+JMJ+ Welcome to part 33 of our weekly series on the soul. Before we pick up where we left off in our text, The Unseen World: An Exposition Of Catholic Theology in its Relation to Modern Spiritism by A. H. M. Cardinal Lépicier, I want to take a few minutes to talk about spiritism. Should I have done that before now? Yep. But I didn’t realize I needed to cuz I really thought we–I thought I–knew what it was. And I did. Sorta. (Notes and links are at the end of this post.)
Despite my years in the New Age movement, I never looked much into mediums, and séances and the paranormal. My dad was very interested in it, but I’ve pretty much steered clear of it, partly out of fear (fear, yes, I admit it, see my post, Did I ever tell you I saw a ghost?), partly out of lack of interest. Mostly because it all seemed so lacking in rationality. Whenever I heard someone making outlandish pronouncements (think Ruth Montgomery’s walk-ins, more on that in a moment), all I could think was, says who, how do you know, how can you sound so sure, why do you accept that idea so easily but reject saner sounding things out of hand? (And, yes, atheists and even non-Catholic Christians ask the same thing of me regarding Catholicism, but that’s a subject for a whole other series of posts, which I might do at some point down the line.)
The closest I came to looking into spiritualism or spiritism (and I thought they were the same thing even as late as when I began this part of the series) was when I read a couple of books by Ruth Montgomery (famous for Strangers Among Us, the book wherein she wrote of her notion of walk-ins, that this or that person’s soul can vacate a body and depart this life and another person’s soul enter that body and take it over—the body being merely a shell, in this way of thinking, a most un-Catholic way of thinking of a human person, which is a union of body and soul), and a couple by Edgar Cayce. I never could make heads nor tails of Cayce and finally gave up.
Last week during part 32 we came across the word perispirit, you may remember, and via that word, I found material on spiritism as opposed to spiritualism, and today, looking through that material, I fell down a rabbit hole I had not known existed. Not only had I thought that spritualism and spiritism were the mostly same thing, I didn’t know that either spiritualism or spiritism had any doctrine, much less that spiritism had its own.
And I had no idea that much of spiritism passes itself off as a form of Christianity. People really try to do that and many fall for it, I kid you not. Some of it is counterfeit Pentecostal, some is one or another counterfeit some other brand of Protestantism, and there are even forms that are obviously influenced by Catholicism, at least in outer appearances. I had no idea.
And this from the Universal Life Church Monastery website. (I stumbled across this site a few years ago but I forgot about it until now. I think a friend had told me that a relative was involved in it.)
“ Spiritism has five main points of doctrine followed by some further beliefs in relation to Jesus, evolution, karma, and communications with the spiritual world.” [Counterfeit, New Age Christianity. But I repeat myself.]Spiritism – Univesal Life Church Monastery.
So this is what Cardinal Lépicier is talking about when he says Catholic Theology in its Relation to Modern Spiritism. Live and learn. Since I left the New Age I know it’s been getting more and more mainstream, but somehow I keep forgetting how much it’s growing in size and scope, too. Spiritism began in France, the literature says, but it has a large following in Brazil. And it’s also growing more popular in English-speaking countries. The books and videos I found today made me shake my head. I almost felt like giving up this series because the problem out there in the world is just so big and widespread, and it’s a lot like playing whack-a-mole, only it’s a ten-headed hydra-hybrid-Gorgon monster.
Now we’ll get back to our text, picking up on page 96.
Survival of the Human Soul After Death
“The survival of the human soul after death is…a tenet of Catholic Theology…Materialists are an exception to the universal acceptation of this truth, but their dissent, if not prompted by private interest, must be pronounced to originate in their ignorance of the spiritual nature of the human soul in relation to corruption and death.”
“Given a substance which has a spiritual action proper to itself, that is an action not depending intrinsically on compound matter, such a substance must itself be spiritual, that is not composed of matter nor depending on matter, for an operation cannot be more perfect than the principle from which it emanates. Now the human soul has a spiritual operation proper to itself, which is under- standing and willing, which does not intrinsically depend on compound matter. Consequently it cannot itself be composed of matter or depending on matter. No what is death, but a dissolution of the elements which come together to compose a whole, a corruption of the essence of that whole? And how can a being that is spiritual and therefore has no part be subjected to dissolution and corruption?”Ibid., 96-97.
“[T]he partisans of the spiritualistic theory are with us in this respect, so that the only difference between us and them is as to the way in which the soul exists after death, and the manner in which it can exercise its intelligent and activepower. The whole difference between the spiritistic and Catholic theories lies in the different conception of the state of the human soul after death.
“It should be observed here that we are speaking in this connection of the state of the human soul after death, quite apart from what the Catholic Church teaches concerning its final destiny.”Ibid., 98. [I’m not sure he’s using the terms spiritualistic and spiritistic interchangeably there, but it does seem that way, doens’t it?]
Next, Cardinal Lépicier is going to discuss the natural knowledge and “natural state of the soul from the question of its final destiny…”
How the Human Personality subsists after Death
“But before we inquire into the nature of the knowledge and power which the human soul natu- rally possesses after death, it is necessary to state how the human individuality or personality can be said to preserve its identity after death, for what we are here about to say presupposes the substantial identity of our personality in life and after death, and could never fit in with a system, however elaborate it may seem, which teaches the absorption, after death, of each individual personality into one great whole as is the case with the Nirvana of Bouddha [spelling in the original], or the ascension of the discarnate soul towards a substantially different state as repeatedly asserted in spiritistic circles.”Ibid., 99.
