To authenticate the Intellectual Vision, Teresa tells us to look at the effects of the vision in our life. If these effects are not present, we should be suspect about the source of the vision. These effects include:
- Certainty about the vision.
- The power of the vision.
- A deep awareness of God’s immediate presence and constant companionship.
- Continual desire to please God along with a supernatural separation from the addictive pleasures of this world.
- Peace, humility, and inner strength.
- God speaking unexpectedly.
- Immediate protection against the devil’s deception.
- Confident God will hear our prayer.
- Infused with a love for God along with a desire to give oneself solely to his service.
In addition to looking at the effects of the Intellectual Vision in our life, Teresa recommends consulting with spiritual guides about the vision. This is done under the “seal of confession” to ensure privacy. This consultation helps ensure the vision is from God rather than our “fancy” or deception by the devil. The fancy will do you no harm — we simply move on from our imagination and make sure it doesn’t turn into deception. However, “If the vision is from the devil, it will be a greater trial” and guidance will be needed. But, if the effects of the vision are present, the vision is not from the devil and a learned spiritual guide can give you a better understanding of the vision.
Teresa provides remarkable insights about spiritual guides. She separates them into two categories: Learned and Spiritual. A spiritual guide may have their heart in the right place, but they lack the education or training to provide wise guidance when things fall outside their experience. The learned guide is less likely to let their lack of experience with a particular type of spiritual experience interfere with their judgment about its authenticity. So Teresa says, “If the confessor is a person whom, although he practices prayer, the Lord has not led by this path, he will at once be frightened and condemn it. For this reason I advise you to have a confessor who is very learned and, if possible, also spiritual.” Obviously, Teresa notes, the learned and spiritual combination is ideal. But, if in doubt, defer to the learned.
We should not entrust guidance about God’s activity in our life to those who will be counter-productive to our spiritual growth. Some spiritual guides are neither spiritual nor learned. Their incompetence should not become your source of guidance. Others use “spirituality” to drive a consumer agenda in the name of religion. They’re unlikely interested in your soul. And others are spiritual but lack the training and education to be discerning about things outside their experience. They will trip you up as well. Teresa also cautions that some spiritual guides “shut-down” authentic visions through fear or gossip. Unfortunately we can find ourselves in situations, times, and places where religious people suppress the work of the Holy Spirit. You must then guard the vision until a more appropriate time.
For this post I used a translation of The Interior Castle by Kieran Kavanaugh O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez O.C.D., ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington D.C.
A spiritual and learned guide is indeed one who is trustworthy. Great point that having both is key.