St John Of The Cross


called a "drive" or an "affective tendency"1 to its object. John also uses other words along with appetite that bring out its tendential nature, such as longing (ansia), craving (apetecer), concupiscence (concupisciencia), inclination (inclinación), seeking (querer), and desire (deseo).2 The appetities are further related to the concepts of pleasure (gusto) and satisfaction (satisfacción), for the union of a faculty with its natural object brings pleasure to that faculty. Thus, part of the driving force in each faculty's appetite is the gratification which results when a faculty is united with its object.3

Appetites may be called well-ordered or inordinate to the degree they function according to God's will and right reason; voluntary or involuntary to the degree they are controlled by the will; habitual or non-habitual to the degree they are attached to one object.4 As the ultimate object of


object; the senses are inclined to their objects, e.g., the eye is inclined to want to see, the ear to want to hear, etc." William D. Bruckmann, "Glossary" in The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, trans. by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, vol. 3 (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1948), p. 3555.

lCollected Works, pp. 48-49.

2Al,8,3; 14,2; A2,2l,l2; A3,3,3; Nl,9,2; 13,3; N2,16,2; C3,10; 10,1; 20,6-7; 36,9; F1,28; F2,33; F3,75.

3Al,3,1-4; 4,1; 6,3&6; 7,3; 14,2; N1,13,1&3; C3,3-5; 35, 4; Letters, nos. 6 & 12.

4Al,l,l; 8,1-7; 9,1-4; 11,1-4.


every human faculty is God, so the ultimate end of every appetite is to rest in God. Thus, John counsels his readers to seek only God, for He alone satisfies every human appetite, and when the soul is perfectly united with God, its appetites are completely are rest.1

Closely associated with appetites are the emotions (afecciones o pasiones). These belong to the will insofar as it is the rational appetite or spiritual appetitive faculty by which a person consciously seeks objects that the intellect judges to be good. John lists four emotions: joy (gozo), hope (esperanza), sorrow (dolor), and fear (temor).2 One's experience of these emotions depends upon the relationship of his will to the object it seeks. John explains this in a letter to a fellow Carmelite friar:

. . . all pleasures, joys, and affections are ever caused in the soul by means of the desire and will for things (la voluntad y querer de las cosas) which appear good, suitable, and delightful, being


1Al,5,6&8; 13,1-11; C16,11; 27,7; 34,4-6;35,1-4.

2A3,16,2. Scholastic philosophy normally enumerates eleven passions or emotions, divided into two groups called the concupiscible (seeking or avoiding an easily obtainable object) and the irascible (seeking or avoiding an object not easily attainable). The concupiscible passions or emotions are love and hate, desire and aversion, pleasure and sadness: the irascible are hope and despair, audacity and fear, and anger. See Juvenal Lalor, "The Passions," in The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, 3:3220-35. John speaks of other emotions such as love (N2,13,3) and anger (C21,17), but ordinarily he considers only four basic emotions: joy and sorrow as the concupiscible emotions and hope and fear as the irascible. See A1,13,5; A2,2l,8; N1,13,15; C20, 4&9-11.


in a person's opinion satisfying and precious. And accordingly the appetite of the will (los apetitos de la voluntad) inclines towards these things, hopes for them, rejoices in their possession, fears their loss, and grieves upon losing them (las espera, y en ellas se goza cuando las tiene y teme perderlas y le duele perdiéndolas).1

These four emotions work in harmony with each other. John writes:

If the will rejoices over something, it must consequently in the same degree hope for it, with the virtual inclusion of sorrow and fear. And with the removal of satisfaction in this object, fear, sorrow, and hope will also be removed . . .

...Where your hope goes, there too will go your joy, fear and sorrow; and if it turns back, they too will turn back; and so on with each of the other passions.2

Together with the faculties and appetites, the emotions are the strength of the soul (la fortaleza del alma). When the will directs this strength away from all created objects toward God, the person is completely ordered to God. When the will fails to direct all its strength toward God, the emotions cause disturbance in the soul.3 And because the emotions are related to the will, they are also involved in virtue and sin. When these emotions are "unbridled, they are the source of all the vices and imperfections, and when they are in order and composed they give rise to all the


1Letters, no. 12.


