To discern is to separate things, or one thing from another as distinct; to distinguish and divide; to recognize as distinct, to distinguish or separate mentally one thing from another, to perceive the difference between things; to perceive or recognize the difference or distinction, to make a distinction, to distinguish or discriminate between, to distinguish one thing or fact by the intellect; to recognize or perceive distinctly.Oxford English Dictionary
  Therefore, discernment is the act of perceiving by the intellect, intellectual perception or apprehension, discrimination, judgment, keenness of intellectual perception, penetration, insight, perception by the senses, distinguishing by sight, distinct vision.Oxford English Dictionary
  Synonyms for discernment include discrimination, perception, penetration, insight, acumen mean a power to see what is not evident to the average mind. Discernment stresses accuracy (as in reading character or motives or appreciating art). Discrimination stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent. Perception implies quick and often sympathetic discernment (as of shades of feeling). Penetration implies a searching mind that goes beyond what is obvious or superficial. Insight suggests depth of discernment coupled with understanding sympathy. Acumen implies characteristic penetration combined with keen practical judgment.—Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary

“Discernment is the intellectual faculty of perception that you use to design thought.”—Lotus Landis quoting Edna Lister

  Discernment is a quick, penetrating insight, a keen perception that enables us to see with understanding beyond surface appearances of character or circumstances, which is being a good judge of character. Discernment is the intellectual faculty of perception that you use to design thought. Finely honed discernment is how you see with the eyes of mind.
  To properly study and understand Edna Lister’s laws on discernment, you must also study all laws she taught pertaining to perception, awareness, attention, and consciousness in general. Faith enables discernment.

Edna Lister on Discernment

Spiritual seeing is utterly dangerous if you cannot use enough discretion to tell the difference between an inner reality and your imagination, self-delusion, self-illusion, or illusions created by bodiless entities still seeking a resting place for their false work.—Edna Lister, October 25, 1944.

You duplicate your outer lack of using logic, reason, discretion, discrimination and discernment on the inner.—Edna Lister, July 29, 1947.

When something new comes, apply all law to it, using logic, reason, discernment discrimination, and discretion.—Edna Lister, October 20, 1947.

Do not permit emotions to rule when you are making decisions. Apply logic, reason, discernment discrimination, and discretion to all the facts in the case.—Edna Lister, November 13, 1947.

Instant obedience demands application of all law upon every new situation — use your faculties of logic, reason, discernment discrimination, and discretion.—Edna Lister, January 8, 1948.

Wisdom from above, in the true sense, waters the brain cells through the glands, causing logic, reason, discernment discrimination, and discretion to flourish.—Edna Lister, November 21, 1950.

Discernment, discrimination, and discretion move into action as evil approaches. If you have consecrated yourself to service and desire to do something about a situation, you may find yourself saying something suddenly, which is how Light puts in a wedge. Ascend on it and declare it good instantly.—Edna Lister, October 6, 1952.

The greatest use of logic, reasoning, discernment discrimination, and discretion in love is God working and winning as you.—Edna Lister, June 2, 1955.

Silence is the true creator, and you must do much of your work in absolute silence. The instant you speak high truth, it bears risk because bringing it into words lowers the vibration to the point where it can be felt, can hurt or harm.—Edna Lister, October 21, 1966.

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Stories That Illustrate Discernment

Each time Jesus said, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, he was cautioning us to use discernment.

Discerning the Truth of What You See and Hear: Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
  And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.—Matthew 11:2-15.

What Is Clean? Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
  Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
  And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
  And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
  And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.—Mark 7:1-23.

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New Testament on Discernment

The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?—Matthew 16:1-3 (See Luke 12:56). [Intellect can discern the face of the sky; but cannot discern the signs of the times.]

The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.—1 Corinthians 2:14

The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.—Hebrews 4:12

Every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.—Hebrews 5:13-14

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Edna Miriam Lister
The original Pioneering Mystic,
Christian Platonist philosopher, American Idealist, Founder, Society of the Universal Living Christ, minister, teacher, author, wife, and mother.

Edna Lister

Etymology of discern: Latin discernere, to separate: dis-, apart + cernere, to perceive.

Discernment is a soul faculty.


Harper, Douglas. Online Etymology Dictionary, 2024.

The Holy Bible. King James Version (KJV).

Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. 2024

The Oxford English Dictionary: Compact Ed., 2 vols. E.S.C. Weiner, ed. Oxford University Press, 1971.