The Disenchanted World


A very apt word for the world we live in is: disenchanted. It was first used by Max Weber and a number of others to describe a certain aspect of the modern world – the absence of the sacred. Where people of earlier eras and other cultures have experienced the world around them as charged with divine power (of various sorts), we simply experience the world as inert. There is nothing there.

The disenchanted world is doubtless a major source of modern atheism. When someone says they do not believe in God, they are quite likely simply relaying accurately how they perceive the world – that the world they see is simply disenchanted. This experience is captured by Tolkien in his hints of the end of Middle Earth. The “Elves are heading West,” leaving the world of Middle Earth. The Age of Elves is coming to an end and the Age of Men is beginning. There is something of a hint that with the Elves, the world of magic and wizardry is leaving as well. The new dangers will simply be the will and work of men rather than larger, darker forces.

Of course, that is Tolkien’s mythic tale, but it echoes a sense of the world that surrounded his generation. Like Lewis, he was a veteran of the Great War (WWI), where soldiers first encountered the nightmarish horrors of modern warfare. Battles of that war sometimes left the dead numbering in the hundreds of thousands, even exceeding a million. It surprised even its generals. And with the advent of such horrors, what remaining innocence that preceded the war (and there was an abundance) simply disappeared.

The forward march of disenchantment has not ceased. For Tolkien, the emigration of the Elves is stated in mythic form. For us, the mythic forms themselves have departed along with every enchantment. I recall a walk in the woods with my children when they were young. We came across a “fairy circle,” a circle of mushrooms in a small clearing. I called it by its mythic name. My 3rd grader quickly interrupted me by pointing out that “there are no such things as fairies.” I was crestfallen – mostly because my child had already lost her sense of enchantment by age 9.

How do disenchanted Christians deal with the world as sacrament? Within broad reaches of Protestantism, the sacraments themselves were long ago disenchanted, reduced to mere ceremonial reminders of a theologoumenon. They eat and remember, or baptize in obedience, but nothing happens. Not only is the world disenchanted, but for some among them, the world must be disenchanted as a matter of dogma.

There have also been manifold modern efforts to render the sacraments more relevant, more meaningful (meaning “less enchanted”), even within Catholicism. The Mass as a locus of democracy, devoid of alienating mystery and complex ritual, validates democracy, but only succeeds in reducing the Mass itself. Tragically, everyone already believes in democracy – it’s God that they cannot believe. There are clearly many who are unhappy with such directions and consider such efforts to be a disaster. But the damage may have already been done. Can the world, once disenchanted ever be restored to its former wonder?

I think about this, often long and hard, and far more often than I would like to admit. As an Orthodox priest, I stand in the “enchanted” altar and the beauty of Orthodox liturgical life. But the Elves left my world a long time ago. For though I stand where I do, my perceptions have been deeply damaged (!) by the disenchantment of the age. But like many others, I stand and watch, catching the occasional glimpse of an Elven footprint.

I look at the disenchanted creation (we must even struggle to call it a “creation”) and remind myself of its true existence. This creation is no accident. It has order and meaning. It has structure and coherence. The world in which I wonder has such narrow parameters in its construction, that the slightest alteration would have rendered the whole thing nothing more than a boiling lump or, yet, nothing at all. Things only exist because they exist in precisely this manner. And that fact carries with it a shimmer of magic  – or should, unless you have the disenchanted mind of modern child.

And the Christian witness is that the very anthropic principle of the universe became anthropos and spoke. The enchantment of the world became a man. And that Man took bread and said, “This bread is my Body.”

I often think that the disenchanted perceptions of modern man have nothing to do with what he sees and everything to do with the myth of disenchantment. Modern man sees the Bread just as well as the enchanted Apostles themselves. Only the Apostles were told about the enchantment of bread and believed. The modern man sees the enchanted bread and doubts – because he thinks that surely – enchanted bread would look somehow different. As it is, it looks like – bread.

What should enchanted bread/body look like? Should it hover in mid-air or shimmer with some ethereal effervescence? Should it’s taste suddenly bring a warmth of divine strength flooding every fiber of a disenchanted body?

St. Philaret of Moscow described the true enchantment well:

All creatures are balanced upon the creative word of God, as if upon a bridge of diamond; above them is the abyss of the divine infinitude, below them that of their own nothingness.

