How Our Past Affects Us
By Elder Porphyrios
Man is not solely responsible for his transgressions. The mistakes, sins and passions are not only personal experiences of the person who comes to confession. Every person has incorporated into himself the experiences of his parents and especially of his mother, that is, how his mother lived when she was carrying him in her womb—if she was anxious, if her nervous system was exhausted, if she was happy, if she was sad, if she was depressed. In other words, her whole nervous system affected the nervous system of the embryo. So that when the child is born and grows up, it assumes also the experiences of its mother, that is, of another person. A state is created in a person’s soul on account of his parents, which he carries with him all through his life. It leaves its marks within him and many things that happen to him during his life are a consequence of this state. The way he behaves has a direct relation to the state of his parents. He grows up, is educated, bit is not remedied. This is where a large part of the responsibility for the spiritual state of a person is to be found.
There is, however, a secret. There is a way for a person to be freed from this evil. This way is a general confession, which takes place through the grace of God. Your spiritual father might say to you, ‘How much I wish that we could be in a quiet place and that I could be free of all other duties so that you could tell me about your life from the beginning, from the time you first had consciousness of your self, about all the events you remember and how you reacted to them, not only the unpleasant memories, but also the pleasant ones, not only your sins, but also the good things, your successes and failures. Everything. Everything that goes to make up your life.’
I have often used this general confession and I have seen miracles worked through it. The moment you relate these things to your confessor, divine grace comes and frees you from all the unpleasant experiences and wounds, the psychological traumas and feelings of guilt, because while you are talking, your spiritual father is praying fervently to the Lord for you to be liberated from all these things.
Some time ago a woman came to me and made a confession of this kind and she was greatly benefitted Her psychological state improved, because something had been tormenting her. Now this woman sent a friend of hers to me and we went out and sat on the rock outside the monastery at Kallisia and she started to talk. I said to her, ‘Tell me whatever you feel you need to. If I ask you about something, then tell me. If I don’t ask you, then continue talking, just as you feel you need to.’
I listened to all that she was telling me, not simply with attention but I observed the effect of prayer on her psychological world. I looked inside her soul and I saw that grace was entering her, just as I saw her before me. Because in the confessor there is grace and in the priest there is grace. Do you understand what I am saying? When someone is making confession, the priest is praying for him. At the same time grace comes and frees him from the traumas in his soul, which have been tormenting him for years without his being aware of what caused them. Yes, indeed, I believe very strongly in all this!
You can speak to your confessor just as you feel, but that’s not as important as it is that, as he prays, the priest looks into your soul and sees how you are and transmits to you the grace of God. It has been proved that this looking into the soul is a spiritual radiation, which relieves you and cures you. Don’t imagine that these are natural rays. These things are true. And what happened with Christ? He took hold of the hand of the woman with an issue of blood and said, I felt power leaving me. You’ll say, ‘Yes, but He was God.’ Christ, of course, was God, but did not the Apostles do the same?
All spiritual fathers and confessors have this grace and when they pray, they transmit it as conductors. For example, if we want to switch on an electric heater in this room, then we need to take the cable and plug it in, otherwise it won’t work. As soon as the cable is plugged in, however, the current passes through the cable. These are spiritual matters of our religion. We may speak about cables, but in reality this is ‘divine psychoanalysis.’