Faith as an “Essential Likeness” of Human and Divine Reason

HomeArticlesFaith as an “Essential Likeness” of Human and Divine Reason

Professor Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II, was first of all a philosopher, a pre-eminent one, on par with any and all great philosophers in the history of this discipline. An attestation to this claim is that the Wadsworth Press has included a short book, On Karol Wojtyla, in its Wadsworth Philosophers Series. 1 Because Wojtyla’s philosophizing is based in experience—indeed never leaves experience,2 his conception of philosophy itself and his philosophical methodology should immediately attract the attention of Voegelin scholars. Voegelin has defined philosophy as the systematic reflection on experiences of transcendence, ones that “have excited consciousness to the ‘awe’ of existence”. 3 The book that is the subject of this article, Kojtyla’s dissertation, Faith according to Saint. John of the Cross, is his first major work and his philosophy will mature in his professional career, but it demonstrates his firm commitment to philosophized from and within mystical experience. In his “Introduction” he writes that he will study the nature of faith in the writings of John of the Cross based upon “the testimony of experience”. And in turn he was drawn to the mystical theology of John of the Cross as a source of insights into the nature of faith, because this analysis is produced “without using technical terminology, but relying exclusively on experience and practice”.4
Both Wojtyla and Voegelin have expressed an intention to enjoin the great philosophical issues of the era in way that presents these problems in a completely new manner.

Their work cannot be classified as traditional philosophy, nor as a form of modern post Cartesian philosophy. Wojtyla also breaks with the Thomism in the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century.5 He does hold firm to this goal even though this dissertation was written under the direction of Father Garrigou-Lagrange at the Angelicum, a Dominican university dedicated to the preservation of neo-scholasticism. George Weigel writes in his biography of John Paul II that Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange was interested in the speculative theology of John of the Cross as reconciled to Aquinas’s doctrine of faith in contrast to Wojtyla, who desired to map “the terrain of mystical experience”. Hence there was a continued tension between director and his candidate during the writing of this thesis.6

Of course, the new manner of philosophizing did take Wojtyla and Voegelin in different directions. Nonetheless, while Voegelin is now regarded as a political philosopher and a philosopher of consciousness, and Wojtyla, a moral philosopher as well as a phenomenologist and personalist, they do share a common Platonic orientation in their respective philosophies. George F. McLean7 writes that neo-scholastic Thomism, sensitive to nineteenth century rationalism, read Thomas as a Aristotelian. Knowledge was of objects first encountered in the senses. This paradigm and that of the realms of natural/supernatural do predominate in Wojtyla’s dissertation. Yet Wojtyla’s emphasis on participation in his study reveals the deeper influences of Plato’s philosophy on his scholarship. In his dissertation faith is defined as “limited participation in the divine light”.8 McLean explains how Wojtyla uses the term in the tradition of Plato’s sense of mimesis or limited realization of the divine form, i.e., as esse or Being in act. Hence, like Voegelin, Wojtyla makes participation the central notion in his philosophy. He emphasizes being/esse as the “formal effect of God’s creative activity and as this is realized in beings according to their essences”.9

In this article I will attempt to map out some common themes among the philosophies of Wojtyla and Eric Voegelin, as they first emerge in Wojtyla initial scholarly book on faith. It is not possible to elaborate on all the points in which their philosophies come together of course. So in addition to participation, I have chosen to concentrate on the notions of experience as a transaction in consciousness that cannot possibly be reduced to sense derived experience exclusively. I will also consider their mutual definition of faith in terms of Hebrews’ 11,1 claim that in faith, the substance of the Divine is humanly realized in the intellect. Each of these philosophers makes lofty claims about the nature of the human intellect as able to participate in divine knowledge.10 The significance of this claim erupts in the arena of philosophical anthropology.

It also impacts social/political theory as it posits the need for a common mysticism of humanity. If human beings can experience and know the divine, then just order in society depends on the prior ordering of each of its members through a deep communion with the divine—Plato’s soul writ large as Voegelin would insist. In regard to this last point Wojtyla will be characterized as equally affronted by formularizing literalism as well as a sophistic “dogmatomachy”. Rather, he will insist that divine wisdom made human through participation must come before conceptual formulations of truth. The former must be allowed, through the abnegation of faith, to become the source and principle in human knowing and willing.

My thesis in this examination of Wojtyla’s first major philosophical work is that Wojtyla creates the premier pneumatically differentiated counterpart to Voegelin’s noetically differentiated philosophical consciousness. The really different insights that each writer articulates in his works can in turn mutually lead to an enriched understanding of the reality of human existence each philosopher addresses. Hence, a tandem reading of their philosophies is very profitable for the growth of our own philosophical insights. I will first make a few comments on the dissertation itself, and secondly present a brief summary of Wojtyla’s thorough explication of the nature of faith. This synthesis of faith’s nature can then be compared to Voegelin’s own comments on Hebrews ll: l: “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not being seen.11 Finally the themes, such as participation and experience, can be comparatively discussed within the context of Wojtyla’s explanation of the nature of faith in the mystical theology of John of the Cross. The consideration of these themes will attempt to provide elucidation of the reality of existence they disclose, as well as the significance of the creative articulation of this reality for contemporary social philosophy.

The young Karol Wojtyla was at first attracted to the arts and poetry; he wrote several plays and acted in the Polish resistance “Rhapsodic theater’ during the German occupation of Cracow. Hence when he decided to enter the underground seminary in Poland to become a priest in 1946 during the Communist occupation, he brought his aesthetic talent to the study of theology.12 He was very attracted to the symbolic mystical writings of John of the Cross, and in undergraduate school he wrote a paper on the unitive power of faith. Cardinal Sapieha sent him to the Angelicum in Rome to pursue a doctorate, which he undertook influenced by this mystical appreciation of human spiritual faculties. His work on John of the Cross later shaped his philosophical anthropology, as Wojtyla always believed that human interiority was central to any study of human being-ness. ‘The most important truth about human interiority is its having roots in the source of every being—in God”.13

The dissertation is a serious non-illusionary study of mystic interiority however, as Wojtyla was well aware of “psuedo myticism”.14 Interesting, Wojtyla did not receive his doctorate from the Angelicum even though he defended this dissertation with a perfect score. He did not have the money to publish it which was a requirement, and so he re-submitted the dissertation to the faculty of theology at the Jegiellonian University in Cracow, which conferred the degree of doctor of theology on him in December, 1948.15 This achievement is also a philosophical one in terms of more ancient understandings of philosophy. The revealed wisdom of divine knowledge encountered in the mystical experiences of a “vivified faith”is the goal and apex of the philosophical search implied in philosophy’s most basic definition as love of wisdom. Moreover, this dissertation exemplifies the use of philosophical tools of analysis in its clarification of the nature of faith. It is a sample of philosophy as the handmaid of theology.16

The significant thesis of this dissertation, that is already an example of Wojtyla’s mature insights into the importance of the human mystical life, is that under the tutelage of abnegating faith, the human intellect sheds its dependence on revealed truth held in doctrines and objectified knowledge, and unites itself to the Divine Substance as the reality these truths carry.17 He articulates this thesis using the scholastic notion of the agent and possible intellects. As the agent intellect denies itself a discursive engagement with truth, the possible or passive intellect becomes more able “to gaze” on divine knowledge” and enjoy the fruition of its union with the human intellect.18 This is a common theme in medieval mysticism. The dark nothingness that the intellect experiences in the suspension of discursive reason and in the desolation of the purifying nights of the soul promoting its dependence on faith, are the catalyst and occasion of the growth of the intellect’s participating share in divine knowledge. As one mystic articulates it, “God is no longer there as object and idea, but as principle and source. There are in the divine action marvelous, unknown and secret sources of inspiration sufficient to deal with all [human] needs”.19

Wojtyla’s goal is to elucidate and explain in great detail the metaphysical and equally importantly, the psychological meaning of this thesis. So in the case of the former he will clearly delimited the reality that is faith defined at the level of esse, which he will articulate as “essential likeness to the divine”. Wojtyla’s definition of the psychological encompasses our sense experience of the soul’s participation in the divine in human emotional life; it also takes in the fact that our spiritual faculties depend upon the human body to carry on their specific operations.

