Author: Marina Massimi
Part of: Coimbra as an International Institution (coord. by Mário Santiago de Carvalho)
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Published: February, 16th, 2021
DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.4542817

The latest version of this entry may be cited as follows: Massimi, Marina, “Coimbra Psychology in Brazilian Land”, Encyclopedia, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Simone Guidi (eds.), doi = “10.5281/zenodo.4542817”, URL = “”, latest revision: February, 16th, 2021.

The Scientia de Anima in the New World

The Coimbra Jesuit Course treaties were part of the baggage brought to Brazil by the Jesuit missionaries who came from 1549 in the new Portuguese colony, then called Terra de Santa Cruz (Land of the Holy Cross).  The Jesuits acted in Brazil in the long period beginning in 1549 and ending in 1760 with the expulsion by decree of the Portuguese Minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo. The mission of the Jesuits was to catechise the indigenous people and to assist the Christian settlers. They pushed the mixture in the perspective of what they understood as the Christian social body of the Colony, where all social and racial components were inserted and united by a vision of the Christian world. For these purposes, education and the establishment of schools for the study of the children of Indians and Portuguese settlers has become one of the main instruments. Knowledge of the human otherness they encountered was also fundamental. The worldview and social practices of the natives who populated the Brazilian territory, belonging to different ethnicities, were immensely different from the cultural models and social modes of the religious coming from Europe. For this, they needed criteria to guide the process of knowing this new anthropological reality. At the same time, life in the new worlds implied a profound revision of one’s own way of being, of the habits and the ordinary resources learned in their socio-cultural tradition of origin. So, the Jesuits used the psychological knowledge of their own cultural universe (Massimi 2021a) not only for the knowledge of themselves, but also for the understanding of the Indians with whom they lived. This was particularly challenging given the anthropological and cultural diversity between the world of missionaries and that of natives. The Jesuits will try to understand the Indians from the cultural categories provided by their world of origin, the same applied to the knowledge of their own experience. The use of these categories before the other is guided by the observation of behavioural signs. In this effort, they contributed to the constitution of knowledge and practices aimed at the knowledge and care of the person according to the demands of individual and social life. The knowledge of the scientia de anima elaborated in the Coimbra Jesuit Course treaties has received my attention, and this article must be read taking into consideration at I have written there (Massimi 2021a).

The psychic apparatus in the body complex: humours and temperaments

Triennial Catalogues

In the first place, the use of the Hippocratic-galenical doctrine transmitted by the Coimbra Jesuit Course takes place in the knowledge of oneself as a result of the education received in the Colleges and Novitiates of the Society. In fact, an analysis of the Triennial Catalogues written in this context reveals that among the categories employed for this knowledge is psychosomatic complexion or temperament. The catalogues were a periodic and systematic instrument for the knowledge of the concrete situation of the Order, over time and in all places and a guide for the distribution of individual talents in the community and also in the different missionary territories. The documental body made up of the Triennial Catalogues, available in the Archives of the General Curia of the Society in Rome, covering the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, is of interest for historical studies in psychology. In fact, it outlines in a clear and concise way the relationships between the psychosomatic profile of each Jesuit and the distribution by aptitudes (“talents”) of the offices foreseen within the social network of the religious community in its various areas and modalities of missionary presence. The catalogues were written by the leaders of each Jesuit community, by order of Father General of the Society. From the information provided by the Catalogues, the distribution or redistribution of the members of the Society could be planned and organized in time and space, according to the ideal criteria provided by the knowledge of the Society, the mentality of its time and the concrete demand of each situation. The Catalogues are organized in three parts: The First Catalogue provides information about each Jesuit: name, surname, birthplace, age, state of health, length of religious life in the Society, intellectual formation before and after joining the Society, developed ministries and their duration, titles of study obtained and date of final vows. In this Catalogue each Jesuit is given a number, corresponding to his or her name. The Second Catalogue is reserved only for reading by the Provincial and Father General, and evaluates the aptitudes of each one: it is organized by number, omitting the corresponding names due to the reserved character of the data presented. The document provides information about the profile of each Jesuit: we could define it in current language as a kind of psychosomatic profile of the individual members of the Order. In fact, it refers to various psychological and behavioural aspects: “inventiveness”, “judgement”, “prudence”, “experience”, “talent”, “complexion” (or temperament). These terms are typical of the language used to deal with the human person in the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition conveyed by the Coimbra philosophers (see Massimi 2021a; Massimi 2000b).  The Third Catalogue refers to the material situation (numerical, economic, etc.) of the houses or colleges of the Society in the different Provinces. The norms for the writing of these catalogues were provided by the Formula scribendi, inserted already from 1580 in the Rules of the Society and which can be found in the Third Book of the Institutum (1893), a collection of the official texts of the Society of Jesus. In the documentation of the Triennial Catalogues concerning Brazil prepared by the Provincial Father Pedro Rodrigues (1556-1660) it is stated that in the Province of Bahia, besides the college of Salvador, there are several “residences” of the Jesuits near the indigenous villages. In view of these circumstances, it is important to have persons who demonstrate “talentum ad linguas“, that is, good ability to speak and preach in the language of the Indians, and “talentum ad concionatum“, that is, good preachers. Among the Jesuits residing at the college, the presence of some individuals of “melancholic complexion” is necessary, and the excess of melancholic mood predisposes to intellectual activities. The administration of religious houses also requires the presence of some individuals with “phlegmatic complexion”, able to carry out “domestic duties”. In any case, the ideal profile for missionary activity in Brazil, as far as temperament is concerned, seems to be the “blood choleric”, or the “melancholic choleric”, because the excess of the humour of cholera predisposes the individual to action, to heroism, to face arduous circumstances – so frequent in the daily context of the land of Santa Cruz. On the contrary, there could not be many “bloody” religious among them: in fact, this complexion predisposes the individual to intense sexual life and all kinds of pleasures of the flesh (Massimi 2000a). In fact, among the 163 Jesuits present in Brazil in 1598, in the “Secundus Catalogus” elaborated by Pedro Rodrigues, it is observed that, as far as the description of the subjects’ complexion or temperament is concerned, there is a quantitatively significant prevalence of “choleric”. A similar table is presented in the other Catalogues concerning Brazil: the 1607 Catalogue, signed by Fernão Cardim (1549-1625), the 1610 Catalogue, the 1613 Catalogue, the 1631 Catalogue, the 1642 Catalogue, the 1646 Catalogue, the 1654 Catalogue, the 1657 Catalogue, the 1660 Catalogue. There is an evident constancy in the Catalogues with regard to the consistent prevalence of choleric subjects. What does this mean? Conform the Coimbra Jesuit Course, the perseverance and diligence derived from bilious humour, and this humour determines speed, impetus and restlessness, as well as the fluency of speech (Góis 1593; Massimi 2021a). From this reference, one can explain why individuals defined as choleric are considered more suitable for missionary activity, because they are endowed with the impetus, communication skills and intelligence necessary to undertake actions in a difficult and new social and natural field.

Missionary Letters

The Hippocratic-galenic medical theory transmitted by the Coimbra Jesuit Course is also used for the knowledge of the Indians, as documented in the letters sent by the Jesuits (Massimi 2020). An extensive body of letters prepared in Brazil was written by the missionaries of the Society of Jesus living in this territory. The use of epistolary correspondence was a widely used instrument by this religious order. It is known that Ignatius of Loyola used the letter as an important instrument for the propagation of his teachings and as a fundamental resource to promote intense communication among the members of the Society (O’Malley 2002). Among the authors of the letters, José de Anchieta (1534-1597) shows a particularly attentive look at the psychosomatic traits of the natives’ temperament: he states that the Indians “are somewhat melancholic” (Anchieta 1988: 442).

