Weekly Series On the Soul, Part 5

Welcome to part 5 of the Weekly Series on the Soul. We’ve been looking at Dom Alois Wiesinger’s Occult Phenomena in the Light of Theology, and it’s been a fascinating read. For me, anyway. I hope it has been for you, as well. After all those years I spent wandering around, seeking esoteric knowledge, finding REAL knowledge has been a source of much joy. REAL spirituality, not the pablum that’s been pawned off on so many of us, especially in the last century until now. More Catholics should know these things and that’s why I’ve been sharing it here on the blog. (There will be a link to a free copy of the book at the end of this post.)

Now I am in no way knowledgeable enough to even pretend to teach this material to anybody, so all I’m doing is sharing the text with you. Also, this is the last planned installment in the series that quotes this particular book until I find out for sure that it is in the public domain.

Chapter 3: The Body-Free Soul, continued

Incidentally such mutual influencing of one another by spirit and matter is continually taking place—even when we lift our hand. The act of the will is a spiritual thing and a physico- material action is carried out. Contrariwise when somebody speaks, sound waves are created which means that matter is set in motion, and this in its turn calls forth the spiritual activity of thought. This mutual influencing of one another on the part of matter and spirit is so familiar to us that we take it for granted. There is no new principle here that we need establish. Certainly there is a diflference between such mutual influencing when it occurs within a life-process and when it occurs outside of it. Yet we understand as little of the real nature of the thing in the one case as we do in the other.

Modern medicine teaches us that our mental life influences our bodies—in neurosis, hysteria, compulsive actions and com- plexes, in psychotherapy and even in abnormal states. Here we have the influencing of matter by the spirit—admittedly by way of the bodily organs, but for all that the influence is a fact. From here to direct non-organic control is only a step. That is why theologians speak of such an influence over matter—for instance Heinrich (Dogmatik, X), Gutberlet (Katholik, 1901, II) and Lercher (Dogmatica, IV, p. 703).

Souls in the next world can be influenced by material fire, which seems to suggest that a reverse process is possible.

Occult Phenomena in the Light of Theology, Dom Alois Wiesinger, OCSO, p 26.

We can think of spiritual beings who have no kind of natural relation to any body. Such are the pure spirits, and in heaven the angels have precisely this character. Yet where the angels are concerned there is no reason for supposing that they cannot by means of their natural powers act directly upon material objects and move them from one place to another. If this were not so, then according to St Thomas any connection between the body and the world of the spirits would be impossible, for every influence upon the bodily world is connected with the movement of bodies from one place to another. As Aristotle teaches, such movement from place to place is the first of all movements and is connected with all bodily changes. Without the power to move bodies the spirits would have no power of putting themselves in touch with the physical world at all. Yet it would be un- natural if the orders of being that are subordinate one to the other, as the physical world is subordinate to the world of the spirit, were without the power to establish any con- nection with each other. St Thomas therefore concludes that by virtue of their natural powers the spirits of the next world are capable of moving bodies in this one. (Feldmann, Okkulte Philosophie, p. 73.

Ibid., 26, 27.

All this applies equally to souls that are wholly free of the body and to those that are partly free, nor can we here speak of an actio in distans, since the spirits are present there where their will is effective (cf St Thomas III, Contr, gen., c. 103-107). To be absolutely accurate, St Thomas says (I, q. no, a. 3, ad 3) that angels can move material bodies, but that the power of the soul does not extend beyond its own body. I do not quarrel with this at all. St Thomas, however, is speaking of the soul in its normal state, when it is completely united to the body, not of the soul when it is partly separated from the body, for according to the measure of that separation it enjoys the powers of a pure spirit.

Ibid., 27.

It is in the light of all this that we can, among other things, explain the reappearance of the dead; unhindered by the body the soul seeks to follow its natural connections and appears to persons who are closely connected with it. Dr Robert Klimsch {Leben die Toten?) reports many such cases, while Emil Mattiesen in his three volumes Das Uberleben des Todes has collected a large number of well-authenticated cases of reappearance on the part of the dead, including some where an actual body was visible that could be seen by animals.

Ibid., 27, 28

An example from Schneider may be quoted here:

Ibid., 29

A most remarkable and moving short story [he writes] is to be found in Sebastian Brunner’s Woher? Wohin? Brunner received it directly from the mouth of the man to whom the incident happened. This last was a man called J. K. Weber, a pupil and a favourite of Bishop Sailer. He was at that time chaplain at Mittelberg im Allgau. It was a cold, stormy, winter day. Weber was seated at dinner with his parish priest when there entered to them a poor ragged boy who begged pitifully for alms. He was admitted and given food. He thanked them and wanted to go, but felt so weak and ill that he could not move from the place. Weber suggested that a room in which Capuchin monks used sometimes to pass the night should be put at the boy’s disposal. The parish priest agreed, and Weber put the child to bed and called a doctor. The doctor declared that a violent fever was developing. [The child was an orphan and had no one to take care of him. The priest nursed him back to health and instructed him in the Faith. The boy was very receptive and learned the Faith well.] The illness, however, grew to a raging fever which ended in the autumn with the boy’s death.

