Interviewed by Wayne John Sturgeon
1) Please could you introduce yourself and how you became an Orthodox priest?
I was born and grew up in a modest family in a small town in the north of Essex, my father was local, though my very anglicised mother was of Russian origin. They had met during the War. I passed my 11 +, went to the local grammar school and then studied Russian, the language my mother had lost, at University. Next I went to work in Greece for a year, after which in 1979 I decided to study at what was then the only Russian Orthodox seminary in Western Europe, called St Serge, in Paris. In 1981 I was made reader in the Russian Orthodox Church. Four years after this I was ordained subdeacon and deacon and, seven years later, priest. I lived and worked in France between 1983 and 1997. I am married and have six adult children.
2) What is the vision behind Orthodox England?
I first began writing in the 70s, but my work was not published until the early 90s. Orthodox England began as such only in 1997 as a journal and, from the new millennium on, it developed into a website. After ten years, in 2007, the journal went fully online. Our vision is to call back English people and others living here, to their spiritual roots in original Christianity. In other words, our vision is to restore something of what was, so that we can survive by keeping our spiritual integrity today.
3) Why do you see Orthodoxy as the true faith of the British Isles and England and not either Roman Catholicism or Protestantism?
Rather than ‘true faith’ I would say original faith.
Protestantism, in its many forms is obviously an invention of the sixteenth century, developed as a moralising reaction to Catholic deformations. Roman Catholicism, however, was itself only an invention of the eleventh century. It was developed as a geopolitical project by the Western elite out of the original first millennium Christianity in Western Europe as an ideology to justify its attempt to conquer the world.
First millennium Christianity in Western Europe was very different from both Protestantism and Catholicism. Any historian can tell you that. The main difference was a different Creed, which meant a different set of values and way of life, so that the Christianity of the first millennium here was in communion with the Church in the homelands of Christianity, in Jerusalem, the Middle East, Asia Minor, the Roman Capital in Constantinople and so on. The native people in Jerusalem and all these places belonged, and still belong, to the Orthodox Church. Therefore, the Christianity of the first millennium West can also fairly be called Orthodox. Thus, today’s Catholicism and Protestantism are fragments and vestiges of this original Orthodoxy, which fell out of communion with it through introducing its new Creed.
4) Could you explain what the Orthodox understanding of Church-State relations is and how it mainly differs from the Papal or Protestant view?
The Papal view of Church-State relations is called ‘papocaesarism’, the idea that the Pope should control the world. The Protestant view is called ‘caesaropapism’, the idea that the ruler (or parliament) decides on the faith – examples are Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, or the fact that whoever the current Prime Minister is – and he may be an atheist – appoints all bishops of the Church of England.
The Orthodox view is based on the Incarnation; as God became man, so man is called to become God-like. Therefore Orthodoxy calls for balance between Church and State, known as ‘symphony’, the idea that the secular ruler is dominant in affairs of State, the Church in spiritual matters that concern the salvation of the soul. However, spiritual matters do not mean some sort of inward navel-gazing, disassociated from social action. In fact, spiritual matters inevitably profoundly affect political, social and economic matters, the two spheres overlap and interpenetrate one another, hopefully in a positive way. We believe that as God is incarnate in the world, so the Church is incarnate in the world and must be active in transfiguring it.
5) Could you explain as to what you feel is of central significance as to the Western Churches’ historic adoption of the filioque and how this has affected Western Christendom both theologically and culturally?
The filioque is the local alteration to the Christian Creed, rejecting the consensual Creed and Faith of the Universal Councils. This alteration officially took place in Rome in 1014, one thousand years ago next year. (Unofficially, it had begun as a slow process over two centuries before, but only in certain provincial areas and then not with the later significance and in Rome the popes had then categorically rejected any alteration to the Creed). In other words, the Christian Faith was changed in the West at the outset of the second millennium and led to its isolation from the roots of the Church and mainstream Christianity.
The filioque, a Latin phrase that means ‘and from the Son’, secularises our whole understanding of the Christian God, the Holy Trinity. In combination with the claims of the Pope of Rome, also developed and enforced soon after 1014, the filioque says that the source of the authority and spirituality of the Church, the presence of Christ in the world, is no longer spiritually freely available through the Church. In other words, authority and spirituality are no longer dependent on the Holy Spirit, they are held captive, dependent on a human being. With the filioque, authority and spirituality depend on whoever makes himself recognised as the representative or ‘vicar’ of Christ on earth. According to these innovations of the 11th century, in Western Europe this representative was deemed to be the Bishop of Rome. Thus, all authority and spirituality was put into his hands.