Sacred Oratory

In the genre of sacred oratory, knowledge of the relations between psychism and corporeality summarised in the Coimbra Jesuit Course is well-developed (especially with regard to the blending of moods and temperaments). The preacher’s word is action, insofar as they intervene to articulate the construction of the social and religious body. The reference to the human body as the place of manifestation of the Invisible shapes theological and scientific writings of the 16th and 17th centuries. The body is a living model of that unity which, through the word, the preacher intends to recompose in individuals and in the social and political community. This perfect model, given to man, the preacher can constantly observe it in his own body, deriving from this observation, rules and remedies for its healing and for the restoration and conservation of its health. (Granada 1945).  The soul body, which is both part of the political body and the mystical body, is the recipient of the preacher’s word. Therefore, the knowledge about the human body conveyed by the comments of Aristotelian works, such as Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis Societatis Iesu In libros Aristotelis, qui Parva Naturalia appellantur (Góis 1593). The analogy between the condition of political life and the state of health of the body is put by António Vieira (1608-1697) in the Sermon of the Visitation of Our Lady, 1640. Pointing out that the “origin” and the “original cause of the diseases of Brazil” are theft, greed, the interests of private gain and convenience, which prevent the respect of justice and determine the perdition of the State, the Jesuit exclaims: “Brazil is lost, sir, because some ministers of His Majesty do not come here to seek our good, they come here to seek our goods.” (Vieira 1993, vol.3: 1230). His recommended therapy is shaped in analogy with body medicine therapies: “Like medicine, says Philon Hebrew, it not only serves to purge the noxious moods, but to encourage and nourish the debilitated subject: Thus, an army and a republic are not satisfied with that part of justice which, with the vigour of punishment, nourishes them with vices and pernicious humours, but which is also necessary for the other part, which, with prizes proportionate to the deserving effort, sustains and animates the hope of men” (Vieira 1993, vol.3: 1222). The psychosomatic complexion of the human being and the action of the preacher’s word on it is focused on the Sermon of the Fourth Dominga after Easter, preached in São Luís do Maranhão, where Vieira addresses the question of sadness. In portraying the experience of the disciples after Christ’s death, he describes them as affected by sadness: “They were astonished and out of their minds, and penetrated by a sadness so profound that together they were all speechless” (Vieira 1993, vol.2: 762). Vieira promises, by the sermon, to reveal “a very certain art, very useful, very pleasant and very brief, which is the art of not being sad”. The importance of this art is highlighted by the affirmation that sadness is “the most universal disease, which suffers in this world human weakness” and “not only more contrary to the health of the bodies, but also the most dangerous for the salvation of souls” (Vieira 1993, vol.2: 763). The universality of this sickness depends on the fact that there is no earth “so healthy and with airs so benign and pure that it is not free from this contagion and no man so well-complexed with all the humours that it is almost normally not subject to the sad accidents of melancholy. In this way, Vieira explains the Hippocratic-galenic matrix of his theory on sadness: the imbalance between the elements of nature and the humours of the human body. The symptom of the universality of sadness is crying, a symptom that every human being presents at birth. But already at this point, Vieira overcomes the medical imprint of this vision by placing the aetiology of sadness not on the level of “nature, but of guilt”.  And also, immediately afterwards, in treating the harmful effects of sadness on the health of bodies, he declares that he will not prove them by “the aphorisms of Hippocrates or Galenus, but with texts expressed all by the Holy Spirit,” that is, by the Holy Scripture. In doing this, Vieira follows the perspectives of the Coimbra Jesuit Course. and seeks to overcome the humoralist determinism present in various positions of the medicine of his time and to attribute to the art of preaching the competence of the care of man in its totality (Vieira 1993, vol.2: 764). Vieira points out that the pathological somatic effects of sadness are described in chapter seventeenth of the book of Proverbs, where it is said that sadness dries up the bones, these being the most solid, interior and hard parts of the “human building”. So that, affected by sadness, it has no way of sustaining itself, because the necessary humidity for vital heat is dried out. And again, quoting the Holy Scriptures (above all texts of the Apocalypse and the Ecclesiastic), Vieira describes the clinical picture of a subject who suffers the physical and psychological effects of “poisonous and hidden melancholy, which in hasty steps leads the sad to death ” (Vieira 1993, vol.2: 765). Melancholy, when deposited in excess in the heart, causes him innumerable wounds. Vieira takes up without quoting the author, the galenical theory that the heart is the central organ of the human organism from which “all vital spirits that are distributed in the members of the body come out” (Vieira 1993, vol.2: 766). In this way it is possible to explain why sadness leads to death. In fact, the deadly poisons of melancholy are carried by the vital spirits that come out of the heart to the whole body and in all its parts produce wounds that gradually become lethal. These “wounds injure the head and disturb the brain and confuse your judgment. They wound their ears and make their voices dissonant. They wound the taste, and make the sweetness of flavours bitter. They hurt his eyes, and make his sight darker. They hurt his tongue, and make his speech mute. They hurt his arms, and break them. They wound his hands and his feet, and numb him. And wounding one by one all the members of the body, there is none who will not be sick of that evil” (Vieira 1993, vol.2: 766). The most serious effects of melancholy, however, occur on the soul level and the death it brings to the soul is the very separation from its life, that is, from God. It achieves this effect by creating a predisposition to sin. Quoting the doctrine of the Fathers of the Church, the theologians Basil and John Chrysostom, Vieira explains that “this very strong and dark passion drowns the mud. Just as those who suffer dizziness in their heads fall, so it causes men to fall into sin for lack of judgment and counsel” (Vieira 1993, vol.3: 727). In fact, sadness impedes the good functioning of understanding and will, thus causing disorder in all psychic dynamism. So that, even in the natural search for the remedy, the individual affected by sadness does not know how to judge what is offered to him as such, and for this reason it is easier to target the temptations of the devil. The value of objects is distorted and so is the evaluation of one’s own abilities. Thus, in the search for relief, the individual uses resources that worsen his condition and builds images that do not correspond to reality, creating illusions. The fundamental difference between soul and temperament affirmed in the Coimbra Jesuit Course (that temperament is an accident, resulting from the combination of the four fundamental elements and soul is substance) is the foundation of the remedy to sadness proposed by Vieira. The “art of never being sad” remedies suggested by Vieira, are all placed on the spiritual-spiritual plane and are condensed in man’s reflective capacity about his destiny. Vieira says: “In these two words: Quo vadis?, in this very brief question and in this single maxim or precept consists the art of never being sad” (Vieira 1993, vol.2: 772). The man who asks himself this question and “sees that with the steps of time, which never stops (..), he puts under his feet everything that usually saddens those who do not consider this” (Vieira 1993, vol.2: 774). In short, the soul’s self-consciousness has the power to control and modify bodily and psychic determinisms. This has consequences for practices and behaviour. In fact, it was seen as according to the humoral doctrine, the excesses of melancholic humour are caused by several factors accentuated by the intemperance of habits. In this way, the moderation that springs from the disillusionment of human vanity practiced daily having “before the eyes” the very mortal condition is true medicine. Thus, the individual acquires the knowledge of himself: “Understand the souls who are souls and that the end to which they have been created and towards which they walk is heaven” (Vieira 1993, vol.2: 790). In this sense, Vieira’s attempt to return psychosomatic deviations to ontological and ethical roots is clear, thus shifting the field of the Medicine of the Soul to those areas of competence of a spiritual and psychological nature that belong properly to preachers. (Madeira & Massimi 2012). These are the true “doctors of the soul”. The soul-corporal complexity can be controlled by the spiritual dimension: it is in this perspective that self-knowledge is necessary. (Massimi 2005; Massimi 2020). And, as we have already said, Vieira reaffirms in this sermon, the difference between soul and temperament proposed in the Coimbra Jesuit Course.

Educational works of the Jesuit Alexandre de Gusmão (1629-1724)

The theory of the Coimbra Jesuit Course that through temperaments the individual characters are also transmitted is found in the pedagogical literature produced by the Jesuits in Brazil. This literature is developed together with the creation of Jesuit schools. From the second half of the 16th century, due to the demands of European society and the missionary territories, the creation of schools for the education of children and young people became the main way of missionary action of the Society of Jesus (O’Malley 2002). In Brazil, the pedagogical commitment of the Jesuits, together with the children, is based on the humanist conviction of the religious that the cultural inferiority of the native peoples is due to the lack of education and not to a structural anthropological or psychological diversity. Through education, the religious intended to act in the transformation of the natives, of their culture and society, into members of the “Christian social body” of the colony. The first schools built in Brazil were intended to teach reading and writing. In the various places of missionary presence in Brazil, the Jesuits created primary schools for teaching catechism and literacy; Latin and grammar schools; schools for the study of classics and for the practice of theatre and rhetoric; courses in philosophy and arts, mathematics and physics, moral and dogmatic theology. The studies in these schools were governed by precise norms promulgated by the Society of Jesus and condensed into the Ratio Studiorum (1559). The great commitment of the Society in the pedagogical area explains the fact that the first author who, in Brazil, used the genre of the treatise to refer to the art of educating children and disciples is a Jesuit: Father Alexandre de Gusmão (1629-1724), founder and director of the Colégio do Menino Jesus de Belém in Cachoeira do Campo, a place near Salvador da Bahia. Over seventy-three years, it has received the first education and taught about one thousand five hundred Brazilian students. Alexandre de Gusmão elaborated a Statute that gives the College own brand: students should learn to read, write, tell, grammar, humanities, Latin (including rhetoric) and music (Freitas 2011). Gusmão held several important positions in various colleges: master of novices, professor of humanities, mayor of studies in Rio de Janeiro, rector of the college of Santos and Bahia and, finally, Provincial of Brazil. The Arte de criar bem os filhos na idade da puerícia (The Art of Raising Children well at the Age of Childhood) by Gusmão was published in Lisbon in 1685, since in Brazil there was still no Press because of the prohibition of the Portuguese Crown. The work is the result of the pedagogical experience carried out at the Seminary of Belém. At the same time, it is part of the extensive work of Father Gusmão as a writer. In fact, this Jesuit was attentive to the value of writing for the transmission of values and for the Christian formation of the new generations and employed different kinds of writing in his works. In Gusmão’s text, there is the influence of Coimbra Jesuit Course. In considering the first phases of the educational process, Gusmão emphasizes the need for parents to take care of their children in the first person from the first months and years of life. Gusmão warns mothers about the importance of breastfeeding their own children, and dedicates the entire third chapter to this need. The reasons given are several: first, the fact confirmed by the authority of Galen and Avicenna, that “the mother’s milk is healthier for her child” (Gusmão 1685a: 80); second, a psychological reason, extremely interesting: the fact that with milk one communicates the “inclination” (Gusmão 1685a: 184). In fact, the humours would also be transmitted through milk, and this transmission could modify the original individual complexion. Therefore, milk transmits the moods and since the body moods are determinant of individual characteristics, as stated in the Coimbra Jesuit Course: hence Gusmão’s recommendation that breastfeeding of the new-born child should take place in the care of the mother herself. The question becomes important in a social environment where it used to be the case that breastfeeding children were handed over to milk nannies, usually slaves. In short, especially in Vieira’s sermons and in Gusmão’s work, there are traces of the knowledge concerning the psychosomatic constitution of the person that come mainly from the Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis Societatis Iesu In libros Aristotelis, qui Parva Naturalia appellantur (1593) and Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis Societatis Iesu, In duos libros De Generatione et Corruptione Aristotelis Stagiritae (1597). Both authors carried out their training at the Jesuit College of Salvador da Bahia, where the study of these comments integrated philosophical studies (Silva 2008; Massimi 2002; Massimi 2009; Massimi 2020).

