VI. SUBJUGATION OF THE INTERNAL SENSES.
1. Controlling the Central Sense
The central sense makes us conscious of the operations of the external senses. Its subjugation consists in guarding against the two extremes of sense-consciousness, lethargy, and sensitiveness. A good will ought to turn instantly from any dangerous impression on the one hand, and, by distinguishing between impression and consent, have no grounds for vain fears on the other hand. We should turn as promptly from moral evil as we instinctively recoil from physical pain; but over-sensitiveness is founded neither on reason nor on faith, and retards our progress by paralyzing our energies.
2. Purifying the Imagination
The imagination receives and reproduces the impressions made on the external senses. Though the first impressions, called phantasms, are usually vague and indistinct, their reproduction and elaboration may be brought out clearly by a reflex action of the will. The subjugation of the imagination consists in preserving and purifying it from all sinful and dangerous impressions. To attain this end we must guard against idle, dangerous, and sinful impressions, and try to forget the dangerous ones we have received. Hence we should (1) not permit the imagination to roam aimlessly; (2) not excite it uselessly; (3) not permit it to dwell too much on worldly things; (4) not over-indulge it even on indifferent subjects; (5) not believe it too readily; (6) not blame it for our levity, impatience, or laziness; (7) but constrain it gently to become preoccupied with useful and devotional subjects.
3. Restraining the Instinct.
The instinct perceives what is conducive and what is harmful to animal life. It impels man, says St. Bernard, to seek his ease, his comfort, and especially his carnal gratification. The baser the passion it arouses, the more violent also is its impulse.
To subdue the instinct we must (1) guard against impressions that may arouse wicked suggestions; (2) energetically subdue those we cannot avoid; (3) guard against the gratification of idle curiosity; (4) deny ourselves in some things lawful; (5) strengthen ourselves by recollection and prayer; (6) obey our spiritual director; (7) never grow discouraged in the conflict; (8) and never imagine ourselves immune from the assaults of the flesh.
4. Purifying the Memory
The memory retains and identifies past impressions. The voluntary reproduction of these impressions in man is called reminiscence, while the retention and reproduction of past thoughts is the work of the mind.
We subjugate the memory by purifying it of impressions that are dangerous to virtue, or that hamper us in concentrating our energies on elevating and useful things. To succeed we must (1) avoid sinful occasions and association; (2) not recall in too vivid a manner the memory of past sins; (3) forget injuries received; (4) cultivate detachment from earthly things; (5) not dwell too frequently or too fondly on the pleasant recollections of life.
To succeed we should (1) cherish the benefits of creation, redemption, and sanctification; (2) think of the wants of the Church and of the trials of the Holy Father ; (3) remember the sad condition of sinners, the poverty of the poor, and the suffering of the sick; (i) often recall our own humble origin, our obligations and infidelities, the shortness of life, the value of grace, the certainty of death and of judgment, the suffering of the souls in purgatory, the terrors of hell, and the beatitude of heaven.