Guidelines For Discerning Spirits

Chapter 29 Orientations, Vol 2: Part B

As You Begin -- A Note!

          This is the full Chapter 29 on one web page. As you read or study this chapter it may be wise to keep some of the references before you. I placed the key ones such as the complete literal text of  Ignatius' discernment guidelines of the Spiritual Exercises in a separate pop-up dialogue box (click here)

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A. Some General Observations

        These reflections are not intended to be a complete commentary on the Guidelines for Discerning Spirits [313]-[336]. More complete commentaries already exist. These reflections are my attempt to establish a more practical context that will equip you to make connections between your own interior movements of spirits, a careful reading of these notations, and an ongoing study of them through other commentaries.

        A good place to begin is with the following diagram. Before you read on, spend some time looking at the following and noting down what you see.

A story is told about one of the presentations at a conference for psychotherapists. Without a word, the speaker brought a stepladder on the stage. She climbed the ladder and hung up a large white sheet. With a felt marker, she drew a diagram similar to the above in the centre of the sheet. The audience watched in silence. The speaker came down the ladder, smiled knowingly, and invited the audience to look carefully and note what they saw. Then she instructed them to take a few minutes to share this with their neighbours. There was a buzz in the room. Different people came up from the back and checked their perceptions; some shook their heads and went back. Finally the speaker invited them to call out the kinds of things they saw. As they called out their perceptions, the speaker listed them on newsprint -- such things as a mountain, a river, a mask, a face, etc.  No one mentioned what was really there -- the white sheet!

        This story suggests an apt metaphor for understanding Consolation [316], Desolation [317], and Counterfeit Consolation [331]. Let the white sheet represent your awareness of God's presence which carries an over-all appreciation of the meaning of life such as the Principle and Foundation [23]. Let the figure in the centre of the sheet represent your own personal, here-and-now, real-life, historically-rooted experience. With these correlations in mind, you can make the following observations:

  • In Desolation, you are aware of the figure as if it were isolated from the white sheet -- that is, you are aware of your own here-and-now, real-life experiences without a deep-felt awareness of the living context of life's meaning represented by the P & F. The white sheet seems to be missing, and you experience the effects of this seeming loss.
  • In Consolation, you are aware of both the figure and the white sheet at the same time -- that is, you are aware of your own here-and-now, real-life experiences in conjunction with a deep-felt awareness of life's meaning represented by the P & F.
  • In Counterfeit Consolation, you are aware of the white sheet only in isolation from the figure -- that is, you have a deep-felt awareness of life's meaning represented by the P & F, but your awareness is separated from the awareness of your own personal, here-and-now, real-life, historically-rooted experience.
  •         On our spiritual journey, when we experience the different facets of life, represented by the markings on the sheet, without the wider perspective, represented by the sheet itself, we get into trouble. In the turmoil of Desolation, we lose the felt perception that God is present, and we are centred primarily on ourselves and tend to move into a turmoil either with a downward discouraging spiral or with an upward generalized mania. In the false peace of Counterfeit Consolation, we are so in love with God that we forget our groundedness and our real-life limits imposed by our historical situation, and we move into illusion. We get into difficulties whenever we forget the implications of our foundational belief that the Word was made flesh. The image contained in the following statement may sound medieval, but it is still helpful in our practical understanding of these Guidelines -- the enemy of our human nature is filled with glee every time he/she succeeds in persuading us to separate these two perspectives in our spiritual awareness during our day-to-day living!

            I prefer to name the `rules' in notations [313]-[327] the First Set of Guidelines for Discerning Spirits and those in notations [328]-[336] the Second Set. When we directors refer to this First Set as `First-Week rules,' we confuse ourselves and keep thinking that they apply only to directees in the First Week. Probably notation [313] lays the basis for this confusion where it states: "these rules are more suited to the First Week." There are other reasons for this confusion:

        1.    Notation [314], the first guideline of the First Set, describes "the case of those going from mortal sin to mortal sin."(1) These are persons living in an orientation of serious spiritual disorder. They are not averse to thinking and acting contrary to God's basic desires or fundamental commandments for them in their daily living. It strikes me that this notation, in some ways, should have been placed outside the First Set because it gives the impression that people fitting the category of the First Set easily move into the [314] category. This has not been my perception of directees making the Exercises journey according to either notation [19] or [20]. Even though they may need the First Set throughout the Exercises journey and hardly ever show a real need for the Second Set, they do not easily move into the notation-[314] category.

        2.    This confusion may also come from the traditional belief present in the Roman church from long before Ignatius' time until the mid-1960s; namely, that there are two different states of life -- that of the commandments on the one hand, and that of Evangelical Perfection on the other. The phrase, Evangelical Perfection, was used to indicate a life committed to a more radical discipleship which was considered the proper state for those who devoted themselves to life in a religious order of the church [135], [357]. Every Christian was understood as being called to keep the commandments; only certain Christians were called to a more radical discipleship. This latter was often referred to as the life of Evangelical Perfection or the `life of the counsels.' With the shift of the classicist worldview to a more developmental worldview and with newer theologies expressed in the Second Vatican Council, we now believe that all Christians are called to the same radical discipleship expressed in the beatitudes. The point I am making is that within this older framework, the Second Set of Guidelines came to be interpreted as belonging more specifically to those who desired and attempted to live a more radical discipleship -- and this is still somewhat true. However, because the two basic calls were expressed in static terms (i.e., states of life), spiritual directors came to consider that people who fit the Second Set would hardly ever need the First Set.(2) The First Set came to be understood as the set for those who were called only to the `life of the commandments' and therefore were primarily concerned with their struggles to live in obedience to the commandments.

            The rest of the First Set of Guidelines, as in notations [315]-[327], are intended for those going from good to better. Their hearts and actions are, for the most part, oriented to God. They struggle to cleanse themselves from the disorder in their actions and from the influence of the `world' [63](3) as they seek to grow in discipleship. Note Ignatius' description of them in notations [9] and [315]. They are not bad people. They do not oppress others. Though they are governed by Inordinate Attachments, their basic and overall orientation is toward God. When Ignatius writes about temptations as being "crass," he is not referring to people who are planning to make money by selling landmines and armaments to warring countries. Rather, he is referring to people who, "not versed in spiritual things," are "tempted grossly and openly." With them, the enemy of our human nature brings before their minds "obstacles to their advance in the service of God our Lord, such as labours, shame, fear for their good name in the eyes of the world, etc." These are people who are going from good to better, "going on intensely cleansing their sins and rising from good to better in the service of God." They are not people who belong to the category of notation [314] at all. Nor are they people who are at risk of easily falling into that category.

            Each of the three diagrams(4) below represents a way of visualizing Ignatius' understanding of the human psyche. The section between the dotted lines is the area of spontaneous thoughts and feelings (`affections') that move in and out of the psyche. The memory and imagination form a bridge between these affections and the intellect and will. These more habitual thoughts and feelings are represented by arrows which have a certain direction, towards God or away from God. The exclamation marks (!) represent the more sporadic thoughts and feelings -- temptations and inspirations caused by good or evil spirits -- which influence the psyche and, when chosen, contribute to one's basic orientation, represented by the oversized (>). Given our own psychological literacy, we understand the area of our spontaneous thoughts and feelings as being our conscious awareness of our own reactions, many of which come from the less-than-conscious parts of our psyche. We might think of the section below the bottom dotted line as the core of our being which is never known to us directly but only through the area of our spontaneous thoughts and feelings.

    click here for Diagrams A & B

    click here for Diagrams A & B

            Diagram A in the image above represents the hearts of those persons of notation [314]. They go from capital sin to capital sin, that is, from bad to worse.  Most of the arrows are pointed towards self. Such people are outside the First Set. They would not be persons interested in making the Exercises journey. Their overall affectivity is oriented away from God. One or two arrows may be pointed toward God, but their basic orientation is away from God.

            Diagram B above represents the hearts of persons who fit the category of the rest of the First Set of Guidelines [315]-[327]. Most of the arrows are pointed towards God. Although quite a few arrows are still pointed towards the self, the basic orientation is towards God. Their overall affectivity is oriented toward God. The exclamation marks (!) represent particular interior affective movements (from good or evil spirits) which influence one's psyche. The quality of these movements -- whether they lead towards God or away from God -- become evident by their harmony or disharmony with one's basic affective orientation. In notations [14] and [16], Ignatius gives some examples of some of these arrows which point towards the self. Notation [14](5) gives the example of persons who are immature and experience ungrounded enthusiasm. Notation [16] gives the example of persons who are unduly preoccupied with real estate and monetary advantages of a situation for their own gain and not for the primary benefit of God's reign. The classical term used to describe such persons represented in Diagram B is `purgative,' as in Purgative Way or Purgative Mode. Persons of notation [314], as in Diagram A, are not even in this way or mode.

            Purgative is associated with the verb "to purge" meaning to cleanse, to eradicate, to remove, to purify, to forgive, etc. As a working definition, Purgative Mode refers to those moments on our spiritual journey when we must become free from our obvious, and not so obvious, sinfulness and its effects on the choices we make. Both Healing-Mode and Call-Mode directees can be in the Purgative Mode.(6) Frequently during life, every single person -- including Call-Mode persons -- needs to enter into this Purgative Mode. The recurring Lenten season of our church calendars reminds us of this truth.

