“If we are really very fond of vanities, the devil will send us into transports over them; but these are not like the transports of God, nor is there the same delight and satisfaction for the soul or the same peace and joy. That joy is greater than all the joys of the earth, and greater than all its delights, and all its satisfactions, so that there is no evidence that these satisfactions and those of the earth have a common origin”. (Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter One)
We should test our mystical experiences. Our first test evaluates the quality of the experience itself and the corresponding outcomes. If we simply look for ecstatic experiences, the devil will “send us into transports”. He’s cooperative that way. Of course, these transports will come with deception and damage. But just because the devil tries to duplicate mystical experiences doesn’t mean we should avoid them altogether.
The mystical experiences from God penetrate “to the very marrow of the bones”. This is in contrast to the surface experiences of the devil. When God brings mystical prayer experiences, it is clear the joy, satisfaction, and delight come from Him. They do not have an earthly or demonic origin.
In addition to testing the quality of the experience, we should also assess the outcomes:
- Did you become humble? Did you increase in virtue? Did you become more loving? Did you experience emotional and relational healing? Did you gain confidence and contentment? Were you drawn to people of character and wisdom?
- Or did the experience create an addictive appetite for religion? Did the experience “feel good” but beyond the surface it was shallow or empty? Did it add unnecessary chaos to your life? Did you find yourself aligned with people of poor character? Did your own character erode? Did you become contemptuous of others? Were important relationships damaged?
Don’t ignore your past mystical experiences. Instead, reflect on them. They possess important information for your present and future. The spiritual experience(s) mirroring the first grouping are important sources of spiritual guidance — even decades later. And they will lead you back to spiritual health.
The second group of outcomes warns against religion without the Holy Spirit. In those experiences we most likely learned behaviors that continue to sidetrack us. But we can unlearn those behaviors. We can increase emotional strength and heal relationships. We can recover spiritually.