The Discernment of Wisdom
© 2008 June Johnson

Have you ever asked yourself if you’re making the best use of your knowledge and experience? Wouldn’t it be great to consistently use good judgment and make sound decisions? Do I have your attention?

The Reverend Florence Becker, founding pastor of the Golden Gate Spiritualist Church, taught her students that the Spiritual Faculty of Discernment, Attention and Observation is used to discern the wisdom of all that lies beyond our present awareness.

To develop a greater understanding of this Faculty of Discernment I will describe:
Parallel comments on knowledge by Hudson Tuttle and Huston Smith
A useful example of symbolic language
The 6th Faculty of Discernment, Attention and Observation, and
A personal illustration of alternative knowing.

Parallel Comments on Knowledge

Pioneer Spiritualist, Hudson Tuttle, author of Mediumship and Its Laws, stated, “Mediumship is one method of gaining knowledge, not the only one.” Speaking from the opposite point of view a hundred years later, Huston Smith, Professor of Philosophy at MIT, taught his students, “scientific knowledge is not our only way of knowing.”

Hudson Tuttle said, “The first lesson to be learned by Spiritualists is that the information to be sought from the spirit sphere should be spiritual.” He advised the aspiring medium to “. . . learn all you can, from every source available. Make your mind a receptacle for thought, by activity of thinking. . . . Truths found in books, or taught by men [and women], are just as valuable as if spoken by the lips of an archangel.” He recommended that learning and mediumship “should walk hand in hand, mutually assisting each other. . . . The spirit teacher comes not to supersede but to supplement earthly wisdom.”

According to Huston Smith, Scientific knowledge “rules out the very possibility of knowing things that might be superior to us,” as it is marked by Objectivity, Prediction, Controland Number or Sign, which always signifies the same thing.

Scientific knowledge “rules out the very possibility of knowing things that might be superior to us”

Smith describes an Alternative knowing which is marked by Subjectivity, Surprise, Surrender, and a Metaphoric or Symbolic Language which can have multiple meanings. From Huston Smith’s understanding we learn that this kind of knowing, employed in seeking information from the spirit sphere:

  • presents an alternative to a scientific way of knowing
  • uses symbol and metaphor to approximate the underlying truth, evoking multiple meanings and ongoing reinterpretation
  • convinces us of it’s truth by our response, and
  • provides access to our values, bringing meaning and purpose to our lives.

Spirit helpers make use of metaphor and symbol to present that which cannot be measured, timed, or weighed. We must mentally add: “It Is as If” or “It Is Like” when using this language of poetry, myth and spirit.

A useful example of symbolic language

A Hindu proverb says,

Everyone is a house with four rooms—a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.

You and I know human consciousness is not literally a house. The house analogy of this proverb is an excellent example of the employment of symbolic language to express what we don’t yet know through comparison to what is known and familiar.

The Domain of Scientific Knowledgelies in the more commonly shared exterior rooms of the physical and mental rooms of our “house”.

The Domain of Subjective Knowinglies in the more private rooms of emotional knowing and what I think of as our intuitive awareness of perfection, of how things ought to be. To find out who we are, how we feel and what we most value, we must visit these interior rooms.

In her wisdom, the Reverend Florence Becker recommended that each day we ask of Infinite Intelligence: “Teach me from within, to realize the unlimited quality of my Soul.”

“Teach me from within, to realize the unlimited quality of my Soul.”

This is both a prayer and an affirmation which helps us recognize, 1st) the importance of learning from within and, 2nd) that our potential is far greater than we can imagine in our present conscious awareness.

Continuing the house analogy, picture your house of consciousness with a full basement, representing the unconscious or the not-yet-conscious. And with an attic above, representing our super-conscious connection to what lies beyond ordinary personal awareness. Imagine these rooms, attic to basement, opening to one another at the center of the house in a column of light.

This is an extremely useful analogy. When emotions pull one way and intellect pulls another, it lets us know we can turn to the light of Truth at the core of our awareness.

As we learn to discern, give attention to and observe with the detached calmness of a scientist, we find at the core of our Being our finest hopes, feelings, thoughts and actions agree in a harmonious and meaningful “yes.” This unifying central “column of light” – in which we find the most essential Truth from every aspect of our awareness – is our alignment with Infinite Intelligence.

This, to me, is the Magic Staff which Spiritualist forerunner, A. J. Davis, describes:

Behold here is thy Magic Staff Under all circumstances keep an even mind Take it try it walk with it talk with it lean on it Believe on it forever.

The 6th Faculty of Discernment, Attention and Observation

Discernment is the power or faculty of the mind by which it distinguishes one thing from another; acuteness of judgment; power of perceiving differences of things or ideas; insight; acumen.

Attention is the ability to give heed or observe carefully.

Observation is the act, practice, or power of noticing.

The Reverend Florence Becker taught that this 6th spiritual Faculty “is the power that causes you to study. It causes you to discover, to distinguish, to penetrate, and perceive.” She said, Discernment “is never separate or apart from Attention, where you heed, regard and respect.” And, “it is not separate from Observation wherein you retain your study—for Observation becomes a practice and you obey.” She noted that the Faculty of Discernment, Attention and Observation “is in use all the time with spirit manifestation,” and has a “direct bearing on opening of the 6th sense; [it] leads to insight; it is Inspiration.”

