Photo Copyright: Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons
I noted this short video about the Bernini sculpture in my last post. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would encourage you to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKcJvjP9zgY (Kahn Academy with Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker)
Sixth Mansions: Chapter Two
It’s important to evaluate spiritual experiences. Are they really from God or from some other source? If we assume every spiritual experience comes from God, we’re likely to slip into errors that come from lack of discernment. If we allow our undisciplined imagination to take control, we will likely cling to something because it aligns with our desires or someone else’s agenda. We then attach a little “God” to these desires/agendas and we will justify behavior inconsistent with God’s kingdom and good judgment. The devil also gets involved. He deceives us with the appearance of good, the possibility of immediate pleasures, or the dream of a big pay-off.
But some experiences come from God. Just as it is unwise to embrace “everything” without discernment, it’s also unwise to simply dismiss out-of-the-ordinary, ecstatic, or intense experiences. We can be open to God’s supernatural work and still authenticate our spiritual experiences. This includes the “Delectable Pain” experience Teresa has been discussing in this chapter. Teresa explains that this phenomenon is not deception by the devil or the mere fancy of our imaginations. It is clear this experience comes from the Lord. Our faculties are alert and we perceive this experience “as clearly as we hear a loud voice with our ears.”
It still raises the question: Isn’t it still possible for the devil to deceive the soul with this kind of experience? Teresa responds:
1. The devil has the ability give “pleasures and delights which seem spiritual” in order to deceive us. The devil can also inflict pain. But “it is beyond his power to unite pain–and such great pain!–with the tranquility of the soul”. The devil’s “powers are in the external sphere, and, when he causes pain, it is never, to my mind, delectable or peaceful, but restless and combative.”
2. The source of this “delectable tempest” comes from a place in the interior of the soul. The devil has no authority in that region. This gives us great confidence in this experience and leaves no doubt about God’s involvement.
3. With the delectable pain “great advantages accrue to the soul”. It develops us instead of damages us. We increase in virtue. We desire to “withdraw from the pleasures and intercourse of this world” so we can further enjoy His presence. We’re even determined to suffer great trials for God’s sake if required.
If we experience this “delectable pain” we should be filled with gratitude. We demonstrate that gratitude by a deeper commitment to serve God. Then we will receive more and more from Him who will also reward us for the trials we endure.