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RULES FOR DISTINGUISHING

BETWEEN DIFFERENT

SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES

SO THAT ONLY GOOD ONES MAY BE ADMITTED, EVIL ONES BEING REJECTED

by Saint Ignatius of Loyola [from The Spiritual Exercises]

(More suitable for the first-week exercises)

314 (1) Those who go from mortal sin to mortal sin are usually influenced in this way: the enemy proposes certain illusory delights, causing them to imagine sensual pleasures and enjoyments, the more effectively to keep them under the sway of their vicious and sinful course. The good spirit deals with these same people in the opposite way, working on their consciences by reason to induce compunction and remorse.

315 (2) The contrary prevails with those who are making earnest progress in self-purification, rising from good to better in the service of God our Lord. In these cases it is typical of the evil spirit to cause regret and sadness, using fallacious arguments to disturb them and impede their progress. On the other hand, the role of the good spirit is to provide courage and strength, to console and inspire, to move to tears, all in a spirit of peace. Everything is made easy, all obstacles are removed, to enable the soul to continue in virtue.

316 (3) Spiritual comfort: this is the name I give to any interior movement experienced by the soul, causing it to glow with love for its Creator and Lord, the effect of which is that it can no longer love any earthly creature in itself, but only in the Creator of them all. The name also applies to the shedding of tears leading to love of God, either out of sorrow for sin or for the sufferings of Christ our Lord, or for other reasons directly concerned with His service and praise. Lastly, comfort is the name given to any growth in faith, hope or charity, or to any inward joy which summons or draws a man to the things of the next world, to the saving of his own soul, bringing the soul to peace and tranquillity in its Creator and Lord.

317 (4) Spiritual distress: this is the name I give to whatever is opposite to the foregoing darkness of soul, disquiet of mind, an attraction to what is coarse and earthly, all restlessness proceeding from different temptations and disturbances, such as the temptation tending to destroy faith, hope and charity; the condition in which the soul finds itself listless, apathetic, melancholy, like one cut off from its Creator and Lord. Inasmuch as comfort and distress are opposed, the thoughts that spring from the former are contrary to those springing from the latter.

318 (5) In a period of distress we are not to alter anything, but should remain firm and unyielding in our resolutions and the purpose of mind in which we found ourselves on the day preceding such distress, or in the purpose in which we found ourselves in the preceding comfort. For in times of comfort it is the good spirit that guides us by his counsel, whereas in distress it is the evil spirit; but the latterís counsel will never bring us to a right decision.

319 (6) Though in principle we should not alter our previous resolutions in periods of distress, it is of great value to strive in a sense opposed to the distress; for instance by more insistence on prayer, meditation, close examination, and by making an effort to practise some appropriate penance.

320 (7) When in distress, a man should reflect that God is testing him by leaving him to his own resources in his struggle against the different assaults and temptations of the enemy; he can succeed with the help of God, which is always there, even though he is not clearly aware of it. God has indeed withdrawn any great warmth of feeling, intensity of love and extraordinary grace, but He has left grace enough for the manís eternal salvation.

321 (8) In this state he should also strive to abide in patience, which is the antidote to the trials that beset him. He should also reflect that he will soon be comforted, and should put forth all his efforts against this distress, as described in the sixth rule.

322 (9) There are three chief reasons why we experience distress:

(a) Because we are listless, apathetic and careless in our spiritual exercises; it is on account of our own faults that our spiritual comfort is withdrawn.

(b) To test our worth, and to show how far we are able to advance in His service and praise without that great reward of comforts and extraordinary favours.

(c) To give us clear understanding and insight, to enable us to have a deep inner conviction that of ourselves we are powerless to produce or sustain a flood of devout feelings, intense love, tears or any other spiritual comfort, but that this is all a gratuitous gift of God our Lord. We are not, that is, to build on anotherís foundations, getting above ourselves in pride and empty boasting, claiming as our own the devout feelings or other features of spiritual comfort.

323 (10) In a period of comfort a man should think about his conduct in the distress that will ensue, building up his strength afresh for that experience.

324 (11) When experiencing comfort he should be careful to keep himself humble and modest, recalling how worthless he is in time of distress, when he is without the favour of this comfort. Contrariwise, a man who is in a state of distress should reflect that he can do a great deal with the grace that is sufficient to withstand all his enemies, finding strength in his Creator and Lord.

325 (12) The enemy is like a woman, weak in face of opposition, but correspondingly strong when not opposed. In a quarrel with a man, it is natural for a woman to lose heart and run away when he faces up to her; on the other hand, if the man begins to be afraid and to give ground, her rage, vindictiveness and fury overflow and know no limit. In the same way, it is typical of the enemy to collapse and lose heart, his assaults turning tail, when a man who is training himself in spirituality faces up to the enemyís assaults, doing the precise opposite to what is suggested. On the other hand, if the retreatant begins to feel panic and to lose heart at these assaults, there is no animal on earth so savage as is the enemy of our human nature in the ever-growing malice with which he carries out his evil plan.