            Traditionally, spiritual writers have referred to the three successive stages of the spiritual journey over a lifetime as Purgative, Illuminative, and Unitive Ways. The paradigm of the Exercises does not give a description for the life-long spiritual journey. Rather, it gives a way of understanding and dealing with the transient moments within the journey. In the Exercises, Ignatius does use the term, Purgative Life or Way, but he uses it only once and this is in notation [10], not in the First Set of Guidelines. It is probably because of that notation that some directors have linked the First Set with the Purgative Way. This can confuse us into believing that this First Set is only for beginners in the spiritual life. However, Ignatius does not use this phrase in the First Set at all. If directors would like to associate this First Set with `purgative,' perhaps they could use the phrase Purgative Mode to help avoid this possible confusion. Thus, Purgative Way can then refer to the beginning stage on the spiritual journey, and Purgative Mode can refer to any moment along the journey when one needs to become freer from the effects of sin in one's life.

    click here for Diagram C

    click here for Diagram C

            Diagram C represents those persons who correspond to the Second Set [328]-[336]. Most of the arrows are pointed towards God. Only one or two of the arrows are still pointed towards the self. The exclamation marks (!) represent particular interior affective movements (good or evil spirits) which influence the psyche. The quality of such movements -- whether they lead towards God or away from God -- become evident by their harmony or disharmony with the basic affective orientation. Most of these persons' attitudes, attachments, feelings and thoughts are oriented to God. Thus, if some interior movement (!) is not similarly aligned, it is immediately recognized and rendered ineffective. Such persons are well on the way to being spiritually free.(7) Ignatius compares her interior freedom with those who are living in the `illuminative' stage. Since, with this kind of freedom a directee would usually notice anything that tempts her toward less loving responses, she would only be susceptible to Temptations Under the Guise of Light [10], [332] -- suggestions that give the impression of being helpful in her loving response to God. Since her basic affections are aligned with God's desires, usually she would notice and reject immediately the discordant thoughts or feelings.

            These guidelines apply primarily to the fluctuations and trends of our spontaneous feelings and thoughts during the Exercises journey.(8) They also apply in some fashion to the fluctuations of our daily experiences of prayer and life. But, except by way of analogy, they should not be used automatically to understand the larger sweeps or stages of life that we pass through on our life-journey. More specifically, they apply to the experience of one making a decision with prayer. They may also contain some light concerning other areas of discernment such as, the discernment of a `word of knowledge' or an `anointing' of charismatic prayer groups. A spiritual director may have `the special gift of discernment' given by the Spirit, but this special gift is not necessary in applying these guidelines.

            Spiritual movements are interior reactions which involve our feelings, emotions, and spontaneous thoughts that float in and out of our consciousness. Many of us in the work of spiritual guidance refer to these movements as affective movements. A working description of a `spiritual movement' includes the coalescence of 1) feelings and emotions; 2) the meanings within them; 3) spontaneous thoughts; 4) the direction of 1), 2), and 3); and 5) a faith context.

            In order to apply the Guidelines for Discerning Spirits, you do not have to believe in the world of angels and spirits presumed in the psychology of the Exercises. It is sufficient to acknowledge that we are constantly being influenced by urges, thoughts, movements, and drives which ebb and flow within us and influence our choices. Whether these influences come as a result of our less-than-conscious psyches or from external, personal, non-material beings need not be a concern for a practical application of these guidelines. It is more important to know that some influences are leading to God and some away from God. The direction of one's interior reactions is the important thing to know -- either to accept and cooperate with them, or to reject and not cooperate with them. Also, it is wise to avoid the exaggerations of either denying the possibility of such spirits or believing too much in them.

            In the Guidelines for Discerning Spirits, we are dealing not with a scientific measurable truth but with an art, a skill of recognition. The descriptions that Ignatius gives are indicators. They are meant as Ignatius himself suggests "... to be of some help." The colour red is a help in recognizing various shades of red, but it may not be of help in recognizing some shades of red that are closer to orange or purple. So also with the Guidelines. We grow in the art of using these Guidelines by practising them daily in our Awareness Examen and Review. Often a more sensitive knowledge of the Guidelines comes from making use of a spiritual director who uses them with us. There is also truth in the statement that we really only come to experience and know these Guidelines with the impact of discerning a decision in the concrete circumstance of life.

    Our Rhetoric In Speaking Discernment-Type Language

            As you will note by studying the Guidelines, "peace" is not the only criterion of the presence of God. To say, "I am at peace. Consequently my decision must be in harmony with God's desires," is a naive and false use of the Guidelines. Persons habituated to a life of disordered behaviour, "going from mortal sin to mortal sin" can experience peace and this is not from God. In notation [331], Ignatius points out how persons can experience the peace of Counterfeit Consolation which comes from the Bad Angel.

            Remember that expressions such as "the Spirit moved me" or "God gave me great consolation," do not necessarily mean that the peace or Consolation is an immediate intervention of God with no natural causation. When a person is lifted in spirit to praise God because of a sunset, the sunset is part of the causality. When a person receives significant insight at a prayer meeting, the meeting itself with its atmosphere is large part of the causality. In the Second Set of Guidelines, Ignatius makes the distinction between Consolation Without Previous Cause -- an experience of God communicating directly -- and Consolation With Previous Cause -- an experience of God communicating indirectly through secondary causes. These secondary causes can be from the external environment or from the internal environment of the less-than-conscious parts of our own psyches. Most of the time during the Exercises journey or during ongoing spiritual guidance when we deal with spiritual experiences, they are of this second kind.

            In certain settings, devout people refer to their transient spiritual experiences as if they were coming from God directly. This is unfortunate because such an approach can easily lead them to absolutize their own personal experiences or the judgements of discernment they receive from others who themselves are usually using this level of secondary causation in their discernment.

    B. First Set Of Guidelines

            Notation [314] -- gives this advice concerning persons who could care less about going from sin to sin:

            The phrase, "persons going from mortal sin to mortal sin," may not mean that they are actually in separation from God's eternal life of grace. Ignatius sometimes uses the word "mortal" to mean those primordial categories of sin called the seven deadly or capital sins -- pride, anger, lust, envy, anger, gluttony, and sloth. Besides its obvious meaning -- going from one serious sin to another in the form of irresponsible behaviour -- this phrase also means going from capital(9) sin to capital sin, i.e., from bad to worse. The affectivity of such persons is oriented, for the most part, away from God, and therefore they risk making a fundamental option away from God and losing eternal life. Such persons are almost completely self-centred. For some, the movements within their hearts tend to encourage the obvious disordered activities listed by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21. For others, the movements within their hearts tend to encourage less obvious behaviour as in the well-disciplined suave person, dominated by ambition and profit, who seems to be generous, kind, externally compassionate, and all this, with calculation. Since the Evil Spirit is at home with persons like this, it makes a peaceful entry. It encourages the sinful tendencies that already exist, and so there can be a false kind of peace when the Evil Spirit encourages choices in keeping with these tendencies. The Good Spirit is not at home with persons in this disordered state so there is a "sting of conscience, remorse" when it enters their hearts. In a sense, this guideline is outside the Guidelines for Discerning Spirits; the rest of the First Set of Guidelines are not intended for persons in this state.(10)

            Notation [315] -- indicates the persons for whom the First Set is intended; namely, persons who are serious about their spiritual life but who are less mature and, therefore, less knowledgeable about their spiritual growth:

            The Guidelines are for those who desire to make progress in the life of the Spirit, who seek to follow God's desires for them, and if they find themselves not doing so or compromising themselves with evil, they soon repent. These persons are going from "good to better."

            Notation [316] -- gives descriptions of three different experiences of Spiritual Consolation:

    1. An intense interior experience:

    "When some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord...."
    2. An experience of sadness and sorrow:
    "It is likewise Consolation when one sheds tears ... that move to the love of God.... "
    3. An experience of growing faith, hope or love in dryness:
    "Consolation is every increase of faith, hope, and love, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things ... quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord."
            Description (1) above makes it clear that Consolation can be an intense interior experience but not in itself. An intense interior experience in itself is not Consolation but its perceived and accepted relationship to God. In addition, if the wonderful interior experiences and feelings of well being are associated with other persons or events, it is precisely in the perceived direction of these interior experiences that make them Consolation. "For example, an interior movement may arise from the love we have for another person, and this kind of emotional experience may resemble spiritual consolation. But it is the beginning of spiritual consolation only when that human love is directly related to the love of God."(11)

            Description (2) above shows that a person can feel down and be sad because of something related to God, as for example when she feels sadness or sorrow over how Jesus still suffers in the oppression of others or because of her own sin. Tears are also an expression of Consolation when they accompany sorrow or joy, or when they flow from compassionate union with Jesus' sufferings. Such experiences may indicate a deep relationship with Jesus and release one from the narrow bonds of egotism. Of course, all tears are not a sign of Consolation but only those that move one to the love of God.(12)

            Description (3) above points out that every increase of faith, hope, and love is Consolation. Often, and particularly in the early stages of the spiritual journey, a directee becomes downcast because she does not feel that God is giving her Consolation. She begins to suspect that by doing something wrong she has failed to earn the Consolation. However, when you question her, you find out that her faith, hope, or love have been increased. She has discovered a new meaning. Yet, she does not think that she has been consoled because she did not have some intense interior experience as described in (1).(13) Fundamentally, Consolation exists if a person experiences an increase of faith even though there is pain or dryness on a felt level.

