Orthodoxy and Dreams

St John Climacus:

Demons often transform themselves into angels of light and take the form of martyrs, and make it appear to us during sleep that we are in communication with them. Then, when we wake up, they plunge us into unholy joy and conceit. But you can detect their deceit by this very fact. For angels reveal torments, judgments and separations; and when we wake up we find that we are trembling and sad. As soon as we begin to believe the demons in dreams, then they make sport of us when we are awake too. He who believes in dreams is completely inexperienced. But he who distrusts all dreams is a wise man. Only believe dreams that warn you of torments and judgments. But if despair afflicts you, then such dreams area also from demons.

Elder Paisios Of Mount Athos

-Elder,I'm tormented by some unpleasant dreams...

-When you have a bad dream, never examine what you saw, how you saw it, or whether you're guilty or how much you may be at fault. The evil one, having failed to tempt you during the daytime, comes to you at night. Sometimes God permits the devil to tempt us in our sleep, so that we may see that the old self has not entirely died. Other times, the enemy approaches a person in his sleep and presents various dreams in order to upset him when he awakes. This is why you shouldn't pay any attention to them. Cross yourself and the pillow, place a cross and an icon on your pillow, and say the Jesus Prayer until you fall asleep. The more importance you attach to such dreams, the more the enemy will come to disturb youths is something that happens to children, too, even though they are little angels. The enemy comes and scares them in their sleep, and they wake up frightened, running into their mother's arms. Often times, they are approached by Angels who make them smile in their sleep out of joy, or they may wake up from their great joy. As such, dreams brought about by temptations are an external influence of the enemy upon man while he's asleep.

-Elder, what about feeling a certain burden while you're sleeping?

-Sometimes this comes from a stressful situation that one has experienced during the day, or from various fears, various suspicions and so forth. Naturally, the little devil can take advantage of this, forming confusing combinations in order to make the person feel dizzy. Often we sleep so lightly that we may think that we are awake and praying for this unbearably heavy burden to go away.

Once in a while the devil may take the form of a human or of a saint and appear to someone in his sleep. Once he appeared in the form of Saint Arsenios to a sick man who was sleeping and told him,» I am Saint Arsenios; I have come to tell you that you will die. Do you hear me? You will die! «The man was frightened and horrified. A Saint never speaks to a sick person like that. And even if a sick person is about to die and a Saint appears to inform him about his death, he will do so gently and kindly: «God sees how much you are suffering here and this is why he has decided to take you out of this world. See that you prepare yourself. «He will never say, «Do you hear me? You will die!"

-Elder, what happens when someone cries out in his sleep?

-It's good, he wakes up...Many dreams are due to worry. When someone is worrying over things or when he is very tired, these things are struggling inside him and he sees them in his dreams. It happens often to me, too; when I deal with various people and their problems during the day, such as unfairness and so on. I later find myself scolding the unjust ones in my sleep: "You godless man, have you no feelings?" and I wake up because of my yelling.

-Elder, can someone foresee something that will happen to him from the dreams he has?

-No, don’t pay any attention to dreams. Whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, you are not to pay any attention to them, because there is the danger of being deluded. Ninety five percent of dreams are deceptive. This is why the Holy Fathers say that we should not pay any attention to them. Very few dreams are from God, but in order for someone to interpret even these, he must have purity and other prerequisites, much like Righteous Joseph and the Prophet Daniel in the bible, who both had the gift from God. Daniel said to Nabuchadnezzar, I will tell you what dream you had and what it means. But consider the spiritual maturity he had attained! He was in the den of lions. and they, even though they were hungry, did not hurt him. Habbakuk brought him food and Daniel said, "Has God remembered me? "If God didn't remember the Prophet Daniel in the lions den, whom would He remember?

-Elder, some people don't have any dreams.

-It is better that they don’t! But by dreaming, of course, people spend no money for tickets or fuel! In our dreams we can see in an instant something that in reality would take hours, even days, because the concept of time is abolished. This is where one can understand the verse from he psalm: For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past.

Beware of Visions

-Elder, What should we say when people come and tell us of visions or of saints they have seen?

-It is better to tell them to be cautious. This is safer, because not everyone can discern if a vision is from God or from the devil. Even if a vision is from God, one should not really accept it. after all, God is moved, in a sense, when He sees His creature not accepting the vision immediately, because this indicates humility. If indeed a Saint appeared in a vision, God would surely find another way to inform the soul and guide it to the desirable purpose. We must be careful and aware that it is possible for the devil to come, press the button and turn on the "television"...

There was a soul who had not received help from people, and for this reason she was entitled to divine help. God revealed something to her in order to help her. But then the devil put some thoughts in her head: "It seems that God has something more sublime in store for you, who knows? Otherwise, why would He have endowed you with that vision? "From the moment she believed this, the devil started his work and controlled her! But in the end, God had pity on her and helped her again. She had a vision and heard a voice telling her, «Write to Father Paisios and tell him all the visions you have seen. "So she wrote me a letter relating all the visions she had had. The tempter, the devil, had really confused her. They were real visions; but they were all from the tempter. Of all the visions she had related, only the first and the last were from God. The last one was permitted by God to help her come to her senses and to be rid of the deception. In the end, the poor woman took heart what I told her, and she was freed.

Elder Ieronymos of Aegina:

“It is better for us not to believe in dreams at all, because many have gone astray on their account. There are three kinds of dreams: those from God, those from our thoughts, and those from the enemy. If they are from God and we don’t believe them, God does not take offense, because we don’t believe them out of fear, lest we be led into deception. If I should come in the night and knock on your door, and you don’t open to me because you do not recognize my voice, I am not offended. So it is with God, He is not angry when out of fear of God we don’t believe dreams. Wine and vinegar have the same appearance. From the taste you understand the difference. If the dreams are from God, they bring calm; if they are from the enemy, they bring turmoil. Beware of deceptions. Better to protect ourselves and not believe anything outside of what our Church teaches”. 
Every Christian, therefore, needs to be careful of dreams. Interpretation is crucial and a further understanding of its origin is imperative, if we wish to live a Christian life. 

St. 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."

Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life," trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose

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.

"Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life," trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose:

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.


Help support the ministry of St. Elisabeth Convent