(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, and welcome to this episode of Midnight Carmelite. This is your host, Andrew Gniadek. Today’s episode I want to discuss the distinction between supernatural and spiritual goods, the nature of supernatural goods in general, how we cannot find our joy in any finite good, but we must find joy in God, and also I want to discuss some metaphysics with you all, and these are very important for understanding what Saint John of the Cross means by supernatural and spiritual goods, what a good is, etc. So without further ado, let’s get started.

So St. John of the Cross discusses various goods that a person’s will can find joy. And instead of finding joy in God alone and one of these goods you call supernatural goods. So for him, a supernatural good is defined as following, this is a my translation,

all the gifts and graces given from God that exceed the natural faculty and virtue, which are called gratis datas.1

So that’s Latin for gifts given freely without any compensation or recompense. So it’s not out of a debt of justice that God gives you these gifts that would be recompense, and it’s not out of owing you anything, which is compensation, so that these are two very important distinctions to think here because you know, when we say grace is our freely given, God has no reason to give grace to us except out of love.

Another quick side note is that notice here that Saint John of the Cross says that the supernatural goods by nature, a key word here, exceed the natural faculty and virtue of the human person. What does he mean by exceed the natural faculty of the human person? What he’s saying here is that the faculties are the powers of the soul, the powers of the person. So you know you have your will, your intellect, memory, things of that nature that you that operate through the fact that you are an acting person in a specific way towards certain what the Latin’s might call ends.

What in Greek would be τέλος, so that’d would be an end. But it has a sense of completion, so again end and you know they would use perfection in Latin. So it’s τέλος, and perfection kind of go hand in hand, depending on which language you’re looking at anyways. The point is that you can’t attain supernatural goods on your own. So without God bestowing these supernatural goods on a person, you can’t come to it in any way. So an excess then means it’s beyond the bounds that you could naturally achieve as a human person.

And the only reason you would receive supernatural goods is by virtue of being baptized because that enters you into the supernatural life of God, through that sacrament, it turns you towards God in faith, hope and charity or ἀγάπη. So let’s talk more about excess here because it’s an awesome metaphysical subject.

So excess just means beyond the boundaries or limits. So, for example, if you take a cup that you put your drink in, you could have coffee, tea, soda water doesn’t matter if you keep filling that cup and you don’t stop, eventually, the liquid overflows out of the cup all over the place, and this overflowing is a good analogy of excess.

So the cup is bounded by its quantitative dimensions, and the liquid is the excess of the volume of that cup. Why is a measurement volume while liquid takes up more space than the cup and therefore overflows. So you know we would measure in fluid ounces, for example. That would be a measure of volume of the liquid. So now analogous. We apply this to something like a courageous person.

So can you have think about it for a second? Can you have an excess of courage? Can you have a deficiency of courage? Aristotle and many theologians and philosophers throughout the centuries will say yes because they say, Look, a courageous person stands up to what is evil and wrong. However, if this person stands up to everything that’s evil and wrong, we would say that the person has an excess of courage, which is actually a completely different thing. That courage would be rashness. So regardless of the terminating point of that act, which is this idea that you know, whatever that person’s aiming at, it’s also beyond the limits, meaning because it’s anything rather than only at certain things.

So it’s an excess. It’s beyond the limits of what we reason about causally and define logically about what a courageous person is now.

Let’s hit supernatural goods, so supernatural goods are so far out of the bounds of our natural virtues and faculties that only through God’s grace, given through baptism, can we even begin to possess these goods. And, you know, I could spend a whole podcast talking about excess, so I should probably stop now.

So let’s continue. So another point I want to mention is the definition of a good.

So what good is something that we pursue as an end in some motion towards it? So, for example, you have knowledge of a subject is good. We relate to a subject like philosophy and grow in that habit of that science possessed in the intellect, you know, and due to our relation to that subject to going out to that subject, conforming to what that subject is and creating a relation of identity between what that subject is in the habit. In our mind, it’s a a real relation to a real thing in this case philosophy.

So the end is the further completion of a habit of, say, philosophy. Biology doesn’t matter. So a good can also be making a vegetable garden being with your family or something that doesn’t end in yourselves to something but in something external. So make make a statue to build a house. You could drive a car. You could are all goods. The point is, is it’s something that go towards reach perfect or complete you and then you move on to other goals.

A good example would be like another example of weight loss.

So if you’re trying to lose weight, you say, Okay, here’s my ultimate goal. So that’s your ultimate good right? Which would be, Let’s say, whatever your weight is minus 20 lbs and then you say, Okay, I’m going to set smaller goals along the way, which our goods, but there what would be called proximate goods. So you say, Okay, here’s here’s all my proximate good every week, let’s say losing X amount of pounds until I reached my ultimate goal of 20 lbs. But the ultimate good of 20 lbs isn’t the final end, the final good for all human beings, because some people don’t need to lose 20 lbs or some people need to lose more than 20 lbs or some people need to lose less than 20 lbs.

