Weekly Series on the Soul, Part 34 – YOGO – You only get one

+JMJ+ Welcome to part 34 of our weekly series on the soul. The Unseen World by Cardinal Lépicier is our text and we’re on Chapter 2, Section I, the State of the Soul Separated from the Body. Before we get started on that I want to share with you some things I found for our series in the future. (Notes and links will be at the end of this post.)

I’m reading two books that are fascinating me. One is Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate, by John W. Cooper. He not only surveys the field of research on the soul (Biblical, philosophical and more), but then he digs down into the Old and New Testaments themselves and evaluates the arguments that others have made and offers his own ideas, and I’ve learned so much from him already. 

The other title is A Brief History of the Soul, by Charles Taliaferro and Stewart Goetz. I’ve only glanced at this one but it’s where I found out about the Cooper one. I won’t be able to quote long passages of either of these because of copyright concerns. I’ll offer brief quotes and will try to summarize the rest. So, more good stuff coming up in the weeks ahead as the series continues. :)  

Now, back to Unseen World.

III. The Impossibility of Dividing the Human Personality. (Page 104)

There is a modern idea that our human personality contains “another or inferior personality—a second and unconscious self…which lies hidden, that will or can manifest “under peculiar abnormal mental and physical conditions.” 

Some offer cases of bilocation of some saints as evidence of this. [Padre Pio comes to mind as a saint said to have this ability.] But this is rare, even among the saints, and only occurs in cases of persons “endowed with extraordinary sanctity, and for some very special and important purpose.”

(All text set off like the below is a direct quote from the text, which will be cited.)

These cases, moreover, of bi-location do not entail, according to Catholic Theology, the presence of the same body existing locally in two different places, even though this body should be imagined to exist in one place to the full extent of its material qualities, and in the other only in a lesser degree. For it is impossible, even for God’s power, to cause one and the same body to occupy locally two different places, since this would involve a manifest contradiction. A body, already fully contained by the place it occupies, cannot at the same time be measured and contained by a place different from it.

Neither does the fact that the body of Christ, in the Eucharist, is present not in two but in many places, that is, in as many places as there are consecrated hosts, afford a valid objection to our statement. Christ is not in the Sacrament in a local manner as are bodies which are con- tained and measured by the place they occupy, but He is there sacramentally, that is to say, not by a commensuration of his outward dimensions to the dimensions of the place where the sacra- ment is, but immediately by His own invisible substance hidden under the sacramental species.

The subliminal self, on the contrary, would, according to the very conditions of the case, be present in a determinate place by its own dimen- sions corresponding with the dimensions of the place in which it is, and so would be there locally.

Ibid., 104-105.

So what are the bilocations of the saints? 

These bi-locations are nothing more than the reproduction, by angelic agency, and in the way described above (that is, by the aid of highly subtle material elements), of a person’s body, of his height, features and his other accidental pro- perties, in such a manner as to give it the appear- ance of that person’s second self. Why then could not the “subliminal self” be the issue of a similar process instead of being, as it is claimed by spiritists, a direct emanation of the person whom it represents? It may be confidently asserted that the production of this double is wholly due to the immediate action of some pure spirits who can, from the elements of matter, and even from a particular portion of the substance of some human individuals, shape a figure repre- senting the particular person’s features, gait, speech and characteristic mode of action. This, as we have shown above, is not beyond the power naturally pertaining to angelic substances.

The hypothesis, then, of a second unconscious or subconscious self, distinct from our own conscious personality and by modern scientists said to be responsible for those extraordinary manifestations produced by certain persons through suggestion and other occult practices, cannot be admitted, it being directly contrary to what Catholic Theology teaches as to the essential oneness of the human personality.

Ibid., 105-106.

I think what the Cardinal is talking about here is the subconscious self of the psychologists, and perhaps the etheric double of the Theosophists, and whatever the spiritists call it. As far as the Cardinal is concerned (if I understand correctly), whatever they call it, they all oppose Church teaching and they’re all making the same error. 

The more I read of Theosophy and spiritism and the like, the more I see how materialist their views are. I’ve spoken with peeople who talk about the soul as if it were actually physical, and they talk about the Holy Spirit as if He were merely some kind of force or energy in the world. Even when I was a New Ager myself, I knew this was not right. Spirit is spirit, not just some other kind of energy or force, no matter how rarefied.

But whence does the view that human person- ality can be divided arise? It arises from the fact that our personality is considered to be identical with consciousness, as though the essence of our personality were consciousness itself.

Ibid., 107. 

Whoa, wait a minute. There’s a whole lotta research going on right now that says exactly that. Can those researchers be wrong? Gasp! Well, yeah. This will come up again in the books I mentioned above, and some others I’ve found, too. Goodie! I’m enjoying this more and more.

If this were the case our personality would indeed change in our sleep, and a man, through some accident or other losing his memory, and having to commence his education over again, as has sometimes been the case, would thereby acquire a new personality.

But an observation will be sufficient to prove how false is the identification of personality with consciousness. 

