False Visions

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.

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].

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?

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.

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.