by James R Cummings
On this roller coaster ride we call life, I have always felt like someone was watching over me, and now I know God has been there all along watching over me, guiding and protecting me. Because of my ego I took credit for everything, only to learn later on in life, I was wrong. This is how I came to this realization.
I was baptized at the age of six in the Methodist church in 1979 right on the heels of my grandfather’s repose as the result of a stroke. We attended church for a few months as a family until my mother put a stop to it. She said the pastor made her uncomfortable because she thought he was preaching at her, so I grew up outside of the church. My mother was extremely heavy handed and cruel, so when she said jump I jumped or don’t let me catch you in church or else, I didn’t go out of fear of consequences. My parents separated when I was ten years old, and as a result I was left to my own devices. My dad was a Vietnam veteran dealing with PTSD and he was greatly affected by the chemical Agent Orange as well as severe rheumatoid arthritis. The divorce also took its toll on him emotionally and physically.
When I was a teenager, I began looking for meaning in life. I discovered an occult shop in Allentown Pennsylvania during the mid-eighties. I wrote a letter to the shop and requested a catalog. After receiving the catalog, I began ordering books on witchcraft, but grew bored with it rather quickly. I found witchcraft to be lacking in substance: it was basically nature worship and candle magic rituals. For a teenager full of rage, it just didn’t provide a release.
After watching Geraldo Rivera’s television special on satanism in 1988, I ordered a copy of The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey. I digested it quickly and wanted more. I began ordering and reading everything I could find on satanism. I learned that there was an Embassy of Satan in Whitehall, just north of Allentown. I wrote a letter expressing my desire to join and listing everything I had read. I received an application for membership in the mail, which I quickly filled it and sent in with the application fee, only to be disappointed with a letter of rejection based on my age at the time for legal reasons. I was only fourteen at the time. I was advised to continue studying and practicing and that, when I reached eighteen, I could reapply and receive membership.
In 1991 when I was 18, I met my wife Sarah. We married and had our first child Aaron. We were living in the western Pennsylvania town of Sharon, which is a depressed industrial city in the rust belt with few opportunities, shortly after Aaron’s birth in 1992 I joined the U.S Army and became a Bradley Stinger fighting vehicle operator. While I was serving our daughter Sylver was born in 1994. My family was then living at Ft Bliss in El Paso Texas. I was in a rapid deployment unit of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment serving during Operation Desert Storm. The problem with serving in such a unit is that you rarely see your family, being deployed to various locations such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and South Korea., So after four years I didn’t re-enlist and was discharged in 1996 and went home.
Sarah was raised in the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church. I was the bad boy that her dad couldn’t stand, and he made it abundantly clear that he did not like me or want me dating his daughter. Despite his objections we married. Sarah was never involved in Satanism. I certainly tried to recruit her, but she made it clear she didn’t want our children involved or exposed to it.
I agreed to this, but as Aaron grew older, I began teaching him in a subtle manner, a little here and there. I would take him in to the intellectual decompression chamber, where I conducted rituals. As may happen with children, Sarah’s forbidding their involvement inspired a certain excitement in the children because we were doing something we weren’t permitted to do. This caused problems between Sarah and me, but it didn’t deter me or our children.
After returning home from Army service, I resumed my studies in Satanism. Since I was now an adult, I became directly involved in the Embassy of Satan. The Church of Satan was always full of controversy and infighting after a prophecy made by the current high priest in the Embassy of Satan failed to come to pass, there was a mass exodus from there.
I became involved in the First Church of Satan, where I achieved priesthood. I excelled in the dark arts and was gaining a reputation for my knowledge and abilities. A national satanic council was formed in an attempt to unify satanism throughout the USA, which in hindsight was laughable. I discovered that in in the Church of Satan there is no unity, loyalty, honesty or love, only selfish ambition.
When there was a falling out in the original Church of Satan in San Francisco, a lot of original priesthood left and founded their own versions of the Church of Satan. The Embassy of Satan, Temple of Set and the First Church of Satan, among others. I left the first church of Satan after the high priest openly supported N.A.M.B.L.A (North American Man/Boy Love Association), an organization that openly supports pedophilia and inappropriate relationships between adults and under-age children.
