Delusion, demons, Discernment, Elder Joseph the Cave-Dweller, Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Hieromonk Alexios Karakallinos, Humility, mental health, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, phronema, St. Neilos the Ascetic, St. Nilos of Sinai, St. Nilus of Sinai
There is a continual warning, from the fourth to the present century, regarding self-proclaimed elders (‘spiritual fathers’) who have no grounding in ascetic Christian life. St. Nilus, for instance, writes the following,
Someone utterly unlearned in the work of God will dare to teach it, as if it were easier than the rest; and the thing most difficult to handle is viewed by many as being a snap. Saint Paul says that he by no means understands it, but they declare that they know all about it, who do not even know that they do not know. The monastic life [ascetical life] has therefore fallen into contempt, and those who undertake it are ridiculed by everyone. Certainly, who would not ridicule someone who yesterday carried water in a tavern, but is viewed today as a master of virtue surrounded by a retinue [synodia] of disciples? Or someone who has returned from villainy in the morning, proudly advancing toward the market place at night with a crowd of disciples? If they were truly convinced that leading others to piety is difficult work and that such toil entails danger, they would decline this occupation as being too much for them. But since indeed they do not know this, they believe that it is glorious to rule over somebody, and they easily fall into the deep pit. They are of the opinion that leaping into this furnace is easy. They arouse laughter in those who know the life they led yesterday, and the indignation of God, at such temerity [audacity].
—St Neilos of Sinai
(Source: ‘I Must Decrease’: Spiritual Direction and Power in the Orthodox Tradition By Alexis Torrance)