In 7th grade, my friend Andy and I were looking down from the top of the football stadium seats as the 8th and 9th grade cheerleaders with their pompoms and clean white shirts were passing below. A split second before they disappeared into the stadium, I poured out part of the Coca-Cola in my hand and rushed back to sit down in the bleachers, followed by their surprised screams.
Moments later the girls came pouring into the stands like mad hornets looking for their unexpected tormentor. In spite of my attempt at non-chalance I was quickly identified as the likely culprit and ended up in the vice principal’s office the next day.
Why would I do such a thing? I wasn’t a trouble-maker. I hadn’t thought of it ahead of time. Such an action had never before entered my mind. I had nothing against those girls. I had responded to an inner thought that entered the atmosphere of my psychic space like a flaming meteorite. Seconds later, I was reacting impulsively, without thinking of the consequences of my actions or of their incongruence with my identity and professed values.
The edgy thrill of the action brought me a momentary excitement, not unlike a year or so earlier when I had impulsively and shamelessly rubbed poison ivy down a childhood friend’s back, acting in the same kind of sudden response to an unseen puppet master. Later I felt agony and guilt as I saw the red swatch of inflammation that covered Jim’s back. How could I be so divided and disconnected in myself?
Both of these actions were swift and unpremeditated. Neither were something I had ever before even considered doing. I had no conscious reason to be unkind to my friend or to those girls. Yet, in a split second I had given myself over to serve a foreign psychic invader that had no qualms whatsoever over sacrificing their welfare using my vulnerability to choosing the momentary pleasure and adrenalin rush obtained from the violation of normal order by embarrassing and shocking them. Did I do it just for the pleasure in it or was that just the bait used by the psychic fisherman to catch me? If it was not entirely me alone who conceived the action, it certainly came to fruition through my decision to act, or at least my unwillingness or inability at that moment not too. I had allowed something evil to take form and come into being through me.
Thoughts that strike suddenly like this, coming out of nowhere, laden with the power to incite sin, are called by the Orthodox spiritual Fathers, logismoi. They appear very small initially, hardly even noticeable, tiny sparks rising up from a deeper more invisible raging fire. They last only for a matter of seconds if they do not find anything to attach to and burn. But if they manage to catch hold of the attention of a human host they begin to burn brighter with the fuel of desire, and spreading through the kindling of imagination, they eventually attain the power of a guided missile aimed directly at our hearts. Every time we do their bidding and bring into being the sin that was hidden within them, they multiply in us like a virus.
Evil is a fire that eventually burns up whatever it touches without discrimination. It has no care for life, but acts as an insatiable parasite that grows more powerful the more it consumes, diverting our natural force toward destruction of life, leaving behind in our conscience a charred accumulation of shame and self-hatred that torments our hearts as the “worm that never dies.”
In English the nature of sin makes an expressive anadrome of the word “LIVE,” e.g. EVIL. The ultimate intended victim of evil is the tarnishing of the Image of God in humanity which renders the dialogical reciprocity of Holy Communion possible. Evil is anti-Christ, literally an emptiness offering itself as an illusory alternative “instead of” life in Christ. In practical terms, evil has nothing to offer us but the disruption of personal relationship with creation which has already been shared with us by God and an eternal life of love with one another which is offered us through Christ.
Evil offers death in place of Communion, by subtly inviting a shift in orientation from grateful thanksgiving to God to a merciless, self-centered focus on offering the world to ourselves in order to acquire what we think is missing. The Ancient Curse that brought division between Adam and Eve is spread by the virus of pride and self-love and it now infects us all.
There are many logismoi, but they all burn with the same energy of antichrist. All evil is against life, even, and perhaps especially, the kind of merciless perfection-seeking that refuses Communion until one can prove to be worthy of it on one’s own; that is self-sufficiently, presuming not to owe anyone anything, including God. Such deep narcissistic entitlement, if unhealed, becomes increasingly without gratefulness, without love and without empathy.
