“Discernment of spirits” – Dealing with Desolation – 1

What do we do if we discern that we are in Desolation?

This means that we have discovered that, though we are generally disposed to line ourselves with God’s desire, we are at the moment turned in on ourselves and away from God; that we are pursuing our own ends; that we are protecting ourselves; that we are closing ourselves down. If this is what we intend, then our feelings reinforce that, and we continue to pursue our personal satisfaction because we feel good about it. From the point of view of the spiritual journey, this is indeed “Desolation,” because we have not understood a thing about God’s call. If we are just beginning our spiritual journey, we might want to beware of such euphoric states when we savour our gains, our successes, our victories, we might begin to see the ultimate emptiness that our euphoria tries to cover up. If we are intent on moving towards God, and away from our Egos. dealing with Desolation is straightforward: the first point to remember is that desolation is temporary. The second point is that, as with everything, even this desolation is “gift,” i.e., we can learn a great deal from it. Through our desolation we can learn a great deal about our journey towards our Divine Self. In the process we slowly learn the difference between true and false consolation: false consolation leaves us displeased and causes discouraging thoughts; true consolation brings us great joy, precipitates encouraging thoughts, and gives us inner strength to counteract temptation. Through the experience of consolation and desolation, not only are our deeper areas of unfreedom purified but also our various “disordered attachments” are likewise slowly freed. Through this struggle, we acquire greater interior freedom and a deeper understanding of interior movements. Through this process, we learn the way our Ego operates and we can develop concrete ways to deal with the desolation.

Ignatius devised two types of counterattacks: action counterattacks and attitudinal counterattacks. With these techniques, we can face the “temptations of the Ego” boldly at all levels of our inner being – in thought, in prayer, and in behaviour. A strong and persistent counterattack can dissipate the tyrannical and fierce power of these temptations. Our Ego is subtle – it has had millennia to develop a self-protective device to enhance its stature! When the obvious Ego ploys fail to draw us back into ourselves and away from our openness to the Divine, then that unfree area within us will try secret and manipulative ways. The only way to handle secrets is to bring them out in the open. The only way to deal with the Shadow is to shine as much Divine Light onto it as we can. Bringing this in the open means naming it for ourselves, but much more, it means talking about it. We are most likely to “give in” to the wiles of the Ego at our most vulnerable and weak areas, that is, those areas that are not yet in the light of God’s grace.