A problem with modern men and women is the lack of definition in common conversation as well as in philosophical conversation. One may, for example, use the term “passions” or “desires” and mean various things by these words.
For the Thomist, as well as for the Aristotelian, definitions precede discussion and definitions must be clear and communicated in sharing ideas.
St. Ignatius, a scholastic scholar and knowledgeable of those great minds which preceded him, such as Augustine and Bonaventure, seems to add to the understanding of terms one may not know clearly in 2015.
Because of a recent conversation with a friend, I want to highlight St. Ignatius’ ideas on the imagination, a faculty or power of the soul, which is purified in the Dark Night of the Senses and the Dark Night of the Spirit. (See the long series on the Dark Night on the old blog.)
St. Ignatius makes a distinction between the imagination of the senses, which involves conjuring up ideas or memories of smells, tastes, sounds, and sights, and the “spiritual senses”, which may include infused knowledge from God directly. These spiritual senses are intuitive rather than based on memory or sensual experiences. The spiritual senses, that is the intellect and the will, join with the imaginative senses during the various Exercises. Part of the retreat is to come to a greater understanding as to how these lower and higher faculties of the soul work.
Discernment of spirits keeps on from being deceived by the devil, or by one’s own desires, and may be used to judge the spiritual imagination.
All these terms presuppose knowledge of the scholastic terms regarding the soul and the body.
The powers of the soul, intellect, (which is the same as understanding), memory and will are part of the higher faculties of the soul.
But, what is sometimes misunderstood is that the soul has three faculties: sensitive, intellective and vegetative.
The lower or inferior parts of the soul depend upon the bodily senses for operation. The higher faculties of the soul are the intellect and will.
The commentator in my book on the Exercises notes that Christ experienced pain in the lower faculty of his soul, through his body, when He endured the Passion. This capacity of Christ would be in His human soul. Some people do not understand that the soul experiences desires and pain, not merely the body. Where pain and desires originate may be seen as a combination of stimuli to the body and the soul. We are not dualists as Catholics.
When praying the Exercises, one becomes aware of one’s body in a new way, as one is affected by fatigue or anxiety or pain when one is trying to meditate or contemplate according to the rule of the day. But, one can use the lower faculties to empower the higher faculties.
One does not have to be a slave to emotional responses, for example, or to bodily needs. In fact, these parts inform the higher faculties, which controls, if one is in sanctifying grace, the inferior parts of the soul.
One cannot enter into the spiritual dimension of Ignatian thought and psychology without some understanding of his nomenclature. When a modern person uses the term “intellect”, too often that person does not see the intellect as a power of the soul, but only the physical brain.
Modern science has denied the presence of the soul, and, therefore, always wants to find a chemical reaction to explain thinking skills or imaginative processes.
To deny the soul leads to a purely mechanistic view of a human being, obliterating the concept of the “higher faculties” as being spiritual gifts, in which a man or woman is made in the image and likeness of God.
Mechanistic views of the imagination, memory, and intellect lead directly to a denial of free will. All decisions become merely animalistic responses to stimuli, rather than free choices based on many factors.
Of course, a person who has not lived a life of temperance, prudence, courage or justice, will not be able easily to avoid or overcome animalistic impulses, those affective urges to which I referred a few posts ago.
And, yet, we each must deal with feelings, emotions, and recognize that we are called to live and move and have our being through the higher faculties of the soul.
This may seem like a rabbit-hole in this Second Week of the Exercises, but unless one understands definitions according to Ignatius, one cannot explore the process of the Thirty Day Retreat. I remind readers that affections are attachments, and that the goal of the Exercises, as well as the purgation of the Dark Night is to free one from attachments or affections in order to clearly see and embrace the Will of God. One is to become “indifferent” in order to do what is necessary in one’s life to give glory to God.
To be continued….