Catholic Virtues
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The Thirst for Souls - IV

Disordered & Ordered Way of
Contemplating Nature

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
In the last article I looked at types of romantic affection in relation to the thirst for souls that a Catholic should know. Now, I will deal with the supernatural and metaphysical in relation to what can properly be called the thirst for souls. First let me look at the metaphysical side and at natural reason, before going on to the facts of Revelation.

The contemplation of nature

Taking that example of the German who likes to meditate on metaphysical topics while viewing the Rhine, I ask: Is it censurable for a man to meditate on the Rhine that runs silently in the night? Meditating on those mysteries, on that can symbolize a profuse and profound river that, even without anyone to view it, runs in the darkness of the night? Unequivocally, I applaud doing this. I think this is an elevated and noble way of seeing things.

mystery whine river

The mystery of the Rhine at night; by day, a surprise around every corner

surprise Rhine
What about the German who sets himself on the banks of the Baltic – and here enters one of the sides I like of German culture – and contemplates those pines native to the coastal region, descending deep into the water that boils icily near some rocks and into the empty silence of nature.

Or when he enters into the tempests of Beethoven or, above all, those of Wagner, who has a higher level, if not as a musician at least as a "thinker." Or when he becomes ecstatic over the poetry of the hecatomb with its Wagnerian, tragic endings? Are these not elevated ways of seeing things?

The presupposition of this way of seeing is that all natural things are symbols of a superior metaphysical character. And that, therefore, in the Rhine that runs at night, one observes a natural, authentic order of things that is valid and independent of the judgments men can make about it. One observes that the Rhine would not exist in this way if there were not a Spectator (with a capital S) who sees it; if there were not an Author who had made it. It is obvious, the one of whom I speak is God.

But, within that metaphysical or Wagnerian position – as one might label it – the man can take an ordered or disordered position, as can be done regarding anything. In the face of anything, there is an order and a disorder. And so, I ask: What is the ordered position and what it the disordered one?

The disordered position

The disordered position would consist in saying: "I captured the mystery of this Rhine that runs in the night. I perceived the mystery of those pines and their beauty. How grand my soul feels considering this mystery! How I soar and expand, entering ever deeper in this meditation; what a superior delicacy this is for my spirit! And how I am enraptured with the grandeur that I acquired doing this! How inebriated I am with this grandeur; how radiant I have become with the grandeur that I myself acquired!

winding The winding Rhine River
The final end of the meditation is not the Rhine, nor is it God who created the Rhine, who is the Divine Spectator before whom the Rhine runs, but rather, it is I, in so much as I have assimilated any grandeur from my meditation. Here is the egoist and disordered position.

It is a position that leads the man to close in on himself rather than open himself, not even to his disciples. Rather, he thinks the following:

"Alas, I cannot communicate to you the ocean that I carry inside myself. I saw it, I know it, and within my spirit dwells these values that you, satiated from coming from the restaurant, do not have. And while the orchestra plays Wagner, I look with pity on everyone, because I alone understand. In my soul there is an interior sanctuary where these values vibrate. And in this sanctuary there is an idol, and this idol is called 'I.' I adore myself, having captured all this."

This is the fundamentally disordered position.

This position does not generate a thirst for souls, nor does it awake a thirst for God. I descend into myself. I drink on myself – it is a monstrous thing, but I nourish myself on myself. It is like a person who began to eat his own fingers, his own arms. "I need nothing more, nothing from anyone, the final end of my meditation is myself. My idol, before whom I live and for whom I live, is myself, who understands and enriches myself from these things." This is the bad position, the wrong position.

The ordered position

What is the ordered position? It is one that gives rise to abnegation. Before the Rhine that runs in the night and this mystery of the Rhine and its grandeur that appears before me, I should have a first movement of disinterested love. That is to say, as one knows it he has true veneration:

God the Father Ghenbt

A ordered position of soul leads one to contemplate and admire the Creator of nature

"What an enormous thing! Behind such a grandiose river, there is the true God, of whom this is only a symbol, an insufficient and contingent manifestation, like every symbol and every manifestation! The reality that this river reflects exists in God, but in an uncreated way, and in a way that I cannot imagine! How I venerate God who is like this!"

On the other hand, I should also have tenderness: It is not only admiration and respect, but also tenderness:

"How superior He is to me! How good it is to love Someone so superior to me, who helps me draw myself out of my own marshland, my own misery, my contingency, in order to love in an disinterested way. And why? Because He is He, without anything more, without any other consideration." This is the true and disinterested position.

Certainly, in this disinterested position, I find all the satisfaction that my souls needs. I find the divine affinity with myself, I find at the same time the divine dissimilarity with myself and, thus, my soul finds a complete repose in this contemplation. But if, by some absurdity, I were not to find there a full repose, I would still love Him, because He is He, and He is so in that way. And I would venerate Him and respect Him, because He is He.

It is a position where I am not the final end, but He is. The movement is not a movement in which I close myself in my egoism, but a movement in which I give myself to God as a homage for what He is. It is true that I benefit from this movement, but this is not the reason for my movement. The reason is to give myself, disinterestedly.

This is what a holocaust is, properly speaking. It is less to give my life than to give my whole being, my soul, my love, my intelligence as a homage because He merits it. This is the proper position of soul and one that raises in it the thirst for God.


baltic pines

Pine trees on the coast of the Baltic Sea

It remains for me to show how this position causes, in a parallel way, the thirst for souls. The thirst for God is a thing so known that, in passing, only an observation is needed.

I believe that is not very often for us to have meditations like this, beginning by showing God as admirable in order to show Him as loveable, for in fact one does not love entirely except when one has fully admired something.

The first element of love is admiration. The Commandment to "love God above all things" includes admiring God above all things and to recognize the sublimities and excellencies of God beyond and at the end of all sublimities and excellencies that can be considered. In this sense, nature is, in fact, an inexhaustible source for this contemplation. Nature was made for us to meditate upon, and we should indeed do this.


Posted August 21, 2019