and
cannot be benefited by our "shouts and cries"! Indeed, the critic specifically
states that "the things we ask on behalf of the reposed are only proclamations of
what they are going to receive anyway " (7:3, p. 27) and have no effect on their
eternal lot, not seeing that by this teaching he is not only contradicting the Holy
Fathers but is also removing the chief motive which impels people to pray for the dead at
How heartless to the dead! How cruel to the living! How un-Orthodox a teaching! Surely
those who pray for the dead do not in the least understand their prayers as "magical
incantations" (7:3, p. 23) or as "bribes or magical means of forcing God to be
merciful" (Ibid., p. 26), as the critic so cruelly states, but pray with good faith
(just as in prayers for anything else) that God will indeed in His mercy grant what is
asked. The "synergy" of God's will and our prayers cannot be understood by the
narrow, truly worse than "scholastic" logic which the critic employs.
Those who still live by the traditional Orthodox sources are a dwindling
minority today. What is needed are more helps to the understanding of this
traditional piety, not an undermining and caricaturing of it and disrespect for those who
The anti-Orthodox teaching on life after death of this critic is all the more dangerous
in that it appeals to a very subtle passion of contemporary mankind. The Orthodox teaching
on life after death is rather severe and demands a very sober response on our part, full
of the fear of God. But mankind today is very pampered and self-centered and would rather
not hear of such stem realities as judgment and accountability for sins. One can be much
more "comfortable" with an exalted teaching of "hesychasm" that tells
us that God is not "really" as stern as the Orthodox ascetic tradition has
described Him, that we "really" need have no fear of death and the judgment it
brings, that if only we occupy ourselves with exalted spiritual ideas like those in the Philokalia
(dismissing as "allegories" all the passages on the toll-houses) we will be
"safe" under a "loving God" who will not demand an accounting of all
our sins, even those forgotten or unrecognized.... The end of these exalted reflections is
a state not far different from that of those "charismatics" and others who feel
themselves already assured of salvation, or of those who follow the occult teaching that
states there is nothing to fear in death.
The true Orthodox teaching on life after death, on the other hand, fills one precisely
with the fear of God and the inspiration to struggle for the Kingdom of Heaven against all
the unseen enemies who oppose our path. All Orthodox Christians are called to this
struggle, and it is a cruel injustice to them to dilute the Orthodox teaching to make them
more "comfortable." Let each one read the Orthodox texts most suited to the
spiritual level at which he presently finds himself, but let no one tell him that he
can dismiss as "fables" the texts he may find "uncomfortable."
Fashions and opinions among men may change, but the Orthodox tradition remains ever the
same, no matter how few may follow it. May we ever be its faithful children!
* The comparison of the toll-houses with "purgatory"
is surely far-fetched. The toll-houses are part of the Orthodox ascetic teaching
and have to do solely with the "testing" of a man for the sins committed
by him: they give no "satisfaction" to God and their purpose is certainly
not "torture." "Purgatory," on the other hand, is a legalistic
Latin misinterpretation of an entirely different aspect of Orthodox eschatologythe
state of the souls in hell (after the testing of the toll-houses) which may
yet be bettered by the prayers of the Church. The Latin sources themselves give
no indication that demons have any part at all in the pains of those in "purgatory.
Webmaster Note. It may interest the reader to know that
the very same critics of the tradition of aerial toll-housesArchbishop Lazar and Father Michael Azkoul, to name twoare also among those responsible for the wholly un-Orthodox denigration of the Blessed Augustine of Hippo. The
astute reader will perceive that there is a spiritual problem underlying all of these
"witch hunts." The mentality and methodology is the same in both cases. This is
unfortunate, because both of these clergymen have produced some excellent works in the
past. Caveat emptor!