Every existing element of creation shimmers with being, standing as sheer miracle in its very existence. And if the Truly Existing One declares, “This bread is my Body,” then it cannot be otherwise. The disenchantment of the world is a spiritual failure to see the truth of existence. Wonder has been exchanged for weariness and the mystical metamorphosed into the mundane.

The battle of Modernity is not with our eyes but with our hearts. The failure of wonder hardens the heart destroying our capacity for giving thanks. Fr. Alexander Schmemann said, “Anyone capable of giving thanks is capable of salvation.” It’s opposite is also true. The giving of thanks, the eucharistic existence (eucharist=thanksgiving), is at every moment the true apprehension of the universe and its relationship with God. And it is the wondrous, sustaining grace of God that is the ground of all thanksgiving. The priesthood fulfills its existence when it cries aloud, “Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God!”

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.


46 responses to “The Disenchanted World”

  1. Scott Avatar

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Dn james Avatar
    Dn james

    Giving thanks is an act of humility. A broken and humble heart attracts the Grace of God. Thank you Father for your word of encouragement.

  3. Paul Pasternak Avatar

    Dr. James S Stewart used to tell the story of St Colomba’s preaching to a pagan king who asked the saint, “If I accept your Gospel and become Christ’s man, what shall I find?” To which the saint replied, “If you accept my Gospel and become Christ’s man, you shall stumble upon wonder upon wonder and find every wonder true!” Wonder has its roots in faith.

  4. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father would it be fair to say that the disenchanted world is one that has blasphemed against the Holy Spirit?

  5. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I think that goes too far. It is merely captive.

  6. Agata Avatar

    I don’t know if you receive the “DOXA” publication from the Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael in New Mexico, it just arrived yesterday at my house…

    There Fr. Silouan started his main commentary (about how and why we live in fear in the modern world, and how the Orthodox Church offers a safe heaven from it) with a quote from Elder Sophrony of Essex:

    “After two world wars – and wars are a sin par excellence – the contemporary world has lost the Grace of the Holy Spirit. And it is impossible to understand Christ as God without the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, it is beyond us to believe that this man, who really is man, is the Creator of all cosmos. To believe that God Himself was incarnate, that He calls us to be with Him eternally – that is what is missing in so many of our contemporaries, especially among intellectuals”.

    Your words “And if the Truly Existing One declares, “This bread is my Body,” then it cannot be otherwise.” remind me that Elder Sophrony believed that as long as the Liturgy is served in the Orthodox Churches, there is hope for the world, for its renewal…. May we not take that for granted and attend the Liturgy as often as possible….

    I wish there was a way to post more of the beautiful essay by Fr. Silouan. I encourage everybody to sign up for receiving their newsletter and supporting that monastery….

  7. juliania Avatar

    I am wondering, Father, if ‘the Battle with Modernity’ might be a generational thing – that is, ever reaching back into the memory of the ‘present’ generation. If that is so, then the modern ennui you so vividly describe might have been present even in the days of the acts of the Apostles, might it not? As those great men aged, and their memories of Christ present in the flesh became tales to tell to the next generation and then the next – “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!” They were the ones who saw. For them, the enchantment was real, touchable, taste-able, as it was for the crowds of people and the individuals among them, some of whom saw, but even at the Ascension, some doubted.

    Our generation, mine and yours, has had a long time between wars, the ones engulfing the world. It has been said that in the trenches no man is an atheist, but now we have done away with trenches. Warfare as it looms before us and increasingly surrounds us is so mechanical and impersonal now that there are no trenches. But this means every place, every ordinary place, is a trench. Marriages and funerals are trenches; any gathering together of people is a trench. Even church, temple services. All over the world. Without joining the military, the people are becoming the victims of war. Not in this country so much yet, but can it be far off?

    I think our generational Battle with Modernity, yours and mine, began in Dostoievski’s time, described in his novel ‘The Devils’. I try to read the Philokalia, am starting again at the beginning. The conversation in these first extracts is sometimes about devils. As a child, I wrote poems about fairies. Some children, the sheltered ones like my grandchildren, still do. Maybe when the fairies leave, the devils come? I am struck that Saint Evagrios describes enchantment thusly:

    “. . .during prayer you will see your intellect shine like a star.”

