Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Characteristics of discernment

*

What is the characteristic of a person of discernment: someone who perceives the truth among errors and lies, and is able to reject even the most cunning deceptions on the one hand, and spiritual pride on the other hand?

*

Discernment is quantitative, a matter of degree.

Even among Saints and Holy Elders there are degrees of discernment - only the highest and Holiest are infallible in discernment.

*

Persons of great and reliable discernment are not always to be found.

Indeed, such an ability is so rare as to be almost absent in the modern world; we are all prone to appalling lapses of judgement - yet of course we must judge.

*

(No natural means of judgement suffice - for example, although we cannot trust reason because it partial and fallible, neither can we trust gut feelings. Neither is revelation sufficiently plain and specific to be a clear guide to the corrupted soul in times of devious temptation.)

*

Discernment is not an optional extra - it is of the essence; and yet because truth is a middle way and a narrow path there is no default, no safe option.

*

Clearly discernment is not attained by philosophy, nor by science, nor by sensitivity to the feelings of others, nor by arrogance nor hatred.

These negatives are easy and straightforward.

But what is the positive?


*

Discernment is straightforward, but of extraordinary difficulty.

Discernment is attained through Holiness, which is precisely what we lack.

Is that a paradox? No, because it tells us what we must do (non-optionally) and enough about how to proceed.

*

We need to be aware of the need for discernment, of our own lack of discernment, and what is necessary to solve problems of discernment.

We know what not to do (not to do what comes naturally, not to depend on logic, not to take an opinion poll), and we know what we should do (strive for greater Holiness).

Whether we achieve sufficient Holiness to attain necessary discernment is itself a choice; not entirely a choice, but necessarily a choice.

*