Hudson Tuttle equated Inspiration with what he termed “the sensitive state – mediumship.” He writes: “The advice of spirits should not be taken unless reasonable,” for you may be in a better position to understand the situation. He added: “Education is not necessary to inspiration, but it is to its highest tide. It is not necessary that this education be received in schools or colleges. Education is the training of the mind to clearly receive and perfectly express ideas.”

“Education is the training of the mind to clearly receive and perfectly express ideas”

The discernment of wisdom relies on paying Attention. We use the 6th Faculty to discern what is of the self and what is from beyond the self, what is greater and what is lesser.

  • intend to discern the highest and best;
  • pay attention to what we attract; and
  • observe the truth of that discovery as if it were a law to be obeyed.

As we attend to and cultivate the higher and conscientiously face up to and weed out the lower, we learn that the core of our Being holds a view of reality that is different than our worldly-oriented ego mind has been trained to expect. Perceiving from the soul level, we learn to Observe, to act in the world in harmony with universal law.

A personal illustration of alternative knowing

I once knew a highly creative man who had a charismatic presence and a heart unusually open to deep soul connections. Had he applied Discernment, he would have realized that, in the interior language of spirit, such spiritual connections are often symbolically depicted as sexual union. Instead, he habitually indulged his ego desire to express these intense connections physically, resulting in years of sexual misadventures and an inability to build a lasting relationship. When I met him he was in emotional pain, feeling empty and suicidal. He said he needed love. Turning inward to the light of spirit, I was encouraged from beyond my ordinary self to choose to offer the real thing. Over a period of three years, through what I now recognize as lessons in the disciplined development of Discernment, Attention and Observation, I was guided to express my love through various demonstrations of intuitive insight and spiritual healing which proved to require no physical contact. With gained insight and healing, this man married and started a family.

When our spirit-led connection ended, I received the following vision in a meditation which began by picturing myself in a place of contentment – on a beach shaded by palm trees.

I envision swimming through clear sunlit turquoise water, diving deep and entering a dimly lit cave. Sandstone steps lead up to a high-ceilinged chamber.

At this point I’m no longer setting the scene. With my full Attention, the image before me unfolds on its own:

Glittering mounds of jewelry are piled into several hills a yard high and wide by about six feet long. In a broad aisle, a dark brown-green dragon with heavy scales and powerfully muscled hind legs stands balanced on his thick tapering tail. Looking at me, he gestures toward the jewels with his short clawed upper limbs as if inviting me to help myself.

“No thank you,” I respond, “they don’t belong to me.”

He looks at me with penetrating eyes. I stare back. Something in him interests me more than the jewels. I find him surprisingly attractive. He approaches. There’s an amazing energy between us. We like each other’s presence. Taking hold of one another, we dance between the mounds of jewelry.

He’s a strong bold dancer. I’m having a wonderful time. To my astonishment, the far wall of the cave dissolves/disappears, opening to reveal an adjoining room with no apparent ceiling in which long tables are beautifully set for a banquet. Numerous beings of light, who I immediately recognize as my inner guides and their companions, greet us and welcome us. They encourage me to help myself to some jewelry on the way.

I select a marvelously crafted necklace and a gold ring with a large handsome stone, then dance into the banquet room with my dragon partner. We toast with spirit wine in golden goblets in the emanating light. It is an unforgettable celebration.


Hudson Tuttle writes, “Do you want a guide to lead up to the highlands of spiritual being? Earnestly set your house in order for the reception of a divine guest. Sweep from your door every trace of selfishness, envy, hate, lust desire, for if you would have the presence of an angel, be as near to the ideal angel as in your power. . . The guide who enters your door will be as your innermost spirit.”

The Reverend Florence Becker stated that with the application of Discernment, Attention and Observation, “You gather up a Power that automatically causes you to remember, for the inseparability of Observation brings meaning.”

With this vision, I learned that the “lizard brain” of the unconscious, which Western mythology so often depicts as a beast to be destroyed with a sword, can instead be transformed into a strong ally helping one to joyfully and effortlessly connect to the higher realm of the super-conscious spirit world.

The recognition of my interior mythology has been at least as powerful in my life as any exterior learning or experience.

In his late years, noted psychiatrist Carl G. Jung wrote, “Only what is interior has proved to have substance and a determining value.”

“Only what is interior has proved to have substance and a determining value.”

Our response tells us of its truth.

Let us listen and learn with all our awareness, using both scientific and alternative ways of knowing. Let us question and gather information, from without and within, into a living whole, and apply that knowledge in daily life. This is the way to the discernment of wisdom.

The truth of the whole is far more joyful, creative and meaningful than anything that can be perceived from a partial view. Even when part of our knowing lies beyond the scientifically provable, wholeness brings a numinous sense of inner conviction which alerts us to the greater truth we seek—a truth of vibrant authenticity, a truth that is awesome, surprising, and deeply satisfying, a truth that enters our lives and emanates energies which can be felt and recognized by others.

June: Essays