    Your blog, Father is wonderful. I am only just beginning to read. Please fee free to edit my remarks.

  8. Victoria Avatar

    “This creation is no accident. It has order and meaning. It has structure and coherence. The world in which I wonder has such narrow parameters in its construction, that the slightest alteration would have rendered the whole thing nothing more than a boiling lump or, yet, nothing at all. Things only exist because they exist in precisely this manner. And that fact carries with it a shimmer of magic – or should, unless you have the disenchanted mind of modern child.”

    Several years ago I watched this Ted Talk :: from Conception to Birth by Alexander Tsiaras. If you get to near the end (around minute 7:00 in the video) you will see the development of the heart and of the brain. Alexander Tsiaras describes it as magnificent origami of the development of the heart and brain. It is at the very least a divine folding which – at least when I watch it – appears truly akin to a Divine Hand knitting.

    Perhaps the “enchanted psalmist” meant exactly what he said when he wrote

    “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” Psalm 139:13

  9. Deacon Dani Schärer Avatar
    Deacon Dani Schärer

    A thank you father from across the pond. Once more you have eloquently put in ftp writing what I always pondered. To me the remedy seems in Liturgizing our life – or churching as the Russians call it. But talking to my students (in vocational college – my secular job) and even with orthodox I find even talking about and all there more sharing some of the wonder a pretty difficult task. I am still a bit at odds with it. Thanks again.

  10. Heather Avatar

    Father, i really appreciate this. Thank you. I sometimes feel like my inner child, who wondered at fairies and prayed to fly, has been beaten cruelly into submission — not just by modern atheism, but by Christianity, who scolded these things as witchcraft. How do you advise parents to navigate themes of magic and sorcery in stories (since Satanism is a real thing that feeds on destroyed innocence) without killing their sense of enchantment?

  11. Mark Avatar

    I can’t help but think Hopkins poem God’s Grandeur as I read this post.

    God’s Grandeur
    By Gerard Manley Hopkins

    The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
    Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

    And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

    Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)

  12. Boyd Avatar

    This reminds me of Chief Seattle. I wonder if quantum physics, etc. is the way forward. See John Polkinghorne, etc.

  13. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I do not think the battle with modernity is a generational thing. The modernity I am describing is in no way connected with technology or science, etc. Rather, it is a clear, distinct set of ideas that have come to dominate the culture. They go back to the late 1700’s and came in with a strong force in the 1800’s. I do not think of it as a generational battle, but a matter of discernment for believing Christians, particularly the Orthodox, since the ideas I have described are, in fact, heresies. But they so permeate the culture as to disguise themselves as common sense. Individualism, progress as a direction of history, the improvement of human beings (towards perfection), consumerism, human beings as self-defining, rationalism and sentimentality divorced from our true existence – these are examples of what I mean by modernity.

  14. Hinterlander Avatar

    Have you read Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age or James KA Smith’s introduction to the work, How (Not) To Be Secular? It seems that much of your commentary stems from similar observations.

  15. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    This post sums up much of what I perceived was wrong with faith when I was still a Protestant. I am eternally grateful that the Lord called me to faith as first a Protestant from my heathen life and then into the truth a Orthodox, but I saw the faults in Protestantism but did not really have a way to describe what I saw. Now I do and disenchanted is an excellent way to put it. I also can connect very strongly to what you said about being damaged by this disenchantment. I await my ship to the Uttermost West

  16. Janine Avatar

    A kind of confluence of things came together for me as I was driving and thinking about this blog. Earlier in the day I’d read and mused on the passage in Matthew 27 about Judas going to the elders and chief priests, casting down the silver, and killing himself. I thought about the difference between Peter’s denial and his betrayal, esp trying to think about the difference between repentance and remorse. All of this is by way of intro to thinking about this blog post regarding wonder. Couple that with talking heads speaking of the “darkness” of one presidential candidate’s speech . . .

