The Human Soul
by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)
Single (1) Natural Organism
Those who have studied the old Baltimore Catechism will remember the definition of Man as a Creature composed of
Body and Soul, and made in the Image and
Likeness of God. Man, then, is composed of a Material Element (the
Body) and a Spiritual Element (the
Soul) not as Two (2) Independent
Elements that happen to be joined-together, but as Two (2) Incomplete Elements that
need each other to form a Complete Whole, namely, the Unity (1) of the Human Person. As the
new Catholic Catechism explains, Spirit and Matter, in Man, are not Two Natures
United, but rather their Union forms a Single Nature (CCC
365). While the Soul after Death can exist
apart from the Body, there is an Incompleteness in its condition apart-from the
Body until it will be Reunited with the Body
at the End of the World. Our Salvation, then, will be Fully Realized only with the
Resurrection of the Body, when the Whole Man will enjoy the
Beatitude of the life-to-come.
In the Account of Creation in the Book of Genesis, reference is made to both of these Essential Elements in
Man. The Biblical Account expresses this reality in Symbolic Language when it affirms that the Lord God
formed Man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the Breath of Life, and Man became a living being
(Genesis 2:7; CCC 362). The
Soul of Man, though unseen, is just as real as the
Body. It is unfortunate however, that Man is often much more aware-of and concerned-about the care of his
Body and its needs, than of the Soul, even
though the Welfare of the Soul is by-far the more-important. It is the condition of the
Soul at the End of our Life on Earth that determines our
Eternal Lot, not that of the Body.
Both Philosophy and Theology contribute to our Knowledge of the Soul. While Theology
relies on God's Word as it comes to us through
Revelation, Philosophy can tell us much about the Soul from the
Light of Natural Reason.
Made to God's Image and Likeness
God is a Pure Spirit of
Infinite Knowledge and Power.
He is the Source of all that is Good and
Beautiful and True.
Infinitely Happy and at Peace within
Himself, in His Boundless Love and
Goodness He Willed to bring-into-being Creatures capable of sharing
His Own Eternal Beatitude. After creating the Physical Universe and
all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds . . . God said:
Let Us make Man in Our Image, after Our Likeness'" (Genesis1:24,26). In what sense are we made to
God's Image and Likeness?
If we consider this question from what we know from Psychology, we have no difficulty in seeing the Likeness to consist in Man's
Spiritual Nature, his Intellect and
Will which separate him from the rest of Animal Creation. As the Catholic
Catechism explains, the "'soul' refers to the innermost aspect of Man, that which is of greatest
value in him, that by which he is most especially in God's Image"
(CCC 363). The whole Science of Psychology, however, was entirely
unknown to the Writer of Genesis, who did not have our Concept of the Rational
Soul and its Spiritual Faculties. For that reason, Scripture Scholars tell
us that the Image of God found in Man - in the Mind of the Author of Genesis -
was Man's Dominion over Creation making him like God Who has Absolute Dominion over all.
That is, Man is given a Share in God's Lordship, yet Subject to
God's Supreme Rule.
"Let Us make Man in Our Own Image, after Our Likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle, over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground"
"God created everything for Man, but Man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all
Creation back to Him" (CCC 353).
It is in being created in God's Image, making us capable of sharing in
God's Own Life through Divine Grace, that
constitutes the Unique Dignity of the Human Person.
"Being in the Image of God, the Human Individual possesses the Dignity of a Person, who is not just
something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion
with other persons. And he is called by Grace to a Covenant with his Creator, to offer Him a response of Faith and Love that no other
Creature can give in his stead" (CCC 357).
