Kinds of Spiritual Delusion

St Ignatius (Brianchaninov) says that there are many kinds of delusion and names 2 kinds: imagination and conceit. St Gregory of Sinai mentions 3 kinds. Only 9 kinds of spiritual delusion (prelest) are described in this section in English. Corresponding Russian section contains 26 subsections. An even more detailed classification of types of delusion can be found at NI-KA (in Russian).

Subsections

True Visions From God Are Often a Consolation in Suffering

Elder Joseph the Hesychast. "Monastic Wisdom".

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

So, my priest, that lady you wrote about is a holy soul.  But see to it that you explain to her the things I shall write here, so that she will be careful.  For the enemy does not sleep; he hates man, and contrives everything to deceive him.  Since she suffers such a martyrdom from her husband, God comforts her with those consolations and various visions.  But she should not consider such things to be the main power of “the prayer,” because the evil one intervenes and quickly changes things.

The main power of the prayer and the entire appetitive power of the soul lies in the cleansing of the heart by means of noetic prayer.  What does the Lord say?  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  He does not say, “Blessed are those who see visions and revelations.”  So one should not rejoice in these things, even if they are from God.  But one should rejoice when one sees that the nous has found the heart and remains inside it.  Then the entire body is at peace, the soul is calmed, the heart leaps, the nous illuminates its powers, and tears run like a stream.  The evil one is able to transform everything, but these things that we are talking about now, he cannot imitate.  Nevertheless, when she sees something, she should not tell anyone about it, except her elder and spiritual father—no one else.

These things are happening now because she is suffering and has great simplicity and fear of God.  But these things do not last until the end; the evil one changes them when he finds a way.  Later, they lead to delusion.  Therefore, much caution and humility are needed.  She must think of herself as a worm of the earth, and only accept as true whatever her spiritual father tells her.  Because if she starts accepting them, in a little while her thoughts will become sick, and she will end up accepting all demonic and silly things as true and sent from God.

What happens after that?  A person becomes the mock of the demons.  They fool him with writings and visions, with dreams and revelations, with symbols and numbers, with oracles and a heap of superstitions.  May God protect her from this kind of change.  Therefore, my priest, see to it that your Reverence always humbles her, lest her thoughts change and she becomes proud.

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A Sinner Should Always Turn Away Any Visions

Saints Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet. "Letters".

 
St Barsanuphius the Great (6th cent.)

Letter 414. Question: "If a sinner should acquire certain visions, should that person not believe at all that these are from God?"

Response: When this happens to a sinner, it is clear that it has from the demons, in order to deceive the wretched soul of that person into destruction. Therefore, one should never believe in these, but one should rather cоmе to know one's own sins and weaknesses, in order always to lead a life in fear and trembling.

Letter 415. Question: "So should one also turn away from these visions, even when they appear in the Form of the Master Christ?"

Response: It is especially then that we should turn away from and anathematize their wickedness and deceit even more so. Brother, never be deceived, therefore, by such demonic assurance. For divine visions certainly occur to the saints, but they are always preceded by calm, peace, and joy in their hearts. Indeed, the saints are always aware of the truth and regard themselves as being unworthy [of such visions]. How much more, then, should sinners never believe these visions, when they are aware of their own unworthiness?

Where any Pride is, no Divine Visions Can Appear

Archimandrite Seraphim (Aleksiev). "Homily about self-esteem and about false visions".

Archimandrite Seraphim (Aleksiev) (1912-1993)

There are many dark tricks of Satan that bring him closer to the soul, but the path that Satan prefers to follow and tries to lead the humans is pride. For he knows well that even if God’s commandments are fulfilled, pride alone is enough to make an ascetic perish. He himself, having no other sins, has fallen from God through his pride only.

Sinful people are usually proud. They sin only because of their pride, which prevents them from accepting God’s will and obeying God’s commandments. Devil, a cunning tempter, knows how to make a man have a sense of grandeur about oneself. Those who are not of high intelligence, he tries make proud by telling them that they are smart or that they have some other exceptional qualities. He puts an idea to the mind of clever people that they have unique properties of their minds. To the wicked, he gives a proud persistence against the will of God. The pious, following his hints, begin to put on airs because of their execution of God’s commandments. Thus, all get by pride under the power of Satan – all those who have not stood up against his tricks, believers and unbelievers; clever and stupid; and sinful and righteous.

Where there is pride and there are visions - they cannot be from God, but surely from the evil one. Some say: ‘We know that those who have divine visions are virtuous people as they fast, pray, act honestly, visit the sick, give alms, show great love for their neighbours... Can these people indeed have visions from the Satan?’

Demonic Visions of Elder Basiliscus

Lives of Russian ascetics of 18th -19th centuries. March. The ascetic Elder Basiliscus.

At this time, a god-loving noble man saw the ascetic Basiliscus and asked him to live in the bathhouse, which was in his garden. Referring to his three-year stay with this hospitable man, Basiliscus said that the devil had never been more armed against him than he was at that time. One night, while he was praying and reading with tears the psalm, suddenly he saw a demon in the form of a big, ferocious horse, with a wide opened mouth, ready to swallow him. With a firm belief in God, he shielded himself with the sign of the cross, and the vision faded. The other night a basket came down from the ceiling, and many flies flew out of it with noise; the ascetic did not hesitate, but intensified his prayer to God, and the vision disappeared. For the third time, also at night, a seducer appeared in the form of the ascetic as an elegant woman, and when the hermit, ignoring her, continued to pray, she attacked the ascetic, pulled the chain on which his body cross hung, and so squeezed his throat that his breath stopped, and only in his mind could he read: ‘Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered!’ The vision faded; but the Basiliscus, after such a strong attack by the enemy, long felt the tremors and cold in the body and, encouraged, plunged before the icon of the Savior, gently begging not to put him in the hands of the foes.

This article in Russian

Vision of the Satan in Immense Light

St Isaac the Syrian. "The Ascetical Homilies".

A person called Malpa, who came from Edessa, was the author of the heresy of Euchites but he was a great ascetic and went through the harshest ascetical practices. It is said that in time of being a disciple of Julian the Blessed, also called Sava, he visited with him for a short time Mt Sinai and Egypt and there heard mysterious homilies of St Anthony about the purity and salvation of the soul. St Anthony was explaining that the mind made pure can contemplate the mysteries of the Holy Spirit and the soul by God’s grace can become passionless if only keeps the commandments and returns to its primitive healthy nature of Eden.

The Monk, who did not Repudiate a Vision, Became Possessed

“The Great Watch”. From the private diary of Hieroschemamonk Jerome.

Father Ephrem in spiritual delusion

Fr. Ephrem, a native of Don, came to our monastery being already a mature man, and since he in the world had his own ship and was familiar with seamanship, the monastery ship was entrusted to him, where he worked hard for several years. He was an attentive monk who had accepted the image of repentance, he prayed diligently to God for the abandonment of his sins in the world. In this mood of spirit, he accepted imperceptibly a temptation from the enemy to find out, whether God had forgiven him for his sins or not. As a result, he became keen to see any sign of his absolution, but did not feel the need to first consult his spiritual father on this important matter. Having received such a proud and presumptuous compulsion from the enemy, he began to pray hard for it, while the enemy prepared him for acceptance of the delusion by tricking him with such manner.

False Vision of the Mandylion

Lives of Athonite ascetics. Elder Fr. Nicodemus, a Greek († 1867).