And the point is that ultimately there has to be some good. That’s the good for all things and that God has obviously got all things. So that’s my off the cuff proof of God’s goodness. But again, that’s a whole other podcast.

So just keep in mind as good as something that perfects or completes you. That’s really what we need to know for this particular podcast. Okay, so now let’s get to the supernatural goods more specifically, So he lists the supernatural goods. This is according to Saint John of the Cross, he says.

Faith, grace of healings, the operation of miracles, prophecy, knowledge and discernment of spirits. You know, the translation would be, in my opinion, the declaration of words. So you’d be someone who you know, some other authors say interpretation. I think it’s basically saying the right thing. That’s what I think he means, and then the gift of tongues.

So now supernatural goods are contrasted with spiritual goods by St. John of the Cross, and this is an important distinction here, too. And he says that spiritual goods are goods that involve divine things in the treatment of the soul with God and the communication of God to the soul.

So think about this for a second. Spiritual goods are the treatment of divine things with the soul to God, so of the soul to God. So basically what the soul is doing in relation to God and then God’s communication of his goodness to the soul. So what is God doing to the soul. So you have a mutual relations, cooperation, cooperation, cooperation. I can’t say that enough. It’s a back and forth, but the spiritual goods are between the soul and God. So God is the object, and the soul is the object of God.

So supernatural goods are for the service of others. So think about it. God doesn’t need grace of healings. God doesn’t need operations of miracles. God doesn’t need prophecies. God doesn’t need knowledge and discernment of spirits. Other people do So, for example, God would not give someone the gift of prophecy just to prophesy to themselves. But it’s for other persons to hear and to benefit from that gift. And the gift when the person prophecies to others is meant for the listeners to say, Wait a minute. That prophecy could only have come from God.

Therefore, the receivers become more devoted to God, and the spiritual goods that they possess now become something they pursue. They start to grow in their spiritual goods with God by mortification things of that nature. So they start to grow in their spiritual life and in the material life by virtue of the other person who possesses the supernatural. Good. The gift that St. John of the Cross mentioned earlier, giving that to them. So it’s meant to be a gift to others. So this is my definition of a supernatural good:

The supernatural good points the receiver back to God through the giver of the gift who was given the gift by God.2

That’s the supernatural good. It points the receiver back to God through the giver of the gift who was given the gift by God. Now another metaphysical point here that I guess I could probably talk a whole podcast about you can’t give what you don’t have. This seems kind of obvious, but you know we’ll get into that in a second, and furthermore, that which is given is received according to how the receiver can receive something of that nature. So let’s discuss the first point. You can’t give what you don’t have.

It probably seems obvious, but you’re hearing that statement and your assenting to the real truth of that statement. So you’re like, Yeah, Andrew, of course, right, that, you know, if I don’t have a house, I can’t give a house to someone else. If I do not have money, I can’t give money someone else. That’s obvious. But consider for a moment how many times people offer you advice that they themselves don’t follow or live, so they’re offering you advice, but they themselves don’t have the the advice that they’re giving you.

So the advice is merely words, right? That that would be a good example. Or how many times does someone claim to know the truth but didn’t provide evidence to the claims and no warrants for that evidence? So they just said things right? So they’re trying to give you something they don’t have and and to caveat at that point, that doesn’t mean that you can’t say something unless you have absolute certitude, right, that you know very few things. Besides, you know, axioms. We have absolute certainty about things that are just self evidently true by themselves.

You know, for example is the principle of non contradiction. Something can’t be the same thing at the same time and in the same respect. You can’t have a dog, be a human person at the same time and in the same respect. It just doesn’t work. But when you’re working through things and someone’s giving you claims, giving you evidence and then warrants meaning reasons that you should believe that evidence, that’s something you should take seriously. So, for example, when Jesus mentioned the father wanting to give bread, not a stone, God possesses everything.

So unlike us God possesses everything and therefore is the source of everything we need and everything good. So that’s the first part. You can’t give what you don’t have, and God can give us everything because God is infinite and possesses everything. So now let’s consider the second point. So let’s say you have, you know, a third grader, like maybe it’s a child of yours and you try to teach the third grader calculus. The third grader is going have a hard time understanding calculus because the third grader is not ready for the facts, judgments, and reasoning of that type of mathematics.

So when you explain calculus to the third grader, the third grader will probably not really understand what you’re trying to say, because the third grader doesn’t have the knowledge and the habits to be able to receive calculus as calculus, they just it’s not developed enough at that time unless they are a genius. The third grader may retain something, and it would be really lucky if they retained anything you told them, but they probably won’t. This is a good analogy for why you shouldn’t have a tepid spiritual life.

I just wrote about this actually on the website. If you want to check out the blog post there, it’s called “Help for Tepid Souls.” But if you lead a tepid spiritual life, we possess a lot that’s contrary to God, which limits God and how much he can unite with us, which is kind of like us being the third grader, God’s trying to teach us spiritual calculus here, but because we have so much contrary, in other words, we lack the goods that we should have to be able to closely unite with him because we we are deprived too much because we have sin.