The sensitive life and its dimensions

Missionary Letters

As far as the external and internal senses are concerned, the theme of imagination stands out in the observation of the Indians, in the epistolary narratives of Jesuit missionaries.  (Massimi 2020). In a letter written in Piratininga in 1557, when he reported the removal of the Indians from the newly created Jesuit school, José de Anchieta (1534-1597) wrote that “most of these Indians (…) made other addresses not far from here, where they now live, because (…) now persuaded them a diabolical imagination, that this church is made for their destruction” in which we can close them”. This “diabolical imagination” comes from the fact that “other Indians tell you this”, especially “some of their wizards, whom they call shamans” (Anchieta 1988: 366). Possibly, Anchieta was following the Thomist doctrine on this subject. According to the Thomist conception, the imagination can be diabolical because the devil has power to act in the internal and external senses of man. In the case of the imagination, the devil acts on the individual by making him appear as real, something deceptive; or by making him see something different than he is, by modifying the sensitive species received by the external senses (Su. theol. I q. 114, a. 4). In fact, according to Anchieta, the imagination of the Indians seems particularly weighty, to the point that “if they want to die by seizing only death in their imagination or by eating land; or tell them that if they are going to die or make them afraid, they die briefly. (Anchieta 1988: 442). The same is confirmed by the Portuguese Jesuit Fernão Cardim (1549-1625). In the account of his visit to Brazil, commented that the Indians are in extreme submission to the power of imagination. They “are so afraid of the devil (…) and it is so much the fear they have of him that they die only by imagining him, as has happened many times” (Cardim 1980: 87; Massimi 2009).

Educational works of Alexandre de Gusmão

The importance of the sensory dimension of the human person highlighted by Coimbra Jesuit Course is reflected in Gusmão’s treatise already mentioned, “The Art of Raising Children well at the Age of Childhood”. His Art starts with this statement: “By the teaching and education you give to your children at the beginning of their life, they will be able to know what they will become” (Gusmão 1685a: I). It has already been said that The Art of Raising Children is inspired by the conception that “the human being as a child is arranged in such a way that any image can be formed in him. The possibility of moulding the human being through education from the earliest years of life highlights the function of sensory life in the development of personality. This statement refers to the aforementioned Aristotelian theory of knowledge shared by the Jesuit philosophers of Coimbra (Massimi 2021a). This theory considers that the psychological powers that provide knowledge have their foundation in the activity of the senses. Therefore, the changes that occurred in them in the early stages of life would have the effect of shaping the cognitive processes of the adult. Father Gusmão was also the author of novel, História do Predestinado Peregrino e de seu irmão Precito (History of the Predestined Pilgrim and his brother Precito). The novel is placed in the context of the pedagogical activity developed by him at the College Menino Jesus de Belém in Cachoeira do Campo. The novel is allegorical: it is a great metaphor of human existence. The protagonists are two brothers: Predestined and Precito. Predestined acts according to the orientation of the reason that seeks the truth. Precito acts according to his own will, which is guided by himself; and the sensible stimuli. The choice of these names is possibly a semantic resource with theological significance. Predestined means the one who is destined beforehand to something, whom God has destined for eternal glory; chosen from God. Precito is the condemned, the reprobate, the damned. The allegorical journey is organized in six parts corresponding to six imaginary places (cities). The two protagonists undertake a long journey towards the city where they intend to establish their definitive dwelling place. The course of the journey is decided by positions taken at each stage, by the two main characters. Following the Catholic concept of the dynamism of divine grace and human freedom, the two protagonists decide their direction along the way. It is a deeply Jesuit strategy to approach and debate the theological question and at the same time to transmit to the readers (and convince them) their version of the discussion affirmed as the orthodox. Gusmão’s writing reflects the Jesuitical conception about the interactions between spiritual dynamism and psychic dynamism, that is, the functioning of the soul powers, their operations, their diseases and their remedies. Such powers constitute the interface between body and spirit. In fact, the ordering of the person as a whole demands a healthy functioning of psychic dynamism, indicated by the label of “soul powers”. From the occurrence of some disorder in these powers, the “bad inclinations” are installed in the person. According to the narratives of novel, the senses play a very important role in psychic dynamism. For Gusmão, the possibility of the person “governing his steps”, that is, of ordering his behaviours according to a model experience to which to conform the person himself, depends on the possibility of seeing. The seeing provided by images and its effects on the psychic dynamism of the recipient is part of a path of knowledge (the disenchantment) that integrates the work of man’s ordering to its ultimate meaning.    Special emphasis is given to the internal senses, whose good use is provided by the Ignatian method of Compositio Loci. Gusmão wrote a book Meditations for every day of the week, for the exercise of the three powers of the soul, as Saint Ignatius teaches, in 1689, where he describes in detail the practice of compositio loci proposed by Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises (Loyola 1982) This method consists in representing in the imagination the mystery to be meditated on, placing oneself mentally in the place where the event took place. In the novel, the composition loci is described in its operation, through an allegory. Predestined enters a room in the Palace of Desengano called Place Composition. There he receives a painted picture representing an evangelical scene and offers it to three virgins called: Memory, Intelligence and Will: “Fixing his knees on the ground and his heart on God he gave the picture to the first Virgin Memory. The latter, after briefly recognizing him, handed it over to the Second Virgin Intelligence. This one paused to see him, to review and to consider very slowly with a thousand discourses and considerations, that the third Virgin Will notably became affectionate and inflamed by having and possessing him. Finally, when it was given to him by Intelligence, he embraced him with some hugs, which he calls Purposes, so tight that they were already able to rip the picture out of his chest, or to put it better from his heart” (Gusmão 1685b:  80). In short, the emphasis on the importance of the inner senses, especially imagination and memory, placed by Manuel de Góis finds in the novel an educational proposal that aims at their good orientation, using also Ignatian methods (Massimi 2020).

