Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part I, Chapter I
The soul and the body propose to travel in company, and to take self-love for a third party.
I saw, said the saint, a Soul and a Body conversing with one another; and first, the Soul said: My Body, God has created me to love, and to enjoy myself; I wish, therefore, to go where I can best accomplish this design, and to have you accompany me in a friendly way, since it will be to your advantage also. We will go through the world; if I find anything which pleases me, I will enjoy it; you can do the same when you find anything which pleases you; and let him do better that can.
The Body answered: Though I may be obliged to do whatever pleases you, yet I see that you cannot accomplish all that you wish without me. Therefore, if we are to set forth together let us come to a perfect understanding before we start, in order that we may not fall out by the way. For my own part, I agree to your proposal, but let each of us be satisfied with the success of the other when he meets with anything that pleases him, for such forbearance, will keep us in peace. I advise this beforehand, because I do not wish that you should deceive me, and say whenever I find something that I like: "I do not wish you to linger here, for I am going elsewhere to attend to my own concerns," and thus I might find myself obliged to abandon my own plans in order to follow yours. In that case, I assure you I should die, and our design would be frustrated. To prevent this, I think it would be well to take with us a third companion, some just person who has no share in our partnership, and to whom all our differences could be referred.
Soul. I am well-pleased with this proposal; but who shall this third person be?
Body. Let it be Self-Love, who lives with us both; he will see that I have what belongs to me, and I shall enjoy with him. He will do the same for you, and thus, both will be satisfied, each in his own way.
Soul. What shall we do if we find food equally gratifying to both?
Body. Let him eat who may. If there is enough for both there will be no disagreement. If there is not enough, Self-Love will give to each his share. But since our tastes are so different, it will be most extraordinary if we should find food equally pleasing to both, unless one or the other should change; which is contrary to the nature of things.
Soul. By nature I am more powerful than you, and therefore I have no fear of your converting me to your tastes.
Body. But this is my home, where I have so many delightful things to enjoy, that although you may be more powerful than I, you could not possibly awaken in me the desire to be converted to yours. But I, being, as I have said, at home, might more easily convert you to my tastes, doing it from love and from a wish to please you, for you are seeking things which you neither see, taste, nor understand, - nor do you even know where your home is.
Soul. Let us try the experiment; but, in the first place, we must make some agreement by which we may secure harmony. Let us take alternate weeks. When it is my turn you must do whatever is pleasing to me; and, in like manner, when yours comes, I will do whatever you wish, always excepting, so long as I live, whatever would offend our Creator. If I die, that is, if you induce me to offend him, I shall then be your servant to do your bidding, for in that case I shall be wholly converted to your wishes, and shall take pleasure in whatever pleases you. Being thus united, no one but God can ever interrupt our union,for it will always be protected by free-will; and both in this world and the next we shall receive together the reward of all the good and evil that we do. A like fate will be yours, if I succeed in conquering you.
But here comes Self-Love. You have heard the whole. Will you be our third party, our judge, and the companion of our journey?
Self-Love. I consent, and shall find it greatly to my advantage. I shall give each of you what belongs to him, for this will not injure me; and thus I shall live on equal terms with both. But if either of you should wrong me, and deprive me of my support, I shall immediately have recourse to the other, for on no account would I be deprived of my own subsistence.
Body. I am not one who would ever abandon you.
Soul. Nor would I ever do so, especially as we all agree and understand that, above all things, we are to avoid offending God. Therefore, if either of us sins, the others will check the offender. Now, in God's name, let us go, and I, being the most worthy, will take the first week.
Body. I am contented; guide me, and do with me whatever reason directs. Self-Love and I yield to you.