St John Of The Cross


love1--is always in John's mind when he writes of the human person. John has two major views of man. In one, human nature is viewed ontologically and structurally as being; in the other, it is seen existentially or dynamically as becoming. The structural view of human nature relies heavily upon scholastic philosophy, while the dynamic view of man is derived primarily from John's personal experience. Both are complimentary. John's structural analysis of man demonstrates that union with God is psychologically possible; his treatment of man in process of becoming a person transformed into God through love reveals the dynamic nature of this divine union.

In his structural analysis, John regards man primarily as a unity. For the purposes of discussion, he divides human nature into two major parts--body or the sensory part and soul or the spiritual part; however, he carefully points out


following: Ruiz Salvador, Introduccion a San Juan de la Cruz, pp. 295-327; E. W. Trueman Dicken, The Crucible of Love: A Study of the Mysticism of St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1963), pp. 327-351; Victorino Capánaga, San Juan de la Cruz: Valor Psicológico de su Doctrina (Madrid: Juan Bravo, 1950); Marcelo del Niño Jesus, El Tomismo de San Juan de la Cruz (Burgos: El Monte Carmelo, 1930); Juan José de la Immaculada Concepcion, La Psicologia de San Juan de la Cruz (Santiago, Chile: Imp. y Ed. Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, 1944); Henri Sanson, L'Espirit Humain Selon Saint Jean de la Croix (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1953); Fernando Urbina, La Persona Humana an San Juan de la Cruz (Madrid: Inst. Social León XIII 1956); Eulogio Pacho "La Antropología Sanjuanistica," El Monte Carmelo 69 (1961):47-90.

lSee titles of each of John's major treatises. Also, C12,8.


that these two major parts form a unified, whole person.This unity is expressed through the Latin word "suppositum" taken from scholastic philosophy.1 The Spanish word most often used to express the unity of human nature is el alma, a word roughly equivalent to the English word "man" when used generically.2 The ontological and psychological foundation of the unity of the human person is attributed to its substance (sustancia del alma), which is the essential being of the person, its inmost depths, and the basis for all its spiritual and sensory experience, capacities, and operations.3


1N1,4,2; N2,1,1; 3,1; C13,4. Literally, suppositum means something placed under. In scholastic terminology, the suppositum is "that which underlies all the accidents of a thing, i.e., the individual substance of a certain kind which is the subject of existence and all accidental modifications which constitute the individual," Roy J. Deferrari, A Latin English Dictionary of St. Thomas Aquinas (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1960). p. 1018, John also expresses the unity of the human person with the phrase "toda esta armonia," which Kavanaugh and Rodriguez translate as a "whole harmonious composite." See Collected Works, N2,11,4; C16,5&10; F3,7.

2John sometimes uses alma to refer to the spiritual part of human nature. See, for example, F1,10 and F3,16. More frequently, however, el alma refers to the entire human person as composed of sense and spirit, and is equivalent to the generic term "man" with emphasis on the person's interiority or spirituality. See Ruiz Salvador, Introduccion a San Juan de la Cruz, pp. 300-301. See also the 17th Century Spanish dictionary by Covarrubias, Tesoro de la Lenqua Castellana o Española, ed, Martin de Riquer, (Barcelona: S. A. Horta, 1943), where las almas signifies persons. See also the context of Al,1,1-5; F3,16,67. In this dissertation, we translate el alma in its generic sense as "man" or "the human person" unless noted otherwise.

3A2,5,2-3;N2,6,4;23,11-12;Cl2,9; 14,12-16;22,5;31,1;39, 6&8;F2,8-10,21,34; F3,69;F4,3,10,13-15. For a discusssion of the substance of the soul, see Dicken, The Crucible of Love,


John divides the human person into two major, interrelated parts--spirit (el espiritu) and sense (el sentido).l Spirit includes that part of the human person which is higher or superior, interior, and rational, while sense includes the lower or inferior, exterior, and sensory.2 Taking his lead from the Latin Vulgate translation of I Corinthians 2:14-15 where the apostle Paul distinguishes between "Animalis autem homo . . . spiritualis autem . . . "3 John also uses the term "animal man" for those who live primarily according to the sensory part of their human nature, while the "spiritual man" lives according to the superior or rational part of his being.4

John sometimes refers to the spiritual and sensitive parts of the human person as soul (alma) and body (cuerpo) or flesh (carne) respectively. Following the scholastic theory that the soul (anima) is infused into the body (corpus), giving the body life, yet also depending upon the body for its own natural functioning, John pictures the relationship of these two parts as the soul residing in the body as in a


pp. 368-'71, and Capánaga, San Juan de la Cruz, pp. 289-94.

lAl,1,2; Nl,8,1; N2,24,2; C16,2.