Every time there is a falling out in a particular Church of Satan, there are several new variations founded. Satanism is as unique as the people involved; there are no set standards or rules, the only consistent thing I have seen in all the different variations is an adherence to the phrase coined by Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), a prominent English figure in the history of witchcraft:
“Do what thou will, shall be the whole of the law”.
I was granted the title of magister (second to the high priest). I had written several articles on my experiences, visions and results from satanic rituals. I had a sensory deprivation room, where I would spend hours meditating in the darkness, communing with demons. In a sensory deprivation room, there is no light, sound or heat. All of your five senses are rendered useless in the physical sense, and the purpose is to remove distractions so one can meditate and commune directly with the demons and travel out of body. Many times, I traveled out of my body on the back of a locust and witnessed Aboriginal tribal rituals, as well as cannibal tribes. I don’t believe any of them were satanist, but the demons showed me these things for a purpose.
I had written about my experiences in the deprivation room and the trapezoid ritual, both of which are designed to achieve visions and travel out of body. The requirements for priesthood vary from place to place. I was mentored by a few Magisters and High Priests and warned of the dangers when leaving my body, especially during the trapezoid ritual:
“If you hear the great bell cry of the guardians of the barrier, flee to the safety of your body.”
“If they catch you, they will hold you captive never to return to your body.”
I was going places and doing things we are not meant to do; we believed there are demons hoping to prey on people and hold the spirit in thrall so the demons can take the body for their own.
When I was at the pinnacle of success in satanism, my personal life began to change and suffer. My father and grandmother raised me as best as they could, but I didn’t make it easy for them because I was angry and rebellious. My grandmother’s Alzheimer’s grew worse and she reposed in 2000 at the age of eight-six. Almost immediately after my grandmother’s repose, my dad’s health took a turn for the worse. He wasted away from two hundred to ninety pounds in six months. Less than a year after my grandmother, my father reposed at the age of fifty-two. He had died in Vietnam and didn’t know it, because of the long-term effects of Agent Orange, I took their passing hard.
My older brother Mark offered a quick and easy solution to my problems. Mark was a drug addict, and Oxycontin was his drug of choice. I partied with Mark for a time. One day I went a bit too far with the pills and had a vision or hallucination or maybe it was a dream. I stood before a gray wall and it was foggy on the other side, whereas on my side everything appeared to be normal. I couldn’t see anything until the fog parted and it was my dad, who asked me what I was doing. I believe this was God speaking to me through my Dad, as a type of warning. When I come to, I understood what dad was telling me and I stopped with the drugs and drinking but I continued in my journey with satanism.
At the time when I was involved there were two types of satanism. The traditional type involves the usual struggle between God and Satan, whereas in the modern type Darwinism plays a part and self-deification and self-glorification are the aim. I was a student of the modern type, wherein the whole philosophy is there is no God outside of the self and that mankind is the highest form of life. Because of my attitude, my ego walked through the door before I did, which, as you can imagine, didn’t make me all that lovable or likable.
In 2004 my brother Mark reposed from an accidental overdose at the age of thirty-three, which was a swift kick in the gut for me. A few months later I found myself emotionally numb and inflicting physical pain on myself was the only way I knew I was alive; I had this gnawing pain in my gut the wouldn’t go away.
I had begun working at a Pittsburgh bar and grille as a line cook. The kitchen manager is an Orthodox Christian, and when she found out I was a Satanist, she was deeply concerned and consulted her priest. He suggested she put up an icon of St. George the dragon slayer in the kitchen, so she did. Our children were deeply concerned for me, because I had become quite sadistic and cruel to everyone I encountered unless I could gain something from playing nice, they began going to a Methodist church near us and were expressing their concerns to the pastor.
The kitchen manager Carol began posting Bible verses and sayings from saints on the employee’s board. I took these as a challenge and began reading scripture looking for ammunition to use against her.
One night I was alone, but I kept feeling like something was coming. I couldn’t figure out what or when, I just knew it was coming. I witnessed something move across the television screen and by the time I realized what I had just seen it was too late. It was a demon and it was on me. I was completely frozen with fear. I was completely helpless, and I kept hearing a woman’s voice in the back of my head mocking me and laughing, saying that I belonged to her and she would never let me go. I have been in some ugly life and death situations, while in the Army as well as personal adventures, but never had I been so terrified as I was in that moment.
