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261: In the midst of all the debates, heresies, disputations, trials, and claims to certitude, the source

of ones experiential knowledge or of ones spiritual experiences became an urgent topic. In both
controversial and noncontroversial literature, we find uneasiness with the cause or source of ones
thoughts and experiences. !heological treatises, including polemical works, and m"stical writings
reveal this ongoing preoccupation with spiritual discernment.
26#: $lthough patience was a virtue, it, too, could be deceptive. %ices and vir
tues often seemed indistinguishable. &erson explained that the vice of obsti
nac" often imitated the virtue of patience. 'ome people gloried foolishl" in
suffering. !o endure reproaches and insults was not proof that a revelation had
been received from &od. !he mental arrogance of these people (brings such
blindness that their rashness desires to be seen as something like virtue.) %ir
tue, therefore, was not to be considered, (safer or more genuine) than an"
other sign of divine revelation or illumination.1* &erson constantl" vacillated
and struggled to find a consistent wa" to determine that which was true. In a
passage that demonstrates the ambiguit" of the (counterfeit) virtue or simili
tude between evil and good, &erson wrote,
+ut sometimes the false coin can be so close in appearance to the
true one that its counterfeit can onl" be detected b" the most learned
people. ,or with so man" true lines on the counterfeit coin, it is hard
to see the one point of falsit". -eretics have been seen who composed
great books of catholic doctrine so that amid so man" truths the"
might secretl" insert one sole point of heres" and make it public b"
means of such a careful and effective fraud. !his practice shows how
necessar" it is that the coin of extraordinar" revelations first be
examined b" theologians, whose .ob it is to distinguish between true
and false religion and to deal with morals.
26/: &erson also expressed concerns about the ambiguous nature of interiorit".
0nce again, he expressed distrust as he recogni1ed the ambiguous and m"ste
rious nature of interiorit". 2ven 'aint +ernard said he did not have the gift of
discerning within himself where a spirit came from or where it went. !he sim
ilarit" between the 'pirit of &od, the good angel, the evil spirit, and the human
spirit made such discernment problematic.26 In 3e probatione spirituum, &er
son emphasi1ed to a greater degree that there must be an expert who was both
learned and experienced in such matters. 4onetheless, in the end &erson had
to conclude that there could be no definitive wa" to distinguish true from false
revelations. -e warned at the outset of 3e distinctione that (there is for human
beings no general rule or method, that can be given alwa"s and infallibl" to
distinguish between revelations that are true and those that are false or decep
tive.)2/ !his left the problem of (testing the spirits) a matter of faith rather than
knowledge. -owever, in order not to leave the reader in despair, &erson of
fered, once again, the certitude of hope.
2/*: 'imilar but not identical circumstances made the problem of discernment
so urgent in both the late 5iddle $ges and the sixteenth centur". !he wave of
spiritualism that was occurring throughout 2urope caused increasing concern.
6eformers, visionaries, beatas, and m"stics all claimed illumination and thereb"
created suspicion and the need to test the authenticit" of their experiences.
$dded to this phenomenon were the religious controversies that were shatter
ing the unit" of 7estern 8hristendom, bringing in their wake the crisis of
authorit", the need for certaint", and the appeals to the 'pirit. It is customar" to
identif" the discernment of the spirits with 8atholicism. !he 0xford 2nc"clope
dia of the 6eformation mentions such discernment in three contexts, all of
which are 8atholic. !his identification with 8atholicism is perfectl" .ustified
since it was the 8atholic tradition that formulated the methods for testing the
spirits. -owever, as we shall see, the wave of spiritualism in all its various
forms meant that the in.unction in I 9ohn #:1 to test the spirits became a shared
concern belonging to both sixteenthcentur" 8atholicism and :rotestantism.
2/;: !hese brief passages illustrate the intense concentration on experience in
Ignatiuss spiritualit". Independentl" of the suspicions b" the In<uisitors, Igna
tius recogni1ed that the importance of such affective states made the problem
of discernment a constant necessit".6= +oth the spiritual experiences and the
thoughts the" produced had to be scrutini1ed. !houghts, feelings, tastes, visita
tions, spiritual intuitions, consolations, desolations, impulses or motions and
lo<uela were the experiences of Ignatiuss own spiritual life and the ob.ects of
his concern with spiritual discernment. It was of the utmost importance to
Ignatius to determine the sources of his own experiences. 3id the" originate
from &od, from the evil spirit, or from natural processes within the soul>
2=?: -e e<uated the certaint" of this t"pe of consolation with immediac", sa"ing
that it came (immediatel" from &od our @ord.)1*2 0nl" the 8reator, Ignatius
explained, could (enter the soul, depart from it, and cause a motion in which
it draws the person wholl" into love of his divine 5a.est".)1*? -ere again we
see the identification of immediac" with certaint". 7hen the spiritual origin or
cause of a visitation was divine, the immediac" between &od and the soul
created certaint" in the experience that is selfauthenticating. $ccording to
Ignatius, such certaint" came suddenl" without an" previous perception or
understanding of the ob.ect, (b" means of which the consolation .ust men
tioned might have been stimulated through the intermediate activit" of the
persons acts or understanding and willing.)1*# 5ediation of an" kind less
ened certitude. In the case of absolute certaint", no intermediar" could be
present, including the internal actions of the mind and will. In fact, the me
diation of the human faculties could lead the person receiving the consolation
into error.