2A1,13,10; C16,10.

3Augustinus Merk, Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1948), p. 855.

4A2,l9,11; A3,26,3-4; F1,29; 2,34. John also uses the term "animal" referring to those who are attached only to


prison. The soul needs the body to function, but the body also inhibits the soul's freedom to attain its true center, which is God.1 This bipartite conception of the human person implies both a real distinction between spirit and sense and a mutual influence of one upon the other. The body cannot live without the soul; but the soul (which can live apart from the body) needs the body for its own natural operations.2

Both spirit or soul and sense or body possess their own psychological powers or faculties (potencias). The faculties of the sensitive part of the human person are both exterior and interior.3 The exterior faculties comprise the five bodily senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch, each with its own peculiar object. Through these faculties a person remains in continual contact with the surrounding world and receives impressions from the environment.4 As the senses receive these impressions they are immediately formed by the interior sense faculties--the fantasy, imagination, and sensible memory--into internal images of objects in the outside


their natural operations, sensory or spiritual, but without a relationship to the supernatural influence of God. See F3 74-75.

lAl,3,3-4; 12,4; 15,1; A2,24,1-3; A3,23,4; N2,16,13; 19, 4: N2,21,10; 23,9; C1,20; 3,10; 8,2-4; 11,10; 13,2-6; 18,1-2; 19,1; C20,9; F1,29,32; F2,13-14,22; F3,7,10,16; F4,11.

2A2,11,2-3; A3,22,2; 33,1; Nl,4,1-2; N2,1,1; 3,1; 7,5; N2,13,4; 23,14; 25,3; C19, 1&5; F3,74.

3A2, chaps. 10-12; N2,23,2.

4A1,3,2; A2,11,2&5; A3,2,4; 25,2-8.


world.1 The faculties of the spiritual part of the person are the intellect (entendimiento), memory (memoria), and will (volundad).2 The intellect is the knowing faculty and is the basis of the psychological operations of thought (pensa mientos y concepciones), reason (razón), judgement (juicio), and understanding (conocimiento). Figuratively, the intellect provides spiritual light for the soul.3 The memory is the repository of images from the sense faculties and ideas from the intellect, as well as the imaginative and discursive power of the soul.4 The will is the affective faculty of the soul, the power to love and desire. It is the basis of the soul's strength (fortaleza del alma) and energy (fuerza de la volundad). Figuratively, the will governs the soul by directing its other psychological functions toward their appropriate objects.5 Although each of these faculties is distinct from the other, they act interdependently. The intellect and the memory are the cognitive faculties and the will is the conative faculty. The will pursues what the intellect judges and the memory imagines to be good, whereas


lA2,14,4; 16,3; C18,7; 40,5.

2A2,6,1; 8,5; A3,33,4; C18,5; F3,18-21&68.

3Al,8,2-3;9,6; A2,8,5; 21,8; 22,9-15.

4Al,9,6; A2,8,5; 16,2; N2,8,2; F3,52.

5A2,6,1&4-5; A3,16,1-6; 27,5; 28,6; 44,3; N2,4,2; C40,1.


the activity of the will can influence the judgment of reason.1

The sense faculties, too, are distinct from the spiritual faculties, but operate interdependently with them. The soul with its faculties gives life to the body but exists originally in the body as a tabula rasa, depending upon the activity of the sense faculties before the spiritual operations of intellect, memory, and will can begin. John describes this relationship in the following manner:

... the soul (el alma) is like a tabula rasa (a clean slate) when God infuses it into the body, so that it would be ignorant without the knowledge it receives through its senses, because no knowledge is communicated to it from any other source. Accordingly, the presence of the soul in the body (en el cuerpo) resembles the presence of a prisoner in a dark dungeon, who knows no more than what he manages to behold through the windows of his prison and has nowhere else to turn if he sees nothing through them. For the soul, naturally speaking, possesses no means other than the senses (the windows of its prison) of perceiving what is communicated to it.2

With this view of the soul's relation to the body, we can easily understand that John considered the body with its sense faculties as the lower, exterior, inferior, animal part of man, while the soul with its spiritual faculties as the higher, interior, superior, uniquely human part of man. The sensory part of the human person, in direct contact with the external world, communicates the information it receives from outside through the senses to the spirit or interior part of the person where it is acted upon by the intellect, memory, and will in their


1Al,8,1-4;9,5-6; A3,1,l-2;l7,2;29,2;34,1.