For example, the mind needs the brain to think! Hence, the psychological encounter with the divine in faith refers to what or if any concrete conceptual understanding is possible of human faith experiences, i.e., of the divine substance realized in faith. It will deal with the human conditions of possibility to unite with the divine that faith creates in the intellect—the ontological adaptation, that makes it possible for the intellect to be united with God, which Wojtyla names “proportionate means”. Wojtyla makes his investigation in a progressive, laborious and complete exegesis of the major writings of John of the Cross.20 We use the term exegesis because this dissertation provides a hermeneutic of these writings accompanied by their doctrinal relevance to Thomistic teachings. So this book is not an example of systematic theology, it discovers the concept of faith in the descriptive testimony of mystical experience by John of the Cross. It is non-technical, experiential and “eminently practical”.21

The Nature of Faith in the Writings of Saint John of the Cross

In the first part of this section some general concepts and models used by Wojtyla to explain the nature of faith will be clarified. The more detailed discussion of the nature of faith will follow using Wojtyla’s own differentiation of the metaphysical and psychological aspects that must be equally examined in an attempt to understand the nature of faith. In general John of the Cross understood faith to be the means of the union of the intellect with God. “Faith is the proper and proportionate means for uniting the intellect with God”22 However, union with God in faith is a shared task for faith, because John of the Cross always posits a “vivified faith”, one that works through charity.23 Actually, the three theological virtues all have a role in this union, and faith is singled out in this dissertation to explain how the natural rational faculty of the human being can be and is inherently adapted for union with the divine knowledge itself. First, we will use Wojtyla’s own sub-division between the metaphysical and psychological imperatives that must be met for this union to occur to discuss the topic.

Secondly, there are some specifically important concepts that Wojtyla uses to explain the nature of faith and they will be included in the summary of his ideas. They are proportionate means, essential likeness and participation. There is also the notion of the “substance as understood’ in the contemplative encounter with divine knowledge, that is an essential aspect of the psychological idea of faith, that will be introduce in this main section of this article. We will comparatively interpret “substance as understood’ as the pneumatic insight that complements Voegelin’s elucidation of human participation in the Divine Nous, especially as explained in his essay, “Reason, the Classic Experience”.24 This contemplative movement in the soul brings experienced Divine/human communion to human beings according to John of the Cross. But there are a few general introductions to the nature of faith that can be used as a prelude to the main discussion.

First, John of the Cross does not systematically explain faith as supernatural habit or virtue, and on different occasions he is portraying faith as an act and on others as a habit, yet Aquinas’s doctrine of virtue as a power to act is assumed in his presentation of the nature of faith.25 Faith creates the hexis or permanent condition of the intellect, that now will characterize the intellect, from out of the potential26 already informing the human spiritual faculty that is human reason. This potency is reason’s natural infinite desire or capacity for the unlimited, infinite divine Essence.27 Faith as act lies in time and space, and this implies that the nature of faith is an assent. Faith in act is essentially and always an assent, defined as an intellectually obedient, elevating growth into the divine.28 But faith’s assent to the divine truth, as a union with the divine reason, is always transitory in this life;29 hence it must be progressive, continuous, and always a deepening of the new divine ready faculty that is human reason informed by the divine’s infused light. As will be explained in more detail, faith as a virtue creates a psychological proportion of the intellect making it capable of divine rational activity. This in turn implies an intentional proportion of the intellect through the infused light it gains in its participation in divine knowledge that re-creates it in an ‘essential likeness” to divine reason.30 This is necessary because human reason always and only can act cognitively in an intentional mode, in which the essence of what is known is present in the knower.31 In sum, faith is essentially a virtue and when in act, an assent.

Secondly, faith is alternatively defined as both ‘light’ and darkness in the writings of John of the Cross. . Wojtyla writes, [t]he virtue of faith is at once light—an infused, excessive light whereby the intellect attains to divinity by a light that is not proper to itself—and it is darkness”.32 In its faith encounter with the divine, the human intellect cannot reason by its own discursive light proper to itself; rather it is overwhelmed by the excessive light of divine knowledge. This excessive light is the intellect’s participation or share in the divine knowledge itself.33 But, faith will always be a darkness — Hebrew’s “things unseen”—because although reason has attain the divine object of knowledge, it is at the same time prevented from knowing it.34 There is no place for the abstractive power of the agent intellect in faith knowing. Rather, abnegation of the intellect, the rejection of all particular forms and the acceptance of the God given in the intentional mode as hidden in knowledge without intentional species, concealed in faith’s mode of knowing, is part of the nature of faith.35 Finally, because the goal is to develop the new and dark way of divine knowing within human intellection, the abnegation that faith requires is the normal existential form of the experience of faith led cognition. Participation in divine knowing grows proportionately to the human ability to do without the abstractions of the phantasms/images and the resulting conceptual forms of discursive reason, hence the necessity of abnegation.36

One must give up the “natural” support of reason and enter the abyss. So the experience of faith is often characterized by darkness and of “nothingness” in conceptual terms. Indeed, faith itself has been defined as a “night” in the writings of John of the Cross.37 The “night” is a symbolic term and it “refers to the emptiness of the faculty which, deprived of its connatural object and, as it were, of its own proper light, remains in darkness”.38 Abnegation that happens in the nights of the soul actually causes the increase of faith.39 Thus there is a psychological experience of the deprivation of our normal way of knowing that faith requires of its recipients. And the progressive expanding faith awareness of the divine happens through endurance of ever deeper and more expansive “nights”, necessary to effect a radical change in the manner of knowing which is through faith alone.

Three points can be made at this juncture. First knowing is occurring but it is happening from the guiding light of the Holy Spirit communicated in secret and infused in the soul through love, So faith is “unformed knowing”, truths revealed by God are possessed as unknown or as knowledge without intentional species.40 Secondly, Wojtyla explains that the intellect attains to the essence of reveal truths through hearing. (Fides ex auditu). The Word enters the intellect within the medium of the words that are heard, words without meaning or intentional species.41. Faith works through a spiritual hearing. One hears God with the “ear of the soul” which is actually the seeing of God with eye of the possible/passive or higher ordered intellect.42 The example of words without meaning that John of the Cross employs is that of a blind person, blind from birth, who hears about grass or stars or flowers, etc. These are valid concepts but they have no basis in the blind person’s experience to foster concrete meanings. Faith by analogy works in a similar manner; it operates as an obscure habit because it lacks intentional species.

