Is GOARCH’s “PRAXIS” Magazine GOing New Age?

“Consider a statement more deeply, look at sources more carefully, and study them…deepening our knowledge of Orthodox Christianity to the fullest extent possible and continually. Don’t put words in the mouth of the Church if you’re not sure that the Church didn’t say it.” (Fall 2013 issue of Praxis)

The Spring 2015 issue of Praxis, the official magazine of the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, is dedicated to the subject of “Spiritual Disciplines.” Archbishop Demetrios of America and Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco introduced this special issue with encouraging comments. I looked forward to reading about Orthodox Christian practices from Orthodox educators, theologians and pastors.

Praxis Magazine | Spring, 2015

As I turned the pages, I came across the leading article by Kyriakos Markides, entitled “The Emerging Reconciliation Between Religion and Science.” I was surprised by the subject matter of the article that didn’t seem to relate to the subject of “Spiritual Disciplines.”1 In all sincerity, I was especially surprised by the name of the author, familiar to me from his books and the controversy surrounding him. After a careful reading of the article I felt compelled to comment on its author and its content.

Before I do that, I would like to say that although the subject of the article is of some interest, the thesis advanced in it, that “we may be at the beginning of the end of hostilities between science and religion” (Praxis 9/1), is hardly of interest to us Orthodox Christians who have never been in hostility with science, as the western Christians had.2

Kyriakos Markides

I don’t know the author personally, but I happen to know about his New Age beliefs and ideas, which are incompatible with our Orthodox Faith. Surely, I thought to myself, the director, the editorial staff of the magazine and those involved in this issue must know who Kyriakos Markides is and the views he advocates. Even if they didn’t, they must have read the article before publishing it. Can it be that they share his views? I felt compelled to express my reasons why Praxis should not have published this article and spread his un-Orthodox views.

We don’t need seekers and explorers to teach us. We need enlightened Fathers who speak through the Holy Spirit to guide us—not people on a “spiritual journey” through uncertain ways leading us to uncertain destinations, if anywhere at all.

Sadly to say, Markides may have placed Orthodox spirituality, or rather his version of it, on the shelves of main bookstores and home libraries of Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, but at a high price. It is true that the attraction of his books is due to the wisdom of “Father Maximos”3 portrayed in them, and not to the dangerous commentary offered by the author. Had he presented the teachings of Father Maximos alone it would have been a real contribution. However, wrapping up these teachings with his own New Age spirit made them poisonous.4 Readers well versed in their fait­­h may be able to be discerning and ignore his personal views. But for the unsuspecting ones this might be difficult.

Markides is imbued with the New Age spirit. For him Christianity is another way. He often claims that truth can be found anywhere. He is confused, putting oriental religions on a par with the true faith. No wonder the Vedanta Society advertises his books on their website.5 We don’t need seekers and explorers to teach us. We need enlightened Fathers who speak through the Holy Spirit to guide us—not people on a “spiritual journey” through uncertain ways leading us to uncertain destinations, if anywhere at all. His multiple errors have been exposed by Fr. Vasilios Speliopoulos,6 who bemoans, “the Orthodox criterion is lost; the faithful read whatever, unable to discern deceptions.”7 He is correct.

Non-Orthodox Authors Quoted

To move beyond these introductory comments, but before I address the substance of his article, I would like us to briefly look at the authors Markides quotes or mentions in support of his thesis. Rather than using reliable Orthodox sources, he quotes or mentions a number of authors, none of whom are Orthodox. I wonder if the editors of Praxis agree with these authors and their beliefs?

Francis Collins (Praxis 6)famous geneticist who led the Human Genome Project.

He is more than someone who has become a vehicle for “spiritual wonder, discovery and renewal,” as Markides says. Collins describes himself as a “serious Christian,” and he explains: “someone who believes in the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection.”8 He also calls himself a “theistic evolutionist,” meaning God used natural selection in creating the world.

Allan Sandage (Praxis 7/2)astronomer; convert to Christianity.

Not quoted directly by Markides, but he is mentioned because he adhered to the anthropic cosmological principle,” a theory of cosmological evolution that integrates a “spiritual” dimension.9 Sandage belongs to the “Creationist” or “Intelligent Design Movement” (IDM). God for him is an “organizing force”10 — but is He a loving Father?

Huston Smith (Praxis 7/1)author of the popular text World Religions.

He states that, “the peyote plant is God’s flesh just like the bread in the Eucharist is regarded as Christ's body.”11 Here is another statement about him: “Smith has devoted his life to the study of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism. He believes in them all.”12

Richard Tarnas (Praxis 8/2)A modern astrologer13 (ok, astrologist). The quote in Markides’s article is taken from an interview Tarnas gave to CBS. His belief in “a powerful, creative intelligence” is close enough to our tri-personal God, wouldn’t you say? Also Markides’ “spiritual energy,” with which the universe is permeated, is close enough to St. Gregory Palamas’ uncreated energy, wouldn’t you say? After all, don’t you find that “all other mystical traditions from around the world” are in full agreement with his (Palamas’) theology?

Patrick Glynn (Praxis 7/2)an atheist turned theist; an agnostic turned believer.