The much later Protestant reaction to this was to make everyone into a pope; this was the innovation that led to modern individualism and secular humanism, man-worship. None of this would have come about, if it had not been for the introduction of the filioque, which had already been defined by the late 11th century by Anselm of Canterbury as the single distinctive motto of the arrogant and imperialistic ideology of Western Europe, which opposed it to all other cultures. Already in the eleventh century this ideology lay directly behind both the colonisation of England, known as ‘the Norman Conquest’, and the later colonial movements of plunderers known as ‘The Crusades’.
6) What are your views on the “Pussy Riot” incident in Russia?
Let me put that incident into its historical context – otherwise it will be meaningless.
We know for a fact that the 1917 Revolution in Russia was organised and implemented by the Western Powers in order to destroy Russia, its rival, one which, in their own words, would have become more powerful than any Western country by 1950. Therefore, British and the Americans sent Trotsky and the Germans sent Lenin to carry out the Revolution in Russia. We also now know that the order to assassinate the Tsar and his family actually came directly from New York – just as the Tsar himself had predicted it would, some ten years before. The Soviet Union was a purely Western foundation, founded on the Western ideology of Marxism.
However, in creating the Soviet Union, the West made a strategic mistake, a rod for its own back, because of course the Soviet Union became very powerful, the second ‘Superpower’. This was not as the West had intended, for the Nazis were supposed to destroy the Soviet Union. The West had not counted on historic patriotism and sense of national identity, a movement far deeper than the superficial Soviet Union. Therefore, when the Soviet Union fell, over twenty years ago now, the West’s greatest fear was that a free and independent Russia would be born, that, having thrown off its shell, the tortoise underneath it would turn out to be a hare. Hence the ‘Wild East’ chaos which the West encouraged in the former Soviet Union in the 1990s with its ‘divide and rule’ policies and privatisation. This was nothing more than institutionalised theft from the people.
The problem for the West came in the year 2000 when Russia finally recognised that it had to recover from this ‘Wild East’ Capitalism, the Mafia State, and set out on the very, very long path of recovery under President Putin. Therefore, the West had to destroy Putin. In some respects, he is an easy target because he rules over a post-Soviet country, still full of that corruption and mafia mentality introduced there in the 1990s. Therefore, it is easy to attack Putin’s Russia (although it is doubtful if the amount of corruption there is any greater in reality than in the EU or the USA) and Putin has been lamentably slow and weak in tackling corruption.
Thus, what really upsets the Western elite is the fear that Russia may yet free itself from this corruption and the former Russian Empire largely reconstituted in a Eurasian Confederation. The only focus of Russian unity, the multinational Russian Orthodox Church, is also the only force which can overcome post-Soviet amorality. Both Zbigniew Brzezinski and Madeleine Albright have made it clear that they are utterly opposed to the restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church and want to dismember Russia – much as Hitler planned to do. So Western so-called ‘NGO’s and Evangelical ‘missionaries’ have done their best to undermine the authority of the Church, even publishing attacks on the Church in the ‘Economist’ and the ‘Harvard Business Review’!
It is in this context that we understand the obviously set up ‘Pussy Riot’ incident, based around a non-existent female punk band. It seems that the financial backer of this pathetic little plot was Boris Berezovsky, who sent these women money through his friend Alexander Goldfarb. His reason for doing this was the refusal by the Patriarch just a few weeks before to back Berezovsky’s political campaign to become President. His letter was well publicised by the media.
So it was all about petty revenge, using these foolish young women (one of whom clearly needs psychiatric help) as stooges. In other words, the whole thing was a very obvious and unsubtle political manipulation by Russophobes. And it failed, because people could see what it was, a put-up job. And now Berezovsky, a thief of the Wild East 1990s, a Robin Hood in reverse, who stole from the people and gave to the rich, who was associated with and perhaps funded the terrorists who massacred the children of Beslan and funded the murder of the spy Litvinenko, has apparently committed suicide. I fight against the thought of Judas coming to mind, but it does…..
7) What are your views on “Nationalism” and should this be better contrasted with instead “Patriotism” from an Orthodox perspective?
Nationalism is hatred of others out of ignorance and deluded pride, usually in what is worst in one’s own country, of the sort: ‘We are better than others’. ‘We are the best in the world’. We can see this in the xenophobia of racist movements, like the National Front, the British National Party and the so-called ‘English Defence League’. When I see their slogans and hateful ideology, I can find nothing in them with which I can identify; their strident nationalism, arrogance and ignorance are among the worst aspects of this country – not the best. Christianity can never approve of hatred.