Thirdly, I believe that the point Wojtyla is emphasizing in this explanation is one that comes close to Voeglin’s remarks that criticize the “metastic faith”with its specifically articulated expectation of a magical transformation of reality. Voegelin mentions Isaiah and Paul in this regard, and their writings begin to predict the breaking-with-the-natural-laws of nature through a powerful divine intervention in the mundane affairs of the human race, thus revealing divine power and glory.43 Rather, Wojtyla writes, faith must remain a “naked faith”, lacking all consolation and without any light from above or below. It is manifested by the unwavering constancy of the intellect in its adherence to God. This is the essence of faith—it has reached God, and it is best known in this experience than by a list of revealed truths, Wojtyla adds. The nature of the human intellect is not changed. It must always operate in a human mode. While the “substance realized” is identical to that of the beatific vision of God’s glory after death, the intellect knows the divine only as hidden and without clear species in the intentional order during this life. The way of faith is always darkness and abnegation; it operates in hope.

The more detailed explanation of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of faith that follows has been characterized as a pneumatic differentiation of understanding that parallels Voegelin’s noetic differentiation of consciousness. It should be noted that Wojtyla uses some very traditional scholastic theological categories, but in this work, which is an exegesis of the symbolic description of mystical experience, they should not be taken in a strict technical sense, as John of the Cross is not a systematic theologian. An especially offensive category to a Voegelin scholar would be the natural/supernatural paradigm that seems to posit a sphere of creation that operates without any reference to the divine ground of existence—for example: Enlightenment notions of ‘independent reason’ and confidence then in what is called ‘natural theology’.44 For Voegelin, human reason is always a participative reality, a sharing in the Divine Nous.

Wojtyla specifically notes that John does not use the natural/supernatural category in a technical sense.45 Rather, he refers to the fact that the human intellect has a physical dependency on the brain’s concrete discursive activity which employs physical images and species to think, that is brought by faith into an encounter with a purely spiritual divine intellect, hence the words, natural and supernatural. But it is also true that John of the Cross and Wojtyla in interpreting him often highlight the unbridgeable divide between the finite reason of God’s creature and the uncreated divine reality. Like any creature, human beings are infinitely different from the Creator. “The which God is must be totally unlike that which any creature is”. So there is an essential difference between humans and God that calls for an essential change in the intellect.

Quite frankly, John’s mystical writings are an attempt to demonstrate that God can, will, and succeeds in overcoming this gap and essential difference. God establishes divine/human communion overcoming the infinite Creator/creature divide. John will explain both the what and the how of this in his writings. In creating humanity he has already begun this communion, for human have the “caverns of the sense” or faculties with the capacity for infinity, awaiting fulfilment from the infused divine share of God’s being bestowed to the soul during their life times.46 Thus, human beings are brought into a participative share in the Divine; they become transformed and humanity is ‘divine’ in its nature. Wojtyla, the moral philosopher with a pneumatic differentiated consciousness, recognizes in John’s mystical theology that union with the divinity is primarily a moral union, progressively taking place in time whereby the human will be conformed with the divine will in charity.47 Faith’s more modest role is to bring about the union of the intellect with the divine one. The intellect becomes proportioned in the intentional order to divinity through faith. And hence it is defined as the proportionate or proper means of union with the Divine in John’s writings. It achieves this union by over coming the essential difference between the human and divine intellects; faith is the essential likeness to divine reason then.48

Hence, in the ontological explanation of the union faith effects between divine and human reason, Wojtyla employs the phrases of “proportionate means” and “essential likeness” as very adept notions that give insight into the metaphysical definition of the nature of faith. He will entitle this explanation ‘the doctrine of participation’—of the human intellect with the divine one. We can begin with the notion of “essential likeness”. It is a metaphysical principle that posits “that by which faith is faith is something similar to Divinity on the intellectual level”.49 Faith contains divine reality and is thus essentially different from anything created. It can over come the intellect’s prison in the body and dependency on the sense information as the basis of reason in the ontological sense of this prison, and directly unite the intellect with the substance of the Divine. This happens metaphysically though, not psychologically.50

There are entitative as well as intentional elements in this paradigm of the nature of faith. In regard to the former, faith is being that is above any created or natural perfection that can be bestowed on the intellect; it is the divine light that is present in the intellect with faith. Faith transcends the created order and the limitation of any modality because it is essentially infinite as an “essential likeness” to God.51 It is supernatural. But in regard to the latter term, faith is a virtue in the intentional order of the mind. The essence shared by faith and divinity converge and forge an intentional identification of the human subject and the divine object. The likeness is on the intellectual level then; it is reason that is intimately united to God in faith. Faith operates within the mind and fosters a direct contact with God.52 John of the Cross frequently compares faith as essentially the same as beatific vision—one sees God. But faith’s sight is insufficient for the intellect never fully comprehends God in faith; it assents to him.53

The reason for the divine powers of faith lie in its practical ability to be a proportionate means of human/divine union because it possesses this “essential likeness” to the Divine. The word practical implies the overcoming of the psychological limitations of reason in knowing the Divine; it possesses an intrinsic disposition which is sufficient to attain the telos of reason as a spiritual faculty which is the infinity of divine knowledge.54 But faith is not a science and the union does not occur in the ordinary operations of the intellect. Rather faith is another form of knowing. While it overcomes the infinite gap between human and divine reason, hence is the only and proper means for intellectual union with God, it does not destroy natural intellection and thus will always imply intellectual austerity and obedience.55 While divinity becomes the principle of knowledge with faith, this assimilation is always characterized by darkness and nothingness. Finally, Wojtyla notes that faith is the divine light by whose power we adhere to revealed truths However it is not the doctrinal logic of these truths that faith reveals to us. Rather faith unites us to the divine reality in the truths and this alone, in contrast to any doctrinal insights, will overcome the psychological disproportion between reason and the Divine.56 Faith, cautions Wojtla, rather than any interior locution or apprehension, is the only adequate means for the intellect’s union with the Divine.57

The conclusion Wojtyla draws in his discernment of the mystical doctrine of John of the Cross and these notions of “essential likeness” and proportionate means” is that the human reason is fundamentally changed by faith into something divine. He writes that the intellect is joined to God through faith and becomes divine by participation. It achieves the intellectual perfection of its supernatural obediential potential. This is because the intellect is joined to God by faith.58 Moreover, the soul is transformed in this union and becomes divine by participation. Of course Wojtyla’s explanation is a pneumatic one in contrasts to Voegelin’s interpretation of the Greek philosopher’s discovery of human reason in the experience of the Divine Nous.59 Hence he clarifies that divine union by participation pertains directly and immediately to the union worked by charity, and faith’s role in divine/human union is a subordinate one of transforming the intellectual faculty of the soul. So it is through “vivified faith’ that the soul is transformed into God by participation.60