Like Markides, Glyn will amass all the “evidence” to convince us that God exists, as does the soul, life eternal and happiness, on earth. Hurray! Faith in God is obsolete! Finally, science now proves His (or is it Its?) existence. For evidence he presents “the usual suspects”: the anthropic principle, near-death experiences, holistic medicine, etc. Not all of this is convincing to everyone. Rebuttals to his cogitations abound.14

Raymond Moody (Praxis 8/2)“The father of the near death experience.”15

He founded the psychomanteum, “Dr. John Dee Theater of the Mind,” in which he indoctrinates his students into the ancient Greek Eleusinian Mysteries.16 He claims that, “By staring into a mirror in a dimly lit room… people are able to summon visions of spiritual apparitions.” He offers a Doctorate of divinity program. The scientific community rejects his methods and findings.

Larry Dossey (Praxis 9/1)An M.D.

He is fascinated with paranormal phenomena, such as mental telepathy, extra-sensory perception, clairvoyance, telekinesis, communicating with the dead and levitation. His claims of “non-local healing,” i.e. that a person can exert a force upon an object from a distance, by sheer force of will, has been rejected by the scientific community.17

Michael Harner (Praxis 9/1)“the world’s foremost authority on shamanism.”18

“He founded The Foundation for Shamanic Studies and the New Age practice of Core Shamanism.”19 His books include Hallucinogens and Shamanism (Oxford University Press 1973), The Way of the Shaman: A Guide to Power and Healing (Harper & Row 1980), and Cave and Cosmos: Shamanic Encounters with Another Reality (North Atlantic Books 2013). He claims that ingesting the psychoactive drug ayahuasca is preferable to seeing a psychologist. He admitted to using hallucinogens on himself. He experimented with monotonous drumming and with staring at holes and rocks to connect with those beyond.

The New Age Movement (NAM)

With the exception of the first two authors,20 what the other six have in common is that they belong to the NAM, “a complex of modern science and ancient paganism, featuring systems theory, computer science, and mathematical physics along with astrology, occultism, religious mysticism and nature worship. Ostensibly offered as a reaction against the sterile materialism of Western thought, this influential system appeals both to man’s religious nature and his intellectual pride. Its goal is to become the world’s one religion.”21

New Agers believe that humanity has passed the age of technological advancements and spiritual wisdom, and has entered a period of spiritual degeneracy. They believe that this “will be remedied through the establishment of a coming Age of Aquarius, from which the movement gets its name. There is also a strong focus on healing, particularly using forms of alternative medicine, and an emphasis on a ‘New Age science,’ which seeks to unite science and spirituality.”22 Among the characteristics of the NAM is the display of strong “religious interests,” for which their ideas have been criticized from Christian organizations.

We should note that those who display the beliefs and practices of the NAM do not accept a Creator. Even if they connected us with anything they can call God, who or what is this God? Their faith is not our faith, their practices are not our practices, and their God is surely not our God, our Redeemer Jesus Christ. They are not members of the Church He founded, which is the ark of salvation. Their ways are not identified with our pathway to reach union with God. Markides places the authors quoted in such prominence, because he shares their views. What are the views of the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese?

The Cacodoxy of Markides

Let us now get a look at the views conveyed by Markides in his article, views that may not be apparent to the casual reader. Markides states unabashedly: “The universe is permeated with spiritual energy.” (Praxis 8/2) In support of his thesis he makes two preposterous claims. The first is that his statement “is in full agreement with the theology of St. Gregory Palamas”! The second that his statement is in agreement with “all other mystical traditions from around the world.” (Praxis 8/2)

Saint Gregory Palamas
Saint Gregory Palamas
Saint Gregory Palamas "St. Gregory was not a speculative theologian. He was a monk and a bishop. He was not concerned about abstract problems of philosophy, although he was well trained in this field too. He was concerned solely with problems of Christian existence. As a theologian, he was simply an interpreter of the spiritual experience of the Church." —Fr. George Florovsky, St. Gregory Palamas and the Tradition of the Fathers

With the first claim, he equates the “spiritual energy,” with which “the universe is permeated,” with the uncreated divine energies of our triune God, as expressed by St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359).23 This “spiritual energy,” as the New Agers understand it, is that “powerful, creative intelligence” (Praxis 8/2), identified with the “Ultimate Reality” (Praxis 7/1), which also “the mystics from the various religious traditions” can “approach and come to know” through the “spiritual practice” (Praxis 7/1) they have “invented” (Praxis 7/1). This shows a big confusion in Markides’ mind and in his conception of the uncreated light beheld by the deified Saints.

The second claim Markides makes is that “all other mystical traditions from around the world” are in full agreement with his (Palamas’) theology.” God, he says, reveals Himself to us in “an ecstatic experience of union with divinity, of theosis, which transforms the person totally. Such experience has little to do with cerebral, intellectual knowledge.” (Praxis 7/2) Indeed, but how is it that the non-Orthodox and even non-Christians can attain to “union with divinity” reserved for those who were granted this grace by the Holy Spirit?

