The soul “wonders if the whole thing was imagination . . . if the favor was a gift of God, or if the devil was transfigured into an angel of light. It retains a thousand suspicions, and it is well that it should, for, as I said, we can sometimes be deceived in this respect, even by our own nature.” (Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter One)
We doubt mystical experiences. We question if the “whole thing was imagination”, a “gift of God”, or if the devil was “transfigured into an angel of light”. The soul is wisely suspicious in the fourth Mansions. As we move deeper into the Interior Castle and draw closer to God we can gain certainty our mystical experiences are authentic.
The desire for mystical experiences has led some to foolish and/or destructive behaviors. But the risk of deception has also led others to reject mystical experiences. The “skeptic” believes mystical experiences are a runaway imagination. The fearful call them the work of the devil. The foolish, the destructive, the skeptics, and the fearful all share something in common: They reject the power of our union and intimacy with God.
A deeper union with God reduces the risk of self-deception and marginalizes the devil. Teresa says, “if this is indeed union with God, the devil cannot enter or do any harm; for His Majesty is in such close contact and union with the essence of the soul that he will not dare to approach, nor can he even understand this secret thing.”
Some will always live in fear and doubt about mystical experiences. They are convinced mystical experiences are foolish or dangerous. But being deceived is not limited to mystical experiences. We can be deceived by what we think we see. What we think we hear. Others can deceive us. We can be deceived into thinking actions are justified when they’re not. (In fact, most of our anger stems from intentional self-deception.) Deception is not about whether something is “visible” or “invisible”. Deception results from a lack of wisdom and spiritual maturity.
The formula is simple: Immaturity + Misunderstanding x Distance from God = Risk of Deception
We’ve become over-confident in our ability to interpret the observable world. We dismiss the invisible. That leads to deception.