When one receives a spiritual gift such as a locution or mystical scent (Jung refers to it as the pneuma of the Holy Spirit), it is well to discern the source and the meaning.
The first time this hermit experienced the odor of spiritual perfume (another way it is expressed), it followed the first corporeal vision of its deceased grandmother. She appeared in the night as an actual body, dressed, younger than her age at earthly death, and gave a message from God. The hermit (not then a hermit and not then a Catholic) did not know the terminology of such phenomenon nor the difference between an image-type vision (imaginary, they are called although quite actual and not of the common notion of imagination) or corporeal vision (when a body manifests on a corpus, very much present, visible, and as if could reach out and touch).
As for the strong profusion of perfumed scent that filled the room for several minutes following the grandmother's dissipation or disappearance, there accompanied the vision and resultant sense phenomenon, a tremendous peace within and all about the room. The peace exuded close to the purest love this hermit experienced in ordinary life existence (does not reach the level of love experienced in the mystical state during Mass nor that of the death experience).
Yesterday morning, when the hermit experienced the spiritual perfume, it checked out any possible temporal possibilities for such a scent. This was easily accomplished given the hermitage living conditions. The walls are all but gutted, ceilings gutted, and rat nests removed, but there has not been yet bleach sprayed on other rat urine-soaked wood, nor are their toiletries unpacked that could have given off perfumed scent. The hermit itself had not the luxury of bathing for two weeks, and the body, clothing, and bedding certainly did not smell sweet.
A sense of peace accompanied the thoughts presented interiorly in the early morning prayers. The day unfolded with more assurances from His Real Presence. A trip to a physician of whom the daughter found on the internet, with good reviews, but who knows--resulted in a tremendous consolation. Without expressing the financial situation, the doctor did a procedure that prevented cancerous growth, and charged shockingly little. (The hermit then did express how much that meant and said why.)
Plus, what is more unusual, is that the night before this doctor appointment, an email came from a dear friend of 30 years ago. He is 95, and he gave news of health trials he is undergoing. The hermit had been holding him in prayer, even though this lovely soul would certainly be chosen by God to be conformed to His image and likeness through suffering. But imagine the shock when the hermit met this doctor, and he had the build, facial structure, features, gestures, voice, hair cut and glasses of the man not seen in person, in 25 years! And the friend is as generous and Christian as this doctor, too.
The Lord was letting the hermit know through each touch of love from the beyond into the temporal, that He is with the hermit. The hermit must persevere (although the temporal is not guaranteed a temporal success); the hermit must remain here for now; the hermit must keep at the efforts spiritually, prayerfully, and physically.
The locution of a few weeks ago regarding worship with the hermit monks, was tested this past Sunday. "Not for you" proved to be from the Holy Spirit. This hermit went to their small chapel, and waited for the service with a handful of other people. Many externals provided answers to the test of that locution. While the externals certainly meant something to those of that tradition, there were little warning signs for this hermit that truly, this was "not for you."
Fifteen or so minutes into the service, with the hermit monks remaining behind some doors but chanting, and the hermit toward the back of the small chapel, it also knew the mystical state that occurs at all Masses of the Catholic Church, was not going to transpire any more than it does not in Protestant or Evangelical services. Not that not having the mystical state is a concern of this hermit, it has proven over time to be a sign from His Real Presence, for this hermit.
Regardless the various details of discernment in the externals present or of the interior sense, was able to quietly slip away and return to Te Deum Hermitage, and accept that for whatever the Lord's reasons, "not for you" was what He meant regarding active involvement in another worship tradition. (And this is not to say that the Lord did not approve of that form for those who feel called to it. In His house there are many mansions, and He has gone ahead and prepared a room for each of us.)
