CNN is reporting on the plight of Amanda Eller who said she felt “called” to “connect with nature and get grounded” by spending a free day hiking in the Makawao Forest Reserve on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Leaving her cell phone behind, she took off for what was supposed to be a pleasant three-mile hike but that soon turned into a nightmare she will never forget.
“I don’t really know what happened,” she told reporters. “All I can say is that … I have a strong sense of internal guidance, whatever you want to call that — a voice, Spirit, everybody has a different name for it. My heart was telling me walk down this path, go left. Great. Go right. It was so strong.”
She eventually sat down on a log to meditate and said the “voice” wasn’t as strong anymore so she decided to head back to the car. She tried one path, then another, and another, until finally realizing that she had no idea where she was.
“At that point I had no choice because everything looked the same. I said, ‘The only thing I have is my gut. I don’t have a compass. I don’t have a cell phone,'” she said. “‘So, Spirit,’ or whatever you want to pray to, I said, ‘I need your help right now.'”
Once again, instead of leading her back to her car, the “Spirit” she was praying to led her even further astray. The day ended and she was still lost. Another day of searching for her car ended the same way. She was forced to sustain herself by eating berries and drinking stream water. Seventeen days passed before searchers finally located her.
Eller spent two days in a hospital being treated for severe sunburn, a twisted knee and ankle problems.
No where does the devil wreak more mischief than in the area of discernment. It is so easy to be deceived that if one does not spend daily time in prayer becoming familiar with the voice of God, they will get as hopelessly lost as this yoga instructor. As St. Ignatius of Loyola taught, God does speak to us through various interior movements, our feelings, thoughts and desires – what the hiker referred to as her heart telling her to take a certain turn in the path – but if these “gut instincts” are not formed on the right foundation, the devil can easily use them to delude us.
The great Dominican theologian, Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, explains that following the right spirit produces good fruit, such as love, faith, humility, self-denial, etc. Following the wrong spirit, such as what happened to this unfortunate hiker, produces the kind of confusion that led her astray, as well as anger, doubt, pride, discord, and excess.
These guidelines on discernment from St. Ignatius are invaluable reading for anyone who wants to avoid delusion. Ignatian guidelines
This article gives a simple explanation for how to discern the spirits.
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