During the following winter Weber had to visit a sick person at a place an hour away from where he hved. It was night when he returned, and snow had fallen, covering the roads and making them unrecognizable. The priest lost his way. Suddenly there was the sound of a crack beneath him, and he found that he was in the middle of a frozen pond. The ice had broken and Weber sank up to half his height into the water and could find no ground beneath his feet. He vainly sought to save himself in this dangerous situation, and was giving himself up for lost when he suddenly saw a bright light. The boy whom he had nursed, and whose eyes he had closed, was floating in the air above him; he offered Weber his hand, drew him out of the water and brought him back to firm ground. Then with outstretched arm he pointed in the direction that Weber was to go, and disappeared. The rescued man followed the directions he had received and came safely home. Next morning he went out to the pond where he had been in such danger. His footsteps were visible in the snow. He saw the broken ice and found that it was at the deepest part of the pond. Brunner speaks of the profound impression that the event had made on Weber, as it did on himself when it was thus related to him. (Der neuere Geisterglaube, p. 537.)

Ibid., 29

(Other examples are cited below when the subject of ghosts is dealth with, p. 224.)

Let us nevertheless draw attention again to the fact that these powers occur in a lower degree in human souls than in angels, since human souls are spirits of a lower order. Further, it should be noted that I am predicating these powers of the soul, not to furnish proof for the genuineness of apparitions of the dead at spiritualist seances, but to demonstrate stage by stage the powers of pure spirits, of souls that are freed from their bodies, and finally of the soul that is still joined to the body but in certain exceptional cases achieves a partial freedom therefrom, a state in which such acts as these are possible, at least in an imperfect form.

Souls that are free from their bodies also resemble pure spirits in the matter of the will, particularly in the firmness of their decisions and in the matter of noopneustia. This influence which spirits can exert upon one another is immediate and direct, and arises from their character of pure spirits ; it is so great that theologians have sometimes been impelled to deny its existence, because they thought that by reason of it spirits would forfeit their character of free and independent beings. Fr Gredt, O.S.B., writes:

This influence could only occur knowingly and deliberately. If therefore a created spirit could thus act on the under- standing (and on the will) of another, that other would be directly subject to the will of the first which could move its understanding and its will in any way it pleased. It is, he’s ever, a contradiction to suppose that a being endowed witl understanding could thus be subjected to another creature. (Die aristotelisch-thomistiche Philosophie, I, 390.)

Ibid., 29, 30.

Even so there is nothing contradictory in the idea that in t spirit world, both in regard to illumination (see p. i8) and to movement (Lepicier, p. 53), there should be an ordered hierarchy, or that within that hierarchy the higher should continually influence the lower, for the result of this is that a great harmonious whole comes into being, one elevating the other rather than subjecting it, strengthening it, not enslaving but confirming and perfecting it. It really will not do to deny the existence of this power simply because it appears so over- whelmingly great ; if that power did not exist, all intercourse between spirits, all interchange of thought and communication of the will, such as there must be in an ordered multitude, would become impossible. The theologians definitely tell us that the angels speak, and it is a fact of much the same kind that the wills of spirits can be influenced. This explains many religious mysteries to us, it also explains a number of phenomena which we cannot understand in any other way— telepathy, for instance, and other facts of the superconscious.

Ibid., 30.

Here ends the second part of Chapter Three, The Body-Free Soul.

Thank you for reading. I hope you’re enjoying your visit to the blog. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, may the Lord bless you and may His peace be always with you.

Notes and Links

  • Occult Phenomena in the Light of Theology: Get a free PDF copy at archive.org. There are also other formats of the book at archive.org. (The EPUB there is just about useless as far as I’m concerned. It’s full of OCR errors. Ugh.)
  • Image credits: 1. The Mass, Where Heaven meets Earth, also the Communion of Saints, showing the Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Militant, artist unknown. 2. Saint Peter raises Tabitha, by Fabrizio Santafede, from Wikimedia, public domain.
    • I chose these images to show that the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught that the soul continues after the body dies, and that the “soul-sleep” concept is alien to her. The body may be in the ground, but the soul is not.
    • I also chose them because I invariably get comments here or on Twitte or somewhere about how there is no such thing as a soul. I think I need to do a post about that specifically. Soon.

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