Once his cell was covered with snow so that he could not leave it. To such a misfortune, he run out of his supply of dried bread, and he was left without food for a long time, so he became extremely exhausted because of hunger. At that time, a demon appeared to him in the glow of light, sitting on the throne, in the form of the Holy Trinity and said: ‘I am the holy trinity, bow to me, receive grace and eat!’ At this time the elder was shown tables with various food, the smell of which greatly wounded the smell of the starving man. The elder fell down and begged God not to let him be mocked by the enemy. He was praying in such a way for a long time, and God took pity on the elder and chased away the demon. It was only then that the elder stood up when the smell of food disappeared.

By instructing the disciple Nilus about noetic prayer, the Elder taught him: as much as it is possible work on it  relentlessly and not believe any vision or dream; even if  Christ himself came, do not believe and say: ‘I do not want to see Christ in this life here and now, but I pray to see him in the future life, With sadness, his disciple was telling us: ‘There is no such elder left nowadays. Not long ago, after his death, I was preparing for the Holy Communion and I was saying my prayers with my eyes closed. Suddenly I had this fantasy that I have been a hardworking monk for so long and I didn't see any vision! And then, at one moment, the ‘Mandylion’ appeared before the eyes. Opened eyes and saw the same; before me in the great light there was the icon of the Savior. According to the instructions of the elder, I realized that it was from the devil, closed my eyes and continued to pray, and the demon disappeared!

This article in Russian

One Should not Listen to the Demons Even if They Say Something that Resembles the Truth

Apophthegmata Patrum. Chapter 10. About discretion.

One brother lived in silence, and the demons in the form of angels sought to seduce him on a pretext of a brethren’s meeting for prayer. They arouse him, ask him and show him some sign of light. He then went to one elder and told him: Abba, angels come to me with light and wake me up to join the brethren for our common prayer. And the elder says to him: ‘Don’t listen to them, my child! They are demons; but when they come to wake you, tell him I will stand up only when I want and I won’t listen to you.’ The brother, having accepted the elder’s instruction, went to his cell. The next night again demons came and woke him up again. He answered them, as the elder commanded him to answer, saying: I would stand up when I wanted, and I would not listen to you. The demons told him: ‘This evil elder was a liar, he deceived you. For his brother came to him, wanting to borrow money, and he, having the money, told him a lie, saying: “I have no money” - and did not give him. From this, understand that he is a liar.’ Brother got up, went to the elder and told him about it. The elder told him: ‘You are right, I had money, and when my brother came and asked me, I did not give it, because I knew that if I gave it to him, it would be bad for his soul. So I decided to break one commandment instead of ten so we wouldn’t grieve. Do not listen to the demons who seek to deceive you.’ And this brother, much confirmed by the elder, went to his cell.

This article in Russian

False Visions of Haji-Georgis, the Elder

Lives of Athonite ascetics. Elder Haji-Georgis, a Greek († 1886).

One day Haji-Georgis, upon temptation of demons, has left his elder, the demons began to please him and in the form of angels were going up to the sky and descended; at which Haji-Georgis has noticed in actions of some haste. They forced him to worship them and promised to give him the grace of the Holy Spirit; but when Haji-Georgis called his elder’s prayers, all this disappeared.

On another occasion, while Haji-Georgis still lived at his elder’s, a demon appeared to him as a young man with a mule, who began to invite him to his home, promising that he and his comrades would make him their elder and he would live well with them; But Haji-Georgis understood the devil’s illusion, and then he saw the demon and the mule going up in the air and disappearing.

This article in Russian

The Novice Escaped Perdition Only through the Prayers of the Elder

Archimandrite Ioannicius (Kotsonis). "Athonite Paterikon".

Many years ago, on the southern outskirts of Katunaki, there lived a very reverent elder with his novice named Spyridon. At first, Spyridon was diligent and obedient in everything. However, over time, the invisible worm of vanity began to corrode his monastic living. He performed excessive deeds, increased number of bows, the number of prayers with the prayer rope, kept vigil for more time without taking permission and blessing from his spiritual father. He began to consider himself much higher than other monks and, little by little, doing his own will, reached the point that he was completely possessed by the spirit of pride.

One night, he heard someone knocking on his cell, saying: “Through the prayers...”. He opened the door and saw an Angel in front of him. But it was an Angel only in appearance, and not in essence.

“I have been sent by God Almighty Himself to declare to you that many of your deeds and virtues are pleasing to Him,” the pseudo-angel told him. - So, God, in order to reward you, is calling you to ascend with me today to the top of Mount Athos, where He will come with the angelic armies and with the ranks of saints, so that you worship Him.

Evagrios the Solitary on Prelest and Demonic Tricks

Evagrios the Solitary. “On Prayer: One Hundred and Fifty-Three Texts”.

(In Russian Philokalia, this text is attributed to St Nilus of Sinai).

94. Take care that the crafty demons do not deceive you with some vision; be on your guard, turn to prayer and ask God to show you if the intellection comes from Him and, if it does not, to dispel the illusion at once. Do not be afraid, for if you pray fervently to God, the demons will retreat, lashed by His unseen power.

95. You should be aware of this trick: at times the demons split into two groups; and when you call for help against one group, the other will come in the guise of angels and drive away the first, so that you are deceived into believing that they are truly angels.

One True Vision Was Followed By a Number of False Ones

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain. "Spiritual counsels." Volume 3. Spiritual struggle.

(translated from Russian)

Attention to visions.

Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

- Geronda, what should we answer to the people who tell us about their visions, that they had seen such and such a Saint, or about something similar?

- It is better to advise such people to be cautious, restrained. Such attitude to visions is more reliable, because not all people are able to discern whether it was a vision from God or from the Devil.

But even if the vision is from God, a person should not accept it the first time. God, seeing that His creation – a man - does not accept the vision [is not upset, but on the contrary], in some way, is touched. Indeed, such an attitude to the vision shows that the person has humility. If the Saint who appeared to a person was a real Saint, and the man did not accept this vision, God knows way to notify the soul of the man and lead it wherever He wants. Attention is needed, because the Devil [instead of the Saint] can come, which will turn on [demonic] "television" and begin his transmission...

I remember one woman who did not receive any help from people, and therefore had the right to the Divine help. God, wanting to help this woman, gave her a vision. However, after this vision, the Devil suggested her the following thoughts: "Who knows, maybe God has honored you with this vision because He destines you to some higher mission!"

Since that moment when she believed in such diabolic suggestions, the Devil started his work and she fell under his power. But after all God had mercy on her. She had a vision, and she heard a voice saying to her: "Write a letter to father Paisios and describe all the visions that you had." She wrote me a letter and told about all previous visions. The Devil utterly tormented her. Yes, all her visions were real, but almost all of them were from the tempter. Only the first and last of her visions were from God. Wanting to bring her to life and to help her to get rid of delusion, God allowed this last vision to happen. Finally, the miserable woman obeyed my advice and managed to get out [of the net] of the Devil visions that she had.

This article in Russian

Elder Daniel about the Visions

Elder Daniel of Katounakia. “The Angelic Life”. Letters.

(translated from Russian)

Elder Daniel of Katounakia

Answer of monk Daniel to Marcian, a monk of the Iveron skete [1], on rejection of dreams

Marcian, reverend brother in Christ, greetings!

Having received with great gratitude your precious letter dated the second day of this month with attached manuscript reporting on visions and revelations of the great simple [2] elder Euthymius, I have heartily thanked and praised the all-merciful God, for I have long desired to investigate thoroughly these supernatural visions, about which I have heard many perverse things from different persons. And now I am most thankful to you [3], my dearest brother, for getting acquainted with this work, where one can glean many hortatory and edifying things. Therefore, yielding to your request, I have thoroughly investigated the mentioned manuscript not only from the point of its content, but also from the point of the very root of the matter.

