Search Results for Discernment
In Catholic theology one aspect of discernment is the use of reason and experience coupled with divine gifts to distinguish between true and false interior perception.
As Henri Martin P.S.S. puts it:
The charism of discernment is “a kind of supernatural instinct by which those who have it perceive intuitively the origin, either divine or not, of thoughts and inclinations submitted to them.” (J. de Guibert, Lecons, p. 306). It is to be distinguished from revelation of the secrets of hearts, properly so called, made directly by God. In such revelations, which is extremely rare, objective certitude is absolute. In the case of discernment the chances of error lie in the subjective interpretation and use of the supernatural light received. Lacking an infused charism, ordinarily “God will assist by special interior light a gift of discernment acquired by experience and prudence in the application of the traditional rules of discernment.”¹
On the need for seekers to be sincere, humble and rational in the discernment process, the scholar of mysticism, Evelyn Underhill, says:
Ecstasies, no less than visions and voices, must, they declare, be subjected to unsparing criticism before they are recognized as divine: whilst some are undoubtedly “of God,” others are no less clearly “of the devil.”²
Likewise, the Protestant William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience, suggests that some lower forms of mysticism may have “proceeded from the demon.”³ The Lutheran Rudolf Otto also talks about different types of mysticism. See, for instance, “An Outline of Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy,” Chapter XVI – The ‘Cruder’ Phases.
In Protestant and Catholic Churches discernment is described as a gift and developed ability where a person learns to differentiate among
- divine spiritual influences
- evil spiritual influences
- one’s truest self.
But a problem arises in that many religious people claim to discern. And often different religious and New Age enthusiasts discern differently on the very same issue, citing the “Holy Spirit,” “Allah,” “Angels” or “Objective Truth” as their source of authority.
Discernment often seems to mean taking an alarmist, knee-jerk view of issues that one doesn’t understand, projecting bad habits and transferring the unsavory contents of the unconscious onto scapegoats. This can happen on an individual level or through a kind of institutionally reinforced hypocrisy, as we’ve seen time and again in the history of religions, cults and spiritual movements.
Indeed, unconscious anger, resentment and unresolved psychological complexes may color discernment. And it seems that psychological pain, immaturity and the potential influence of fantasy or evil influences can all be intertwined.
Another related meaning of the term discernment is to discover what God wants an individual to do in life, to find one’s calling, as it were. This relates to the first meaning of discernment because we can’t do the right thing in life if we’re following imaginary voices, fantasy desires or the promptings of an evil power.
Thomas H. Green S. J. notes that, within Catholicism, this second form of discernment of finding one’s calling was once premised on sheer authority. A spiritual director would simply tell a religious what to do. Today, however, the relationship between discernment and spiritual directors has evolved. Emphasis is now given on “co-discernment” and, in the larger sense, communal discernment. Authority figures only provide general guidelines, as plainly evident in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ultimately it’s up to each individual to flesh out God’s will for his or her life.4
Father Edward Malatesta, S. J. definition of discernment combines the two previous aspects:
By the discernment of spirits is meant the process by which we examine, in the light of faith and in the connaturality of love, the nature of the spiritual states we experience in ourselves and in others. The purpose of such examination is to decide, as far as possible, which of the movements we experience lead us to the Lord and to a more perfect service of Him and our brothers, and which deflect us from this goal.5
Interestingly, some believe that a higher power or spiritual gift can override personal biases, enabling an imperfect person to make perfect discernments. This dynamic may, indeed, occur from time to time but for the most part it seems that the development of accurate discernment is a lifelong process.
And, quite possibly, we may continue to sharpen our powers of discernment in the afterlife.
¹ (ibidem). (Jacques Guillet, Gustave Bardy et. al. (trans.) Sister Innocentia Richards, Ph.D., Discernment of Spirits. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1970, p. 104.)
² Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, New York: New American Library, 1955, p. 361.
³ London: Penguin, 1985, p. 423.
4 Thomas H. Green S. J., Weeds Among the Wheat - Discernment: Where Prayer and Action Meet, Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1984, pp. 11-17).
5 Cited in Green, p. 41.
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Channeling is a new, perhaps more marketable, name for the old esoteric idea of mediumship.
A channeler allegedly permits a purely spiritual being to speak or write through his or her living, embodied person. Channeled beings may be people who’ve passed or entities in heaven, astral realms and other universes and dimensions.
Information derived from channeling is often quite general, repetitive and, some critics say, sugar-coated. Much of it can be summed up as follows:
Earthly life is a cosmic schoolroom in which we must learn to better love one another. Humanity is evolving into a new type of higher species or awareness. Already existing higher beings are helping us to achieve that higher level of being or awareness.