The only thing I could think to do was call out to Jesus Christ to save me. I was in an extremely vulnerable state and the only thing that entered into my thoughts was call out to Jesus Christ. I don’t know why that popped into my head at that moment, it just did and I am grateful for it. God would have been justified in leaving me to die in that situation, but he didn’t. When I reached out, he was waiting for me and rescued me when I was drowning in darkness.
As soon as I said the words the demon was gone. I was left afraid and exhausted by the encounter, and I curled up to Sarah and held her tight. When I awoke, I took all the books and ritual items for which I had paid thousands of dollars and threw them all in the garbage tote, because burning them wasn’t feasible. I went to the Methodist Church and spoke to Pastor Carlson and explained my situation to him.
He invited my family and me to attend his church on Sunday, which we accepted. Now I had to explain to my manager at work what had happened. At first she didn’t believe me, and I can’t say I blame her because the story was so incredible. After a few weeks, she witnessed my sincerity and began telling me about Orthodoxy.
I received a catechism from her with everything she had lent me to read and watch. I had more spiritual encounters my first year after my conversion than I did in all of my years as a Satanist. The devil presented himself in many forms (a beautiful woman or as a man in dark clothing) making a variety of offers to entice me to return to satanism.
The evil one is quite upset about me leaving and going home to my Father. Shortly after my conversion I was meditating, seeking the inner stillness we have in the presence of God, the things I realizes that the things I learned in satanism were a perversion of Orthodoxy, and a vision flashed in my mind of me standing at the pulpit of the Methodist church we were attending, only in the vision it was a Church of Satan. As soon as the vision was done, a pronounced voice in my head told me, “the moment Satan gets me back he will kill me”, which made me consider the church’s teaching that the Evil One can do nothing without God’s permission.
I had been physically attacked by an unseen force and held down with a crushing weight on top of me, but after rebuking it in the name of Jesus Christ, it was gone.
Many times after my conversion, while praying or meditating the Evil One would intrude on my mind to make offers or show me terrible things or tell me that I would never achieve paradise, that God can’t possibly love me because of the things I said and did while involved in Satanism, or showing me things that Satan will do to me if I don’t go back. The idea was that I knew too much for him to let me go.
Carol, my kitchen manager, invited my family and I to attend the Divine Liturgy at her parish and the following Sunday we attended. I fell in love with the Divine Liturgy. While I was a catechumen, Fr. Andrew took me to a Skete in Hiram Ohio for Vespers, where I was fortunate to meet Archbishop Job (of blessed memory). I told him the short version of my conversion and he blessed me and told me he would pray for me. Archbishop Job was standing next to me praying and that was the first time I felt the overwhelming presence of God coming through Archbishop Job. In that moment I was hooked, there was absolutely no way that I could go back to the life I had before.
I was baptized and chrismated on the Feast of the Protection of the Theotokos, October 1st 2006. Fr. Andrew wanting to be certain that I was sincere about my salvation made me wait 3 months for catechism and wanting to baptize and chrismate me under the protection of the Theotokos.
Aaron was baptized as an Infant in the Carpatho – Russian Church, but Sylver was not baptized until we began going to church as a family at my insistence. Sylver told us she wanted to be baptized in the Methodist Church and we agreed. After attending St. John the Baptist, Sylver was chrismated into the Orthodox Church. Our children have all moved out of our home and have families of their own now. We have two grandchildren. Sylver left the Orthodox Church for a non-denominational church, but Aaron is still part of the Orthodox Church.
Several years after my conversion, Fr. Andrew invited me to serve with him at the altar and I quickly accepted. After a year of altar service, we discussed my application to St Sophia’s Theological Seminary. I have completed my first year in the distance learning diaconate program at St Sophia’s. I have studied Patristics, the history of the Orthodox Church as well as the Ecumenical councils and heresies from the early church that still exist to this day; the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles of the New Testament, as well as the Old Testament Prophets. We are currently on summer break and I am eager for the next semester to begin. God willing, I will be ordained and serve as a Deacon in the Holy Orthodox Church.