(NOTE: This transcription has been automatically generated through an AI program. Consequently, this transcript may not match everything you hear in the podcast episode, and it may contain errors such as spelling, grammar, word choice, etc., due to the limitations of current AI technology.)
Hi everyone, welcome to episode three of season two of Midnight Carmelite, this is your host Andrew Gniadek. So, in the previous episodes of the season, I started by discussing inconstancy in love and how we are inconstant with love and that this inconstancy leads to ignorance in the spiritual life due to us sometimes confusing God for things that are not God, but they may come from God and which comes from really us not prioritizing God in our life properly. So in this episode, I said we’d go into the appetite.
So we’re going to discuss a little bit of what St. John of the Cross means by the appetites. And then we’re going to explain how the appetites lead us to a slavery of our person and not to freedom. So let’s begin. So, appetites for Saint John of the Cross, are disordered fondness for creatures in preference to God, but there’s a bit of nuance here, that’s really important to keep in mind. So, for Saint John of the Cross appetites as disorder fondness is have to also have the will of the person participating in that disordered likeness.
So what do we mean? Okay, so Saint John of the Cross says that a person can experience appetites. For example, these disordered fondness is in the sensory part of the person, but not have an effect in the rational part of the person. You know, for example, you could have a feeling while you’re praying and doesn’t mean you consent to that feeling or that fondness that draw away from God right? Like again, you know, it may even be a type of distraction in prayer, right? You know, you that could be you know, you have a fondness of disordered fondness for whatever may distract you, right?
So it’s kind of it’s a little more nuanced than simply just disordered thought. This is my point here, but I think it’s also important to pause and explain something that comes along with this all human persons are activity. And what I mean by that is is that you engage with the world through your cognition. So your you know what will be called awareness in English, right? You look on things and you are aware of them either in the sense level, the intellectual level, you know the faith level, right?
You know you we have these levels of awareness is cognition of the human person and a lot of this leads us to action, right? We affirm something we we say, oh this is you know, I’ve tasted a good coffee this morning. But your cognitive right? Your awareness of the coffee would allow you to judge things about the coffee, but it was a good coffee was a bad coffee. How does it rank among things like what I buy it again, like that, that’s all with what I’m talking about here and we do this with more things than just coffee, right?
We decide things about you know what we love or what we believe to be true. You know? My point is that we have fond, this is for things and based off of having the cognition of the thing. Okay. But there’s something called quietism, that comes into play here because if you think about what I said, I was saying, well, there’s no activity in the rational part, but there is activity in the sensory part and the will may or may not participate. And I think it’s important to talk about quietism, this idea of in activity which is condemned by the church by the way to kind of show about, well, how does this quietism, play with St. John of the Cross’s understanding, right?
So what I mean by it is, is how does Saint John of the Cross simply mean, then that denying your appetites is a form of quietism, it’s just, well, don’t act on anything because, because everything in the world isn’t God. So therefore just don’t do anything. Right? Is that, is that what he’s saying? I argue: No. But I think it’s something worth going through briefly here. So quietism essentially states that any moral effort on the person’s part for attaining a high degree of the interior life is worthless.
And I’m going to summarize quietism in my own words, and if there’s any error here, it’s my error and it’s unintentional because my aim obviously is to, you know, illumine the truth for the good of all you listening and explaining things in my own words helps me test whether I understand what I’m reading, hearing or seeing. And you know, I also think it allows for an easier way to explain it. Right? Okay. So let’s go through the five major points of quietism, here.
So the first point of quiet is your powers must become nothing. You literally are doing nothing with your powers. I mean your will, your intellect, you’re not thinking, you’re not willing or not loving. You enter some sort of non-activity state. So a note here for regular Midnight Carmelite listeners, if your powers become nothing and you’re literally doing nothing with your powers. You’re not thinking well and loving. If the basis of the fact that you are is the active existence, which is a verb, which means by nature activity, right.
