Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2014 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Elisabeth KoenigEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6086-2_171


To discern means to separate or distinguish between or among things. In religion, generally speaking, discernment, sometimes called discernment of spirits, means skill in discriminating between those influences that enhance or lead to a fuller relationship with God or transcendent reality or, where no belief in transcendent reality is held, to fuller appropriation and implementation of one’s value system. Psychologically, discernment is an intentional practice which develops the ability to act in accordance with those agencies that are conducive to integration of the personality and which avoids or resists those influences that would bring about psychic fragmentation or disintegration. For the purposes of discernment, influences within the subject, such as dreams, images, and thought processes, or without, such as relationships with others and political or social context, are understood to have equivalent value and effect. Although meanings vary among traditions,...

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ascetical TheologyGeneral Theological SeminaryNew YorkUSA