Daniel Kostromin is an Orthodox missionary. At just thirty years of age, he has already dedicated several years of his life to serving the Church in the Philippines and in Tuva, Russia. For the past several months, he has been serving in South Korea with the newly-appointed hierarch, His Eminence Archbishop Theophan.
But Daniel’s life was not always guided by the grace of God in the Orthodox faith. In the article below, he describes how he encountered God and gave up the esoteric New Age practices that once enthralled him in exchange for true spirituality.
This year I have a spiritual anniversary—eleven years from the day I first communed of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
It happened on July 13, 2008 at Posolsky-Holy Transfiguration Monastery at Lake Baikal when I was nineteen, and it became a turning point in my life.
At that time, I was seriously fascinated by esotericism, the New Age neo-occult movement, and led a terrible way of life, fraught with sin. I was absorbed with esoteric literature. I listened to heavy electronic music and was especially fond of psy-trance, periodically going to nighttime open-air parties—a satanic image of the All-Night Vigil. I had already tried quite a lot by the time I was nineteen. I can say I knew the “depths of satan” (Rev. 2:24).
Because of this lifestyle, darkness, emptiness, confusion, and hell dwelt in my heart. I was in a very bad state and I didn’t know why. Being blind, I couldn’t understand that the cause of my spiritual anguish was that I was living in sin and didn’t know the Lord Jesus Christ, the source of Life, and didn’t walk the blessed path of His Gospel teachings. Without Christ, it is impossible to be truly happy—I understood this only when I came to Him.
I would pray to God, Who at that time I still considered an impersonal cosmic force, some faceless universal mind, as is generally accepted in New Age. I would pray to Him to lead me to the light and fill my heart with peace and joy, to banish this tormenting longing and darkness.
And then I “accidentally” wound up at the monastery on Lake Baikal, thousands of miles from Moscow. Every year, my university sent a group of student volunteers to help restore the monastery for a month in the summer. I saw the announcement and I was taken last—there were no more spots. You could say I hopped on the departing train.
At that time, I regarded Christianity as a religion for the crowd, for the control of the stupid masses. I couldn’t imagine what depth this teaching concealed. I thought Christianity was empty and formal, that it was only external rites. Frankly, I knew nothing, literally NOTHING about Christianity. I was baptized as a child but never studied my faith, having stereotypical views about it. I was in terrible pride, thinking I possessed some kind of secret knowledge. “I practice meditation, astral projection, I spin my chakras, after all…”
I really did seriously practice all of this and would have strayed very far if the Lord hadn’t stopped me. For example, right before my trip to Baikal, I bought a book by a European author called Practical Shamanism in an esoteric shop. I planned to take up channeling (mediumism) and studied the theory of this practice in detail. The world of esotericism is seductive and captivating. You see that the spiritual world, the invisible world of spirits truly exists and you know experientially that it’s possible to enter into contact with it, influencing it. In general, this is the essence of paganism and occultism. I was really drawn by all this.
By the way, it’s noteworthy that God in New Age is a faceless, cosmic mind, but the spiritual beings inhabiting the “cosmos,” with whom you can come into contact through channeling, are understood as personalities. Now it is obvious to me that they are demons spitting in God’s face. However, I didn’t then understand that the spiritual world is divided into light and dark—for me it was all one. I must say that this is one of the most serious delusions in esotericism. Of course, I didn’t realize that contact with the dark spiritual world, with demons, always ends catastrophically miserably for whoever dares to do it. And all this darkness in my soul was caused by communication with this dark spiritual world. But I only realized all this later, especially after reading the remarkable book of Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, which exposes this topic.
Such was my attitude towards Christianity, but when I arrived at the monastery, I decided by the action of the calling grace of God that I should still get acquainted with it and read about what Christians believe. And then, as by that time I already had the skill of receiving mystical experience through various practices, I decided I would try Christianity “in practice,” and not just study it in theory. I said, “I’ll be a Christian this month; it’ll be an interesting experience.” And I was determined to be open to everything and try to fulfill what Christianity prescribes.