Impulsive actions can range from impish pranks to catastrophic destruction depending on how often they occur, how deeply ingrained they become in our character and how much unconfessed and unforgiven self-hatred accumulates within us as a result of our sins and our resentment of the sins of others against us. Like chronic muscle tensions and mental software programs that run over and over, sinful passions have the effect of dulling the heart’s receptivity to the energies of divine Grace and perverting the natural powers of thinking, feeling and ultimately our entire behavior until we become capable of acting against God, others, creation and our own life in the most violent and cruel ways.
Fifty years after the Council of Nicea [325 AD] in which the views of the priest Arius had been condemned as heretical, for denying the consubstantial nature of Jesus as fully human and fully God in one person, there was still much public dissent and controversy about the question of who Jesus Christ was. Emperor Constantius II [337-360] favored Arianism and after him, the Emperor Julian the Apostate [360-363] went against Orthodox Christian faith by attempting to restore paganism in the Empire. These debates had the same kind of intensity among the populace that we experience today between political parties, ideologies and racial divisions. Controversy among the people, the government and within the ranks of the clergy themselves continued for decades, creating all sorts of political intrigue. If CNN and Fox news had existed at the time, they would have helped fan the flames of controversy and the passions associated with each side purely for entertainment value, if not for the pursuit of truth.
Bishop Eusebius, a friend and contemporary of St. Gregory of Nazianzus and St. Basil, who had attended the Council of Nicea and spoken against the views of Arius, was led into exile during this time and deliberately replaced with a Bishop who was in favor of Arius. After Emperor Valens assumed the throne, Bishop Eusebius was recalled and the pro Nicean group were again in ascendancy.
On June 22, 379 AD, as Bishop Eusebius entered the city of Dolikha [now Tell-Duluk, a city in Turkey] a woman on the roof of a house, threw down a tile hitting him in the head and mortally wounding him. She was an advocate of Arius’s views. Was it a momentary impulse that came over her or a long-burning resentment fueled by sureness of being right that placed her on the throne as the Bishop’s judge and executioner? As he was dying, Bishop Eusebius made those around him promise not to pursue the woman, but forgave her.
On June 7, 1988 three self-proclaimed white supremacists in Jasper, Texas murdered James Byrd, Jr. by tying him with chains to the back of their pickup truck and dragging him along an asphalt road for three miles until he died. One of the three, John King was sentenced to death for the murder and executed twenty years later. The other two received sentences of life-imprisonment. Ten years after his murder, Byrd’s family responded to their grief by founding a non-profit organization, the Byrd Foundation dedicated to education aimed at racial healing and cultural diversity.
How do we get from pouring Coca-Cola on cheerleaders to throwing bricks at the head of a saint or heartlessly dragging a living human being behind a pick-up truck in the face of his screams? What is the source of the evil of such extreme racism? And how does such a fire gain the power of becoming a pre-determined rational method of extermination as in the case of Hitler and Nazi Germany? Or a systemic infection of dehumanizing racist subjugation of people that keeps mutating into different forms over centuries with the same result: issuing from slavery to Jim Crow to redlining to voter suppression?
In Homer’s Iliad, the great warrior Achilles drags the body of the slain Trojan warrior prince Hector round and round the gates of the city mutilating and defiling his corpse. Why? What virus infects a man so intensely that he is not content even with death of his enemy but seeks, if it were possible, to defile his corpse and send the arrows of the insult into the hearts of all who loved his victim as if to prove a point? What point?
No matter how much death and destruction are ravaged upon life, it could not put out the fire raging in Achille’s heart or anyone else’s, only inflame it more. Achilles blamed himself for the death of his beloved cousin Patrocles who was killed unknowingly by Hector when he went out dressed in Achilles armor to face him. It is Achilles’ grief and his self-blame that drive his rage and move him to forsake all decency and respect for his enemy. No amount of bloodshed would ever be able to assuage this, but when Hector’s father, King Priam, visits Achilles in secret, approaches him in humility, kisses the hand of the man who killed his son, and courageously asks for his son’s body, Achilles recovers his humanity and grants the father’s request.
