The Unity of the Body and Soul

10 Responses

  1. Without any doubt, we all agree that body and soul is a unity. We agree that soul is spiritual. Being made in the image of God is factually biblical. Although this is, for the purpose of discussion, secondary to the point I want to have clarified which is with regard to spirit you did state this about image in your opening response to the questioner. Let us first then try and clear up some confusion.

    In a recent letter to the SC under the title Women are equal, Martin Keenan quotes St. Thomas Aquinas as saying: The image of God, in its principal signification, namely the intellectual nature, is found both in man and in woman.

    This could be understood to mean that it is in our rational minds that we image God. We image God because we can acquire knowledge, have understanding, be self-critical, and love.

    Elsewhere I have read that St Thomas said: the faculties only act by the energy of the soul. My mind is the seat of my intellect and therefore my intellect is a faculty of my mind. This means that I image God in one of my faculties but that does not ring true.

    [[It also says to me that my faculties can only be exercised by the energy emanating through my soul by the source of everything spiritual. If life has a source, spirit has a source. If God is One, the Source is One.]]

    Otherwise St Thomas is saying that the intellectual nature of God is found in humans. This would mean St. Thomas is anthropomorphising God. This surely is not true.

    The Catechism of the Catholic church says: in his[sic] own nature he[sic] unites the spiritual and material worlds.

    According to you the Holy Spirit makes up the Divine nature. Thus I deduce that the nature of God is Divine, the nature of the human person is primarily body and spiritual soul. The Church is very worried, I surmise, that we would mistake our spiritual soul, which is surely a product of Divine energy, with the supernatural being of God. Yet I am starting to see that my soul is powerless to do any good without the energy of spirit. Holy Spirit or just a spirit of life?

    You also seem to be saying that our spiritual souls have minds separate to the body’s mind or intellect. If our souls are able to embrace the Holy Spirit then the Holy Spirit is not beyond our natural life.

    Although I do not agree with the Catechism entirely, the following quotation proves Martin Keenans quote of St. Thomas to be redundant in Catholic thinking, to say the least:

    In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person. [ Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.] But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of [a person], that which is of greatest value in him[or her], [Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6:30] that by which [a person] is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in [humanity]. CCC 363

    Now I need to ask: Was it the soul or the spirit that God blew into the nostrils of the first human?

    The following are some quotes I referred to in order to do this exercise. The male generic terminology has been changed to make it palatable for women.

    Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. [A person] is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving him [or herself] and entering into communion with other persons. And s/he is called by grace to a covenant with his/her Creator, to offer [our Creator] a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his [or her] stead. CCC 357

    “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of [humanity] truly becomes clear. GS22

    The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. CCC 362

    “then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Gen.2:7

  2. PS. i forgot about your statement that you seemed so sure about being: anyone saying that we are ‘born; body, soul and spirit is mistaken’.

    I would like to investigate the both/and principle rather than just relegate ‘spirit’ to a realm which is totally inconceivable. Jesus was born fully human and fully divine, a primary example of the both/and principle. I am not trying to say that we are all naturally ‘both/and but if Jesus is the new Adam and the Way, the truth and the life, that is the pointer to becoming both/and.

    So I don’t conclude that we are ‘born: body, soul and spirit but I would say that is the purpose of our pilgrims journey.


    Everything is Grace anyway.

  3. Well, having just completed our liturgical readings from the book of Daniel, I went to my Bible to read the whole Canticle that is broken up during this period as the Responsorial Psalm. It has raised a pertinent question to this unity. Verse 86 in my New Jerusalem Bible says: Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the upright.

    Daniel in this canticle has already prayed: Bless the Lord, angels of the Lord (vs 58) so there is a distinct meaning applied to the upright (which in other versions use just or virtuous). We now have our bible confirming that we are both spirit and soul and if we are not born: body, mind, soul and spirit, then when do we obtain (or attain) spirit?

    If the spirit referred to is the human spirit, then it must depend on the human person being alive. The upright referred to in the Canticle have passed through life and been through the first judgement to be considered upright. Yes or No?

  4. Dear Rosemary,

    What Mr. Shackleton is trying to do is keep a distinction between the human (i.e. “body and soul” but I would rather say “body/soul” – however, I actually prefer “enfleshed soul”) and the Divine (i.e. “Spirit”). At the same time he is making the point that salvation and the gift of God’s Spirit to humanity in and through Jesus Christ (and not by the breathing into Adam’s nostrils – that is soul, the “spiritual” element of a person’s makeup) is purely gratuitous – nothing wihin our human makeup could have reproduced the fruits of the Divine Spirit. God’s action in us and in our world today, and even our own actions for good, is solely in and through the power of the Holy Spirit (and not some kind of “spirit of life”). The “spiritual soul” is created by God, and only as such is it the “product” of divine energy as you state. However, it is not the Divine energy welling up within us, but rather a created, and therefore human, energy. Therefore Mr. Shackleton’s statement “If someone tells you that we are made up of body, soul and spirit, they are mistaken” is quite correct. We are born body/soul, but the gift of Spirit is a divine prerogative.