Sacred Oratory

An important application of Coimbra philosophical psychology with regard to the sensory powers is found in the preaching constructed from the art of rhetoric. In the conception of the rhetoric of the time, the word is Vox, that is, it is not mere sound, but it is a blow of air that carries within itself a sense, which is given by movement of the imagination. (Góis 1598). The word reaches the ears that perceive it unequivocally, the sound being the proper object of hearing. It is then elaborated by the internal senses: after passing through the sensus communis, the word reaches the phantasy, or vis imaginative: the imagination activates the images corresponding to it stored in memory. In turn, the cogitative/estimative power perceives the species or intentiones and can evaluate the danger or profit, resulting from it, thus making a rational calculation at the level of specific cases.  And, finally, the result of the process is stored in the memory. In this way, the word is able to mobilize the entire sensory apparatus of the recipient, that is, external senses and internal senses. In the sermons in the space-time context of colonial Brazil, the sensory experience plays an important role. It was seen that these are constructed according to the methods of classical rhetoric, (Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine) and in accordance with the dictates of the corresponding theory of knowledge. The sensory experience is awakened not only by the word, but also by the use of verbal images, or metaphors. These have the function of impressing the listeners by referring them to experiences of their daily life (according to the rhetorical principle of accomodatio) and awaken the elaboration of knowledge (Massimi 2020). According to the Aristotelian-Thomist matrix, conveyed b.y the Coimbra Jesuit Course, the process of knowledge and persuasion begins at the level of the external senses (Massimi 2021a). The analysis of some oratorical plays elaborated by preachers active in colonial Brazil shows the presence of images and metaphors used to evoke sensorial experiences: acoustic (sounds, musical elements), visual (light and dark, colours), olfactory, tactile and referring to the palate. In the Sermon of the Sixtieth, preached in the Royal Chapel of Lisbon in 1655, António Vieira exposes his conception of the art of preaching. The author, having as his theme the evangelical analogy between the verb of God and the seed, states that the word spoken is destined for the human being in all its dimensions, that is, the rational nature, the sensitive, the vegetative and also the insensitive matter, but in all these levels, it meets resistance. In indicating which elements define the effectiveness of the preached word, Vieira takes up the synthetic expression of classical rhetoric: the word must delight, teach and move (delectare, docere et movere) (Granada 1945). The action of the external senses is about delight. In order to delight, it occurs to mobilize the sensory powers, among which the external sense of sight: “Words are heard; deeds are seen; words enter through the ears; deeds enter through the eyes, and our soul surrenders much more through the eyes than through the ears. (…) What enters through the ears is believed, what enters through the eyes obliges us” (Vieira 1993, vol.4: 83-84).  The evidence is provided by sight as the Greek and Christian philosophical traditions had already emphasized, by privileging “seeing” over other sensory acts. Vieira provides an ‘experimental’ demonstration of this fact, a practical test for his listeners: the effects assorted by the use of sacred representation to accompany the preaching of Holy Week. He says: “A preacher goes preaching the Passion, arrives at Pilate’s praetorium, tells how Christ was made king of mockery, says they took a purple and put it on his shoulders, hears the audience very attentive. He says that they wove a crown of thorns and nailed it to his head, they all listen with the same attention. He also says that they tied his hands and put a reed in them for a sceptre, the same silence and the same suspension in the listeners continues. A curtain is drawn in this step, the image of Ecce Homo appears, they are all lying on the ground, they are all beating their breasts, they are weeping, they are shouting, they are shouting, they are slapping, what is this? What has appeared again in this church? Everything that discovered that curtain, the preacher had already said. He had already said of that purple, he had already said of that crown and those thorns, he had already said of that scepter and that reed. For if this did not shake at all, how is it now so? For then it was Ecce homo heard, and now it is Ecce Homo seen: the relation of the preacher entered through the ears, the representation of that figure entered through the eyes. Do you know, preacher priest, why our sermons do not shake much? Why don’t we preach to the eyes, we preach only to the ears” (Vieira 1993, vol.4: 84). In fact, as Vieira informs us, the preachers used images as resources to enhance the use of the word. Carved or painted images were used to stimulate vision and touch, according to a long tradition that goes back to Franciscan spirituality. The data received by the external senses are transmitted to the internal senses that make up the sensitive soul (common sense, imagination and fantasy, memory, cogitative faculty). Thus, a process is triggered that implies the cognitive elaboration of the data received: in the first place, a distinction is made between the various stimuli and the evaluation and apprehension of their meaning. The latter are obtained by retaining the sensory impressions, which enables the formation of representative images and their storage in memory. This process also implies the movement of affections and the positioning of will. According to the precepts of rhetorical art, besides delighting, preaching must teach (docere) and move the listeners: for this function it is very important the performance of the internal senses. The theory of knowledge that underlies the rhetorical project of the Jesuits is that of Thomas Aquinas. According to this, “nihil est in intellectu quod prius non fuerit in sensu”, that is, man can only know from the sensitive data obtained by the external senses. Then, perception is processed by the internal senses (fantasy or imagination, cogitative power, memory, common sense) as phantasm (representation). The Coimbra Jesuit Course updates this conception. Following this conception, preachers construct their discourses in such a way that the contents to be presented to the listeners can be understood, through the mediation of the internal senses, whose role becomes decisive (in the first place, that of imagination and memory (Massimi 2020). António Vieira describes the dynamism of the imagination and its role in the process of cognition, in the “Sermon of the Dumb Devil” preached in Portugal in 1661. He states: “within our fantasy, or imaginative power, which resides in the brain, are kept, as in secret treasure, the images of all things that have entered us through the senses, which philosophers call species” (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 1173).  The devil uses those species that are infinite, “ordering them and composing them as they best serve him; he paints and represents inwardly to our imagination what can most incline, affirm and attract the appetite. And in this way, he tempts us mutely, he persuades us mutely, and he deceives us mutely” (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 1173). On the contrary, the ordering and composition of images must be governed by judgement, namely, understanding guided by a criterion, a guideline. In fact, if this operation of the imagination is given over to the dynamism of sensory appetites, it may occur that the images preserved in the memory are composed in a misleading way. Another internal sense whose mobilization enhances the persuasive effect of the word is the cogitative power, or the esteem, capable of apprehending in the objects a ratio particularis, or a first vestige of meaning.  The action of this power is evoked in the Sermon of the Easter Octave of 1656, preached by António Vieira, in the Church of Belém do Pará, in an arduous circumstance: the news of the failure of the gold and silver search expedition in that region (Madeira & Massimi 2012). In a letter of 1657, to King Alfonso VI, Vieira reports that this mission, nicknamed the Gold Entrance, “had the end that it was so badly named” (Vieira 2008: 342). Forty Portuguese and two hundred Indians participated in this mission, most of whom died of hunger and overwork. In commenting on these deaths, Vieira puts in the letter a judgment that is also the key theme of the sermon of 1656: to seek gold as a priority scope for the benefit of the Kingdom is a mistake, since gold itself can also be associated with greed, mistreatment, suffering.  In Vieira’s sermon, he sought to activate the cogitative power of the listeners, so that they would recognize what their eyes and ears insisted on not perceiving by the mistake of the appetite to take gold as a value in itself, a source of great benefit for the Kingdom. The deception refers not so much to the gold itself as to the association between the search for gold and the violence against the other that had characterized the early Modern Age. The Spanish and Portuguese colonizers took on oppressive and violent conduct against the indigenous people because of the urgency of obtaining gold as an unquestionable priority. The correction that Vieira is aiming at, therefore, reaches not the desire for gold for itself, but the fact that, lacking a just evaluation of it, the metal has become a determining need not only economic but also psychological. The acts of free will depend on reason as a capacity of judgment. The capacity to judge depends on the correct functioning of the internal senses. When the orderly use of this power is weakened, the person ends up becoming the slave of some object that determines him in his conduct and ends. For this reason, in the sermon, Vieira appeals to the power of the word as a persuasive resource capable of acting on a radical transformation of the listeners, so that they may become “alive” the truth, through the good use of the internal senses. Besides imagination and cogitative power, another very important inner sense in psychic dynamism is that of memory. In a passage from the Sermon of Our Lady of the Rosary, 1654, Vieira highlights the power of memory. This would be, in an Augustinian perspective, the “stomach of the soul”: “St. Augustine, an excellent philosopher of memory has taught us, and already before him had defined Plato: Memoria est animae ventriculus. The stomach of the soul is memory; because just as in the stomach of the body one receives and retains body food, and there one makes the first decoction, so this power is the first that will receive and gather within itself the divine Sacrament, remembering not in passing, but very slowly (as it is done in the body) and representing to the soul what is present in that mystery, and the very high mysteries that are enclosed in it. (…) The memory, whose property is to make present the absent things”. (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 789).

