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The Opening of the Senses

By Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov
Printed in Issue 6*

PEOPLE become capable of seeing spirits by a certain alteration of the senses, which is accomplished in a way that is unnoticeable and inexplicable to a person. He only notes in himself that he has suddenly begun to see what before this he had not seen and what others do not see, and to hear what before this he had not heard. For those who experience in themselves such and alteration of the senses, it is very simple and natural, even though not explainable to oneself and to others; to those who have not experienced it, it is strange and not understandable….

The alteration of the senses by which a person enters into sensuous communion with being of the invisible world is called in Sacred Scripture the opening of the senses…. The bodily organs serve as it were as doors and gates into the inner chamber where the soul is, and that these gates are opened and closed at the command of God. Most wisely and mercifully, these gates remain closed in fallen human beings, lest our sworn enemies, the fallen spirits, burst in upon us and bring about our perdition. this measure is all the more essential that we, after the fall, find ourselves in the realm of fallen spirits, surrounded by them, enslaved by them. Having no possibility to break on us, they make themselves known to us from the outside, causing various sinful thoughts and fantasies, and by them enticing the credulous soul into communion with them. It is not permitted for a person to remove the supervision of God and by his own means (by God’s allowance but not by His will) to open his own senses and enter into visible communion with spirits. But this does happen. It is obvious that by one’s own means one can attain communion only with fallen spirits. It is not characteristic of Holy Angels to take part in something not in agreement with the will of God, something not pleasing to God….

What attracts people into entering into open communion with spirits? Those who are light minded and ignorant of Christianity in action are attracted by curiosity, by ignorance, by unbelief, without understanding that by entering into such a communion they can cause themselves the greatest harm….

The idea that there is anything especially important in the sensuous perception of spirits is a mistaken one. Sensuous perception without spiritual perception does not provide a proper understanding of spirits; it provides only a superficial understanding of them. Very easily it can provide the most mistaken conceptions, and this indeed is what is most often provided to the inexperienced and those infected with vain-glory and self-esteem. The spiritual perception of spirits is attained only by true Christians, whereas men of the most depraved life are the most capable of the sensuous perception of them…. A very few people are capable of this by their natural constitution (i.e. by a mediumistic talent which can be inherited), and to a very few the spirits appear because of some special circumstance in life. In the latter two cases a man is not subject to blame but he must make every effort to get out of this condition, which is very dangerous. In our time many allow themselves the enter into communion with fallen spirits by means of magnetism (spiritism), in which the fallen spirits usually appear in the form of bright angels and deceive and delude by means of various interesting tales, mixing together truth and falsehood; they always cause an extreme disorder to the soul and even to the mind….

Those who see spirits, even holy angels, sensuously should not have any fancies about themselves: this perception alone, it itself, is no testimony whatever of the merit of the perceivers. Not only depraved men are capable of this, but even irrational animals….


*Originally and excerpt from the Soul After Death by Fr. Seraphim Rose


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