There are some special Trinitarian insights in Wojtyla’s pneumatic synthesis on the participation of humanity in the Divine. If we consider both efficient and formal causality in an elucidation of the nature of faith, it is evident that it is the Son of God, the Word or second Person in the Trinitarian processions, that is communicated to the soul in faith.
“They refer to a mystery we should strive somehow to understand. Taken in context, they state that the Word is communicated to the intellect in faith because through faith the intellect shares in a knowledge that is essentially divine. But in the passage cited, the Word appears as the terminus of the knowledge of God, knowing himself exhaustively and comprehensively, expresses his own infinite perfection in the person of the Word. Such seems to be the meaning of the Mystical Doctor: sharing through faith in a knowledge that is essentially divine—the wisdom of God—the intellect in some way likewise shares through faith in the generation of the Word.”.61

Wojtyla goes on to explain in this passage that since divine knowledge shared by faith is actuated by the Holy Spirit working through charity and experienced in contemplation, then a fortiori, the intellect shares in the generation of the Word. So human beings by faith participation in this share in the knowledge which is the generation of the Word, through faith’s ontological change of the intellect, share in the knowledge that God has of himself, and to which he gives expression in revealed manifestation of his inner being through the Incarnation of the person of the Word.62 In sum, God reveals himself in the very structure of faith, and the divine Word intervenes directly in this structure as personally manifesting Divinity.63 This profound insight is, in the opinion of this writer, comparable to the noetic insights into the divine nature of the human nous in the noetic differentiation of consciousness. It fully plumbs the meaning of Hebrews 11.1.

We have explained one aspect of the psychological considerations of the nature of faith in the discussion of the overcoming of sense based knowing that is discursive reason’s modality of consciousness. “The virtue of faith is thus presented as uniting and fusing with the human cognitive faculty”.64 However, the broader focus of Wojtyla’s investigation will lie in the importance he affords human experience in cognition, including knowing by faith. Hence, a further discussion on the experiential aspect of faith, that in faith one can experience the Divine as a source of the divine knowledge is appropriate. Actually, there are two arenas of experience in this conversation about the psychological considerations of faith: first the experiences associated with faith itself, and secondly, the experiences of the intellect of God.

We have in fact discussed the former fairly comprehensively in the discussion of light and darkness and of the symbol of the “nights”. The experiences of faith include those of efforts to maintain the unwavering constancy of the intellect in its adherence to God, often without any consolations or clarity of understandings of one’s beliefs. These experiences are associated with the main characteristics of the act of faith, which is abnegation and the acceptance of the presence of an obscured and concealed Deity. Wojtyla organizes these experiences under the category, “naked faith”.65 The word assent has been used to describe experiences of faith, because it carries notions of both an obedient desire, hence a freely made commitment, and of an unshakeable sense of increasing union. This then is the hope attributed to faith in Heb.: 11:1, one demonstrated in the willing experiences of taking the risk of belief when blinded by the excessive light that is faith. The experiences of faith are detailed, often in a poetic symbolic style in John of the Cross’s descriptions of the various “nights”. They are the “night of the senses”, “active night of the spirit”, and “the dark night of the soul”.66

However, Wojtyla goes beyond an examination of the experiences felt in the actuation of faith; he also investigates and articulates how the human being experiences God himself, as well as a progressively deepened understanding of the Divine itself, without contradicting faith’s darkness. One experiences in faith that one can and does know God. “. . . This means that faith not only unites the intellect with God by proposing to it revealed truths which speak of God and what he is in himself, but it also presents the divinity to the intellect in a manner that is more ‘experiential’. There is no other way of describing this aspect of the virtue of faith, for it not only enables the intellect to know God intimately and subjectively (which implies the presentation of an object to the intellect) but even more to experience what God is. And this is no exaggeration. This second reason why faith is called a ‘likeness’ with respect to the intellect should be carefully noted”67

There are two important discussions of human cognitive experiences of divine reality and the intellect’s participation in divine knowledge in this book. The first occurs in Wojtyla’s summary of the cognitive experiences in the “active night of the spirit” and the second is an explanation of the term, “substance as understood”. The latter also covers the content in the symbolic poetry of John’s final two works: The Spiritual Canticle, pp. 203-226 and The Living Flame of Love, pp. 227-233. An important psychological premise in the explanations of the “substance as understood” is that the intellect is composed of higher and lower faculties, which Wojtyla identifies by the terms, the agent intellect (the lower one) and the passive/possible intellect (the higher ordered one).68 Another important premise in his explanation of the “knowing of God” in the concept of the “substance as understood” is the pneumatic one: God becomes known in the “loving wisdom” of the Holy Spirit and he is known in love. And as we will detail, this type of knowing is the core of what is called ‘contemplation’.69 Wojtyla writes that when faith is considered from these perspectives, we are considering it in its dynamic aspect; this is an examination of “how faith operates’ rather than one of ‘what faith is’. He terms this “the experimental inductive approach to explanation”.70

The first experiential cognition of the Divine that Wojtyla discusses with some detail concerns the “apprehensions” that happen in “the active night of the spirit” There are two forms of supernatural knowledge according to John, Wojtyla explains: that of internal and external senses which is corporeal, and that which is received directly into the intellect, which is spiritual. The latter too is divided into two types of knowledge: confused, general and dark as well as distinct and particular. This last category is the one of apprehensions: visions, revelations, locutions and spiritual feelings.71 The confused form of knowledge will be taken up in the elucidation of the term “the Substance as understood”, and these four particular forms of experiential knowledge of God in the active night of the spirit will be described at this point. John bases his explanation of these four types of experiences on his study of mystical cases—his own and those of others. He takes in three consideration with each of these forms of ‘apprehensions”. First he will describe a particular type of apprehension. Secondly, he investigates its nature. And finally, he judges it by the measure of faith whose increase is always the fundamental goal. So the question becomes, “does this experience serve or hamper faith and the union of the divine and human intellects which is its purpose”? The answer to this question will determine whether the particular apprehension is one to be sought or to be avoided, beyond any consideration of the experiential knowledge that it supplies.72

The intellectual visions or apprehensions are manifested to the intellect in a manner that is analogous to sense experiences. Hence, the visions are related to a “seeing”, the locutions to a “hearing, the perception of something previously unknown to a sense of a “revelation” and finally there are spiritual feelings which are in the manner of emotional experiences. These are not really sense experiences though; it is really a purely subjective impression that these apprehensions are received as if they were sense experiences.73 John is adamant in that apprehensions of this kind should not be sought because they deflect the assent at work in the actuation of the virtue of faith. Union of the intellect remains the proper work of faith alone, it must be chosen over these experiences for the sake of that union74.

However, John makes a distinction within the category of revelations (or hearings—ex auditi) that establishes a knowledge of God that is real, thus valuable, in the experience of the ‘apprehensions’. In the example of the two forms of revelation in the apprehensions, John names one as “intellectual understanding and knowledge” and the other is a disclosure of hidden divine secrets and mysteries. The former, according to John is of great value and the latter is dangerously competitive with faith, Wojtyla explains. The former is of value because it is a knowledge that is directly sourced in God, in experiences in which the soul has an experience of some attribute of God. This form of revelation is in fact an experience of union with God, “to receive them is equivalent to a certain contact of the soul with divinity. Hence it is God himself who is perceived and tasted there”.75

Interior locutions also can have some value in the illumination of truths. As with the revelations, they occur in the passive intellect without any effort on the part of the soul.76 John distinguishes various kinds of locutions: successive words, formal words and substantial words. The first occurs during recollection and interior prayer and may be brought into the formation of concepts; the second, John simply contrasts with faith as the proper means, and the last causes what is intuited—i.e., “Love me”: the soul experiences a growth in the love of God.77 These supernatural insights indicate the mystical work of the ‘active night of the spirit’; they are the work of faith. And as the soul increases its faith, which is always in “that which is unseen”, they must be submitted to the abnegation that empties the intellect of all intentional forms.78 They do signify, however, the fact of interior experiential knowledge of God that is received from the very exigencies of faith Because they represent the work of both faith and charity, we have not discussed spiritual feelings.

