Affirmations or statements supernaturally effected in the external sense, internal senses, or directly in the intellect. They often accompany visions and they are divided in the same manner: corporeal (auricular), imaginative, and intellectual. Auricular locutions are words perceived by the bodily sense of hearing, and are generally caused by supernaturally produced acoustical vibrations. They sometimes seem to emanate from a vision or a religious object such as a statue or crucifix. As extraordinary phenomena they could be caused by God or the devil or proceed from natural causes. Imaginative locutions are words perceived in the imagination during sleep or in waking hours. Since they, too, could be supernatural, diabolical, or natural in origin, the rule for discernment is to study the effects produced in the individual. Locutions of supernatural origin cannot be produced at will; they are distinct, causing fervor, peace, humility, and obedience. Intellectual locutions are words or statements perceived immediately by the intellect without the aid of the external senses or imagination. Sometimes they are directly infused; at other times they are a supernatural coordination of naturally acquired ideas. It is beyond the power of the devil to produce truly intellectual locutions. St. John of the Cross divides intellectual locutions into successive, formal, and substantial.
Successive intellectual locations are a kind of dialogue or conversation between the Holy Spirit and the soul. It is a discursive reasoning rather than an instantaneous intuition, and although it is under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the human intellect plays its part. Therefore the actual functioning of the human intellect in this type of locution requires the operation of the imagination, with the result that error can proceed from the human side of the dialogue. The devil can indirectly affect successive locutions by influencing the imagination. Similar locutions occur in the natural phenomenon of the dual personality, although the effects are noticeably different from the effects of truly supernatural successive locutions.
Formal intellectual locutions are those words or statements which come to the mind from without and do not involve the activity of the intellect itself, except to receive them. Unlike the successive locutions, they may be infused into the mind when it is thinking of something entirely different. When they are truly supernatural, they produce virtuous effects in the soul and impart great illumination and certitude. Although the devil cannot directly influence the intellect, an individual may be deceived by the devil, so that the phenomenon itself cannot easily be distinguished by its effects. St John of the Cross advises that souls should never act according to their own opinions or accept the locutions without much reflection and the counsel of others.
Substantial intellectual locutions are basically the same as formal locutions, but with this difference: what is stated is effected immediately. They are similar to the creative word of God. According to St. John of the Cross, there is no possibility of deception or the influence of the devil in substantial locutions.
Since locutions are often closely associated with visions, the same rules applied to locution (see visions). Locutions are unmerited and freely given graces in the sense that they do not proceed from the normal development of the spiritual life; they differ somewhat from the usual charismatic gifts given for the benefit of others in the sense that they can bring much consolation and many blessings to the soul that receives them. They should not be desired, except for the substantial locutions, of which St. John of the Cross says: "Blessed is the soul to whom the Lord speaks the substantial locution."
Bibliography: john of the cross, Complete Works, ed. silverio de santa teresa and e. a. peers, 3 v. (Westminster, MD 1953) v.1 Ascent of Mount Carmel, Bk. 2, ch. 28–31. teresa of avila, Complete Works, ed. silverio de santa teresa and e. a. peers, 3 v. (New York 1946) v.1 Life ch. 25 r. garrigou–lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, tr. t. doyle, 2 v. (St. Louis 1947–48) 2:589–595. j. g. arintero, The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church, tr. j. aumann, 2 v. (St. Louis 1949–51) 2:304–333. a. royo and j. aumann, The Theology of Christian Perfection (Dubuque 1962) 658–660. a. f. poulain, The Graces of Interior Prayer, tr. l. l. smith (6th French ed. St. Louis 1950) 266–297. e. underhill, Mysticism (12th rev. ed. New York 1960).