Only some kinds of spiritual delusion (prelest) are described here. An even more detailed classification of types of delusion can be found at NI-KA (in Russian).


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.

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.

Подробнее: The Novice Escaped Perdition Only through the Prayers of the Elder

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.

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].

Подробнее: Elder Daniel about the Visions

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 Sinner Should Always Turn Away Any Visions

Saints Barsanuphius and John the Prophet. "Letters".

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?

Подробнее: A Sinner Should Always Turn Away Any Visions

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.

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.

Подробнее: Various Kinds of Delusion Including False Vision of the Cross

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.

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

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.

Подробнее: Self-conceit of a Scientist

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."

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.

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.

Delusion through Dreams from Demons

Saint John Cassian. "Conferences".

The Second Conference of Abbot Moses. On Discretion.

Chapter VII. 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.

Подробнее: Who May Receive Revelations in Dreams

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.

Подробнее: The Devils of Vainglory Do Their Prophecies in Dreams

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.

36. Let no one who hears us speak of the perceptive faculty of the intellect imagine that by this we mean that the glory of God appears to man visibly. We do indeed affirm that the soul, when pure, perceives God's grace, tasting it in some ineffable manner; but no invisible reality appears to it in a visible form, since now 'we walk by faith, not by sight', as St Paul says (2 Cor. 5:7) light or some fiery form should be seen by one pursuing the spiritual way, he should not on any account accept such a vision: it is an obvious deceit of the enemy. Many indeed have had this experience and, in their ignorance, have turned aside from the way of truth. We ourselves know, however, that so long as we dwell in this corruptible body, 'we are absent from the Lord' (2 Cor. 5:6) - that is to say, we know that we cannot see visibly either God Himself or any of His celestial wonders.

Подробнее: The Safest Rule is Never to Trust to Our Dreams

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.

Подробнее: Patriarch Alexy II about False Healers

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?

Подробнее: About False Healers

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).

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).

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.

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

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."

Подробнее: Expectation of Receiving Divine Gifts on Archangel Michael Feast