St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
|TREATISE ON THE LOVE OF GOD
By St Francis de Sales
Book I. Containing A Preparation For The Whole Treatise.
Ch 11. That There Are Two Portions In The Soul, And How.
We have but one soul, Theotimus, and an indivisible one; but in that one soul there are various degrees of perfection, for it is living, sensible and reasonable; and according to these different degrees it has also different properties and inclinations by which it is moved to the avoidance or to the acceptance of things.
For first, as we see that the vine hates, so to speak and avoids the cabbage, so that the one is pernicious to the other, and, on the contrary, is delighted in the olive; so we perceive a natural opposition between man and the serpent, so great that a man's fasting spittle is mortal to the serpent. On the contrary, man and the sheep have a wondrous affinity, and are agreeable one to the other. Now this inclination does not proceed from any knowledge that the one has of the hurtfulness of its contrary, or of the advantage of the one with which it has affinity, but only from a certain occult and secret quality which produces this insensible opposition and antipathy, or this complacency and sympathy.
Secondly, we have in us the sensitive appetite, whereby we are moved to the seeking and avoiding many things by the sensitive knowledge we have of them; not unlike to the animals, some of which have an appetite to one thing, some to another, according to the knowledge which they have that it suits them or not. In this appetite resides, or from it proceeds, the love which we call sensual or brutish, which yet properly speaking ought not to be termed love but simply appetite.
Thirdly, inasmuch as we are reasonable, we have a
will, by which we are led to seek after good,
according as by reasoning we know or judge it to be
such. Now in our soul, taken as reasonable, we
manifestly observe two degrees of perfection, which
the great S. Augustine, and after him all the
doctors, have named two portions of the soul,
inferior and superior. That is called inferior which
reasons and draws conclusions according to what it
learns and experiences by the senses; and that is
called superior, which reasons and draws conclusions
according to an intellectual knowledge not grounded
upon the experience of sense, but on the discernment
and judgment of the spirit. This superior part is
called the spirit and mental part of the soul, as the
inferior is termed commonly, sense, feeling, and
Jacob, pressed by the extreme necessity of his family, let Benjamin be taken by his brethren into Egypt, which yet he did against his will, as the sacred History witnesses. In this he shows two wills, the one inferior, by which he grieved at sending him, the other superior, by which he took the resolution to part with him. For the reason which moved him to disapprove his departure was grounded on the pleasure which he felt in his presence and the pain he would feel in his absence, which are grounds that touch the senses and the feelings, but the resolution which he took to send him, was grounded upon the reason of the state of his family, from his foreseeing future and imminent necessities.
Abraham, according to the inferior portion of his
soul spoke words testifying in him a kind of
diffidence when the angel announced unto him the
happy tidings of a son. Shall a son, thinkest thou,
be born to him that is a hundred years old?(1) but
according, to his superior part he believed in God
and it was reputed to him unto justice.(2) According
to his inferior part, doubtless he was in great
anguish when he was commanded to sacrifice his son:
but according to his superior part he resolved
courageously to sacrifice him.
Again, though a girl be married to the contentment of her father and mother, yet when she takes their blessing she excites their tears, in such sort that though the superior will acquiesces in the departure, yet the inferior shows resistance. We must not hence infer that a man has two souls or two natures, as the Manicheans dreamed. No, says S. Augustine, in the 8th book, 10th chapter, of his Confessions, "but the will inticed by different baits, moved by different reasons, seems to be divided in itself while it is pulled two ways, until, making use of its liberty, it chooses the one or the other: for then the more efficacious will conquers, and gaining the day, leaves in the soul the feeling of the evil, that the struggle caused her, which we call reluctance (contrecoeur)."
But the example of our Saviour is admirable in this point and being considered it leaves no further doubt touching the distinction of the superior and inferior part of the soul. For who amongst theologians knows not that he was perfectly glorious from the instant of his conception in his virgin-mother's womb, and yet at the same time he was subject to sadness, grief, and afflictions of heart.
Nor must we say he suffered only in the body, or only in the soul as sensitive, or, which is the same thing, according to sense: for he attests himself that before he suffered any exterior torment, or saw the tormentors near him, his soul was sorrowful even unto death. For which cause he prayed that the cup of his passion might pass away from him, that is, that he might be excused from drinking it; in which he manifestly shows the desire of the inferior portion of his soul; which, dwelling upon the sad and agonizing objects of the passion which was prepared for him (the lively image whereof was represented to his imagination), he desired, by a most reasonable consequence, the deliverance and escape from them, which he begs from his Father.
By this we clearly see that the inferior part of the soul is not the same thing as the sensitive degree of it, nor the inferior will the same with the sensitive appetite; for neither the sensitive appetite, nor the soul insomuch as it is sensitive, is capable of making any demand or prayer, these being acts of the reasonable power; and they are, specially, incapable of speaking to God, an object which the senses cannot reach, so as to make it known to the appetite.
But the same Saviour, having thus exercised the
inferior part, and testified that according to it and
its considerations his will inclined to the avoidance
of the griefs and pains, showed afterwards that he
had the superior part, by which inviolably adhering
to the eternal will, and to the decree made by his
heavenly Father, he willingly accepted death, and in
spite of the repugnance of the inferior part of
reason, he said: Ah! no, my Father, not my will, but
thine be done. When he says my will, he speaks of his
will according to the inferior portion, and inasmuch
an he says it voluntarily, he shows that he has a