This unit considers religious experience in the Christian spiritual tradition of Discernment and the role it plays in spiritual direction. The practice of Discernment includes the discernment of spirits, the examination of conscience, the efforts to distinguish the movement of God's Spirit and other spirits, and the learnings from eco-spirituality's sense of a deep interconnectedness of all life.

Unit code: DD8702Y

Unit status: Approved (Minor revision)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Foundational

Unit discipline: Spiritual Direction

Delivery Mode: Blended

Proposing College: Yarra Theological Union

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Learning outcomes


Understand and critically articulate the processes of discerning the spirits (towards God and away from God) and examining conscience informed by their own and others’ experience and the wisdom of tradition


Critically demonstrate an ability to apply the understanding of discernment of spirits and examining conscience to the practice of the ministry of spiritual direction


Critically demonstrate awareness of theories relating to the interconnectedness of all life and the relevance of eco spirituality to the contemplative practice of spiritual direction


Communicate this knowledge, and its implications for humanity and all forms of life, to others in a practical and useful form


Integrate and critically reflect on a deepening of an Indigenous perspective through exploration of the first peoples' connection to land and country and how that may relate to spiritual direction.

Unit sequence

Pre-requisites: DD8701Y, DD8703Y and DD8705Y Co-requisites: DD8704Y and DD8706Y


Synchronous lectures, tutorials

Indicative Bibliography

  • Berry, Thomas. The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality and Religion in the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Tucker and J. Grimm. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
  • Gallagher, Brian. Set Me Free: Spiritual Direction & Discernment of Spirits. Bayswater: Coventry Press, 2019.
  • Gallagher, Brian. The Eyes of God: Living Discernment. Bayswater: Coventry Press, 2018.
  • Johnson, Elizabeth. Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love. New York, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.
  • Larkin, Ernest. Silent Presence: Discernment as Process and Problem. Denville, NJ: Dimension, 1981.
  • Nouwen, H. Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.
  • O’Murchu, Diarmuid. Doing Theology in an Evolutionary Way. Maryknoll New York, Orbis Books 2021.
  • Plotkin, Bill. Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World. Novato, California, 2008.
  • Pope Francis, Laudato Si, St Pauls Publications: Strathfield, NSW, 2015
  • Toner, J. J. A Commentary on St. Ignatius’ Rules for the Discernment of Spirits. St. Louis, MI: St Louis University, 1995.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Essay - Ecological Spirituality

3000 word essay

3000 50.0
Essay - Discernment

3000 word essay

3000 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Prof Albert Haddad on 11 Sep, 2023

Unit record last updated: 2023-09-11 14:51:52 +1000