The appetites

Missionary Letters

According to the Jesuit philosophers, sensitive appetites, or affections, acquire a very important function in human dynamism, insofar as they are accompanied by the movement of intellectual appetites that promote virtue. Some of these appetites are reported more frequently in the missionary letters sent from Brazil (Massimi 2020). The Jesuits declare their own joy in various circumstances: for the arrivals and meetings of friends, as Leonardo do Vale (d. 1591) writes from Bahia on May 12, 1563: “Father Manoel de Paiva arrived here from São Vicente with three brothers, with whom we rejoice greatly (see Navarro 1988: 5); or Manuel da Nóbrega (1517-1570) comments in a letter addressed to Ignatius de Loyola written by St. Vincent in May 1556: “Luis da Grã came in the month of May, with whose coming we all rejoice and take new fervour and effort for the service of the Lord” (Nóbrega 1989: 276). On other occasions, the cause of joy is the arrival of letters from Ignatius and the distant brothers: “We received them (the letters), which we hear with joy from the spirit” (Nóbrega 1989: 14). Pain is an affection experienced under adverse circumstances. Nóbrega, when faced with what he considers to be the failure of the missionary project of the Society of Jesus in Brazil, exclaimed in a letter to the former Governor Tomé de Sousa on July 5, 1559: “First I want to weep on this earth”; “How many cups of bitterness and anguish my soul would always drink! (Nóbrega 1989: 71). And, still in the same letter, faced with the fact that “there is no peace, but everything is hate, murmurings and detestations, robberies and prey, deceit and lies,” “seeing this at the very beginning, I took care to lose my wits” (Nóbrega 1989: 75). The letter is full of expressions of pain: “I see losing everything. I have already told Your Grace a great deal of my pain; many more pains would be left to me to let off steam that by letter they cannot say”. (Nóbrega 1989: 105). The affection of fear is widely described in Jesuit correspondence. The objects of fear evoked by the Jesuits are the same as those described by the Aristotelian-Thomist doctrine: from the evils of nature to death. João Azpilcueta Navarro relates the fear experienced in the face of the dangers of the natural environment to which the Jesuits are continually exposed due to the need to move frequently to their missionary tasks: crossing dangerous rivers, famine, beast attacks, various threats faced on the night paths through forests and unknown territories (Navarro 1988). Among the natural evils to be feared, the Jesuit Pêro Correia (d. 1554) places deadly illnesses, which seem determined by “hellish forces” (see Navarro 1988: 70). An object of quite frequent fear are the shipwrecks, as already pointed out by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics. A description in especially dramatic tones is that provided by Jesuit Lourenço Braz (1525-1605): “The ship began to drag (…) It started screaming at the ship. (…) And since it would be an hour at night, a great storm of contrary wind would come… And the other people would shout and say that we were dead. (…) Brothers, it’s one thing to meditate on death in the cubicles, but another to see it through the eyes!”  (see Navarro 1988: 42). Descriptions of the fear experienced personally are frequent in José de Anchieta’s letters, especially in the famous account of January 8, 1565, about his imprisonment among the Tamoios, a circumstance in which Anchieta fears an imminent death: “in this way we lived in continuous fear” (Anchieta 1988: 141). In social relations, in situations of hostility as described in this account, individual fears are articulated with those of the companions in the group of belonging as well as with the fears of the enemies themselves. If the affection of fear generates escape or defensive behaviours, these developments are particularly important and must be foreseen and eventually controlled to avoid worse threats. Thus, all the factors observed in the behaviour of the other that signal a lack of reliability are occasions that reinforce the fear of an imminent outcome. The notations about the fear of threats of war and rebellion of the natives appear again and again in Jesuit correspondence: this is how Anchieta comments: “one always lives in continued restlessness with them” (Anchieta 1988: 377). In fact, as Aristotle states in Rhetoric, the objects that arouse fear are exactly those that seem to have the power to destroy or to cause damage from which great pain results. That is why the signs of such things induce fear indicating the approaching of something to fear. The dangers which most seem to frighten the Jesuits are, however, spiritual evils, which, compared with the natural threats and brutality of external enemies, are more harmful and difficult to eliminate: “In spite of the many dangers I have known up to now, I have sailed on this southern sea where there are torments from which few ships escape, I confess, dear brothers, up to now I have sailed on another more dangerous sea, which is the one of this world and its vanities where so many are lost to themselves” (see Navarro 1988: 469-470). The intervention of the devil is an omnipresent factor in the life of the Jesuit, the term of a spiritual ‘battle’ which constitutes the essence of religious life and missionary presence. The affection of fear must be “controlled” and overcome by the virtue of trust, especially trust in God, because it is the virtue that opposes fear, in the Aristotelian-Thomist perspective.  For Thomas, the overcoming of fear is given by the virtue of fortitude. This is a “cardinal virtue”, that is, it is among the principal moral virtues (cardinals=principles). This virtue is fundamental in the personality of missionaries. The virtue of the fortitude manifested by the missionaries contributes to increase their fame and spiritual power with the Indians, including with their potential enemies. They begin to fear that the religious will be endowed with a supernatural force: “the Indians threatened us with death. We others prepared for everything that comes, having the Lord as our defender, fear nothing. And they, taming their wrath, show us love, and give us alms of their fruits.” (Anchieta 1988: 366). The Jesuits portrayed in their letters the force that, in the psychic dynamism of the Indians, seemed to have sensitive appetites: according to the priests, their excessive movement towards inappropriate objects would determine ‘unnatural’ conducts such as anthropophagy. In reporting to Ignacio of Loyola the situation of the natives on the coast of Brazil, Anchieta pointed out that, “from Pernambuco (…) over 900 miles, (…) the Indians without exception eat human flesh; in this they feel so much pleasure and sweetness that they often travel over 300 miles when going to war. And if they captivate four or five of their enemies, without taking care of anything else, they return to the village with great voices and parties and copious wines, which manufacture with roots, and eat them in such a way that they do not lose even the slightest nail, and all their lives boast of that egregious victory”.  (Anchieta 1988: 108-109). The appetites of the Indians become disordered because they are guided by inadequately valued objects, they are accentuated by the “unbridled passion of the drinks”: “when they are drunker, the memory of past evils is renewed, and they begin to boast about them soon burning with the desire to kill enemies and the hunger for human flesh”. Anchieta’s position referred to anthropological theories of contemporary authors: the Jesuit José de Acosta (1540-1600) and the former Jesuit Giovanni Botero (1544-1617). Acosta, Spanish Jesuit and writer, was a missionary in Peru and Mexico, took part in the Council of Lima and collaborated in the publication of catechisms and confessionaries in Quechua, Aymaran and Castilian. Back in Spain (1567), he wrote remarkable works for the description of customs and the psychological investigation of the Indians, the catechetical work De promulgando evangelio apud apud barbaros sive de procuranda Indorum salute (1571), Historia natural y moral de las Indias (1590), full of acute observations (of natural history, history of customs, geography) on the New World. Giovanni Botero, after entering the Society of Jesus at the age of sixteen, in 1580 left the order because of disagreements with his superiors and from 1582 he resided in Milan as secretary to Cardinal Carlo Borromeo and then to his nephew, Cardinal Federico. His most important work is Relazioni universali (in four parts; a fifth part was published in 1895), an anthropological geography, with detailed news about the physical, demographic, military and political configuration of the nations of the Old and New World. The five volumes were written in 1591, 1592, 1594, 1596, 1611. In Botero’s work, the spirit of the Society is evident, and most of the sources used are Jesuit. As Descendre (2016) observes, Botero’s work has an apologetic intention: the description of the missionary movement in the world, evidences the strong expansion of Christianity conceived according to the vision of the Council of Trent. Latin America is one of the themes treated by Botero in the Relazioni universali. Therefore, the similarity between Anchieta’s interpretation of indigenous behaviour in his letters and the texts of Acosta and Botero is evident. They are all inspired by the model of Aristotelian-Thomist philosophical psychology of 16th century Jesuit thinkers. When the prevalence of sensorial powers, especially sensitive appetites, over intellectual appetites and cognitive potentials occurs, individuals are unable to judge and evaluate the objects of their desires. The resulting dissatisfaction leads them to excesses in their behaviours and experiences of sensations and affections. They present unruly habits, among which violence, cruelty, anthropophagy. Such processes can also be determined by supernatural influences (the demons) and the consumption of herbs and drinks. These influences can act not only on the sensory level but also on the functioning of intellectual appetites. However, Anchieta was also a man of humanist background, who believes in the power of education in the modification of human habits. By writing in 1555 to Ignatius of Loyola of Piratininga, where the tribe headed by Tibiriçá lived, he sought to show how coexistence with the missionaries has achieved some positive effects. He affirmed that “the other nefarious ignominies also necessarily diminish; and some are so obedient to us that they dare not drink without our permission, and only with great moderation if we compare it with the old madness” (Anchieta 1988: 194). Anchieta pointed out the change of habits and values “in the way of Christians”, starting from the coexistence of that same population that before thought could be converted only by the intervention of military force (Massimi 2020).

Educational works of Alexandre de Gusmão 

História do Predestinado Peregrino e de seu irmão Precito (1685b), Gusmão’s novel, reflects the Jesuitical conception transmitted by Cursus Conimbricensis, about the interactions between spiritual dynamism and psychic dynamism, that is, the functioning of the soul powers, their operations, their diseases and their remedies. Such powers constitute the interface between body and spirit. In fact, the ordering of the person as a whole demands a healthy functioning of psychic dynamism, indicated by the label of “soul powers”. From the occurrence of some disorder in these powers, the “bad inclinations” are installed in the person. In the journey of the two pilgrims, the powers of the soul are metaphorized by the image of a hydraulic device composed of water sources (these may or may not be clean), channels and streams. According to the account: “these water fountains are the two main powers of our soul: Understanding and Will. From them come all good and all evil (Gusmão 1685b: 260). The operations of these two powers occur through the mediation of other psychic powers: “Both run through two pipes which are called sensitive appetites. One has as surname irascible and the other concupiscible. Both pipes run through eleven streams that are called passions. The five streams of the concupiscent are called: love, hatred, desire, abomination, delight, joy and sorrow. The rivers of the irascible are called: hope, despair, boldness, fear, wrath and indignation” (Gusmão 1685b: 260). This is the classification of emotions proposed by Aristotle, refined by Thomas Aquinas and conveyed by the Coimbra Treaties, based on the distinction of sensitive appetites in concupiscible and irascible (Massimi 2012; Massimi 2020). This conception of the psychism evidences its aristotelian-atomistic matrix and is the same as that found in the Coimbra Jesuit Course. The link between psychic dynamism (especially appetites) and spiritual values is established in an orderly manner to the extent that reason coordinates the whole. For example, when a greater good is opposed to the natural good, man must be able to discern and opt for it.  The person who does evil does not want evil as such, but it appears to him as good and delightful because of a use of freedom not guided by reason, but by a deceptive image of good. Gusmão points out this drama by presenting the dynamism of Precito: the cause of his deviations is not the exercise of the will itself, but the fact that it is misdirected because it is not subject to reason. In a certain way, Precito’s will has regressed to the level of passions, of sensitive appetites. Therefore, for the good of life, the work of cultivating appetites and other powers and the identification of the diseases of the soul, whose development is described in detail by Gusmão, becomes decisive. He portrays the sickness of the soul in analogy with the diseases of the body. It is an “infection” resulting from the fact that the “evil inclinations” infiltrate the waters of the springs (soul powers). Thus, “the first source, Understanding, is infected with some sticky slime that says Bad Dictates. The second source, Will, is infected with other slime that is called Bad Affection. From this infection come the following effects: “if our Understanding is infected with dictates or depraved doctrines” and “if the Will is depraved by the disordered affections of our passions,” both become incapable of “getting the understanding right with the truth and the will with the good. (Gusmão 1685b: 261). Through a conceptual construction analogous to that proposed by the Jesuit philosophers of Coimbra, Gusmão postulates the possibility that the movements of the sensitive appetite move the will, especially by the work of the internal senses, to dispense with the “intellectual news” about the objects coveted. If the will follows the decision of the intellect, the movement of the soul takes place in an orderly manner. But if the will is dragged along by a vehement appetite which absolutely absorbs the use of reason, any rational deliberation becomes impossible. This is the process experienced by Precito in the novel: taken to Samaria by Mistake, his counselor, first stays in the “house of Vanity” and then, by encouragement from “his two sons Bad Desire and Distorted Intention”, decides to follow the path of Vanity. Thus he enters a land ruled by the old “Vice”, with its three governors (Concupiscence of the flesh, Concupiscence of the eyes, Haughtiness of life). Precito’s wife calls it her own will. With her, Precito begets children called “Contempt for eternal things” and “Appreciation for temporal things”. Precito symbolizes the man who follows his own will, and this generates vices that slowly suffocate his conscience and lead him to lose not only the course of his journey, but also himself.  The consequence is an inner imbalance where “hardness of heart, blindness of understanding, obstruction of will” prevail. Because of this, Precito “did not seem like a man of reason” (Gusmão 1685b: 247). The final result is the “confusion” that torments him “with a thousand sufferings, sorrows and restlessness”. The consciousness presented by the metaphor of a “terrible-looking serpent” involves him in “revolts and uprisings which they call imaginations”. The serpent bites his heart with “three teeth”: “the Will pierced his heart with eternal obstinacy or despair”; “Memory bit his heart with the memory of the brief delights that had had the effect of those torments”; “Understanding pierced his heart with the representation of his Predestined Brother, who was already at the gates of Jerusalem to enter joyfully” (Gusmão 1685b: 315). In short, Precito is the exemplary case of the deviation of his target’s will. This deviation leads to the disorder of human acts. This disorder is the “sickness” which the Jesuit formation, proposed by Ignatius and his followers, seeks to “remedy” through a systematic work of ordering the personal dimensions. In Gusmão’s novel, the ordering of affections (sensitive appetites) and of will (intellectual appetite) must remedy the disorder that occurs when appetites are allied to the inner senses of the imagination. This disorder occurs on both the individual and social levels. In the novel, the therapist who is indispensable to the healing of the disorder is “an old healer, who knows only how to heal, which they call Mortification of the Will” (Gusmão 1685b: 189). It is not a question of neutralizing or disregarding the action of the psychic powers, because they are constitutive elements and originally beneficial to human experience. In the novel, amidst the circumstances of the pilgrimage, the walkers are constantly faced with the “passions”, metaphorized by the beasts (wolves, lions, foxes) that accompany them along the entire journey. These are inevitable encounters. However, it occurs to learn how to deal with these phenomena, in order to make them constructive factors of the person’s development, as we have seen pointed out by the Coimbra Jesuit Course, and as it appears in the course of Predestined.