The Soul - The Source of Life
The common Classification of Living Things in this World is: Plant, Animal and Man; and this Classification is made according to the
special kinds of Activity that each of these Grades of Life is capable of. Each of these Categories has a Principle of Life (or
Soul) which is the Source of the Activity proper to that Category. For example, Plant Life
is capable of Nutrition, Growth and Reproduction. Animal Life is capable of all the Activities of Plant Life - plus the Activity
of Sensation and Local Motion. Human Life (the Rational Animal) is capable of all the
Activities of the Brute Animal plus the Power of Reasoning, of Conceiving Abstract
Ideas, and of Free-Will. For example, a Dog can recognize one Individual as Friendly, and
another as Mean; but the Human Mind can Conceive and Understand the Abstract Concepts
of Friendliness and Meanness.
Thus, there is a vast difference between the Principle of Life (the Soul) in Man, and
that in Plants and Brute Animals. For the Soul of Man is a
Spiritual Being, created Immediately by God at the Moment of Conception,
is Independent of Matter, and lives-on after the Dissolution of the
Body; whereas, the Principle of Life in Plants and Brute Animals is Material, entirely dependent on Matter, ceases-in-being
at the Death of the Plant or Animal. Moreover, the Human
Soul, a Spiritual Being, is capable of being
Perfected and Elevated to a Higher Order-of-Being, a sharing in the very
Life of God through Sanctifying Grace.
"Of all visible creatures, only Man is able to know and love his Creator. . . . he alone is called to share,
by knowledge and love, in Gods Own Life. It was for this End that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for
his Dignity" (CCC 356).
The Human Soul, therefore, is the Ultimate Interior Principle by which Man lives, and is the
Indispensable Source from which all his Human Operations flow, namely: (of the Body)
Nutrition, Growth, Reproduction and Local Motion; (of the Soul) the
Spiritual Activities by which we:
Know and Understand
Reason to new Truths, and
Make Judgments as to what is Right and Wrong.
In all these Functions of the Intellect we mirror the
All-Wise and All-Knowing God. The other
Spiritual Power of the Soul is that of the
Will by which we Deliberately and Freely Choose to act or
not to act - in which we mirror the Infinite Freedom that
The Soul and Its Faculties
When we speak of the Soul as the Source of Life and all of Man's Activities, we mean
the Soul and its Faculties or Powers. For, in itself, the
Soul is not immediately Operative (Summa I,77,1). That is, the
Soul is the Source of Life for the Body,
but not its Spiritual Activities of Thinking and Choosing. For this it needs the
Spiritual Faculties or Powers of Operation -
Intellect and Will - which
Flow from the Essence of the Soul.
(Resides in the Essence of the Soul)
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)
Sanctifying Grace/Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Angels are Persons also, made in the Image and Likeness of
God first elevates Man to the Supernatural Order via
the Sacrament of Baptism, which infuses Sanctifying Grace into the
Essence of the Soul. The other Six (6) Sacraments
can then elevate the Soul even Higher.
The Supernatural Organism is the Ensemble of Effects exceeding the Powers of the Created
Universe and Gratuitously produced directly by God for the purpose of raising the Rational Creature
above its Natural Sphere to a God-like Life and Destiny.
When we consider the Faculties of the Soul, we can see why
God made us in His Image and Likeness.
God is LIFE (John 14:6),
and it is by Reason of the Spiritual Soul of Man that
he is capable of sharing in the Life of God through
God is LOVE (1John 4:8),
and it is by means of the Will that Man is capable of
Loving God and Sharing in God's Love.
God is TRUTH (John 14:6),
and it is by means of the Intellect that Man is capable of
Knowing God and sharing in God's
Knowledge. In other words, since God is a
Pure Spirit, only a Spiritual Being could share in the
Life and Love and
Truth that pertains to God's very Essence.
When we speak of sharing in Godís Life and Love
and Truth, we are referring to a Soul in the
State of Grace. By reason of this Divine Gift
of Grace there is in Man a Supernatural Organism made up of
Grace and the Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy
Spirit, parallel to and perfecting the Natural Organism made up of the Soul
and its Faculties of Intellect and Will.
