The spiritual world through the prism of religion

The most religious teachings say that man is not the only intelligent being in the Universe, that  except the visible material world there is a world of spirits. According to the Christian doctrine the Angelic world is created by God, because   “all things are created by Him, that are in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible things, whether thrones or dominions, whether rulers or authorities, all things are by Him and for Him created» (Colossians 1. 16). Thrones, dominions, rulers (the beginnings) and the authorities mentioned here are the angelic ranks and are a part of the heavenly hierarchy. Many Holy fathers see in the 1st verse of the 1st chapter of the book Genesis an indirect evidence about the creation of Angels by God («In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth»), where they understand   ”heaven” as the world of the angels, and the «earth» — as the physical world»(1).
In Islam” the belief in angels is the second pillar of faith. This belief assumes a solid, free from doubt conviction that Allah has angels created by Him from light and they are absolutely obedient to His commands. A Muslim believes that Allah has placed on each of the angels certain responsibilities, which they carry out, and has given   them the necessary opportunities. In the Quran you can find many references to angels. However, from these verses you can get not a lot of information about their essence.  According to the Quranic texts, angels are not similar in their essence to Allah, the Almighty»(2).
For Zoroastrianism the dualism is characteristic in Angelology: good angels were created by the good God Ormuzd, evil angels descend from the evil God Ahriman (according to Christian doctrine, all angels are good by nature, they are created by the single good God, the presence of evil angels among them is caused by their fall). In Zoroastrianism the angels are androgynous beings that even enter into marriage relationships. In the Bible angels appear as asexual (3). Speaking about the impact of evil on a person, it is appropriate to quote Macarius of Egypt: «Those, who say that evil is something existing in itself (enypostaton), know nothing. For God there is no evil existing in itself, but it operates in us with power and perceptibly, prompting us all dirty desires». However, it depends on our will to accept or reject these suggestions of evil. «The human mind, when he seeks divine help, is not weaker than Satan, so that their struggle is not unequal.» And even when the soul is mixed with Satan in a big sin, it does not lose its identity. «Evil,» says the monk Makarii, is  not mixed with us like the mixing of wine with water, but like one field, where wheat  is as itself and the tares  are as themselves» (4).
Judaism also contains the information about the division of the spiritual world in good and evil spirits: «If a person performs one commandment, he is entrusted to one angel, if he performs two commandments, he is charged to two angels, but if he fulfills all commandments, he is entrusted to a lot of angels; for, as it is written: «For He charges His Angels to guard you in all your ways» (Psalm 90:11). Who are these angels? They are his guardians against evil spirits» (5); and Hinduism: «the others, dark people, donate to bad fairies / And to many low spirits» (6). Different religious teachings warn of the dangers for a person to get in touch with this world or they   talk about the uselessness of such contact. Buddhism: «My disciple doesn`t learn to   conjure and to heal. He does not read dreams and guess omens according to the signs of the Zodiac» (7). Confucianism: «The Teacher did not speak about miracles, power, chaos, and spirits» (8).
In Orthodoxy this is stated more directly. So St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov) wrote:  “Only true Christians reach the Spiritual vision of the spirits, but people of the most vicious life are capable to sensual things. Who sees spirits and is in sensual communication with them? The Magi, who have renounced God and who recognize  Satan as God; people indulging in passions and running to the Magi, to satisfy them;  who entered into explicit communication with the fallen spirits by their means; this is performed under the precondition of renunciation of Christ; the people, exhausted by drunkenness and dissolute life; ascetics, who lapsed into conceit and pride; very few people are able to it in a natural way; to very few people spirits  appear in connection with any special circumstances in their life. In two latter cases, the person is not subject to censure, but should make all efforts to get out of this situation as a very dangerous one» (9). St. Ignatius writes that «the demons do not know the future, it is known only to the one God and His intelligent beasts, whom God has chosen to reveal the future; but as smart and experienced people foresee and anticipate from the events that occurred or occur events that have to occur, and so cunning, experienced evil spirits sometimes can assume and predict the future with certainty. They are often mistaken; they very often lie and their obscure predictions lead to confusion and doubt. Sometimes they can foreshadow an event that is already destined in the world of spirits, but it has not been performed among people yet» (10).
«The Bible says about angels very carefully and, in fact, and we know about the angels only insofar as their activities are shown in relation to the person. It is   nowhere in the Bible said about the angelic world in itself, we don`t know any details of the life of the angels that don`t have any relation to the person. This caution  in approach to the imaging the angelic world gives no reason to believe that there were some people’s views, which had always been characterized by violent imagination» (11). Archbishop Basil (Krivoshein) explains this so: «The main reason for the limited and “covered” space given to the Angels in the spiritual life can be found in the clearly expressed Christocentric and theocentric direction of Eastern spiritual life, where the highest mystical states are always thought as the immediate unity of mind and heart with Christ or the knowledge of the Holy Trinity. Every evasion of attention to the side of the Angels at this degree of the spiritual life is regarded if not as directly false, then at least as having less value» (12).