And, first of all, I should deservedly praise you. Since no sooner this simple [4] Christian had visions on this place [5], than you, fearing delusion from the right, informed spiritual fathers, which considered revelations made to him to be true, and it prompted you to write them down thoroughly for the use of those reading it.

Secondly, although I, in spite of your love towards me, do not deserve such honour, you, due to your infinite modesty, have requested my considerations as well, whether the described visions are true. And so be it, since you, the highest in friendship and worthy of the utmost praises, keep in your memory guidance of the Holy Fathers on discernment, in particular, of Abba Moses, who said: “It is impossible to fall into demonic delusion for one who coordinates his life with the judgment and will of the succeeded, nevertheless, one should reveal himself not to random people , but to spiritual elders having discernment, and not to those that have got old [only] due to the time, since many people, looking at their age and revealing [them] their thoughts, fell into despair instead of receiving cure because of immaturity  of the “elders”” [6].

False Angel Tried to Deceive Saint Pachomius

From the Living of Saint Pachomius the Great.

Chapter XLVIII

On one occasion when he shut himself away from everyone in solitude, the devil appeared and contended with him in a false guise.

"Greetings, Pachomius," he said. "I am Christ paying you a visit, my faithful friend."
But guided by the holy Spirit, he thought for a while, then spurned this vision of the enemy.

"The coming of Christ always being peace, and to see him is to be free from all fear and full of joy. Human reason is banished afar and gives way to a longing for heaven. But at this moment I am in a turmoil, gripped by a tumult of confusing thoughts."

He rose up and signed himself with the cross, and stretching out his hands as if to seize him, he breathed upon him.

"Devil, depart from me," he cried. "Cursed are you and your visions and your insidious arts. You have no place among the servants of God."

He was turned to dust, filling the cell with a most foul smell, and Pachomius heard a loud voice shattering the silence:

"I would have rewarded you greatly if I had persuaded you into my power. But the power of Christ is supreme, and I am always beaten by you. But make no mistake, I shall always continue to attack you. I am bound to carry out my task without ceasing."

So Pachomius was strengthened by the holy Spirit, and put his trust in the Lord, giving thanks for the great gifts and blessings showered upon him.

A Monk Prayed not to See Any Visions

Saint Nicolai Velimirovich. "The Prologue."

The spiritists of our time accept every appearance from the spiritual world as sent by God and immediately boast that it has been 'revealed' to them. I was myself acquainted with an eighty-year-old monk who was respected by everyone as a great spiritual guide. When I asked him if he had ever seen any being from the spiritual world in his lifetime, he answered me: 'No, never; and praise be to God for his mercy!' Seeing my astonishment at this, he said: 'I have constantly prayed to God that nothing should ever appear to me, lest I fall into illusion and accept a devil disguised as an angel. And, until now, God has heard my prayer.

http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/dreams.html

A False Angel Told a Man to Sacrifice His Son

Saint John Cassian. "Conferences".

The Second Conference of Abbot Moses. On Discretion.

Chapter VII. Of an illusion into which another fell for lack of discretion.

Why also should I speak of one (whose name we had rather not mention as he is still alive), who for a long while received a devil in the brightness of an angelic form, and was often deceived by countless revelations from him and believed that he was a messenger of righteousness: for when these were granted, every night he provided a light in his cell without the need of any lamp. At last he was ordered by the devil to offer up to God his own son who was living with him in the monastery, in order that his merits might by this sacrifice be made equal to those of the patriarch Abraham. And he was so far seduced by his persuasion that he would really have committed the murder unless his son had seen him getting ready the knife and sharpening it with unusual care, and looking for the chains with which he meant to tie him up for the sacrifice when he was going to offer him up; and had fled away in terror with a presentiment of the coming crime.

Various Kinds of Delusion Including False Vision of the Cross

Extractions from the Letters of Saint Elder Macarius of Optina.

2. Illusions

St. Macarius of Optina.

It is dangerous to assume that our dreams are revelations: this leads to spiritual pride. Ponder calmly: is it likely that a heart and mind, both fully under the influence of all the wildest human passions, can truly mirror divine revelations? Does not such an assumption betray undue reliance on your own worthiness? For who can esteem himself worthy of such grace? [268]

You yourself have perfectly described the reason of your woe. First, your education. This, although Christian in theory, did not lead you to a Christian life in practice. Secondly, your early life ran exceptionally smoothly, without any of those temptations and afflictions which-when wrestled with or accepted in the right way-can make true Christians of us. Indeed, when you were a child and when you first grew up, worldlings showered on you much flattery, adulation, and praise. Thus encouraged and helped, unhealthy illusions concerning your importance, superiority, and goodness steadily poisoned your heart, so that even before the cruder passions beset you, pride and a hard self-esteem had built up a sound foundation for your woes.

God resists the proud; He allows them to be humbled by manifold chastisements and by the scorching torments of passion. Your insisting on separation from your first husband was a proof of the hold lusts and passions had gained over you. And, although the situation which naturally ensued could not flatter your pride, it was your pride that had forced the situation.

On Seeing Angles

Saint Gregory of Sinai. "On Prayer: Seven Texts. On Delusion and Other Subjects". From Philokalia, Vol.4.

Question: What should we do when the devil transforms himself into an angel of light (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14) and tries to seduce us?

Answer: You need great discrimination in order to distinguish between good and evil. So do not readily or lightly put your trust in appearances, but weigh things well, and after testing everything carefully cleave to what is good and reject what is evil (cf. 1 Thess. 5:21-2). You must test and discriminate before you give credence to anything.

You must also be aware that the effects of grace are self-evident, and that even if the devil does transform himself he cannot produce these effects: he cannot induce you to be gentle, or forbearing, or humble, or joyful, or serene, or stable in your thoughts; he cannot make you hate what is worldly, or cut off sensual indulgence and the working of the passions, as grace does. He produces vanity, haughtiness, cowardice and every kind of evil. Thus you can tell from its effects whether the light shining in your soul is from God or from Satan. The lettuce is similar in appearance to the endive, and vinegar, to wine; but when you taste them the palate discerns and recognizes the differences between each. In the same way the soul, if it possesses the power of discrimination, can distinguish with its noetic sense between the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the illusions of Satan.

This article in Russian

It is Foolish to Pay Attention to Night Dreams

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov). "On prelest". About Night Dreams.

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)

Demons use dreams to disturb and injure human souls. Likewise, inexperienced monks, by paying attention to their dreams, harm themselves. It is therefore essential here to determine the exact significance of dreams in a person whose nature has not yet been renewed by the Holy Spirit.

During sleep, the state of a sleeping person is so designed by God that the whole man is in complete repose. This repose is so complete that a person loses consciousness of his existence and is in a state of oblivion or self-forgetfulness. During sleep, all voluntary activities and labour governed by the will and reason stop. Only that activity continues that is essential for existence and cannot be relinquished. In the body, the blood continues its circulation, the stomach digest food, the lungs maintain respiration, the skin perspires. In the soul, thoughts, fantasies, and sensations continue to be produced, only without dependence on the will and reason, but by the action of our unconscious nature.

A dream consists of such fantasies accompanied by their peculiar thoughts and sensations. It often seems strange, as if it bore no relations to the person's voluntary and purposeful thoughts and imaginings, but appears spontaneously and whimsically in accordance with a law and demand of nature. Sometimes a dream bears an incoherent impression of voluntary thoughts and fancies, while sometime is a result of a particularly moral state of mind. Thus, a dream in itself cannot and should not have any significance. The desire of certain people to see in the ravings of the dreams a prediction of their future or the future of others or some other meaning is ludicrous and quite illogical. How can that be which has no cause for its existence?

