Prelest (Gk. πλάνη) [Part III]

Hieromartyr Simeon, the Kinsmen of the Lord

Hieromartyr Simeon, the Kinsmen of the Lord

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Our Only True God and Savior Jesus Christ,


PRELEST (Gk. πλάνη) [Part III]

False gifts

Sometimes the demons can "help" a deluded person. This "help" can include either recommendations about certain things, even theological and very complicated, or can take the form of false spiritual gifts: false healing ability, false clairvoyance, false gift of prophecy, false unceasing prayer, false power over demons, false reading of thoughts, false dispassion, etc. The term "false" here means "not Divine".

An inexperienced person, not knowing enough about True Divine gifts, to whom and under which conditions they can be given, can easily accept such false gift as being Divine. Such false spiritual gift can be received together with some evident external event like an appearance of false "Christ" sending the "gift", or can happen gradually and unnoticeably for the receiving person. Some people who received false gifts prematurely and due to conceit prayed to God asking to send them a gift and they did receive it, but from the demons. Others did not ask anything explicitly, but were already conceived and considered themselves worthy, i.e., were in the state of prelest (πλάνη) of the second kind.

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh recalls that when he was young, he had an ability to read thoughts of other people. Once he asked God: "If this gift is not from You, dispel it". And this ability immediately disappeared. It is very difficult for a conceited person to decline such gift, to consider oneself unworthy of receiving it and ask God to take the gift away. If these false gifts are accepted by the deluded person, it can lead him/her into demon possession or suicide.

Trust In Night Dreams

A rather dangerous kind of prelest (πλάνη) is trust in dreams. The Holy Fathers say that we should never pay attention to them because they may originate from the demons. Saint John Climacus says: "The devils of vainglory (Gk. mataiodoxia, Ματαιοδοξία) do their prophecies in dreams. They guess the future and, as part of their deceit, they inform us of it so that we are astonished to discover our visions coming true. Indeed we get carried away, with the notion that we are already close to the gift of foreknowledge." The Wisdom of Sinai reads: "The hopes of a man void of understanding are vain and false: and dreams lift up fools. Whoso regardeth dreams is like him that catcheth at a shadow, and followeth after the wind" (Wisdom of Sirach 34:1-2). "For dreams have deceived many, and they have failed that put their trust in them" (Wisdom of Sirach 34:7). If the person starts to notice dreams, looks for signs about the future in the dreams, the demons can quickly increase his trust to dreams to such extent that will lead to suicide or can turn the person into heresy or other deadly sins.

Passion of Teaching

Apostle James warns against unauthorized teaching in his Epistle (Letter): "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation" (St. James3:1). If the desire of teaching in the particular person originates from the passions of vainglory and pride than from love and humility, it becomes a kind of prelest (πλάνη), being based on a false idea of personal dignity and ability to teach and that such teaching is pleasing to God. Archbishop Averky (Taushev) in his analysis of James 3:1 says that one should start teaching with the great caution and distrust to oneself. Such inner determination is opposite to pride and conceited opinion about personal merits. Saint John Climacus also warns about forbidden teaching when he speaks about vainglory: "Ignore him when he tells you to accept the office of bishop or abbot or teacher. It is hard to drive a dog from a butcher's counter."

Teaching can be a kind of prelest in the following situations:

  • arbitrary teaching and advice without being asked (except for the cases when the person was explicitly appointed to teach without being asked;
  • teaching someone who is not interested in the topic or who does not have previous experience and knowledge to understand;
  • teaching of something that the teacher does not know well, in particular, that he knows only from the books, not from experience;
  • arbitrary acquisition of the dignity of a teacher belonging to bishops and priests, e.g. teaching publicly on faith in the church.

(To be continued)





"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George