             It is wise to keep in mind that although notation [316] is placed in the First Set of Guidelines, it also belongs to the understanding of Consolation in the Second Set. Consolation is Consolation! These three descriptions, along with the other indicators, are valid for understanding it whether a directee's experiences fit under the First or Second Set.

            Notation [317] -- gives a description of Spiritual Desolation:

            Desolation is the opposite of Consolation and is experienced in relationship to the perception of God's seeming absence. In Desolation the directee's overall affectivity is still oriented to God, but now, with respect to these transient movements, the directee herself, does not experience or recognize God's presence and feels or perceives that God is no longer around to help her. Where she used to experience prayer and the experiences of life between the times of prayer as relatively easy and meaningful, now she experiences them in a contrary way.(15)

            It is important to distinguish Desolation from depression. Desolation is a spiritual experience; depression is a psychological experience. Desolation may at times feel like depression, and psychological depression may in fact lead to Desolation, but the one is not the other. A person who is chronically and clinically depressed may experience Consolation; for example, the presence of God in a somewhat felt, sustaining way or, at least, in a meaningful way, as with a person who is sustained throughout a chronic depression by an identification with the suffering Jesus.

            Again when a directee is in Desolation, she is not necessarily "down." She can feel very "up" with a certain "hyperness" that could be characterized as "running around like a chicken with its head chopped off." This, no doubt, might also be psychologically or chemically induced. In this kind of enthusiasm, a directee can sometimes fool herself by judging that God is near because she feels "up." However, the transient movements that she is experiencing are leading away from God. She is acting on her own resources, not in companionship with God's Spirit.(16) After a directee experiences God's presence and love, she sometimes moves into Desolation when and if she takes the Consolation to herself and/or runs ahead of the grace given in the initial Consolation. In the Exercises journey, a spiritual director witnesses this when the directee returns to a prayer passage in Repetition and expects to receive a continuation of such deeply felt intimacy.(17)

            It is also important to distinguish between Desolation which is a "spiritual" experience from desolate feelings which are more of a "natural" experience. These desolate feelings are natural (normal, human, psychological) reactions to one's inner or outer environment. What makes natural experiences "spiritual" is the context of faith-filled trust in God perceived and accepted as related to the natural experience. The context of living faith orients its meaning. Therefore:

            Notation [322] -- explains three reasons for Desolation. Implied in these are two other reasons. The three explicit reasons can be summarized as follows:
    1.  Through one's own fault, Consolation has been taken away.

    2.  God allows the distressful experience to help one become more spiritually

    3.  God wants one to realize deeply that Consolation is a free gift from God.

    The other two (more implicit) reasons are:
    4.  Desolation comes when one lets oneself be dominated by some Inordinate

    5.  Desolation is a form of resistance.

            As a spiritual guide, you can frequently observe the relevancy of all these explanations in Call-Mode directees during the Exercises journey, particularly as they prepare for the making of an Election. The first reason of notation [322] is discussed below in conjunction with the fourth reason.

            The second reason -- God allows Desolation to test us -- should not be interpreted with a skewed image of God who enjoys putting us to the test. The "testing" or "trying" to which Ignatius is referring is more like that of the biblical image of "purifying gold in a fire." It is not for God's sake or pleasure that we are tested through Desolation; it is for our own sake and it is because God loves us. Even though this kind of testing, which is allowed by God, is experienced negatively, it has a very positive thrust. It has a maturing effect on the directee. Desolation forces the directee to question the selflessness of her love. Does she love God merely because she has enjoyed interior movements that have inflamed her heart with love? Or can she persevere in loving God, keep on doing her prayer exercises, and stay true to her commitment to the Exercises journey, even in Desolation. It helps the directee to be disposed for the gift of Spiritual Freedom in the process of decision-making.

            The third reason that Ignatius gives is the one most commonly experienced during the Exercises journey. God is teaching the directee that all is gift:

    So as a directee is praying to be disposed properly to be open for the Election, the experience of Desolation continues to make her realize that the proper dispositions for making this decision and the actual decision itself must come from God's own gift and not from her own making. "God may allow us to be desolate at times in order to impress upon us the fact of our pelagianism, our desire to control God. God wants us to abandon the mistaken notion that we can command Consolation to come and Desolation to go by an act of the will."(19)

            The fourth reason -- Desolation comes when one is dominated by an Inordinate Attachment -- is not articulated in notation [322]. Perhaps it should be. Certainly in our daily living outside the Exercises-journey context, we experience Desolation most frequently for this very reason.(20) This explanation is more evident with directees in the notation-[19] context, who are making the Exercises in the midst of daily living, than with directees in the notation-[20] setting. But this reason becomes more noticeable even during the notation-[20] Exercises when Call-Mode directees are in the midst of a decision-making/ discernment process. From notation [16] it is obvious that Ignatius expected that directees would encounter the experience of being dominated by an Inordinate Attachment. The Second Class of Persons [154] is a good example of being dominated by such an Inordinate Attachment. When such an attachment begins to be manifested during the Exercises journey, it is often through Desolation.(21)

            To some extent, this fourth reason is implicit in the first one which suggests that, through a directee's own fault, Consolation is withdrawn. The fault described, however, is that of negligence or laziness in the performance of her spiritual exercises. Often people try to describe what is amiss by pointing to the symptoms rather than to the issue causing the symptoms. In the first reason, Ignatius expresses a more general symptom rather than the specific issue that exists behind it. When the Inordinate Attachment begins to affect her prayer, and if her less-than-conscious self is not quite ready to allow the attachment to be put in order, often a directee becomes negligent in the accomplishment of her spiritual exercises. Although negligence could be the issue itself, often negligence is the symptom of a deeper issue. Nonetheless, when the directee is encouraged to be faithful to her committed prayer exercises and when, exercising more care, she faces this commitment more intentionally, the issue that needs attention usually surfaces.

            The fifth reason -- Desolation is a form of resistance -- is another way of expressing what was expressed in the fourth reason and it is implied in the three outlined in notation [322]. The point of growth in human behaviour is often the point of resistance. Ignatius seems cognizant of this by constantly recommending that the directee make Repetitions on those areas of her prayer experiences where Desolation occurs [62]. We know by observation that when a directee does this, she often discovers that she has been resistant to the surfacing of some unwanted enlightenment.

            During the Exercises journey, Desolation is only one way in which resistance is experienced. In the Exercises, as in our own lives generally, resistance occurs in many different ways.(22) A directee often experiences resistance in the face of Jesus' challenge to a more radical discipleship. Even after a directee has made a decision in the context of Spiritual Freedom, resistance can emerge because of the fear of the consequences of implementing that decision. When a directee is growing in Spiritual Freedom, resistance often manifests itself with phenomena different from that of Desolation. As explained in the Second Set of Guidelines, the more generous and spiritually astute the directee is, the more subtle the resistance can appear.

            Decisions are made in the context of time, place, outside pressures, unconscious material, historical habit, culture. This is true of decision-making in the notation-[19] Exercises journey and certainly true with respect to decision-making and the use of the Guidelines for Discerning Spirits in day-to-day living outside the Exercises journey. Spiritual Freedom, the hoped-for disposition for decision-making, like most things in life, is often never completely possessed this side of heaven. Given the variable and practical contexts in which decisions are made, a directee's realization of Spiritual Freedom may not be as complete as more time and prayer might allow. It follows that `Consolation with natural desolation' and/or Desolation can signify one or other of the following:

            The movements of Consolation and Desolation, as well as those of `Consolation with natural desolation' are part of that continuous purifying process through which we become more spiritually free. Along with the five reasons for Desolation, they demonstrate some of the ways that God's Spirit deals with us in this growing process in daily life and the usual ways during the Exercises journey. This activity of God's Spirit manifests God's mutual relationship with us [231] as well as the way God labours for us [236] in all things. We might summarize God's activity as it pertains to Desolation and `Consolation with natural desolation' as God's way of revealing to us that we may:         Consolation and Desolation should not be confused with a moral state or category as if Consolation is morally good and Desolation is morally bad. Both experiences are the ways by which we are schooled in becoming more sensitive to God's initiatives with us. Both experiences are necessary if we are to discern God's call in our lives. Just as there is no growth in any other area of human life without the pain and resistance of one paradigm giving way to another, so in the Exercises journey, there is usually no movement toward Consolation without Desolation or `Consolation with natural desolation.'

