Lessons from Alexander the Great

Alexander, after conquering many kingdoms, was returning home. On the way,
he fell ill and it took him to his death bed. With death staring him in his
face, Alexander realized how his conquests, his great army, his sharp sword
and all his wealth were of no consequence. He now longed to reach home to
see his mother's face and bid her his last adieu. But, he had to accept the
fact that his sinking health would not permit him to reach his distant

So, the mighty conqueror lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to
breathe his last. He called his generals and said, "I will depart from this
world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail."

With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their
king's last wishes.

"My first desire is that", said Alexander, "my physicians alone must carry
my coffin."

After a pause, he continued, "Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is
being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with
gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury."

The king felt exhausted after saying this. He took a minute's rest and

"My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my

The people who had gathered there wondered at the king's strange wishes. But
no one dared bring the question to their lips.. Alexander's favorite general
kissed his hand and pressed them to his heart. "O king, we assure you that
your wishes will all be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange

At this Alexander took a deep breath and said: "I would like the world to
know of the three lessons I have learned...

1. "I want my physicians to carry my coffin because, people should realize
that no doctor can really cure any body. They are powerless and cannot save
a person from the clutches of death. So let not people take life for

2. "The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the way to
the graveyard is to tell People that not even a fraction of gold will come
with me. I spent all my life earning riches but cannot take anything with
me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.

3. "And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I
wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty
handed I go out of this world".

With these words, the king closed his eyes. Soon he let death conquer him
and breathed his last.

From: M. Nawaz
Source: apocryphal


Abba Macarius Defeats the Devil

When Abba Macarius was passing one time through the wadi to his cell, carrying some palm branches, the devil met him on the path with a scythe.  He tried to strike Abba Macarius but was unable to, and said to him, "You are powerful, Macarius! I can't do anything against you! Look - what you can do, I can do too: you fast and I don't eat anything at all; you keep vigil and I don't sleep at all. There is only one thing are which you're better than me."
Abba Macarius said to him, "What is that?"
The devil said to him, "It's your humility. On account of your humility, there is nothing I can do to you."
And when the saint stretched out his hands, the demon disappeared and Abba Macarius continued on his way, giving glory to God.
St Macarius the Spiritbearer
Coptic Texts Relating to Saint Macarius the Great
Translated by Tim Vivian
SVS Press 2004


Explaining Our Relationship with God

Explaining Our Relationship with God

Posted: 05/22/11 11:23 AM ET

Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD



Can psychology explain God?

The need to know a higher being that some of us call God has been a long lasting one. It does not seem to go away but only gets more profound. What we call this higher being -- God, Allah, the all-powerful, the first being, the wholeness or the lord -- is not the concern but, instead, how we define and relate to it.

Going back to the concept of God and how psychology might explain it -- It does not seem that psychologists can claim to have or will be able to explain God entirely. They need other areas of science and research to come together with wisdom to be able to give us a concept that we can grasp and practice. A concept that diminishes the sense of uncertainty about the truth. All scientists, whether physicists, astronomers, statisticians or biologists, can each act as a piece of the puzzle to bring more understanding by providing information. Psychologists can add to this information and encourage people to apply it by encouraging them to self reflect, become self-aware and self-develop. This being needs a totalistic explanation that only comes with collaboration.

The process of knowing and connecting with a God or spirituality seems to be a type of schooling which has distinct stages. As we move forward with these stages, our definition of what it means to be spiritual or religious redefines itself and expands. These spiritual stages are similar to Maslow's stages of self-growth but are also a more transparent form of Maslow's hierarchy.

One stage is not better than the other -- we all can get to the top by going through the bottom, and it is just the matter of being aware that there is a top and then by moving forward by making a conscious choice. Here are the stages of spirituality or religiousness:

1) A God that helps with physiological needs: At this basic stage we need a God to help us with our basic needs mostly physiological ones for survival. We pray to gain rewards of having enough food and water. There is usually a basic concept of heaven and hell attached which is a reflection of our motivating force in life (to have enough to survive). Heaven being a good place with plenty of food and drink and hell being a place of deprivation. So, we need God to make sure our basic needs are met through the eternity. At this stage, there is likely to be an anxious attachment to God which may be based on a sense of fear rather than love.

2) A God that makes us feel safe: At this stage people have a need for a God to feel safe and secure. If they have enough food and drink and those basic needs are taken care of, then safety becomes important. People want to feel like they are safe and something is protecting them personally, financially and health wise. They want to feel safe against accidents in life, here and eternally.

3) A God that gives us a sense of love and belonging: At this stage, after basic survival and safety needs are met, comes a need to have a God that gives us love and a feeling of belonging to something beyond this limited humanness. Humans have a need to feel like they belong to something bigger, that they are internally accepted, and to feel like they are loved. They do not want to feel lonely and they want reassurance that even after they die, there is something to which they can be attached.

