Brookline Carmel Bulletin
November 6, 1960
(The Natural Point of View)
Man may be rightly styled a miniature cosmos; he shares in every level of existence. He is ‘at home’ in the worlds of matter, of living things, and of ideas.
Vegetative, animal and intellectual life with their respective principles of operation are to be found in Man. On the vegetative level he grows, nourishes himself, reproduces. On the level of animal life he possesses the faculties of sense perception, of sense memory and of locomotion. On the highest, the intellectual, level he enjoys the faculties of intellect – with its power to reason and understand – and will – with its power to choose and love.
In virtue of his intellect and will Man has something in common with both the Angels and God. His resemblance to them, however, is one of analogy only. Human intellectual and volitional operations are not the same as those of the Angels; nor again, are angelic operations the same as those of God. Nevertheless, individual men and Angels, like God, are persons: A ‘person’ is defined as a being subsisting in a rational nature. Which means, of course, that only those beings capable of knowing and of loving – free beings – may be called persons. The transcendence of human life over lower forms of life stems directly from a man’s dignity as a person, a being capable of determining himself. Man is master of his fate.
The Spiritual Theologian is certainly interested in the fixed, abstract view of Man as just stated, since everything in human nature has some bearing upon his life as an ‘adopted’ son of God. But he – the Spiritual Theologian – is even more interested in the concrete, dynamic view of Man as he exists in his particular environment here and now.
A human being comes into the world in a highly imperfect state (more so than any of the forms of life beneath him). He has to undergo a long, slow, involved process of development to a state of perfection. When mature, he will have realized, to a great extent, his innate potential. To insure that development there exists in his various tendencies (issuing in needs, desires, drives), which incline him toward some particular kind of ‘fulfillment’. The present state of these tendencies – i.e., their actuation or inhibition, their modifications due to heredity, to environment, to their ‘channelization’ to specific ends by intellectual, moral and cultural education, to our cognitive and volitive response to them in the give and take of daily life: this entire vital, changing complex – determines the present state of a man’s soul. They constitute his spiritual orientation. Obviously, the man striving for Sanctity never stops trying to effect in his soul an orientation that accords perfectly with the exigencies of his dignity as an adopted child of God. Speaking more popularly, he tries to reproduce in his own soul an orientation that is essentially the same as that which existed in Jesus Christ, the ‘natural’ Son of God. Thus, if we want to be Saints, we have to be cognizant of all the tendencies of our nature, their scope, their present state of development, of which are to be cultivated, of which denied, of which moderated (and to what extent). Only then can we expect to work effectively and travel swiftly toward Holiness.
To give a thorough explanation of the various tendencies, innate and acquired, actual and habitual, would require a trained psychologist. But we can at least point out the profound (innate) tendencies. Psychologists recognize three spheres of development of human life: the biological, the psychosocial and the spiritual. Though logically distinct, they cannot in practice be completely isolated from one another. In each of them can be seen two well defined tendencies: the tendency to self-preservation (includes consolidation) and the tendency to communication. In the biological sphere there exists the tendency to nourish oneself (self-preservation) and to reproduce oneself (communication). In the psychosocial sphere there is the tendency to maintain oneself among other beings – i.e., discourage aggression and the infringement of rights – (self-preservation) and the tendency to band together with others into social units (communication). In the spiritual sphere (as distinct from supernatural) there is found the tendency to take up a respectable and defensible position in the world of ideas (self-preservation) and the tendency to inculcate one’s values, one’s philosophy of life in others (communication).
This gives us a picture of what man is both in the abstract and in the concrete. This is the creature that must be divinized.
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