Monday, November 14, 2011

Thomas Aquinas on Kinds of Sleep

hora est iam nos de somno surgere. Rom 13:11
Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep.
Quod quidem intelligendum est non de somno naturae, qui quandoque dicitur mors, secundum illud I Thess. IV, 12: nolumus vos ignorare de dormientibus, quandoque autem est quies animalium virtutum, secundum illud Io. XI, v. 12: si dormit, salvus erit. Nec enim intelligendum est de somno gratiae, qui quandoque dicitur quies aeternae gloriae, secundum illud Ps. IV, 9: in pace in idipsum, etc., quandoque autem est quies contemplationis etiam in hac vita. Cant. V, 2: ego dormio, et cor meum vigilat. Sed intelligitur de somno culpae, secundum illud Eph. V, 14: exurge, qui dormis, et exurge a mortuis, etc., vel etiam negligentiae, secundum illud Prov. c. VI, 9: usquequo, piger, dormies? Tempus ergo est surgendi a somno culpae per poenitentiam Ps. CXXVI, 2: surgite, postquam sederitis, etc., a somno vero negligentiae per sollicitudinem bene operandi Is. XXI, 5: surgite, principes, accipite clypeum. Eccli. XXXII, 15: hora surgendi non te tristet. Deinde, cum dicit nunc enim, etc., assignat rationem eius quod dixerat, dicens nunc enim propior est salus nostra, quam cum credidimus. Quod quidem secundum intentionem apostoli intelligitur de salute vitae aeternae, de qua dicitur Is. LI, 8: salus autem mea in sempiternum erit.
 This certainly is not [said of] the sleep of nature, which in some places is called death, as in 1 Thess 4:12: "we do not wish you to be ignorant of those who have fallen asleep," but which in other places is the sleep of animal powers, as in John 11:12, "if he sleeps, he will be well." Nor is it to be understood [to speak] about the sleep of grace, which in some places is the of eternal glory, as in Ps 4:9: "in peace, in the selfsame I will sleep," but which is sometimes the rest of contemplation even in this life, as in Song of Songs 5:2: "I sleep, but my heart keeps vigil."
 But it is to be understood [to speak] about the sleep of sin, as in Eph 5:14: "arise, sleepers, and arise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you," or also [the sleep] of negligence, as in Prov. 6:9, "How long will you sleep, O sluggard?" Therefore the time for rising from the sleep of sin is through penitence: Ps 126:2, "Rise after you have sat down," but from the sleep of negligence, through solicitude to good works: Is 21:5, "Rise princes, and take up the shield"; Ecclus 32:15, "at the hour of rising be not sad." Afterwards, when he says, "for now is the day of your salvation," he assigns his reason that he said it, saying, "for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed." Here indeed according to the intention of the apostle to be understood to speak of the salvation of eternal life, of which it is said in Is 51:8: "for my salvation will be unto eternity."
Here Thomas delineates six types of sleep:
  (1) The sleep of nature, or death
  (2) The sleep of vital powers
  (3) The sleep of eternal glory
  (4) The sleep of contemplation in this life
  (5) The sleep of sin
  (6) The sleep of negligence.

For each type of sleep, he provides a corresponding Scriptural reference, showing that there is Biblical precedent for the extended use of the term. It seems that sleep in itself signifies a lack or a rest from something. Some thoughts:

 1. The sleep of nature is cessation of the natural operation of living as a thing composed of form and matter. Scientists now debate the precise time of death. Part of the difficulty is that many do not acknowledge a spiritual soul, so they do not identify death with the separation of the soul and body. But this definition only points to the difficulty of determining when that separation takes place. If one holds to a plurality of forms, the question would then be multifold: what indicates that the rational soul has separated from the body? Is that separation the definition of "human" death if a lower form remains?

 2. The sleep of vital powers is rest from the waking operations of the animal soul, such as sensing. This is ordinarily what we would call "sleep."

 3. The sleep of eternal glory is rest from the operation of living in this life, which is not properly an operation but a combination of them; or we could say it is a rest from life in the fallen world. This is more properly said to be a waking state, because in eternal glory the person and his faculties is most fully actualized.

 4. The sleep of contemplation in this life is rest from all activities that are contrary to contemplation. Some of the mystics who experienced extraordinary graces in prayer including St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, speak about how there are some moments of contemplation in which the faculties are suspended. In this life, the body, affected by original sin, is a hindrance to the quies contemplationis. Indirectly, of course, the body helps a person begin a life of contemplation because one learns through the senses. In the next life, however, the resurrected body enjoys, in its own mode, the contemplation of the soul which is the beatific vision.

 5. The sleep of sin is the cessation of living in a state of grace. From this sleep some can wake by their own power, or ordinary grace: the remedy of venial sin found in prayers, sacrifices, and so on. But others cannot wake from this sleep without an extraordinary grace: to go from the state of mortal sin to that of grace is greater than the creation of the universe out of nothing.

 6. The sleep of negligence is rest from doing the good one ought to do. We can identify this with sloth.

Sleep: deaths ally, oblivion of tears
     Silence of passions, balm of angry sore
Suspense of loves, security of fears,
     Wrath's lenitive, heart's ease, storm's calmest shore
Sense's and soul's reprieval from all cumbers,
     Benumbing sense of ill with quiet slumbers.

  ---St. Robert Southwell, St. Peter's Complaynt

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