The third kind of interior words, we said, is called
substantial. These substantial words, although they
are likewise formal, since they are impressed upon
the soul in a definitely formal way, differ,
nevertheless, in that substantial words produce vivid
and substantial effects upon the soul, whereas words
which are merely formal do not. So that, although it
is true that every substantial word is formal, every
formal word is not therefore substantial, but only,
as we said above, such a word as impresses
substantially on the soul that which it signifies.
It is as if Our Lord were to say formally to the
soul: 'Be thou good'; it would then be substantially
good. Or as if He were to say to it: 'Love thou Me';
it would then have and feel within itself the
substance of love for God. Or as if it feared greatly
and He said to it: 'Fear thou not'; it would at once
feel within itself great fortitude and tranquility.
For the saying of God, and His word, as the Wise Man
says, is full of power; and thus that which He
says to the soul He produces substantially within it.
For it is this that David meant when he said:
'See, He will give to His voice a voice of
virtue.' And even so with Abraham, when He said
to him: 'Walk in My presence and be perfect': he
was then perfect and walked ever in the fear of God.
And this is the power of His word in the Gospel,
wherewith He healed the sick, raised the dead, etc.,
by no more than a word.
And after this manner He gives certain souls
locutions which are substantial; and they are of such
moment and price that they are life and virtue and
incomparable good to the soul; for one of these words
works greater good within the soul than all that the
soul itself has done throughout its life.
2. With respect to these words, the soul should do
nothing. It should neither desire them nor refrain
from desiring them; it should neither reject them nor
fear them. It should do nothing in the way of
executing what these words express, for these
substantial words are never pronounced by God in
order that the soul may translate them into action,
but that He may so translate them within the soul;
herein they differ from formal and successive words.
And I say that the soul must neither desire nor
refrain from desiring, since its desire is not
necessary for God to translate these words into
effect, nor is it sufficient for the soul to refrain
from desiring in order for the said effect not to be
produced. Let the soul rather be resigned and humble
with respect to them. It must not reject them, since
the effect of these words remains substantially
within it and is full of the good which comes from
As the soul receives this good passively, its
action is at no time of any importance. Nor should it
fear any deception; for neither the understanding nor
the devil can intervene herein, nor can they succeed
in passively producing this substantial effect in the
soul, in such a way that the effect and habit of the
locution may be impressed upon it, unless the soul
should have given itself to the devil by a voluntary
compact, and he should have dwelt in it as its
master, and impressed upon it these effects, not of
good, but of evil. Inasmuch as that soul would be
already voluntarily united to him in perversity, the
devil might easily impress upon it the effects of his
sayings and words with evil intent.
For we see by experience that in many things and
even upon good souls he works great violence, by
means of suggestion, making his suggestions very
efficacious; and if they were evil he might work in
them the consummation of these suggestions. But he
cannot leave upon a soul effects similar to those of
locutions which are good; for there is no comparison
between the locutions of the devil and those of God.
The former are all as though they were not, in
comparison with the latter, neither do they produce
any effect at all compared with the effect of these.
For this cause God says through Jeremias: 'What has
the chaff to do with the wheat? Are not My words
perchance as fire, and as a hammer that breaketh the
rock in pieces?' And thus these substantial
words are greatly conducive to the union of the soul
with God; and the more interior they are, the more
substantial are they, and the greater is the profit
that they bring. Happy is the soul to whom God
addresses these words. Speak, Lord, for Thy servant
|| This chapter is notable for
the hardly surpassable clarity and precisions with which the
Saint defines substantial locutions. Some critics, however,
have found fault with him for saying that the soul should not
fear these locutions, but accept them humbly and passively,
since they depend wholly on God. The reply is that, when God
favours the soul with these locutions, its own restless effort
can only impede His work in it, as has already been said. The
soul is truly co-operating with God by preparing itself with
resignation and humble affection to receive His favours: it
should not, as some critics have asserted, remain completely
inactive. As to the fear of being deceived by these locutions,
both St. Thomas and all the principal commentators are in
conformity with the Saint's teaching. St. Teresa, too, took
the same attitude as St. John of the Cross. Cf. her Life,
Chap. xxv, and Interior Castle, VI, iii.
|| Ecclesiastes viii, 4.
|| Psalm lxvii, 34 [A.V., lxviii,
|| Genesis xvii, 1.
|| Jeremias xxiii, 28-9.
|| 1 Kings [A.V., 1 Samuel] iii, 10.