Take Discernment of spirits | A talk by Valerie Brown
A horse will come to a halt and even rear up when it senses danger, a haunting or evil. A dog or cat (or most other animals come to that) can sense who to trust and who not. And they know what love is. They don't have to think about it, they just 'know'. We say they have a 'sixth sense'. And we envy them because we humans have all but blocked it out. The trouble is that we put too heavy an emphasis on the rational approach. And overthinking has made us unbalanced. The person with true discernment uses both aspects of human understanding, the rational with instinctive wisdom alongside.
Sadly, not only do we reason things out of existence, but if our brains never stop, if they are continually cluttered by our own thoughts, words, memories, assumptions, then we can't access this resource. We have to stop thinking, open ourselves out to the other, then look – looking perhaps with our eyes closed before looking again with them open. And then, like our fellow creatures we too might be able to distinguish true from false, innocent from guilty, the wholesome from the unhealthy.
But it isn't just about looking. It's about listening too. One of my favourite antiphons from the Divine Office is, 'Let us listen for the voice of the Lord and enter into his peace.' The act of really listening takes us out of ourselves into the sphere of the other, whether God or another human being. And the brain falls silent, creating a sacred space where, two 'others' become one, through the sharing of that moment.
This is the beginning of a real relationship with God, taking us into the communion of saints and direct relationships with the Mother of God, Saint Joseph and even the angels. And then, more than ever, we will need to practise discernment of spirits. The oneness lets us hear the inner voice of the other, feel his or her feelings ; but which other ? Who or what am I hearing ? Is it the voice of God, or is it the voice of a spirit trying to fool me into thinking I'm hearing the Lord's voice in order to lead me up the garden path ? Or, is it my own inner voice ? Am I in fact just talking to myself ? We have to become familiar with the real deal. And we have to practise checks and balances.
Do not act on what you have heard unless you are sure of it. And if you are not, if you doubt, then wait. If the message is real, you will hear it again and even a third time. The rule of three is confirmation. Or if your know someone you can trust in spiritual terms, you can ask him or her to check it out in their prayer time and see what they say. But the best way of knowing is by the peace in your own heart. A message from God, whether via angels, Mary or a saint, however unpalatable the content, always leaves peace in the heart, while a message from the opposition brings disturbance. The heart is wiser than our heads.
And if we are still in doubt we can even pray from our hearts. Only let your thoughts sink down into your heart. Then start praying. And then listen. Our hearts have ears too. Listen from your heart. So we come closer to the wisdom of all creatures. We have broken down the barrier of our own egos, our over active brains and become simple like little children. Discernment of spirits is not something to be worked on either spiritually or intellectually. It's about being.
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