On the other hand, patriotism is love of what is best in our country and culture. In a globalised world there is no place for nationalism, but there is place for both patriotism and what I call ‘inter-patriotism’, the love of what is best in all countries. In fact, if you do not love your own country, if you are not patriotic, how can you possibly love other countries and their cultures?
8) Do you look for a restoration of the Orthodox Tsar in the future and is Orthodoxy intrinsically monarchist ultimately in its political leanings?
The Orthodox Churches live and have lived in all countries and under all sorts of regimes: Pagan, Communist, post-Soviet, Fascist, Capitalist, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim etc. However, history shows that the Church is able to influence society for the best when there is an Orthodox monarch.
Here we must emphasise that the Orthodox use of the word ‘monarch’ means something quite different from the Western usage. In the West it means a right-wing figure, who is extremely powerful and rich and uses that power and wealth to exploit for egotistical purposes, a kind of permanent Tony Blair or any other self-deluded narcissistic megalomaniac. Conversely, in Orthodox language, a monarch means a popular monarch, whose power and wealth exist only for the people’s benefit. His sovereignty is the reflection of the people’s sovereignty. Christian monarchy is where the people are the guarantor of the monarchy and vice versa. That is quite different from the absolutist and despotic monarchies with which Western history is littered. In 1917 Russia fell because of thoroughly corrupt and self-serving aristocrats, oligarchs as we would call them today, who connived with foreign powers, overthrew the monarchy and betrayed the monarch-loving peasants and workers, whom they ruthlessly exploited.
Prophecies, which are always conditional, clearly state that, if the whole Russian nation repents, a suitable candidate will appear to be Tsar again, just as in 1613 after the Polish invasion. All Russian Orthodox, and all conscious Non-Russian Orthodox, look forward to this possible restoration, because it will change the whole future of the world for the better, rebalancing it and turning it away from its present, suicidal course.
9) Please could you explain the Orthodox concept of “Romanity”?
‘Romanity’ originally meant that part of the Roman Empire that had become Christian. When the Emperor Constantine realised that Rome was integrally pagan, he transferred the capital of Romanity (= the Christian Roman Empire or Christendom) to New Rome (much later called Constantinople). After the barbarian Catholic schismatics sacked the capital of this Roman Empire and Christendom in 1204, it became very weak and finally fell to Islam in 1453. From then the capital of Romanity was transferred to Moscow, the new ‘Centre’. Today Romanity simply means all Orthodox Christendom, Orthodox civilisation, the ‘Orthosphere’. However, it is true that there are considerable fragments of this in countries outside it, including in the Western world.
9) Is there an alternative Orthodox vision of a Christian England within a Confederate Europe that can be advocated instead of the current EU super state project?
We are for Europe, we are not anti-European (that would be self-destructive – the British Isles and Ireland are obviously geographically European), but we are anti-EU. The EU denotes a corrupt and tyrannical political, commercial and banking elite which serves only itself. We believe in a European Confederation of Sovereign Nations, not in a Babylonian Superstate, a Fourth Reich of the United States of Berlin, which is what is on offer today. (Anyone who has seen pictures of what is happening in Greece and Cyprus, where German bureaucrats are meddling in national banks and national ministries at this moment, can see this quite clearly).
We believe that a Free Confederation of Europe, balancing unity and diversity, would at one and the same time eliminate the old tribal nationalism of Europe, as seen in the two great European Wars (so-called ‘World Wars’) and also eliminate the Babylon internationalism of the EU Superstate, which is a mere US colonial superstructure. The United States of Europe is made in the image of its colonial master, the United States of America, a corrupt institution which came to power on the 600,000 dead bodies of Americans who died in the American Civil War.
Theologically, Confederation is a Trinitarian concept, in the image of the Holy Trinity, unity in diversity. This is quite different from the centralism of the EU, which is merely the modern equivalent of the old papal centralism of the Middle Ages. In other words, the only essential geographical difference between the Middle Ages and today is that Rome has moved to Brussels.
10) Do you see Islam as being a significant threat to the UK or Europe in the future?
