Delusions and Passions

Father Geiermann discusses the problems which delusions cause in the intellect and which uncontrolled passions cause in the will of a person trying to live a virtuous life.

“A delusion is an erroneous judgment regarding the condition of affairs, the end to be attained, the motives to be followed, or the means to be employed in practical life. Faith teaches that the human mind has been darkened by original sin. Unless a person be very humble and circumspect, therefore, his perceptions will easily be blurred, his judgments erroneous, and the dictates of his reason reprehensible.”

“In consequence of delusions individuals mistake in themselves (1) the desire of virtue for virtue itself, (2) confuse passion with virtue, and (3) invariably overestimate their own ability and productions while underrating the ability and deeds of others. In consequence of this same delusion man often (1) neglects to give God His due, and (2) even disregards the proximate occasion of sin, as though he were already confirmed in virtue.”

Father Geiermann asserts that “two causes combine to give permanence to delusions in the human mind.” One is mental pride, which causes a person to mistake his imagination for divine inspiration, thereby leading ”fools to rush in where angels fear to tread.” The other is unbridled self-love, which can so blind a person that he cannot see “the beam in his own eye, though he sees the mote in his neighbor’s eye” (Mt 7:3).

“As delusions obscure and pervert the operations of the mind, so the passions hamper the will, and at times hold it captive. As a result of original sin man’s will is not only weakened, but his nature inclines inordinately to one of the eleven passions. This inclination is called his predominant passion.”

“Love is the root of all the passions. It is the great motive power of life. Even fear and desire spring from it. Owing to his selfish nature some form of self-love is always the foundation of man’s predominant passion. He should guard against it especially because the predominant passion invariably tends to one of the seven capital sins, and so may easily pave the way for vices that will hurry him to temporal excess and eternal ruin.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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