            Notations [318]-[321] -- give instructions on what to do in time of Desolation; that is, how to act against the Desolation:

    1. Wait patiently and trust that:

    2. Insist more upon prayer, upon meditation: 3. Much examination of oneself: 4. Do some penance in a suitable way: 5. Make some change in the way of prayer, penance, and examen: 6. Do not make any change in the decision that one has just made:
    In time of Desolation we should never make any change, but remain firm and constant in the resolution and decision which guided us the day before the Desolation, or in the decision to which we adhered in the preceding Consolation. ... In Desolation the evil spirit guides and counsels. Following its counsels we can never find the way to a right decision [318].
            The primary meaning of notation [318] is this: when in the process of making a decision, we must remember that a proper decision can only be made in time of true Consolation. Whereas Desolation is a time of cloudiness, unfreedom, lack of perspective and reaction, Consolation is a time of freedom and response. So when a directee is discerning a decision, she must wait for Consolation before she makes the Election. Thus, notation [318] has to do primarily with the decision-making in the course of the Exercises.

            This principle is also true in our daily life outside the Exercises. Desolation is not a good time to make decisions. However, in daily life Desolation is often an indicator that some change will have to be made. For example, when a person has spent a long time at one career and no longer finds meaning or the presence of God in her work, Desolation may point to the fact that some change needs to be made. The truth in notation [318] applies even here as well; wait until one experiences Consolation before finally discerning a choice.

    C. Second Set Of Guidelines

            The purpose of this section is to explore how the Second Set of Guidelines is different but still connected with the First Set. When spiritual guides and spiritual directors gather for peer-peer supervision or team meetings, the question is sometimes asked: "How does a Second-Week temptation appear in a directee's prayer experiences? What does it look like? ... Please give some examples." During the ensuing discussion, cases such as the following are usually given:

    a) The experience of Bill who takes Consolation to himself.

    During the early phases of the notation-[19], Exercises journey, Bill has two days of prayer filled with Consolation. For the third day, he decides to remain with the same scriptural passage because "things are going so well." He expects Consolation again. To his dismay he experiences just the opposite -- Desolation! Thus he was tempted by wanting what seemed to him a good thing but for a wrong reason. It is not the passage that makes it work, since true Consolation is a free gift of God. Bill probably assumes that prayer is good only if one experiences Consolation. Hence he goes deeper into Desolation because he considers the struggle with Desolation to be a failure rather than a common outcome in the process of prayer. Thus he blames himself.
    b) The experience of Susan who decides to imitate her husband's method for her own prayer.
    Susan and her husband are making the notation-[19] Exercises journey with different directors. Often, in the evening, they share the day's happenings. One day, Susan, struggling and yet doing quite well herself, discovers that her husband seems to be having a great deal of success using a different approach from the one she was given. Not too aware of her own competitive nature, she tries to use the approach he was given and gets into difficulty and experiences Desolation.
    c) The experience of Jim who hears a presentation on prayer and doubts his own experience.
    At this time, Jim is preparing for the notation-[19] Exercises journey. He is doing fairly well. His director is teaching him different methods of prayer. However, she has to contend with some of Jim's fears concerning past attempts with some of these methods which represented for him an old time pulling-yourself-up- by-your-own-bootstraps spirituality. He remembers these past experiences in negative terms. Jim often attends conferences about the spiritual journey given by well-known speakers. Four days before his next interview with his director, he decides to go to one. During one of the presentations, Jim hears some advice concerning prayer that causes him to doubt that he is doing well. As a result, he has the good idea of doing something to improve, but he gets into more doubt and experiences Desolation.
            In dealing with situations like those above, some spiritual guides might want to apply the Second Set of Discernment Guidelines, particularly [332] and [333]. After all, in each case, the Desolation began with an attempt to do something good or worthwhile. A lack of proper understanding or maturity contributed to the movement into Desolation. In a sense, the three directees were all "deceived" because, from their perspectives and with good intentions, they chose an approach that seemed to be helpful. A spiritual guide might assess these movements along the lines of notation [332] and check the beginning, middle, and end of the spiritual movement: its beginning to discover the point of entry of the Deception; its middle to understand what happened as the Deception developed; its end to notice the end result. This is good advice and applicable in many different areas of human experience and behaviour. Thus, a spiritual guide could use these guidelines here. But if he did so it would be by way of analogy only.

            You could use the edge of a pair of pliers to bang a nail into soft wood, or a spoon to eat your salad, though these are not the intended purposes of the pliers or the spoon. In much the same way, these three cases do not need the instrumentation of the Second Set of Guidelines since these cases are adequately covered by the First Set, notably notations [317], [325] and [327]. All three cases are the kinds of examples very common among `unskilled' directees. In each example, there is an obvious Inordinate Attachment involved:

  • Bill is still looking for the sweet stuff; in his immaturity, he believes that if there is struggle in prayer it must be bad prayer.
  • Susan is operating out of an envious and a competitive spirit. She does not believe that growth through prayer is really God's free gift.
  • Jim is hooked by his penchant for self-doubt and his tendency to trust his negative memories.
  • The situations represented in these cases are not the situations which Ignatius had in mind when he set down the Second Set of Guidelines. The affective indicator that these situations belong in the First Set is Desolation. Unfreedom and Inordinate Attachments lead to Desolation in the spiritual neophyte or `unskilled' person.

            On the other hand, the temptations envisaged by the Second Set ordinarily appear when generous followers of Jesus experience interior freedom from such Inordinate Attachments. The affective indicator that a temptation belongs with the Second Set is Counterfeit Consolation, described in notation [331]. The directee is still in Consolation, but there is something wrong with the Consolation -- a drop of water on a rock rather than a drop of water on a sponge [335]. A directee is ready to use the Second Set when she has been tricked by a temptation under the pretence of being invited to do a good thing.

    When the one who is giving the Exercises notes that his directee is being assailed and tempted under the appearance of light, then is the proper time to explain to her the rules of the Second Week ... [10].
    The following example is more in keeping with what is meant by Temptation Under the Guise of Light.

            Veronica, a 27-year-old doctor, has just completed two very frustrating years in Northern Manitoba. Too few peers and many serious diagnostic decisions without up-to-date equipment made for two years of loneliness, worry and dissatisfaction with her career as a doctor.

            Veronica has just taken a six-month leave to assess her future. She could accept a new position in a Toronto hospital that will be open in six months. She had made several directed retreats before. Now she is making a shortened version of the Spiritual Exercises in daily life. Should she give the Toronto position a try for a couple of years? Or should she follow a childhood dream and become a medical sister in the Third World? The only reason she did not allow herself to get too close to several male friends in her life was to keep that dream as a possible option.

            During the Exercises journey thus far, she has had to face her excessive need for approval and feedback which seems to be somehow associated with her father's death when she was twelve. She has also had to look at the possibility that, out of misguided duty, her career was carrying on her father's work as a doctor and the possibility that her dream of being a sister was associated with two aunts who became very significant for her in her teen years.

            During the prayer on the Two Standards, she looks at all these realities again and comes to understand more deeply how she hates ambiguous situations. She recognizes and acknowledges her propensity to jump from one stance to another in order to clear up the ambiguity. No doubt, this was part of her frustration in Manitoba where many diagnoses had to be made without the luxury of more data from modern equipment. She prays the Triple Colloquy for a greater dependence on God and for an ability to live with ambiguity and not to make rash decisions. In the Three Classes, she realizes that she is very much part of the Second Class with respect to her dream of being a medical sister. She has taken for granted all these years that to be a sister is the only way that she could grow in holiness. She realizes too that her desire to be a doctor is not a duty she is burdened with but something she really desires. She further acknowledges her deep desire to raise a family. So in the Colloquy, she continues to ask for help in being more dependent on God when she finds herself in ambiguous situations and to be open to any path that harmonizes with God's designs.

            During her Monday night interview, she discovers with her spiritual director various images of God's will. She comes to realize that God's will is not a prefixed, predetermined plan with clear details requiring only that she discover it and fit into it. She realizes that God's will is more associated with salvation and the meaning of creation evident in our reflected-upon-human-experience; that is, it is her responsibility to determine the particularities of it. In some sense, she makes God's will through her every decision -- God's will is somehow consistent with her deeper ordered desires. It is all right to be married if she truly desires to be married! A great burden is lifted from her as a result of this interview, and so she determines to face the next week of prayer -- praying the call of the disciples -- from the stance of remaining a doctor with an openness to marriage.

            Tuesday morning she wakes up with a big smile on her face realizing that it is all right with God for her to be a doctor and get married. Something has lifted which has weighed her down for a long time. After all, it makes sense that her situation in Manitoba was one of almost total frustration due to the context of ambiguity in diagnosis resulting from insufficient feedback. There was a lack of up-to-date equipment and there were no colleagues to consult except by computer and phone. She looked forward to her prayer exercise in mid-afternoon.

            Using Luke 5:1-11, the call of Peter, she enters the Gospel Contemplation easily. Most of the period she stays on the shore, taken up with the presence of Jesus, while at the same time listening and watching Jesus as part of the crowd as he preaches from Peter's boat. She carries on a conversation with one of the onlookers and expresses how wonderful Jesus' words are. "Blessed are those who suffer persecution for my sake" seems to coincide with the situation in Manitoba when she felt so alone. From time to time in her Colloquies, Jesus tells her not to be afraid of ambiguity and encourages her to consider some of his own experiences of ambiguity -- his confusion during the time of the temptations in the desert; his surprise and confusion and the subsequent ambiguity concerning how to proceed when being confronted by the deep faith of non-Jews such as the Canaanite woman and Jairus, etc.

