Discernment of Spirits

Discernment of spirits is the interpretation of what St. Ignatius Loyola called the “motions of the soul.” These interior movements consist of thoughts, imaginings, emotions, inclinations, desires, feelings, repulsions, and attractions. Spiritual discernment of spirits involves becoming sensitive to these movements, reflecting on them, and understanding where they come from and where they lead us.

Key Ideas About Discernment

Introduction to Discernment of Spirits

Good and evil spirits, consolation and desolation, and rules for discernment.

Discernment in a Nutshell

By Joseph Tetlow, SJ

The basics: spirits, feelings, and why they are useful.

Discernment of Spirits Video

A video produced by the Jesuits of the California Province.

Rules for Discernment

Ignatius distilled what he knew about discernment into 22 rules.

The Difference Between Consolation and Feeling Good

By Margaret Silf

The direction of our attention points out the crucial difference.

Using the Tools of Discernment

How Do I Know I’m Experiencing God?

By William A. Barry, SJ

Ignatius’s rules can help us sort out spiritual experience.

How to Know That a Choice Is Right

By William A. Barry, SJ

Barry discusses the most important criterion for confirming a good decision.

The Devil Comes Cloaked as an Angel of Light

By William A. Barry, SJ

Pitfalls and complexities in discerning spirits.

Some Ignatian Principles for Making Prayerful Decisions

By Warren Sazama, SJ

Provides help for those trying to answer the question, “How do we know what God wants us to do in life?” Included are seven qualities required for an authentic discernment process, three situations for decision making, and seven practical discernment techniques.

More Information about Discernment

dotMagis Posts About the Discernment of Spirits

From the category archives of the dotMagis blog.

Video: Discernment of Spirits

The first part of this video explains the basic ideas of Ignatian discernment. Narrated by John Brown, SJ.

Discernment: Consolation and Desolation

by Margaret Silf

This excerpt from Margaret Silf’s Inner Compass can serve as a “Beginner’s Guide” to Ignatian discernment. Silf points to many of the elements of discernment but will leave most people wanting to know more.

Praydreaming: Key to Discernment

By Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ

“God has placed his desire deep within the desires of my own heart. Praydreaming allows me to ponder those deep desires and to discover and say yes to God’s grace-filled path for my life.”

How to Survive Desolation

By Thomas F. Fischer

A succinct summary of Ignatius’s advice for handling desolation.

Discernment: Recognizing God’s Voice

By Brian Incigneri

A general survey on spiritual discernment based on Thomas Green’s Weeds Among the Wheat. Article discusses rules of discernment, ways of making a choice, and consolation and desolation. Article finishes with a note on St. Teresa of Avila and discernment.

The Affective Dimension of Discerning and Deciding (PDF)

by Franz Meures, SJ

Article exploring the place of the emotions in Ignatian discernment. Especially helpful for spiritual directors.

Obedience and Discernment (PDF)

By Francisco López Rivera, SJ

Reviews the steps by which obedience can be lived out and practiced in a discernment in dialogue that permits us to live in spiritual joy and perseverance with whatever has been commanded of us.