No, not in itself. Islam is only a threat if Europe and the UK continue on their suicidal path of renouncing and annihilating their Christian roots. As it is said, ‘nature abhors a vacuum’. In other words, since Christianity as the foundation of Western culture is being renounced by Western society, why should Islam not take over? There is a free market in religion now. If the West wishes to inflict Islam on itself, that is not the fault of Islam, only of the West. That would be the West punishing itself in freely-chosen self-destruction. It is not easy to stop a suicide.
11) Please could you clarify what you see as being theologically suspect in the “Paris School”?
The ‘Paris School’ of philosophy (there was no theology or Orthodoxy in it) was a marginal movement affecting a few dozen intellectuals and their naive followers. It started in Paris in the 1920s. After the Russian Church had been taken captive in 1917, these uprooted fringe intellectuals, former Marxists, a former Hindu, a hypnotist, occultists, theosophists, freemasons, and others, often not of an Orthodox background, left the Russian Church. Without Church discipline or the living Tradition, they decided to attempt to merge Orthodox theology with Protestant-based secularism in a sectarian and cultish way, the apex of which they called ‘Sophianism’. This was a syncretistic pseudo-intellectual mish-mash, rejected by the vast majority, which is destined to die out completely in the coming years, now that the Russian Church is being restored.
12) What is your understanding of “Sophia” in Orthodox theology and mysticism? Also what do you think of the many Marian apparitions that have happened in the West particularly since Fatima which referred to the conversion of Russia etc as many of the “messages” behind these alleged visitations of the Theotokos appear to completely theologically contradict Orthodox doctrine and practice?
You speak in your question of ‘Sophia in Orthodox theology and mysticism’. I have to translate and demythologise such exotic and coded language. Firstly, ‘Orthodox’ for us whom the outside world calls ‘Orthodox’ means ‘Christian’; the word ‘mysticism’ has no meaning, for all authentic theology is ‘mystical’, inasmuch as it all comes from God i.e, it is not rationalistic; as regards Sophia, this is simply the Greek word for ‘Wisdom’, that is, the Person of Christ. So what your question means is simply my understanding of ‘Christ in Christian theology’.
In reply: In Christian Rome (much later called Constantinople), the main Cathedral was and is dedicated to ‘The Holy Wisdom’ (in Greek ‘Aghia Sofia’), that is to the Saviour. In other words, it is ‘Christchurch’. In the Gospels the Saviour is called the Wisdom (‘Sophia’) and Word of God. So in answer to your question, the Christian theology of the Wisdom and Word of God, is that He is the Son of God Who became Incarnate, was crucified and rose from the dead, and there is no Wisdom or Word outside Him. This means that the highest form of Wisdom and Literature reside in Christ the Saviour, Who Alone overcame death. All other forms of wisdom and literature are, however valuable, still deathly, mortal, not of the Resurrection.
There have been several ‘Marian’ apparitions since Fatima. Each one must be treated differently. Medjugorje, for example, is a fake – according to Roman Catholic authorities. It is possible that others have been fake too. However, I believe that both Fatima and Lourdes were real. Sadly, the messages involved were ruthlessly and deliberately deformed and manipulated by the Vatican machine.
For five years I was the rector of the Russian Orthodox parish in Lisbon and collected information about the Fatima revelation, which happened precisely in 1917 and concerned Russia. For me the message is quite simple: the Mother of God was warning the Western world that if it did not stop plotting against Russia and did not repent, stepping back from the brink, it would destroy itself. And of course this is exactly what has happened and is happening now. I remember how President Putin warned Blair, I think it was in 2006, against encouraging atheism. The advice was ignored. The West ignores the Russian experience of Soviet materialism, so well described by Solzhenitsyn, at its peril.
13) What do you think of the late but influential Fr Seraphim Rose’s teaching as regards the “Toll Houses”?
I never thought that the late Fr Seraphim Rose, an Orthodox monk in California, was influential. This is news to me.
Fr Seraphim spoke in one of his books of the imagery of ‘toll houses’, which is used to illustrate symbolically what happens to the soul after death. Sadly, some people have misinterpreted and deformed his words and tried, very crudely and primitively, to make his words material, despiritualised. It is as if the Last Judgement was being presented as a law court with bewigged barristers and a judge. This is such a grossly materialistic, Kafkaesque deformation that it is unworthy of attention. I would say the same of the deformation of the Orthodox understanding of the image of the toll houses. Fr Seraphim was not responsible for this. He was merely trying to explain to the uninitiated. Perhaps, his fault, if any, was only in trying to ‘cast pearl before swine’.