            Later, in the Review she begins to feel disappointed as she notes that she was not one of the apostles. Reflecting on her day, she thinks that she herself is to blame for this because she had determined to be a married doctor but it wasn't for Jesus' sake!

            With this in mind, on Wednesday she goes into her prayer exercise having decided to change her stance; now she makes the prayer exercises taking the stance of being a medical sister. She makes a Repetition of yesterday's prayer exercise, and this time she places herself in one of the boats with the apostles. She talks with them asking them how they feel when Peter goes through his antics. She tells them how she wants to be a sister and spends some of the time imagining what it would be like belonging to a religious order of nuns. She thanks Jesus for the influence of the two aunts in her life.

            Each day passes by smoothly and each prayer period is quite peaceful as she continues to take the stance of a sister. By Saturday she uses the scripture text on the Feeding of the Five Thousand and spends time as a sister talking to the people about how great Jesus is. She tends to their needs and they are very grateful for her presence.

            During her interview on the following Monday, Veronica relates what went on during the week. The director quietly listens to the prayer of each day of the past week with only a few clarifying questions in order to understand more clearly the overall flow and movements. The dialogue with her spiritual director continues ...

    D. So you seemed to have had a very peaceful week.

    V. Yes, that conversation we had last week lifted a burden from my shoulders. I sense a great deal of freedom when I return here.

    D. Did you experience the same kind of freedom throughout the week?

    V. Why, yes, I think so.... I had a very peace-filled week.

    D. What confuses me is the way you took the stance of being a sister from Wednesday onwards when I thought you had determined to take the stance of being a married doctor for the whole week....

    V. Why, yes, ... it seemed the thing to do.... Even though I knew that God would go with any decision I would make, I wanted to make the decision for God. I realized that I was the one who had chosen to be a doctor, but I wasn't sure it was for God.

    D. Do you mean that you didn't articulate it and tell God that explicitly? ... Or do you mean that you actually interiorly did not want to be a married doctor for God?

    V. I didn't make it explicit.... Of course, I want to be a married doctor for God.... I just didn't articulate it....

    D. Oh ... (there is a longish pause ... What I can't fathom is how Veronica is being trapped by such an evident inconsistency!) ... Okay, let's put that on a shelf for a moment. You also mentioned that you experienced "consolation" throughout all your prayer periods -- having "a very peace-filled week." Did you note a difference between the peace you experienced on Tuesday and the peace you experienced on the other days of the week?

    V. Umm ... let me see.... No, not really.... But I do notice the difference between the peace all week and the peace during the week when I was praying over the Nativity. During that week Jesus was closer, and I was more absorbed and less conscious of myself.

    D. Yes, I remember. During the prayer unit on the Nativity, you almost completely forgot about yourself....

    V. Yeh.... Yes.... This past week I was active, and Jesus was there.... Although I must admit that on Tuesday, while I was on the shore, I was still completely taken up with Jesus....

    D. You mean that while you were on the shore, you were still very much involved with Jesus, ... not as actively involved, but still completely absorbed? ...

    V. Why, yes, ... though I was more active than in the Nativity exercises. On Tuesday, on the shore, I felt it was just as loving....

    D. Sounds to me you were in deep consolation on Tuesday on that shore.... What about after Tuesday? ... Less involved? ... More self-conscious? ... Almost drier, perhaps?

    V. Yes, ... yes, that's it. I'm sure of it.... As a matter of fact, I seemed to be much more conscious of myself from Wednesday onwards....

    D. (Wednesday onwards feels to me like a drop of water on a rock. The alternative to choosing to be a married doctor not for God is not necessarily choosing to be a medical sister but rather choosing to be a married doctor for God.... Here is Veronica's "one extreme to another" rearing its ugly head again!!! ... ) Veronica, you made a decision to take the stance of a sister because you wanted to do it for God.... Remember a couple of weeks ago, we talked about how you want clarity and tend to jump from one extreme to another when you are not absolutely sure. You could have chosen to be a married doctor for Jesus' service and that would have probably been the corrective your prayer needed on Wednesday if it needed any corrective at all. You didn't articulate your desire explicitly but you still had it.... (big smile) ... How did you get confused over that one?

    V. (smiling) ... Guess I needed to be black and white -- no - ambiguity - Veronica" and all that jazz!

    D. (with smiling emphasis!) Yee - es! ... Let's look at number [332] and [333] and see how these two Guidelines apply.... (then after sufficient time to read them over) ... Let's look at the beginning of the movement where the idea came to change your stance.... Your initial thought that something was wrong ... when was it?

    V. ... During the prayer Review, I realized I was on the shore.

    D. Yes, ... and comparing it with the Nativity experiences, you seem to equate the geographical distance from Jesus with real distance from Jesus, and I think you began to doubt your Consolation here.... You presumed it should be different ... "more involving," I think you put it. You were disappointed because you were not actually in the boat with the apostles. You could have discussed this with Jesus in the next prayer period, but you presumed you knew what it meant.... Do you remember how you used to presume that being a sister was the only way to serve Jesus! Well, here, you remembered that you did not even tell Jesus that you wanted to be a married doctor for his service, so you jumped to the conclusion that you didn't really want to be a married doctor for Jesus' service, and so on....

    V. Oh, ... I guess, ... I'm beginning to see....

    D. I think you have been tempted under the guise of light by the angel of darkness....

    V. Oooh! ... I guess ... I was fooled.

    D. I think so.... Reflect for a moment now on the quality of the "consolation" after Wednesday and before Wednesday.... Notice that though there was more activity in your prayer exercises from Wednesday onwards, there was actually less involvement. You were far more the centre of things from Wednesday onwards. What do you notice?

    V. I was less focused on Jesus, ... more focused on myself.... Even though I was more active and thinking I was more involved, I was less present to Jesus than when I was on the shore.

    D. You continued to be in "consolation," but it was skewed ... like a drop of water on a stone rather than a drop of water on a sponge (as in notation [335]). Or to use another metaphor ... a violin note that is not quite perfect in its sound....

    (then after further discussion)

    D. ... For the coming week, once again use the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Then move to the Transfiguration. Then make four Repetitions. Each day during the prayer exercises and in between the prayer exercises, take the stance of being a married doctor for the sake of Jesus. (This is the Trying-It-on-for-Size method.) Remember to allow Repetition to develop into the Application of Senses if that is how you are being drawn.... Next interview we'll discern together what God has been communicating with you through the experiences of the week's daily events and prayer exercises.

            Why is this case about Veronica a good example of the Second Set of Guidelines? Veronica is generously trying to discover God's will. She is growing in Spiritual Freedom, but she was drawn into a misguided path by being tempted under the guise of light. First, she did not articulate explicitly that her desire for being a married doctor was for God. Then she mistakenly concluded that to be a married doctor was only for herself and not for God (the beginning [333]). Since her interior affectivity and desires that flowed from this were aligned to choose only that which is in harmony with God's will, she tried to correct the situation (the middle ... and another good thought!) by unwittingly choosing to follow an interpretation connected with the very disorder that she recognized and handled, to a certain degree, earlier in the Exercises journey -- her impatience with ambiguity and her attempt to clear it by moving from one extreme to the other. By the time of the Two Standards, she had arrived at a great deal of self-knowledge and had gained some freedom with respect to this. Though Veronica was becoming freer, the Inordinate Attachment was still present but in a more subtle way. In the last few days, her attempts at following a good and generous course ended in false peace, whereas at the beginning of the week, Veronica was experiencing true peace. The indicator that she had succumbed to this type of temptation(23) was her skewed thinking along with Counterfeit Consolation. During the session with Veronica, the spiritual director probably felt that what he was hearing was like a drop of water on a stone [335], or it was like a musical note that was slightly off key.

            The previous cases about Susan, Bill, and Jim give examples of interior movements more typical of the First Set of Guidelines with Desolation as the usual indicator. Though such typical movements may flow from self-doubt, Inordinate Attachment, inadequate self-knowledge, or lack of training, such persons are still focused on God and their affectivity is, in an overall sense, moving from good to better [315]. Yet these persons may not be very free from their Disordered Tendencies. They are good persons and they love God. They are generous and have largesse of spirit in the same sense that Peter had in his early encounters with Jesus. However, they are not very aware of how their Hidden Disordered Tendencies affect their prayer, discernment, and choices -- Susan is not aware or free enough to let her husband have a better experience; Bill is not aware or free enough to put up with pain in prayer; Jim is not aware or free enough to trust himself in front of the expert. The First Set is sufficient to deal with these three cases. As Ignatius suggests if the directee is unskilled in spiritual things, and thus is tempted grossly and openly -- for example, with such things as obstacles to her advance in the service of God, such as labours, shame, fear for her good name in the eyes of the world, etc. -- the director of the Exercises should not explain the Second Set of Guidelines. For while the First Set of Guidelines will be very helpful, the Second Set will be harmful since it deals with matter that is too subtle and advanced for a spiritually immature person to understand [9]. When the director of the Exercises perceives that the directee (such as Veronica) is being harassed and tempted under the guise or appearance of light, then is the proper time to explain the Second Set [10].