4) A God that helps with self esteem needs: At this stage, humans feel content with their basic survival, safety, and belonging needs and now find a need to be unconditionally valued. They feel like they need to make some changes to get some higher being's recognition by contributing something good to the society. The reward for them is a feeling that something higher than them is recognizing them as being valuable.

5) A desire for God because of self-actualization: At this stage, the process of getting to know God becomes more personal and is based on a sense of individuality. At this stage, people do not want to be followers but to learn from their environment, gather information and knowledge based on facts and apply those to their uniqueness to get to a place of contentment. The person at this stage may become creative, a sense of creativity that brings something positive to this world and is meaningful. Also, people have peak experiences of connecting to something bigger, have a composed present, have a more efficient perception of reality and are comfortable with how it is unfolding rather than resisting it. They can accept good and bad, high and low, and are aware of the difference; they are accepting of self, others and connect to nature; they take responsibility for their actions; are moderately spontaneous and like simple things; have an evolved rational side and a fully functioning intuitive side. These individuals pause and then respond to their emotions, try not to hurt others intentionally; are honest; productive; and work to alleviate problems. It seems that in this era, about 1-2 percent of the population are getting to this stage, even though we all have the potential to do so but somehow get stuck at the lower ones.

6) A natural God inside and out because of self-transcendence: This is the final stage of a true spirituality. This is when the person feels like he is connected with a whole being and is living his life from a deeper place of being. A place including all but not limited to one aspect of life. This is more of a global soul and beyond. Many of who we consider prophets were highly evolved beings who reached this stage. It seems that in this era of life, less than 1 percent of the population gets here. Some of the characteristics of this stage are: continues peak experiences which create a sense of peace with life with all its ups and downs, speaking more easily and the language of poetry and mysticism becomes more easily comprehensible. People who reach this stage can find the positive in everything, are meta-motivated internally, are into wholeness, truth, beauty, goodness and unity as their source of motivation; they seem to recognize each other and connect flawlessly; they are more responsive to inner and outer beauty and see it in all; they function more globally; they are innovators; are composed, and are post conventional (having gone through all of Kohlberg's moral development stages), have a healthy and balanced life style, and are connectors.

At the end, it is important to remember that the higher stages include all the lower ones and going back and forth is natural.

* * * *

Author: Roya Rohani Rad, MA, PsyD
Self Knowledge Base & Foundation
A non profit dedicated to public education


Idol Thoughts on a Summer Day

Idol Thoughts on a Summer Day

by Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
Holy Transfiguration Mission, Madison, Wisconsin USA
 - Summer 2004

In Holy Orthodoxy, salvation (theosis) is a process. It is not automatic. It is not magical. It is something we work out in cooperation with God through our free will. By choosing the process, we enter into a struggle.

According to the Fathers of the Church, there are two aspects to the process
of theosis/salvation:

- Cleansing of passions – putting off the old (lower) man
- Winning of virtues – putting on the new (higher) man
- St. Paul talks of “dying to self, that Christ may live in us.” (Also Colossians 3:9-10; Ephesians 4:22-24)

So then, what is the main obstacle in our way of spiritual progress?

Sin! Not just the big moral stuff, but all of it; anything that takes us from being with God, from working out of our salvation with fear and trembling.

In the ten commandments, the very first is: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. It is the first because the most prevalent sins come from breaking this commandment. This is the travesty of idolatry. Most assume it is the worshipping false gods or idols, particularly those of statues, made from the materials of the earth. It is this, but much more than this. Anything we place in front of God, before our worship of Him, must be seen as an idol. Our maintenance of these "priorities" "distractions"
"pleasures" (or whatever we wish to call them) above the maintenance of a Godward life is the same as idolatry. Idolatry is a distortion of the proper relationship with the Triune Godhead.

The prevalent list of "seven deadly" sins can be seen in this light:
1. Pride – idolatry of self, distortion of self-esteem
2. Envy – idolatry of others, distortion of discernment and admiration
3. Coveting – idolatry of things, distortion of temporal ownership
4. Greed – idolatry of wealth/money, distortion of generosity
5. Lust – idolatry of sexual expression/passion, distortion of fruitfulness
6. Gluttony – idolatry of food, distortion of healthy consumption,
7. Sloth – Idolatry of leisure - distortion of needful rest

We need to get things into proper perspective. We need to be actively honest, searching for the truth, proving all things. We need to dispense with the works of evil in our lives - and then put off the old again until it stays off. We need to keep putting on the new given us from Holy Baptism until it stays on. Christ will be our guide and guardian. If we ask for His help and angels will rush to our side.

It may be helpful to examine the proper nature of self so that we do not bear the sin of pride; the proper manner of admiration so that do not envy. We need to examine our property, our wealth, and our attachment to it, realizing from whence it came and where it will end. We need to understand the fullness of healthy relations and family fruitfulness. We need to care for our bodies properly with healthy foods, exercise and rest.