Saints Barsanuphius and John on Dreams from Demons

Saints Barsanuphius and John. "Guidance Toward Spiritual Life."

Q: I have heard that if one and the same dream appears to someone three times, one should recognize it as true; is this so, my Father?

A: No, this is wrong; such a dream also one need not believe. He who has appeared once to anyone falsely can do this three times and more. Watch, lest you be put to shame (by the demons), but pay heed to yourself, brother.

Q: Tell me, Master, how can the devil dare in a vision or a fantasy during sleep to show the Master Christ or Holy Communion?

A: He cannot show the Master Christ Himself, nor Holy Communion, but he lies and presents the image of some man and simple bread; but the holy Cross he cannot show, for he does not find means of depicting it in another form.

Inasmuch as we know the true sign and image of the Cross, the devil does not dare to use it (for our deception); for on the Cross his power was destroyed, and by the Cross a fatal wound was given him. The Master Christ we cannot recognize by the flesh, which is why the devil tries to convince us by lying that it is He, so that having believed the deception as if it were truth, we might perish. And thus, when you see in a dream the image of the Cross, know that this dream is true and from God; but strive to receive an interpretation of its significance from the Saints, and do not believe your own idea. May the lord enlighten the thoughts of your mind, O brother, so that you might escape every deception of the enemy.

http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/dreams.html

Delusion through Dreams from Demons

Saint John Cassian. "Conferences".

The Second Conference of Abbot Moses. On Discretion.

Chapter VIII. Of the fall and deception of a monk of Mesopotamia.

It is a long business too to tell the story of the deception of that monk of Mesopotamia, who observed an abstinence that could be imitated by but few in that country, which he had practised for many years concealed in his cell, and at last was so deceived by revelations and dreams that came from the devil that after so many labours and good deeds, in which he had surpassed all those who dwelt in the same parts, he actually relapsed miserably into Judaism and circumcision of the flesh. For when the devil by accustoming him to visions through the wish to entice him to believe a falsehood in the end, had like a messenger of truth revealed to him for a long while what was perfectly true, at length he showed him Christian folk together with the leaders of our religion and creed; viz., Apostles and Martyrs, in darkness and filth, and foul and disfigured with all squalor, and on the other hand the Jewish people with Moses, the patriarchs and prophets, dancing with all joy and shining with dazzling light; and so persuaded him that if he wanted to share their reward and bliss, he must at once submit to circumcision. And so none of these would have been so miserably deceived, if they had endeavoured to obtain a power of discretion. Thus the mischances and trials of many show how dangerous it is to be without the grace of discretion.

Who May Receive Revelations in Dreams

Saint Nikitas Stithatos. "On the Inner Nature of Things and on the Purification of the Intellect: One Hundred Texts". From Philokalia, Vol. 4.

60. Those who have attained spiritual maturity can also analyze, the impulsions and proclivities of the soul, and can guide and guard their inner state, on the basis of dreams. For bodily impulsions and the images in our intellect depend upon our inner disposition and preoccupations. If your soul hankers after pleasure and material things, you will dream about acquiring possessions and having money, about the female figure and sexual intercourse - all of which leads to the soiling and defilement of soul and body. If you are haunted by images of greed and avarice, you will see money everywhere, will get hold of it, and will make more money by lending it out at interest and storing the proceeds in the bank, and you will be condemned for your callousness. If you are hottempered and vicious, images of poisonous snakes and wild beasts will plague you and overwhelm you with terror. If you are fall of self-esteem, you will dream of popular acclaim and mass-meetings, government posts and high office; and even when awake you will imagine that these things, which as yet you lack, are already yours, or soon will be. If you are proud and pretentious, you will see yourself being carried along in a splendid coach and even sometimes airborne, while everyone trembles at your great power. Similarly, if you are devoted to God, diligent in the practice of the virtues, scrupulous in the struggle for holiness and with a soul purged of material preoccupations, you will see in sleep the outcome of events and awe-inspiring visions will be disclosed to you. When you wake from sleep you will always find yourself praying with compunction and in a peaceful state of soul and body, and there will be tears on your cheeks, and on your lips words addressed to God.

The Devils of Vainglory Do Their Prophecies in Dreams

Saint John Climacus. "The Ladder of Divine Ascent". Step 3.

Concerning the dreams of novices

Our mind is the instrument of knowledge, but it is very imperfect and filled with all sorts of ignorance. This is a fact that cannot be disguised.

Now the palate discriminates between various kinds of food, the hearing distinguishes between the things it perceives, the sun shows up the weakness of the eyes, and words reveal the ignorance of a soul. Nevertheless, the law of love urges us to reach beyond ourselves, and so it seems to me—and I do not wish to be insistent—that, immediately after this discussion of exile, or rather, in the course of it, something ought to be said about dreams. For we should not be unaware of this type of deceit practiced by our wily enemies.

A dream is a stirring of the mind during the body's rest, while a fantasy is something that tricks the eyes when the intellect is asleep. Fantasy occurs when the mind wanders, while the body is awake. A fantasy is the contemplation of something that does not actually exist.

The Safest Rule is Never to Trust to Our Dreams

St Diadochos of Photiki. "On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination. One Hundred Texts". From Philokalia, Vol. 1.

37. The dreams which appear to the soul through God's love are unerring criteria of its health. Such dreams do not change from one shape to another; they do not shock our inward sense, resound with laughter or suddenly become threatening. But with great gentleness they approach the soul and fill it with spiritual gladness. As a result, even after the body has woken up, the soul longs to recapture the joy given to it by the dream. Demonic fantasies, however, are just the opposite: they do not keep the same shape or maintain a constant form for long. For what the demons do not possess as their chosen mode of life, but merely assume because of their inherent deceitfulness, is not able to satisfy them for very long. They shout and menace, often transforming themselves into soldiers and sometimes deafening the soul with their cries. But the intellect, when pure, recognizes them for what they are and awakes the body from its dreams. Sometimes it even feels joy at having been able to see through their tricks; indeed it often challenges them during the dream itself and thus provokes them to great anger. There are, however, times when even good dreams do not bring joy to the soul, but produce in it a sweet sadness and tears unaccompanied by grief. But this happens only to those who are far advanced in humility.

Frequent Communion Because of Self-conceit

Hieromartyr Bishop Arseny (Zhadanovsky). "Spiritual Diary".

Hieromartyr Arseny (Zhadanovsky)

Once I was told about the following case concerning frequent Communion. One woman used to receive Communion every day. She attracted attention of the clergy authority. A confessor was instructed to check her. In view of the internal state of this lady he asked her to confess before every Communion and when he considered it inconvenient, he advised her not to approach the Holy Chalice. But such a spiritual guidance was too late for her. She did not hesitate and continued to receive the Communion every day, going from one church to another. Then she was traced and never admitted to the Holy Communion. And this lady came to not seeking to receive the Communion in the church and imagined that she had already been given the Divine right to consecrate bread and wine herself, and took the Communion every day at home, making so-called Liturgy with prosphora and wine. Her case, however, ended sadly. She lost her mind and she is currently in the mental hospital.

