Patriarch Alexy II about False Healers

From an interview for "Profile" journal, 2000.

Patriarch Alexy II

Your Holiness, our society today is simply sick with interest to various kinds of folk healers. How justified is the sharply negative attitude of the Church to healing, when you consider that many of the healers are religious? It is known, for example, that Gregory Rasputin successfully treated Tsarevich Alexei. Many saints possessed the gift of healing. Is it possible today to separate the orthodox healers from charlatans?

Alexy II: Yes, many saints healed –with the prayer in the first place. They also helped the sick with spiritual advice, because very often our illnesses come from the sins, from poor lifestyle choices. Similarly, there are now pastors and laity sometimes endowed with the gift of prayer for the sick and the gift of instruction. However, the phenomenon of healing must be approached very cautiously. If there is magic, there is any magical manipulation with icons, crosses, pictures, we usually face charlatanry abusing the authority of the Orthodox Church that has unlimited confidence. As a result, people may initially feel some relief, and then even more suffer spiritually and physically.

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How to Distinguish Whether the Gift Is From God or From the Devil

Question to Archbishop Vikenty of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye in the air of TV channel "Soyuz". April, 2008.

In the studio: Archbishop Vikenty and Hegumen Dimitry (Baibakov).

Archbishop Vikenty (Morar')

- Please tell how to distinguish the gift of God from what gives the sly one?

- First, God's gifts God gives to man for the great labors, feats, renunciation of oneself, from all worldly things, for the feat of humility. The basis of these gifts - humility. Because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble – when there is a virtue of humility and the man no longer is proud of his achievements. When he thinks that they are not his but belong to God, then the Lord gives some gifts: the gift of healing, the gift of insight, the gift of advice, many, many gifts. And, of course, the person who is working on himself and tills the soul, eradicates all the weeds, does not think how to get any gifts. He thinks of salvation, and the Lord Himself gives him. And it often happens that he does not want it and does not see, but people notice it. And he says, 'This is not mine - this is the Lord".

- He runs away from this glory...

- Yes, he runs from this glory. The Lord is merciful, He wants to give a benefit to someone who needs through that person. Now extrasensory individuals believe that they have gifts from God. This way they only believe, and this is actually not the case. They wave their hands, foresee, see, hear, notice something and think that it is from God. They have a candle lit as well, and an icon next to it, "Behold, I am with God's help". There are no such gifts. According to my knowledge of the Holy Fathers, they reached such gifts only with labors.

- And with incredible labors!

- Yes, with incredible labors. Take St. Sergius of Radonezh, Seraphim of Sarov. For example, a man came to St. Sergius, brought a sick baby, and the baby died. And the man in despair and grief threw it to the saint: do what you want. Sergius went and prayed, and the Lord heard his prayer. And he said to the man, "Go home, but do not say anything to anyone while I'm alive". He went with joy that his son was revived and recovered. Of course, it is a great joy. Here the Christ the Savior Himself was saying: "Do not tell anyone what I've done". Here is an example of how the Lord shows us how to receive the gifts and to have them in a contrite, humble heart. But when a person receives the gifts is such simple way...

- And travels on tour between the concert halls...

- Yes, all painted, overdressed. What is his feat, a feat for which he received these gifts? Received for his pride? Yes, received for the pride, not from God but from the Devil. There is no third power: there is Divine one and demonic one.

- Either, or...

- The Divine power can only be obtained through humility, through a great feat, and demonic - safely and easily...

About False Healers

False Miracles

Translated from Russian by Natalia Makeeva and Natalie Semyanko.

Contents: "I am treated by a sorcerer" (Archpriest Lev Lebedev). Do not participate in the acts of the darkness (George Shevkunov). Magical passes (Archpriest Dmitry Smirnov).

Appendix The Holy Scriptures about false miracles

"Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).

We offer our readers three articles about modern TV healers and psychics. These articles are taken from the "Troitsky Blagovestnik" (Number 21, issued by Holy Trinity / Sergius Lavra in 1990). In the appendix you will find the quotes from the Scriptures concerning this topic.

Archpriest Lev Lebedev. "I am treated by a sorcerer."

Lately many people with unusual psychic and hypnotherapeutic abilities have appeared, who are granted space in newspapers and even television. What these people show on the screen is often called a "miracle." It is not surprising that nonbelievers (who still secretly long for miracles!) value such phenomena, but sometimes Orthodox Christians have an impression that the actions of the psychics are God’s gift. This is supported by the holy healers (unmercenaries), who were able to heal the sick ones with the help of just one word, a prayer, laying hands. Meanwhile every honest doctor-hypnotist will say that there is no miracle in his hypnotic influence. What happens here is the influence on the nervous system of a willful person, the nature of which is not very clear yet …

Many people think that this is how the Saints healed the sick ones. That is, the miracles of healing described in the Scriptures and lives of the Saints are the phenomena of the same kind and character as the actions of the modern hypnotists and psychics.

