A Remarkable Dream, Written Down by St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)


A citizen of St. Petersburg, N., baptized and raised in the Orthodox Eastern Church, who lived the married life, saw in 1845 on the night of January 2–3 the following noteworthy dream. It seemed to him that he was in a boundless space between heaven and an abyss. In this space was an ascent, along which the souls of the reposed where ascending from the abyss to heaven. The ascent extended up to heaven itself and down into the aforementioned deep abyss, the end of which could not be seen in the darkness. In the abyss was a multitude of people. Some could be seen up to half, of others only the heads were visible, while others were barely visible at all.

Along the ascent stretched rows of demonic tollhouses,1 at which demons stopped souls trying to reach heaven. The demons resembled people of depraved lifestyles and were of an evil temperament. There faces were dark, repulsive, and contorted; in some of them N. found similarities with people of shameful behavior who lived on earth. In the tollhouses there was a numberless multitude of demons who where shouting and arguing, causing an indecipherable, horrible din. N. saw that certain of the souls were barely reaching the ascent before they were cast down into the abyss. Each time that happened, N. could hear obvious laughter and a voice saying, “Ah, a Tatar! Down with him!” Some souls climbed the ascent quite high. Then the demons would get worried and scramble to action. When one such soul was unable to go further and was cast down, loud guffawing broke out among the demonic armies, and they exclaimed, “He failed! Eh, where would he have gone!”

Watching this spectacle, N. thought to himself, “Scientists on earth talk about space and its limitlessness, about heavenly luminaries, and about their long immeasurable paths, and by this they make one involuntarily doubt what is being revealed to the soul right now.” He looked across the expanse in which as it seemed to him he was flying, which had light, but not from the sun. Neither did he see any other luminary bodies.

Suddenly a shout broke out on the ascent: “Fr. Archimandrite, Fr. Archimandrite!” Some shouted, “Give him to us!” As a man who was particularly well disposed toward the one whose name he heard, he approached the tollhouses in order to better see what would happen to that soul. And he saw that the soul had begun to climb up the ascent. A noise arose among the demons, but N. could not make out what they were saying due to the many voices speaking all at once, all mingling into one unintelligible roar, but the soul rose higher and higher. N. followed the soul as if from the side, as it finally reached the very heavens, which was made as if of some kind of cloud. Then the cloud parted and St. Sergius [of Radonezh] came out of it, wearing an epitrachelion and a black mantia,2 his face shining with a wondrous light; he embraced the archimandrite, kissed him, and said to him, “How glad I am that you have reached here! I have taken much care over you.”

When heaven opened and St. Sergius came out, the demons stepped back a bit, as if deflected by such a power. St. Sergius took the archimandrite by the hand and led him into heaven, after which heaven closed. While heaven was open, it could be seen that inside it was an unspeakably wondrous light, and extraordinary orchards.

After St. Sergius and the archimandrite had gone, N. remained near heaven, which from below looked like a cloud. He made an attempt to penetrate it further, but the cloud did not let him in. Then several demons flew over to him and said, “Why are you here? This is not your place, go over there”, and they showed him a numberless multitude of people standing afar off. N. answered the demons, “Don’t worry. You can see that if I want to enter in further, the cloud will not let me in anyway. Let me stand awhile here. After that the demons left.

Standing near heaven, N. began to shout, “Fr. Archimandrite, Fr. Archimandrite!” Heaven opened, the archimandrite came out and asked, “Is that you, N.? Have you been here long?” Not remembering the time and hurrying to make his fervent request, N. said, “Couldn’t you take me there with you? You can see what a position I am in.” The Archimandrite said, “I’ll go ask”. He departed and after a brief time had passed returned, and said, “Right now it is not at all possible. But your wife should be coming, and she has the possibility of transferring you here.” After that, heaven received the archimandrite once more, and N. had to wait and see how his wife would pass through.

As he was waiting he woke up and found himself covered in sweat. This dream was extraordinarily strongly impressed in his memory, and every time he remembers it vividly before him appears what he had seen, which brings him to contrition and tears. N. went to the monastery of his beloved archimandrite whom he had seen in the dream. This was written down from the words of the man who had the dream, to the glory of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who does not desire the death of sinners, but desires their salvation, and Who has wrought and still wreaks miracles through His chosen vessel, St. Sergius.

From volume 4 of his collected works, p. 523, in Russian.

January 25, 1845

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees)


1 Tollhouse has become the accepted translation of the word, мытарьство, which is in turn probably a translation of a Greek word. Any word could possibly be a poor representation of what exactly existed in this realm beyond the grave, so please bear with the word “tollhouse”, which implies that payment of debts are demanded, and if a debtor is not saved from it he cannot ascend to heaven.—Trans.

2 The monastic mantle, or cape.

Therapon3/21/2020 6:03 pm
God help us!
Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required