    And what does it mean to be created in the image and the likeness of God? You quote it right there from the Catechism: “[A person] is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving him [or herself] and entering into communion with other persons.” Being created in God’s image means that we are relational beings – we relate to ourselves and to other persons, and most intimately, mysteriously, and graciously with the Great Other, who is also personal and relational. Any definition of the person that does not encompass this point is flawed. Thomas Aquinas saw the two highest human “goods” as knowing (intellect) and loving (affectation). Further, he believed that if we can say things about ourselves extrapolated from what we believe God to be, then we can also say things about God from our observation of human nature, since we are created in God’s image and likeness. Therefore, according to him, these would be the highest “goods” in God too. So you could say that in God knowing and loving Godself the Son is begotten and the Spirit proceeds. It is for this reason that he can say that we image God in our intellect (and affectation too). This is not anthropomorphising God as you state. Also remember that theology is a way of trying to understand God, but is in its very nature flawed. Anything we say about God can never encompass the entire reality of the truth that is God. To do that would make us God, since we would understand God. Therefore, every theory about God is merely a reflection, in human language, on one aspect of God and can never be entirely and all-encompassingly “right.”

    Lastly, do not forget that the body/soul union is all-pervasive. That means that the human mind has both a physical and a spiritual element. To be a human peson is to have both a body and a soul – hence the bodily resurrection at the end of time. If we are going to live as human beings in the presence of God, then we need to have a body and a soul. We are not human if one of the two is missing.

  5. Fr. Keogh

    I understand that Mr Shackleton is trying to keep a distinction between human and Divine. Thanks to you Dear Fr. Keogh, I am beginning to wonder especially because God became human 2,000 years ago!

    However, going back to the original question: is the questioner wanting to know if the Holy Spirit resides automatically in every human (enfleshed soul) at birth, or is there a human spirit given at birth? As you say the soul is enfleshed. The soul makes the material body a human person.

    If the soul is breathed into the nostrils of Adam, at that instance he is alive and a person, why do we make such a fuss about the unborn? Either the breathing into the nostrils is taken with a pinch of salt or the soul enters the female egg at the moment it is fertilised by sperm. Genesis tells us that God only found the last of his creation good when he had given Eve to Adam as companion. God did not make a big deal out of Adams enfleshed soul!

    Also, animals have souls but they do not have a rational soul. Yes/No? This could mean that the rational soul cannot be part of a human foetus, because the foetus is totally dependent on the mother for its life and development.

    So my thinking is that the soul is not the sole spiritual element of persons make-up (as you say) because without soul the being is not a human person. The soul makes the material body a person. But what makes the person a spiritual being. Is that also a gift?

    I also understand that everything is gift. Life, faith, Spirit etc. I understand that I/we can do no good except by the grace of God. The question is not about where the fruits of the Divine Spirit originate. The question is: how can Isaiah who knew he was made in the image of God hopefully pray the following:
    At night my soul longs for you and my spirit within me seeks you out. 26:9 NJB

    Other versions: My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. Student bible based on NRV.

    Maybe the African Bible is even better: My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you

    Thank you for the advice about theology etc. but I am not trying to get to an all-encompassingreality about God. I am trying to understand who I am in God (which would encompass every human person)!

    One thing puzzles me: you seem to say the soul is not Divine Energy welling up within us. It is: a created, and therefore human, energy. Any spiritual energy has it source in the Divine yet the spiritual energy which animates the body is a created [has its source in] (by God) BUT human energy!

    Methinks this philosophy is just based on fear and perhaps it would have been fairer for Mr Shackleton to give some pointers for the questioner to go and do some thinking and studying on and pointed out as you did to me that every theory about God is merely a reflection, in human language, on one aspect of God and can never be entirely and all-encompassingly right.

  6. Dear Rosemary,

    The human soul is part of the natural order – it is the way that we have been created by God, whether you want to look at it through the lens of evolutionary theory, or through the lens of a literal reading of the Genesis account. The soul is not divine, instead it is divinised by Christ. If the Holy Spirit were present in the human being from conception, then why the need to Baptise? It is in Baptism that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In saying this, it should also be said that we cannot limit the workings of the Holy Spirit only to the baptised or even the Catholic Church. The Spirit of God blows where (s)he will – how exactly we cannot say.

