The Passion and Illusions

There are people who fancy they have visions. Such fancies are dangerous, for through them the devil seeks to deceive; he does not proceed hurriedly, but quietly, the better to ensnare poor, foolish heads.

Those visions, elevations, and lights are seldom genuine. Hence, says a great saint, "it is always best to reject them, to distrust them, particularly in the case of women, whose imagination is most vivid." In acting thus, we act well, because, if they come from God, they will not fail to produce their effect, even though we ignore them; and if they come from the devil, which is more probable, we guard ourselves, in rejecting them, against illusion.

Those locutions are very dangerous, and I cannot approve of them. I shall tell you the reason, founded on the little experience which God has given me. What necessity is there that God should reveal to a novice that He desires from the novices more fervor in their Communions? Is it, perchance, that their master, with the aid of the lights that God has given him for his office, does not know it himself? And again: does he not know that God is greatly offended chiefly by sacrileges? You see that this locution is not necessary. God makes revelations only in view of His glory and the needs of holy Church; and as we can learn these things from holy books, from the experience God gives us, and, principally, by the light He gives those that hold offices, there is no reason for desiring to learn by locutions.

When God speaks to souls by lights or impressions, in an angelic manner, without articulated words, His communications are sublime, being purely intellectual. In this case God speaks with great majesty, and His word produces wonderful effects.

When locutions are accompanied by interior articulated words, and they are spoken by God, or, as is more usually the case, by an angel speaking in the name of his sovereign Master, then also the words are sublime and majestic; they make a marvellous impression, and raise the soul to God.

Of a hundred, and perhaps a thousand, of these articulated locutions, there is hardly one genuine. It is difficult, even for spiritual masters, to discern the true from the false, those of the Spirit of truth from those of the devil, who knows so well how to feign effects like in appearance to those of the Spirit of God. Therefore it is best to enjoin on him who has them to drive them away, to humble himself before God, and to protest that faith, with the Scriptures and the advice of his spiritual father, who speaks in God's name, are sufficient for him. Thus he glorifies God in distrusting himself, in humbling himself, in esteeming himself unworthy of such favors, and is thereby freed from illusion.

The gifts of God produce a profound knowledge of His infinite majesty, a deep sense of our own nothingness, a sincere detachment from all created things, a great love for the cross and sufferings, a particular inclination for prayer, and an exact obedience in everything that is not sin.

On the contrary, if locutions proceed from the devil, they seem at first to inspire devotion, but the sentiment does not last: they give rise to a secret presumption and self-esteem; they are followed sooner or later by inquietude of mind and the awakening of the passions.

- text taken from Flowers of the Passion, taken from the letters of Saint Paul of the Cross