The Difficulties of Spiritual Discernment


"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" 1 John 4:1 

One of the purposes of creating this website was to help those of the Christian faith or on a spiritual path to discern the many paths and spiritual choices we have today and to make an informed choice in our religious studies and beliefs that will take us closer to God—not further away. Traditionally, asking for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is part of the Christian life. Some denominations, like the Pentecostals focus more on receiving the gifts, while some, sadly, like the Catholic Church don't focus at all on receiving them.

There are nine gifts of the Holy Spirit (the Catholic Church lists seven) St. Paul speaks about receiving. (1 Cor 12:1) While they are all important, I am focusing here on the one gift of Discernment of Spirits. This gift imparts a supernatural revelation or insight into the realm of spirits to detect them and their plans and to, when necessary, read the minds of men. The gift can also help you recognize whether or not something is truly from God or in accordance with His righteousness. Thus, this gift from the Holy Spirit gives discernment to enable a Christian to clearly recognize and distinguish between the influence of God, Satan, the world, and the flesh in a given situation.

The Greek word for the gift of discernment is Diakrisis.  The word describes being able to distinguish, discern, judge or appraise a person, statement, situation, or environment.  In the New Testament it describes the ability to distinguish between spirits as in 1 Corinthians 12:10, and to discern good and evil as in Hebrews 5:14. Basically, the gift of discernment gives us the ability to judge well. Whether its choices we make or people we interact with, discernment is the gift of recognizing the moral and practical consequences of our decisions.

I have experienced the Holy Spirit guiding me most of my life. Yet, like this gift of discernment you cannot prove to anyone that your thoughts, beliefs or actions are the result of God's intervention and guidance in your life. Only you can have the faith in what you receive as true. I had just finished this article and I was about to do a spell check when I looked at my computer clock and it read Dec 1 11:11 so I took a snapshot not thinking that I would mention it in this article but just as a memento in seeing all those ones. As I continued to get this article ready for publication I realized that also last night, as I was writing, I looked up at my digital clock thinking I needed to look at the time because it must be past bedtime, and it read 11:11 p.m., then earlier in the day as I was working on this article I had looked up and it read 1:11 p.m.

I had asked God days earlier what He wanted me to write about and I was inspired to write about an evil that was attached to a nun who had many mystical experiences and how no one recognized she was a fraud. Discernment was either lacking in the individuals who believed in her or the readers need the discernment now to know whether the story as told is true and that this is what actually happened.

As I began writing this article, and all the way to the completion, I did not end up writing about the nun at all. Yet I took the first step to do so with the thought of connecting her story to why it is important to have discernment and yet finished without a mention of her. My confirmation that the Holy Spirit was with me was the three times my eyes met those times in less than 24-hours and this morning not just three, not just four, but five ones. From my understanding, 11 11 seems to be the number of spiritual awakening, signifying that you are on the right path and your actions are aligned with your soul’s purpose.

St. Augustine said "Numbers are the Universal language offered by the deity to humans as confirmation of the truth." God does speak through numbers. I shared some thoughts on this in a recent article on the use of the number seven in the Bible. Thus, I understand this was a message to me that I was supported in my subject choice and writing. What preceded this choice was a direction I received days ago that I was to write about something else! I finished that writing but then I began to feel doubts that this direction was true and for days after I prayed for enlightenment as to whether this was true or not. I concluded it was not true and that the first guidance must have been wrong (or a test for some purpose my outer mind is not aware of).

(Update: I uploaded this article at 1:08 p.m. and the two links to access it at 1:10 p.m. and the other main page link was completed at 1:12 p.m. I noticed the clock read 1:13 p.m. when I closed my computer and I thought that was odd it was so close to 1:11, why I didn't see it? When I had time later I went back to the computer and looked at the upload times and found those times. Which means the second link was being uploaded at 1:11 p.m. and either because I was busy doing the upload that I was not inspired to look at the clock then or I did not need to see the time as it was recorded on my computer and that the more significant point was that the article was completed first at 11:11 a.m. and then uploaded and available exactly at 1:11 p.m. What are the odds of looking at the clock on one day and catching two separate digital times with all ones and the next day finishing the article and looking at the clock exactly at 11:11 and then without intention, get it ready for publication and the links uploaded two hours later at exactly 1:11 p.m.?)