    Subtlety Of Second Set: True Peace Versus False Peace

    The guidelines of the Second Set are more subtle than those of the First Set. They deal with spiritual phenomena that are more sophisticated:

  • Consolation Without Cause;
  • Consolation With Cause which could be:
  • Consolation With Cause during which the Good Angel guides; or
  • Consolation With Cause during which the Bad Angel guides (Counterfeit Consolation).
  •         The temptations envisaged in the Second Set are those that take place when a directee manifests a more mature love and generosity with a greater degree of Spiritual Freedom. At these times, a directee needs to discern a sense of true peace from a sense of false peace -- and all in the context of God's love. During these moments, a directee is not easily led astray by Inordinate Attachments and impulses arising from them for she easily recognizes and deals with such obvious temptations.

            The Second Set also presumes, as the First Set did, that a directee is moving from good to better; but, now, this basic orientation has more completely aligned her feelings, thoughts, and attachments according to God's ways. Her interior spontaneities and reactions are focused away from self-centredness. She is close to being a balance at equilibrium as described in the Third Class [155]. During these moments, the only way a directee can be led astray in her choices from her loving orientation towards God is through some misinterpretation that appears to be consistent with a balanced generous love, not by affective, disordered impulses or Inordinate Attachments that come from habit, sinful tendency, or disordered affectivity. Within the context of Spiritual Freedom and generosity, a directee is not very susceptible to selfish impulses and self-centred desires but is susceptible to inspirations and thoughts leading to actions of generosity.

            Ignatius adopted the psychology of his day to understand and explain the phenomena of the psyche. In this psychology, Angels caused thoughts directly and Spirits caused feelings directly. In the First Set, the term Angel is never used because the kinds of temptations are those associated with more obvious trends of feelings and emotions arising from Inordinate Attachments. In the Second Set, Ignatius uses the term Angel, along with and more frequently than the term Spirit, because the temptations are intended for a more mature directee. In such a mature directee, the spontaneous feelings and emotions and the attitudes and understanding associated with them are more aligned to God's ways; and so, the enemy can only enter her psyche with light-filled temptations of thought, in other words, some "misinformation."

            The temptations that are governed by the First Set are understood as coming from the influence of the Evil Spirit. The word Evil Spirit is associated with feelings, urges, impulses and, if with thoughts, it is because the thoughts are closely associated with these feelings and urges. In fact, the discouraging thoughts of the First Set flow from feelings [317].

            The temptations that are governed by the Second Set are understood as coming mostly from the Bad Angel, and sometimes from the Evil Spirit. The Bad Angel is associated primarily with insight -- false knowledge, false understanding, some sort of intellectual guidance that masquerades as light. At first, the temptation that comes as a thought or insight looks good, but much later it rears its ugly head. Sometimes the temptation of the Bad Angel, masquerading as light, might be recognized by the trend of feelings which flow after the victim has accepted and acted upon the deceptive thought.

    Points Of Comparison Between The Two Sets Of Guidelines

    First Set
    Second Set
    Temptation comes from Evil Spirits Bad Angel
    Phenomena of temptation Mostly feelings, urges, impulses Mostly thoughts, interpretations, insights
    Affective movements are described in terms of Consolation and Desolation True Consolation and Counterfeit Consolation
    Mode usually involved Purgative mode and/or Healing Mode Call Mode and/or Healing Mode
    Level of spiritual maturity


    Temptations are more crass, open, evident, and associated with Desolation and Inordinate Attachments.


    Temptations are less materialistic. They insinuate themselves as part of the loving dynamic. They are associated with Consolation which proves to be counterfeit.
    Basic "therapy"


    Discover the source of the Desolation. Fight against(24) the Desolation and wait patiently for Consolation to return. Do some penance. Be faithful! Discover the deceptive reasoning and the false line of reasoning. Note the pattern for the future. Be attentive!
    When do you explain the Guidelines?


    At any point early during the course of the Exercises as soon as they become relevant. Probably they begin to make sense to a directee when she begins to recognize her turmoil as Desolation. Only and if the directee has been experiencing a Temp-tation Under the Guise of Light.


    To whom do the Guidelines apply?


    To all directees making the Exercises journey -- going from good to better and serious about improving their relationship God. They are `unskilled,' i.e., lacking of spiritual awareness, missing obvious connections between their symptomatic exper-
    iences and their interior reactions; they are immature -- still dominated by Inordinate Attachments.
    To directees more `skilled' in spiritual awareness -- with greater self-knowledge and knowledge of some subtleties; to those more mature -- having become freer from evident Inordinate Attachments. They are in the mode of loving response and eager to discover God's call.


    When do the phenomena occur? At any time when one is growing in prayer and spiritual maturity. At a time of spiritually free generosity and serious decision-making.
          Do all directees making the Second Week need the Second Set of Guidelines? These guidelines may be useful, or they may not be useful. It depends on what is happening in the movement of the directee's experiences both during and after the time of the prayer exercises. Ignatius indicates that they should not be explained to the directee unless the need arises, i.e., when the directee is experiencing a Temptation Under the Guise of Light. This implies that the need may not arise.

            Probably Ignatius presumed that the Second Set would generally be needed once the First Week was over. He assumed that his readers understood the dynamic of the notation-[20] Exercises in the light of the classical pattern of spiritual growth generally accepted in his time: from the Purgative to the Illuminative to the Unitive Way. When we consider the Exercises from this assumption,(25) then we might conclude that the directee would have completed the stage of purification by the end of the First Week. By this point in the course of the Exercises journey or by this time in her life, the directee would no longer be considered in the Purgative Way. Rather having been sufficiently healed, forgiven or in touch with her own identity as a saved sinner, the directee would be, by this point, in the Call Mode -- with a heart filled with gratitude and generosity, eager to discover the best means to follow Jesus in both the private and public spheres of her world. Therefore, the Second Set would be usually needed for the Second-Week directee.

            For some directees, the Second Set is not suitable at all. Certainly this is true for those directees who fall into the category of notation [314], who go from capital sin to capital sin. Directees in this category would have difficulty in discerning spiritual movements because the underlying focus for all their energy is their self-centredness. This type of person does not have the appropriate affective orientation that even the First Set of Guidelines presumes.

            Even the tone with which Ignatius refers to the Second Set of Guidelines implies that some persons making a discernment may not need this Second Set. Note the words I have underlined from notation [10]:

    .... For ordinarily the enemy of our human nature tempts more under the appearance of good when one is exercising herself in the illuminative life. This corresponds to the exercises of the Second Week. The enemy does not tempt one so much under the appearance of good when in the purgative life, which corresponds to the exercises of the First Week.
            A Second-Week directee is presumed to be a generous person in the Call Mode and yet we know from observation that she can still experience spiritual movements that are more aptly explained by the First Set. This seems to be implied in the introduction to the Second Set of Guidelines [328].

            Is it possible that this maturity and generosity would have been more easily achieved in the culture of Ignatius' time? Is it possible that most directees, after the Kingdom Exercise, would be "skilled spiritually"; that is, would they be no longer dominated by their Disordered Tendencies such as resentment or fear or being rejected, and, at the same time, be very aware of their own interior reactions with an ability to reflect on these and know how to deal with these?

            In Ignatius' time, we know that people made life choices earlier and died younger. Life was physically harder but psychologically simpler. There was no awareness of the split between the unconscious and conscious mind, nor between the private realm and the public realm as there is now. People also thought of themselves as having more metaphysical and psychological freedom than we believe or think of ourselves as having today.(26)Then, very few people had a mid-life to have a mid-life crisis. In our time, there are many more aspects of our lives and our psyches to integrate with our shadow. It is interesting to note that in the scripture passages Ignatius suggests for prayer on Jesus' public life, there are no suggestions for the healing miracles.

            Since Ignatius was interested in people who would do great deeds for the church, he was often very choosey about the character of the person making the Exercises. He preferred persons with many natural gifts and energies to be candidates for the Exercises. Also, in earlier times, writers on spirituality theorized about persons being in a spiritual stage or "state," as for example, the stage of Illumination. In a more static worldview, such stages were interpreted as being more fixed than we would expect today.

            Now, people live longer and have more time for self-reflection and interiority. Now, there are more transitions through which to pass, more things requiring the surrender of the past into the unknown of the future. People continue to develop, and at every stage of development, there is need for healing and `purgation' or forgiveness. Today, a twenty-two-year-old woman discerning a future career and/or a choice of state of life, could be in a Call Mode. That same person at twenty-eight may find herself in need of healing and forgiveness. Years later, she might be in a Call Mode again. There are always moments on the life journey when the "stuff" of our past needs to be dealt with through forgiveness and healing. If we take into account the experiences and needs of directees on the Exercises journey, we will come to a more developmental view of both sets of Guidelines for Discerning Spirits.