Thus, Holy Communion should be treated with great reverence; it should be taken with a humble feeling every time, otherwise a frequent and unworthy taking of Holy Communion may be a ground for self-delusion. Once a woman came to me in the church and began reprimand me for she was not admitted to the Holy Communion every day, and by the way, on my question, whether she confessed her sins and whether she deserved every day, as a woman, to take the Holy Communion, she replied that she had no sins. Another woman required the daily Communion, while she reeked of tobacco. The Holy Communion is great, but its greatness requires great preparation, the great dignity for its taking. "For it is a coal that burns the unworthy". (Prayer before the Holy Communion). 

A Woman Accepted Devilish Trick - the Lampada Lit up by itself

Professor Alexei Osipov. "Search for Truth on the Path of Reason".

Nevertheless, what does all of this show? It shows that even obvious supernatural phenomena do not in and of themselves prove the sanctity of those persons, confessions, or religions through which and where they occur. Similar phenomena can occur according to faith (According to your faith be it unto you [Mt 9:29]), or by the action of another spirit (see 1 Jn 4:1; Acts 16:16-18), insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Mt 24:24). They could also be occurring for reasons that we do not yet know.

Here, for example, is a remarkable thing that happened to a spiritual daughter of the holy ascetic of the twentieth century, Bishop Basil (Preobrazhensky) (†1945):

In the home of one of Bishop Basil’s spiritual daughters, Eudocia, a lampada before the icon began to light up by itself at midnight. "It seems that the Lord is calling me to rise for prayer," she thought, but actually she had her doubts. Should she accept this as something grace-filled, or delusional? She could already feel a sort of flattering spirit within her heart, telling her what a woman of prayer she is, since the Lord Himself lights the lamp for her.

The next night Eudocia invited her friend, Ekaterina Dimitrievna, and the lampada lit itself in her presence as well. Then she invited a third witness to spend the night. The same thing happened in her presence. This finally convinced Eudocia to accept the phenomenon as something grace-filled.…

When the holy hierarch heard about this from her, he said sternly, "No, this phenomenon is not from grace, but from the enemy. And because you accepted it as being from grace, I am giving you a penance: do not receive the Holy Mysteries for one year. The lampada will not light itself again."

Truly, the lampada did not light by itself from that day on.

From this we can understand why the saints always regarded all manner of miracles, visions, dreams, revelations, myrrh-streaming, etc. with such great caution and discerning mistrust. They insistently warn the faithful not to hastily accept all of this as a divine miracle, so that they would not fall into a demonic trap by lightly accepting a lie as truth. They therefore said of various inexplicable phenomena, "Do not blaspheme—do not accept it!"

Self-conceit of a Scientist

Skhema-Hegumen Savva (Ostapenko). "The Experience of Formation of the True World View."

Skhema-Hegumen Savva (Ostapenko)

One of my spiritual children, K.N. told me a sad story about him, as a fiend plunged him into pride, and as his Guardian Angel initially helped him to recognize the schemes of the Devil.

At work he held a position of responsibility and communicated with great scientists in line of duty. Once a professor said, "If science had discovered what processes run in that and that, we could do that and that ... It would have been a tremendous energy saving". K.N. answered him: "That what happens there is that ...", and unconsciously, as in a dream, he says, he says and he is horrified to think," Well, I am possessed! Who says in me? And what does he say? Now everyone will know that I am insane ... How the authorities will react to this? They will fire me!"

He was ashamed and afraid for himself, he wanted to stop but he couldn’t. Even so he said: "All this you can test by experiments... see for yourself!" A month later, when his words were confirmed, they glorified and exalted him so that for five years he lived in constant fear for himself.

A Virgin Fell with a Man Because of Her Pride

Bishop Palladius. "The Lausiac History".

Chapter XXVIII.  A virgin who fell

Again, I knew a virgin in Jerusalem who wore sackcloth for six years and shut herself up in a cell, taking none of the things that bestow pleasure. In the end she fell, abandoned (by God) because of her excessive arrogance. She opened the window and admitted the man who waited on her and sinned with him, because she had practised asceticism not with a religious motive and for the love of God, but with human ostentation, which springs from vain-glory and corrupt intention. For, her thoughts being engrossed in condemning others, the guardian of her chastity was absent.

Pride After a False Vision of Jesus Christ

Bishop Palladius. "The Lausiac History".

Chapter XXV.  Valens.

There was a man named Valens, a Palestinian by race, but Corinthian in his character - for St. Paul attributed the vice of presumption to the Corinthians. Having taken to the desert he dwelt with us for a number of years. He reached such a pitch of arrogance that he was deceived by demons. For by deceiving him little by little they induced him to be very proud, supposing that angels met him. 

One day at least, so they told the tale, as he was working in the dark he let drop the needle with which he was stitching the basket. And when he did not find it, the demon made a lamp, and he found the needle. Again, puffed up at this, he waxed proud and in fact was so greatly puffed up that he despised the communion of the mysteries. Now it happened that certain strangers came and brought sweetmeats to the Church for the brethren. 

So the holy Macarius our priest received them and sent a handful or so to each of us in his cell, among the rest also to Valens. When Valens received the bearer he insulted him and struck him and said to him: "Go and tell Macarius, 'I am not worse than you, that you should send me a blessing.' So Macarius, knowing that he was the victim of illusion, went the next day to exhort him and said to him: "Valens, you are the victim of illusions. Stop it." And when he would not listen to his exhortations, he retired. So the demon, convinced that he was completely persuaded by his deception, went away and disguised himself as the Saviour, and came by night in a vision of a thousand angels bearing lamps and a fiery wheel, in which it seemed that the Saviour appeared, and one came in front of the others and said: "Christ has loved you because of your conduct and the freedom of your life, and He has come to see you. So go out of the cell, do nothing else but look at his face from afar, stoop down and worship, and then go to your cell." 

So he went out and saw them in ranks carrying lamps, and antichrist about a stade away, and he fell down and worshipped. Then the next day again he became so mad that he entered into the church and before the assembled brotherhood said: "I have no need of Communion, for I have seen Christ to-day." Then the fathers bound him and put him in irons for a year and so cured him, destroying his pride by their prayers and indifference and calmer mode of life. As it is said, "Diseases are cured by their opposites."

http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/palladius_lausiac_02_text.htm#C25

On Calling Yourself Righteous

Saint Gregory of Sinai. "On Commandments and Doctrines, Warnings and Promises; On Thoughts, Passions and Virtues, and Also on Stillness and Prayer: One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Texts". From Philokalia, Vol. 4.

115. Those who say or do anything without humility are like people who build in winter or without bricks and mortar. Very few acquire humility and know it through experience; and those who try to talk about it are like people measuring a bottomless pit. And I who in my blindness have formed a faint image of this great light am rash enough to say this about it: true humility does not consist in speaking humbly, or in looking humble. The humble person does not have to force himself to think humbly, nor does he keep finding fault with himself. Such conduct may provide us with an occasion for humility or constitute its outward form, but humility itself is a grace and a divine gift. The holy fathers teach that there are two kinds of humility: to regard oneself as lower than everyone else, and to ascribe all one's achievement to God. The first is the beginning, the second the consummation.

Those who seek humility should bear in mind the three following things: that they are the worst of sinners, that they are the most despicable of all creatures since their state is an unnatural one, and that they are even more pitiable than the demons, since they are slaves to the demons. You will also profit if you say this to yourself: how do I know what or how many other people's sins are, or whether they are greater than or equal to my own? In our ignorance you and I, my soul, are worse than all men, we are dust and ashes under their feet. How can I not regard myself as more despicable than all other creatures, for they act in accordance with the nature they have been given, while I, owing to my innumerable sins, am in a state contrary to nature. Truly animals are more pure than I, sinner that I am; on account of this I am the lowest of all, since even before my death I have made my bed in hell. Who is not fully aware that the person who sins is worse than the demons, since he is their thrall and their slave, even in this life sharing their murk-mantled prison? If I am mastered by the demons I must be inferior to them.