The “ecstatic experience” is presented as an accomplishment of human effort. No mention is made of the Holy Spirit. He identifies the “phenomenon of ecstatic states…observed in the study of tribal shamans” (Praxis 9/1) (a technique to reach out of body experiences while in a trance)24 with the union with God reached by the Saints through His uncreated energies. To him all “the great religions” teach the same thing: “Such states are observed cross-culturally,” he claims (Praxis 9/1).

Markides does not understand what “uncreated” means. St. Gregory Palamas struggled to teach that man can reach theosis not simply through human efforts, but through the divine energies of God that transcend the created order. Neither does he understand that these transcendent energies come from Christ our God, who became man to unite us with His divinity: “from His fullness we have all received” (John 1:16). Says St. Gregory Palamas:

The real difference with us is clearly this: we say that the divine grace is uncreated while you call it created. Since, then, the Lord has come on earth and has made those who, according to the Scriptures, were worthy of it, partakers in His own divinity, you who say that the grace of the divinity which was added to the saints is created, either deny the participation and union of the saints with God, or you think that God’s divinity (in which they partake out of grace), is created; in this manner you make God a creature.25

The key point Markides makes, and his greatest flaw, is the following statement:

All the religions agree that there is a reality that includes and transcends the natural world and that this reality can be approached and experienced through mystical ecstasy. It has been called by various names: God, Allah, Yahweh, Brahman, the Absolute Ground of Being, the Great Spirit and so on. (Praxis 7/1)

How can he claim to be Orthodox, how can we accept him as Orthodox, how can the Department of Religious Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America give him and his writings such prominence in its official publication when he equates the true God that Christ revealed to us with the false gods of the world’s religions?

What Markides leaves out of his books, and of the article we’ve been commenting upon, is Christ. He speaks a lot of “God,” but makes no mention of Jesus Christ. He speaks of Christianity as one of the “major religions,” but not of the true Church and of her Founder.

But that’s not all. We may not fathom the depths of the un-Orthodox teachings of Markides and the damage he causes to the souls of Orthodox people if we limit ourselves to criticizing only what he says, and to pointing out the errors he makes. We need to also point out the things he does not say in order to realize where he stands, and make us see more clearly his cacodoxy.

What Markides leaves out of his books, and of the article we’ve been commenting upon, is Christ. He speaks a lot of “God,” but makes no mention of Jesus Christ. He speaks of Christianity as one of the “major religions,” but not of the true Church and of her Founder. Markides speaks of his “personal transformation from agnosticism and skepticism to faith and spiritual practice” (Praxis 7/1), but that “faith” is not belief in the Son of God becoming human and in His bodily resurrection from the dead. As a result of his “conversion” he did not become Christian, let alone Orthodox Christian. It was more the “spiritual practices” that attracted him, and the “mysticism” he discovered, which, in any case, did not differ, in his mind, from that of other religions.

Of course we should say that Christ did not found a religion, but a Church.26 The resemblance of the Church and her practices to the religions of the world and their practices is external. The Church is founded by the Son of God, whereas the religions of the world are human inventions. Markides is not a conscious, believing member of this Church. He is only attracted by the “ecstatic experience” achieved by her monks, an experience which, in his mind, is otherwise no different than the “mystical traditions of all the major religions” (Praxis 7/1).

While he mentions the “hesychast tradition” (Praxis 7/1) found “in Christianity” (not in the Orthodox Church?), he makes no mention of the “Jesus prayer,” a powerful prayer addressed to Jesus Christ,27 our God and Savior. The prayer is not a magic incantation, is not Yoga, or any other practice of the far-Eastern religions with which Markides is enamored; its aim is not to bring us to a self-induced “high” or to make us reach “out of body” experiences, but to unite us with Christ. He, Jesus Christ, is our God,28 who inhabits in us through the grace of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have a “mystical” theology disassociated from the Church’s dogmatic truths, as the west has.

Markides speaks of “mystical traditions” and “mystics from various religious traditions” (Praxis 7/1), without ever mentioning our faith, our Trinitarian God, the incarnation and resurrection of Christ from the dead, our own resurrection and life eternal, promised by Christ to those who follow Him, by doing His will. No mention is made of the holy mysteries (sacraments) of the Church (baptism, Eucharist, confession, etc.), which are the main vehicles of God’s grace, nor of the Church herself, in which and through which her members obtain salvation. None of this is mentioned by Markides.

Markides’s books may attract western “seekers” to Orthodoxy, who unfortunately may be misled by his words that “the ascent of the self towards union with the Godhead” is “accessible by every human being,” given the proper training and effort.29 Grace and glory (not mentioned by him) come only from Jesus Christ, not from the idols worshiped by the religions of the world. If that were the case, Christ and His Church would be unnecessary. “We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith,”30 in the Body of Christ, His holy Church.

Dorothy Bass’s Ways…

I thought I was done with my review, until I went to check the book on which the Department of Religious Education’s Director himself commented extensively in his editorial.31 In horror, I discovered the book was edited, and written in part, by a liberal Protestant theologian.32 I refer to Dorothy Bass. Going through Bass’s book felt like attending a bible study in a “non-denominational” study group. Perhaps everything one hears in such studies (well, almost everything) may be correct, but what one does not hear is what makes one’s faith Orthodox—like the Orthodox prayer, the Orthodox fasting, the Orthodox study and the Orthodox serving, commented upon in the rest of the Praxis issue.

