Lesson 3: The States of Nature

There is natural ordering in man for the Vision of God. This is due to the presence in him of the intellect because this power cannot be satisfied in its potential with any other experience. As the stone falls to satisfy the "desire" for rest on the earth, so man must be elevated by grace to satisfy the "desire" of the intellect to know truth. This desire can only be satisfied by arriving at the Vision of God. This alone can fulfill his nature. This fact of the natural desire is both a truth of faith and a truth of reason.

Therefore some that considered this, held that no created intellect can see the essence of God. This opinion, however, is not tenable. For as the ultimate beatitude of man consists in the use of his highest function, which is the operation of the intellect; if we suppose that the created intellect can never see God, it would either never attain to beatitude, or its beatitude would consist in something else beside God; which is opposed to faith. For the ultimate perfection of the rational creature is to be found in that which is the principle of its being; since a thing is perfect so far as it attains to its principle. Further the same opinion is also against reason. For there resides in every man a natural desire to know the cause of any effect which he sees; and thence arises wonder in men. But if the intellect of the rational creature could not reach so far as to the first cause of things, the natural desire would remain void. (Aquinas, ST, I, 12, 1)

In this text, St. Thomas clearly identifies the natural desire with the intellect and uses the same language that Aristotle uses in his Metaphysics to establish the fact that man must be able to arrive at the Vision of God for completion. This is a metaphysical argument which is based in the idea that what goes around, comes around. God must directly create man since matter cannot generate the human soul, and so man must also be able to directly experience God as his end.

A very beautiful summary of this position occurs in a later article in the same question:

The natural desire of the rational creature is to know everything that belongs to the perfection of the intellect, namely, the species and genera of things and their types, and these everyone who sees the divine essence will see in God. But to know other singulars, their thoughts and their deeds does not belong to the perfection of the created intellect nor does its natural desire go out to these things; neither, again, does it desire to know things that exist not as yet, but which God can call into being. Yet if God alone were seen, Who is the fount and principle of all being and of all truth, he would so fill the natural desire of knowledge that nothing else would be desired, and the seer would be completely beatified. Hence Augustine says, (Confess. V): Unhappy the man who knows all these things (the creatures) and knows not thee! But happy the one who knows Thee although he knows not these other things. And the one who knows both Thee and them is not the happier for knowing them, than for knowing Thee alone. (Aquinas, ST, I, 12, 8, ad 4)

Since man is called to this end by nature, grace is necessary to his perfect action. Grace is like health to his soul. The soul can exist without grace, but not with the ability to perform all of its actions perfectly. It is precisely the relationship to grace and the pursuit of the ultimate end of the Beatific Vision of God, which forms the basis for the division of the various states in which human nature is found. One cannot have a complete anthropology or theory of the nature of man without understanding all these states. In this lesson, I wish to enumerate them and describe their characteristics.

The states of nature have traditionally been divided into three major ones with one of them divided in two. They are: (1) The State of Original Justice, Holiness of Integrity [Man before the Original Sin]; (2) a. The State of Original Sin and b. Redemption; (3) The State of Glorified Nature [Man in Heaven Completed and Perfected]

The formal cause of all these states is the relation of the powers of human nature to grace. In the state of Original Justice, man is created right. This means that not only was he ordered to God through grace, without experiencing any sin, but that all of his powers were ordered also. Traditionally man is said to have three sorts of gifts in the state of Original Justice: (a) the supernatural gift of grace; (b) the preternatural gifts present in the powers of the soul; and (c) the natural gifts of the powers of the soul themselves. These powers are intellect, will, emotions and body. The preternatural gifts reflect the ordering of these powers to the grace given by God without the presence of the condition of sin. They are infused knowledge in the intellect; loving obedience in the will; spontaneous enjoyment of the virtues in the emotions and no suffering or death in the body.

The condition of the preternatural gifts is described in Scripture as the fact that Adam and Eve were "naked and not ashamed" (Gen. 2: 25). After the sin they were "naked and ashamed". What has changed has nothing to do with the body. This is good in both cases. What has changed is the loss of grace and the preternatural gifts. The lack of shame shows that man and woman do not look upon their bodies as an occasion to manipulate each other because grace directs them to purity of heart through the preternatural gifts. As long as they were obedient to God, they could persevere in this state.


Adam and Eve were made partners in realizing their destinies by freedom of choice. They were tempted to make a choice without relying on God as though they could persevere in this state without God. They chose without relying on God's aid and this showed little love and trust in God for the marvelous state they were created in. In this they lost grace and the preternatural gifts. The cause of the state of Fallen Nature is the loss of grace for Adam and all those connected to him.

This is expressed in the powers of the soul. In the intellect man experiences ignorance; in the will, a tendency to manipulation called malice; in the emotions, concupiscence; in the body, suffering and death. The nature of these states can be examined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 374-412.




Jesus restores man to grace in the state of Redemption, but he does not restore man to the preternatural gifts. Adam lived a gracious life without struggle before the sin. Now man lives the life of grace only with struggle. This struggle is joyfully born because Christ by his cross has given us the strength to live this life of grace. In fact, the suffering experienced in living the life of grace is now the Christian's share in the cross of Christ.

The final state of nature is the order of man found in heaven. In this state, the life of grace is perfected. In the intellect, man experiences the Vision of God; in the will, love perfected; in the emotions, the joy of completion; and in the body, no possibility of suffering and death because of the resurrection of the body. This is the final fulfillment of man. Human nature is totally fulfilled in this state. This is what man is created to be.


Assignment One 

Using these notes and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, write a three page paper explaining the present difficulties in the Church in light of the text of St. Irenaeus, "The Glory of God is man fully alive; but man fully alive is man when he sees God."


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