Then how can a person who’s various basis is activity become not activity, especially when that activity is not dependent on the person willing that activity or not. So food for thought there, point to your desire to work towards God is bad. God wants to be the sole actor. So you must abandon these hopes of desires of working towards God and just wait on God like you are a lifeless body. So this one’s pretty self explanatory. I refer to it as the vegetable axiom of quietism, which is basically your lifeless vegetable who weights on God to do everything and you do nothing.
Number two, any natural act a person can perform is contrary. So the word used in the constitution that condemns this is enemy to God hinders God’s action and hinders you the person from this true perfection on account of God wanting us to do nothing while he acts in this. Now remember I’m still talking about quietism. So all this is heretical. But I’m going through to show why St. John is not this. Okay, so again, what they’re saying in . 3 here is that any natural act, thinking willing, loving anything that’s all hindering God’s action.
So you need to shut yourself down. So they’re kind of, it’s kind of repeating itself here. So just stay with me that we only have two more points. The 4th point. Now, this particular point was bothersome for me when I was researching it. So let’s go through it here. This point states that this do-nothing mode returns the person to God and God remains in himself since God is principle and origin of the person according to quietism and the person is transformed and divinized, on account of there being no longer two things are united, but instead one.
Now this is my editorialization on this. This is very similar to the philosophy of Plotinus and for those who are not familiar with Plotinus as he was a third-century philosopher. I think it’s 204-270 something around there and is controversial philosophy for a lot of reasons, which would be a whole separate podcast season, frankly, but well, the main thing about Plotinus, his metaphysics, his way of understanding reality is that it’s what’s called a henology. So it’s this, it’s to be realized to be one.
Whereas in a metaphysics of the, you know, like Aquinas or the Catholic Tradition, there’s something called ontology which means that beings are both in themselves, their own thing as well as in relation to themselves and others. And that unity can occur between two distinct things while remaining distinct things. So according to this, that there’s no by this in activity, you return to God as your origin. And it’s one thing that sounds a lot like a technology, which means that you lose your identity in heaven when you’re united with God in the beatific vision wasn’t clear from my research on this, I mean, maybe someone out there is the quietism expert.
I’m not just kind of offering this for food for thought. So anyways, back to this point, therefore the way to perfection according to quietism is the annihilation of action of any kind which leads to the annihilation of the person in its active dimension, that is using any powers of the person in a way where the origin is the person, so again desiring anything, you know. So as I have here, the vegetable axiom has implicitly struck again in 4 So 5, the final point, it is not proper to ask God for anything since asking is an action despite your intentions and who you’re talking to and therefore asking leads away from perfection since you are the origin of asking God for something.
And furthermore, any petition saw in this way is from what you want, not what God wants instead of what god wants and you conforming to what god wants. And finally, according to the quietism John 16:24 basically says ask and you shall receive was not referring to quote interior souls, but to some lesser human persons who need to ask God for things unlike the quietest who are in a state of do nothing mode because and here’s the key part. The Quietest, this is key, refused to not only will things like asking God for things, but refused to have a will at all since the will is the power by which we choose.
So then the question arises here now. So now we’re on, we’ve gone through five points if it’s not even not willing things, but not willing at all. How are the quietist free? And if you’re not free, how can you love God? So there’s a lot in here that is problematic And then we’ll finish up here on .5. Eventually, quietism arrive at the summit of perfection which is following the vegetable axiom. Remember the vegetable axiom as any action that you perform as contrary to God, they are in some sort of state of do nothing mode there one with God now as opposed to two things united and are not asking God for things.
Okay, so let’s unpack all this is a lot. So let’s start from the beginning here. The first is you know, we can see from what you already know about St. John of the Cross that obviously not willing things is completely ridiculous. The fact that you’re trying to grow in the spiritual life is willing to be closer with God. So all this goes out the window, the idea here is that saying, well, you know, you have appetites that are disordered doesn’t mean you shouldn’t desire nothing. That’s the point I’m trying to make here is just because our appetites can be disordered, right?