Sacred Oratory

In preaching, an important action of the word ordered by rhetoric is to move the sensitive and intelligible appetites of the listeners, guiding them to conversion, to change life. By making the truth itself beautiful, through the pleasing, the word stimulates the appetite and asks for adhesion. In order for the word to fulfil its ethical function, in the sense of persuading to change behaviour, it must mobilise the will. How does this mobilization happen? On two levels, firstly by mobilizing sensitive appetites, i.e. emotions; and secondly by mobilizing intelligible appetites, i.e. volition (Massimi 2020). The preachers’ knowledge of the psychology of sensitive appetites, or affections, or passions (in modern terms, emotions), is based on a long theological, medical and philosophical tradition, in many cases, explicitly documented and cited. These are classical or medieval texts, such as the Nicomachean Ethics and Rhetoric (second book) of Aristotle, the Republic, the Timaeus and other works of Plato, the medical treatises of Galen and Hippocrates, the City of God of Augustine of Hippo, the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, but also texts produced by humanist and Renaissance culture, such as De Vita triplici and the Platonic Theology of Marsilio Ficino, De Anima et Vita Libri Tres by Luís Vives, among others. There is also the influence of the Stoic conception, especially that of Cicero and Seneca. The Coimbra Jesuit Course, especially in the dispute over Nicomachean Ethics, synthesize this tradition and provide Jesuit preachers with the appropriate formation for the elaboration of the rhetorically ordered word. In the Sermons of António Vieira, there are several references to sensitive appetites. They are described as fundamental motors of human, individual and social behaviour. For Vieira, the study of sensitive appetite, which when intense are called passions, is on the level of self-knowledge. The preaching seeks to act according to the Ignatian perspective of the ordering of disordered affections. Disorder occurs when these are subtracted from the guide of the intellect, according to the vision of the philosophical psychology in force in the Society of Jesus. In a sermon of 1665, António Vieira states that “The passions of the human heart, as divided and numbered by Aristotle, are eleven; but they are all reduced to two capitals: love and hate. And these two blind affections are the two poles in which the world is resolved, therefore so badly governed. They are the ones who give the merits, they are the ones who evaluate the gifts, they are the ones who share the fortunes. They are the ones who adorn or decompose. They are the ones who make, or annihilate. They are the ones who paint or paint the objects, giving and taking away at their will the colour, the figure, the measure, and yet the same being and substance, without any other distinction, or judgment, that annoys or loves. If the eyes come with love, the raven is white; if with hatred, the swan is black. If with love, the Pygmy is giant; if with hate, the Giant is Pygmy. If with love, what is not, has to be; if with hatred, what has to be and is right, is not, nor will it ever be” (Vieira 1993, vol.4: 111).

Intellectual appetites

Missionary Letters

The Jesuit letters refer to the intellectual appetites experienced by missionaries and observed in Indians. An affection often cited in letters is love. Love is always associated with the purpose chosen by the judgment, according to the definition of intellectual appetite. Its expressions can provoke attitudes of trust and correspondence in the Indians (Massimi 2020). The Jesuits affirm love for the Indians through concrete actions, as Anchieta relates: “we do not let any day go by without visiting them”; “we get into their conversations and treat them with the greatest familiarity”; “the private conversations move us a lot, and seeing our great dedication, they cannot help but be amazed and know a little of our love for them: above all seeing that we are so diligent in curing their illnesses, without any hope of gain” (Anchieta 1988: 198). Consolation is a typically Jesuit intellectual appetite, experienced to the extent that his life realizes the ideal of his vocation and by the presence of the vocational company that supports him on this path. Consolation is a sign of authentic discernment as to one’s own existential direction, as opposed to anxiety and restlessness, signs that one has not yet found the way. In the life of missionaries, this affection is experienced when one recognises a correspondence between the lived circumstance and the ideal. In a letter to the brothers in Coimbra, Lourenço Brás (1525-1605) relates the experience of consolation in a circumstance in which he finds himself almost faced with death because of his missionary activity: “and what comforted me most was to die in obedience”. (see Navarro 1988: 42). The receipt of the letters from the distant brothers brings consolation: “Your (letters) have come and have given us great consolation” (Anchieta 1988: 155). Consolation is also the affection experienced in experiencing missionary activity and perceiving the correspondence of the recipients: “We are in this village of Piratininga (…) where we have a great school of nests, children of Indians already taught how to read and write. (…) These are our joy and consolation.” (Anchieta 1988: 82). Disconsolation, the affection contrary to consolation, is manifested when missionary plans are made impossible, especially by the lack of correspondence from the Indians: “the work is great, and it dubs itself with the little consolation that one receives for the little fruit that gives fields plowed with so much sweat” (Anchieta 1988: 452). The passage from consolation to disconsolation, caused by the failure of missionary action with the indigenous children is reported by Anchieta in several letters to Father General between 1560 and 1562. In general, in the experience of the Jesuits, the affective dimension is always united to the judgment about the significance and value of actions. The judgment shapes affections according to the ultimate purpose of the action and bases the movement of the will. The attitude of deliberation of the will is evidenced in the accounts of Anchieta when she describes the hard work of the missionaries to realize their evangelizing intention. The decision, fruit of this deliberation, is manifested in concrete gestures and attitudes, such as, for example, to face “many asperous and depopulated paths, where there is no conversation except with the tigers, whose footprints we often find fresh where we pass by”; where there is nowhere to rest, neither to be warmed by the cold nor to repair the rain, nor to satisfy our hunger, “covered alone with the divine support, for whose love we suffer this.” (Anchieta 1988: 455). In short, the set of psychic experiences reported by the authors of the letters is focused on the performance of the missionary ideal identified by them with the ultimate realization of their life. This experience then becomes an exemplary model of a balanced way of being a person where will and intellect exercise supremacy over appetites: the “political power” to which Góis referred in his treatise.   Among the intellectual appetites observed in the Indians the most quoted by the authors of the letters was love. The correspondence of the Indians to the evangelizing work of the missionaries was described in terms of the affection of love. Anchieta, when narrating that the Jesuits promoted teaching, an element that attracted the will of the Indians, said: “a boy leaving his relatives, stayed with us, and joined the boys to learn the first elements. The main care we have of them is to declare to them the rudiments of the faith, without neglecting the teaching of the letters; they esteem it so much that, if it were not for this attraction, perhaps we could not lead them to anything else.” (Anchieta 1988: 307-308). The same author, in a letter of 1549 to the Provincial of Portugal, Simão Rodrigues, reported the symbolic exchange attitude of an Indian chief: “He is very fervent and a great friend of ours: we gave him a red hat and some pants. Bring us fish and other things from the land with great love” (Anchieta 1988: 113). In another letter of 1565, Anchieta reported loving and caring attitudes expressed by members of the indigenous communities: Chief Cunhambeba had helped the Jesuits by endangering their own lives and had shows his love for them through various gestures: “We left very early in the morning for the village, where Cunhambeba had ordered us to build a small house in the middle of it to say Mass. And when he saw us, like all the women in the village, they were so happy, (…) speaking words of great love to us” (Anchieta 1988: 145-146). In short, the intellectual appetites experienced by the Indians and described in the letters, show in the eyes of the missionaries the sharing of the Christian ideal transmitted, through understanding and adherence to the Will (Massimi 2020).