Just as the Soul is not immediately Operative, but needs the Powers of
Intellect and Will to Think and Choose, so
Grace (which Divinizes the
Soul) is not Immediately Operative, but needs the
Infused Powers (Infused Virtues and Gifts) to
Perfect and Elevate the
Intellect and Will.
Father Antonio Royo, O.P. describes this parallel:
Grace, which is the Formal Principle of Supernatural Life, is rooted in the very Essence of the Soul
in a Static Manner. The Virtues and Gifts which are the Dynamic Elements of the Supernatural Organism, reside in the Human Faculties
or Powers precisely to Elevate them to the Supernatural Order. Sanctifying Grace is the Formal Principle of our Supernatural Organism,
just as the Soul is the Formal Principle of our Natural Organism (Theology of the Christian Life)
Faculties of the Soul enabling
Man's Union with God
God is Life
Man is elevated to share God's Life via Grace in the
Essence of the Soul
God is Love
Man can Love God and share in God's Love via
Acts of the Will
God is Truth
Man can Know God and share in His Knowledge/Truth
via the Intellect
When we speak of sharing in Godís Life and Love and
Truth, we are referring to a Soul in the State of
The Soul Created by God
Not only did God create the Heavens and Earth and the various Plants, Animals and Man,
etc. at the Beginning of Time, but the Work of Creation still continues and will continue until the End of Time. For each time that
Human Conception takes place, God creates another Human
Soul and Infuses it into the Minute Fertilized Element that is capable of developing to Full Maturity. So the
Soul does not exist before the Body,
as do the Angels, One (1) of
Whom is assigned as Guardian of the new Human Person, but comes into being at the
very Instant of Conception. But what about the First Man? According to the Scriptural Account our
First Parents came into being not through Human Conception, but through the Direct
Action of God. Did God accomplish this at
One Time, or in-Stages? Whether God formed the
Body of the First Man in
One Act, or by an Unfolding Process (under the Special Guidance of God) so that
the Soul was Created and Infused into the Body
at a Later Stage of Formation, the Church has not made a Formal Statement on the
matter. What the Church has Emphatically Stated is that the Human
Soul of every Human Being is created by
God, constituting a Human Person.
Miracle of Life
From the Moment of Conception, 46 Chromosomes with 30,000 Genes combine to
determine all of your physical characteristics: sex; facial features; body type and the color of your hair, eyes and skin.
Even more amazing, Intelligence and Personality - the way you think and feel, your talents, tastes, athletic abilities and more - were
already in place within your Unique Genetic Code.
At the Moment of Conception, you were already essentially and uniquely you - no bigger than a grain of sugar.
Also, at the Moment of Conception, Almighty God creates our Immortal Soul and
fuses it to our Minute Body. There it remains as a fountain/receptacle of God's
Love for us, until we die and see Him Face-to-face.
Scripture Scholars do not understand the Days of Creation in the same sense that we
understand the word Day. Whether the forming of the
Body of the First Man was done in a Short Period of Time or over a Long Period of
Development, is not important as far as our Faith is concerned. As Pope
Pius XII declared in his
Encyclical Humani Generis:
The Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of
Human Sciences and Sacred Theology, research and discussions on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to
the Doctrine of Evolution, insofar as it inquires into the origin of the Human Body as coming from pre-existent and living matter -
for Catholic Faith obliges us to hold that Souls are immediately created by God (n,36)
In other words, the Church is more concerned about What
God did in this matter, than How
He did it.
The Spirituality of the Soul
A Spirit is a Being without a Body that
has an Intellect and Free Will. A
Pure Spirit is one that has no dependence on Matter either for its Existence or any
of its Activities. God is Uncreated Pure Spirit;
the Angels are Created Pure Spirits. The Human
Soul is a Spirit which, while not dependent
on the Body for its Existence, is dependent on the
Body (during life in this World) for its Operation. While it exists apart from the
Body after the Death of the Body,
it retains a Natural Affinity for the Body to which it will be reunited at the End of the World.
Since the Soul is Spiritual with no
Material Parts, it has no Size, no Shape, no Weight, nothing that could be observed by the Senses.