Therefore my lot will be with them in the abyss of hell, pitiful that I am. You on earth who even before your death dwell in that abyss, how do you dare delude yourself, calling yourself righteous, when through the evil you have done you have defiled yourself and made yourself a sinner and a demon? Woe to your self-deception and your delusion, squalid cur that you are, consigned to fire and darkness for these offences.

A Woman Heals with Prayers

Question to a Priest on the website of the New Jerusalem Monastery.

Hegumen Daniel (Gridchenko)

Question: Natalia, Moscow

Hello Father. My question to you is this. I have been able to heal myself and heal my loved ones by reciting prayers. Is it allowed to do this on Great Feast days, on Fasts, and on Sundays?

Answer: Hegumen Daniel

Natalia, that is a bold statement you've made. And what are these "wonder-working prayers" that help you achieve such remarkable results? In fact, there were saints who received the gift of healing from God after a lifetime of rigorous asceticism, sometimes decades, and yet they carefully concealed it because they understood that pride and vanity that might accompany such a gift are the passions that destroy human souls. And let me express my doubt that your "gift," if indeed it is a gift, is the one from God. And so I would strongly advise you not to use it not only on Sundays and holy days, but at all other times. Unless, of course, you prefer to be spiritually damaged...

This article in Russian

Unwillingness to Lose "Gifts" is a Sign of a False Healer

Hieromonk Anatoly (Berestov). "Orthodox sorcerers" – who are they?"

Hieromonk Anatoly (Berestov)

Repentance is extremely frightening to the enemy of mankind, for it deprives him of his power over the human soul. I can recall a sincere conversation with a very experienced healer, who knew a lot of herbs, naturopathic treatment methods, diet, detoxification, and was conscientious and selflessly kind to people. She was unbaptized and could hardly go to church. She could go only when there was no service, because, as she said, those prayers "disturbed" her. 

- Why don't you get baptized, Marina? 

It is surprising that she was not at all mistaken about the source of the power she used in the treatment and diagnosis: 

- Yes, I am aware that my actions, from the perspective of God, are wrongful, that it may have other consequences than we expect in eternity. But I believe that we should live here and now. And to get baptized... One must repent in order to do so. Could it happen that after I am baptized I will lose these powers? I don't want that... 

So we see that the fear of repentance, the unwillingness to lose those wrongful "gifts" drives an outstanding, gifted person to atheism – the denial of God. 

This article in Russian

How to Tell if a Monk or a Priest Has the Gift of Healing

Questions to a priest.

Hegumen Daniel (Gridchenko)

Question: Anastasia

Hello. Bless me, Father. They say that epilepsy is treated only spiritually, not with medicines. Does this apply to all diseases or only to epilepsy? And how to tell if a monk or a priest has the gift of healing? Thank you.

Answer: Hegumen Daniel (Gridchenko)

Hello Anastasia, Some things we are told are not true. And it is advisable to be treated not by some mythical healers and miracle workers, but by ordinary good, and honest doctors. Generally speaking, if a priest or monk advertises his extraordinary healing or other abilities, he is a classic scoundrel, either pursuing his own self-interests or being inflated by an exorbitant sense of his own importance, and that might be even worse. God's true servants are humble people who carefully conceal their gifts of grace, who only manifest them through love, prayer, and in such a way that those who receive help from them do not always immediately realize it.

This article 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).

Old Lady Heals with Prayers

Question from a reader of Foma Magazine:

At my neighborhood there is an old lady who treats children (hernia, fright, hiccups, joints, sore throat and constipation), and she reads Orthodox prayers during the treatment. People are certainly grateful and pay her; she saves a little money from each treatment and gives it to the local church and writes commemorations for the health of the children. She's almost 90 and she doesn't always go to church herself. We had a new priest, and the new priest did not take the money, would not read the commemorations and said that the old lady should give up her healing, and if she wouldn't give up, she shouldn't go to church. The old lady got very upset. She really helps the children. Is our priest right, and what should she do?

Olga

Answer of Protopriest Peter Guryanov:

Hello Olga, In order to answer your question, I need to know what prayers the old lady recites. Your priest is partially right! The Orthodox Church has a very negative attitude toward spells, considering them to be a form of magic, which is always soul-destroying, even if it is white. They cure with the help of the devil, and cripple the soul. Herbalists, healers, and other psychics are all servants of the devil.

Let me repeat: the Church has a negative attitude towards witch doctresses, wisewomen, old ladies who heal with prayers, because they heal with the help of the devil, and prayers, icons, etc. they use as a disguise to deceive people, especially Orthodox Christians. Such healers have nothing in common with the Church and Orthodoxy, it's a trap! Hernia, fright, hiccups, joints, sore throat and constipation should be treated by a qualified doctor! 

This article in Russian

Differences between True and False Healers

Kalashnikova T.P. "True and false healings".

Qualitative characteristics

Russian Orthodox faith healers

False miracle workers

Moral character

Humility, meekness, respecting others before self, fear of God, modesty, truthfulness

Pride, arrogance, vanity, sometimes outward religiosity, guile, affectation, desire to be exalted, to attract, to seduce

Attitudes toward the reward for treatment

Non-acquisitiveness, gratuitousness

Pursuit of profit, gain, wealth, luxury, commerce

Attitude to publicity

Hiding one's gift of miracles and hiding positive results

Promoting successful cases of treatment, seeking publicity, self-glorification, and fame

Methods of treatment

Prayers, anointing sick body parts with holy oil, laying hands; using sacred objects, the sign of the cross, sometimes herbs, and holy water. Gentle calm voice, no violence

Hand manipulations, passes, non-contact massage, staring, incantations, conspiracies, shouting, elements of violence, suppression of other people' will, hypnotism, magnetism, etc.

Positive effect

is caused by

divine grace through the faith of the patient and the healer's special divine gift

By natural causes, sometimes by coincidences, through self-hypnosis, faith of the patient, or through forces of a non-divine (demonic, mortal world)

The emergence of the gift of miracles

As a consequence and reward for righteousness, prayerful deeds, fasting, humility, while denying from following one’s own will

Often it is spontaneous just because of a longing for recognition as a miracle worker

The nature of healings

Healings are complete: both physical and spiritual, connected with the revival or strengthening of the healed person's true faith. It is possible to heal from all diseases and even to raise from the dead

Healings are only of an external nature, covering the physical aspect, but spiritually they have a negative impact

Side effects of healing

None

Multiple, mostly of a mental, spiritual kind. However, sometimes they can remain undiscovered for a long time.

This article in Russian

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.

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?

Pride after Praying - a Sign of Help from the Demons

Saints Barsanuphius and John the Prophet. "Letters".

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 you 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).

Woman Thinking that Healing and Biolocation Come from God

Question to a priest.