14) Do you see any future for the Anglican Church? In your book “Orthodoxy and the English Tradition” you quote the Catholic historian Christopher Dawson from his book “Religion and the Rise of Culture” when he says “The West is different from other civilisations because its religious idea has not been the worship of timeless and changeless perfection but a spirit that seeks to incorporate itself within history. Other civilisations realised their synthesis between life and religion and maintained their sacred order but in the West the changing of the world became an integral part of its cultural ideal.” Would you say this is the spirit behind Anglicanism as it seems completely beholden to and compromised with modernity?
The Anglican Church was an invention of the power-grabbing and land-grabbing tyrant and serial wife-killer Henry VIII and then of Elizabeth I in the sixteenth century. Henry is said to have massacred tens of thousands, using atrocious tortures; Elizabeth, not a lot better, wrote the doctrines of Anglicanism. Anglicanism was invented as a nationalist compromise, necessary only to the State, Protestant in doctrine, though with some Catholic externals, notably stealing all the Catholic churches of the country, though ruining them with whitewash and sledgehammers. The idea was to unite everyone, Protestant-minded and Catholic-minded, in a single State-sponsored institution.
From the beginning, there was dissidence, even though some of the extreme Protestants were exiled to colonies in North America and Catholics were slaughtered, fined and exiled. The Anglican Church continually followed the State and its fashions, as an integral part of the Establishment, without spiritual independence, following whatever decision the State decreed, creating its ‘vicar of Bray’ scenario.
Never has there been a clearer example of nationalism, erastian caesaropapism, a so-called Church created by a State for a State. It is the same today; the State says ‘gay marriage’ and, lo and behold, many Anglican bishops and clergy say the same. Whatever the State commands, it follows. Someone said some years ago that the only difference between the Church of England Establishment today and 100 years ago is that then it was for fox-hunting and against buggery, but today it is against fox-hunting and for buggery.
Of course, it can be said that the Orthodox Churches have also been manipulated by States, with individual bishops vetted and even appointed in Russia by Tsars and Soviet Commissars, in Greece by sultans and Greek ministers and in Constantinople by the US Secretary of State. However, although all that is scandalous, it was also resisted by the vast majority, hundreds of thousands of martyrs and confessors, and also the Faith itself was not attacked and not altered. These unworthy bishops were appointed from the scrapings of the barrel that remained after mass persecution. But the Anglican Faith was altered – dictated by the State from the very outset.
What is the point of Anglicanism today, when the State is not only secular but openly and unashamedly anti-Christian? In this country it is a tiny group in any case. I would be surprised if the Anglican Church will continue to exist in another generation. A secular ‘Church’ is a contradiction in terms and has no more reason to exist. Its huge wealth will be grabbed by the greedy and bankrupt State. As a tiny minority, cut off from the broader currents of Christianity, Anglicanism is now breaking down into its unOrthodox component parts: the mass will lapse altogether into secularism; the practising will go to Protestantism; a small minority will go to Catholicism. This process has already been happening for centuries, but it is about to speed up.
15) What are your views on the Israel-Palestine question that so preoccupies current evangelical eschatological discourse?
It is an ironic fact that it was the persecution of the Jews in and by Western European culture that led to the foundation of Israel. However, the invention of Israel, an American colonial project, its Middle East base, just as the UK is its North Atlantic base, was a catastrophic event. It meant that the native inhabitants of Palestine were forced out of their own homeland. Many of their descendants are still living in refugee camps today, 65 years later. The existence of Israel has guaranteed permanent terrorist war in the Middle East and murderous attacks on the USA like 9/11 and on all Western countries that support this project, not to mention the purely terrorist (‘shock and awe’) invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. As long as Israel exists in its present form, there will never be peace.
Prophecies say that the end of the world will take place in Jerusalem, near Armageddon. In other words, the foundation of Israel in 1948 is of apocalyptic significance; it guarantees that the end of the world moves nearer. If we wanted to postpone that end, the best way would be to deconstruct Israel in its present form, though obviously with safeguards for the ordinary Jewish people, who are dupes in the affair.
16) What are your current projects and where can one find out more about Orthodox England please?
Currently, we are laying the foundations to extend the Russian Orthodox mission from Colchester to other centres in the East of England. We have a list of target towns to set up. Our target groups are Orthodox already in this country, but not practising for lack of local churches, as well as the vast masses of English people who do not practise any religion and probably never have done. (The tiny minority who already practise a religion, for example in the Church of England, should, we believe, stay there; we have never in any way tried to recruit them). To find out more, see: http://www.orthodoxengland.org.uk.