The alleged cosmic helpers may have Biblical or ancient Egyptian-sounding names (e.g. Seth, Lazarus, Ramtha). The channelers themselves usually present lectures and workshops (usually for a donation or fee) and author books, CDs and DVDs in which transcripts of the channeled entity’s words are made available to the public.
In some instances the channeler seems to become self-aggrandized, believing they’re called for a great, Divine Mission. Sober questioning, however, usually places a question mark around such claims.
From the perspective of parapsychology, one possibility, which might not go over too well in some New Age circles, is that lying and manipulative transcendent beings could see into a channeler’s psyche and play on his or her psychological complexes, weaknesses and desires—all to stroke up the channeler’s ego so they believe they’re divine emissaries.
It’s also possible that some channelers are channeling nothing more than their own fertile imaginations. This is not to say that channeling is necessarily a deliberate or unconscious sham. To place a question mark around the issue simply means we can’t be sure, one way or the other.
Whatever its veracity, the idea of channeling has become so widespread that we often see it used lightly on the TV news and in the entertainment industry. Wikipedia gives a great outline as to how pervasive this idea has become: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Channelling
To this joyfulseeker adds:
I would say that rather than being a replacement for the term mediumship, channeling is acutally a broader term under which mediumship and other forms of spirit communication fall. For instance— automatic writing, Ouija, pendulum, clairaudience, clairsentience, etc.
I also agree that there are manipulative and deceptive beings that use these means of communication to connect with and manipulate people. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean that you all of a sudden become kind and ethical. Channeling, like any form of communication requires care in both how you communicate and with whom. Its not unlike the internet. There are a lot of wonderful people on the net with much to offer you simply have to use discernment in revealing too much of yourself and how much you trust the other person. » See in context
Robert G. Black says:
Quite a lot of good comments about channeling. It’s a big Universe out there, and there’s hardly any doubt that our physical eyes can’t see it all. We can’t even see half of the things today that we take so for granted. » See in context
And Michelle writes:
I believe when we step into the spiritual realm through prayer or meditation, we can be influenced by good or evil. I think that is why we need to be careful who we are trying to contact – and possibly why the Old Testament gives clear warning to stay away from speaking to the dead. » See in context
- ” Golden thread” – channelled message from The Circle of The Light of The Love Energy (earthmessagepress.com)
- Trevor Taylor liked Pauline Battell’s discussion Ivy Northage and Chan ~ plus ~ General Psychic Information (community.humanityhealing.net)
- Who was Edgar Cayce? – A book review of The Sleeping Prophet by Jess Stearn (apolloandartemis.wordpress.com)
- Melchizedek ~~ This is why you all incarnated here and your time is at hand! ~~ channeled by Méline Lafont | Pleiadedolphininfos (2012indyinfo.com)
- “Currency of Love” – channelled message from The Circle of The Light of The Love Energy (earthmessagepress.com)
- How to Channel the Opulence of Zoe Saldana’s Balmain Dress (fabsugar.com)
- Nancy Fox is an excellent channel and psychic medium who effortlessly communicates to those on the other side. (kevinhunter.wordpress.com)
- Ex-student is barred from releasing Ramtha video, other materials (thenewstribune.com)
- Hilarion: We are all Working Together as the Dimensions Come Closer – As channeled by Marlene Swetlishoff/Tsu-tana (007blueray.wordpress.com)
Deva is a Pali and Sankrit term denoting a ‘heavenly being’ or ‘shining one.’
In Hinduism the devas may refer to
- The absolute (Brahman) in the form of a personal god
- Mortal beings inhabiting a realm higher than the human sphere
- A name attached to human beings who have realized God and attained enlightenment
Regarding the third instance, whether or not individuals actually attain perfection or merely become subsumed by the power of a deva is a point of debate sparked by the traditional Catholic view of discernment along with C. G. Jung‘s archetypal psychology. Catholic mystics would probably see anyone claiming to be perfect as a victim of a Satanic influence, whereas C. G. Jung would likely frame the issue in terms of the ego over-identifying with an archetyapl power.
In the New Age movement the word deva is adapted to refer to nature spirits, spiritual forces behind visible creation, or spiritual forces behind a species—i.e. a group soul.
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Most religious and mythological traditions attest to the reality of demons. For the most part, demons are regarded as dark, evil spiritual beings whose sole purpose is to wreak havoc on individuals and the world.
In Hinduism, demons appear in the Puranas as Rakshakas (evil beings capable of shape-shifting) and tramp souls. Also in Hinduism the, at one time, god-like asuras of the Vedas devolve into demonic spirit beings which, the mystic Sri Aurobindo says, try to place false and harmful ideas into the minds of impressionable, vulnerable human beings.
In Tibetan Buddhism, immediately after a person dies a priest reads the Tibetan Book of the Dead aloud over the dead body, instructing the departed soul how to avoid different spiritual lights and deceptions that demonic beings use to try to trick the deceased into falling into another earthly incarnation. And Mahayana Buddhism portrays many hells, each presided over by horrific entities
In China demons are thought to be able to inhabit dead bodies and haunt various places, both inside and out.