It’s important to remember, too, that sin is not something. Evil is an absence of something so we are deprived too much with sin. So God can’t unite with us. So how we receive God in our interior life is really the whole onus is on us. It’s not on him because he, as we’ve shown earlier, he possesses everything. And he is the source of all goodness. Okay, so now back to supernatural goods again. Now we kind of got through that metaphysics. So Saint John of the Cross details how this species of good can cause what he calls vain joy, which is empty joy.

You know, it’s in the will of the person and meaning the person looks at the supernatural goods as ends instead of what I was explaining earlier as means to increase their devotion to God, increase their love of God and unite with God more in their spiritual life. And so to purge that he talks about the benefits of supernatural goods, both temporal and spiritual. So let’s start with the temporal aspect of this. The temporal aspect is, he says, look, you’ll have people healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, expelling devils, prophesying the future so that people can see things for themselves and there’s other similar things.

Okay, so those are the temporal benefits of these supernatural goods, and we saw them up there. You know, you’re working miracles. That would be healing the sick, the spiritual benefits of supernatural goods, our knowledge of God and one of two ways. Either interiorly in the person who performs the works or exteriorly for other persons. And then there’s a split there where if its exterior for other persons, then those people either benefit interiorly or they benefit exteriorly. It allows them to see something right.

So my point is, let’s say the person works a miracle like Fatima. Miracle of the Sun. That’s for other people to see. So that’s an exterior benefit. Then it does translate interiorly that people dropped to their knees. They start praying, but sometimes the benefit is simply to speak to the heart of one person interiorly. So again it’s not. I don’t want to say it’s like these definitive lines, but it’s just something to keep in mind that it could be God’s aim. My point is God’s aim with giving the supernatural goods could be, hey, pay attention to me, I’m going to make the Sun dance.

Or it could be like conversion of heart, μετάνοια, like a the supernatural good, cuts to the heart of the person and through the supernatural good they see God and the giver of that supernatural good, obviously, is this person that God has bestowed the supernatural good. So now here’s the point of this whole podcast. We often find joy and finite things like money, things we own, who were married to, how we live, where we live, our job, etc. However, even if a person is detached from all these things, since we are fallen, we can still attach ourselves to spiritual, finite things.

We can still say, Oh, I just want to hear more prophecy or I just want to see more miracles or I just want to see you know, more healing of the sick. And that’s what you’re doing is you’re reducing God to those goods. You’re saying that when I see that I’ll see God instead of saying God’s already dwelling within me. I love him, and I’m going to love him as best I can and grow close to God because it’s really all about God And it’s funny because even just saying this right now, you’re sitting I’m sitting here thinking, Well, you know, the supernatural goods, you know, point to God, etc, etc.

But how many times have we sat there and been like, Oh, I’m gonna research like what the latest person said about, you know, saying that this other person said about the end times, Yeah, see the problem there is like, Are you looking at the end times for more devotion to God? Are you looking at the end times because you’re curious about what’s going to happen, that it’s like a form of curiosity? If it’s a form of curiosity, then that means that the end times prophecy is kind of an end.

It’s not a means to God. It’s more you’re using the supernatural good to get at something temporal, finite rather than infinite which would be God again. I could spend multiple podcasts on the subject of supernatural goods. I just wanted to put it out there for everyone this week because I feel like it’s something that a trap that we could easily fall into where we replace God himself with these supernatural goods, and we start seeking them as ends rather than when we receive them, meaning they’re authentic supernatural goods.

Which is difficult to discern, by the way. And, you know, generally, St. John of the Cross’s advises ignoring everything. Just keep your focus on God, even if you know super miracle should happen, which I personally follow that advice. I think it’s great advice. Some don’t agree with that, but that’s fine. So the point is, is, you know nothing but God as I follow St. John of the Cross on this one. But even when these things do happen, they’re meant to help people. So it’s not that they’re bad.

He’s not saying they’re bad. He’s just saying what I’m trying to say here, which is Look, just be careful about yourself. Do a little interior thinking, Think, am I? Does this inspire me to more devotion to God, or am I really just looking for something to get out of it for myself? Is there something in here that makes me, you know, it’s make my intellect feel good? It’s not ending in love of God and, you know, really are you finding your delight and joy in the supernatural goods or are you finding delight and joy due to these goods and God himself.

And so this is a major problem that hinders the growth of loving union with God, and it’s often overlooked. So it’s something I just wanted to bring up this week. That’s a pretty intense one. Hope you enjoyed it.

So that’s it for this week, and I’ll talk to you next week.

How to learn more

To learn more about the Carmelite tradition in general, check out Midnight Carmelite episodes through the player below and hit subscribe to stay up to date!

Also, do not forget to subscribe for email updates below. 👇

  1. Translations of St. John of the Cross are my own ↩︎

  2. This is my original definition. ↩︎