326 (13) He is also like a seducer in his desire to remain disguised and undetected. If that sort of schemer pays dishonourable court to the daughter of a good father or the wife of a good husband, he wants his words and suggestions not to be disclosed; he is greatly upset if the daughter or the wife tells the father or the husband about his deceitful words and his dishonourable purpose, since he easily recognizes that he will not then realize the plan he has embarked on.

So is it with the enemy of our human nature. When he introduces into a faithful soul his lying suggestions, he is very anxious that these should be accepted and kept secret. But he is far from pleased when their victim discloses them to a good confessor or someone else versed in spiritual matters, who is acquainted with the ill-disposed designs of the tempter, who then realizes that his wicked attempt must fail, once his obvious tricks are revealed.

327 (14) Or again he acts like a military commander in his attempts to overcome and seize the object he has set his heart on. An officer in command of an army takes up a position, makes a reconnaissance to discover the strength and disposition of troops in a fortified post and launches his attack at the weakest point. Similarly, the enemy of our human nature makes a tour of inspection of our virtuesótheological, cardinal and moral. Where he finds us weakest and most defective in what pertains to our eternal salvation, he attacks at that point, seeking to overthrow us.

II

328 Rules for the same purpose, with a more precise way of distinguishing between different spiritual influences. These rules are more appropriate to the second week,

329 (1) The characteristic effect produced by God and His angels in their spiritual operations is a genuine lightness of heart and spiritual joy, eliminating all the disturbing sadness engendered by the enemy, whilst his characteristic activity is to resist such lightness of heart and spiritual comfort, alleging specious reasons, subtle suggestions and sophistries without end.

330 (2) Spiritual comfort with no previous occasion giving rise to it comes from our Lord God alone. It is the Creatorís prerogative to come into and leave the soul, to move it with inspirations of love for His Divine Majesty. "With no previous occasion" means without any preceding awareness or knowledge of anything which might induce such comfort in the soul, by means of its own acts of intellect and will.

331 (3) Granted some occasion, a sense of comfort may be produced in the soul either by the good angel or the bad one, though with opposing ends in view. The good angel has in view the soulís progress, that it may grow by advancing from what is good to what is better. The evil spirit, contrariwise, tries to draw it to his own perverted designs and wickedness of will.

332 (4) It is typical of the evil spirit to transform himself into an angel of light, to go in by the devout soulís way but to come out his own way; I mean he introduces sound and pious thoughts, suited to the piety of that soul; but then, little by little, he tries to achieve his own purposes, by dragging the soul down to his secret designs and corrupt purposes.

333 (5) We should pay great attention to the entire train of thought. If beginning, middle and end are wholly sound, tending to what is completely innocent, this is a sign of the good angel; but the train of thought suggested sometimes leads to something that is bad or at least distracting, or less good than what the soul had originally proposed to do; sometimes it undermines our strength of mind or disturbs us by destroying our peace and tranquillity of mind and the unperturbed condition already obtaining: these are clear signs that the thoughts come from the evil spirit, the enemy of our progress and everlasting salvation.

334 (6) When the enemy of mankind is perceived and known by his serpentís tail, the evil conclusion to which he leads men, the person so tempted will find it useful afterwards to retrace the course of his thoughts, beginning with the good ideas originally suggested and the way in which he was gradually brought down from the heights of spiritual satisfaction and joy to accept the otherís corrupt purpose. The understanding and noting of this experience will help him to be on his guard in future against the enemyís usual tricks.

335 (7) When souls are advancing from good to better, the touch of the good angel is soft, light and gentle, like a drop of water making its way into a sponge. The touch of the evil angel is rough, accompanied by noise and disturbance, like a drop of water falling on stone. But their action is the opposite with those who are going from bad to worse. The reason is that the state of soul is either contrary or similar to these angels. When it is contrary they make their way in with perceptible noise and sensation; when it is similar they come in quietly, like a man coming into his own house when the door is open.

336 (8) When the comfort has no preceding occasion, whilst it is true that this cannot be illusory, since it can come only from God our Lord, as we have said, yet the spiritual recipient must scrutinize the process with great care. He must distinguish exactly the specific time of the actual comforting from the subsequent stage when the soul is still glowing with the favour conferred on it, a sort of afterglow from the comforting which is now over. In this second stage the soul often makes different resolutions and plans which are not the direct result of the action of God our Lord. They may be due to the soulís own activity, based on established habits of mind or the implications of ideas or judgements previously formed; they may be the result of the action of the good or the evil spirit. So they have to be very carefully scrutinized before we can give them complete credit and put them into effect.


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