Hegumen Daniel (Gridchenko)

Question: Anastasia

Hello dear Father,

I have a question that has been bothering me for a very long time: my mother believes that a person can be healed by biolocation, that besides the physical body, a person has other bodies (like the halo of saints, where one can see them), and that if there is a hole in the body, it can be "patched up" and thus heal the person. A book she reads (or rather, has read before) was written by a certain woman who was a mathematician and designed spaceships, she was a Christian, and somehow calculated it all with mathematics, as I have understood it. A pendulum is also used in this system, I don't know if I should call it a science. She used to practice it for a while, then she gave it up (thank God!). The woman who wrote the book left behind her disciples; I think there is even an institute for self-knowledge in Russia that deals with these matters. My mother believes that all this knowledge is given to us by God, and that she thanks Him for His help. I don't know what stimulated her interest, but one day her child (that is me) stopped talking as a result of a strong fright (it happened, as I now reflect at my current age, out of sheer foolishness, to be honest). When she tried everything, and nothing worked, with the help of her friends she found a man who could help her. After a while it helped and the child started talking, but she got hooked on it and became interested. She is a very religious person and believes that all this knowledge only comes from God (we go to church, but not that often, we don't go to confession, but we always ask God's forgiveness and pray and try not to do anything wrong). However, the fact that, for example, when she has inflammation of a gland of her eyelid and immediately takes out a book and reads a "prayer" to "an old man the witch doctor," should be added to this, and also her belief that old women who heal all kinds of diseases are also Christians.

A Man Began to Pray for the Grace to Descend upon him

Schema-archimandrite Abraham (Reidman). "The good part." Obstructions in the spiritual life and the desire for grace.

Here are two examples: one from my personal experience, the other - from the experience of my friend. When I first read the conversation of St. Seraphim of Sarov, it shook me and made me significantly change my life. It was a very long time ago, I had not yet prayed the Jesus prayer and I did not communicate with father Andrew (Mashkov). After reading this work, I realized that the true Christian life is not just to go to church, pray, make the sign of the Cross, and not to commit serious sins. The Christian life must be grace-filled. But at that time, I realized it in a primitive way. Later, reading other holy fathers, I began to treat everything more reasonably. And then I began to pray that the grace descends upon me. I did not know how we should pray correctly, I did not hear about the Jesus prayer, so I endlessly repeated "Our Father" and some other prayers.

The Kingdom of God Cometh not with Observation

Letters of St. Macarius of Optina.

I repeat you about the prayer that the very thought to have the action of grace from the warmth is already delusion: the kingdom of God cometh not with observation (Luke 17, 20). Prepare your heart by fullfillment of the commandments of God, cleansing it from passions, and descend into the deepest humility, learning and seeing your weakness; and when you have the guarantee of humility in your heart, it will be already safe from the delusion of the enemy and the grace of God itself will write its own laws in it. The Saints, who had grace in themselves, considered themselves as not having reached it, and this very humility kept them safe; and who thought to have grace was driven by pride and was deluded…

You can not Solicit Gifts of God Ahead of Time

St. Isaac the Syrian. "Ascetic Words." Word 55.

One of the saints wrote: "If one does not consider himself a sinner, his prayer is not accepted by the Lord." If you say that some fathers wrote, what is purity of heart, what is health, what is dispassion, what is contemplation, they wrote not in order to make us strive for that ahead of time; for it is written that the kingdom of God cometh not with observation (Lk.17: 20) of expectation. And those who had such intention, they obtained pride and fall. And we will arrange the region of the heart by repentance and life pleasing to God; what is given by the Lord comes by itself, if the place in the heart is pure and undefiled. What we are looking for with observation, I mean high Divine gifts, is not approved by the Church of God; and those who accepted that, they obtained pride and fall. And this is not a sign that a person loves God, but mental illness. And how can we strive for high Divine gifts, when Paul glories in tribulations and considers the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ to be a high God's gift.

Saint Nectarios about Expectation of Gifts from God

Saint Nectarios of Aegina. "The Way to Happiness." Reasoning.

Saint Nectarios of Aegina

I wish you have the reasoning and wisdom. Avoid extremes. The strictness of your life should be consistent with the measure of [your] virtue. One who wants to compete with the perfect ones [at once] and live as the holy ascetics [lived], will most likely, become proud and fall. So strive wisely and do not exhaust the body with overwork. Remember that restraining of the flesh is only a tool to help the soul to attain perfection, and the spiritual warfare of the soul itself is the most important.

Do not impose on yourself more than you can bear. Remember that God cannot be forced when he delivers his gifts, but He gives when He wants it. You receive undeservingly all that He gives you, [only] on His mercy.

Do not think that you will get higher gifts and virtues for your great works, - [thinking] so, you get the risk of falling into pride. One who seeks divine gifts and insights, while being wrapped up in the passions, is in the foolish and proud delusion. First, one needs to work on purifying oneself. Grace is sent as a gift to those who are cleansed from the passions. And they get it quietly and in an hour that they are not aware of.  

Expectation of Receiving Divine Gifts on Archangel Michael Feast

Saint Ambrose of Optina

The Letters of Saint Ambrose of Optina.

You are writing that on the eve of Archangel Michael Feast, a fiendish thought came to you, promising all spiritual gifts on the Feast, but instead of this a gloomy anguish seized you and suicide intention disturbed you greatly. Here are demonic gifts, enemy delusion! The thought whispers to you that none of the Saints and those desiring salvation were fighting with this thought. It is not true: great elders were fighting with it too; in Moldova, there was a very ascetic and silent elder, who suffered all his life with this thought. In this severe evil attack you must often repeat: “Let it be God's will for my life. Let it be as God wants." The Lord's will is to save and have mercy upon all believers. We can sometimes answer to the enemy like this: "Come after me, Satan: I will work all the days of my life for the Lord, my God. As to Whom are due all glory, honor and worship as to His Eternal Father and All-Holy and Good and Life-giving Spirit to the ages of ages. Amen."

On False Interpretations of Scripture

 
St John Climacus (VI-VII cent.)

Saint John Climacus. "The Ladder of Divine Ascent". Step 26.

When we begin religious life, some unclean demons give us lessons in the interpretation of scripture. This happens particularly in the case of people who are either vainglorious or who have had a secular education, and these are gradually led into heresy and blasphemy. One may detect this diabolical teaching about God, or rather war against God, by the upheaval, confusion, and unholy joy in the soul during lessons.

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False Interpretation of the Apocalypse

Priest Dionysius Tatsis

Sayings of the Ascetics of Greece. Compiled by Priest Dionysius Tatsis.

In a monastery on the island of Patmos, there was a monk named Antipas who believed he had seen the Lord. He said that the Lord for three years dictated him the interpretation of the Apocalypse, which he wrote down in a book. Many of the important prophecies, according to this monk, have already been fulfilled. Elder Daniel, having talked with him, persuaded him to burn this interpretation.

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Hieromonk Read the Bible too Much and Fell into Delusion

St. Ambrose of Optina (1812-1891)

From the letter of St. Ambrose of Optina (letter 178)

In our monastery, the eighty-year-old hieromonk read the Bible too much and stopped partaking of the Holy Mysteries, and stayed in this position for more than five years. No one's persuasion could dissuade him from a false opinion. One brother had a good idea to take away the Bible from him, and this taking away greatly helped the cause, of course, with the help of God. With a weakened memory, he could no longer object and agreed to partake, and a few months later he died peacefully. His name is Vitaly. Pray for him.

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False Theological Thoughts from Demons

Apophthegmata Patrum as Translated by St. Theophan the Recluse.

284. The elder said: if a saying comes to the heart of a brother sitting in a cell, and he follows after this saying, having not reached the measure and not attracted by God, then demons appear and interpret that saying to him as he wants.

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A Monk Had Untrue Tears

Saints Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet. "Letters".

 
St Barsanuphius the Great (6th cent.)

Letter 461.

A brother asked the Great Old Man: “Tell me, father, whether the compunction that I think I possess is genuine, and whether I should live here on my own. Also, pray for me because I am troubled by bodily warfare.” Response by Barsanuphius.