    I was thinking that maybe we’re in a time where what we need as Christians isn’t always wonderment but about what we do when things get “dark” — when people’s love seems to grow cold, when we see wars and rumors of wars… nobody here needs me to explain what I’m saying. (And no, I’m not talking about the End but the time we live in and what we’re seeing.) I was thinking about coming back from a horrible betrayal and a terrible sin, and what repentance means and how with Christ there is always a future, there is the “new” covenant with the One who is always making all things new. Maybe it’s a time where we really need to give thanks even when we’re shocked, when an unexpected “worst” happens. We need a way to hang onto love and the light without blinding ourselves to the time. Light in the darkness. Is that wonder? Is it something “tougher” — endurance which He calls us to? I don’t know. I put my thoughts out for anybody who wishes to reply, and thank you in advance. Grateful for this “place” to come Fr. Stephen writes and those who share too. Glory to God for all things.

  17. Maria Avatar

    One can say modernity started around the French Revolution and with the emancipation for Jews out of the Ghettos into European Cultural Life individual rights were granted etc. Then came the industrialization which separated people from their land and work and cramped them into cities. Some became rich, those who knew the money and trade-business, and others struggled for survival.

    Prior to this, European Cultures and People/Peasants were enchanted by music, Beethoven, Mozart, the Arts, Paintings of Michelangelo, Van Gogh etc.. Poetry, writings and Nature.
    Psychology sprung out of Religion, Myth existed in abundance, and Philosophy had been around since Josephus and before Cesar. The Stars and their science Astrology existed, Mathematics existed also for thousands of years.

    So what made the late 1700-1800 different? Why are we dis-enchanted?
    Granted, Orthodox and Catholics had split long ago and in 1517 Martin Luther separated from the Catholics, though that was not his intend.
    It stands to reason that a wheel was set in motion that culminates where we are today. If we don’t look at the truth it will kill many, as one Sin/lie can and effect/kill many, but so can one TRUE fact save many if we just all have the courage to pronounce and denounce a/ the LIE.
    What is set in motion today and agreed upon as a culture/people/ religion/politics etc. will have consequences for the future, for better or worse and we have to live it out to death, unless…….(hello Christians?) Just take a reality check.
    Looks like Christians ought to be more involved if we still want to have freedom of Religion in the future, or don’t loose what ever enchantment, like the earth=nature we still have, and we are killing it too. By our inaction and silence we surrender to those who wish to see us destroyed. God is also a force inside of us, if you just believe, pray and do what is right in his sight. Fear no man but God, in Him we find wisdom. MHO/ 5cents.
    Get involved, if not for the betterment, at least for the PRESERVATION and sanctity of life.

  18. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Maria, believe it or not the best “involvement” we can have is living the life of the Church more deeply, more thankfully; wonder more, fear less. Pray, partake of the sacraments, fast/give alms with a merciful heart, repent and forgive–not for the world’s sake but for the sake of the Cross.

    Jesus Christ took on all of our humanity. He still has it. The more we immerse ourselves in Him, the more salvation and the making new of all things will manifest.

    The way of the world is fear, death and nothingness. All the activities of the world designed to make things better are simply distractions from the fear, an addictive narcotic.

    I am not advocating quietism. Action will come from the way of the Cross but it will be righteous action. Life giving and healing.

    For specific acts in the world prayer to the Theotokos is wonderful.

    “Fear not, I have overcome the world” “Rejoice in the Lord always”

  19. Agata Avatar


    >>>> LIKE (VERY MUCH!) <<<<

  20. Guy Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    While the ideas are no doubt older, surely you can admit that many blur the distinction between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism.


  21. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    It’s not a conversation that I’ve given much thought to.

  22. Rev. Daniel Wilburn Avatar
    Rev. Daniel Wilburn

    Thank you Father Stephen. Your comments about Tolkien and Lewis are insightful. I do ponder how to transition the mundane mind into a sacramental mind. Is it gratitude? Is it liturgy? Is it beauty or art? Is the teaching of Jesus? How does one become a transcendent human rather than secular?

  23. Mark Avatar


    As a culture, pretty much as a race, we are concerned with security – ours mostly. And our concerns grow ever greater these days from cyber threats to actual physical ones. We want to know, because we believe that in knowledge we gain security. There is certainly some measure of truth in that, but on a larger scale it fails miserably.

    Aslan, as C.S. Lewis reminded us, is not a safe lion…but he is good.

    We are fearful of what we cannot control. Enchantments are not within our control so we eliminate them (from our minds, at least). Much of our science is very helpful in this regard. Our knowledge, even of ourselves and our morality have become rootless. We have become a culture of tumbleweeds, bearing no fruit and fearful of windstorms.

