Discernment of Spirits through Selected Mystics

Fall 2016
TH 3:30pm - 5:20pm
Permission Not Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

This course will explore the Western Christian Tradition of Discernment of Spirits through reading key historical texts.  It will include an overview of the Scriptural texts on discernment and primarily focus on texts from the 14th century through the 16th century. The figures we will study are: The Anonymous writer of The Cloud of Unknowing, Catherine of Siena, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and Jonathan Edwards.

1-   Learning to read and interpret “classic” texts in Christian Spirituality within their historical context

2.   Learning to develop a practice of discernment of spirits both personally and pastorally

3.   Developing an understanding of the breadth and depth of the Christian tradition of the discernment of Spirits focused on different types of discernment:

            Discernment of affective movements

            Discernment related to assessing complex situations

            Discernment related to growth in virtue

            Discernment related to decision-making

            Discernment related to growth in prayer and relationship to God

            Discernment related to enthusiastic movements

Background Expected: 

Capacity to read and interpret historical texts

Willingness to explore the rich pre-Reformation teachings on discernment of spirits

Life experience and a capacity to reflect on it

Course Requirements: 

1- Active, prepared participation in class discussion

2- Evidence of having read the required readings

3- Written Assignments:  One 4 page paper for each author read of reflection and application of the text/ topic studied (6 of the 12 weeks) due the week after a text is completed. This reflection will include a summary of key aspects of the author’s teaching on discernment. Students will also practice discernment on the basis of this teaching in relationship to his or her personal or ministerial life and describe this practice in a separate 1 -2 page account of the practice experiments.

4- Students will be expected to make up classes they have missed, if excused absences number more than 3 (25% of the class time)

Basis of Evaluation: 

The practice dimension of the course is required for credit. 

More than two unexcused absences will result in no credit for the course. Important material is covered during the shopping period and it is best to be present for the first class in order to secure a space.

The Grade will be based on an average of the 6 papers described above with class participation counting as 1/7th of the grade. 

Papers will be evaluated on the accuracy of the understanding of discernment both theoretically and practically and on the quality of the writing and insight into the teachings of these historical texts.

Contribution to the class discussion will be considered in the grade.

Assignments submitted more than one week late without the professor’s permission and serious reasons will result in grade reductions.

To receive credit for the course, work must rise to the standard of HP-.