How to distinguish a real miracle, God’s power — from the power, whose nature is not yet clear to the science?

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Pride after Praying - a Sign of Help from the Demons

Saints Barsanuphius and John. "Guidance Toward Spiritual Life: Answers to the Questions of Disciples".

Letter 421.

Question: "When I am afflicted in regard to something and am praying, if the ineffable goodness of God assists me, my thought is elated as having been heard. So what should I do?"

Response. When you have been praying and feel that your prayer has been heard, if indeed you are elated, it is clear that yon have neither prayed according to God nor have you received the help of God, but rather the feeling that worked in you was from the demons so that your heart might be elated. For whenever assistance comes from God, the soul is never elated; instead, it is always humbled.

The soul will be amazed at how the great mercy of God condescends to show mercy on sinners, who are unworthy and who always irritate him. And that soul offers exceeding thanks to his glorious and ineffable goodness; for he has not handed us what accords with our sins, but rather, in his great forbearance, he shows long-suffering and mercy. And so the soul is no longer elated, but [only trembles] and gives glory.

Healing Ability from the Demons

The Letters of Elder John Krestiankin.

Elder John (Krestiankin)

Dear in the Lord, A.

And I will tell you categorically that your healing ability comes from the enemy of mankind. He won’t cure anybody or anything but he aims to destroy, to kill. It all starts with good, but many people, who have already passed this first and seemingly good step, come to me daily – and they pay expensively for their ignorance of the spiritual life – because at the second stage the healer and his patient fall into demon possession, and at the final stage they become obsessed with the idea of suicide. And many people execute it now.  And an immortal soul perishes in hell and a body dies.

Listen to me and repent for having touched the forbidden. And, my dear, if you were in the Church, you would have already known that the demons are not to be trifled with. Certainly take the Holy Unction and never get involved with healing – do not inflict misery neither to yourself nor to others.

Source (in Russian).

Three Sources of Spiritual Gifts

Saint John Cassian. "Conferences".

Conference 15. The second conference of Abbot Nesteros. On Divine gifts.

Chapter 1. Discourse of Abbot Nesteros on the threefold system of gifts.

After evening service we sat down together on the mats as usual ready for the promised narration: and when we had kept silence for some little time out of reverence for the Elder, he anticipated the silence of our respect by such words as these. The previous order of our discourse had brought us to the exposition of the system of spiritual gifts, which we have learnt from the tradition of the Elders is a threefold one. The first indeed is for the sake of healing, when the grace of signs accompanies certain elect and righteous men on account of the merits of their holiness, as it is clear that the apostles and many of the saints wrought signs and wonders in accordance with the authority of the Lord Who says: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." (S. Matt. 10:8). The second when for the edification of the church or on account of the faith of those who bring their sick, or of those who are to be cured, the virtue of health proceeds even from sinners and men unworthy of it. Of whom the Saviour says in the gospel: "Many shall say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name cast out devils, and in Thy name done many mighty works? And then I will confess to them, I never knew you: Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity." (S. Matt. 7:22, 23). And on the other hand, if the faith of those who bring them or of the sick is wanting, it prevents those on whom the gifts of healing are conferred from exercising their powers of healing. On which subject Luke the Evangelist says: "And Jesus could not there do any mighty work because of their unbelief." (S. Mark 6:5, 6). Whence also the Lord Himself says: "Many lepers were in Israel in the days of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian." (S. Luke 4:27). The third method of healing is copied by the deceit and contrivance of devils, that, when a man who is enslaved to evident sins is out of admiration for his miracles regarded as a saint and a servant of God, men may be persuaded to copy his sins and thus an opening being made for cavilling, the sanctity of religion may be brought into disgrace, or else that he, who believes that he possesses the gift of healing, may be puffed up by pride of heart and so fall more grievously. Hence it is that invoking the names of those, who, as they know, have no merits of holiness or any spiritual fruits, they pretend that by their merits they are disturbed and made to flee from the bodies they have possessed. Of which it says in Deuteronomy: "If there rise up in the midst of thee a prophet, or one who says that he has seen a dream, and declare a sign and a wonder, and that which he hath spoken cometh to pass, and he say to thee: Let us go and follow after other gods whom thou knowest not, and let us serve them: thou shalt not hear the words of that prophet or of that dreamer, for the Lord thy God is tempting thee that it may appear whether thou lovest Him or not, with all thy heart and with all thy soul." (Deut. 13:1-3). And in the gospel it says: "There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall give great signs and wonders, so that, if it were possible, even the elect should be led astray." (S. Matt 24:24).