    Even in church, we want a “safe” God. Let there be no breaking through of roofs to lower a paralytic, no reaching out by lepers to touch. Let all be done decently and in order (our idea of it anyway). There are times, especially after this blog, that I ask myself if some of the attraction of the so-called Charismatic movements really expresses a desire to re-instill a sense that God is not someone we can comprehend or control. To re-introduce a sort of enchantment if even subconsciously.

    We have created a box in which we are safe. Even those who advocate thinking outside the box only create another larger box. We are limited beings by created nature… and we should fear lest the boxes we create are coffins.

  24. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Rev. Daniel,
    It is not something that admits of a quick answer. Liturgical life is part of it. Living in a sacramental way, always and everywhere, is important as well. Beauty everywhere is also a doorway. Consumerism is a door to forgetfulness. The Fathers would point to the remembrance of God and to keep death before our eyes. Forgive me, but read my book. It has some suggestions…

  25. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    It is tragically ironic that we believe the world to be disenchanted because we are bound so tightly by the enchantment of the evil one.

  26. Mark Avatar

    Fr. Stephen
    It’s ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ for real isn’t it. But that was just a story, wasn’t it? Say, could you please pass the Turkish Delight?

    Thank-you Fr. !

    Charis kai eirene.

  27. Alex Avatar

    Sometimes it seems to me as if most of the time I see people express a sense of enchantment, it’s with pop culture, especially the celebrities themselves. When David Bowie and Prince died, you’d have thought Gandalf the Grey himself had fallen in Moria.

    Beyond that, some movies or shows have definitely become a sort of modern mythology. These days we can describe a situation using Star Wars the way past generations might have used the Odyssey. But except for the fringe minority listing “Jedi” as their religion on census forms, I don’t know that Star Wars forms that large a part of the average person’s worldview. Plus its use for enchantment is kind of undermined by the fact that it currently exists mostly to make money for the Walt Disney Company.

    Which I guess is its own problem: enchantment in today’s world is a marketing tool for movies, toys, and theme parks.

    The other sense of enchantment I’ve seen is how people I know have been ascribing an almost supernatural quality just to this year. Whether it’s celebrity deaths, mass shootings, overseas terrorism, the presidential race (one way or the other), Brexit (one way or the other), or whatever else is happening in the world, people refer to 2016 as if the year itself is cursed. I don’t know if that’s enchantment or superstition or something else entirely.

    I suppose people are looking for some kind of enchantment, but in this post-religious society, the best they can do is pick up whatever scraps they can find.

  28. Karen Avatar

    It’s ironic that this modern mindset seems to coincide with increasing occultism in the West to the present where New Age beliefs are everywhere, including mainstream medicine and certain modern religions styling themselves as versions of Christianity. Apparently, enchantment banished through the front door creeps back in through the back door, and we are prepared to allow enchantment by everything save the true God!

  29. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Rev. Daniel,
    I’ve got a few more minutes to give a better answer. First, we are very much the products of our culture. That said, being aware of the cultural lenses is key. But we do not, I think, ever quite find a way to feel and think as though those lenses were never there. Our hearts are deeply wounded by secularism and all its disenchantment. On the worst days, you’ll doubt everything. I laugh sometimes and tell people that I was trained in a liberal Anglican seminary, I can doubt anything!

    On the other hand, what the Fathers saw is not simply a way of looking at the world. It is the truth, and thus creation itself is on our side. Those small glimpses that come can be a crack in the door.

    Next, we should avoid basing our beliefs and doctrines on the assumptions and reasoning of the secular age. Many versions of Biblical interpretation, including some that are called “conservation” or “traditional” are actually highly secularized and disenchanted. Almost all Protestant thought is unconsciously secular, with no feel for the sacramental at all. At least Pentecostals have avoided that, even if they’re darned near crazy.

    The stories of encounters shared earlier are quite common. The One-Storey Universe is terribly embarrassing for many people and they’re afraid to talk about it. In Orthodoxy, it’s quite common. I was looking at a video earlier this evening from a parish in Baltimore where a visiting icon was gushing myrhh – it was literally dripping of the icon – beyond the ability to fake or manufacture.

    Such things are incredibly common in the Orthodox world, as are the saints, and many miracles. We prefer to be quiet about them – they’re not actually given to us for the purposes of evangelism.