These experiences are better understood as an introduction to that of the ‘Substance understood”, even though they are part of the preliminary night in the increasing union of the soul with God. Of course all faith in John’s theology is related to charity; it is vivified faith, but as mentioned above, the apprehensions flow from the very exigencies of faith, while the experiences under current consideration are the work of the Holy Spirit and represent a “knowing through love”. Hence, these spiritual experiences are ones that occur during that stage of interior prayer that is singularly contemplation proper; prayer without any intentional species that is a divine communication to the passive intellect. Already in the obscurity of the virtue of faith, the divine substance, a reality present within in all revealed truths, and under the impulse of its excessive light in which the intellect through faith shares, enters the passive intellect. The union of human and divine essences, while enveloping the intellect in darkness, does allow the passive intellect to “rest in and enjoy” the substance understood”.79 But the agent intellect remains without specific forms of understanding nonetheless.

The new term “substance as understood”, which John discusses at length in his book, The Spiritual Canticle, is a concept that is employed by John to explain the experiences and understandings the intellect cognitively enjoys in light of the presence of the divine substance within it. The term refers to a realization of the divine substance within the soul, one effected through love, that is superior to that of faith. Faith has a subordinated role to charity in this experience. The soul enjoys a likeness to God as God impresses his substance on the soul, one created in love and brought to fruition in contemplative prayer. The latter term, then refers to the event of cognitive experiences of the divine, brought into being by charity and the Spirit, in which actual meanings and understandings can be derived by human reason through vivified faith. Hence, the deficiency of the agent intellect vis-a-vis the divine form is satisfied, not in its normal abstractive way but by the redundance of love.80

This is of course a different kind of knowing. John of the Cross uses the poetic symbols of “breezes” and “whistling” to explain it. “Breezes” refers to the divine communication to the soul in the spiritual espousal. John had initially used the term “whistling” in The Active Night of the Spirit to refer spiritual feelings. They occur darkly within the substance of the soul and are “of the sweetest touches” whose impact means that “apprehension and knowledge and understanding overflow from them to the intellect”.81 The notion of the “substance as understood” refers to a mystical knowledge and love brought to perfection in the soul. In this latter case there is a joining and union of the soul with the divine substance itself, which is characterized as the “touch” of the divine substance, the dark and loving knowledge that is at the core of faith’s definition as “the substance realized” in Hebrews, 11:1. This is the mostly lofty knowledge of God arising from the Divine’s loving ‘touch’ that creates the “greatest delight” as a mystical experience. The ‘touch’ of God is a new form of mystical experience in which charity and the Holy Spirit enter in as the efficient cause, while the material causality can be attribute to the soul’s power of touch.

“The knowledge of the virtues of the Beloved is felt and enjoyed in the soul’s power of touch, which is in its substance, and the knowledge of those virtues of God is perceived in the ear of the soul, which is the intellect”82
Wojtyla writes that the “substance as understood” signifies the freeing of the intentional form of divinity that was hidden in the conceptualized propositions of faith; this form is separated from them and joined to the intellect. The action implies that this substance is received into the passive intellect and gives it fruition in its gaze at divinity. Hence, despite the agent intellect’s ineffectuality in face of the infinite divine spiritual form, the divine substance is communicated to the soul by way of the redundance of love. There is a profound and penetrating knowledge of God and a manifestation of truths about the Divinity, the revelation of hidden secrets. The “substance as understood” is the intentional form of God received into the soul, into the possible intellect—Voegelin’s human nous. It is a spiritual hearing in which the divine essence is really and truly known by the human intellect, but through the overflow of divine love that brings full participation of the intellect in the divine light. This knowledge is real and experiential; the communication of divinity to the soul is effected by the will but the “substance as understood”is something proper to the intellect. Wojtyla concludes that this knowledge is not apodictic, because of course, always takes place within the limits of faith 83

We can end this section with a short summary of the nature of faith as discerned by Karol Wojtyla in his exegesis of the mystical writings of St. John of the Cross. In his doctrinal resume, Wojtyla writes that the entire teaching of St. John on faith is contained in its function as a means of union of the intellect with God; John’s doctrine on the nature and definition of faith are based upon this function. John’s doctrine is an elaboration of the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, hence he writes to establish that the God directly encountered in the beatific vision is the exactly the God contacted in the dark, confused obscurity of faith.84 This doctrine rests on two metaphysical principles: that faith is an “essential likeness” to God and thus can work as “the proportionate means” of union of the intellect with the divine essence. Of course, the human intellect achieves union when in its operations it grasps the essence of its object in the intentional mode. So in faith the presence of the divine essence within the passive intellect is the presence of God as known in the human knower. John explains how this can occur in a pneumatic paradigm in which the “substance as understood” is communicated to the intellect though charity and the Holy Spirit in faith’s proper contemplative activity.

Finally, it is important to note Wojtyla’s comprehensive elucidation of the psychological nature of faith and his investigation into the experiences associated with faith. First, Wojtyla has carefully detailed how faith overcomes the insufficiency of natural intellection of the body/soul composite which is the human being; human reason can know God in a human way in his infinite form without intentional species. The divine essence is present in the passive intellect as the known is present in the knower through the operation of faith. Secondly, faith as the intellect’s participation in the divine essence, despite the intellect’s experiences of darkness and emptiness, nonetheless enjoys a obscure proportion to divinity that contains psychological reality. One is consciously aware of a knowledge of the Divine, one has psychological, or experiential information of the divine essence85. It should be noted, because John of the Cross has emphasized this point, that the exercise of faith in this life is an obediently religious one that entails the two major acts of religion: abnegation which is sacrifice, and the continual focusing of the mind on God, which is interior prayer. These acts foster faith’s assent to increasing union with God.

Conclusion: The Significance of the Nature of Faith According to Saint John of the Cross for the Philosopher Eric Voegelin

This article’s thesis has been that Karol Wojtyla’s dissertation on the nature of faith in the writings of John of the Cross has relevance for Voegelin scholars because his elucidation of the nature and operations of faith are a pneumatic complements to Voegelin’s noetic differentiation of philosophical consciousness. The two categories in which this complementarity will be investigated are those of philosophical anthropology and social/political theory. In regards to the former topic, which we will take up first, participation in divinity as a defining attribute of human nature with a special focus on the higher order reason’s union with the divine nous will be explored. Thus we will examine the human ability to know and experience God in himself, plus the ramifications of this for understanding the nature of consciousness as the locus of the metaxy, (a Voegelin neologism retrieved from Plato). The biblical depiction of the human being as made in the image and likeness to God is fleshed out in both scholars’ philosophy.

