How to tell if it's a vision or voice of God or just illusion or mental sickness?

First Question: Disposition

The disposition of the person receiving the apparition is what’s to be considered first. If they are rigid, closed and very hostile to other interpretations, then maybe they’re not hearing from God after all. Anyone who is healthy mentally, and hears a voice and is attuned to God will know there’s any number of explanations of the phenomenon. Most times when the person has no freedom and open to the possibility they’re not hearing what they think they are, them maybe they’re suffering from some mental or even emotional problems and not getting any spiritual visitation. Resistance to other explanations, self-defense and self-faith in such matter is dangerous and a bad sign. Anyone who really is healthy and is open to God will consider other possibilities too, before even slightly thinking of a spiritual explanation. They must go from natural to the supernatural.

Second: Orientation; Enmity

Do you remember the story of St Faustina? As a matter of fact the stories of all the Saints who had the gift of visions can help us a lot in this case. However, Faustina was told by Christ that she must follow the counsel of her spiritual director even when it was different from that of Christ himself. Most of the times people who claim to see visions tend to become proud and stubborn to the authority of the Church hierarchy.

A Story

There was a young man in my childhood neighborhood, in Enugu Nigeria. He was from my parish and was part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. At one point, this man was said to be able to see visions and perform miracles. However, he went on to begin a “ministry” outside of the regular meetings of the Church group mentioned above. It went even further: when the Bishop of the diocese of Enugu called him to order, gave him directives, he refused and believed rather in his own visions. He later left the Church, started his own quasi-church and many people flocked to him.

Then one day, he just disappeared. At that time people started hearing many rumors of how he was caught talking to something that looked like a vulture after which he ran away. Yeah, I realize many wouldn’t even think this is possible, and i am one of those, but the lesson is: those who hear from God do not reject the Church. They would not see those who question or test the spirit speaking to them as personal enemies or even God’s enemies. They see them as well-meaning people who want to know the truth. It is very dangerous when such people start thinking they’re God’s definitive voice on earth and therefore anyone who goes against them, goes against God. Reminds me of my saying:

“It is not always about who you think you are; someone once thought he was God, now he is Satan”

Warning: the devil can disguise as heavenly

There have been stories of many saints who were visited by the master of hell in the guise of Christ, Mary and other Saints. However, one of the things that always helped them was, they were able to test these spirits. Whenever a saint as counseled to disobey an order, they know FOR SURE it wasn’t God. Whenever the apparition countered any predefined Catholic Doctrine or spoke ill of the Pope or the Bishops in communion with him, the knew this was proof of the presence of the Evil One. They always listened to the counsel and advice of their spiritual fathers. They were always open to the fact that it could be safer to doubt than believe in the authenticity of their visions.

Tough advice

St Francis the Sales is known to counsel his proteges to ask God to take away such gifts. As they are unnecessary for salvation, and can even cause some immature people to fall out of faith by becoming proud. I am one of those who have taught this. There have been times when i heard weird voices and all i did was ignore them and they later went away. The reason is, i am one of those who vehemently teach that it might be unhealthier than healthy to entertain such gift. And i believe too that it might be presumptuous or at least slightly sinful to desire such extra ordinary gifts.

I want to lead a normal life, no confusions, no need for headaches. With an eye on God and the other on his works on earth, so there won’t be need to start stressing my heart as to the meanings of voices and visions.

Finally; more thoughts on the matter:

  • Any vision or voice that tells you to go off on your own isn’t from God. God always gathers; he never scatters.
  • Any vision or voice that encourages enmity and quarrel isn’t from God. Therefore, God doesn’t tell people the evil others are doing so they’d hate them. God isn’t a spy.
  • God would never encourage you to hate Mary, or the Saints
  • God would never encourage anything sinful (Goes without saying).
  • God would never indirectly or directly dissuade you from praying
  • God would never tell you not to help others.

Anything God tells you must be be to love; to be a good Catholic and to pray for the Pope and the Church. Anything remotely contrary to these isn’t from God. You also need to have an experienced priest to help guide and counsel you.

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