Let us consider the Orthodox teaching about the spiritual world.
St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov), describing the world of spirits, tries to describe their essence in such a way: «From the Scriptures about spirits the following concepts derive about them. Created spirits are finite, gaseous essences, gifted with the power of literature. They are named in Scripture spirits because every gasoline substance is named in it spirit (Jn. 3, 8): this name refers to the subtlety of nature of spirits with which they differ from a visible coarse substance» (13). At the same time, he points out   that «Fathers acquaint us with the nature of spirits as much as it is necessary for our salvation. They don`t try to determine exactly what can be known only partially. Not only spirits, not only our body and the bodies of animals, but all the subjects of the vegetative and fossil Kingdom remain for us subjects, known only partially. That, who ascribes himself a full knowledge of any substance, expresses only his ignorance. We know something, but we don`t know all» (14). St. Dionysius the Areopagite writes about it this way: «Not without reason, the essences, not having image and appearance, are introduced in forms and shapes. The reason for this is, on the one hand, that characteristic of our nature that we cannot directly ascend to the contemplation of spiritual things, and have need of our own assistances that are decent to our nature which would  represent to us in  intelligible images something supersensual and what can`t be represented; on the other hand, the Holy Scripture is full of mysteries, and it is  very decent to it to hide the sacred and mysterious truth  of the Minds, standing  above the world, under the impenetrable sacred veils and through it  to make inaccessible it to carnal men» (15).
About the nature of angels we can give the following definition of the Fathers of the seventh Ecumenical Council: «As for the angels and archangels and other saints forces, the highest of them, the Catholic Church recognizes them to be intelligent, but not completely incorporeal… only having thin bodies, aerial and igneous, according to the Scripture: «Create the angels of Own spirits and servants of Own singing fire » (Heb 2. 7)» (16).
About the number of angels we can quote the following words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem:” The earth, inhabited by us, is like a point in the midst of heaven, therefore the sky surrounding it has the same number of inhabitants as the size of space; the Heavens of Heavens contain a vast number of them. If it is written that thousands of thousands ministered to Him and myriads of darkness` darkness were standing before Him, it is only because the prophet could not express a larger number» (17).
According to Bishop Benjamin (Milov), «Angels are describable in other terms than bodies, by their nature they have no form or image and no three dimensions. They are inherent mentally and they are there where they are commanded, and cannot act at the same time here and there. Therefore, when the Angels are sent to earth, they are not in heaven. Being at any place, they are not outlined in any form, extended in height, length and width. They don`t have such dimensions, they have no appearance that is characteristic for bodies. «Incorporeal nature,» says the monk John Damascene, has no appearance to be embraced bodily”. In a known place it is inherent, it acts, but doesn`t take up any space and is not embraced» (18).
St. Dionysius the Areopagite writes in his teaching “About the Celestial hierarchy”, generally accepted by Orthodox Church about the separation of the angels into nine ranks — three triads with three ranks in each triad. “The highest rank of  Minds standing before God sanctified by primary sanctification (because he gets it directly) is purified, enlightened and improved by more intimate and more clear blessing of the Deity. The second rank is raised from this rank by the same law of the proper order in the divine harmony and proportionality to the” beginningless” beginning and the end of all the beauty, the third rank is raised from the second rank, our Hierarchy – from the third rank.» (19). «The highest ranks have all the Holy properties of the lower ranks and the latter don`t have all those higher perfections, which the first ranks have, but only some of the initial illuminations are given to them as the first according to their acceptability» (20). Dionysius the Areopagite believes that all instances of the apparition of God to  people described in the old Testament are His apparitions to them through the angels: «If anyone says that God Himself directly appears to some saints, let him know from the clear words of the Scripture (1 Jn. 4,12; Gen. 3,8; Gen. 18,1), that no one has seen and will never see God, but that God appeared to the saints in certain visions worthy of Him and in accordance with the property of those who received these Holy visions. These  Divine visions were opened to our glorious fathers by the Heavenly powers» (21).
Some fathers of the Church have expressed the opinion that the separation of the Angels into nine faces covers only those names that are open in the word of God, but it       does not encompass other names and angelic faces that have not been opened to us yet (22).
There is a spiritual component in the nature of man too; the spirit of life permeates all living things. Archbishop Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) wrote: «Between the vegetative world  and animal world you cannot find a specific limit because there are in the area of  protozoa many  almost completely similar forms, of which some are beginning of the vegetative world,  other forms – of the animal world, and it is almost impossible to distinguish them. Such simple forms of animals as river hydra, volvox are quite similar to plants and their vital functions are almost indistinguishable from them. Two grand world of living beings — plants and animals – start from the simplest class.  There is absolutely no doubt that the entire flora and fauna have at least the lowest of the gifts of the Holy Spirit — the spirit of life» (23). «Movement in inorganic nature, as in living one, is a manifestation of life, even in a minimal form that is known to us little. A genetic link between inorganic and organic nature confirms as the life of plants gets its beginning out of the land, and from them the whole animal world gets nutrition. Inorganic and organic nature is built from the same chemical elements and according to the same physical laws. All inorganic nature, the universe are permeated by the spiritual energy. But only in the higher forms of development (creation) this energy reaches the value of free, self-conscious spirit» (24). «We don`t attribute soul to plants in the sense as it is understood by humans and animals, but we mean only unconscious imagination and unconscious will» (25).
In his book, «Spirit, soul and body» Saint Luke makes a bold assumption about the existence of the immortal soul in animals: And spirit is associated by animals with the body as by a man, and therefore there is every reason to expect that their bodies will exist in a new nature, in a new universe after the destruction of the present world. The Apostle Paul says about it: «The creature looks forward to the revelations of the sons of God with hope; because the creature was subjected to vanity not willingly, but due to the will of its conqueror, in hope that the creature itself will be free from its slavery of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creature groans and travails in pain hitherto» (Rom. 8, 19-22). Every creature would have lived in the light and joy, if the fall of Adam had not changed all the fortunes of the world, and fell in vanity, suffering in the sad fortunes of life through the sinful will of Adam, whom God had submitted it. And there is hope for it that on the day of glorification of all the righteous, redeemed by Christ from the bondage of corruption, it will be freed from suffering and corruption, it will be imperishable. In new Jerusalem, in a new universe the animals will have a place; there will be nothing unclean there, and a new creature will get ancient justification and sanctification by the Word of God» (26).