This message from God or the Universe may not be considered the result of the gift of discernment as strictly defined, yet, I do feel the message to me is loud and clear. We need to have spiritual discernment or the devil and his agents can lead us astray under the guise of being God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit or one of the saints in heaven. After I wrote the first article and was waiting for the inner guidance as to what was real or not to write about I read a near-death experience which gave me doubts about its authenticity. It was not that person was lying but that he/she was being lied to. And that brought up the question I had been considering for some time, what experiences on the other side are real and why are they so varied?

The individual in this near-death experience practiced meditation seriously and one night they were in meditation by their bedside after being woke up at 3 a.m. by what they believed was of the Light and then supposedly during the meditation their heart stopped. (Just as a side note, according to a Catholic exorcist, the devil seems especially to come around at three a.m. “It’s a mockery of the hour of Passion” he said. so we need to be able to discern whether a supposedly "spiritual" experience at 3 a.m. is from the light or the devil.)

After this person said their heart stopped during their meditation they then left their body and had a life review. They also met Jesus and experienced the unconditional love so many near-death experiencers talk about. They definitely had issues with self-esteem and had serious thoughts of suicide before their NDE. They appeared in their story to be a very spiritual person who loved God. Their father had passed on three weeks before their birth and a large focus of their early life was to meet their biological father, even if he was in heaven, somehow, someway they would meet him during this life. They also wanted the love they felt Jesus had and to be like Him giving out that love.

Then, in their thirties, at a very low period in their life, they came across the book The Jeshua Letters, by Jon Marc Hammer. I personally had never heard of the book or author, but as the near-death experiencer explained they felt a parallel with the author's life experiences, and thereby resonated highly with the book. Upon looking up the book and author I found that Hammer related that he was reunited with 'Jeshua' (Jesus) while meditating in his living room. This, he said, began a relationship whereby for the next twenty years he channeled Jeshua and wrote several books. Hammer and his wife started a foundation on these "mystical teachings of Christ" called the Shanti Christo Foundation but he has since withdrawn his membership due to a message from his Jeshua to do so.

What I learned was that Hammer and his wife had both been to channelers in their past and were open to channeled messages. He also had let go of Christianity and had been studying Eastern religions and practices: Zen Buddhism, Hinduism and especially years of Yogic exercises, endless mantras to empty the mind and astral travel. Then the messages began similar to The Course of Miracles. Some of the messages his Jeshua gave him said they were to correct the original context in the Bible and that the Bible did contain many seeds of wisdom, implying the BIble contained some seeds but not the original wisdom of God. In other words, the Bible was not the inspired word of God because of the tamporing of humans and Jeshua was going to give Marc the truth in what had been lost. Sound familiar?

Fast forward after the NDE meeting Jesus in the spirit while meditating at 3 a.m. and supposedly dying. One day his girlfriend gifted him with a book, The Course of Miracles another book supposedly channeled from Jesus Christ through Helen Schucman, a Jewish atheist psychologist. This person read the entire book and went on to complete three or more years of post-secondary education and training through the Course of Miracles trainers. As I came to this point in the NDE story I was baffled. It was incongruent to me that someone could go to "heaven" and meet the real Jesus, experience the real Light and the Love of God and come back only to take up where he had left off, following a false Messiah, first in Hammer's "Jeshua" and then in Helen's "Jesus". I am no longer baffled. The Course in Miracle students are open to Hammer's Jesus and likewise Hammer's students to The Course in Miracles. They say the two dovetail together. My discernment tells me that this was not the real Light and Christ in the NDE.

I Am the Way
Jesus said many things that have great importance to being a God-like being and following the path of Christ. But by far one of the most powerful statements for Christians that Jesus made and quoted in John 14:6 was: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Was Jesus claiming that he was the only way to God the Father? As in every verse and word of the Bible we are free to interpret them according to our own understanding. Grant you, even though we have free will to do so, we are admonished to read the Bible by setting aside our own limiting beliefs and understanding and to get the Holy Spirit who will enlighten us to the truth.

Apparently, due to the effects of the depravity of man, the "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged” (1 Cor 2:14-15). One Bible commentary explained what St. Paul might mean by "natural man". It meant "those who are governed and influenced by the natural instincts; the animal passions and desires, in opposition to those who are influenced by the Spirit of God." Paul goes on to say we may have the "mind of Christ" to know the mind of the Lord (1 Cor 2:16). God has revealed true wisdom of the mind of Christ to us by his Spirit. No one can know the things of God, but his Spirit, who is one with the Father and the Son, and who makes known Divine mysteries to us (1 Cor 2:11).