Sacred Oratory

In preaching, among the affections, love is the most talked about. The preacher’s work consists in making love an ordered affection, remedying or preventing possible disorders caused by excess, according to the above perspective (Massimi 2020). The Sermons of the Mandate preached between 1644 and 1670 are dedicated to the description of the phenomenal manifestations of love: “Love is essentially union,” declares Vieira, taking up the platonic theory and the more it unites or seeks to unite those who love each other, the greater the effects it has” (Vieira 1993, vol.5: 7). However, when it is excessively intense, it becomes harmful, producing an effect contrary to union, that is, restlessness and death. For this reason, adopting the perspective of the Medicine of the Soul, Vieira suggests remedies for excessive love, basing himself, as he himself states, on the texts of Galen and Sacred Scripture: “In this way Galen wrote eruditely of human love, in the books he entitled De Remedio Amoris, whose aphorisms (…) will enter without text and without name, as one who does not come to authorize, but to serve. (…) The most powerful and effective remedies of love, which until now have discovered nature, approved experience, and prescribed art, are these four: time, absence, ingratitude, and, above all, the improvement of the object”. (Vieira 1993, vol.5: 7).

5.3. Educational works of Alexandre de Gusmão 

In Gusmão’s novel História do Peregrino de América e de seu irmão Precito (1682), the ordering of affections (sensitive appetites) and will (intellectual appetite) must remedy the disorder that occurs when appetites ally themselves with fantasy (or imagination, one of the internal senses). Predestined takes care of the ordination of himself, by the work of two sons, “Return of Judgment” and “Subjection of Will” (Gusmão 1685b: 243). Thus, access to central virtue for the Jesuits, obedience, is opened to him: “He entered the room of Obedience, which was called the Humble Heart, with the Surrender of Judgment and Subjection of the Will” (Gusmão 1685b: 135). According to the Ignatian vision, obedience finds foundation in human philosophy (Aristotelian) and confirmation in the divine precept: Obedience declares to the Pilgrim to have “two births”: “the first is Natural: of this I am a daughter of Holy Will and of Surrendered Understanding. The second birth is moral and therefore I am a daughter of Precept and Just Law” (Gusmão 1685b: 185). Obedience is a fundamental virtue to order social and political life.  Obedience is thus the peculiarly Jesuitic means which provides the realization of the political power exercised within the framework of the psychic powers by reason and will (Massimi 2020).

The cognitive powers

Missionary Letters

The Jesuits used Aristotelian-Thomist terminology present in the Coimbra Jesuit Course to refer to the cognitive processes observed in natives. The main category used was intellect, or reason. The evaluation about the intellect of the Indians is present in several letters, and acquires different valuations (Massimi 2020). Meaningful in this respect is a letter sent by Anchieta to Loyola in which the author described the condition of the various Brazilian ethnic groups and establishes differences between them. The description is similar to the aforementioned political theories of José de Acosta and Giovanni Botero, that peoples who do not have in their political and social organization, a sovereign, a jurisdiction, a religion, live in a condition not according to reason; while peoples who have at least one of these three pillars develop towards an increasingly rational condition. In fact, according to Anchieta (and the tradition to which he is inspired), these three aspects (legal organization, government, and religion) belong to natural law. Referring to the Indians of the Porto Seguro region, the author stated that “they are indomitable and fierce, nor do they bend reason”. On the contrary, “the carijós are much meeker and more prone to the things of God” in a way similar to “other people to the west, through the interior to the province of Peru”. These “are very meek, they come closer to reason, they are all subject to one head, each one lives with his wife and children separately in his house, and in no way eat human flesh. Continuing the description, Anchieta dealt with the “people who call themselves Ibirajaras, who we think are ahead of all these in the use of reason, intelligence and meekness of customs. And she explains the reasons for this judgment: “All these obey one lord, have horror to eat human flesh, are content with one woman (…) . They believe in no idolatry or sorcerer, and they advance to many others in good manners, so that they seem closer to the law of nature” (Anchieta 1988: 117-118). In the opinion of the Jesuits, the demand for learning manifested by the natives proved their intellectual gifts while justifying missionary work. Nóbrega wrote in a letter to the Provincial of Portugal in 1549 at the beginning of the mission of the Society of Jesus in Bahia: “They have schools to read and write; it seems to me a good way to bring the Indians from this land, who have great desires to learn and, when asked if they want to, show great desires”. (Nóbrega 1989: 110-111). Therefore, as in the consideration of the other psychic powers inferred by the observation of the behaviour of the Indians, the evaluation about the cognitive powers was associated with the response of these as to the evangelising initiative of the Jesuits. When the Indians showed resistance to the missionaries, they were evaluated as not very rational. An example is the following excerpt from a letter written to Torres de Rio Vermelho by Nóbrega in 1557: “I have come to understand by experience how little one could do in this land in the conversion of the gentiles for lack of being subjects, and they are a form of people in a condition closer to wild beasts than to rational people” (Nóbrega 1989: 400). And in a letter written to the same recipient the following year, Nóbrega outlined a picture quite different from that set out in his initial letters. He placed the need for the Indians, once “subjected” with force, to be taught how to live “rationally”, and then to be evangelized: “First of all, the Gentiles must subject themselves and make them live as rational creatures, making them keep the natural law” (Nóbrega 1989: 447).

Educational works of Alexandre de Gusmão 

The possibility of educating the cognitive powers is emphasized by the Jesuits, A particularly interesting chapter of Gusmão’s treatise Arte de criar bem os filhos na idade da puericia is dedicated to “as if there are to be parents with children in poor condition” (Gusmão 1685a: 134). Gusmão defines as “children of bad condition” those who “are not docile in nature to discipline.  He attributes this situation to three different causes: the “bad understanding,” that is, lack of intellectual capacity, the “rebellious will,” that is, difficulty at the level of motivation, and the whole of the previous causes (Gusmão 1685a: 135). All three conditions are “disciplinable,” for “no child is in such a bad condition that he cannot be corrected, and domesticated, if in the father or the master there is vigilance and prudence to raise him while he is little” (Gusmão 1685a: 137). A very important consequence of this statement, on the pedagogical level, is that “the parents should not forsake their children, who have felt bad conditions, distrustful of making fruit in them, because none can be of such natural evil, that indoctrinated and tamed cannot be of benefit through good education” (Gusmão 1685a: 139). In the novel Historia do Predestinado Peregrino e de seu Irmão Precito (1685b), the cure, or therapy for unbalanced functioning of the appetites occurs through the action of cognitive processes. This action is defined as disenchantment. Disenchantment is the correction of deception derived from excesses, or defects, in the functioning of the senses and sensitive appetites, which produce a deceptive representation of objects and also misleadingly orient the appetites towards them. The written text aims at stimulating the process of disenchantment through reading, through the use of rhetorical devices and the proposition of anthropological knowledges coming from the tradition of classical and Christian culture (Massimi 2009; Massimi 2020).