This is a cursory glance at discernment of spirits and phenomenon. Of course, it takes experience with experiences, prayer, and also, each time, a healthy dose of doubt-until-tested stance. The devil can be quite tricky; but the bulk of spiritual masters who achieved holiness in this life and left their classic writings as guidelines, all concur that a general proof of the Spirit is His peace that passeth all understanding. One can also review a spiritual experience with one's spiritual director, who presumably is experienced with such matters, personally.
Those who fear spiritual experiences, such as various priests or bishops this hermit has encountered, tend to brush off such events and warn (often misdirecting John of the Cross' writings on the topic) to ignore all spiritual experiences. If they add to that advice, to "stay grounded," this latter is excellent and ought to rule one's reactions.
However, John of the Cross in his explanatory writings of his trilogy of poetry (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, Living Flame of Love) advised not being caught up in phenomenon when the senses are being purged; however later in his writings, he explains that, of course, spiritual phenomenon provides a repertoire, and is a means for God to inform and to guide the soul who has passed through other stages.
Obviously, the saints, the mystics, popes, priests, and pilgrims, and their various advisers did not disregard their spiritual experiences, or we'd not have any writings from them, and they would not have followed God's locutions to them, nor those of the Virgin Mary. We would not have the miraculous medal, nor the Dialogues of Jesus to St. Catherine of Siena, nor reforms of various religious orders, nor the Divine Mercy chaplet, etc. But these experiences need to be discerned and tested, and His Real Presence is not offended when we do. For one thing, learning to discern mystical phenomenon is a way in which the soul is strengthened and gains experience in the spiritual journey.
This hermit's purpose is not to teach others the detailed specifics of how to discern spirits but to share through its experiences, snippets of example and outcomes. There are books written on the topics, but to read the lives of saints and mystics is also a good way to learn how they learned. Plus, we can help one another. This hermit gets specific when people write or call, asking for discernment help in their spiritual experiences.
Oh, that reminds.... A friend emailed asking if she interpreted a dream properly, or if she was missing something. We have been working on her dream interpretation abilities, and she had the dream "nailed," as is said nowadays. She wasn't sure if the man in the dream telling her some things was St. Francis de Sales or Dom Lorenzo Scupoli.
This hermit forgot to ask for description of the man; but truly, if one does not know, it does not matter who, although sometimes it helps with our understanding of the message or reason for their being the messenger. And, if God wants us to know who, as important in some aspect of the message or our spiritual journey, He will let us know at some point, definitively who is the messenger.
In any spiritual experiences, we ought thank His Real Presence, of which the Holy Spirit sends messages through various means, including souls on the other side. Then, one can also thank whatever soul it may have been, or both or many. They understand. As we progress in discerning spirits, less and less does His Real Presence need to have a soul manifest itself, or our angel manifest corporally; we learn the finer nuances of inner sensing: sight, smell, hearing, touching and tasting.
There is so much that could be written regarding if the phenomenon is not of His Real Presence, but one can thank His Real Presence regardless. If not of God, then the devil will shrink from our acknowledging God and ignoring the devil. And God will not let a sincere and God-loving, fearing soul remain fooled for long. A sincere and God-love, fearing soul will discern the spirits, even if there are mistakes along the way. Yes, His Real Presence teaches those who love Him through many means both spiritually and temporally.
As always: God bless His Real Presence in us! Little children, let us love one another, and remain in His Love!
Note: It seems that many or most bishops and priests in our time period do not have the time to be spent in reading the actual details, such as the breadth of John of the Cross' words, or some of the older books written by those who did have time to become specialists in the mystical and spiritual life. It is a sign of our more complex times and the many administrative tasks priests and bishops must now tend.)
The good news is that there is nothing at all stopping any of us from reading and learning. This hermit developed a solid library by locating online and in used book sellers, many of the titles that Archbishop Tanquerey lists in his seminal writing (used to be required reading for seminarians in the earlier part of 20th c.): Treatise on the Spiritual Life. It is in print, paperback, through Tan Publishing, or used to be. Some hardbound copies can be located online, used.)