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The Nature of the Soul–1 - Hubert_Luns

The Nature of the Soul–1 - Hubert_Luns

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Published by Hubert Luns
… in Jewish tradition called ‘nefesh’. In Christian circles it is also called the ‘vis animæ inferior’. The other kind we might call supernatural, which the Jewish tradition calls the ‘neshama’, from a Hebrew word meaning ‘breath’.
… in Jewish tradition called ‘nefesh’. In Christian circles it is also called the ‘vis animæ inferior’. The other kind we might call supernatural, which the Jewish tradition calls the ‘neshama’, from a Hebrew word meaning ‘breath’.

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Published by: Hubert Luns on Mar 16, 2012
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 Nature Soul I
 
- 1 -
 
On the Nature of the Soul 
 
(1)
 
What now follows is largely an updated version of what was once Natural  Philosophy as taught inthe cathedral schools and universities during the Middle Ages. Because of modern scientific thinking this philosophy, that was truly a philosophy of life, has been replaced by the concept of the soulless universe, atopic we will discuss later.
1 – The specific and the personal soul 
According to Michael Stebbins in the HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism:«« …the notion of soul that has predominated in Catholic theology since thelate thirteenth century is that of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). FollowingAristotle, he conceived of soul in general as the pattern of interrelatedness(substantial form) that integrates the many parts and processes of an organisminto a functioning whole. In human beings, this integrating or formal element,according to Thomas, manifests itself in several orders of activity, from thevegetative up to the rational order of activity. In this view, the human soul isnaturally and intrinsically related to the body; therefore it is not a spiritualcaptive in a material prison. »»Each human being has but one soul, which does not contradict the notion that beforethe infusion of the immortal soul into the foetus there might exist a mortal soul. Wemay presume that at the infusion of the immortal soul the mortal fuses instanta-neously into the immortal to become one indivisible soul. That a (mortal) soul existsin the human embryo as from conception relates to morphogenesis, as the creation of form and image typically belong to the realm of subconsciousness (the modern termfor soul). Understandably, within the one immortal soul made of the two components – the animal and the supernatural (Genesis 1:27 and 3:21) – contradictory urges willemerge. But again, these are to be addressed by will-power and the indispensable in-gredient of divine grace. I prefer to call the mortal constituent
specific soul
and the
 
 Nature Soul I
 
- 2 -
 
immortal
personal soul
, for the first name distinguishes between the collective andspecific field of activity whereas the latter stresses the importance of the free willand the quality of self-consciousness.
2 – Materialistic metaphors fail to give a comparison
Any form of life, including the vegetative, should have an active or specific compo-nent as counterpart to the reactive collective, in order to act adequately on the dif-ferent levels of being, levels which include the ecological, metabolic, immunologi-cal, perceptive, instinctive, latent and adaptive levels. We could also imagine condi-tions where the relation has been reversed and the collective subconscious will be theactive partner instead, having clothed itself then, as it were, with a personality.By ‘form of life’ I mean something very large that includes sub-units or sub-systemswhich, according to the holistic principle, have been split off from a collectivity. Ho-listic means that the relation between collectivity and specificity is reciprocal: thecollectivity may be seen as a unit, just like its underlying specificity, and yet the twocannot be separated. After all, the specific is as essential to an explanation of thewhole as the whole is to an explanation of the specific. For this kind of structure ma-terialistic metaphors fail to give an adequate method of comparison. The foregoingmatches up wonderfully well with the theological concept of the three-in-one God,for just as God is simultaneously trinitary and absolutely unique, the multiplicity andunicity in the surrounding world do not represent a contradiction since they are bothimage of and participation in the divine.This means that we may talk of the soul as of a white corpuscle, but also as of an or-gan (like the liver) or the soul of a plant or soul of a population. For instance, a po- pulation of bees starts to act as an organism as from 30 individuals (Lavie and Roth).This approach fits very well with the definition of morphic fields from British bota-nist Rupert Sheldrake as explained in “The Presence of the Past”. He sees morphicfields as a matrix or vast interconnecting web applying to whole ecosystems as easilyas they do to their underlying species, and to species as well as to their divisions, andto divisions as well as to individuals, and to individuals as well as to their living con-stituents. He even refuses to ignore inorganic matter in the form of entire planets andgalactic systems. He sees it as a resonating organism that, unhindered by time andspace, includes the whole spectrum of the universe. And he is right!
3 – The difference between biological and human intelligence
The specific soul is the animal or ‘natural’ kind of awareness, which the Jewish tra-dition calls the ‘nefesh’. In Christian circles it is also called the ‘vis animæ inferior’.The other kind we might call supernatural, which the Jewish tradition calls the ‘ne-shama’, from a Hebrew word meaning ‘breath’. The ruach or ‘spirit’ is a conse-quence of the neshama. If someone says: “An animal has no soul” he means that ananimal has no soul in the superior meaning of the word soul; and really, the diffe-rence between the vis animæ and the supernatural soul is so great that this statementcannot be considered wrong. In our approach, however, the similarity between thesetwo is accentuated, which fits the biblical usage of nefesh – meaning soul or brea-thing creature, but also fish or ghost.That nefesh does not refer to an immortal soul can be seen in the way this word isused in the Bible. In Genesis 2:7, where in the encounter with the divine presence theneshama or breath of life is blown into what has to become Adam, it causes thenefesh (corpse or being) to come alive. In Genesis 1:24, referring to animals, nefesh
 