So with the Spirit helping us understand the meaning of "I am the way", Jesus is saying He is the leader along the way, the guide, teacher and the example to all. Hence, the way to God IS God, shown and taught through the one sent, "For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col 2:9). Jesus said to the blind man he had healed and to all in His presence, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind" (John 9:39). The blind man had awakened not only from physical blindness but spiritual blindness and believed Jesus was the Son of God. Yet the Pharisees were so puffed up in their wisdom, they could see physically but were spiritually blind. Jesus' coming brought light where darkness abided, especially in the hearts of some men. His light was a testing of what was false and what was true, and as men accepted or rejected Him they pronounced a judicial sentence upon themselves. That light judged no man, and yet by it every man was judged.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God" (John 3:16-21).

This above verse is not contradictory to "For judgment I am come". One is either saved through belief or judged by the Light. The coming of Jesus into the world clarifies that unbelief is our choice, and belief is God’s gift or grace, if we accept it. The Son did not come to the world to save a select few, as possibly the Jews believed being the chosen people. He came to save the world. John uses the word "world" here to mean the all-encompassing circle of men and women who inhabit this planet, not the animals and plant life. It is the people who embrace darkness habitually. This then becomes the act of judgment as Jesus is the light of the world. (John 8:12) Thus, those who hate the light hide from the light and even battle the light trying to bring it down (i.e. killing the messenger).The darkness launches a battle that brings about its own defeat.

Do All Spiritual Paths Lead to God?
While other religions have their divine leaders there are none that can compare completely with Jesus, his life and mission as the Only Begotten Son of God. Do all religions lead to God? Absolutely not. And as I write that statement I am assailed by forces of darkness aghast that I made that statement. As mentioned in a recent previous article I receive body symptoms that either connect me with God or with impostors of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the Light. Sometimes they are a sign of a spiritual attack as mentioned in this article. I have to discern whether this symptom is from God or from someone or something evil. So I had to spend several minutes praying and calling in the name of Jesus for the judgment of this attack and the darkness behind it. I discerned this was not from God. I had, and have, to discern, as Hammer and this NDE individual needed to do in order to know whether their experiences and what they witnessed were from the true love of God. Both individuals, in this example, were fixated on the "love" aspect of their messages and experiences. Whereas, Jesus often spoke of judgment while walking and teaching the true path of love.

Now here is the key to the love that New Agers and many people on the spiritual path and those that experience NDEs seek. The light and love are one. Many have experienced that light and hence, love, and what they relate to others as "unconditional" love. To New Agers unconditional love is the epitome of their path and the key to life's goal for universal peace. Yet as some wise men have realized through their gift of wisdom, this light that is one with love judgeth no man, and yet by it every man is judged.

Many only interpret that light as love, and not just the word "love" but "unconditional love". It is that unconditional love that is their "savior" that will unite the world and all therein and that will overcome evil and any sense of separation or duality. It will also overcome any judgment of themselves and others. All they need to do is believe and be this "unconditional love" towards everyone and everything, as they have experienced God's light loving them within their spiritual experiences. Yet, almost universally there is mention that there is "no judgment" in that love which is described as unconditional.

This article is not about what is divine love, unconditional love and the difference from any human love. It would take more than a few paragraphs to describe the meaning of love. The Pharisees who were among those who witnessed Jesus' healing of the blind man remained spiritually blind. When that Light (Love) Jesus brought shone upon the people it resulted in different reactions. For the blind man he saw that he lacked spiritual sight, not only his physical sight. For the Pharisee's they saw physically and yet were blind spiritually. They put the Law above love and turned away from "the Light of this world" that was also the great Light of God that "judges all things" (1 Cor 2:14-15).

During the life reviews that NDEs relate they have, the Light reveals their good and bad intentions of their life on earth. While they experience no judgment from the Light of their actions, only experiencing being bathed in "unconditional love", they themselves experience their spiritual eyes being opened and they see and witness their sins and misdeeds and the evil connected to them. In essence, their sins are judged—by them. They do not love their sins and neither does God. What they experience is being loved by God regardless of their sins, acts or deeds. Yet, no one can be saved by their deeds alone.

Returning to why all religions or paths do not lead to God, if your eyes are spiritually open you will see drastic and irreconcilable differences between Christianity and other belief systems. In Christianity, salvation comes through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and not through human effort (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Romans 4:4-8). Jesus said that nobody could do anything to merit heaven and that we're all guilty of wrongdoing. This does not mean we do not do good works, only that we cannot save ourselves. In order to grow in Christ we have to do good works but we also have to have faith in Christ. By not focusing on "good works" alone we avoid being trapped by pride and self-righteousness in thinking we are better than others because we are saved by our actions and thereby our actions make us superior to others.