I have to say I was immediately struck by several people I met in the monastery and in our student construction team. I saw in their eyes genuine spiritual joy and humility that is impossible to find in esotericism, because its essence is pride. I found a compelling simplicity and openness. I started talking with them and my eyes began to open. I began to gradually understand intuitively that they were more right than I was.
I became more and more fascinated by the lives of the saints that I began to greedily read, especially the lives of the Holy Fools and hermits. I started reading about the passions and sins and became more and more terrified by the lifestyle I was leading. I began to slowly realize that Christianity has an inexhaustible depth.
And then, on July 7, on the feast of the prophet St. John the Baptist, during a cross pression to St. John’s Hill, where his icon miraculously appeared in the nineteenth century, grace clearly touched me for the first time, my heart melted, and I burst into tears, like a child. I couldn’t help myself and I hid in the bushes so no one would see me. A feeling of repentance came over me with the realization of the vileness of the sinful life I had led, but, at the same time, a joyous feeling that it was possible to change my life. I saw a warm light burning at the end of a dark tunnel and I had the chance to get out of this tunnel. Many Christians have felt this in their lives and understand what I’m talking about. But it’s impossible to explain this experience to someone who hasn’t had it. It is noteworthy that this feeling of repentance arose within me precisely on the feast of the preacher of repentance [St. John the Baptist] during a cross procession to “his” hill. It’s amazing that he’s still leading sinners to repentance.
A few days later, one of my new Christian friends, Vasily Rulinsky, told me I needed to confess and commune. I’d never heard anything about that before then. However, I immediately felt that I needed to do it. I repented at the first confession in my life and received permission from the priest to commune. No one told me anything about what Communion is. I didn’t even know I would be eating the Body and Blood of Christ. I didn’t read any prayers because I also didn’t know about them. By that time, however, there had already been sufficient changes in my mentality to approach the Mysteries with reverence.
And so, on July 13, at the Sunday Liturgy, I was standing before the chalice, not knowing what would happen, and I prayed: “Lord, if this is the path I need to walk, reveal it to me, and if not, show me my way.” I communed, stepped away from the chalice, and then such grace overshadowed me that I felt like I was floating under the dome of the church, feeling an unbelievable physical and spiritual ease, peace of heart, and such an unspeakable joy, or better yet—bliss, thanks to which I involuntarily started smiling ear to ear and tears began to well up. It’s impossible to convey how happy I felt! I never felt such joy before. I didn’t know what was happening; I wasn’t ready for such a strong experience. These words don’t convey even a small part of what happened with me. At that moment, a thought echoed in my consciousness in the strongest way: “This is the Truth. This is the Way you should go!” I knew precisely that I had met God and found the Truth.
I left the church a different person and practically flew with joy along the shore of Lake Baikal for a long time.
Of course, then there came the long path of renouncing sins and fighting with the passions, which continues to this day. But the beginning was laid and happened in such an abrupt and wonderful way. That is, first was the mystical experience of meeting the Living God through His grace, and only then did I begin to understand, to “digest” what happened, and I began to study the Orthodox faith.
That was the happiest day in my life. I am grateful to the Lord that He led me to Himself in this miraculous manner and released me from slavery to sin and evil spirits. What would have become of me if the Lord had not pulled me out of the swamp I was living in, into which I was being sucked more and more!
It’s quite remarkable that many saints who are commemorated on July 13, on the day of my meeting with Christ, subsequently played an important role in my life. St. Sophrony of Irkutsk was the first saint whose relics I venerated a few weeks later and from whom I entreated prayers for the strengthening of my faith. Generally, I can say that everything happened on his “territory”—Irkutsk was nearby. I believe he prayed for my correction.
St. Peter, Tsarevich of the Horde is also connected with an important moment in my life.
The memory of the twelve apostles is also celebrated this day, and I wound up in the missionary movement…
How happy I am that I know the Lord and that He received me into the number of His disciples, reckoning me among His people—the holy Orthodox Church! The Lord filled my life with joy, peace, and grace-filled power, and resurrected my soul and gave me a new life and new, amazing and beautiful friends! How grateful I am to my Savior!
There is no one more beautiful than Christ! And nothing more beautiful than Orthodoxy!
Glory to Thee, O God! Glory to Thee, O God! Glory to Thee, O God!