    What is true about Narnia is that when we first read it, something haunted the back of our minds saying “something about this is true.”But we dismissed it as childishness or wishful thinking. Lewis ridicules our secular thought in the character of Eustace.

    Of course, it’s not about miracles and the like, it’s about actually understanding the table or chair that are sitting in the room with you (and everything else). The entire world is a shimmering, gossamer mist, sustained by the will of God. Existence itself is a miracle beyond comprehension.

    St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “On wonder ever understands anything.”

    Wonder a lot. And sing. Singing is very important.

  30. Mark Pendleton Avatar
    Mark Pendleton

    Fr. Stephen
    Thank-you for a word. Not deep or theological perhaps, but it is a word that has helped me finish a thought started some time ago. The word: disenchantment. And here’s where it went:

    The Sailor

    There he was –
    the Sailor,
    holding onto the mast of his ship
    leaning out into the wind, free hand shading his eyes
    in search of the Lost Horizon –
    a boy of nine or ten.

    Some day soon
    someone will point out to him
    that his ship is an iron red mound of dirt,
    his mast a clothesline pole
    and the shimmering sea
    just the bleak, windswept flatland behind Bakersfield
    strewn with broken glass.
    And then perhaps he’ll understand
    that the cost of growing up in this world is disenchantment
    with all that is wonderful…

    and he’ll save his heart, sail away on a sand dune
    and leave the rest of us

  31. Slob Avatar

    Modernity is deadly to all manner of traditional society. In the mid-1980s it was my privilege to visit an area in South Asia which had never been open to outsiders, and was still protected by the national government. No electricity except for a few hours a day by generator in a government office. Water was carried in by hand. The religion was animist with a thin veneer of Buddhist overlay.
    In my three weeks there I experienced, for the first time in my life, a society infused with magic, which informed my existence while I was there. Modernity encourages us to pretend that this cannot happen.

  32. Nicholas Stephen Griswold Avatar
    Nicholas Stephen Griswold

    I think we are created with a need for this enchantment but because of Ancestral Sin we reject what we were designed for and turn to false sources of enchantment to fulfill our needs. I see this in the same light as I view addictive behavior. We are hurting and empty and we turn to behaviors, substances or false enchantments to fill the void that should be filled with communion with our Creator. Our true communion comes through the true enchantment and yet we seek so many false paths through ignorance and rebelliousness. We want to do what is right in our own eyes and wind up doing great evil.

  33. RC Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Thank you for the admonition to sing! I teach children to sing for a living and, as I reflect on your words, it strikes me that this is a crucial way for modern people to “re-enchant” their lives. Children naturally adorn their day with spontaneous song and I believe there is a deep wisdom there.

    This is, in fact, beyond a mere beautiful sentiment but is an admonition of St. Paul in Scripture. He tells us in Ephesians 5 that the way in which we are to “walk as children of light” (in an enchanted, one-storey universe) is to be “filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    There is a deep connection between the two. It is how we are to “redeem the time.”

  34. Maria Avatar

    Fr. Freeman says:
    On the worst days, you’ll doubt everything.

    But then there is something so real that even the worst of days can not take away. And it has nothing to do with enchantment or being disenchanted, because you can not enchant yourselves to knowing anything. This all dissipates. God never will, has or is about to enchant anybody or anything.
    It… for lack of words, or God is always with you, as pure, clean, holy, sacred life, as it always has been, whether. Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant or what ever stripe or color exists, to/ in various degrees, prisms and eyes we see thru.
    With open eyes we may see a rainbow and it is not an enchantment. It carries a message for those who have believed, and a mystery for those who never heard it.
    I am enchanted (a child can understand) by the “simplicity” of it all, not by the complexity. And I think that is where we loose it. (my nous)

  35. Mary Avatar

    Your posts (or comments) with practical suggestions are always my favorite. I love *thinking about* these things, but it is so hard to hold on to them and live this way. Still there are moments, like when you read the life of a saint (Ascetic of Love was especially world-changing for me), or hear something otherworldly in church, or a timely answered prayer – and the world seems to break open.