All other religions teach salvation by human effort or goodness. In Buddhism, you break the wheel of rebirth and reach Nirvana through your own right actions. Similarly, in Hinduism you reach oneness with Brahman through many lifetimes of choosing different paths to that union, coupled with many religious acts and rituals and the observance of appropriate behavior. For Jews, it is not a religion that focuses on a spiritual world somewhere down the road. Their focus is on this present world, where life is right action as they individually and collectively participate in certain rituals, prayers and ethical actions to obtain union with God. For Muslims, the way to Paradise is following the Quran and winning the satisfaction of Allah.

Also, some look at the purpose of different religions as fulfilling the need to respond to different cultural problems in history. Therefore, each religion offers a different solution with different techniques for moving from the problem to a solution, and have different exemplars who show us how to get to the solution. Christians would then have faith and good works, and their exemplars would be saints or people of extraordinary faith. Another example would be Buddhists who use the technique of the Eightfold Path, and their exemplars would then be arhats, bodhisattvas, or lamas.

God made it clear many times in the Old Testament that there were other gods and religions not of His own true being. They were not all worshiping one God but many different gods. It is possible that for example, Allah in Islam is not the God of Abraham. St. Paul said, "that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons" (1 Cor. 10:20). What Paul is claiming is simply a continuation of what God had already revealed in the Old Testament. Moses taught that there was only one true God in Israel, Yahweh, who revealed himself by his word.

Having the spiritual gift of discernment
As one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, discernment is a crucial part of following the teachings of the Bible and knowing how the Holy Spirit can help us against the demonic spirits impacting our earthly realm. St. Paul spoke of these forces of darkness that were not of the earth. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). In other words, there are forces of darkness that we do not see that have greater power over us than the evil people in the world. Yet, Satan uses people to do evil in the world and as long as they are controlled by this darkness in high places they will not stop.

Paul warned the Corinthians that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Here is where discernment is very necessary for our spiritual path. It could very well be that The Course of Miracles was channeled from Jesus to Helen. My presentation in that linked article speaks of the reasons why it is highly unlikely. By their fruits (Matt. 7:16), we are told, we can know the wolves in sheep's clothing, the false prophets. Jesus' words here are a powerful warning that there actually are impostors of Him who come in His name. Jesus repeats the words, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” What we know is that it takes time for trees to bear fruit and time to notice that they are not bearing any fruit at all. Consequently, it may take time for us to uncover a false teacher or teaching. Sometimes we can discern the truth earlier when we hear words that contradict the Bible.

Helen's "Jesus" said that ego (not God) created the world. The world we see is an illusion, and God does not know it exists. Jesus is merely "an elder brother entitled to respect for his greater experience." Jesus also is said to have told the authors that the Bible is in error. Jesus' words in the Bible on forgiveness are wrong; "forgiveness" is simply recognizing that sin does not exist and therefore there is nothing to forgive. According to Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations With God, Satan and demons are nonexistent; there are no morals; God has no opinions and makes no judgments; we are free to do whatever makes us feel good.

I heard practically the same thing through my former husband's teachings from his "Jesus" that he channeled and from what he spoke to me after our separation. When I offered forgiveness and suggested we forgive one another he responded, "I have no need to forgive you, for I have not allowed myself to feel that you have hurt me or done anything to me. Feeling hurt is a state of consciousness that originates in myself, and since I desire to be free, I live in a state of perpetual forgiveness.” At his deposition in answer to my attorney's question, "Do you think God condones your relationship with Helen?" he said, "You know what? That concept is not even in my world of view." In answer to the question, "So God doesn’t condone or condemn adultery?" His answer, "Right. Those are the decisions that we have to make ourselves."

Trusting Without Discernment
We also must have discernment through the gift of the Holy Spirit beyond what we visually see. There may be physical abundance, soft-spoken words, or a loving appearance that can lure us into believing we have met a person of Christ. With our spiritual eyes open we can see beyond and beneath these outer accouterments to what may lie hidden beneath the surface. A tree must bear good fruit or fruit of its own kind as God-ordained, or we are facing something evil.

An example of this hidden evil is in connection with Jon Marc Hammer's Shanti Christo Foundation. Hammer and his wife incorporated it in 1994. They divorced in 1998 and his wife continued as one of the three board members. One of the board members suggested that another man, Dr. Kennedy, join their board and contribute his expertise in business management. Being a group with an unconditional love philosophy they trusted the new member as one of their own with the same heart and kindness as they believed everyone in their group had. Yet they were soon to discover that Dr. Kennedy had quite a charismatic spiritual persona and was masterful at the art of persuasion, all for his own devious ends.