The spirit of man and animals manifests itself through matter. According to Archpriest Valentin Svencicky, «electricity exists outside of the bulb. But in order to manifest itself, it requires a number of material conditions. The «energy», which we call the soul, is the same. If you damage the material apparatus, which serves for the expression of the spiritual life, for example, a particular part of the brain, soul life will not be able to express itself correctly or it will express itself wrong.  But this does not mean that your brain is your soul, or that your mental life is the result of physical-chemical processes in the brain cells. And it also does not follow that a light bulb and electrical energy are one and the same» (27).

Archbishop Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) gives such an example: «We know the brain’s motor and sensory centers, vasomotor and respiratory, heat and other centers, but   there are no centers of feelings in it. Although all sensory fibers are sent to the brain from all senses and all organs of the body and end in the cells of the sensory centers, they carry only visual and auditory, olfactory and gustatory, tactile and thermal, locomotor and other perceptions. But they are only sensations. And not to make the difference between feelings and emotions is to fall into the deep psychological error»(28). «…the most complicated brain activity remains only the reflexes of the brain. But isn’t that the same thing that Bergson said: «The Brain is something like a central telephone station: its role is issuing a message or finding it out. It will nothing add to what it has got» (29).
The problems raised in this section relate to the sphere which is beyond the scope of scientific knowledge at this stage of its historical development. As it was written by St. Luke, «gullibly taking for scientific research those proofs, which  are given in favor of the judgment that there is no God, we forget positions, already clarified by Kant, that theoretical intelligence is equally powerless both to prove and disprove the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and freedom of will. These objects and these issues are therefore called transcendental. We can perceive an external fact and we can`t perceive a thing in itself by our mind” (30).
The Archpriest Valentin Svencicky wrote: «Don`t you see atoms moving continuously, which are a fixed matter for the eyes? Don`t you see a lot of moving electrons in the bowels of these moving atoms? And can you leave without any attention the instructions of the philosophy that, when learning the real world, you understand only those «subjective states of your consciousness, that depend on your outer senses, and therefore you can’t know anything about the nature of the substance. If you had other eyes and other organs of hearing, feeling and taste, the whole world would be for you other”(31). «The logic is effective only when there are general positions, acceptable to both parties. Then one of the parties can roughly say that if you accept these terms, then you will be obliged logically to recognize conclusions deriving from them. If people say, «nothing exists in the world,» how shall we be able to say to him that he says absurdity? You will show the sun to him, you will offer him to perceive the surrounding objects. And he will tell you: «There is no sun, and surrounding objects do not exist». What logic and what kind of experience can refute these absurd words?  People with absolute unbelief and people with absolute faith don`t need any proofs equally. They are for the first useless and for the second — excessive»(32).

