I am currently working on a project in which I am re-writing, from my perspective and interpretation, a book written in 1589 AD by Lorenzo Scupoli entitled, The Spiritual Combat. I am rewriting this book for two reasons. First, it is a classic and the truth it has to offer is as valid today as it was when it was written (however it does need updating). The second reason is that our Enemy has not gone away and is perhaps more effective in carrying out its diabolical plots now than ever before.
My heart goes out to those who serve in churches where, because of the church’s size, they are vulnerable to continuous attacks from within and without. The smaller consumer based churches are clergy killers. Also, my heart goes out to the multitude of individuals in churches who are starving spiritually or are undernourished do to a diet of watered down beliefs and meaningless traditions.
I am also deeply grieved at what is being passed off as “spiritual direction” in our current culture. Most of it is at best a fusion of new age thought, situational ethics, pseudo-counseling, and a consumer oriented mentality. To speak about the possibility of the presence of personified evil quickly draws glances of criticism and disbelief.
I personally have turned my focus back toward a more biblically based spiritual direction and the tools offered by Ignatian spirituality. For me, the need for the discernment of spirits is perhaps one of the most important practices a spiritual director may offer to others.
One of the key aspects of Scupoli’s work is his emphasis on understanding the danger of self-deception. In a quote from “thegospelcoalition.org”, “Self-deception is a fundamental experience and the starting point of philosophy since Socrates. This article discusses a few aspects of self-deception as a theological concept. Self-deception is closely related to sin, often creates false assurance of salvation, and is caused by disordered love. Diligent effort to gain self-awareness is vitally important to prevent self-deception. We can counteract self-deception by acknowledging its pervasive and universal presence, opening ourselves to self-examination and questioning, and avowing disavowed engagements. God often uses trials to bring us out of self-deception.”
I have come to believe that self-deception is the root sin of all sins. I believe this is the primary tool the enemy uses today against us. We seek certainty that we can never obtain and thus deceive ourselves when we think we find it. The only way to avoid such self-deception is to recognize the danger, engage in critical self-examination, seek the aid of a competent spiritual director, and develop a disposition toward humility that can equip us for the storms we now face that just will not end.