Dr. Kennedy soon got in a disagreement with one of the other board members and convinced the other two members to have her resign and then to keep the whole matter confidential between the remaining board members. He then convinced the two remaining board members to create another nonprofit foundation, the original for teaching materials, and the new one, The Sanctuary, would focus on the retreat center and the 660 acres of land for it. All would be transferred to the new foundation. Part of the convincing was in connection with Hammer, her former husband and his brief imprisonment in the past and how that might hinder donations.

Dr. Kennedy then insisted that all their bank accounts, bookkeeping, and financial records switch to his bookkeeper because their bookkeeper was too inept. Two new bank accounts were open with Dr. Kennedy and his bookkeeper as signees. From there they had the Foundation, land and monies all under their control. Kennedy stopped board meetings and used divide and conquer techniques between the two remaining board members. He did not cooperate in sharing any financial information. Needless to say, it took hiring an attorney and many months of trying to get any cooperation from Dr. Kennedy to get the matter resolved and the return of all assets to the original Foundation. After finally getting a meeting with Kennedy they realized he was a very clever con man. It took two years to finally get the matter resolved in court.

In the matter of channeling, I have given many examples on this website under the Ascended Master and the Enlightened Spirituality sections. Those examples are just a few of the more prominent and well-known groups. There are many more groups and thousands of individual channelers who believe they are channels of Jesus or other entities. For example, J.Z. Knight channels an entity called Ramtha, Jane Roberts channels Seth, Neale Donald Walsch channels "God", Ruth Montgomery channeled medium Arthur Ford and her spirit guide Lilly, and Jack Pursel, who channels “Lazaris”.

According to Dr. Jon Klimo's book on Channeling, "Such diverse groups as Mennonites, Mormons, and Catholic nuns also testify to following Lazaris’ teachings." Dr. Klimo, who has a doctorate in psychology, and is considered an authority on channeling also considers Moses, Solomon, Muhammad, Merlin, Nostradamus, Swedenborg, and Edgar Cayce as channelers. This is not to say all who "channel" contact the lower realms or spirit world only. Dr. Klimo considers the word channeling to mean "the communication of information to or through a physically embodied human being from a source…on some other level or dimension of reality other than the physical as we know it." Thus, all the prophets of the Bible or the seers of today he puts under the heading as a channeler.

Our goal as human beings on the spiritual path is to discern whether a message is coming from a prophet of God or an individual channeling the voice of Satan or fallen angels or some other lower entity not in the realm of high heaven. Many people of God have shared their experiences in personal testimonies with hearing "the voice of God" or Jesus or an unidentified voice giving them some direction or wisdom that had a profound, uplifting or miraculous connection to what they heard. Are these individuals considered channelers? Not if they are receiving words for themselves, yet this does not mean that the voice or words they receive are from God. Some individuals believe or feel the words are from God or the Light through their knowing. Their positive fruits give credence to their conclusion and thereby, through their knowing, they believe it was God.

The Lazaris materials teach how to recognize false teachers and channelers. Of course this technique is not new to the spirits being channeled. Nor does this conclude that real spiritual teachers or prophets are using a "technique" to fool the people, rather they are the ones being copied by the false prophets. Many of these channelers have become multimillionaires selling their videos, tapes, and books, as well as through radio and T.V. interviews. While the abundance may be positive for them it is not necessarily a sign of positive fruits. Jesus did say that "it is easier for a  camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matt. 19:24).

Jesus also said it is the poor in spirit who inherit the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3). This is the first of the Beautitudes. Christ is affirming here the blessedness of those who are in their spirit absolutely devoid of wealth. This is not necessarily God's opinion of them but of themselves. God knows we are all lacking in wisdom and true wealth. These "poor in spirit" are usually the humble people who think the rich people are wiser than they and that the spiritual leaders such as the Scribes and Pharisees were the elite and so spiritually wise. "The poor have the Gospel preached" whereupon it not only reaches their ears, but their hearts. In that they are the true happy ones. They are thankful for the smallest gift of God. Let us retain that humbleness and joy but also be wise through the Spirit, as well as through having discernment to protect and guide us.

I will conclude this part and, if it be God's will, continue with the original story I was going to share about the saint who supposedly tricked everyone into believing her mystical experiences real while really being an instrument of Satan. Her story is not as clear-cut as history makes it out to be.