I’m working my way up to writing on St Ignatius of Loyola‘s Spiritual Exercises and the theme of discernment of spirits. Though in a way there’s something of a somewhat dry structuralism in his Sade/Fourier/Loyola, Roland Barthes‘ analysis of what work the Spiritual Exercises actually does as a text has a lot of value. To simplify things a little, Barthes observes that the text has various addressees, including the exercitant and the Divinity in addition to the director.

I’d like to say more on the structure of the work at a later point. Suffice to observe now that there are a number of appendices or supplements to the Exercises (more explicitly addressed to the director than the text proper) among which is the “Rules for the Discernment of Spirits”.

I’m still studying this text in its conjunction with the Exercises, but the Fifth Rule in the initial sequence struck me as very good advice indeed, for all sorts of conjunctures. So I’m resolved to try to heed it:

In time of desolation never to make a change; but to be firm and constant in the resolutions and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation, or in the determination in which he was in the preceding consolation. Because, as in consolation it is rather the good spirit who guides and counsels us, so in desolation it is the bad, with whose counsels we cannot take a course to decide rightly.