According to the New Testament, the direct inspiration of the individual faithful and other gifts of the Holy Spirit* are something important for Christians (e.g. 1.Kor. 14,26; Mark.16,17). The ways to reach it were obviously made more difficult. However, it is possible to pray for receiving the Holy Spirit.
Besides the Pentecostal Churches, the Catholic Church
also accepts the possibility of divine messages. But this Church
distinguishes between a "general revelation" for the common good
through the Bible, the tradition and the ministry on the one hand - and mystical
"private revelations" (private inspirations)
on the other hand. The latter of the two are accepted as long as there is useful
content for the persons and their surroundings usually
without commitment and without much support. If they
messages of Mary or Christ to the Church or to mankind, the Church often reacted
critically. Since Paul VI the Church no longer stops Catholic publishers
printing it. But still some testimonies like this have been kept secret for many
years, like the 3rd message of Fatima. In
such cases the Church reserves
a final judgement about it. The Church's law says that
if messages are checked, then this must be done fairly, e.g. one must hear the
writers (Can. 844 §3). Can. 220 forbids illegal damage to one's
These inspirations don't play a big role in many other churches. Either that or they haven't yet developed practices to deal with it. Some Protestant Churches think, revelation has come to an end in the time of the New Testament. On the other hand there are many phenomena like this outside the big churches, cf. John 14:21-26. The whole situation leaves the impression that God is interested in "speaking" to us, teaching people and warning them too. However, this is difficult, lifelong learning process; and spreading such messages requires an actual call to do this, a special connection with God, and adequate preparation.
The first Apostles - people who were able to represent Christ with their gifts of the Spirit - taught direct inspiration and its interpretation as a part of the gatherings (1.Kor 14,26). 1.Kor.12,4-7: "...Now to each one the manifestation of the spirit is given for the common good." In 1.Kor.12,28 the role of the apostles can be interpreted as prior to the "prophets" *) and in the third place the teachers. 1. Kor.14 distinguishes "speaking in tongues" edifying oneself, and prophecy edifying the community. People with the gift of prophecy were extraordinarily appreciated, because the other disciples could not automatically fulfil this task (e.g. Matthew 10,41).
- The main question is not whether there is such as thing as inspiration, which is not the result of autosuggestion, mass suggestion, or schizophrenic or other psychological phenomena**. If someone studies such phenomena in Christianity without prejudices, he/she may first notice, that in most cases the attempted mental explanations like autosuggestion, mass suggestion, schizophrenia are not sufficient. Then the really interesting questions can start:
- It is useful to seek insight regarding what comes from God and what does not, cf. 1.Joh.4,1. However, this must be done with caution and respect. The Bible itself does not state that a priest is automatically competent to judge possible manifestations of the Spirit by theoretical, theological considerations. Only a very few can directly perceive what kind of spirit a message is coming from; therefore Jesus says: "By their fruits You will recognize them" - Matthew 7,15-20. That means, if it leads to Christ, e.g. to a so-called "reclamation"/return to God, with a positive change in life or to healing in mind or body, it would be very dubious to dismiss it as not genuine or even as "coming from the devil"; because it happened by mercy. John 15,5: "without me you can do nothing". If more love of Christ and people manifests itself, this is a good sign too. Compare also Matthew 7,1; Matthew 12,24-30 and Acts 5,38-39, warning of judgements. According to moral theology and principles of secular law it would also be wrong to condemn someone, as long as there is room for doubt.
distinctive mark is the modesty of these persons, because only when someone
becomes quieter, he/she can hear God's Spirit. Theological knowledge is not a
distinctive mark at all; often it is especially simple persons that have been
chosen ("charisma of laymen"). Educated persons are only prepared if
they are not conceited and do not get stuck and so nonetheless belong to the
"poor in spirit" of Matthew 5,3. (E.g. the Sadducees -
rationalists and materialists -, and the Pharisees, as far as their majority got
stuck in their intellectual knowledge - neither of these belonged to those who
were "poor in spirit".)
- "...That You live like human beings and fulfil Your daily duties, but also properly leave room for God the almighty father in Your daily life." (From messages of Mother Mary to the seers at Garabandal and elesewhere).
