Ignatius of Loyola (c. October 23, 1490 – July 31, 1556) was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family. After being seriously wounded in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, he underwent a spiritual conversion while in recovery. De Vita Christi by Ludolph of Saxony purportedly inspired Loyola to abandon his previous military life and devote himself to labour for God, following the example of spiritual leaders such as Francis of Assisi. Between 1524 and 1537, Ignatius studied theology and Latin in the University of Alcalá and then in Paris. In 1534, he arrived in the latter city during a period of anti-Protestant turmoil which forced John Calvin to flee France. Ignatius and a few followers bound themselves by vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In 1539, they formed the Society of Jesus, approved in 1540 by Pope Paul III, as well as his Spiritual Exercises approved in 1548. Loyola also composed the Constitutions of the Society. He died in July 1556, was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1609, canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, and declared patron of all spiritual retreats by Pope Pius XI in 1922. Ignatius’ feast day is celebrated on July 31. Ignatius is a foremost patron saint of soldiers, the Society of Jesus, the Basque Country, and the provinces of Gipuzkoa and Biscay.
As we go through life, a complex system of images, ideas, attractions, revulsions flow through our minds most usually influencing us to make certain decisions regarding our life. For example an idea enters into our consciousness and we are either attracted to it and attempt to act upon it or we are repulsed by it and do nothing or the exact opposite of the idea. At times these concepts are akin to emotions, we are prone to act upon the idea based upon emotion. Saint Ignatius in his writings referred to these anomalous concepts in our minds as “spirits” and further categorized them as spirits of consolation and desolation. He observed that either consolation or desolation could draw you nearer to God or pull you from him.
Although there is considerably more to Saint Ignatius’ theories, one could surmise that he felt that positive “spirits” were from God and negative “spirits” were from the principalities of this world; the Devil.
The folks at http://www.ignatianspirituality.com have a considerable amount of useful information on this subject but for the purposes of our discussion today let us look at what Saint Ignatius referred to as discernment.
When anomalous thoughts enter our consciousness we would do well to ask ourselves where exactly did the concept originate. I remember as a young person—at only about 13 years of age—the idea entered into my mind that smoking was cool; in particular smoking a pipe. Books and other vintage periodicals, movies, television shows dating to the 50’s 60’s and early 70’s often portrayed pipe smokers as suave and debonair, men of refinement and class. Believing the ideas entering into my mind after perusing these materials I proceeded to develop the habit of pipe smoking. I suppose that St. Ignatius would say that this anomalous idea that entered into my mind was of the Devil, as smoking is not only a nasty habit it is dangerous to the health of the smoker and those around him/her. I made the decision to kick the habit the summer before my first heart attack. Perhaps if I had taken the time to properly discern the origin of the anomalous thought that smoking was cool, my health might be much better today. St. Ignatius wrote extensively on this subject and observations and explanations of his ideas can be found at http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/making-good-decisions/discernment-of-spirits/
Do you feel that you make good choices in life? Have you noted ideas “popping” into your head so to speak and when you act upon these ideas you later wish that you had not? Have you ever taken a moment to pray and contemplate on an idea; attempting to discern if that idea is of divine origin or demonic? Read http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/making-good-decisions/
We have an unbelievable high number of people that claim to hear voices, both internally and externally. While in the United States those that seek professional help are usually diagnosed as Schizophrenic or some other mental classification; conversely in other countries a small but growing number of people are willing to entertain the idea that not everyone who hears voices are suffering from a mental condition, but perhaps some other condition not limited to but including spiritual oppression. With the number of people committing suicide rising and many of those victims complaining of hearing anomalous voices before attempting to take their life, we would well to at least consider—that in some cases—the possibility of something beyond rational thought is occurring. Again I ask have you had ideas enter into your thought process that were contrary to traditional values or contrary to your own goodwill and health. Perhaps you need to read the links above and explore enhanced spiritual techniques such as those devised by Satin Ignatius.