Brother, your weeping and compunction are not genuine at this time; rather, they come and go. For genuine weeping, which comes with compunction, becomes like a servant submitted to us without separation; and a person who possesses this does not experience warfare. It even wipes away one’s former faults and washes away all spots. Moreover, in the name of God, it continually protects the person who has acquired it. It also expels laughter and distraction, while at the same time unceasingly maintaining one’s mourning. For weeping is a large shield that deflects all of the fiery arrows of the devil. The person who possesses it experiences absolutely no combat, whether that person is with others or even with prostitutes! [Such a gift] is always with us and fights for us.

So I have demonstrated for you the sign of weakness and of courage. Do not think that God could not relieve you from the battle; for he could indeed have relieved you, especially for the sake of the saints who were praying for you. Nevertheless, because he loves you, God wants you to be trained through many battles and exercises in order to reach the measure of good repute. And you cannot reach this point unless you keep all that I have commanded you through my letters, vainglorious teacher that I am. As for staying by yourself, this is a very special gift. When it comes to you, I shall inform you about this myself. Apply yourself now, child, as I have told you, and I believe that you will find progress in Christ. Do not be afraid. May the Lord be with you. Amen.

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The Ladder about False Tears

St. John of Sinai. "The ladder of Divine ascent".

 
St. John of Sinai. (VI-VII cent.)

Step 7. On mourning which causes joy.

29. When we see anger and pride in those who seem to be mourning in a way pleasing to God, then their tears are to be regarded as a repugnant to God. For what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians vi, 14.)

30. The fruit of morbid compunction is self-esteem, and the fruit of meritorious compunction is consolation.

31. Just as fire is destructive of straw, so are pure tears destructive of all material and spiritual impurity.

32. Many of the Fathers say that the question of tears, especially in the case of beginners, is an obscure matter and hard to ascertain, as tears are born in many different ways. For instance, there are tears from nature, from God, from adverse suffering, from praise worthy suffering, from vainglory, from licentiousness, from love, from the remembrance of death, and from many other causes.

33. Let us, stripped by the fear of God, train ourselves in all these ways, and acquire for ourselves pure and guileless tears over our dissolution. For there is no dissimulation or self-esteem in them, but on the contrary there is purification, progress in love for God, washing away of sin and the sublimation of the passions to dispassion.

34. It is not surprising if mourning begins with good tears and ends with bad. But it is praiseworthy if reprehensible and natural tears are sublimated to spiritual tears. People inclined to vainglory understand this problem clearly.

35. Do not trust your fountains of tears before your soul has been perfectly purified. For wine cannot be trusted when it is drawn straight from the vats.

68. Our enemies are so wicked that they turn even the mothers of virtues into the mothers of vices, and those things which make for humility, they make into a cause for pride. Frequently the very setting and sight of our dwellings are of a nature to rouse our mind to compunction. Let Jesus, Elijah and John who prayed alone convince you of this. I have often seen tears provoked in cities and crowds to make us think that crowds do us no harm and so draw nearer to the world. For this is the aim of the evil spirits.

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The Young Priest Began to Cast out Demons

From an interview with Metropolitan Nifont of Volyn and Lutsk.

Metropolitan Nifont (1948 - 22.03.2017)

There was a young priest who, in his simplicity, began to pray for the possessed. The sick and suffering began to come to him, and he, thinking that he had the power to cast out unclean spirits, continued to admire "his" successes. In the Pochaev Lavra, experienced elders advised him to give up this activity: “This is beyond your power, you have a wife, children, give up exorcisms and pray with a contrite heart.” His fellow priests said the same thing, but he didn't listen to anyone. After he developed a head disease, then Archbishop Damian banned him from the priesthood. When he recovered, he was again allowed to serve, but the priest already thought too highly of himself. The disease progressed, and as a result, an unexpected death (after a cold, the kidneys failed) put an end to everything that this young priest had. To avoid this, one must humbly obey the Gospel commandments, church rules, and one's ruling bishop. But most importantly, in my opinion, you need to do your service humbly and zealously, giving all of yourself with love to God and people.

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A Nun Started to Cure a Possessed Woman

The Letters of Saint Ambrose of Optina.

Saint Ambrose of Optina

You still worry about one of your letters thinking that I haven’t received it, while it contained something important for you. Write about it again to calm down. Yesterday I arranged your letters, and I have a whole pile of them that are important and unimportant. And the most important is a letter in which you write that you, for pity and imaginary love, got in over your head, started to cure a sister, who is sick with non physical illness.

I told you personally and now I repeat: in the future, do not practice such things. If Pimen the Great, keeping himself in humility, avoided such matters, even having a gift from God, who are you that you dares to do these things being unbidden. I repeat again: do not dare to do such things in the future, if you don’t want to undergo strong temptation, and to incur, firstly, an intolerable fight with sensual thoughts, secondly, assault and attack of the mental enemies, and, thirdly, also persecution by people. What’s the necessity to bring such a terrible temptation on yourself? St. Symeon of Evkhait advises to avoid people possessed by evil spirits, as there were cases when the enemy also confused spiritual people through them. In spite of imaginary compassion and imaginary love, under which self-conceit and pride subtly hide, you yourself must know what bitter fruit come from these passions. Listen to the Holy Scripture, saying, “Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord”. Look at the Apostle Paul, what he says. He orders to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Here is an example of true humanity. And you take care to save the person from exhaustion of the flesh, to give her temporary calm, covering up your actions perhaps with imaginary benefit for the soul. But this work is not for you. You are not a priest, or a clergyman, who has a spiritual power to help these people using a clever confession, but even in this case a full recovery does not always follow. It depends on the will of God, and from the disposition of the Very Lord, Who has providence for all and settles matters in the most useful and salvific way. People are not only unable to do anything themselves, but do not always realize that is useful to the soul of a man. Although sometimes we imagine ourselves to be zealous and compassionate to the neighbour, but we often understand neither others nor yourselves; and only become involved in this by subtle arrogance and pride. Let this sick woman be constrained to confess to your new confessor what she declared to you, and then we'll see, whether it will be necessary to come to us. If you want to have a real compassion for these people, then you can advise them to confess their sins sincerely to a spiritual father, and to be not ashamed to reveal anything because the punishment is not only for the sins, but more for taking Communion in an unworthy manner. But it is very-very harmful for you to listen to such sins yourself because of your zeal to avoid the temptations mentioned above.

As long as new authorities will be arranged for you, live even with difficulty, where necessary, and then may be God will help you to get better if you try to refrain from arbitrary, unasked zeal in regard to your neighbors. Forgive me.

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It is not Good to Start Speaking before Question

Sts. Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet. "Letters".

 
St Barsanuphius the Great (VI cent.)

LETTER 697

Question: “If, however, the discussion concerns the Scriptures, should I still keep silent, or may I then speak? And if they happen to be unsure of something about which I do know, is it perhaps good for me to speak then or not?” Response by John.

Silence is always better. If, however, they are unsure about something, and you happen to know about this, then in order to solve their doubt, you should say what you know with humility. But if you do not know, then do not say anything at all from your own thought; for this is foolishness.

LETTER 698

Question: “If the conversation concerns various matters that are not harmful to the soul, should I keep silent or speak?” Response.

It is never good to speak before being asked. [171] If you are asked to say something, then say what you know with humility and fear of God. Neither feel arrogant if your words are accepted, nor feel grieved if your words are not accepted. For this is the way of God. [172] Moreover, in order that you may not be considered as being silent, say something from what you know, but be brief and avoid too many words or inopportune glory.

[171] Sayings, Euprepios 7, Poemen 45, and Nau 468.

[172] Cf. Mt 22.16.

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