            The following diagram may give further insight into the connections between the two sets of guidelines. With its accompanying explanation, the diagram intends to illustrate the following truths:

    The use of the Second Set is connected with one's level of maturity.
  • Both sets are connected like a continuum, the Second Set being more subtle than the First.
  • The guideline in notation [327] of the First Set, which uses the image of an army captain seeking the weakest point in one's fortification, is a good introduction to the Second Set of Guidelines.
  • When a person is trapped by a temptation of the Second Set and its effects are allowed to go undetected, a good person will sometimes regress into Desolation as described in notation [317] of the First Set.
  • Both sets apply to the spiritual journey both inside and outside the retreat context.
  •         The following diagram illustrates these and other interconnections between the two sets of guidelines. Within the unfolding dynamic of the Exercises journey, the first two vertical panels indicate the sinful tendencies of which our hypothetical directee might become aware during the First Week. Note how the directee's awareness of such tendencies (represented by the First or Second Exercise) become more subtle by the Third Exercise when the directee is brought into contact with her Disordered Tendencies that are more hidden. As she enters the Call Mode (indicated by the double vertical bars), her motivations are now transformed -- the self-centred tendencies are other-centred. Yet these new-found strengths are still connected to the history and weakness from which they were born. The person who lied and cheated in order to win recognition now desires to do something significant for Jesus. The need for recognition has been changed but could easily be reactivated.
    click here for diagram

    click here for diagram
            This diagram can also be applied to the journey of life. A person matures towards a greater identity and self-acceptance. During this growth process, one exercises discipline over some of one's disordered habits. As one moves toward mid-life, one is moved more by love and wisdom than by selfishness and the need to prove oneself. One's basic character becomes more subtle. Where one used to prove oneself by lying (first panel) and later by achieving (second panel), now one reaches a point of desiring to go beyond oneself in doing something significant for God. If this "doing something significant" is twisted by a disordered generosity or a misguided overextension of one's energy, one can regress to early forms of one's immaturity. Thus in the Call Mode (to the right of the double bars), one's very desires, which are now in transformation, become the points of entry for the Bad Angel.

            The full diagonal arrow indicates that typical temptations of the Second Set enter in the third panel and if the temptation remains undetected long enough, the directee is led down the arrow into experiences that are more typical of the First Set of Guidelines. A directee, fooled by the Bad Angel masquerading as light in the prayer exercise on Monday, may, by Saturday, find herself wallowing in some of the experiences of the first or second panel. All three panels indicate a consistency with the same directee's character.

            The separated diagonal arrow indicates what happens in those whom Ignatius calls `unskilled' and who experience crass and more obvious temptations [9]. When these less subtle temptations remain undetected, there is a regression down the separated diagonal line. In our culture, many generous persons, who have developed quite an intense prayer life and who are in need of healing and forgiveness, experience such temptations. Examples of Healing-Mode directees experiencing this type of temptation were given in Chapter 24.

            This diagram illustrates the phenomena behind the image of the enemy captain seeking to attack at the weakest point -- the last of the First Set of Guidelines [327].

    The conduct of our enemy may also be compared to the tactics of a leader intent upon seizing and plundering a desirable position. A commander and leader of an army will encamp, explore the fortifications and defenses of the stronghold, and attack at the weakest point.... Similarly the enemy of our human nature ... attacks at that point where he/she finds us weakest.
    With this image, the First and the Second Set of Guidelines for Discerning Spirits come together in notation [327]. This last guideline of the First Set can serve as a good introduction to the Second Set as a whole.(27)

            The Second Set can be considered a more subtle continuation of the First Set. We can verify this by observing what happens to good people of prayer and generosity in various phases of their human development. However generous or purified a person becomes, one still keeps one's basic character even after many conversions and years of cooperating with grace. For example, Paul of Tarsus seemed to remain the same single-minded workaholic after he fell in love with Jesus as he was before. He continued to be difficult to deal with.

            Although the Bad Angel tempts with a deceitful thought, it will usually be in keeping with the kind of person he/she is dealing with! If such a connection were not intended, why would Ignatius ask a directee to note down the pattern of the deceptive thoughts to protect herself against these temptations in the future?. Surely Ignatius would believe that the Bad Angel is smart enough to change his/her patterned tactics! The connection between the First Set and the Second Set can be demonstrated by noting the experiences of those good and generous directees who regress into some of the phenomena of the First Set.(28)

            There are always moments on our journey of life when the stuff of our past and present needs to be dealt with through forgiveness and healing. A Call-Mode directee, perhaps having passed the stage of purification long ago, always has need for some healing and purification and remains vulnerable to experiences of Desolation. We always need purification and healing. The issue in guiding directees is to facilitate sufficient freedom to discern a particular choice here and now.(29) The ideal of total Spiritual Freedom must always be measured by the real situation of time, place, personality and sufficient grace of the moment. Even when there is sufficient self-awareness, spiritual maturity and inner freedom, no matter where a directee is located on the theoretical continuum between the First and Second Sets, we will need to use the First Set most of the time and the Second Set some of the time during the Exercises journey.

    Some material for your study, reflection, discussion.

            In numbers [17] and [32], Ignatius makes reference to the distinction between private thoughts and those thoughts caused by the action of the Good and Evil Spirits. In the Second Set of Guidelines [331] and [332], we notice that there is another kind of thought caused not by spirits but by angels, the Good and Bad Angels. Note, however, Ignatius does not use the term "angel" in the First Set of Guidelines.

    Here are some working definitions
    of these technical expressions

    "Thoughts Caused By The Good And Evil Spirit"

    These are urges, feelings, thoughts and images moving in and out of a person's psyche from the memory, imagination, preconscious, etc. They are spontaneous reactions. The code name often used to connote them is affective responses. Feelings contain within themselves an `intentionality'; that is, they have meaning and point to meaning. Thoughts caused by the `spirits' are thoughts and feelings that come from inside ourselves, our inner world, and often surface from our feelings. Today they would be understood as reactions surfacing from our psyche.(30)
    "Thoughts Caused By The Good Angel And By The Bad Angel"
    For Ignatius, these are thoughts suggested to us by personal angels, good and bad. In our culture, we could equate these with ideas and suggestions coming to us from other persons, also from cultural values and structures, including thoughts that we refer to as inspirations from the Spirit or temptations from the devil. Also the bright idea that seems to occur to a person from nowhere would fit here. All these influences are ideas coming to us from outside ourselves.(31)
    "Private Thoughts"
    For Ignatius, Private Thoughts is a technical term which refers to those thoughts that we actually make our own -- our thought-out thoughts. Examples of such thoughts are the sinful thoughts referred to in notations [17](32) and [36], but other examples would be those thoughts that we add in the time of the Afterglow -- resolutions, plans coming "from our own reasoning on the relations of our concepts and on the consequences of our judgments..." [336]. Private Thoughts are the thoughts we make our own -- our willed thoughts, our more analytical or discursive thoughts -- not the thoughts that come and go through our minds. Private thoughts are usually not the arena for discernment. In order that discernment, properly speaking, can take place, a directee has to be open to thoughts and feelings coming spontaneously from her deeper self or the heart.(33)



    1. This can also be translated as "going from capital sin to capital sin." Consult notation [244] where Ignatius gives an instruction called First Method of Prayer (probably for persons envisaged in notation [18]). This method is a way of praying over the seven capital sins which, in the Autograph version of the Exercises, is "pecados mortales."

    2. From what I can understand, they meant this as applying not only to the Exercises journey but also to daily life after the Exercises journey was over.

    3. Elsewhere in this manual, I refer to the "disorder in my actions" and "knowledge of the world" in notation [63] as Hidden Disordered Tendencies and the influence of the `world.'

    4. Thank you to Michael Shields, S.J., for the idea behind these diagrams.

    5. Some people may consider this notation as referring to Counterfeit Consolation [331], and I suppose, by analogy, it could. However, when you encounter enthusiasm of "beginners" in the spiritual life, you can easily recognize obvious self-centredness and Hidden Disordered Tendencies that co-exist with, or lurk behind, their enthusiasm. For me, their immaturity and lack of grounding indicate why such experiences belong to the First Set. I think such enthusiasm is an example of Incipient Desolation. Yes, Ignatius does call it "consolation" and, no doubt for the immature directee, not too much in touch with herself, it probably feels that way!

    6. Thank you to Elaine Frigo, CSSF, staff member of Loyola House, for the insights behind this paragraph.

    7. Spiritual Freedom exists in those moments when a person is grasped so much by God's love that the desires of one's heart and the actions, affectivities, thoughts and decisions that flow from these desires are oriented to God. Consult the description of Consolation [316], particularly the first sentence, and the description of the Third Class [155].

    8. There are many confusions that directors and commentators can make in the understanding of the Guidelines for Discerning Spirits. The Guidelines can be understood best from the perspective of the personally directed Exercises journey according to notation [20]. However, commentators inevitably give explanations and illustrations from the experiences of life outside the time of the Exercises rather than from the actual process of the Exercises journey to which the Guidelines properly belong. They do apply to daily life outside the time of the Exercises, but only secondarily and by Analogy.

            The First Set of Guidelines is not limited to directees in the First-Week exercises. This confusion often exists because Ignatius:

    The tendency to absolutize the concepts contained in these Guidelines results in the separation between the two sets of Guidelines!

    9. Many Christian denominations more typically refer to `capital sins' as "deadly sins." Ignatius uses the Spanish, "pecados mortales," which can mean capital sins or mortal sins. In notation [244], he obviously uses this phrase to mean the seven capital sins. Here in notation [314], I believe that he means both capital and mortal sins; some commentators might disagree with this interpretation.