Demons in China… are capable of animating dead bodies, haunting cemeteries, cross roads, and the homes of relatives. Some live in Hades…others inhabit the air. Many are hungry ghosts, the spirits of those who have had no proper burial or who have no decendants to feed them sacrifices.¹
Traditional Roman Catholicism doesn’t envision the demon in terms of a psychoanalytic, physiological id or Jungian shadow archetype, as is fashionable in some circles today. Instead, traditional Catholicism makes no bones about the belief in demons. The Prayer Against Satan and The Rebellious Angels, published in 1961 by order of H. H. Pope Leo XIII refers to various “spirits of wickedness,” “diabolical legions” and “infernal invaders” that are to be driven away with the help of this solemn prayer.
Contemporary Catholicism, however, is incorporating secular and psychiatric perspectives on demons, but arguably in a clunky manner that seems to conform to ancient and medieval styles of analyzing issues. This shouldn’t be surprising as certain aspects of Catholic theological discourse borrow from Aristotelian and Thomist analytical categories and modes of analysis. And as history suggests, deeply entrenched patterns of thought and practice usually take time to be positively redirected.
In secular society alleged demons are often described as nothing more than a product of the imagination, hallucinations, an arrested or disturbed personality, mutated chromosomes, or the much debated idea of chemical imbalances. Along these lines the Catholic Catechism makes a sharp distinction between “the presence of the Evil One,” on the one hand, and current understandings of mental illness on the other:
The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.²
In contrast to the arguably underdeveloped either/or perspective outlined above, a more productive and responsible approach would intelligently consider different perspectives — physiological, psychological, cultural, transpersonal and spiritual — using as many of the analytical tools that are available to us in the 21st century.
Having said that, we should also keep in mind the very real possibility that God could permit a fundamentally good and ‘well adjusted’ person to be afflicted by evil, as we find, for instance, in the Old Testament Book of Job.
Related Posts » Aliens, Alien Possession Theory, Anathema, Angels, Avesta, Bodhi Tree, Bosch (Hieronymus), Christianity, Discernment, Fallen Angels, Hero, Jinn, Lilith, Madness, Mandala, Michael (St.), Miracles, Occam’s razor, Possession, Psychosis, Rakshakas, Shaman, Spiritual Attack, UFO, Underworld
¹ S. G. F. Brandon, A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 1971, p. 230.
² Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1673.
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Extrasensory perception (ESP) is a type of alleged psi phenomena. ESP is sometimes used as an umbrella term for many types of alleged paranormal phenomena but it properly refers to the ideas of telepathy (reading another’s thoughts) and clairvoyance (‘seeing’ without the eyes).
Some Fundamentalist, Protestant and Catholic Christians have a knee-jerk reaction to this idea, saying ESP is the workings of Satan, a delusion or evidence of mental illness. However, in Catholicism some of the more advanced saints claim to have been given similar gifts, usually called the reading of hearts. Indeed, some Catholic mystics claim to know another’s thoughts and/or feel their emotions near or at a distance with no observable cues.
Reading of Hearts. The knowledge of the secret thoughts of others or of their internal state without communication is known as reading of hearts. The certain knowledge of the secret thoughts of others is truly super-natural, since the devil has no access to the spiritual faculties of men and no human being can know the mind of another unless it is in some way communicated. But knowledge of the secrets of another’s heart may be conjectured by the devil and transmitted to a person, or they may be surmised by a deluded individual who takes his conjectures to be supernatural illuminations.¹
From the above it should be clear that Catholics – or, at least, sane Catholics – are cautious when it comes to mysticism. Central to Catholic mysticism is the idea of discernment or “the discernment of spirits.” Discernment is said to be a gift and acquired ability that enables one to differentiate supernatural experiences and abilities that come from God from those that do not.
¹ AUMANN, J. “Mystical Phenomena.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 105-109. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.
- Empath (earthpages.wordpress.com)
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Underhill, Evelyn (1850-1941)
Respected British author on the subject of mysticism.
Underhill is often described as an Anglo-Catholic. Her book, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (1911) is widely regarded as a Christian classic.
Sincere mystics, she writes, are aware of the need for intense rational discernment and self-analysis.
Ecstasies, no less than visions and voices, must, they declare, be subjected to unsparing criticism before they are recognized as divine: whilst some are undoubtably “of God,” others are no less clearly “of the devil.”¹
In Practical Mysticism: A little book for normal people (1914), published at the outbreak of WW-I, Underhill makes a distinction between meditation and contemplation.