Because remember, you could use appetite broadly speaking, right? And here we’re using the definition has disordered fondness is for creatures in preference to God, right? That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t will anything because you’re willing the fact that you don’t want those things and you want to be closer to God and love God and be, you know, grow in the third mode of presence. So quietism really doesn’t hold here. So then . 1 of quietism you know, if you’re in the beginning of the dark night of the sense and you’re willing to enter and mortify your appetites, which is doing something, then you can’t not your powers aren’t becoming nothing so point one’s gone.
And 2 is because you desire to work toward God. Like I just said, you’re gonna be working on, you know, growing in humility, like Saint Teresa says, you’re gonna be working on mortifying your appetites now, you’re entering the act of night of the sense And therefore you’re desiring to work towards God. So that’s 2 out the window. 3 Falls because human beings need to freely choose God, which is an action that governs the mortifying of the appetites and wanting to grow in the interior life. So 3 is gone, which is saying that any natural active person performs is contrary to God.
And 4 is a mess in my opinion, because it’s technology, not ontology, and it pushes the annihilation of activity in a person who’s very basis is in existence, which is an activity and it kind of like gets rid of that. So that doesn’t seem to make much sense. And finally 5 falls on Scripture alone, Jesus said, asking you will receive, why would it not apply to interior souls like that just seems kind of silly. And remember to if the interior life, you know, union with God and love any loving relationship, its service.
Like we’ve talked about last season, you know, love causes a kind of subjection, Love is a subjection to the thing, it’s an equalization and the subjection. So of course, you’re going to wonder what the other person wants and God’s going to want us to to ask him because it’s a personal relationship, he wants to respect our personhood and our freedom and our dignity, right? He made us that way. So now we’re through the quietism thing.
So Saint John of the Cross he’s talking about appetites is clearly talking about the active part of the dark night of the sense, so active here, meaning you the person are actively working to root out and destroy your disordered appetites with the help of God’s grace that your will participates in and you are moving your will to actions that build virtue and this is incredibly important.
Your depending on the stage of mental prayer, you may be in meditation building your understanding, you may be, you know, going more towards acquired contemplation, which would be, you know, depending on who you’re talking to, you could say there is affective prior to acquired contemplation. I’m not going to get into that right now, but the point is, let’s just use affective prayer as a kind of acquired contemplation. So you can be meditating and saying, wow, like this thing about God is really amazing. Your affectivity for God rises.
You’re now an affective prayer. You are loving God, not intellectual activity. And you know therefore a person while you’re in that affective prayer can have sensory things going on that are not positively will nor consented by the will upon apprehension on reflecting on them, which is distractions, right? I mean, that happens all the time, the person does not possess. That thing is a disordered appetite that needs mortification. Again, it’s just distractions in this particular example. So with all that being said, there’s one issue that pops up that we still haven’t dealt with, which is freedom.
What does freedom really mean? So, I know were we know were inconstant love because we sin and we don’t prioritize God. We love finite things over God. Were ignorant of spiritual life with what is God and what is not. And now we see that we need to remove these disordered fondness. Are these appetites that you know, again, I’m defining appetites here as a disordered fondness for things not that having appetites per se is disordered. Right? So, again, appetites as defined here that our will participate in disordered fondness is and we also need to move our will to action to build virtue and we also need to work with God through the sacraments in his grace to have him to work with him and cooperate to remove sin right?
But all this depends on what the meaning of freedom is. Because if you think about if it’s a cooperative relationship loving relationship between two persons. If one person is forced into the relationship that’s slavery and that’s what I was getting at the beginning of this podcast is touching on this idea of slavery. In fact I would argue the quietism implicitly has slavery in it. Why? Because you’re not supposed to act. God is doing all the acting but then like the vegetable axiom.
I have no dignity to play some role in this relationship. So it’s truly loving right? Because I would argue is that love and freedom are necessarily intertwined. So is freedom simply our ability to choose? Is it something more so since our will participates in either good or evil actions, it means we’re free. We see that common experience but how is our freedom different? Like what what really separates it? And that’s where we’re going to discuss an episode for.
Thanks for listening. See you next week