It cannot be Measured, nor can it be Divided. While the Soul, in itself, is not in
space, it can operate in space, in the sense that it is the Spiritual Source of Life that Vitalizes
every part of the Human Body. It is in this sense that the
Soul is where it Operates.
Because the Soul is Spiritual, it is
Immortal. Not only can the Body be
Destroyed, but of its very Nature it is destined for Dissolution.
But the Soul has no Material Elements that can
Decompose or be Destroyed. It comes into being by the Creative
Hand of God, and only that same Divine Power
can cause it to cease to exist. God implanted in the Human
Soul a longing for Happiness which will be Perfectly Fulfilled only
in the Life to Come.
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)
Lower Nature -
Higher Nature -
Sanctifying Grace/Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit
While the Soul is Independent of the Body
in its existence, it Operates in and through the Body. When
God created the First Man and Woman, there was Perfect
Harmony within the Whole Being of both of them. All of Man's Lower Nature
(Appetites, Inclination and
Passions of the Body) was Perfectly Subject
to his Higher Nature (Intellect and
Will) and Man's Higher Nature was Perfectly
Subject to the Plan and Will of God.
But as we know that Harmony was Gravely Marred. When our
First Parents Rebelled against the
Plan and Will of the Creator, the Source of that Harmony was
Lost - causing a Rebellion within Man, that
is, the Rebellion of his Lower Nature against
the Higher. As a result of that Revolt against
God, our First Parents
Lost Sanctifying Grace by which the
Soul was Elevated and Perfected
to share in the very Nature of God, and their Intellect
(which was Obscured) and their Will (which was Weakened) were no longer in control of the
Appetites, Inclinations and
Passions of the Body. Mans life on
Earth became a Warfare (Job 7:1), the
Flesh Rebelling against the Spirit
(Galatians 5:17), and his Higher Nature more inclined to seek his own
Will rather than Gods Will
The whole of the Christian Life is a Struggle to restore the Order and Harmony that was
Lost by the Fall of our
First Parents. But this will be realized only in the measure that there is restored the Subjection of our
Lower Nature (Bodily Appetites and
Inclinations) to our Higher Nature
(Intellect and Will), and the Subjection of
our Higher Nature to God. This, however, is
possible only with frequent Prayer for the help of
God's Grace, and True Penance
and Discipline of our Self-Seeking Tendencies.
Struggle/Conflict of Appetites (2) and Wills (2)
The Superior Will of Man is made to Lovingly
serve the Divine Will of God
Solely motivated by Love
Interior Battle of Wills
Man's Superior Will being placed, as it were, Mid-Way between the
Divine Will, which is above It - and the
Inferior Will, or Will of the Senses,
which is beneath It, is continually Assaulted in
an Interior Battle of Wills by both Appetites and Wills; each seeking in turn to Attract and
Subdue, and Bring It into Obedience.
Because of Original Sin, the Sensual
Appetites and Inferior Will tend to serve their own Desires
Commonly described by the Words: Body-Appetite,
The Soul - Temple of God
God created us in His own likeness, not only
that He might share with us His Own Divine Life
through Grace, but that the Three (3)
Divine Persons might come to Dwell in the depths of the
Soul. What a Great Mystery is this. The
Creator of the entire Universe delights to dwell in every Soul in the
State of Grace. Yet, we can become so immersed in the Externals of Life that we are
completely oblivious of the Divine Persons, hidden
but Truly Present, in our Inmost Being. The Lord
waits for us to be attentive to His Presence; to breath a
Prayer of Adoration, to express a Word of Thanks, to seek Pardon for some Failing,
to ask Help to overcome some Weakness. He
awaits our Attention to speak to us; but how often we are so Impatient to give our attention to Other Matters, that
His Voice is drowned-out by the Clamor of Superficial and Passing Demands.
Do you not know that you are Temples of God,
and the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1Corinthians 3:16)