This was translated into English during January 2007 by the American Assumptionists from the French magazine of the Augustinians of the Assumption, “Itinéraires augustiniens". Uploaded with permission.The Art of Discernment according to Saint Augustine: Noverim me, noverim Te! “Oh God ever the same, let me know myself, let me know you!”Discernment is a disposition of the spirit to separate, to judge, and in particular to distinguish between what is true and false. Concerning its etymology, it means to sort by separating. Lacking discernment, “thus does a senseless people run to ruin” (Ho 4:14). And also an individual. For Saint Paul, if discernment is a charism that some possess to an eminent degree (cf. Co 12:10), every Christian has it to some degree and should exercise it (Co 14:29). “Think before you do anything—hold onto what is good and avoid every form of evil” (1 Th 5:21). It is not only a question of being able to discern right from wrong, but also to interpret the will of God (Rm 12:2), his passing in the life of his people, and concerning this, Scripture deplores most often the lack of discernment in humans. “Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the face of the earth and the sky. How is it you do not know how to interpret these times?” (Lk 12:56)When spiritual traditions give discernment a privileged place, they are following a solid school. Some of them went very far to put into place rules, criteria, or at least principles, to exercise discernment that was well done. We find nothing of the sort in Saint Augustine who didn’t posit rules, mark out a road, or set up a code of the road. If he didn’t organize a theory for discernment, he nevertheless practiced it by implementing all of his psychological finesse, and he didn’t mince his advice when someone asked for it while leaving each person to his/her own counsel; this was a question of respect for the internal master. We have concrete cases where we can see him exercising discernment, or acknowledging that in a certain circumstance he is lacking in discernment. Moreover his works are filled with sufficient indications so that we can find certain themes. This article will try to put order among these sparse elements.Let me know myself, let me know You!Let us first examine what discernment tries to do. Its goal is simply self-knowledge, a knowledge that requires that we place ourselves in truth before God. The avowed wish of Augustine is to get to know oneself just as God knows that self. Therefore, there is an intimate connection that he immediately establishes between self-knowledge and knowledge of God. Right at the time of his conversion, he presents a perfect expression of this relationship: “Oh God, ever the same, let me know myself, let me know You! – Noverim me, noverim te1. The two parts explain one another: one cannot know God without reference to oneself and one cannot know oneself without reference to God. Such is the goal that he assigns to himself in his search in the Confessions, a truly spiritual exercise in which one can see how he has exercised this demand as far as he is concerned (Confessions X, 1:1): . The two parts explain one another: one cannot know God without reference to oneself and one cannot know oneself without reference to God. Such is the goal that he assigns to himself in his search in the Confessions, a truly spiritual exercise in which one can see how he has exercised this demand as far as he is concerned (Confessions X, 1:1): “Let me know you, you who know me, so that I may know you as I am known! I want to let truth reign in my heart, before you, through confession, but also in my book, before many witnesses.”We are far removed from the tradition of Plato. Later on, around 413, in a commentary on a psalm, Augustine will echo Socrates: “Know thyself” – Agnosce te (En. In Ps 70, 1-14) -, but the context is very different. It is before God that he invites the faithful to be true: “Enter into yourself!” he writes quoting Isaiah 46:8 before adding: “Return to an admission of your weakness, implore the hand of the doctor!” The goal of such an exercise is not at first to take pleasure in the knowledge of self, but to be reborn through an authentic relationship with God. The stakes are existential. He must help to verify the trajectory of my existence, “oriented toward God”, but existentially too often drifting or submerged by lies. Outside of the relationship with God, man is nothing. Only God is a guide who is certain to maintain man on the good road: “In fact, what am I for myself without you, if not a guide toward the abyss? Or what am I, when all goes well for me, if not someone who sucks your milk, or savors you as food that does not get corrupted? And what is man, any man, as long as he is man?” (Confessions IV, 1:1) God warns on the outside, He teaches inside.After this glance, let us consider the modalities of discernment. We know that Augustine’s thought is structured around foris/intus: outside (foris), God warns; he gives signs (admonitions) to man; but it is inside (intus) that he teaches, having chosen to dwell in each person’s heart. These two poles of discernment do not have the same function, although they are indispensable to one another. Man who is dispersed, exteriorized, no longer hears when God speaks to his heart. It is through the means of exteriority that God comes to meet him at first, multiplying on his path “warnings”, by taking flesh and becoming temporal, but this is always done to bring him back to his heart, since it is in the greatest intimacy that God reveals his truth to each person.Let us first look more explicitly at the pole of exteriority (foris) in Latin. Augustine speaks ofAdmonitiones, a technical expression that goes back to all the warnings that God places on man’s road: readings, friends, anonymous voices, events, the tradition of the Church, etc. Each word by another is part of this register. They concern signs that are to lead to listening to the interior host. Without the truth that dwells in the heart of each person (intus in Latin), the external signs would remain silent. It is just like words that we pronounce: “To say it clearly, they only warn us… Thus through words we only learn words, even less than that: the sound and noise of words…” If the words spoken externally do not lead to the Truth that is inside, they are only sounds lacking meaning Thus it is a question of “consulting the one who teaches, Christ, of whom it is said that he dwells in the interior man”3. Let us consider more closely this pole of interiority. It is in the course of his own seeking for truth, in particular under the influence of the books of Plato, that Augustine discovers that truth is not outside (foris), but in the most intimate part of the soul (intus). He writes in his Confessions: “By following the way of the flesh, I was seeking you! But you, you were more intimate than the intimacy found in myself, and higher than the heights of myself. Tu autem eras interior intimo meo et superior summo meo!” (Confessions III, 6:II). Further on, he is more precise concerning the words of a psalm: “That which I was reading outside, I recognized inside” (Confessions IX, 4:10). One should read again the whole first part of Book X of the Confessions on the search for God through these different spheres: foris (outside), intus (inside), interius (inner). The itinerary does not stop with auto-contemplation, but with God, in the most intimate part of man. Let us consider more closely this pole of interiority. It is in the course of his own seeking for truth, in particular under the influence of the books of Plato, that Augustine discovers that truth is not outside, but in the most intimate part of the soul (). He writes in his By following the way of the flesh, I was seeking you! But you, you were more intimate than the intimacy found in myself, and higher than the heights of myself. Further on, he is more precise concerning the words of a psalm: “That which I was reading outside, I recognized inside” (Confessions IX, 4:10). One should read again the whole first part of Book X of the on the search for God through these different spheres: (outside), (inside), (inner). The itinerary does not stop with auto-contemplation, but with God, in the most intimate part of man.Among all the voices by which God strives to reach man, the main one is the Word becoming flesh. The way in which the Word proceeds to reach the heart of man follows the same logic. He came to us outside (foris), meeting us where we were, but only to lead us to hear his word inside (intus). Christ is not only a voice (vox) among others; he is at the same time the Word (Verbum) that brings truth. Thus, the voice of the Word made flesh sends us back to a former time, the truth testified to by the interior Word. If he came into the world, it was to warn us; if he left this world, it was so that we could return to the eternal Word who teaches us inside: “He (Christ) has gone far away from our eyes so that we could return to our hearts to find him there. Yes, he is gone and at the same time he is here. He didn’t want to stay with us very long, and he didn’t leave us… for, if he has left, it is to go to a place from which he never left…” (Confessions IV, 12-19)Footnotes1. Soliloquies II, 1. BA 5. p. 87.2. Foris admonet, intus docet! De libero arbitrio II, 14:38. BA 6, p. 347. See also De Magistro II, 36, and the note in BA 6, p. 540-543.3. De Magistro 11:36-38. BA 5, p. 133 and 137.