Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Psychotherapy


Thoughts and Deception

Archimandrite Sophrony Sakharov



From the book:  «Saint Siluan the Athonite», pages 529-532



Those who want to pray with a cleansed mind (nous) must not concern themselves with the latest news from the newspapers, or read books that are irrelevant to our spiritual life – especially those books that arouse the passions – and they must not strive to learn out of curiosity whatever pertains to the lives of others. All these things bring foreign thoughts to mind, and when a person attempts to elucidate them, they confound his mind even more.

When the soul is taught love by God, then it will feel sorrow for all of Mankind, all of Creation, and will pray that everyone might repent and receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. But, should the soul lose this grace, love will abandon it (because without the grace of God, it is impossible to love one’s enemy) and that is when wicked thoughts will issue from the heart, as the Lord had said (Matthew 15:19, Mark  7:21-22).

Without the humility of Christ, Man’s nous (mind) will not be cleansed and his soul will never feel reposed in God, but will always be agitated by various thoughts that will hinder his “theory” (sighting) of God.  Ah, the humility according to Christ!  Those who have tried it, rush towards God, insatiably, day and night!

Ah, but what a weakling I am!  I have been writing for just a short while, and yet I have quickly become tired, and my body yearns to rest.  But even the Lord Himself, when He was on earth “in His flesh”, was familiar with human frailty.  He, the Merciful One, would also feel weary after His journeys on foot, and He had also slept on board a boat during the tempest; and, after the disciples had roused Him from His sleep, He commanded the sea and the wind to become still, and a great calm followed.  So it is with our soul, whenever we call upon the most Holy Name of the Lord: a great calm follows. 

Allow us, o Lord, to glorify You, until our dying breath…..

One can fall into deception, either out of inexperience, or out of pride. And if it is out of inexperience, the Lord heals the deceived one very quickly; however, if it is on account of pride, then the soul will be struggling for a very long time, until it has learnt humility and will then be healed by the Lord.  

We fall into a deception, when we consider ourselves more prudent and experienced than the others – even our own spiritual father.  This is what I myself had thought -in my inexperience- and this was the reason that I suffered.  And I thank the Lord from my heart, because in this way, He humbled me and admonished me, and did not revoke His mercy from me. Now it occurs to me that without confessing to our spiritual father, it will not be possible to avoid deception, because it was to the spiritual father that God gave the gift of “binding and unbinding”.

If you sense light inside you or around you, do not believe in it unless you also have a deep solemnity within you for God and a love for your fellow man. However, do not be afraid; only humble yourself, and that light will disappear.

Should you see a certain vision or dream, do not trust it, for if it was from God, the Lord Himself will inform you about it.  A soul that has not tasted of the Holy Spirit cannot discern where the vision comes from.  The enemy will give the soul a “sweet sensation” combined with vainglory, and it is from this, that deception will have become evident.

The Fathers say that when a vision is a hostile one, the soul feels confusion or fear; but this will happen only to the humble soul that considers itself unworthy of a vision. The vainglorious person however, may not feel either fear or confusion, because he is desirous of visions and regards himself as worthy of them, which is why the enemy can easily deceive him.

Celestial things are recognized through the Holy Spirit and terrestrial things through one’s physical state. Whosoever attempts to know God through the physical mind is deceived, because God can only be known via the Holy Spirit.

If you see demons with your mind, then humble yourself and try not to look, and run as fast as you can to your spiritual Geron (Elder), to whom you have surrendered yourself.  Tell him everything, and the Lord will then show His mercy on you and you will be rescued from that deception.  But if you believe that you know more about spiritual matters than your spiritual father and you cease to tell him whatever is happening to you, then, because of this act of pride, inevitably, a certain trial will “befall” you, in order to restore your prudence.

Fight your enemies with humility.

When you see another mind struggling with your mind, then humble yourself and the struggle will cease.

If you happen to see demons, do not be afraid, but humble yourself and the demons will disappear. But if fear does overcome you, you will not avoid suffering some harm.  Be brave.  Remember that the Lord can see you, if you have hinged your hopes on Him.

But, for the soul to acquire respite from the demons, it must humble itself and say: “I am worse than all the others; I am more wretched than every beast and every wild animal”...

Just as people enter a house and leave it, so do thoughts come from demons and they can leave, provided we do not hold on to them.  If your thought says: “steal” and you obey, you are in this way giving the demon power over you. If your thought says: “eat as much as you want, until you are full”, and you do eat excessively, then again the demon will hold power over you.  Thus, if the thought of every passion conquers you, you will end up a dwelling-place of demons.  However, if you commence with the appropriate repentance, then the demons will begin to quake and be forced to leave.”


Translation: A. N.

Greek text

Article published in English on: 4-6-2007.

Last update: 4-6-2007.