2A1,3,3. See also A2,3,2; A3,13,4;23,3; C39,12-13.


operations of knowledge, reflection, and love.1

Although the faculties of spirit--intellect, will, and memory--depend upon the faculties of sense for their natural operation, they are nevertheless spiritual faculties. This means that while their union with the body limits their natural operations of knowledge and love due to the finite or material nature of the objects of the sense faculties, they are nevertheless unlimited in their capacity to receive knowledge and love precisely because they are spiritual. John refers to this infinite capacity of the spiritual faculties in The Living Flame of Love when he explains the meaning of his poetic phrase "the deep caverns of feeling (las profundas cavernas del sentido)."

These caverns are the soul's faculties (las potencias de el alma): memory, intellect, and will. They are as deep as are the boundless goods of which they are capable since anything less than the infinite fails to fill them.2

The capacity of these caverns is deep, because the object of this capacity, namely God, is profound and infinite.3

Using the scholastic distinction between active and passive intellect, John explains the infinite capacity of the intellect when he discusses divine contemplation in The Spiritual Canticle.


lA3,13,4; 33,1.


3F3,22. See also A2,17,8.


In contemplation, God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words, and without the help of any bodily or spiritual faculty, in silence and quietude, in darkness to all sensory and natural things. Some persons call this contemplation knowing by unknowing (entender no entendiendo). For this knowledge is not produced by the intellect which the philosophers call the agent intellect, which works upon the forms, phantasies, and apprehensions of the corporal faculties; rather it is produced in the possible or passive intellect. This possible intellect, without the reception of these forms, etc., receives passively only substantial knowledge, which is divested of images and given without any work or active function of the intellect.1

John understands the spiritual faculties of intellect, memory, and will to be really distinct from the substance of the soul (sustancia del alma).2 This permits him to speak of substantial knowledge communicated to a person passively as distinct from human knowledge acquired through the natural activity of the sense and spiritual faculties. A person can receive knowledge and love passively in the spiritual faculties as a result of his loving union with God.dwelling in the substance of his soul (el Maestro que la enseña está dentro del alma sustancialmente).3 This is a substantial union between the human spirit and the Spirit of God, a union between the substance of God and the substance of the soul.4 This substantial union produces an overflow of divine wisdom and

lC39,12. See also A2,32,4; A3,13,3-5; C14,14-15.

2A2,5,2; C14,12-13; 26,11; F2,21.


4N2,17,4; F2,21.


love into the person's spiritual faculties (and occasionally into the sensory faculties) which is received without the normal activity of the human faculties.1 This substantial union of God and man becomes perfect only after the person's death when the soul is liberated from the body. In the meantime, the natural dependence of the spirit upon sense remains, no matter how intense the union between God and man in this life. But the distinction between the substance of the soul and the spiritual faculties remains important in man's present condition, for while he may be limited in the knowledge and love he can attain through the natural activity of his sensory and spiritual faculties, he is virtually unlimited in the loving knowledge he can receive from God.2

Summarizing John's structural view of human nature to this point, we see that the human person is essentially a unified whole comprising two interrelated parts--sense and spirit --each endowed with its own network of psychological operations. A natural union of sense and spirit exists with its interior and exterior faculties. However, the spiritual faculties in themselves, independent of the senses, may also receive knowledge and love directly from God who is present substantially within the person.

Within this basic structure of the person, John identifies


1C14,12-14; F2,22.

2C27,1-28,8; F1,27-36; 2,21-22.


three other psychological operations which have important consequences for spiritual direction: appetites or drives (apetitos), emotions (afecciones o pasiones) and feelings (sentimientos).

To understand appetites, one must see that each sensory and spiritual faculty has both an immediate and ultimate object. The immediate object is that to which any faculty directly and immediately tends. For example, the immediate object of the spiritual faculty of the will is anything perceived by the intellect as good; the immediate object of the sense faculty of hearing is sound, etc.1 The ultimate object of each faculty is God. Thus, in addition to each faculty's natural tendency to its own specific object, all faculties together tend toward God as their ultimate object.2

The, natural force present in each sensual and spiritual faculty moving it towards its appropriate object is the appetite. Through the appetite, the faculty is united or attached to its object.3 This appetitive force in the faculty might be


1A1,3,2; A2,6,6; 11,1; 16,3; 23,2; A3,1,2; 2,4; C16,10- 11; F3,69&78.

2A3,16,1-2; N2,21,11; C2,6-8; 26,13-17; 28,7-10; 40,1-2; F3,18-22&70; Maxims on Love, no. 38.

3Al,3,1; A1,11,4; N2,11,3-4; C28,8. Ruiz Salvador maintains that a word exactly equivalent to John's apetito is lacking in today's psychological vocabulary (Introduccion a San Juan de la Cruz, pp. 581-85). A current scholastic definition which is close to John's meaning states: "In the ontological sense, appetite is the inclination of a being to seek its end or perfection. In a specific sense, an appetite is the inclination of any faculty or power to seek its formal or proper object. The spiritual will desires the good, its proper

pp 120-130

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