3A3,16,2&4; C40,4.


virtues. "1

Feelings (sentimientos and sentir) are a third category of psychological phenomena that are important for spiritual direction. In its broadest connotation, a feeling refers to any experience in either the sensory or spiritual part of the person. The word "experience" both as a verb and a noun is perhaps the best synonym for feeling, for it captures the wide range of usage given by John to sentir and sentimiento.2 In his writings, the word "feeling" refers to sensory experiences,3 emotional experiences,4 sensible religious experiences and feelings of devotion (sentimiento sensibile, sentimientos sabrosos, sentimientos devotos y suaves de Dios, etc.),5 intense interior sufferings such as feelings of worthlessness or of being abandoned by God or one's friends,6 and relatively fixed "sentiments" or attitudes.7 Saint John often uses the words sentir and sentimiento



2see, for example, C7,lO where the words exprimentar and sentir are used synonymously.

3A2,11,1&5-6; A2,14,4; 24,9; A3,2,6;

4N2,13,3; Cl,15&19; C20&21,10-11.

5A2,4,2-6; 7,5&11; A3,9,2-4; 12,1; 13,6; Nl,6,5; 10,4; N2,2,3; 4,2; Letters, no. 12.

6N2,5,5; 6,2-6; 7,2-3&6-7; 9,7; 10,6; 13,10; Cl,l; 15; Fl, 19-22; 27.

7N2,9,5; Precautions, 12 & 15.


when speaking of ineffable contemplative experiences of God, including extraordinary mystical phenomena like ecstasy, rapture, and stigmata.1 These experiences are "felt" spiritually, either in the spiritual faculties of intellect and will 2 or in the substance of the soul.3 Frequently these contemplative experiences will also be felt in the sensory part of the person,4 although some are felt only spiritually, without sensible awareness (sentimientos espirituales).5

A feeling can thus be any psychological experience of a person (e.g., sentiría en sí sustancia de amor de Dios or sentir algún efecto en sí),6 ranging from a simple impression on one's exterior sense faculties to a divine touch of God upon the inner depths of the soul. This entire gamut of feelings is important in the ministry of spiritual direction because they reveal the infinite number of ways a person may experience his relationship to God.7


lA2,13,7; 29,11; 31,1; Nl,9,6; N2,9,3; 12,5; 17,5-6; C Prol., 1; 1,9&12; 6,4; 7,9-10; 13,6-9; 14&15,1-4; F1,1-3; 32; F2,9-14; F4,10-12.

2A2,32,1-2; 9,3; 13,1-3.

3A2,24,3-5; 32,1-2; C22,5, F2,9-12&17; F3,69; F4,10.

4A2,24,9; 26,3-9; C18,7; F2,13&21-22; F3,6-7.

5A2,10,4; 23,1-3; 24,4; 32,1-4; N2,11,1; 17,3; C14&15, 13-15.

6A2,31,1; A3,43,3.

7See, for example, the manner in which the created universe is experienced by a person during the period of spiritual


Although we have described appetites, emotions, and feelings separately, we can readily recognize overlapping elements in these three concepts. John often speaks of appetites and emotions together when discussing the will, for it is the emotional experience associated with an object that moves the will either to seek or to avoid that object.1 And feelings, the most general of the three terms, includes both appetites when these are experienced as a longing for an object or the satisfaction that is felt when a faculty is united with its proper object and emotions when these are intensely experienced within a person. Yet there are many feelings that are neither appetite nor emotion, and for this reason it is more accurate to keep these three concepts distinct.

Having now completed our discussion of John's structural view of the human person, we may summarize this view in two ways. In relationship to the outside world, the human person may be seen as a unity composed of two major parts, one cognitive and the other conative. Man's cognitive side receives data from the outside world and processes these into ideas and concepts. The psychological components are the exterior and interior senses and the spiritual faculties of intellect and memory. Man's conative or appetitive side moves him outward


espousal with the Word in C 14&15,1-5.

lA3,16,1-3; 29,2; 35,8; 40,1-2; C40,1-2; C40,1&4. See also A1,9,3; A1,15,1; A3,5,1; Nl, Explanation, 2; N1,14,1; N2, 14,2; 15,1; 23,12&14; C22,7; F1,29.


toward union with the good as perceived by the intellect. This side of man is made up of the spiritual faculty of the will, together with the emotions and appetites.