Supposing the man of whom we speak to have in the course of his life deserved well of his country, any recompense that might be given him in his after-life would fail to be a true reward, the recipient of it being an entirely different being from the one to whom the reward is due. Again, in the case of a man who, previous to the loss of his consciousness, had led a criminal life, any subsequent penance on his part would fail to blot out his fault; moreover any punishment that might be inflicted on him would be sheer injustice, as it would fall on an entirely innocent head.

The error, then, lies in the circumstance that we are apt to mistake that state of unconsciousness into which we occasionally fall, even whilst waking, for a really subsisting self, lurking in our inner personality and different from it. Such an accidental modification, however, cannot be sufficient to constitute a really subsisting being distinct from our own self.

Ibid., 107-108.

IV. Metempsychosis [Reincarnation].

Not only is the hypothesis of the divisibility of the human personality, either during life or after death, philosophically inadmissible, but the belief that the human soul is capable in either condition of informing or animating a body other than that which it informed or animated from the beginning, must also be rejected.

The theory of metempsychosis, which is but a travesty of the natural faith of mankind in the immortality of the soul, has been the foundation upon which the poets of old have built up a good deal of their fiction. The transmigration of souls from one body to another, which has found accept- ance with some scientists of the present day, is but a revival of the old doctrine known as the circuitous travel of spirits. The reincarnation taught by Allan Kardec [the founder of spiritism] is nothing but the metempsychosis of Bouddha [the Buddha], with this difference, that while Bouddha admits the transmigration of the human soul into the bodies of beasts, Allan Kardec holds to its reincarnation in other human bodies only.

Ibid. 109.

This is a really good point to remember:

But there is no reason for this limitation, as there is no impediment to an animal body receiving a human soul if we admit the soul to have in life no essential or necessary relation to its own body. Carried to its ultimate conclusion the doctrine of metempsychosis leads to this ludicrous consequence, that we should have to abstain from eating the flesh of animals lest we should be exposing ourselves to the danger of feeding upon what may be considered to have been the substance of our own relatives.

Ibid., 110.

There are those who do entertain just such thoughts. It’s even part of Buddhist meditation practices such as “exchange of oneself with others” and “recognizing all beings as one’s mother” (down through time through many lives), wherein one meditates on the fact that one owes much to all other beings, because at one time or another all other beings have been one’s mother, father, spouse, child, friend and enemy, etc. (Forgive me if I don’t get the terminology quite right. It’s been a while now and I’ve only recently allowed myself to look at Buddhism again, once I knew I wouldn’t be drawn back in. I’ll look it up later and make any corrections I need to make then, in this post and in a separate post, too, so I can go ahead and get this posted tonight.)

Now the Catholic Church has always repudiated such a belief, not only as contrary to the voice of conscience, but especially as opposed to what we know of the very nature of the soul.

As already pointed out, our souls are distinct from angelic substances in that they have a marked relation to their organized bodies, not indeed to any kind of organic bodies, but to those bodies into which they are respectively infused at the very moment of their creation. This relation so distinguishes and, as it were, characterizes the essence of the human soul, that as it is impossible for it during the present life to migrate from one body to another, so it is equally impossible for it, after this life, to animate or inform any other body, whether of an equal or of a lower form of life. The only thing that might possibly occur is that the soul should again be made to animate and inform the body which it had during life and towards which, although now in the grave, it has never ceased to retain a kind of inclination. This possibility, however, lies beyond the sphere of natural agency and can come to pass only by the divinewillandpower. The fact of the resurrection of the dead in the very same flesh which they had during life, is a miracle of divine omnipotence and one of the principal tenets of our holy Faith.

Having thus briefly recalled to mind the Catholic teaching as to the nature of the soul in life and after death, we must now pass on to explain—first, what degree of knowledge, and secondly, what degree of power, the soul may be said to possess after death. A clear understanding of these two points will be found to be of the utmost importance for a complete investigation into the real causes of spiritistic manifestations.

But to determine with any degree of accuracy what the nature and extent of the knowledge and of the power proper to disembodied souls are, will be no easy matter. It is the abundant light which Catholic philosophy has shed on this abstruse subject that can alone be a sure guide for us in our research.

Ibid., 110-111.

So, to sum up, YOGO. You only get one. One body, one soul, one life in this world, and the only next life is eternal life in the world to come. (If you end up in Heaven or Purgatory, that is. I can’t think of Hell as a place of life.)

That’s the end of Section I and a good place to stop for now. I hope you’re finding this to be an interesting series. Since I’ve found many more books in the last week or so pertaining to our subject, I plan to go on with it for many more weeks, the Good Lord willing. 

Do drop me a note in the comment section if you are enjoying the series, or if you hate it and wish I’d talk about something else.

Thanks for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy. May the Lord bless and keep you and yours. 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.
  • If you want to get a head start on the ones coming up in a few weeks, here are the links. 
    • Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate, by John W. Cooper. Paperback. Kindle.
    • A Brief History of the Soul, by Charles Taliaferro and Stewart Goetz. Paperback. Kindle.

Image credits: In the series banner, The Blessed Soul, by Guido Reni, Wikimedia, public domain. 

Copyright: All original material on Catholic Heart and Mind is Copyright © 2009-2023 Lee Lancaster. All rights reserved. Read more.

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