Bass and the other authors quote from the holy scripture, and that’s commendable. But they never quote from the Fathers. They don’t believe in them. They are all sola scriptura believers. They believe that the scriptures explain themselves. They don’t need any other authority. But we do. For us, the ultimate authority is not the scripture: it is the Church that produced it.

Her book consists in twelve essays, penned by as many authors, addressing various activities from everyday life so as to stimulate and put to practice one’s faith. Many of the practices presented in her book33 are worthwhile and commendable. Bass has every intention “to help contemporary people live the Christian faith with vitality and integrity in changing times.”34 Trouble is, there is no “Christian faith.” There is the Orthodox Christian faith and the Roman Catholic faith and the faiths of the various brands of Protestantism, last of which is the “non-denominational” variety. I am not satisfied by the introduction to her book, “Presents a multidenominational perspective as men and women, Catholics and Protestants, teachers and ministers offer ideas on serving God in the midst of everyday life.”35

Now, someone like Bass upon hearing me would smile condescendingly (ok, sympathetically), saying, “All these are details. We all believe in Christ and in what the good book says”—which would confirm what I’ve been saying: we don’t profess the same faith. We are not seeking to find the lowest common denominator in matters of faith; we do not settle for anything else but the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Actually, Bass is one step ahead (or behind?) of Markides and most of the other authors he quotes. Whereas, as I said, most of them are New Agers, at least Bass and her co-authors are only ecumenists. At least they speak of Christ and faith in Him, whereas Markides speaks in the name of New Age, saying all religions say the same thing. For him the Orthodox Church is a “Christian Orthodox tradition” (Praxis 7/1), which, together with the other “great religions” (Praxis 8/1), “can play a leading role” (Praxis 9/2) in “offering us a radically new vision of reality and…a more optimistic and holistic36 vision” (Praxis 9/1-2), something apparently the Orthodox Church is not doing or cannot do alone.

…and Our Orthodox Ways

Admittedly, Bass’s suggested ways to practice one’s faith with some effort and ingenuity can be made Orthodox. But that’s what I think Praxis should have done. We should tell the world (and before them our own faithful) that, to bring an example, our Sabbath is Kyriake, the Day of the Lord, the Day of the Resurrection:

Today is the Day of the Resurrection: O Nations, let us be jubilant, for this Pascha is the Passover of the Lord, in that Christ our God made us pass from death to life and from earth to heaven, we who sing to Him triumphal praise.37

Christ is indeed a new Pascha, a living Sacrifice,
the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.38
Our Pascha, Christ the Redeemer is revealed to us today as a noble Pascha.
It is a new and holy Pascha, a mystical Pascha, a blameless Pascha,
a glorious Pascha, a Pascha for the faithful,
a Pascha that opens for us the gates of paradise,
a Pascha that sanctifies all believers.39

Christ our Passover (Pascha) is sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:7).

As Rev. Alkiviadis Calivas explains, “The prototype of Pascha is the Jewish Passover, the festival of Israel’s deliverance from bondage. Like the Old Testament Passover, Pascha is a festival of deliverance. But its nature is wholly other and unique, of which the Passover is only a prefigurement. Pascha involves the ultimate redemption, i.e., the deliverance and liberation of all humanity from the malignant power of Satan and death, through the death and resurrection of Christ. Pascha is the feast of universal redemption.”40

The same can be said of other practices mentioned by her. For example, the editorial also mentions where she talks about keeping the Sabbath with various practices (Ch. 6),41 and how she wants to follow both Jewish and Christian practices. We can’t do this. Actually, we are prevented from following the Jewish commandment to rest on the Sabbath, and instead are encouraged to do so on the Lord’s Day (Sunday).42

"But it is not easy for everyone who reads the Gospel to understand it fully and thus walk safely on the path of salvation. Someone may read the Gospel, but interpret it incorrectly. For him the Gospel becomes an instrument of destruction! And he is not acquitted from the censure and condemnation of ignoring the truth by the fact that he holds the Gospel and studies it."
— St. Theophan the Recluse,
Preaching Another Christ

Bass and the other authors quote from the holy scripture, and that’s commendable. But they never quote from the Fathers. They don’t believe in them. They are all sola scriptura believers. They believe that the scriptures explain themselves. They don’t need any other authority. But we do. For us, the ultimate authority is not the scripture: it is the Church that produced it. They believe in the Bible; we believe in the Church: “I believe…in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” (Creed, or Symbol of Faith). What has been accepted by the Church and what She believes—that’s what we believe, and want to believe. Anyone who follows the method of quoting only from the scriptures will learn to ignore the interpretation of the Fathers and will ignore the tradition of the Church, with the result of following themselves, which is what they do.

Fr. Michael Pomazansky
Fr. Michael Pomazansky
Fr. Michael Pomazansky and his famous work, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition

I’m not so sure, and have some reservations, about certain “practices” she outlines: Honoring and celebrating… your body? Exploring yoga or tai chi? Learning massage? and many others. Too much attention is paid to external practices. Not a word about the virtues. No attempt to list them, explain them, teach how to practice them, bring the examples of the Saints, a subject never mentioned by them, because they don’t believe in Saints and in praying to them. No mention of the Church sacraments, because they have none. Instead she suggests to “create rituals”!

