Chapter 8: Of the hindrances to a Right Discernment of Things, and of the method to be adopted in order to understand them properly
(text below) (click for full book)
The famous expression “If it feels good, do it.” This chapter cuts that down, fast. Our guide teaches us that if we are ruled by our inclinations we will surely be led astray. This chapter cuts prophetically into the culture of today, which elevates the following of inclinations and shies away from evaluating things in the light of known truths. The good of sensed or felt pleasure is placed above the good of truth.
The example of a child is helpful in this regard. A child is a slave of inclination and will cry out to be satisfied. The role of the parent is not to satisfy the child simply to satisfy the child, but to lead the child to that which is actually good for the child. This takes a long time, and experience has shown that many parents give up the fight over time, tired of trying over and over to train the child.
And so it is with our inclinations. They will cry out and cry out, but our guide encourages us to train them according to that which is actually good, rather than that which is seemingly good.
Again, human resources are put in their proper place, and Scupoli gives us the true tools for this endeavor, grace and prayer. The light of the Holy Spirit will assist us to look into the truth of things presented to us. The word of the Lord to Samuel, when Samuel was to find David as the anointed one, assists our understanding of this chapeter: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). This prophetic word is regarding the outward appearance of man, but it is also helpful for the evaluation of all things. We need to see all things in the way that God wants them to be seen, the way that He sees them. And so, we are to stop evaluating things according to their appearance, their first impression upon us, but we must come to see them as they truly are, with a purified understanding of their true worth.
Chapter 8 text:
The cause of our not rightly discerning all these things and many others is, that we conceive a love or hatred of them at first sight. Our understanding is thus darkened, so that it cannot judge of them correctly.
Lest you fall into this delusion, take all possible care to keep your will pure and free from inordinate affection for any thing whatsoever.
When any object, then, is presented to you, view it with your understanding; and consider it maturely before you are moved by hatred to reject it, if it be a thing contrary to your inclinations, or by love to desire it, if it be pleasing to them.
For thus the understanding, being unclouded by passion, will be free and clear, and able to perceive the truth, and to discern the evil which lurks behind delusive pleasure and the good which is veiled under the appearance of evil.
But if the will be first inclined to love or hate any thing, the understanding will be unable to exercise a right judgment upon it. For the affection which has thus intruded itself so obscures the understanding, that it views the object as other than it is, and by thus representing it to the will, influences that faculty, in contradiction to every law and rule of reason, to love or hate it inordinately. The understanding is gradually darkened more and more, and in this deepening obscurity the object appears more and more hateful or lovely to the will.
Hence, if this most important rule be not observed, these two faculties, the understanding and the will, noble and excellent as they are, will soon sink in a miserable descent from darkness into thicker darkness, and from error into deeper error.
Guard yourself most vigilantly, then, from all inordinate affection for anything whatever, until you have first tested it by the light of the understanding, and chiefly by that of grace and prayer, and by the judgment of your spiritual father.
And this is to be observed most carefully with regard to such outward works as are good and holy, because the danger is greatest here of delusion and indiscretion.
Hence you may here receive serious injury from some circumstance of time, or place, or degree, or regarding obedience; as has been proved by many, who have incurred great danger in the performance of commendable and holy exercises.
Chapter 9: Of another danger from which the Understanding must be guarded…