- Loving behaviour according to the ethics of Jesus - e.g. Matthew 7:12 - is also a distinctive mark. The more someone emulates God's qualities, like love, the closer they draw to the spirit - which is above the intellect - through an inner self connected with Christ. However, in this context ethics does not automatically mean adhering to the usual ideas we have about pious people, for instance concerning their clothes, or going to church on Sundays, or whatever.
For instance, if somebody were to spread aggressively some defamation against another Christian, using opinions acquired by reading, and claiming a personal inspiration from Christ - and so causing discord - most probably it is neither a legitimate activity nor a true message from Christ or the Holy Spirit.
Apart from that, freedom of suppression from outside is also a factor. Experience and the Bible says, that the Holy Spirit is free of human classifications (Joh. 3,8;...) and needs freedom for its growth. The human being has its own conscience, which is not a matter of conditioning. Acts 5,29: "We must obey God rather than men!" This is not contrary to the useful purpose of spiritual guidance. Not every generation needs to start from the beginning with the same mistakes.
- Criteria like the "supernatural character" have been investigated often: for instance concomitant phenomena like lacking the eye's reflex, a changed heart beat, the pulse slowed down, a higher blood pressure - without manipulations or drugs -; or that the person could not know what has been revealed. But that criterion is not necessary, because the Spirit can use the "natural" abilities of man too.
There are many forms in which a message of the Spirit can express itself. For example, through the "inner voice/ inner word in the heart" which is fully conscious and therefore not to be confused with hypnotic or schizophrenic phenomena. Some experience in practice shows that its nature is different from telepathic phenomena too. (Cf. "Vom Inneren Wort" - German: The inner word, extracts from Johannes Tennhardt, Jakob Lorber, etc.; Lorber-Verlag). In rare cases, a trance-like state can be achieved, in which the person plays more of a secondary role; but even here the circumstances - the attunement to God and a good effect on the people present - show the difference between this and a trance brought about through spiritualism (spiritism) - which has a weakening influence on those present. It can also happen that someone experiences a vision, inner light or an idea and can write down it in words afterwards. There is also a kind of direct writing with full consciousness, different to the "automatic writing" of spiritualism, which is usually connected with some kind of trance (Consciously seeking the Spirit of God is spirituality, and seeking contacts to ghosts in trance is named spirit(ual)ism.) The Holy Spirit may also have been the source of a message, without directly addressing the persons concerned ("..."): a thought, a conversation, a piece of writing or a book can partially or completely originate from this source of inspiration, because it can activate human creativity in any way it wants.
*) Prophecy - from Greek - means
first extrasensory informations, in the Christian context coming from God or the
Holy Spirit; cf. 1.
Thess.5,19. Inspirations, which are warnings or predictions of the future, are
a special case.
Concerning the Holy Spirit in general see John 3,8; John 14,26 and the main text of ways-of-christ, part 1, chapter "The first Whitsun event (Pentecost)".
Concerning prophecy through visions of the future, see the related chapters in the main text of ways-of-christ, part 2, e.g. the chapter "How to deal with prophecies".
Here are also some passages from the Old Testament concerning the nature of prophecy - with reservations due to the change in conditions since that time (in the time of Jesus the ancient kind of prophecy had almost vanished, but became renewed): Joel 3,1-2; Amos 3,7-8)
**) In some cases, however, even people with a genuine capacity for inspiration may undergo experiences similar to recognised mentally disturbed states - where the inner dialogues may continue obsessively and where the person remains unable to handle earthly necessities. To avoid such excesses as far as possible, it may help to take into account - besides the above aspects - some practical prerequisites like: enough sleep; adequate nutrition, e.g. with enough B vitamins (that means caution with fasting, if one does not have sufficient experience with it); a clear attunement to the desired source (Christ); the avoidance of overlong sessions, with the associated tendency to go off at a tangent and to become overexcited; and after intensive inner experiences, sufficient effort to return to the present "earthly" reality; to digest self-consciously the things heard. Helpers, spiritual guides (e.g. priests), therapists etc. may only be of practical assistance if they have specific experience / knowledge, which means taking not only the disturbed state seriously, but the undisturbed basic phenomenon too. The Catholic Saint Teresa of Ávila wrote in "Interior Castle", that "half learned" priests, who don't understand true gifts of God's mercy, cannot help to find out the difference between true and false ones.
topics and main text.