Discernment of Good Spirit and Evil Spirit

by Agnes Kioskli


In May 1981, a man was accused of killing 8 prostitutes. He said he was acting on orders from God. Brothers and sisters in Christ,  this is just one example of people who claim they have been told by God to do certain things.


How can we test them? We do it by what we call discernment of the Spirit.


According to St. Ignatius, there are two signs to judge: evil spirits act on the imagination and the senses, and the good spirit, upon reason and conscience.


Then they can be judge  by their mode of action and by the end they seek. The discernment of the spirit is part of everyone's spiritual journey. No one who is trying to make spiritual progress should attempt to do so alone - a spiritual director is required. One who assists us in examining the motives, desires, consolations, and desolation in one's life. But we have also to remember that the best spiritual director is God Himself.


Objectively, one can know what is right from looking at the Ten Commandments and the Seven deadly sins in a thorough examination of conscience.


Sometimes, the broader picture of one's life is often not clear. This is why we have to have a spiritual director to help us discern whether the good spirit (the influence of God, the Church, one's soul) or the bad spirit (the influence of Satan, the world, the flesh) is at work, requires calm, rational reflection.


The good spirit brings us to peaceful and joyful decisions. The bad spirit often brings us to make quick, emotional, conflicted decisions.


Our spiritual director can assist both by personal experience, listening with care, and giving an objective analysis.


For a thorough discernment of the Spirit, refer to St. Ignatius twenty three rules for discernment of spirits in his Spiritual Exercises Manual.


Have we ever felt impelled by God to do something? Did we test the spirit by seeking counsel of our Pastor or some other spiritual director? These are questions we need to ponder.