The Importance of Spiritual Discernment


My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


By Archbishop Averky (TAUSHEV)

The Importance of Spiritual Discernment

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Why is the above quote true? Why does the "natural" man not accept that which is from the Spirit of God? And more so, how can he consider it "foolishness"? What does it mean to discern spiritually?

Generally speaking, that person who exhibits best personality traits--a person who is good and warm-hearted--is usually called an "affable, soulful man." Why then cannot such a person understand that which is from the "Spirit of God," even consider it "foolishness"? Were we not taught even in childhood that a person consists of soul and body? That even though the body was made of the earth, the soul is a higher principle, of divine origin, and strives towards God. How then can this soul not know the Spirit of God and not accept that which comes from the Spirit? Here, the holy Apostle Jude the Brother of the Lord, in his General Epistle (Letter) writes that "There are sensual persons, who cause division, not having the Spirit" (St. Jude 1:19).

The concept that a person consists of body and soul is too elementary, primitive in fact, a person's makeup is more complex. When one says that we consist of body and soul, one wants to express the fact that a person is made up not only of inert material but also of a higher principle, which enlivens the material, makes it come alive. "Man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7), and after God made man from the earth, He "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Genesis 2:7). In this manner, every living thing has a soul, every animal:

"Then God said, 'Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures"...So God created every living thing" [animal soul] that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to its kind. And God saw that it was good...Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth the living creature [living soul] according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind: and it was so" (Genesis 1:20-24).

Thus, in essence, the soul is to be known only as the life source in every living thing, and nothing more.

In this respect, the Lord's statement, "For whoever desires to save his life [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [soul] for My sake and the gospel's will save it" (St. Mark 8:35), becomes entirely clear.

Without an explanation, the Lord's words may seem to many people incomprehensible, even scandalous. The "soul" in the above excerpt is to be understood as the life force, as that which gives life to an otherwise dead body, and nothing more. Thus, the text above takes on an entirely different meaning. The person who wants to save his life [soul]--that is, he who holds on too dearly to his earthly life--will lose it, but the person who gives up his life [soul] for Christ and the Gospel will be the only one who gains true life, not this temporary life but the future, eternal one. Therefore, the understanding that a person consists of body and soul is a primitive one, far from the deep concept of the complexity of human nature. In Saint Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, we find a more detailed understanding of the makeup of a human. Saint Paul says, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Here, we can see how "soul" is differentiated from 'spirit." This differentiation between "spiritual" and "worldly" is found in many places in Sacred Scripture...

Saint Augustine wrote, "Thou O Lord, has created us with a striving for Thee, and our heart is not at rest until it rests in Thee."

  1. How does the spirit reveal itself in a person? Saint Theophan indicates three manifestations of the Spirit: (a) the fear of God, (b) the conscience, and (c) the thirst for God: "All people, no matter what degree of development they have reached, know that there is a Supreme Being, God, Who created everything, maintains everything and rules everything, and that they depend on Him in everything, that they must please Him, that He is the Judge and Requiter, Who gives to everyone according to his deeds. Such is the natural credo which is inscribed in the spirit.  By confessing it the spirit venerates God and is filled with the fear of God."

2.Acknowledging itself to be obliged to please God, the soul would not know how to satisfy this obligation if the conscience did not rule it in this area. "[The conscience] indicates what is right and wrong, what is pleasing to God and what is displeasing, what should be done and what should not be done." However, the conscience does not only dictate but compels the person to do what he should as well as "rewarding compliance with comfort punishing noncompliance with remorse. The conscience is the legislator." It is no coincidence that the people call the conscience "the voice of God.

3. It is the property of the spirit to seek God, to strive towards Him, to thirst for Him. Nothing created, earthly, worldly can ever satisfy it. No matter how many good things a person has, it will never seem enough, he will always want more and more. This eternal lack of fulfillment, this constant dissatisfaction proves that our spirit strives towards something Higher, the Ideal, as they say. Therefore, nothing earthly can replace this Higher Being, this Ideal. The soul is restless,  finding no peace. Only in God, in living communion with Him, can a person find total satisfaction and rest, having obtained grace-filled peace of soul and calmness.

These are the manifestations of the spirit in a person. Now it should be clear what the spiritual life consists of, in contrast to the life of the soul and body. The spiritual life consists of satisfying the needs of the spirit, and the needs of the spirit consist of a person's striving  towards God, seeking for living communion with Him, and the desire to live according to God's will. (Source: The Struggle for Virtue. Ascetism in a Modern Secular Society)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George