Another practice she recommends is giving testimony, that is, declaring out loud one’s faith, as practiced by the Protestants. We don’t do such thing. As St. Theophan the Recluse explains,

“such a confession, when done in vain, is contrary to the will of God…To confess Jesus Christ is a great feat…when it is done in an environment that is hostile to the faith and when the one who makes such a confession is in danger of suffering persecution and tribulation because of it. When one confesses Christ under such circumstances, he shows that he is ready to suffer martyrdom for Him. This is why his confession has such value.”43

Again, I object more to the omission of practices than the practices themselves she suggests, some of which have a certain merit. She doesn’t mention to call the priest to your home and do an Agiasmo (Blessing of homes with holy water) or of an Efhelaio (Holy Unction) Service or a Paraklesis44 service. That’s because they have neither priests nor sacraments. No mention is made about Holy Confession or the divine Eucharist, through which we receive God’s grace, or the Jesus prayer. These most important of our practices are missing.

She doesn’t mention having an “iconostasi,” a corner in our bedroom with icons before whom we pray the Church’s prayers, making the sign of the cross over our body (not mentioned of course by her), censing our room and home, keeping the feasts and fasts of the year, reading the lives of saints and their writings, having a spiritual father, going to confession regularly, and all the Orthodox practices, as those outlined in Fr. Anthony Coniaris books,45 in the book A Guide to Orthodox Life by Fr. David Cownie, and elsewhere.

From one such precious book, Anchored in God: Life, Art, and Thought on the Holy Mountain of Athos, by the late Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, I quote the following words of a monk 46:

There are a number of important things that should be observed by those seeking spiritual development. One of these is physical and mental quiet (hesychia), made possible by living in a quiet place, away from noise, confusion, and distractions.

Control of talking is another. Such control helps bring about inner silence, which strengthens a person spiritually, whereas unnecessary talking does the reverse.

Fasting is indispensable. It purifies the body, disciplines the soul, and helps the mind exercise inner attention.

Inner attention, observing vigilantly one's thoughts and emotions, and opposing those that are bad or useless, is quite essential. Without it, prayer cannot be effective.

Mental prayer is most important, and should be practiced constantly. This form of prayer consists in invoking the name of Christ, saying: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.” During such prayer one should strive to bring the mind into the heart, to unite thought with feeling.

All these things mentioned here can go by the generic name “prayer”, addressed in Praxis by the Director and the two hierarchs that introduce the issue, together with the other three practices of fasting, study and philanthropy or service, which are recited in a rut by all, as if no other existed. There are other important “practices” left out.

Listen what an Orthodox theologian says:

Those greatly err who think that prayer, fasting, struggling, and the battle with passions have only the one goal of personal salvation. Thus they conceal in themselves a spirit of egoism. No! Inner struggle with self is the treasure of the whole Church. It is a gathering of power in the Church, of riches which consist not in the number of members, not in great and rich churches, not in beautiful choirs, not even in the amount of charitable acts, but in the moral character of the believers.

Our service to the Church consists in the transmission through our personal Christian life to our social life of the spirit of the Gospel and thus we should defeat the enemies of the Church (visible and invisible).

Christian strength is meekness. Meekness is the rule of the New Life and its activity under whose banner the Gospel declares war on the world. Meek Christian virtues are the most powerful force in God's world. They represent the arteries by which the power of God enters the world.

By what means should we serve the Church? The answer is simple; by active obedience to her. Active obedience to the Church represents life according to Church norms, i.e., by keeping the moral teachings, by zealously attending church services, praying at home, following a Christian way of life always.48

I would like to also add the following most important words uttered by St. Seraphim of Sarov, which put all these “practices” we’ve been talking about into perspective, without which we scatter in the wind:

Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian practices, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God.

I didn’t find any mention of this “true aim of our Christian life” in the touted book of Bass, who is elevated to a teacher of Orthodox Christian practices. If one reads the “spiritual practices” of Bass, and then reads St. Theophan’s The Spiritual Life,49 the abyss separating the two approaches would become quite obvious. One would readily realize who is truly spiritual and who is deceived (and unfortunately deceives others on spiritual matters).

A Final Word About our Religious Education Department

One would expect from our Orthodox Department of Religious Education to offer us solid Orthodox material from experienced spiritual masters of spirituality, like the holy bishop St. Tikhon of Zadonsk. His Journey to Heaven,50 together with The Spiritual Life of St. Theophan already mentioned, are storehouses of most precious counsels. These books, and other books like them, written by reliable spiritual guides, offer solid food to Orthodox readers.

