All moral conduct may be summed up in the rule: avoid evil and do good. In the language of Christian asceticism, spirits, in the broad sense, is the term applied to certain complex influences, capable of impelling the will, the ones toward good, the others toward evil.
However, in the restricted sense, spirits indicate the various spiritual agents which, by their suggestions and movements, may influence the moral value of our acts. Concupiscence, disturbances of the imagination and errors of sensibility, thwart or pervert the operations of the intellect and will, by deterring the one from the true and the other from the good (Genesis 8:21; James 1:14). In opposition to our vitiated nature, or so to speak, to the flesh which drags us into sin, the Holy Spirit acts within us by grace, a supernatural help given to our intellect and will to lead us back to good and to the observance of the moral law (Epistle to the Romans 7:22-25). Besides these two spirits, the human and the Divine, in the actual order of Providence, two others must be observed. The Creator willed that there should be communication between angels and men, and as the angels are of two kinds, good and bad, the latter try to win us over to their rebellion and the former endeavour to make us their companions in obedience. Hence four spirits lay siege to our liberty: the angelic and the Divine seeking its good, and the human (in the sense heretofore mentioned) and the diabolical its misery.
Next page - Scriptural Basis of DiscernmentThis article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.