What kind of self-hatred moves a policeman to place his knee on the neck of a man crying out that he can’t breathe, while ignoring the voices of bystanders urging him to relent? What kind of pain and self-hatred move that man to relentlessly continue the chokehold for eight and a half minutes, long after the man has died? What is he trying to utterly eradicate beyond even death itself? The fire that is burning him began from the same invisible sparks that have circulated throughout cultures over centuries, an invisible pandemic still as virulent as ever, that infects every single person. None are immune. And all must contend with the same forces.
In order to avoid seeing in ourselves what we most despise, we ideologically align ourselves with what and who we approve of and withhold ourselves from what and who we disapprove of. We write history to justify our perspectives and avoid the self-examination necessary for repentance  and reconciliation.
Our typical strategy is to project what we deny on to the other person until his or her alterity and belovedness to God is totally eclipsed behind the shadow and image of our self-hatred. Persons are then rendered invisible to the point that in its most virulent form, their execution seems not only justified and necessary, but meriting termination with extreme prejudice.
I remember some years ago an African American poet from the southside of Chicago talking about how his life changed the moment he realized why he had killed one of the members of a rival inner-city gang. “I was trying to kill and eradicate the internalized white racist hatred of my own blackness.” This moment of recognition was also a moment of compassion and understanding that freed him from his inner prison to begin a new path.
There is no way to eradicate this plague of evil except through something greater than human will, emotion, ideology, philosophy or politics; something that Arius did not understand, and we are in similar danger of under estimating. St. Paul wrote to his spiritual son Timothy, “Our charge to you is love, issuing from a pure heart with a good conscience and sincere faith” in Jesus Christ who unites two otherwise irreconcilable worlds, human and divine. Communion with Christ begins with repentance; with the recognition that I am sinning against Christ and yet he is forgiving me for doing to him what I say I never would.
The path that leads to ending the long chain of violence, hatred and inhumanity toward one another depends on our willingness to approach and be forgiven by Christ in the very place where we cannot forgive ourselves; the place from which under the influence of antichrist, we are capable of doing anything to avoid the shame and self-hatred we have accumulated, even rejecting and killing the Only One who can free us from the disease.
It is the place where contempt for life gives rise to the need to destroy the One who is its Source; the One who embraces us in spite of having Him in a chokehold out of the desperate fear that His love and vulnerability will awaken the unforgivable searing pain of our conscience. We fear responding to Him because He evokes in us the willingness to offer our lives for others in the same way as he is doing for us. Under the beguilement of our merciless self-condemnation and desire for perfection, this feels too much like letting go of control and dying.
Would I throw a brick at Jesus’ head? I already have. I am part of the human race, each of whom bears a deep invisible wound in the heart— a shame accumulated from the Ancient Curse that has been a plague for humanity since our beginning. It has infected us all. Sometimes we appear asymptomatic and we get careless, reckless and refuse to take ascetical precautions we know can protect ourselves and others. Sometimes we fail to keep watch to avoid the sparks that suddenly appear ready to inflame our passions. Sometimes we fear involvement with others because we are so concerned with saving our own lives and we fear the price of taking a stand.
But one thing is certain. We all throw bricks at Jesus, one way or another and we all fear being loved and loving as much as He loves. He predicted this would be the case for all his disciples: “The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” And he was also very clear, that we shall fail to realize the extent of our sins of commission and omission when he said, “as you do unto the least of these you do unto me.” 
 cf. “Post Traumatic Spiritual Disorder and the False History Syndrome”, in S. Muse, When Hearts Become Flame, Waymart, PA: St Tikhon’s Monastery Press, 2015, pp. 253-292.
 I Tim. 1:5.
 Jn 16:2.
 Mt 25:40