  1. It was not long ago that a Praxis issue was dedicated to “Science and Religion” (Fall 2013).
  2. I had stated this much in my “Mini Study,” “Faith & Science,” The Heavenly Banquet: Understanding the Divine Liturgy by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis (Orthodox Witness 20133), pp. 88-92. In saying this, I am personally aware that there is obscurantism and fanaticism among the Orthodox people as well, particularly in certain monastic circles. But that’s a subject we intend to address in the near future.
  3. “Father Maximos” in real life was Hieromonk Athanasios, Abbot of the monastery of “Panaghia Machera” in Mount Athos, who in 1999 became Metropolitan of Limassol, Cyprus.
  4. Dionysios Farasiotis notes that The Mountain of Silence is “marred by the interjection of the often confused opinions of Markides” (The Gurus, the Young Man and Elder Paisios, St. Herman of Alaska 2008.
  6. In Greek,
  7. Also in Greek,
  9. The “anthropic cosmological principle” was introduced in the fifties (“The anthropic principle: science, philosophy or guesswork?”). It was later proposed by Brandon Carter in 1973 (“The Origin of the Modern Anthropic Principle” by Helge Kragh, Journal of Cosmology, 2011, Vol 13, 3700-3705) and later still by John Barrow and Frank Tipler (The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pp. 21-22), according to whom the cosmic evolution permits the existence of human life.
  10. Mark, W.R., Russell, R.J., Clayton, P. and Wegter-McNelly, K. (Eds.), Science and the Spiritual Quest: New Essays by Leading Scientists (Routledge, New York 2002), p. 62.
  11. Quote from the printed interview “The World of Religion According to Huston Smith,” November/December 1997 Issue of Mother Jones. The peyote is a psychedelic plant long used by indigenous Americans in ritualistic medicine.
  12.   Ibid. Quoted by the interviewer Marilyn Berlin Snell.
  13. Do read his “An Introduction to Archetypal Astrological Analysis” then tell me you disagree with my characterization. If not convinced, listen to a video interview he gave to the “psychic” Nadiya Shah, who introduced him as “one of our most celebrated academics in our community” (notice the repetition).
  14. For example, see these two reviews of his book, God: The Evidence (Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1997) by Michael Martin here,, and by Edward T. Oakes here,
  15. A term coined by him in 1975, according to Wikipedia.
  17. See, for example, “The Mythology of Larry Dossey” by Kimball Atwood in Science-Based Medicine: Exploring issues & controversies in science & medicine. As for Dossey’s claims on the power of prayer, see a book review by Gary P. Posner, M.D. “Medical Practice Enters a New Age”. His evaluation is described as “a cacophony of New Age psychobabble.”
  18. Walsh, Roger, and Charles S. Grob, eds., Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics (State University of New York 2005), p. 159.
  19. Wikipedia.
  20. The first is a non-denominational Christian, the second a creationist. This is not the place to address the subject of creationism. Let us just say with Fr. George Metallinos that creationism is a problem in the Christian west, not the Orthodox east. He traces this to a fatal flaw in the western Christian notion of God (
  21. Description taken from “Evolution and the New Age” by Henry M. Morris. Otherwise I don’t agree with the position either of the author or of the webpage, which are both creationist. This is not the place to give a full treatment to this western movement.
  23. A series of Church Synods convened (1341-1351), which many Orthodox consider as constituting the 9th Ecumenical Council), upheld fully his teachings.
  24. “Shamanism – the Technique of Ecstasy,
  25. St. Gregory Palamas, Dialogue between an Orthodox and a Barlaamite which Invalidates in Detail the Barlaamite Error tr. Rein Ferwerda) (Global Publications/CEMERS, n.d.) (pp. 51-52).
  26. “I will build my Church, and the powers of Hades shall not prevail against her” (Mt. 16:18).
  27. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the (or a) sinner.”
  28. “You are our God. We know no other than You” (Prayer said in the divine Liturgy and other Church services).
  29. Kyriakos C. Markides, “Eastern Orthodox Mysticism and Transpersonal Theory,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 40, No. 2 (2008): 183.
  30. Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, hymn sung after holy communion.
  31.  Praxis, “The Practices of Faith,” 36.
  32. She belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a liberal denomination, with openly gay clergy, blessings of same-sex marriages, ordination of women, universal salvation, and “agreement on a more basic level” on doctrinal matters.
  33. Honoring the body, hospitality, household economics, saying yes and saying no, keeping Sabbath, testimony, discernment, shaping communities, forgiveness, healing, dying well, and singing our lives. The twelve authors subsequently wrote entire books in the Faith Series.
  34. From her website,
  35. Book review of “Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People,” in Spirituality & Practice,
  36. Is it coincidental that this term was used by Wikipedia? (vs. New Age): “Theologically, the movement typically adopts a belief in a holistic form of divinity which imbues all of the universe, including human beings themselves,” which is exactly what Markides believes.
  37. Resurrection Canon by St. John Damascene, First Ode.
  38.  Ibid., third verse of the Ninth Ode.
  39. First Sticheron of the Resurrection Matins.
  40. “The Origins of Pascha and great Week” by the Rev. Alkiviadis Calivas, In the same article he includes fasting practices.
  41. It is also found in its entirety here,
  42. 29th Canon of the Council of Laodicea, The Rudder, p. 564.
  43.  Preaching Another Christ: An Orthodox View of Evangelicalism, A Letter by Saint Theophan the Recluse (Orthodox Witness 2011), p. 43.
  44. Supplication Service, which should be called Consolation Service.
  45. For example, Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home (Light and Life Publishing Company, Minneapolis 1977) and the treasury of all his books.
  47. Father Michael Pomazansky, from Orthodox Life, No. 1, 1989,
  48.  The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood (1995).
  49. Published by the Holy Trinity Monastery and translated by Fr. George D. Larda (1991).