    10. Ignatius probably included this notation here in the First Set because he also intended the First-Week material to be used for notation-[18] purposes. When we continue to think of notation [314] as integrally belonging to the rest of this First Set [315]-[327], we tend to trivialize the spirituality of those directees who need only the First Set and seldom require the Second Set.

    11. John English, S.J., Spiritual Freedom (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1995), p.115.

    12. Spiritual Freedom, p.116.

    13. Spiritual Freedom, p.116.

    14. Some of the following phrases may also indicate the presence of Desolation:

    15. Analogously (and I stress the word analogously), this more momentary experience sometimes feels like that desolate, more long-term experience which often occurs in the latter stages of the spiritual journey when a person has been faithful to a life of prayer and God seems to withdraw as God leads one to greater surrender. In this latter stage, a person's faith is definitely being exercised; it is a time when all one can do is persevere by pure faith since God's help is not perceived as present. Confer Analogy in the Glossary.

    16. It goes without saying that one should learn to recognize the psychological experiences that need psychological and not spiritual help.

    17. In daily life outside the Exercises context, often less spiritually mature persons seek spiritual, honeymoon experiences. It can become spiritual gluttony or a religious addiction, as they move from one "high" to another. I believe that persons who continually seek such experiences may find themselves in serious spiritual and/or psychological difficulties -- mental fatigue, mania, depression, hysteria, etc. It seems to me that this occurrence is often associated with more programmatic Christians who have simplistic and rigid attitudes towards life. How does this coincide with your observations?

    18. I learned this from John Govan, S.J., staff member of Loyola House, who has come to name this experience `natural desolation.' As Ignatius does in notation [317], Govan names Desolation, `spiritual desolation.' As you can tell from this manual, I have been using the term Desolation, with a capital "D", for `spiritual desolation.'

    19. Spiritual Freedom, p.120.

    20. In our day-to-day lives outside the Exercises journey, these three reasons are not always helpful in understanding the reasons we go into Desolation. They are much more helpful in understanding the reasons why a directee in the Call Mode experiences Desolation during the Exercises journey. However, in daily living, Desolation is often more noticeable when we let ourselves be dominated by some Inordinate Attachment or Disordered Tendency; for example, when we allow ourselves to be dominated by a characteristic propensity to manipulate someone's approval and it is not forthcoming.

    21. As well as being connected to notation [16], this fourth reason is connected to notation [327] with the image of "the captain seeking to enter a castle by the weakest point."

    22. Desolation is usually a form of resistance to our Loving God. Our psyche is aware less consciously of something it does not want to surface into consciousness and Desolation is its conscious symptom of what is taking place -- some resistance before God's love. Psychologically, resistance can be described as one's conscious or unconscious psychic defenses against bringing less-than-conscious material (thoughts, feelings, images, memories, etc.) to light. During the Exercises journey, resistance manifests itself in many different ways:

    In the larger segments of the spiritual journey as a whole, the metaphors of `desert' and `darkness' are words often used to express longer-term phenomena mostly resulting from our resistance to God at deepening levels of our being.

    23. The typical temptation of the Second Set of Guidelines is the Temptation Under the Guise of Light.

    24. In the Jesuit spiritual tradition, this came to be called "agere contra" which translates literally as "to act against."

    25. It seems to me that Ignatius' application of the traditional stages of Purgation, Illumination and Union to the dynamic of the Exercises is a bit like applying Erikson's eight stages of human growth to the dynamic of learning a new language during one of those stages. The three traditional stages apply to the larger sweeps of the spiritual journey whereas the Exercises are an instrument of decision-making with respect to an important moment during any one of the three traditional stages. Perhaps this three-stage correlation helped to demonstrate how the Exercises fit into the mainstream spirituality of Ignatius' time. A colleague of mine has suggested that, perhaps, this was intended for the Inquisition, the 16th century's counterpart to the present Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Roman church.

    If approached analogously, the Exercises could be used as a dynamic model to understand the various stages of the overall spiritual journey. Thus, one could indeed refer to a person past the mid-life crisis and living a life of social awareness as being in a Third-Week stage. Or again, one could identify a person whose prayer has become "contemplative" and who is entering the "stage of contemplation" as being in a Third- or Fourth-Week stage. Consult Glossary for meaning of Analogy.

    26. By "metaphysical," I mean the real possibility of freedom, not the illusion of it. By "psychological freedom," I mean sufficient freedom from the influence of the unconscious that one is actually responsible for one's decisions. Spiritual Freedom often would include a certain amount of psychological freedom, but psychological freedom does not necessarily include Spiritual Freedom.

    27. I am grateful for a unique conversation with Jim Borbely, S.J., who shared this insight with me.

    28. In an earlier understanding of the spiritual journey before a more developmental worldview, people for whom the Second Set is intended were considered so purified from their Inordinate Attachments that they were thought of as being free from all their disordered interior reactions. I wonder if the authors thought this was so because most of the classical spiritual writings were written by religious concerning religious who lived in fairly regulated environments. In the past two hundred years during the ages affected by rationalism, these authors paid more attention to the conscious mind. They considered that generalized logical distinctions made in the abstract were necessarily true in the particular, concrete experience.

           Some spiritual directors refer to their directees in a vein similar to the way the authors above categorized various stages of the spiritual journey. If a directee regresses into Desolation, as described in the First Set of Guidelines, they say, "... The directee couldn't possibly be a person of the Second Set!" For them, there is a discontinuity between the First and the Second Set.

            I find that there is lack of agreement among spiritual directors concerning the connections between the First and the Second Set of Guidelines for Discerning Spirits:

            Some directors of the Exercises seem to hold a `discontinuity theory': They suggest that temptations of the Second Set come only as thoughts and bright ideas, but not as affective movements. They hold this to be so because good and generous persons whose affectivity is in harmony with God would notice quickly the slightest disharmonious impulses and immediately reject them. The temptations of the Second Set, for these directors, are not just more subtle than the temptations of the First Set but arise from a different source: namely, `angels,' not `spirits.' Therefore, for them, there is a discontinuity with the First Set.

            This is not without merit. Ignatius is very careful in his description of how the temptations within each set differ. In notation [315], there are trends of feelings such as anxiety backed by fallacious reasons. In other words, the affective temptations come first, and the fallacious reasons develop after and then further contribute to these affective movements. A directee, for example, begins to feel sadness and only later feels like a failure, and this leads her to think that she can never do anything right. In notation [317], Ignatius observes that the thoughts that come from Desolation are not the same as those that come from Consolation.

            In the Second Set, as in notation [329], the affective anxieties are caused by fallacious reasons which the evil one insinuates into the Consolation. For example, a directee is in Consolation and has a desire to serve Jesus in a certain way. The thought comes to her that this is both hypocritical and pretentious: "After all," she thinks, "people with my history usually don't do such-and-such!" Then she begins to feel insecure, and little by little, she becomes distraught. In this way, in the Second Set, the thought usually precedes the anxiety.

            Other directors of the Exercises hold a `continuity theory': First of all, they admit that the use of the word `angel' does not occur in the First Set. However, in line with a continuity theory, they point to the fact that Ignatius makes use of both terms `angel' and `spirit' in the Second Set. Notation [335] seems to be an extension of notation [315] where Ignatius talks about how the Good Spirit makes all easy. Furthermore, the description of Consolation [316] is intended as a description of Consolation for both sets.

            I believe that there is a real difference between Ignatius' use of the term Bad Angel, with its Temptations Under the Guise of Light, and his use of the term Evil Spirit with its temptations. Because he uses both terms in the Second Set, and because of our more developmental worldview than that held by directors in favour of the discontinuity theory, I hold that there is a continuity between the First and the Second Set.

    29. Is anyone ever totally spiritually free? The nature of the decision and of the issues involved would seem to require an amount of Spiritual Freedom that is proportionate to the decision being made in time and space. The proportion between the experience of Spiritual Freedom and the nature of the decision made helps to determine whether the decision has been sound and correct [175].

    30. Using Jungian language, one might refer to these movements or temptations as "F-type" temptations or movements.

    31. In Jungian language, one might refer to these as "T-type" temptations or movements. I owe the ideas in this paragraph to conversations I have had with Jim Borbely, S.J., John English, S.J., Judy Roemer, and the late George Schemel, S.J.

    32. Although the distinction that is made between the confessor and the director of the Exercises is valid and to be acknowledged, it strikes me that what Ignatius intends in notation [17] is precisely the distinction which I make in this chapter. The "sins" to which Ignatius refers are one example of Private Thoughts. However, the sphere for spiritual direction is not the realm of Private Thoughts; it is the realm of spiritual movements. With this point, the Exercises harmonize with current psychology which acknowledges that our less-than-conscious thoughts and feelings have more motivational impact than our conscious ones.

    33. This is a very important point that has often been forgotten during the history of the use of the Spiritual Exercises. Confer my Orientations, Vol. 1 (Guelph: Loyola House, 1994), endnotes 23 and 32. In order to foster a movement of spirits, Ignatius uses techniques based on the engagement of the imagination. This is no small point because every prayer exercise in the Exercises in both the notation-[19] and -[20] contexts makes use of the imagination -- story, images, and symbol. The two exceptions, namely the P&F and the Three Degrees, are not proposed as exercises for prayer but for reflections outside the prayer exercises.

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