We need to know the proper ways of being in this world so that we do not withhold the love that Christ has already been given to us. Often we think that sin is related to harming others and when we sin we withhold God's love from them - this is Truth! But the greatest commandment testifies that we must love God with all our minds, heart and souls and our neighbor as ourselves. So, when we sin, we withhold God's love from ourselves and then we cannot love others in the true way - this is how we truly harm others by harming ourselves.

Let us move from sinful ways continually. Let us embrace holy, virtuous and loving acts instead. We know that cannot do this without divine intervention. So, we must ask Christ for His love and mercy through confession and repentance. In this action of request, this humility of honest reflection and intention, we defeat the devil and we embark upon the journey of salvation, the process of theosis, the way of Christ.

And when we fall again, let us ask again for His love and mercy and let us rise from the dead, putting off the lower man and putting on the higher - until that day when we have not only worked out our own purification, but have saved thousands around us by our example along the way. We do not need to know how we may be reaching them or who among those that we encounter will be touched by our efforts - only that God will recognize their inner movement toward Him because of us.

Without this two-fold effort of putting off sin and embracing Godliness, we are left in the quagmire and whirlpools of earthly life that will lead to only one conclusion - death. Too dramatic for your case? If you believe it is not that bad - do you wish to be in such dire straits at a later date? How much further do you think you can go before you are stuck? How far from God does one have to be in order to be separated from Him?

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

If you wish to leave the idols of your life and embrace the True Way of the New Life in Christ, contact your local church. Have courage, for Christ has overcome the world and, once we have begun the process, started on the Way, He will never leave nor forsake us - no matter how many times we turn our backs on Him. We need only turn back again (repent) to live!


If you liked this, several pastoral books by Fr John Brian are available: http://stores.lulu.com/transfiguration


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swap anger for joy

Sinit Ghebrehiwet sent this:
You've probably heard the old saying, "Don't get mad, get even." Well, here's some good advice for you: Don't do either. Anger robs people of the joy of the Christian life. On the other hand, being quick to forgive will help you defeat those angry feelings. Ask GOD for His strength to swap your anger for His joy.
Holy Bible Verses: " My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that GOD desires." James 1:19-20
"Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself." Proverbs 22:24-25
Life Lesson: For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)✝✝✝


In its foremost symbol, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Orthodox
Church confesses "one God, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things
visible and invisible." From this fundamental principle and declaration of
faith, the Orthodox Church articulates the concept of cosmic
transfiguration, especially through its hymnography.

The Feast of Christ's Transfiguration on August 6th highlights the integral
connection between metamorphosis and theophany, extending the divine light
and transformative power to all creation:
"Today, on Mt. Tabor, in the manifestation of your light, O Lord, You were
unaltered from the light of the unbegotten Father. We have seen the Father
as light, and the Spirit as light, guiding with light the entire creation."

And the Feast of our Lord's Baptism on January 6th proclaims:
"The nature of waters is sanctified, the earth is blessed, and the heavens
are enlightened . so that by the elements of creation, and by angels, and by
human beings, by things both visible and invisible, God's most holy name may
be glorified."

The breadth and depth of the Orthodox cosmic vision implies that humanity is
a part of a "theophany," which is always greater than any single individual.
As St. Maximus states: "Human beings are not isolated from the rest of
creation. They are bound by their very nature to the whole of creation."
Thus, in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky urges:
"Love all God's creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love
every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants,
love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine
mystery in things."

On the sixth day of creation, God created man and woman in His divine image
and likeness. Yet, what most people overlook is that the sixth day is not
dedicated to the formation of Adam alone. That sixth day was shared with
"living creatures of every kind; cattle and creeping things and wild animals
of the earth." (Gen. 1.24) This close connection between humanity and the
rest of creation is a powerful reminder of our intimate relationship with
the environment. While there is undoubtedly something unique about our
creation in God's image, there is more that unites us than separates us, not
only as human beings but also with creation. It is a lesson we have learned
the hard way in recent decades.

The saints of our Church understood this well. They knew that a person with
a pure heart was able to sense the connection with the rest of creation,
including the animal world. The connection is not merely emotional; it is
profoundly spiritual, providing a sense of continuity and community as well
as an expression of identity and compassion with all of creation. One may
recall St. Seraphim of Sarov feeding the bear in the forests of the north.

As Abba Isaac of Nineveh observed:
"A merciful heart burns with love for all creation: for human beings, birds,
beasts, even demons - for all God's creatures. When it recalls these
creatures, it is filled with tears. An overwhelming compassion makes the
heart grow small and weak, and it cannot endure to hear or see any
suffering, even the slightest pain, inflicted upon any creature."

Patriarch Bartholomew
The Theological and Spiritual Vision of Creation
May 26, 2010