However, Voegelin presents it more in terms of an existential noetic discovery of the human reason as opened to divine reason, whereas Wojtyla’s synthesis is a ‘constructive’ one in which the image and likeness occurs gradually in time dependent on the moral conformity of human freedom to the loving call to union. But it is due to faith’s nature as “essential likeness”, thus as a proportionate means of union with the divine essence, in which the intellect becomes informed with a new divine principle of operation, hence is essentially changed, that the claim of divine attributes of human nature can be made.86 The human essential form, the soul, is transformed, Wojtyla will add changed, and becomes divine by participation due to the perfecting virtues of vivified faith.87 The Platonic notion of participation then is central to both scholar’s philosophies of human nature.

Wojtyla will contend that human beings must think and choose under the directing source or principle from a higher order wisdom, effected by faith, whereas Voegelin repeatedly calls for human beings to live out their lives in the “metaxy” of In-Between character of consciousness.88 This means, that in contrast to every other created being, there is a unique human mode of operation. This operation is an actualization of the infinite orientation of their spiritual powers in which human beings—just to be fully human—not only live and act individually as persons, or in participation with others as social beings, but also and paramountly live and act during their lives in participation with God. The mystical experience in John’s experiential theology then, is not something esoteric, because the mysticism that develops in light of the exigencies of a vivified faith, creates the humanity of each human being in the Wojtyla/Voegelin syntheses. Wojtyla writes that for John of the Cross faith and the intellect are so closely related in his teachings that is impossible to understand the nature of the human intellect without knowing the nature of faith also.89 George Weigel also writes about this fundamental anthropology. “This encounter with the living God is not meant for mystics only. It is the center of every Christian life. The mystical experience reveals important things about the road to God and about the nature of our communion with God. . . . God is part of our understanding of the human person.”90

The point to be emphasized is humanity’s uniqueness among all created species. Wojtyla writes that there are two types of union with God, one is the ‘natural’ one shared by every finite being which is related to creation and conservation—this is the metaphysical grounding by God of each creature’s actual existence. The other is the union which make humans essentially like God, “supernatural” was the old scholastic term for this—which is a term that both Wojtyla and Voegelin reject because it suggests that human beings can be human without a divine likeness. The second union is a communion with God by the transformed human being through participation in divine being.91 The significance of this shared view by Wojtyla and Voegelin, is that a responsibility lies upon each generation of humanity to bring the potential for divinity inherent in and essential to humanity’s nature to fulfilment in the successive new and younger generations of the human race.

Secondly, human reason is equipped to know God. This fact is wonderfully explained in Voegelin’s “Reason the Classic Experience”, which we have already referenced. The Greeks discovered reason and its nature in reason’s experiential knowing of the Divine. Wojtyla makes a similar claim in numerous passages in his dissertation with its many examples that this is the view in John’s mystical theology. Wojtyla writes “faith does not terminate in propositions, but in reality”.92 And in psychological terms, it is a type of information. Weigel explains that for Wojtyla, the highest type of wisdom we can achieve is to know we cannot objectivize God (with our discursive reason), but nonetheless we can come to know him as we know “persons”, that is within a mutual self-giving, a living within or participation with each other . (This is Wojtyla’s pneumatic differentiation of consciousness). Both Voegelin and Wojtyla accept Aristotle’s explanation of reason as a two-fold power of intuitive and discursive intellection—i.e., the passive and the active intellect as described in De Anima, 3:5.

The question that arises vis-a-vis human ability to directly encounter the essence of God with the passive intellect in an intentional mode, is one in regards to how is this unknown knowing translated into conceptual knowing which is the way we cognize in this life. I believe Voegelin has the much more comprehensive answer to this question, but both he and Wojtyla answer it. Wojtyla writes that we gain conceptual understandings through interior prayer (which of course is guided both by magisterial tradition and the insights of the saints in this tradition), which implies one cannot know God non-religiously, as prayer is a fundamental act of religion. Voegelin uses the notion of experience-symbolization as one way to answer this question, and claims that each and every experience of the divine in the human nous generates a symbol of that experience. Meanings arise in meditation of such symbols and the equivalences between different cultures’ symbols can be discovered..93 He also identifies the human intellectual power discovered by the Greeks, the logos as “the faculty of analyzing the vision” of God in the gaze of the passive intellect.94 Finally he and Wojtyla equally insist on the importance of religious acts in the birth of faith’s actualization of each human’s divine ground of existence. So without this fundamental perfecting virtue, human beings cannot know God or develop human nature’s essential likeness to him.95

A final comparison to be considered under the topic of philosophical anthropology falls under the topic of human consciousness. Voegelin is often introduced as a philosopher of consciousness. Consciousness is the “site” of the In-Between for him in which there is always the encounter of the human nous with the presence of the divine Nous. Voegelin also employs the term, luminosity, to speak of consciousness. This term refers to the experience of Divine reality in its pure Wholeness, hence in its infinity—so that consciousness itself is experienced as both open at its human borders to infinity—the Divine ground is Voegelin’s term, and as the “locale” of the human/divine encounter. These are the experiences, that perhaps become buried at the fringes of consciousness or in the sub-conscious, that are those of great awe at existence, that are sought to be retrieved through anamnesis in Voegelin’s philosophy. Consciousness assists also in the faculty of remembrance then, as it holds the human experiences of the Divine within space and time, to be continually explored by the human cognitive powers—once again to use Voegelin’s terms: under the exegetical skills of the human logos.

Wojtyla does not address the role of consciousness in the book under consideration, but in just a couple of years,(1951) he will write an habilitation dissertation on Max Scheler, and he will articulate a theory of consciousness that is quite similar to that of Voegelin. This thesis provides some of the content for his later book, The Acting Person. In this book consciousness is presented as human awareness of all that has been cognized by reason as well as loved by the will. So consciousness is a mirroring of what happens within reason and of human acting.96 The significance for this theory of consciousness for philosophical anthropology is that consciousness serves the operations of faith concomitantly as the latter forges the union of human reason with the divine essence, by preserving these events within human interior world in space and time, thus making them accessible for further consideration in cognition. Thus participatory union with the divine essence in Wojtyla’s philosophy is a continual, accessible content of consciousness, as it has the power to mirror faith’s “substance realized” and its essential likeness to the Divine. In sum, in each scholar’s work the imperative to ponder the cognitive contents of consciousness as a path to greater knowledge of God in part explains the human ability to know and act in tune in history with holy divine wisdom.

These comments on the role of consciousness in our intellectual ability to really know and share in the divine essence are a suitable introduction to the second implication to be discussed in the conclusion, that of the relevance of Wojtyla’s book for Voegelin social/political theory. The first point to be made is that faith will spawn a working dependence on the divine wisdom in human persons as they live and act together in their everyday affairs. With faith’s union of the intellect to the Divine, it is the divine imagination that becomes materially active in these affairs. Hence God can enter history as divine guide and helper in a non-magical manner—through the judgments and decisions of concrete human beings,. The Divine is accepted within space and time by them and can transform the events in human history.