Sacred Oratory

The third precept of rhetorical art is to teach. This action refers to the ability to mobilize the cognitive powers especially in their dimensions of judgment and understanding. The sermon should educate listeners to the use of reason, which is, in the first place, the evaluation about the reasonableness of actions and behaviours. António Vieira claims to follow the model of “the oldest preacher in the world, Heaven,” whose “words are the stars, the sermons are their composition, order, harmony and course. The sermons should provide listeners with a possible knowledge for all, even those who do not have a science: “such can be the sermon: stars that all see” (Vieira 1993 vol. 1: 87-88). Therefore, it is necessary that the sermon be ordered and develop the discourse around a single matter stimulating in its listeners the use of reason: “(the preacher) will define it so that it may be known, will divide it so that it may be distinguished, will prove it with Scripture, will declare it with reason, will confirm it with example, will amplify it with causes, with effects, with circumstances, with conveniences that will follow, with the inconveniences to be avoided, the doubts must be answered, the difficulties must be satisfied, the opposing arguments must be challenged and refuted with all the forces of eloquence, and after that, the arguments must be gathered, pressed, concluded, persuaded and ended.” (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 90). Therefore, the sermon, in order to achieve persuasive effects, must follow an understandable order for the reason of the listeners: “Preaching is not reciting. The very reasons are born of understanding, (…) What is born of judgment, penetrates and convinces understanding” (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 93). What is the modality of the sermon to provide the act of judgement in the listeners? Vieira points out that there is a mistake which refers to the judgment of oneself: it distorts one’s own image through self-love, the forgetfulness of one’s own human condition subject to all vicissitudes, fragile and mortal. In this way a distance is created between what men really are and what they say about themselves: “When men bear witness to themselves, one thing is what they are, and another is what they say” (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 256). The possibility of man lying to himself shows the error of his own judgement. The mismatch between the image of oneself, built up by the deception of judgment, and authentic knowledge of oneself, produces the disease: “by all the elements he falls ill with melancholy”. (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 256). Self-love impedes a coherent judgment of oneself: “The blindness of self-judgment, which is self-love, is much greater than the blindness of the eyes. Blindness of the eyes makes us not see things. The blindness of self-love makes us see things differently than they are, which is much greater blindness” (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 316). The difficulty of having a correct judgment about oneself makes us “never finish knowing ourselves”: “Because we look at ourselves with the eyes of someone more blind than the blind, with some eyes that always see one thing for another, and the small ones seem big to them. We are little bigger than herbs, and we pretend to be as big as trees; we are the most inconstant thing in the world, and we think that we have roots; if winter has taken away our leaves, we imagine that it will give us summer again; that we will always flourish, that we will last forever. This we are, and this we take care of”. (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 316). It is not clear and easy for man to know himself: “We bring men no more forgotten and unknown, no more behind us than we bring ourselves” (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 316-317). When a person succeeds in looking at himself and getting to know himself, he becomes a judge of himself: he evokes in his memory the way he leads his life, he can predict his future according to his conduct, or change it through the will to change his habits. Circumstances and times are the parameters within which knowledge of oneself happens in sermons. Notably, some important circumstances – such as health recovery and death – constitute “founding events” of man’s identity, understood not as a philosophical entity, but as a person, in his individual and particular character. The subjective dimension of time (temporality), pointed out by Augustine in the Confessions, is highlighted in the practices of Brazilian preachers. The knowledge of oneself is constituted in the perspective of a temporality directed toward the future destiny that signals the end of time, rooted in an original, mythical past, which refers to the beginning of time (creation) and that illuminates the present of action giving it universal criteria of which the preacher, in his sermon, makes himself the spokesman. Circumstances and times are the parameters within which knowledge of oneself happens in sermons. Remarkably, some important circumstances – such as recovery from health and death – constitute “founding events” of man’s identity, understood not as a philosophical entity, but as a person in his individual and particular character. The subjective dimension of time (temporality), pointed out by Augustine in his Confessions, is emphasized: self-knowledge is constituted in the perspective of a temporality directed towards the future destiny which marks the end of time, eternity. In short, the orderly action of the cognitive powers takes place in the context of the real world and for the human being the first object where these powers are employed in search of knowledge is his own person (Massimi 2020). This process allows the cognitive powers to act the deliberation and discernment to guide the movement of the will and the other psychic powers, according to the functioning of the dynamics of psychic dynamism described by the Coimbra Jesuit Course. (). For this reason, the ultimate goal of the rhetorically ordered words of the sermon is to docere, that is, to promote the cognitive process linked to the action of these powers. As for the power of inventiveness, it acts especially in preaching. In preaching, the use of inventiveness by the preacher causes him to apply the rhetorical precepts in order to enhance the function of discourse and increase its effectiveness. This brings concepts closer to the listeners’ understanding and moves and excites them for the practice of virtue (Massimi 2005; Massimi 2009). According to Vieira, an argument used with inventiveness becomes evident “because it descends from speculation to practice, from reason to experience and from discourse to the eye” (Vieira 1993, vol.1: 204).


The psychological knowledge conveyed and elaborated by the Coimbra Jesuit Course place themselves within the framework of the nascent Modernity. In fact, they discuss issues of contemporary interest, even if they seek to reaffirm aspects of the traditional world view. The transmission of this discussion in the Jesuit cultural production in colonial Brazil can be found in the Diálogo sobre a conversão do gentio (Dialogue on the conversion of the Gentile), written by Manoel da Nóbrega (1989) in the middle of the 16th century, dedicated to the theme of evangelization of the Brazilian Indian. In any case, the psychological knowledge elaborated and transmitted by the Coimbra Jesuit Course informed the view about themselves and about the other, of the Jesuit missionaries recently arrived in Brazil and underpins the process of self-knowledge aroused by preaching and pedagogical guidance readings.



Primary Sources

  • Anchieta (1988), José de. Cartas, Informações, Fragmentos Históricos e Sermões, Belo Horizonte: Editoras EDUSP-Itatiaia.
  • Cardim (1980), Fernão. Do princípio e origem dos índios do Brasil e a Narrativa epistolar de uma viagem e missão jesuítica, em: Cardim, F., Tratados da Terra e Gentes do Brasil, Belo Horizonte, Editoras Editora da Universidade de São Paulo- Editora Itatiaia. Coleção Reconquista do Brasil, n. 13. (Original: 1593).
  • Góis (1593), Manuel de. Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis Societatis Iesu, in Libros Aristotelis  qui Parva Naturalia appellantur. Lisboa: Simão Lopes.
  • Góis (1597), Manuel de. Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis Societatis Iesu, In duos libros De Generatione et Corruptione Aristotelis Stagiritae, Coimbra: Antonio de Mariz.
  • Góis (1598), Manuel de. Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis Societatis Iesu, In tres libros de Anima Aristotelis Stagiritae, Coimbra: António de Mariz.
  • Gusmão (1685a), Alexandre de. A arte de criar bem os filhos da idade da puerícia. Lisbon: Deslandes.
  • Gusmão (1685b), Alexandre de. História do Predestinado Peregrino e de seu Irmão Precito. Lisbon: Deslandes (original 1682).
  • Navarro (1988), A.J. Cartas Avulsas. Belo Horizonte: Editora universidade de São Paulo-Editora Itatiaia.
  • Nóbrega (1989), Manuel da. Cartas do Brasil. Belo Horizonte: Editora universidade de São Paulo-Editora Itatiaia (original 1551).
  • Vieira (1993), António. Sermões (org. Gonçalo Alves), 5 vols. Porto: Lello E Irmão (original 1679-1748).
  • Vieira, António. (2008). Cartas (org. João Lúcio de Azevedo). São Paulo: Editora Globo.


Secondary sources

  • Descendre (2016), Renain. “Introduzione”, in Botero, G. Della Ragion di Stato. Torino: Einaudi Editore.
  • Ficino, M. (1995). De le tre vite cioé a qual guisa si possono le persone letterate mentenere in sanitá. Per qual guisa si possa l’huomo prolungare la vita, con che arte , e mezzi, ci possiamo questa sana e lunghissima vita prolungare per via del ciello, Milano, Rusconi.
  • Freitas (2011), C. Alexandre de Gusmão: da literatura jesuíta de intervenção social. Porto: Tese de Doutoramento- Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto.
  • Granada (1945) O.P, L. Ecclesiasticae Rhetoricae sive de ratione concionandi libri sex. Venezia: Ziletti. In: Aribau, B.C. (org.), Obras de fray Luis de Granada, edição espanhola moderna: Madrid, Biblioteca Autores Españoles, Madrid, Real Accademia española.
  • Loyola (1982), I. Exercicios espirituais, em: Loyola, I., Obras Completas, n. 86, Madrid: Bibliotecas Autores Cristianos (original 1542).
  • Loyola (1990/1993), I. Cartas (Letters), 3 vols., São Paulo: Loyola Publishing House.
  • Madeira & Massimi (2012), João e Marina.  “Excessus de Deus, Verbum e a sombra: modos de conhecimento nos sermões de Antônio Vieira”, Perspectiva Teológica (Belo Horizonte), v. 44: 87-100.
  • Massimi (2000a), Marina. “La psicologia dei temperamenti nei Cataloghi Triennali dei gesuiti in Brasile”. Physis, Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza, Vol.37, 1: 137-149.
  • Massimi (2000b), Marina. “A teoria dos temperamentos na literatura jesuítica nos séculos XVI e XVII”. Atalaia (Lisbon) v. 6-7: 223-236.
  • Massimi (2002), Marina. “A Psicologia dos jesuítas: Uma contribuição à História das Ideias Psicológicas”. Psicologia. Reflexão e Crítica, v. 14: 625 – 633.
  • Massimi (2005), Marina. Palavras, almas e corpos no Brasil colonial. São Paulo: Edições Loyola.
  • Massimi (2009), Marina. “Estudos sobre a contribuição da antiga Companhia de Jesus ao desenvolvimento dos saberes sobre o psiquismo”. CLIO. Série História do Nordeste (UFPE), v. 2: 163 – 191.
  • Massimi, M. (2010a). A teoria dos temperamentos e suas aplicações nos trópicos. Ribeirão Preto: Holos Editora.
  • Massimi (2012), Marina. “A novela História do Predestinado Peregrino e de seu irmão Precito (1682) – Compêndio dos saberes antropológicos e psicológicos dos jesuítas no Brasil colonial”, in Massimi, M. (org.) A Novela História do Predestinado Peregrino e de seu irmão Precito (1682). São Paulo: Edições Loyola.
  • Massimi (2020), Marina. Psychological Knowledge and Practices in Brazilian Colonial Culture. Springer International Publishing. Springer Nature Switzerland AG.
  • Massimi, M. (2021a). “Manuel de Góis’s Psychology: A Brief Survey”; to appear in Encyclopedia, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Simone Guidi (eds.).
  • O’Malley (2002), John. Os primeiros jesuítas. Trans. by D. A Donida. Baurú: Edusc.
  • Pécora (1994), A. A. B. O teatro do sacramento, São Paulo: Edusp & Unicamp.
  • Silva (2008), Luiz Antonio Gonçalves da. “As bibliotecas dos jesuítas: uma visão a partir da obra de Serafim Leite”. Perspectivas em Ciência da Informação13(2): 219-237.
  • Vives (1538), Luís. De Anima et Vita Libri Tres. Basileae, Oporinum.




Related Entries