This unit considers the central role Discernment plays in spiritual direction, including the discernment of spirits and the means of identifying God’s Spirit from spirits not of God. The central role examination of conscience plays in the spiritual life and in spiritual direction will also be considered. Drawing on the insights of Christian theology and spirituality and modern science, the unit explores the deep interconnectedness of all life, and examines the link between Eco-spirituality and spiritual direction.

Unit code: DD8702Y

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Foundational

Unit discipline: Spiritual Direction

Proposing College: Yarra Theological Union

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Learning outcomes


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


Demonstrate an ability to apply this understanding to the practice of the ministry of spiritual direction


Demonstrate awareness of theories relating to the interconnectedness of all life and the relevance of ecological 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


Lectures, tutorials

Indicative Bibliography

Readings for Discernment

  • Armstrong, Karen. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, New York: Anchor, 2011.
  • Aschenbrenner, George A. “Consciousness Examen.” Review for Religious. Vol. 31, No. 1, (Jan 1972), 17-21.
  • Barry, William A., and William J. Connolly. The Practice of Spiritual Direction. New York: Seabury, 1982. (recommended for purchase)
  • Larkin, E. Silent Presence: Discernment as Process and Problem. Denville, NJ: Dimension, 1981.
  • Francis. Laudato Si’: on Care of our Common Home. Strathfield: St Pauls, 2015.
  • Gallagher, B. Taking God to Heart, Strathfield: St Pauls, 2008.
  • Toner, J. J. A Commentary on St. Ignatius’ Rules for the Discernment of Spirits. St. Louis, MI: St Louis University, 1995.
  • Nouwen, H. Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.

Readings for Ecological Spirituality

  • Berry, T. The Sacred Universe: Earth, Spirituality and Religion in the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Tucker and J. Grimm. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.
  • Cannato, J. How the New Cosmology is Transforming Spiritual Life. Notre Dame, IN: Green, 2010.
  • Edwards, D. Ecology at the Heart of Faith. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2006.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Essay - Eco-spirituality

3000 word essay on Eco-spirituality

3000 50.0
Essay - Discernment

3000 word essay on Discernment

3000 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 19 Oct, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-05-03 07:53:06 +1000