It is possible to see hallucinations, which rise from the subconscious. Don’t mistake those images for true visions. Hallucinations are an obstacle on the spiritual path. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they represent guidance from above.
How to distinguish between the two? The first and most important way is to see the effect of your inner experience on your everyday life. Has there been a definite change for the better?
Superconscious experience, which includes true visions, will do that for you; hallucinations will not. Be honest with yourself: Don’t look only at the short-range effects: Look at the long range.
People naturally want to believe that their visions were true; they may affirm changes in themselves that seem real to them, temporarily. Time, then, will tell whether the change has proved lasting and real.
Another way is to observe your underlying consciousness during the experience. Is it intensely peaceful? Is it in fact superconscious? Or is it more or less commonplace?
Is the light brilliant within which the vision appears, or is it clouded and dull? If a person in your vision speaks to you, do the words inspire you with a more expanded consciousness, or do they draw your mind downward to your ego?
A vitally important test also is this: Is the teaching you’ve received in harmony with the highest spiritual traditions of the ages? Or does it challenge them? Does it support and respect those teachings, or does it, in referring to them, speak with condescension or familiarity?
For, beyond hallucinations, there are also delusive manifestations of lower astral entities that can masquerade as angels or great masters, but that have no other aim than to trick you into taking a downward path.
Such entities may look beautiful, and may inspire you because of your very desire for a true vision. They will tend, however, to flatter you and make you feel that you are on equal standing with the greatest souls, even if, in your outer life, you are still prone to such human emotions as selfishness, anger, and desire.
Don’t be discouraged by such manifestations. Their very coming signifies a certain degree of spiritual progress on your part — even as, if a con man shows interest in you, it probably means you’ve enough wealth to attract his interest.
Tricks, however, work only on people who have the failing of avarice to be worked on. A person who is not interested in quick money-making schemes can’t be conned.
And a meditator who has no interest in having his ego flattered cannot be fooled by lower astral entities, whose only interest is in drawing people back to ego-consciousness.
Above all, don’t be attached to the idea of having visions. Don’t seek them. If they come to you, and if you believe them to be true, be divinely grateful for them, but remember that they, as well as any other experience you receive, belong to God; they are not your possessions.
Awaken to Superconsciousness by Swami Kriyananda