The Soul After Death - Fr. Seraphim Rose


I am currently reading The Soul After Death by Fr. Seraphim Rose as I know that the teaching of aerial toll-houses is a contested topic within the Orthodox Church. So far, Fr.Seraphim Rose goes through the demonic nature of death often seen in film and popular culture and more specifically on people who have been clinically dead seeing 'light' at death or seeing departed family members etc.

He talks on satan as 'prince of the power of the air' (EPHESIANS 2:2) and how the air above us is filled with demons pulling us into sin throughout our lives, and at death.

"At the moment of death the spirit departs from the body and moves through the atmosphere. But scripture teaches us that the devil lurks there" i.e. (EPHESIANS 2:2) (p.84)

"Such a multitude of evil spirits fills the air which is spread out between heaven and earth and in which they fly in disturbance and not idly" (p.29).

What stunned me most is an example of a man who was clinically dead for 36 hours, writing on his experience moving through these toll-houses and his soul almost being snatched due to an unrepented idle occurrence.

"In some way unknown to me, I suddenly recalled such a slight, insignificant occurrence, which in addition was related to so remote a period of my youth that it seems, I in no way could have been able to recall it in my mind. Here, the author recalls and incident from his school years: Once, in a philosophical discussion, one of his comrades expressed an opinion: "Why must I believe?" Is it not possible that God does not exist"? To this, the author replied "Maybe not". Now , confronted with the demon accusers of the toll-houses , the authors recalls. "This phrase was in the full sense of of the word an 'idle statement'. We really shall give an account for all our idle words, if not by the Will of God, Who sees the secrets of a man's heart, then by the anger of the enemy of salvation.

"If the eyes of our understanding were opened, one would probably see the air filled with demons , the enemies of Christ. If satan could hinder the angel of Daniel for three weeks on his mission to earth, we could imagine the opposition a Christian may encounter at death...The moment of death is satan's final opportunity to attack a true believer; but God has sent his angels to guard us at that time" (p.84).

Even at the hour of death we fight for our salvation. When do we reach judgement if this is the case?

Does anybody have more insight on this teaching? I asked a priest, he just told me that opinions differed and left it at that.

"The other world is realer and closer than we usually think; and the path to it is right here in front of us, in the life of spiritual discipline and prayer which the Church has handed down to us as a way to salvation" (p.xvii).

Maybe this next section of the book answers my questions to some extent.

"No matter how absurd the idea of the toll-houses may seem to our ‘wise men,’ they will not escape passing
through them. What do these toll-gatherers seek in those who pass through? They seek whether people might have some of their goods. What kind of goods? Passions. Therefore, in the person whose heart is pure and a stranger to passions, they cannot find anything to wrangle over; on the contrary, the opposing quality will strike them like arrows of lightning. To this someone who has a little education expressed the following thought: The toll-houses are something frightful. But it is quite possible that the demons, instead of something frightful, might present something seductive. They might present something deceptive and seductive, according to all the kinds of passions, to the soul as it passes through one after the other. When, during the course of earthly life, the passions have been banished from the heart and the virtues opposed to them have been planted, then no matter what seductive thing you might present, the soul, having no kind of sympathy for it, passes it by, turning away from it with disgust. But when the heart has not been cleansed, the soul will rush to whatever passion the heart has most sympathy for; and the demons will take it like a friend, and then they know where to put it. Therefore, it is very doubtful that a soul, as long as there remain in it sympathies for the objects of any passion, will not be put to shame at the toll-houses. Being put to shame here means that the soul itself is thrown into hell. “But the final being put to shame is at the Last Judgment, before the face of the All-seeing Judge" (p.87).
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I don't know much about the toll houses thing, I have heard of it but it sounds a bit like the teaching in my church of purgatory, where the soul must go through a cleansing or purification before entry into heaven. Is it something like that the toll houses? Or is it like a life review kind of thing?
Does anybody have more insight on this teaching? I asked a priest, he just told me that opinions differed and left it at that.
Some of the fathers used the language of toll houses to express the souls' journey after death. Other saints used other language. For example, cleansing fire in Augustine's Enchiridion or Gregory of Nyssa's The Soul After Death.

Where the holy fathers speak differently, we're looking at theologuomena rather than dogma.