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8 Powers of the Soul: An Outline for an Integrative Model for Wellness and Self-Care

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

This is a summary outline from the material presented by the Thomistic Institute from their online program "Aquinas 101" on the powers of the soul with a few of my notes on self-care.

St. Thomas Aquinas listed 8 powers of the Human Soul (a Rational Soul) which has particular operations or powers.

These first two powers or operations are only in the Human Soul which are the prime actors in perfecting and exercising control over the 6 lower powers ( thus they are different from animals) by assuming them into a rational mode, since they are realized in a spiritualized existence. Our intellect has the ability to grasp the nature of objects as universal essences.

1. Intellect – our ability to know and understand

2. Will - our ability to love, is the seat of our freedom

These lower 6 operations of Human Soul are shared with Animals, who have a Sense Soul

3. Sense Cognition

4. Sense Appetite

5. Locomotion

These 3 operations of the Vegetative or Plant Soul is in Animals and in Humans

6. Self Nutrition

7. Growth – development from child to adult

8. Reproduction – ensuring the next generation

What you will find in the { } sections are my notes as it relates to self-care and wellness considerations. There is a right order or hierarchy of caring for the body to allow it to function as optimally as possible within its limitations, in particular under multiple stressors.

Our bodies are constantly communicating within itself and redirecting resources to maintain ‘allostasis’ – our balancing mechanism. Since we do have limits, we are called to be thoughtful in how we proceed.

At the moment of our conception our souls were created in the image and likeness of God. We are and in God's dream.

These first two powers are only in the Human Soul (Rational Soul), which are the prime actors in the lower operations; they perfect our exercise over the lower powers.

1st power - Intellect (Intellectual Cognition) how we can grasp the nature of things – the essence to extract the abstract – our ability to know - associated with seeking truth and the highest truth - Truth (God). We each are call to find out what we are good at and love to do, and then do it. This way we become integrated and have more opportunities to experience a wellness.

2nd power - Will – (Rational Appetite) - this power inclines us to apprehend what is a good or fitting. It is our ability to love – and associated with seeking goods and the highest good - Good (God)

• The Intellect and the Will are associated with Knowing and Loving

Love is the desire for the good of the other, and within our means help others in their pursuit, while knowing is the wisdom of what to do and if you can.


These 6 operations below are shared with Animals who have an Animal Soul (Sense Soul) and the last 3 operations with Plants which have a Plant Soul (Vegetative Soul).

Sensory powers are common to both animals and humans.


3rd power - Sense Cognition (Sensations) - Has 5 external senses and 4 internal senses

The 5 external senses are:

  1. Sight

  2. Hearing

  3. Taste

  4. Touch

  5. Smell

{Supporting Wellness - Be aware of our surroundings, mindfulness. Time for quiet, savor the present, and past positive experiences. Pray an Ignatian method of Contemplation}

The 4 internal senses are:

  1. Common sense (coordinates sense experience) {As humans we can ask what has really been going on?}

  2. Imagination (generates sense images) - {Contemplation - Composition of Place Prayer}

  3. Memory (storage sense images) - {Savoring}

  4. Estimative power (animal reason)

{Will write more on Ignatian way related to desires – to be satisfied what is the good, not the inordinate or disordered - be aware of our thoughts and feelings that lead to our actions. Ask what was the underlying intention of our action - The prayer: the Examen.}

Sense cognition moves us towards sense appetite – the sense appetite moves one's wants to be satisfy, it is our desires that moves us toward the goods for bodily life.

4th power - Sense Appetite – has two parts:

a. Concupiscible power - the seat of love, desire, pleasure hatred, aversion and sorrow. Passions with a simple good or evil for their object. (Test if it is good for you - Discernment)

b. Irascible Power - is the seat of hope, despair, daring, fear and anger. Passions with a difficult good or evil for their object. (If it's a good, look for solutions, use Discernment).

5th power - Locomotion

{Self-care – abdominal breathing, walk allowing for warm ups - then stretch and strengthen}


6th power - Self-nutrition – preserves one's own existence. {2 L water – 3 meals portions – eat the colors}

7th power - Growth – helps to come to full term from infant to adult. {Life-long learning – Laugh 3x a day keeps one young}

8th power - Reproduction – hand on the fullness of bodily life to insure the species endures beyond the next generation - children. {Pass it on - by mentoring, share your gifts}

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