Hence, the possibility of the divine wisdom irrupting from within and ordering human affairs is a rational expectation. Persons of faith, transformed by their participation in the Divine, become Bergson’s “open soul” that Voegelin recommends97 Wojtyla, in his mature philosophy, will later used the term “subjectivity of society”, which is a notion that parallels Voegelin’s social theory that order in society arises from Plato’s “soul writ large”—each and every person of faith can be a philosopher/king and/or the prophet, priest, king in the Christian synthesis. Voegelin, has clearly documented this role of consciousness within concrete existence of human being for the sake of the ordering of the lives of historical their ordinary affairs together in societies of the world in his essay, “ The Tensions in the Reality of Knowledge”. 98

Secondly, in his dissertation Wojtyla clearly affirms, over against both literalism and a “dogmatomachy” what I have called “the common mysticism of humanity”. He does this in his thorough explanation of the mystical possibilities that faith brings to each and every person as spelled out in John of the Cross’s mystical theology. So what is ‘dogmatomachy”? This is another Voegelin neologism. The glossary of his terms defines it as a conflict over opinions, motivated by a sophistic quasi-cognitive articulation of facts that falls short of any real respect for the truth of reality, or depth of understanding the mysteries of existence.99 Voegelin writes that in the 16th century there were eight civil religious wars in France, and that Jean Bodin recognized that the overcome of doctrinal differences on the battlefield could only be overcome by realizing that mystical insight was superior to orthodoxy of doctrine. He wanted his king to be a mystic.100 Dogmatomacy and or literalism can erupt in philosophy as well as theology.

An example of the latter Voegelin writes, makes a beginning of its appearance in philosophy was Thomas’s dogmatic and propositional metaphysics with its claim to articulate once and for ever all universals, principles and substances.101 The old Baltimore Catechism reflects a similar goal. It was meant to work as the ultimate formalistic measure of theological truth to guide practical decision making. The many contemporary Muslim civil wars between Shia and Sunni perhaps illustrate both a literalism and a sophistry. And in secular societies of the contemporary world, “separation of church and state’ or lately, “freedom from religion” has become the secular and rigid dogmatomacy that is meant to measure all societal ordering.

That Wojtyla takes a definitive stand in his dissertation against doctrinal formulations as the measure of revealed reality, rather than the Divine reality itself in these truths is of critical significance to a Voegelin political philosophy. Wojtyla does break with a tradition that goes back through the period of the Inquisition to the generation after Thomas Aquinas himself. The orthodoxy was one in which mysticism is denigrated in its ability to foster knowledge of God in an experiential manner, in favor of the advocacy of apodictic doctrinal elaboration of the “revealed truths” of faith. Wojtyla writes that while faith joins the intellect to the divine essence as unseen, nonetheless it also affords a “psychological plenitude” in the here and now which is a certain insight into and contemplation of “divine things”.102

And he insisted in this work that John of the Cross never treated faith precisely as an assent to propositionally articulated revealed truths—dogma then—by reason of the authority of the one revealing. 103 George Weigel writes that Garrigou criticized Wojtyla for not using the phrase, “divine object” of God, but the fact remained that he insisted on not treating God as a divine object, even by way of analogy. In this first major work, Wojtyla was already moving beyond the scholastic intellectual categories and dogmatism.104 Wojtyla found a warrant in John’s mystical theology for the claim that in faith one is directly united to God by a participation in divinity itself which becomes a source of “holy wisdom” for human beings. I believe that Wojtyla’s work supports Voegelin’s own thesis that mysticism must be the foundation of order in society, and I will conclude with Voegelin’s comments on this topic from his Autobiographical Reflections.

Mysticism is needed then to counter social disorder. Social order can only flow from true religion, according to Voegelin, which is nothing else than “the turning (conversio) of a purified spirit to the true God”.105 (Here the leadership of the prophets’s interpretation of the tradition, genuine mystics, of society are important) This ‘turning around’ in turn is less than a movement of the self to God, than a “being moved by him”, (hence John’s insistence as God as source and principle). Voegelin goes on his summation of Bodin’s political theory to say this movement is less of a being emptied and more of being filled, and a being carried by love. Wojtyla would call this “filling” the holy wisdom. Mankind, continues Voegelin must be understood as a society in the mode of existence in history, and there will always be the tensions and drama of the spirit and the role of the prophet whose true religion influences the religion of the people, and who attacks the dogmatism of the literalist dominating the public conversation. We have referred to Voegelin’s notion of equivalences of symbols as a tool in dealing with cultural pluralism. But Voegelin would agree with Wojtyla that even in the sociality of symbolic expressions, all ordering of political societies must happen within the limits of faith. And it must flow from the ordered soul writ large.

The last question to be answer then is how, given the limits of faith and the fact that incomprehensible mystery will always be greater than any articulated symbolic expression of “holy wisdom” as the resource for existential decisions of order, would this practically work? For Voegelin writes that Bodin recognize these limits, that “the reality of faith through conversio lies beyond the symbols”. Hence, he continues that the essence of tolerance in the pluralistic societies of the world becomes the work of balancing silence and expressions of a reality of knowledge.106 John of the Cross’s symbols of the darkness and light of faith, and emphasis on the abnegation which accompanies faith’s increasing assent to union with God is surely an echo of Bodin’s insights retrieved by Voegelin. Wojtyla, in his mature writings had come to a philosophical synthesis to answer to this question, one which I believe is satisfactory to an advocate of Voegelian political philosophy.

Wojtyla chooses the experience of the person as his point of departure with the caveat that this experience include the “common mysticism” that belongs to all persons. The criterion of the truth of joint existential decisions of order arises from these experiences of concrete persons. It lies in the recognition and in the confirmation that each person brings in his/her encounter with the experience of the other. We are to be the reader of the other human being, the ordinary mystic living out the exigencies of faith endowed, with ‘holy wisdom’ deep within his passive intellect. Hence in questions of order for political philosophy, the philosopher must interpret, by bringing into the content of his consciousness with increasing clear awareness, what happens in the common mystical experience of humankind.107



1.Peter Simpson, On Karol Wojtyla, (United States, et al: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning, 2001).

2.Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, The Acting Person, translated from the Polish by Andrzej Potocki, edited by Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, in the Analecta Husserliana, X (Dordrecht, Holland, Boston, USA: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1979), pp. 3-5. (The mature phenomenolgy of Wojtyla would refer to this experience as “lived existence”).

3.Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis, translated and edited by Gerhart Niemeyer (Columbus and London: University of Missouri Press, 1978), pp. 36 -37.

4. Karol Wojtyla, Faith According to Saint John of the Cross, translated by Jordan Aumann, O.P. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1981, 1985, 1986), pp. 23, 148.

5. George F. McLean, O.M.I., “Karol Wojtyla’s Mutual Enrichment of the Philosophies of Being and Consciousness” in Karol Wojtyla’s Philosophical Legacy, edited by Nancy Marddas Billias, Agnes B. Curry, George F. McLean (Washington. D.C.: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2008), pp. 15-16.

6.George Weigel, Witness to Hope (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999), p. 85.

7.McLean provides an excellent summary of the nature of Wojtyla’s Platonic Thomism, pp. 15-32.

8.Karal Wojtyla, Faith, pp. 88, 196. The actual quote is from McLean, p. 16.

9.Ibid., p. 21.

10.Of course Voegelin and Wojtyla approach this ability in very different manners, and points to the different differentiations of consciousness in that of philosophy and that of revelation. Nonetheless the fact that each makes claims of human participation in the Divine Reason points to the equivalences in the experiences each is interpreting.