“Perhaps there is no notion that is more common among men, and yet more difficult to define, than that of individuality or personality. As a matter of fact these two words mean the same thing. When we speak of man, however, the word personality is more fitly employed than the word individuality, which latter word is used in connection with lower forms of life or even with inorganic beings. As we are here dealing with the higher form of life, viz. intellectual life, it is, the term personality that we propose to employ, and of which we shall now endeavour to give an exact notion, with the object of showing how human personality can be said to exist substantially identical after death, though somewhat modified.
“Now if our personality comprehends both body and soul how can it be said to subsist after death ? The body exists no longer, at least as a human body united to the soul, and yet there remains a sort of personality, for even then the Ego continues to subsist, to think, to will and to answer to another’s call. However, it cannot be denied that the personality is then somewhat changed. There is a kind of deficiency in the Ego. If the Ego be composed of body and soul, the absence of the body has in some way impaired its entirety; in other words man as man subsists no longer, because the soul which now alone subsists, is not man.Ibid., 100-101.
He then discusses the difference between the human soul and the angelic substance. The human soul is ordained to union with a human body, while it is an angel’s nature to be free of matter and all substantial union with matter.
“The natural relation of each soul to its own body is the precise cause of the difference of one soul from another: it gives, as it were, to each distinct soul its characteristic mark, so that each soul can be said to bear upon itself, in some way, the impress of the body, although it be nobler than the body, and the body dependent on the soul, not the soul on the body. This is the reason why, in the present state of life, we understand nothing except with the concurrence of phantasms or sensible images, although thought is widely different from and far surpasses phantasm or imagination, whereas the angelic beings do not need sensitive images or the phantasms of the material things in their operations…however happy we may imagine a discarnate soul to be, yet as it has not the perfection of its nature, its happiness and contentment cannot be complete, since it retains a certain craving after its own body. This craving cannot be satisfied, except by the resurrection of the flesh.”Ibid., 102.
“From all this, two conclusions naturally follow:
“The first is that it is impossible to admit the existence, beyond our conscious human person- ality, of a second personality, contained in the first and inferior to it in degree, seeing that the very nature of our personality demands that, while it should in itself be indistinct, it should, at the same time, be distinct from everything else. It is impossible that there should be two personalities or two selves in one man or in one individual, whatever this second personality may be said to be…”
“The second conclusion is that the personality which survives the body, although it be somewhat altered, that is to say, with regard to the body which by death is destroyed, is still substantially the same as during life…As the presence of another Ego, besides my conscious Ego, would imply the destruction of the latter, so, after death, another Ego could not succeed the present Ego without this present one being discontinued.
“It must then be laid down as a fundamental truth, both that there are not two personalities in one individual during life, and that after death that same conscious personality of the earth-life subsists identically the same, except for the absence of the body. There is in each man but one self, and this self endures for ever.”Ibid., 102-103.
That puts the kibosh on the whole Ruth Montgomery walk-in nonsense. It should put it to rest, but it won’t stop New Agers from believing it and spreading the idea and teaching it to others as if it were God’s own truth. It wouldn’t have stopped me from looking into these things. I’m looking into them now but from an entirely different perspective. I’m trying to see not just that I went wrong, but where exactly. I’m re-tracing my steps, making notes about what I find, so that I can warn others before they make the same mistakes or other mistakes similar to mine, or ones I saw other people make.
Somebody warned me recently that I shouldn’t open or re-open these doors. But if anything I feel repulsed by what I’m finding. But I also know from the inside what a New Age seeker like me would be searching for and where the seeker might think to find it. And I know now that all of these New Age doors, ALL OF THEM, are false doors leading away from, not toward, the goal. Leading away from and not toward the Lord in His Heaven. We will never become more Christ-like by imitating His ancient enemy and ours. God is not the Author of spiritualism or spiritism and these ways do not represent alternative ways of reaching Him but, rather, of getting so far away from Him that we cannot see or hear Him anymore.
But He can always see and hear us. Thanks be to God!
O, Good Shepherd, always keep Your merciful eye on us and never let us stray too far from Your loving arms. You are our God and we are Your people, the flock You shepherd. Amen.
Thank you for visiting and reading. Please join me here on the blog again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy. May the Lord bless and keep you, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links
- A. H. M. Cardinal Lépicier’s book, The Unseen World (see next note), is quoted in Dom Wiesinger’s book, Occult Phenomena in the Light of Theology, which was the subject of the first five posts in this series. That’s where I first came across his name. Links to the Dom’s book may be found at the end of those posts.
- Get a copy of The Unseen World: An Exposition Of Catholic Theology in its Relation to Modern Spiritism by A. H. M. Cardinal Lépicier, 1906: Leatherbound. Paperback. Free formats including PDF or black and white PDF (smaller file size). (First two links are affiliate links. See Full Disclosure below for more about that.)
- If you haven’t read those first five posts, you might want to go back to the beginning and read them before you go much further. They’re probably the most important ones in the whole project so far and Dom Wiesinger is one who I have come to rely on more than almost any other source. More than St. Thomas you might ask? No, because Dom Wiesinger himself relies so much on St. Thomas. It’s one of the reasons I am confident in his reliability. This is not to say that Cardinal Lépicier has nothing useful to say. We just have to keep Wiesinger’s work in mind, I think. In any case, I’m exploring what Catholic teaching on the soul is and has been in the past.
Image credits: 1) In the series banner, The Blessed Soul, by Guido Reni, Wikimedia, public domain. At first glance it looked like an Angel to me, though I suppose the wings could be taken to suggest the soul’s movement upward toward the divine light after the body’s death, as I read in a description. 2) The Good Shepherd, by Pieter Brueghel II. Wikimedia, public domain.
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Annotated Table of Contents for the Weekly Series On the Soul.
Annotated Table of Contents for all series.