“Rule #2: When a Person Moves Toward God” by St. Ignatius of Loyola

“The second: in persons who are going on intensely purifying their sins and rising from good to better in the service of God our Lord, the method is contrary to that in the first rule. For then it is proper to the evil spirit to bite, sadden, and place obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, so that the person may not go forward. And it is proper to the good spirit to give courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations and quiet, easing and taking away all obstacles, so that the person may go forward in doing good” (St. Ignatius). 

in persons who are going on intensely purifying their sins and rising from good to better in the service of God our Lord”


  1. Moving away from sin = going on intensely purifying their sins
    • Intensely = with constancy & generosity (not perfectly).
  2. Moving toward God = rising from good to better in the service of God our Lord” 
    • Rising = Keep getting up and trying again.

Once we decide to prioritize prayer and discipleship above worldly pursuits (what Ignatius calls “people of the second week”), the spirits work on us in the opposite ways.

“the evil spirit”

  • 4 Common Actions = “bite, sadden, and place obstacles, disquieting with false reasons.”
    1. Bite = a “biting” that unsettles, a gnawing action to “bite” away at your peace, joy, and spiritual energy, to trigger anxiety and discouragement in serving God.
      • “The enemy is leading you into error … but not in any way to make you fall into a sin that would separate you from God our Lord. He tries rather to upset you and to interfere with your service of God and your peace of mind” (St. Ignatius).
    2. Sadden = a spiritual sadness with respect to everything involved in the doing God’s will (prayer, service, etc) to make you lukewarm in your progress toward God.
      • “We find ourselves sad without knowing why. We cannot even pray with devotion, nor contemplate, nor even speak or hear of the things of God with any interior taste or relish” (St. Ignatius).
    3. Place obstacles = a litany of questions: How can you…? The enemy will try anything he can.
      • “The enemy as a rule follows this course. He places obstacles and impediments in the way of those who love and begin to serve God our Lord, and this is the first weapon he uses in his efforts to wound them” (St. Ignatius).
      • The enemy is like a rebellious and proud tenant. Once you give him an eviction notice, he’s ready to come up with a million excuses and fight to keep his occupancy.
    4. Disquieting with false reasonsthe enemy, in accord with his nature as a liar (cf. Jn 8:44), uses “false reasons” (outright lies or twisted truths based on real or potential obstacles to make you second-guess, rationalize and changing spiritual plans, etc) – false reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t do the thing God is asking you to do = anything that “disquiets” you in progressing towards God.
      • Be aware of the entry points of the enemy: your current emotional state (anxious, sad, frustrated, etc); a misperception of certain events and challenging relationships; tough times at work or at home; etc.
      • Twisted truths = the enemy wants you believe that it’s actually the good spirit speaking truth about your spiritual situation.
      • Are you aware of how the enemy can use these situations?
  • Goal = “so that the person may not go forward.”
    • To prevent you from making spiritual progress. 
    • Remember, these 4 actions are common tactics of the enemy & are a normal part of the spiritual journey.

“the good spirit”

  • Action = “give courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations and quiet, easing and taking away all obstacles”
    1. GiveFor Ignatius, giving is the sign of love: “love consists in a communication between the two parties, that is to say, in the lover’s giving and communicating to the beloved what he has or out of what he has and is able to give” (SpirEx, 231).
    2. Courage and strength a spiritual boost! Energizing. Uplifting. Boundless confidence in God’s grace at work in your life: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
    3. Consolations, tears = a lively awareness & experience of God’s closeness and love (see Rule 3 for more on consolations and tears).
    4. Inspirations = a spiritual clarity with regard to what path to take to God, how to “go forward in doing good.” 
    5. Quiet = a peaceful and calming quiet that our restless hearts seek.
    6. Easing and taking away all obstaclesyou realize that all obstacles can be overcome – what hope! “For God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
  • Goal = “so that the person may go forward in doing good.”
    • To find encouragement in your spiritual progress.

Example #1: St. Augustine’s conversion story (click here for more)

  • The bad spirit: “They plucked at my garment of flesh and whispered, “Are you going to dismiss us? From this moment we shall never be with you again, forever and ever. From this moment you will never be allowed to do this thing or that, for evermore….” (VIII.11).
    • “These voices … no longer barred my way, blatantly contradictory, but their mutterings seemed to reach me from behind, as though they were stealthily plucking at my back, trying to make me turn my head when I wanted to go forward. Yet in my state of indecision, they kept me from tearing myself away, from shaking myself free of them and leaping across the barrier to the other side, where you were calling me” (VIII.11).
  • The good spirit: “I had turned my eyes elsewhere, and while I stood trembling at the barrier, on the other side I could see the chaste beauty of Continence in all her serene, unsullied joy, as she modestly beckoned me to cross over and to hesitate no more. She stretched out loving hands to welcome and embrace me, holding up a host of good examples to my sight. With her were countless boys and girls, great numbers of the young and people of all ages…. She smiled at me to give me courage, as though she were saying, “Can you not do what these men and women do? Do you think they find the strength to do it in themselves and not in the Lord their God? … Why do you try to stand in your own strength and fail? Cast yourself upon God and have no fear. He will not shrink away and let you fall. Cast yourself upon him without fear, for he will welcome you and cure you of your ills” (VIII.11).

Other Notes:

Consider it common and normative for the enemy to try to influence our thoughts.

When we decide to prioritize prayer and discipleship above worldly pursuits, we become a real problem to the enemy of our human nature – Satan. Jesus warns us of this in Luke 11:24-26. But this is not to discourage us. Just a reality check. The enemy will do everything he can to undermine and discourage us.

  • If you’re wondering whether the evil spirit can actually put thoughts into your mind, click here

“All the thoughts in your head are not yours, and you shouldn’t listen to them” (Dan Burke).

Keep reminding yourself of this truth. Especially when your thoughts lead to discouragement, excuses, disbelief in God.

  • “The evil spirit will find ways to undermine our resolve to prioritize prayer and discipleship, intending not only to set us back to where we were before, but also to discourage us, undermine our trust in God, and push us back even further than where we were before we embarked on the journey to deepen moral conversion.” – Fr. Spitzer, Resisting Temptation and Moral Conversion, 11

The good spirit will intensify his efforts too!

  • Although the enemy intensifies his efforts to prevent us from going forward, “the Holy Spirit will also intensify his efforts to inspire, guide, and protect us, particularly when we resolve to prioritize divine pursuits over all worldly concerns” (Fr. Spitzer).

St. Augustine captures the radical change that happens in a person from the 1st Rule to the 2nd Rule:

  • “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

Here is a summary page that captures the first 2 Rules. See the inverse workings of the good spirit and the bad spirit in both cases.

Rule 1 – picture cartoon person with horns.

Rule 2 – picture cartoon person with halo.

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