A second summary view also sees the human person as a bipartite unity, but as ordered hierarchically from within. The lower or inferior part of the person is called "sense" or body and embraces the interior and exterior sense faculties, the natural appetites, and emotions. The higher or superior part is called "spirit" or soul and comprises the spiritual faculties of intellect, memory and will, together with the substance of the soul.

The hierarchical view also allows us to visualize John's idea of the perfect man. He believed that God originally created man in the divine image, destined to live with perfect harmony within himself and in his relationships with all other creatures and with God. Man's body was to function in accord with his spirit in accord with God. Man's primordial sin disrupted this intended harmony, making it possible for his body to act contrary to his soul, and the soul to act in opposition to God. John believes that man's primary goal in his present condition of life is to become a "new man" according to God and to reestablish within himself (with God's help to overcome man's natural enemies--the world, the flesh, and the devil) the original divine plan where man's sense life is subject to his spirit and his spirit to



Another important concept in John's understanding of the human person is the "self." Although not intrinsic to John's structural view of the person as just outlined, self is a term that occurs frequently in John's writing, usually in hyphenated forms such as self-love, self-denial or self- knowledge.2

To understand what John means by self, recall that he views the human person as intrinsically oriented toward God, the true Center of human life. This relationship to God is ontological: it exists whether the person is consciously aware of it or not. The human person as spirit and sense exists, not contained within his own physical boundaries, but in an intrinsic relationship to God. All the psychological operations of the human person--faculties, appetites, emotions, etc.,--find their fulfillment not only in their natural objects, but ultimately in God.

For St. John, the self is simply the human person with all his psychological operations and capacities but without conscious relationship to God. A person can become so centered in these operations that he loses sight of his intrinsic relationship to God. To rejoice in one's own natural endowments apart from God is to become self-centered, leading to a


lPierluigi di S. Christina, "Il Ritorno alla Giustizia Originale," in "Sanjuanistica," pp. 227-55.

2See, for example, A2,6,7; A3,28,8; Nl,6,6-8; C4,1.


self-complacency and self-love that leads one away from the love of God. To the degree one loves self in this sense, one departs from God, the true Center of human life.1

To avoid becoming centered in self to the neglect of God, a person must deny his self. Here John is thinking of the New Testament passage in which Jesus states:

If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.2

For John, this passage is a call to avoid rejoicing only in the natural use of one's sensory and spiritual faculties in order to direct their use to God, the Ultimate End of all human activity. Thus, John's use of terminology such as self-contempt is not an expression of masochism; rather, it reflects an awareness that a person's true good exists not in the simple exercise of all his natural sensory and spiritual activities, but in centering these faculties on God as their true Goal.3

The main thrust in all John's writings is to demonstrate that the human person's greatest good is found in gradually directing all his natural faculties of sense and spirit to God, their Ultimate Object. Life is thus a journey of going out


1A2,4,5; A3,21,1; 24,4; 28,8; 38,2; C9,5.

2Mk. 8:34-35.

3A2,7,4-13; A3,9,1-4; 23,2; N2,18,4.


from self to God, from living only in the natural exercise of one's human faculties to living with all these natural faculties consciously directed toward God.1 This view of life as a journey from living entirely in self to living entirely in God leads us to consider John's second view of human life as a dynamic process of becoming a person transformed in God through love.

For John, God is the human person's true Goal. Dwelling within the human person as the Center of his being, God continually draws the person to union with Himself in love. In turn, the human person naturally seeks the ultimate fulfillment of his total being with all its faculties, capacities, and operations in this loving union with God. All human energy is directed to possessing God, a goal the person seeks restlessly and incessantly in all his actions and, when achieved, fulfills all human desires.2

As God is infinite and the human person's desire for Him is fathomless, the dynamic movement toward God continues all through a person's life in a continual search for divine union through love. As one centers this longing upon the True God as the sole Object of his being, one becomes transformed in God and achieves human fulfillment. However, to the degree that a person centers his life on objects other than


1A3,2,2; Nl, Explanation, 1; C11,l; Maxims on Love, no. 80.

2A1,1,4; N2,11,4; 13,5; C22,5; F1,11-14.

pp 130-138

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