11. I will mainly resource Voegelin’s essay, “Anxiety and Reason” for this part of the article. See, Eric Voegelin, What Is History? And Other Late Unpublished Writings.

12.Jaroslaw Kupczak, Destined for Liberty (Washington, D.C: The Catholic University Press of America, 2000), pp. 3-4.

13. Kupczak, p. 5.

14.Karol Wojtyla, Faith, pp. 15-16. He remarks in his Introduction that pure and clear mystical theology of John of the Cross has helped combat pseudo-mysticism, which as exemplified by the alumbrados of his day in their claim to be guided solely by the Holy Spirit and in no need of Church authority.

15.Weigel, p. 87.

16.The latter characterization would not fit harmoniously with Voegelin’s understanding of philosophy in the noetically differentiated consciousness, because it seems to accept an independently existent reason apart from its participation in the Divine Nous; Wojtyla also eschewed the notion of a separate natural from the supernatural in human spiritual activity because he held to the doctrine of Christ as the new Adam, in whom humanity participated and received its human nature. But the statement does point to the fact that Wojtyla was a philosopher in his personal make-up. See Simpson, “Philosophical Theology”, pp. 68-92 , also see, p. 69.

17.Wojtyla, Faith, pp. 244, 246.

18.Ibid., pp. 259-260. This ability comes into existence through mental prayer/contemplation in Wojtyla’s synthesis.

19. Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, “ Meditation of the Day” in Magnificat Vol.14, No. 5 (July, 2012), p. 103.

20.The writings include, The Ascent to Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul, Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame of Love. See Wojtyla, Faith. “ Contents”.

21.Jordan Aumann, O.P., “Translator’s Preface” in Wojtyla, Faith, p. 13.

22.Wojtyla, Faith, p. 269.

23.Ibid., p. 237.

24.Voegelin, Anamnesis, pp. 89 -115.

25. Wojtyla, Faith, p. 265.

26.In traditional scholastic terminology this potential is called human “obediential potency”.

27.Ibid., p. 243. Wojtyla quotes John of the Cross from the Spiritual Canticle (stanza 3. 18) to elucidate this point. There are “deep caverns of sense” which are the spiritual part of human nature possessing infinite capacity. “These caverns are the faculties of the soul—memory, intellect and will—and they are as deep as their capacity for great blessings, for they cannot be filled with anything less than the intellect”, p.232.

28.Ibid., p. 135.

29.Ibid., p. 57.

30.Ibid., pp. 264-265.

31.Ibid., p. 240.

32.Ibid., p. 73.

33.Ibid., p. 243.

34.Ibid., p. 74.

35.Ibid., p. 143.

36.Ibid., p. 115.

37.Ibid., p. 101.

38.Ibid., p. 97.

39.Ibid., p. 133.

40.Ibid., pp. 304-304.

41.Ibid., pp. 197-200.

42.Ibid., p. 218.

43.Ibid., see IR, pp. 534-35; EA, pp. 270ff.

44.For example, The Gifford Lectures.

45.Wojtyla, Faith, p. 23-25. He remarks that since John of the Cross is analyzing experience of the Divine, his language should be consider poetic, symbolic and descriptive.

46.Ibid., pp.231-233.

47.Ibid., p. 50.

48.Ibid., pp. 239-240.

49.Ibid., p. 39.

50.Ibid., p. 208.

51.Ibid., p. 67.


53.Ibid., p. 92.

54.Ibid., pp. 42-44.

55.This statement represents John of the Cross’s argument against the psuedo-mysticism of his times., Ibid., p. 22.

56.Ibid., p. 163.

57.Ibid., p. 38.

58.Ibid., p. 87.

59.Voegelin, EA, p. 8.

60. Wojtyla, Faith, p. 89, 137, 213.

61.Ibid., p. 172.

62.Ibid., p. 176.

63.Ibid., p. 174.

64.Ibid., p.74.

65.Ibid., p. 201.

66.Wojtyla discusses the first two “nights” in his exegesis of The Ascent of Mount Carmel, pp. 33-182; and The Dark Night of the Soul, pp. 183-202.

67. Wojtyla, Faith, pp. 68-69.

68. Of course this is a classic psychology of the mind and a paradigm use in scholasticism that extends to the writings of Aristotle on psychology. See De Anima, 3,5. See. Pp.74-75, 217-219.

69.Wojtyla, Faith, pp. 214-218.

70.Ibid., p. 111.


72.Ibid., p. 118ff.

73.Ibid., pp.123ff.

74.Ibid., p. 119.

75.Ibid., pp. 124-125.

76.Ibid., p. 120.

77.Ibid., pp. 126-128.

78.Ibid., pp. 132-134.

79.Ibid., pp. 84-85.

80.Ibid., pp. 217-218.

81.Ibid., p. 214.

82.Ibid., p. 216. Wojtyla is quoting St. John of the Cross in this passage. Spiritual Canticle, stanza 13, no. 13.

83.Ibis., pp. 216-223.

84.Ibid., p. 238.

85.Ibid., pp. 248ff, 263.

86.Ibid., p. 231.

87.Ibid., p. 89.

88.Voegelin writes about this fundamental human experience elaborated in his philosophy in his Autobiographical Reflections. See Autobiographical Reflections, Revised Edition with a Voegelin Glossary and Cumulative Index, edited with Introductions by Ellis Sandoz (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 2006), pp. 98-99.

89.Wojtyla, Faith, p. 57.

90. Weigel, pp. 85-86.

91.Wojtyla, Faith, p. 49.

92.Ibid., p. 270.

93.Eric Voegelin, “Equivalences of Experience and Symbolization in History” in Published Essays, 1966-1985 12, edited with an Introduction by Ellis Sandoz (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University, 1990), pp. 115-133.

94.Voegelin, Anamnesis, p. 94.

95.Voegelin, “Anxiety and Reason”, p. 92.

96.Karol Wojtyla, The Acting Person, trans by Andrei Poticki, edited by Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (Dordrecht, Holland/ Boston, USA/London, England: D Reidel Publishing Company, 1969/1979), p. 31.

97.Voegelin, Anamnesis,, p. 196.

98.Ibid., pp. 183-199.

99.Voegelin, 34, pp. 156, 173.

100.Voegelin, AR, p. 113.

101.Voegelin, Anamnesis,, p. 194.

102.Wojtyla, Faith, p. 249.

103.Ibid., p. 237.

104.Weigel, pp. 86-87.

105.This quote that defines true religion is from Jean Bodin. See Anamnesis, p. 195.

106. Voegelin, Anamnesis, , p. 197.

107.Rocco Buttiglione, Karol Wojtyla: The Thought of the Man Who Became Pope John Paul II, translated by Paola Guietti and Francesca Murphy (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 122. This summation of “how it would work” is from Buttiglione analysis.

Macon Boczek

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Macon Boczek has been an active member of the Eric Voegelin Society since 2001, after she earned a doctorate in Roman Catholic Systematic Theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburg. She has a B.S. in Education and Masters of Arts degrees in both Religious Studies and Philosophy. She has taught at John Carroll University in Ohio and Kent State University, where she is currently on the faculty of the Religious Studies Department. Macon and her husband Paul have four children and eight grandchildren and they reside in Novelty, Ohio.