While these two terms often overlap, Underhill suggests that, for the most part, meditation may lead to more elevated forms of contemplative understanding. As Underhill puts it:
Now meditation is a half-way house between thinking and contemplating: and as a discipline, it derives its chief value from this transitional character.²
Arguably the strength of this definition is that it’s not ‘this or that,’ ‘black or white,’ as so many fundamentalists and conservatives depict the world. Rather, it represents a developmental approach. » Alice in Wonderland, Aurobindo (Sri), Clairaudience, Kabbala
¹ Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (New York: The New American Library, 1955 ), p. 361.
² ___, Practical Mysticism: A little book for normal people (London: Dent, 1914), p. 46.
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Alien Possession Theory (APT)
A corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit (Luke 6:43)
APT considers the possibility, commonly found within science fiction, that hostile extraterrestrials (ETs) from another world or realm may have a negative effect on psychologically vulnerable human individuals through the use of psi.
This alien invasion motif does not involve visible aggression as portrayed in H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids or Star Trek‘s Borg collective.
Instead, APT entertains the notion of a purely transpersonal colonization of the mind by malevolent ETs or evil spiritual beings (traditionally regarded as demons), which together are called negative spiritual influences (NSI).
According to APT, NSIs might convince individuals that they are better, special or chosen from the common herd partly by preying on unresolved inferiority complexes, bestowing paranormal abilities and promising to fulfil personal hopes and dreams.
From an Adlerian perspective, some victims of early psychological and/or physical abuse might compensate for deep-seated feelings of inferiority by believing they’re superior to others.
It’s probably easier for some to see themselves as chosen prophets or invaluable, inter-dimensional ambassadors instead of examining the psychological scars of childhood left behind from a dysfunctional family and/or oppressive political environment.
APT explores but does not assert as true or false the notion that NSI and related paranormal phenomena could exist.
Arlan K. Andrews summarizes a considerable number of reports suggesting that belief in the presence of ETs and UFOs, especially after first contact, is linked to a significant increase in psi abilities.¹
From the perspective of APT, any newfound abilities (e.g. telepathy, precognition, telekinesis) or perhaps the uncritical belief in such abilities could entice victims into regarding themselves as hereditarily above the rank and file.
In keeping with this idea, it is a historical fact that both violent tyrants and non-violent fanatics often believe they are uniquely privileged agents of God or some higher power.
In contemporary psychiatric parlance one might say that the pain of a childhood complex is repressed and supplanted by magical thinking that contributes to the development of sociopathy at one extreme or, at the other extreme, to harmless, non-violent daydreamers and religious zealots.
But APT favors a holistic approach over the psychiatric tendency to emphasize biological, psychological and social factors contributing to destructive mental illnesses or innocuous fantasies and delusions. Alleged paranormal phenomena such as ETs and psi are not necessarily explained away as hallucinations, fantasies or delusions born of so-called chemical imbalances, faulty genes, poor nutrition, stress, childhood trauma or some combination thereof.²
Again, APT recognizes the possibility that NSI and psi could exist. But rather than setting out to prove or disprove the existence of NSI and psi, APT is more concerned to practically assess the ethical attitudes and behavior linked to a given person or group’s beliefs about these, as of yet, unproven possibilities.
Thus APT examines whether or not observable attitudes and behavior support a person or group’s belief in the alleged goodness of supposed ET associates and the paranormal powers they allegedly bestow.
APT draws on the theological idea of ‘the discernment of spirits’ but its overall outlook is not necessarily restricted to traditional religious cosmologies.
Rather than limiting itself to the assumptions and parameters of a single discipline, APT builds on and attempts to integrate aspects of scientific, sociological, philosophical and theological discourse in order to advance knowledge and promote wellness in this intriguing and sometimes difficult area.
It should be stressed that APT is chiefly concerned with understanding and rectifying beliefs about ETs and psi that are deemed as potentially unhealthy and dysfunctional.
The notion that not just hostile but benevolent ETs may, indeed, exist is not ruled out. But APT places Husserlian brackets³ around any such truth-claims.
- See “Psychic Aspects of UFO’s” in Ronald Story, ed. The Encyclopedia of UFO’s. Doubleday & Co. Garden City, New York: 1980, pp. 286-289.
- The widespread belief, promotion and advertising of ideas like chemical imbalance and faulty genes has been critiqued from diverse sociological, philosophical and scientific perspectives.
- See “5. The phenomenological epoché” at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/husserl/#PheEpo
» 1984, Aliens, “ET’s, UFO’s and the Psychology of Belief,” UFOs
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Odysseus The hero of Homer‘s Odyssey who, while returning from the Trojan wars to Greece, finds himself involved in a series of life-threatening adventures. The tale represents the hero’s journey, often represented in folklore. This involves a trip to the underworld and overcoming a variety of harmful beings as well as possessing the maturity and discernment to recognize those who offer assistance. Odysseus is also referred to as Ulysses. » Cyclops, Odyssey (The), Sirens
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