  36. Lynne Avatar

    Father Stephen,
    I took your words about enchantment to heart last night. I read a book that had enchanted me as a child to my grandchildren, ages 7 and 4. (The book is The Big Black Horse, a juvenile version of The Black Stallion.)
    Instead of the disenchanted way I had read to my children, when I would stop to explain, or to ask, “What do you think?”, I bit my educator’s tongue and told myself, “It’s the story. Read the story.”
    When we were finished, we were all in a place of enchantment. We were enthralled. We finished the rest of the evening in a lovely sense of peace and togetherness.

  37. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    There ought to be like buttons on the blog! Thanks!

  38. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Prose and the spoken word both give the mistaken impression of human management. Poetry, good poetry, stretches words beyond words. Music carries us there as well. It’s hard to find any description of heaven that isn’t musical, with the sole exception of that space of silence in Revelation, which I take to be a number of measures of rest. 🙂

  39. Maria Avatar

    C.S. Lewis writes:

    “There are no ordinary people.
    You have never talked to a mere mortal….Next to
    the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the
    holies object presented to your senses.”

  40. Maria Avatar


  41. Paddy Avatar

    Wonderful article, Fr. Stephen.

    It is interesting to me how even though disenchanted materialism is the orthodoxy of modernity, people still long for the world to be enchanted. I think the latest and largest example is the popularity of the Harry Potter books (I haven’t read them, only seen the movies). I see it all the time on the internet in the form of memes and jokes, yet always with a hint of longing: fans “still waiting to receive their acceptance letter from Hogwarts” or seeing something in real life that proves the Harry Potter universe is “real”. It’s more than loving the series, it’s wishing it were true. I’m not talking 8 year olds—that wouldn’t be surprising—I’m talking 28 year old adults.

    There are many qualities I’m sure that make J.K. Rowling’s series so beloved, but what seems to strike a chord with its readers is that Harry’s world is truly enchanted. It’s not inert, as Fr. Stephen said—there IS something there. What I recollect from the movies, there’s always something magical and mysterious underlying what is seen or what is happening. Harry Potter’s very existence himself has greater meaning and serves as the foundation of the entire story arch. I think people latch onto that for more than the books being well written, having lovable characters, or being “fun”.

    It’s not to say that if modernity was still enchanted that the Harry Potter series wouldn’t be as popular; I think it still would be. It just seems to me that in a disenchanted world, these kinds of fantasy stories no longer merely serve to color our imaginations and fill them with delighted wonder. They now take the pseudo role of substituting for the deficit so many feel in this desolate age called modernity.

  42. Agata Avatar


    If you have not read the Harry Potter books, I highly recommend borrowing them “on tape or CD” from the library for the next long car trip (they are finally available on Audible, too). Jim Dale’s reading of these books is truly “enchanted”…. It kept kids (and parents) entertained for hours (while looking out the window, and not at some screen).

    Also, I would like to share here my discovery of John Granger, and Orthodox author whom I first heard talking about Harry Potter books on Ancient Faith Radio. I don’t know if this is the link to the very podcast, but I am sure it is a good one.

    John and his wife Mary are wonderful Orthodox Christians, and their other area of interest is living and especially eating Eucharistically.. Here is a link to Mary’s site with fascinating videos on eating the right way….

  43. Paddy Avatar


    Thank you for the recommendation and the links! By the podcast description, it looks like I’m on the same vein as John Granger. As for the cooking videos, I signed up and look forward to watching them!

    I’ve definitely never been opposed to reading the series, it’s been more of a matter of getting through the current list of books I have. Listening via audio-book is a good idea, in that case.



  44. Karen Avatar


    “Granger”. Isn’t that also Hermione’s last name in the Harry Potter series? 🙂

    Thanks for the links!

  45. Agata Avatar

    Yes Karen, rather “prophetic”, isn’t it? 🙂

    I remember John talking about the trio (Ron, Hermione and Harry) as symbolic for “body [Ron being very physical and emotional], mind [Hermione being brainy and logical] and heart/soul [Harry doing everything by the voice of his heart])”….

    John also lectures on heart disease, its cause and prevention, and how our physical heart is almost a mirror of our spiritual heart (broken and polluted), the center of human personality and an instrument of Communion with God… There is so much to this subject I cannot possibly relate this adequately here…. I can send you the pdf offline.

  46. Terry Finley Avatar
    Terry Finley

    Within the church one can really ‘be all he can’, an old army phrase.

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