 Nature Soul I
 
- 3 -
 
is translated as creature and in Leviticus 21:11, in reference to a human corpse, it istranslated as body (do not go near any dead body). Nefesh is derived from a Hebrewword meaning ‘to dwell’. Together with the physical form a specific soul (nefesh)constitutes biological intelligence, which man shares with the animals and which heuses to regulate the body and matters connected with the senses and the dispositionof temporal things.As far as biological intelligence is concerned, the extremely venomous Chironexfleckeri or box jellyfish (cubozoan) found along the shores of Australia is a case in point. This animal is situated near the threshold between plant and animal life. It has24 appendages, arranged in clusters of six, one on each side of its cuboid body. Eachcluster contains two types of organs – four simple pits plus two sophisticated eyes,anatomically similar to a human eye with a lens, a retina and a cornea with the abili-ty to distinguish colour. The pits are just basic light-sensing devices similar to thosefound in the common jellyfish. The eyes are something else. They display an excel-lent ability to perceive distinct objects – to be aware of them – and act accordingly.Yet the creature completely lacks a brain! Each cluster of contraptions has a denseknot of nerve cells behind it, but nothing more. How the sometimes contradictoryinformation is integrated and leads to appropriate action is anyone’s guess. As ima-ges on the living retina can be conceived as thoughts in their own right, they do notneed a brain to process them. The processing unit could very well be the immaterial(sub)conscious for which images are the primary means of communication. Des-cartes’ precept thus becomes: “video ergo sum”, or: I see, therefore I am (instead of:I think, therefore I am).This leads to the question: “Can we explain the superiority of human mind?” Defini-tely not. In 1972 a series of articles by Robert Kuhn on this topic appeared entitled:“Why the vast difference between animal brain and human mind”. He writes:(1) «« Only recently have the multiple academic disciplines composing brainresearch acquired the full range of information necessary to properly evaluatethe human brain. (…) The slim superiority of the human brain structure over that of the animal, whether cetacean or primate(2), cannot possibly account for the unbridgeable gulf that exists between the uniquely unrestrained human mindand (highly) (…) instinctive animal brain.(3)Therefore, a NON-physicaladditive must augment the human brain, converting it into the human mind,since no physical component exists that can account for it. [He makes the pertinent remark] that the self-consciousness of man may not at first seem to bevery different from the consciousness of animals, but this difference is perhapsthe most crucial distinction between the human mind and animal brain. »»
4 – The infusion of the human soul 
Assuming collective and specific components of the soul, we also have to assumethat at the very moment of conception the temporal specific is infused in the human

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