0 thoughts on “Is GOARCH’s “PRAXIS” Magazine GOing New Age?”

  1. Amazing artcle! Very well put ad informative. However, generally lumping alternative medicine with New Age philosophies is the only place this article falls short. Although some alternatives forms of medicine have their root in eastern cultures, and thus have carried over some philosophical baggage, many of these forms of treatment are completely valid, scientifically based, and can be completely divested of anything philosophical or spiritual. Herbal medicine, acupuncture,various forms of treatment based massage are examples. Aside from this, this article was much needed and hopefully it will be far reaching.

  2. The New Age Movement with all its yogic teachings is flooding the Orthodox Church. It makes me wonder, “where is the Orthodox Church?” Where is the Church with the Word of Truth? I have battled the priest at my Orthodox Church for over 18 years about his constant appeal to New Age proponents. At first it was every Deepak Chopra book, and the past couple of years he, the priest, lives by “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer. I am very concerned about the lack of commitment to the True Faith. I could name a number of Hierarchs and supposed Orthodox theologians who teach heresies that were condemned by Church Councils. As you point out in your post on “Do All Religions Have the Same Heavenly Father“. Any astute Orthodox layperson would spot these false doctrines, BUT THEY ARE COMING FROM OUR PRIESTS AND HIERARCHS!!! I finally had to do something and I wrote a critique of the ungodly and antichrist book, “The Untethered Soul” and sent it to my bishop in hopes of some pastoral correction. But little was done about this. Here’s the critique I attended a lecture by Markides at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier PA during the 2014 Orthodox Institute -Theosis: Your Life With God, and I was shocked at how the crowd lapped up his unOrthodox teachings. As you pointed out, Markides totally misrepresents St Gregory Palamas, and just like Michael Singer, claims all religions teach the same things about experiencing God. God help us. I suspect that there is a rift coming to American Orthodoxy. I ask, “What can be done”?

    • Dear Michael,

      You asked, “Where is the Church?” I know that you mean especially our religious leaders, those responsible for our salvation, and not the Church herself, the Body of Christ. That Church we know where she is and will continue to be unto the interminable ages. As for our leaders, and unfortunately that includes the local churches they lead, may be lost forever. The truth is that among them there are wolves in sheep’s clothing. We’ve lived and we’ll continue to live with, and under, apostate leaders.

      Coming to your second question, “What can be done?” that is, What can you do? Do what you are doing: age quod agis, “fight the good fight of the faith.” Hold unto the true faith. Declare it and disseminate it in any way you can. As you do this, firmly, but humbly, pray constantly for the salvation of everyone. You may be blessed to suffer because of your efforts (reread 2 Timothy ch. 4).

      There are other things you can do. Make your review available to those willing to learn the truth, and those who remain faithful, but need strengthening. Pray for your leaders, as we always do. Consider yourself fortunate that you are responsible only for yourself; that you don’t have to give an account for souls entrusted in your spiritual care.

      Your review of M. Singer’s book should be an eye opener for your parish priest, who should desist from promoting New Age teachings that are incompatible with our Orthodox Christian Faith. Where is his bishop to chastise him? Send your review to him again, asking him to reply to you. As layman, it’s easier to raise your voice, than as priest. May the Lord strengthen you and reward you for the work you do in His name.

      In Christ,
      Fr. Emmanuel

  3. Indeed Dr Markides is a great story-teller and readers were mesmerized by the fascinating answers of Father Maximos’ (beloved Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos,Cyprus ). Markides’ observations and mystical meanderings take prominent place in his book. Definitely not ‘a factual pilgrimage into the heart of Orthodoxy or Christian spirituality. In his search for spiritual truths Markides merely expresses his personal tribulations and explorations of Orthodoxy and views on spirituality.

    An essay by Paul Skorpen – A Mystic Mistaken for a Magus ( might help Professor Markides find his way home:

    “It was Kyriacos’ unquenchable thirst for discovery that brought him to Daskalos’ doorstep. Daskalos welcomed his fellow countryman as an observer and reporter of the Teachings, but under one condition: “‘You can write about the teachings if you wish, assuming that I do not get the credit,’ he said quietly.” Kyriacos’ enthusiasm for the new found and far-flung fields, of mysticism was contagious. He moved through Daskalos’ world like a kid-in-a-candy-shop, sharing with us all the splendors and the delights he could pull off the shelves. Markides’ books were well received by an audience hungry for a rich Western spiritual path. The Magus is valued by many as a classic of mystical literature. Through the lively and accurate account many of us were assured, if not awakened, by Daskalos’ immense grace and guidance.

