On the Intellect


Mr. Moffat commented below, and his astute observations are such that I felt needed to address them lest there be a primary miscomprehension of what I have been trying to say.

Mr. Moffat's Comment I too suffer from what you call "the temptation to pride" in intellectual matters, but I wonder if denying a gift given to us by God, or trying to suppress such a gift, is not in itself a form of pride? I do struggle with that question, this is not an accusation, just something I ponder regularly.

This is a wonderful comment because if there is anything Catholicism doesn't need more of it is anti-intellectualism. If my posts re:Thomas Aquinas are read as some sort of crypto-support for the anti-intellectual crowd, then my words need clarifying. We are to use the gifts God gives us, and use them in humility and in His service. We should not attempt to "suppress" the gifts, just as Mr. Moffat states. Such gifts are positive goods.

However, sometimes we take a gift and development to the detriment of other aspects of ourselves, aspects that God has also gifted. Sometimes we allow the intellect to dominate the spirit and the emotions. Sometimes we develop one at the cost of another. We should not therefore eschew the intellect, but we would do well to direct our attention to other gifts--diamonds we have too long left in the rough. That would be my explanation for joining the Carmelites. I have long felt that God gifted me with a great brain--no greater than that of the vast majority of people out there, but He also gave me the impulse to focus on the intellect. I spent so much time in my head that perhaps I neglected my heart. I struggle now daily to have the heart of Jesus for His entire creation. I struggle to grow spiritually. My comments re: Aquinas are simply to say that that path holds many dangers for me.

I do not think that St. John of the Cross is any less "intellectual." Many of the things he has to say are very deep theology and very difficult to understand in sheer thought. But St. John of the Cross feeds my heart and encourages me to Love rather than to think.

Aquinas and Augustine defined two ends of a spectrum--"First I know, then I love," "First I love, then I know." I have tried knowing first, and it has been partially successful--I will only grow if I try loving.

But that doesn't mean that suddenly I should become an empty-headed follower of everything, that I should abandon all critical faculties in favor of visions, locutions, and other consolations. In fact, the intellect becomes even more important as one of the guardians of the spirit--advising and recommending what to read, what to do, how to react, where to seek Him.

We must use all of the gifts with which God has so generously graced us, and we must use them in a careful discerning manner. They are all lenses to focus the light of God. We need to adjust them to make the light clearer and more universal, not use them to burn and destroy.

Mr. Moffat, thank you so much for the comment. One of the strains of Catholicism that I find most trying is that which says we should abandon all of what God has given us and "love" in the sense of emotion more often than in the sense of an act of will accompanied by a positive action. I hope this has helped to clarify how I think of these matters.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 28, 2002 5:57 PM.

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