    And yes, the divine became enfleshed on our world. However, the divinity and the humanity of Jesus never mixed – the usual reference is “like oil and water.” Jesus had to fully encompass both to save us. If he were not divine, then HE would not be able to save us. And if he were not human, then he would not be able to save US. In him is our humanity divinised and drawn to God. The human soul, as part of the natural, created order, can only reach so far. For the soul to transcend the action of God is required. There is only one recorded example of the Holy Spirit being active at the conception of a person, and that is Jesus Christ himself.

    I think that your quotation of Isaiah highlights a problem that makes even Matthew the Evangelist a fallible human being. Here is an example from the prophet Malachi (9:9) – “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just saviour is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” Matthew, eager to show this prophecy fulfilled (and perhaps misunderstanding Hebraic Paralleism), therefore reports the following (21:6-7) – “The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them.” Hold on a sec! Jesus entered Jerusalem straddled over both an ass AND a colt? Surely not!

    Back to Isaiah. When he says that at night my soul longs for you and my spirit within me seeks you out, he is making use of Hebraic Parallesim. What this basically means is that he is saying the same thing twice, but in a different way, to create emphasis. This is even more evident in the student version that you quote from. Therefore, you could read “soul” and “spirit” as referring to the same thing. There are many, many examples of this in scripture, most especially in the book of Psalms. And usually the soul/spirit reference is used in such a way that the two words are interchangeable.

    The one thing that I do not understand in your response to me is that you say this philosophy (it is really a theology) is based on fear. I must admit, I do not get your point. Fear of what? The only “fear” that I could see is the fear that someone may attribute something divine to the human. However, that is a justified fear, do you not think? (For example, this is one of the things preached by the New Age Movement). There is nothing divine about the created order, us included. Even the angels are not divine, even though they are spiritual beings. Why? Because they were also created by God, and so are part of the created order. Everything not divine is given a share inGod’s life as gratuitous gift.

  7. Dear Rosemary,

    I forgot about your other questions! It would seem to me that the soul becomes enfleshed at the moment of conception. However, there are some that would disagree (including the great Thomas Aquinas). They would allow for a number of days to pass after conception before this actually happens. I do not agree. Therefore, the human soul (you can also read “spirit” here if you want to be strictly biblical) is there (even if in potentia) from th moment that life begins. That is why we have to find abortion evil.

    However, I do not think that the Spirit of God resides in that newly formed person. If that person comes to birth, but is not baptised, then I think that the Holy Spirit can work through him/her. However, it is in baptism that the Holy Spirit is given to us, and then resides within us, and works from within us. It is this Holy Spirit that draws us to union with God.

    Unbaptised people can also co-operate with the Holy Spirit working through them, and actively seek union with God. The Church teaches that such people come to salvation too. However, salvation (we are taught) is not possible without baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit. So then, how do they come to salvation if they are not baptised?

    This is where the teaching on baptism by desire comes into play. Those unbaptised people, co-operating with the Holy Spirit working through them and seeking union with God, show through their life and actions that they desire baptism, so the grace of baptism is granted them. This is also true in the case of people wanting to become Christian, but who are martyred for the faith before they can be baptised. This is, for obvious reasons, known as baptism by blood.

  8. Dear Fr Keogh,

    You are a very good teacher! I have been, I think, trying to be the devil’s advocate.

    There is an awful racket going on at the new Durban Stadium and it is irritating me so much that I cannot compose myself to respond.

    Suffice to say for the moment that I had never heard of the concept of Hebrew Parallelism and had also never really noticed the description of Jesus on the ass and the foal. i seem to remember a picture from my youth of the foal being tied to the donkey and walking behind it.

    Thanks for your patience but I am not 100% convinced so I will give it some thought.

    As far as fear goes for the moment, as a primal basic emotion it must colour all Theology or whatever we do not or cannot un derstand completely or trust 100%.

    God Bless

  9. Dear Rosemary,

    Gee, thanks! From you that is high praise indeed.

    God bless you too!
    Fr. J

  10. I see that I was spelling your name wrong. Sorry Fr Keough. I don’t like getting things wrong!

    I composed something but I don’t think I really want to put it out there. Then again this a.m. the reflection led back to why I am still somewhat disgruntled about the whole ‘spirit’ thing.

    Jesus is born with a Divine Nature which naturally includes Holy Spirit. We humans are not born with a Divine Nature therefore without the Holy Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit as Third Person of our triune God blows where it will (s/he) will.

    The Spirit is a gratuitous gift from God for humans. I get that. But at the same time if the Spirit blows where it will then it is merely finite human thinking which comes to a conclusion that: We are not born body, soul and spirit.

    You see, I have this picture in my mind, that the Spirit or spirit (relating back to the Source) is the energy between matter and soul.

    You are probably heartily sick to death of this.

    PS. Funny (or uncanny) that I can pick up from what you write and how you respond to an individual you have never met, the good teacher spirit that you have. :-)