    Yet Markides had swiftly lost the trust of Daskalos: Kyriacos went well beyond the boundaries he was given, and wrote extensively about Daskalos powers, feats, and personal life. He had been instructed to limit his writings to the Magus, and when I asked him why he ignored Daskalos’ wish, he stated; ‘People wanted more after The Magus; they wanted to learn more about the Teachings and about Daskalos.’ He was right enough, but in betraying and portraying Daskalos in this matter ? as an object of admiration and fascination ? he began to distance himself from the teacher and the deeper message that comes with patience and perseverance.
    For himself, Daskalos was determined not to be honored at the expense of the message. He had no need for genuflection or subservience. He guarded against engaging in ritual and form that threatened to displace the work and the spirit. Daskalos was so humbled by the enormity of the truth, that pride had little power to make him complacent. For Markides (and most of us) it is another matter.

    It is said that a messenger who brings foreboding news is often slain, while a heralder of promising news is celebrated. In either case the messenger is confused with the message. Markides was recognized as the next Ouspensky or Castaneda, wined and dined by esoteric circles, and understandably intoxicated by the attention. By nature Kyriacos is a good hearted and well intentioned man, and as the attention began to overwhelm Daskalos’ private life (with scores from the world-over knocking at his door day and night), Markides conjured up an organization designed to protect the Teacher. Erevna (a Greek word for research) was to orchestrate the Teachings and the teachers. Daskalos, who at first approved of the scheme, became uneasy with what was unfolding before his eyes. As a student of esoteric-systems-turned-spiritual-organizations gone awry (‘And they all do sooner or later’, warned Daskalos), Daskalos lent his blessing to Erevna, but decided to continue to work independently. Erevna, which had imagined Daskalos as the head of the system, with Kostas (a student of Daskalos’ for 20 years) as a successor, and with Markides serving as a president ? had suffered a great blow. Feelings were hurt, and the tide began to shift. Markides had fashioned himself as an innocent participant observer with no personal ambitions nor designs. But his books began to take a very different tone. Kostas, who had been first described as ‘light-years behind Daskalos’ in ability and development, had suddenly become an ‘equal’ by the time Fire in the Heart was published. (I hold Kostas in a certain esteem ? having attended his lessons for over a year during my stay in Cyprus ? but find his style and message to be of a whole other brand than Daskalos’.) Hurt and confused, Markides and Kostas began to slur Daskalos: accusing the teacher of everything from black-magic to sexual misadventures (ready-made charges that Daskalos faced his entire life from vindictive and insecure figures in the Orthodox church).

    It befuddled many to see such seemingly human behavior coming from such elevated men. I have been many times asked, ‘Why has a separation occurred? Why so much ill-will?’ Knowing all the parties involved, I propose that there are two possible explanations; one earthly and one spiritual.

    The earthly: With the advent of Markides’ books came a whole slew of earthly temptations (e.g. fame, fortune and power), that enticed various members of a previously esoteric society. There are people who succumb to temptation, still less who resist, and far fewer who stand beyond the fray. Daskalos, I contend, could be neither flatter nor funded.

    The spiritual: Kostas (pseudo-name in Markides books) is Kikis L. Christofides – Chairman of the Famagusta Association of Greek Cypriot Refugees, Cyprus ) studied with Daskalos for over twenty years, and Daskalos was not the sort of teacher to push his students away to become teachers. Therefore, the separation between Daskalos and Kostas needed to be dramatic, even traumatic to be decisive. After the separation Daskalos would teach for another 6 years ? a half dozen more years that Kostas would have lingered in Daskalos’ shadow. Daskalos was indeed proud that Kostas had begun to teach on his own (if not also saddened that a separation occurred in the process).

    Markides published a tract in Riding with the Lion, in which he promises to take the reader into the riches of Orthodox mysticism, but instead spends endless pages seeking to discredit Daskalos with obfuscate, opaque and suggestive charges. It is difficult to bring to mind a single esoteric or exoteric spiritual tradition that fails to warn us against engaging in gossip and slander. Markides encourages his readers to use their imaginations to speculate about a master’s supposed transgression. We live in cultures that are relieved to hear of ‘fallen masters’ (so as to excuse our own spiritual sluggishness). Markides, who once told me, ‘I created Daskalos; without me he would be nothing,’ was now intent on bringing down the messenger. A self-fancied king maker, Markides turned into a king breaker We had cheerfully followed Markides as the kid-in-a candy-shop, and now he was moving about like a bull-in-a-china-shop, as he ran rampant through the great traditions East and West.

    Markides is known to say that Daskalos teachings are not unique, that they are simply patterned on the universal truth. This implies that anyone can recite the Buddha’s eight fold path or Christ’s Sermon on the Mount and become a great spiritual teacher. But teaching is far more a matter of presence and persuasion than it is of recitations. Daskalos was a sage and a seer; hardly a sophist. He was a powerful teacher, a true messenger, because he modeled his life on that of Jesus Christ. Daskalos taught and healed with a blend of power, wisdom and love that is rare for this world.

    Markides played an instrumental role in bringing the message of Daskalos to the world ? a message clearly illustrating that we have in Christianity a rich and full path to truth. But Markides packaged Daskalos as a ‘Magus’, focused on his psychic gifts, and failed, I believe, to see the great depths of a timeless Christian mystic. Those who had the good fortune to see Daskalos teach in person, had first to shed the image of Daskalos that Markides created. Only then could they behold a very rare and beautiful man.

    Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Markides books are all about gaining his personal fame and fortune and misleading readers of true Orthodoxy.”


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