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Born in 1961 in family with Scandinavian roots. He was raised as a nominal Protestant Christian.
By the time he began college, however, he believed that the highest spiritual reality was not a personal deity or God, but rather a transpersonal reality (a la Buddhism).
He considered himself a buddhist, specifically, in the Zen tradition, and he had various experiences, which he writes, included darkness, infinite nothingness, existing outside of space and time, where everything is now, and time has no meaning. Despite these experiences, there was still something missing in the soul.
While in college at U.C. Santa Cruz, John Christensen met Eastern Orthodox Christian students and was invited by them to a lecture by an American priest-monk, who had also been a serious student of Eastern philosophy and Buddhism. It was through this lecture that Father Damascene met the man through whose influence his life would be radically altered. This man was Seraphim Rose, spiritual seeker, Eastern religious scholar, Orthodox monk and priest. It was through this meeting, his ongoing studies, and many pilgrimages to the monastery Fr Seraphim founded in the secluded woods of Northern California, that John came to discover that truth was not just an abstract idea, sought and known by the mind, but something personal, even a person, sought and loved by the heart.
Developed a dialogue with Fr Seraphim, who taught him that Truth was personal and Person (rather than abstract concept). John was to meet Christ through this. Eventually, Fr Seraphim became his spiritual father. Less than two years later, he was at Fr Seraphim's bedside at his repose.
Fr Damascene joined St Herman of Alaska Monastery, where he has lived for over 25 years, becoming its abbot in 2013.
- Fr Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, 1993 ISBN 978-1887904070
- Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age (editor), 1994
- Christ the Eternal Tao, 1999, ISBN 978-1887904230
- An Unbroken Circle: Linking Ancient African Christianity to the African-American Experience (many authors), 1998