* The underlying philosophy
* Making choices
* Guidelines when making
The Underlying Philosphy of Ignatian Discernment
Ignatius of Loyola developed his Spiritual
Exercises to help people come to decisions about where to go
and what to do in their lives. The process involves the followers
of Christ becoming more sensitive to the action of God in their
lives. The underlying sense of the Exercises is one of trusting
self and feelings.
The belief is that God’s desire for each one of us is
that we should be at peace and joyful.
We should normally be in a state of consolation or feel that
we are in the right place and doing the right thing.
Even those who are not convinced Christians would find the general
principles and guidelines for discernment helpful, but you might
find it more helpful to change references to Christ to whatever
is the divine in your life or just to 'the good'.
Therefore, when faced with choices, it is good
to choose what brings a sense of contentment, what gives ‘consolation’.
We know from Christian teaching and everyday experience, that
what brings deep human joy is not selfishness, shallow relationships
with pretty girls or boys, or having all that money can buy,
but rather living a life of service, reaching out to others,
especially those most in need, and a forgetfulness of self.
Forgetfulness of self does not imply despising or not liking
self, rather it is based on self-acceptance, respect and appreciation
of that great gift of God to me - which is my own self. It is
only when I see myself as good and lovable can I have anything
good to offer others and God.
As we are pre-programmed to gain consolation
from doing what is right and desolation from doing wrong, Ignatian
spirituality seeks to find what brings us consolation and through
this, know what is right.
Ignatius uses the imagery of his time, seeing
the soul as the battle ground between the spirits of good and
evil. We have the free-will to follow the promptings of either
the good or bad spirit.
Some people like to translate this as a sort of inner movement
rather than external powers. But whatever our preferred imagery,
can see it as a choice between what brings life, and what deadens
We should seek only God’s glory, not
Making a Choice
In making a choice or decision it is of central
importance to seek God’s will – to serve God and
my fellow human beings.
1. Sometimes what I have to do, comes with
great and unmistakable clarity – it is blindingly obvious.
2. At other times I feel enthusiasm for a choice
and dullness with other options. The up and down movements of
my spirit can lead me gradually to a realisation of where my
heart lies – where God is prompting me.
3. There are times when I have to work out
logically the best choice, looking at all the pro’s and
But even when I have finished making a choice this way, I should
‘feel’ comfortable and consoled with the final decision.
Some Rules for Discernment of Spirits
For anyone who is genuinely seeking
to do what is right, the Good Spirit will bring
enthusiasm, life, strength, tears, encouragement,
views of a way ahead, peace and consolation
The Good Spirit also brings realism; an acknowledgement
and sorrow for sin, but peace as a loved and forgiven
sinner called to follow Christ.
The Bad Spirit will bring endless problems, difficulties,
doubts, desolation and confusion.
We feel mired in our sin; unchangeable and unforgivable.
We don’t see a future.
We are weighed down.
We have no taste for prayer or spiritual things,
we are rebellious and selfish.
We are encouraged to give up!
The ultimate success of the evil one is suicide.
God encourages, beckons, gently, invites us on.
The evil one forces, or suggests there is no choice.
If we know our own weakness, we will know where
temptation is most likely to strike – our
weaknesses are so often the shadow side of our greatest
In times of desolation don’t change plans
made in consolation.
Desolation might be positive, it could turn us to
God, or help us realise that consolation is God’s
gift, not our own doing.
When suffering from desolation, try to return to
It might be useful to return to what brought consolation
in the past.
In times of consolation, store the memory for
the bad times.
Try to stay with consolation.
Often the person who is trying really hard to
do what is right will find themselves attacked by
unsettling temptations. Such a person may be so
encouraged to doubt their naturally mixed motives
in doing good that they turn away from doing good.
The focus has been brought round to self and one’s
own motives, not on the needs of the other.
It is also normal to get ‘cold feet’
when faced with big decisions – remember not
to change in desolation and that even ‘big’
decisions are rarely for life.
The things of God tend to be open to the light;
the things of evil tend to secrecy and duplicity.
Therefore being open and talking to someone about
our choices can be helpful.