1. Ivanov M. S. The Origin of angels // Angelology. The article of the volume II of «The Orthodox encyclopedia» Source: (date of access: 30.03.2013)
2. Abu Ahmad. Angels in the Islamic creed.>books-176.html (date of access: 30.03.2013)
3. Davidenkov O., priest. The spiritual or angelic world. From the book «The dogmatic theology»,»bogoslovie/10dogmat.htm (date of access: 30.03.2013)
4. Basil (Krivoshein), Archbishop.The Angels and demons in the spiritual life. // The world of Angels and demons and its impact on the human world. The Orthodox doctrine about good and evil spirits. M., 2006, P. 49-50.
5. The world Scripture. The comparative anthology of the sacred texts.  M., 1995, P. 196. Judaism. Tanhuma, Numbers 19.
6. The world Scripture. The comparative anthology of the sacred texts. M., 1995, P. 201. Hinduism. The Bhagavadgita 17.4.
7. The world Scripture.The comparative anthology of the sacred texts. M., 1995, P. 201. Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 927.
8. The world Scripture. The comparative anthology of the sacred texts. M., 1995, P. 201. Confucianism of Lun ui (Conversations and statements) 7.22.
9. St. Ignatius (Bryanchaninov) A word about the sensual and the spiritual vision of spirits // The world of Angels and demons and its impact on the human world. The Orthodox doctrine about good and evil spirits. M.,2006. P. 104-105.
10. Ibidem. P. 90-91.
11. Davidenkov O., priest. The spiritual or angelic world. From the book «The dogmatic theology»,>bogoslovie/10dogmat.htm (date of access:30.03.2013).
12. Basil (Krivoshein), Archbishop. The Angels and demons in the spiritual life. // The world of Angels and demons and its impact on the human world. The Orthodox doctrine about good and evil spirits. M., 2006 , P. 30-31.
13. St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov). A word about death. Saint-Petersburg., 2011, P 183.
14. Ibidem. P 178-179.
15.  St. Dionysius the Areopagite. About the Celestial hierarchy // The world of Angels and demons and its impact on the human world. The Orthodox doctrine about good and evil spirits. M., 2006, P. 374-375.
16. The acts of the Ecumenical councils. St. Petersburg,1996. V.4, P. 494.
17.Cit.: Alexander (Mileant), Bishop. The Angels —  good messengers of the will of God // The World of Angels and demons and its impact on the human world. The Orthodox doctrine about good and evil spirits. M., 2006. P. 8.
18. Benjamin (Milov), Bishop. The Liturgical Angelology // The world of Angels and demons and its impact on the human world. The Orthodox doctrine about good and evil spirits. M., 2006. P. 76-77.
19. St. Dionysius the Areopagite, About the Celestial hierarchy // The world of Angels and demons and its impact on the human world. The Orthodox doctrine about good and evil spirits. M., 2006. P. 408.
20. Ibidem. P. 410-411.
21. Ibidem. P. 386-387.
22. Alexander (Mileant), Bishop . The Angels — good messengers of the will of God // The world of Angels and demons and its impact on the human world. The Orthodox doctrine about good and evil spirits. M., 2006. P. 10.
23. Saint Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) Spirit, soul and body // Science and religion. M., 2001. P. 209-210.
24. Ibidem . P. 198-199.
25. Ibidem. P. 213.
26. Ibidem. P. 290.
27. Svencicky V. Dean. The dialogues. M., 1993. P. 17-18.
28. Saint Luke. The mentioned works. P. 174.
29. Ibidem. P. 184-185.
30. Saint Luke (Voino-Yasenetsky) Science and religion. M., 2001. P. 39-40.
31. Svencicky V. Dean. The dialogues. M., 1993. P. 18.
32. Ibidem.  P 134-135.

Fedotov A. A.
Doctor of historical Sciences, candidate of theology, theologian,
Professor of the Ivanovo branch of the Institute of management (Arkhangelsk)




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