The E-catechism: September 2000 

  The soul  
  Archives of Partenia
  History of Partenia, Biography of Bishop Jacques Gaillot 









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Each month the team working on this catechism presents you with two texts, and we hope that with your help and cooperation they will improve. Any suggestions you may have would be most welcome, as would ideas on subject matter.
We look forward to hearing from you.

The soul

What is the soul? A classic in the queries of catechism. The answer tries to make a distinction in human being of a spiritual part created by God, the soul, and a material part coming from our parents, the body. It is certain that a human being cannot be reduced to the materiality of his body. For a human being, the conscience of himself, his thoughts, his will, the liberty that he can exhibit, his own feelings, all these are of a different order than the organs and the functions of the body. It is understandable that the philosophers of the Antiquity insisted on the duality of a human being, this opinion was passed on to the Christian world. With this view, the spiritual soul is pure and the body is impure, the soul is the center for the highest virtues like the will, the ability to go towards the good, then it has to govern the body and it has to be free of the body, the soul is seen as good and the body bad. It is the soul which makes man in the image of God, it is why it is immortal while the body is mortal, death being the separation of the two.
Such a language does not correspond anymore to the way we think and that we experience. We know that some lost their intelligence and memory without being dead. The existence of animals raises questions. What makes them die? Would they have a soul? Their conscience and their ability to communicate are better known. Where the human being is specific? In the Bible neither the concept of a soul is clear. Several words are used for this immaterial principle: life, heart, breath… One thing is certain, there is no opposition between the soul and the body but on the contrary a unity of the person.
Shall we go further and ask if the very question of the soul is a good question? In fact a person is his body. He does not exist without his nerve cells that allow him to think. He does not exist without being able to recognize his close relatives and then to know who he is. The body is not only a tool serving a thinking spirit. It is not the envelope of the soul. He is the ability to communicate, to have links with the others; he is capable of love. Without all this a person does not exist. It is another logic of the human existence than the logic of creating an all made person, coming from nowhere. It is a course during which a person becomes himself. His identity is built through the links with the others and with the world.
Christian faith is not opposed to this way of looking at a human being. It tells us that God became man, he took the face and the body of a man in Jesus Christ. And it is that body that God has risen after Jesus death on a cross. It is the guarantee of our own resurrection. We believe, the Christians say in the Credo, in the resurrection of the flesh. The question of how is not known, but the Christian hope is really a resurrection of the person in his whole.