If you don’t know by now, I like reading visionaries. I’ve read a lot of them too. Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich, St. Faustina, St. Angela of Foligno, St. Hildeard of Bingen, Bl. Mary of Agreda, and the list keeps growing. But there’s some warnings about visions that ought to be taken heed of when receiving a vision. There are also different types of visions as well. Many people think when they have received a vision believed to be from God that God has revealed to them the whole of what is the Truth or they receive a vision and tell others that if they don’t share the views expressed in their vision, they are not Christian or are holding to heretical doctrines. Some deliberately seek out visions which is also bad. Some people attach so much authority to a vision that the teachings of both Church and Scripture are nullified by them. Some just simply reject visions as inauthentic all together.
Both extremes are equally bad…
There are three types of visions and locutions.
- The Corporal Vision/Locution in which the vision is bodily experienced.
- The Imaginary Vision/Locution in which nothing is absorbed by the senses but nevertheless, the individual perceives them as if they were any way.
- The Intellectual Vision/Locution in which the imagination delivers not to the senses but to the intellect.
Aside from that, there are numerous causes and warnings that need to be taken with respect to visions and locutions. St. Teresa of Avila warns us that sometimes, visions are caused by melancholia and persons with lively imagination. These visions can be likely dismissed though she warns against informing the person their visions come from the Devil (The Interior Castle, Sixth Mansion, 3.2). Caution is needed and visions that contradict Scripture and Church doctrine must be dismissed (3.5). For some, God seems to be a higher authority. They are correct. But false visions do not come from God and it must be remembered that false visions can be received.
Visions are authentic when…they hold “power and authority…the mind is darkened and dry; but it is set at peace, freed from all trouble” (3.7). There is “great calm and a devout and peaceful recollection which dwell in the soul together with a desire to praise God” (3.10), and the “words do not pass from the memory but remain there for a very long time” (3.11). If they contain these elements, they can be accepted though not necessarily with absolute authenticity unless it is determined by a confessor it is best not to.
They are false if…”the clearness of the language varies” (3.20), “the person was not thinking of what is heard” (3.21), it “composes what the person wishes to hear” (3.22), it lacks love and is fostered in pride and contention (3.25). If they contain these, they come from the Devil.
It is important to accept that visions are real and possible with discernment (3.27) even though one may not necessarily seek them. It is better not to seek them. Visions are actually unnecessary in the deeper spiritual life and go away when one strengthens towards perfection according to the full teachings of St. Teresa of Avila in The Interior Castle.
Visions are not considered to be part of the authoritative tradition of the Church but do provide commentary into the life of the Church. It is important to read and learn from visionaries but to take their words as supplemental to the teachings. When they become non-supplemental, you know you have been reading a heretic.