Author Topic: The Materiality of the Soul?  (Read 1973 times)

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Online Asteriktos

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The Materiality of the Soul?
« on: January 29, 2011, 01:31:17 AM »
While created things (e.g. souls, angels) can be said to be immaterial, some Church Fathers also say that in comparison to God these created things must be considered to some degree material. For example:

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"An angel, then, is an intelligent essence, in perpetual motion, with free-will, incorporeal, ministering to God, having obtained by grace an immortal nature: and the Creator alone knows the form and limitation of its essence. But all that we can understand is, that it is incorporeal and immaterial. For all that is compared with God Who alone is incomparable, we find to be dense and material. For in reality only the Deity is immaterial and incorporeal." - St. John of Damascus, Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 2, 3

For another example, we find Tertullian speaking of “that material spirit of which angels were made” in one place (Against Marcion, 2, 8 ). This makes sense to me, but then on the other hand we have someone like St. Augustine, who says:

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"That the soul is immaterial is a fact of which I avow myself to be fully persuaded, although men of slow understanding are hard to be convinced that it is so. To secure myself, however, from either unnecessarily causing to others or unreasonably bringing upon myself a controversy about an expression, let me say that, since the thing itself is beyond question, it is needless to contend about mere terms. If matter be used as a term denoting everything which in any form has a separate existence, whether it be called an essence, or a substance, or by another name, the soul is material. Again, if you choose to apply the epithet immaterial only to that nature which is supremely immutable and is everywhere present in its entirety, the soul is material, for it is not at all endowed with such qualities. But if matter be used to designate nothing but that which, whether at rest or in motion, has some length, breadth, and height, so that with a greater part of itself it occupies a greater part of space, and with a smaller part a smaller space, and is in every part of it less than the whole, then the soul is not material…

Whence it is perceived that the soul, whether it be termed material or immaterial, has a certain nature of its own, created from a substance superior to the elements of this world—a substance which cannot be truly conceived of by any representation of the material images perceived by the bodily senses, but which is apprehended by the understanding and discovered to our consciousness by its living energy." - St. Augustine, Epistle 166

Thoughts?
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Online Asteriktos

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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2011, 06:56:22 PM »
Anyone? Anyone?  :D
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Offline quietmorning

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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2011, 07:00:41 PM »
OOhhhhh I'll be here. . .I'm soooo interested in this and the cogs are going crazy - but I have to finish a report for a ministry for my church before Monday - - - so that has to come first.  I.will.be.back.  :D 
Thank you for posting something SO incredibly fascinating!
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Offline Shiny

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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2011, 07:02:23 PM »
“There is your brother, naked, crying, and you stand there confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.”

– St. Ambrose of Milan

Offline minasoliman

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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2011, 02:29:52 AM »
Wait, I don't understand.  I see St. Augustine essentially saying the same thing as St. John Damascene.  Some people make immaterial synonymous with incorporeal.  Nevertheless, when comparing to the Divine nature, it's of created nature, which is mutable and "material."
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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2011, 09:57:32 PM »
I haven't had the chance to read the link for Aquinas, but thank you, I hope to get to it tonight or tomorrow. In the mean time, mina, do you think I've misunderstood St. Augustine? I guess I can see how he's saying a similar thing, but it just come off different to me somehow, though I'm having a hard time putting it into words... like he's much more willing to try and define/describe things and delve into things... but more than that. Anyway, I'll try to think of a better way of putting it.
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Offline minasoliman

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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2011, 10:43:21 PM »
Ya, I think it's semantics. 

St. John is saying that the soul is incorporeal, and from our own fleshly vantage point, it's "immaterial."  From the divine vantage point, it is "material," which is St. John's preferred definition of "material," since his own contemplative point is from the divine nature.

St. Augustine prefers to say that the soul is immaterial, but also is very adamant in not scandalizing many people who might misunderstand his semantics.  He also says from a human fleshly vantage point, if you can't measure height, width, and length of it, it's "immaterial."  But from a divine vantage point, if the divine nature is considered "immaterial," then the soul is "material."  St. Augustine prefers to concentrate and contemplate on the spirit being superior to flesh.
Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.

Offline Dnarmist

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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2011, 10:52:31 PM »
I think the Orthodox Church treats Augustine much too harshly IMO

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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2011, 10:55:09 PM »
Ya, I think it's semantics. 

St. John is saying that the soul is incorporeal, and from our own fleshly vantage point, it's "immaterial."  From the divine vantage point, it is "material," which is St. John's preferred definition of "material," since his own contemplative point is from the divine nature.

St. Augustine prefers to say that the soul is immaterial, but also is very adamant in not scandalizing many people who might misunderstand his semantics.  He also says from a human fleshly vantage point, if you can't measure height, width, and length of it, it's "immaterial."  But from a divine vantage point, if the divine nature is considered "immaterial," then the soul is "material."  St. Augustine prefers to concentrate and contemplate on the spirit being superior to flesh.

Ok, that makes sense to me :)

I think the Orthodox Church treats Augustine much too harshly IMO

Fwiw, I and others have defended St. Augustine many times on this forum (e.g. in this thread) :)
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Offline Dnarmist

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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2011, 11:04:33 PM »
Fwiw, I and others have defended St. Augustine many times on this forum (e.g. in this thread) :)

I know qualifying him as a genius, which he was, doesn't designate him being a saint, but I don't see anything that contradicted his "saintliness" except his theology which was wrong.

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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2011, 11:08:29 PM »
Fwiw, I and others have defended St. Augustine many times on this forum (e.g. in this thread) :)

I know qualifying him as a genius, which he was, doesn't designate him being a saint, but I don't see anything that contradicted his "saintliness" except his theology which was wrong.

I guess I'd agree (I think? :) ). Regarding his theology, I think St. Photius put it well... we can always "cover their nakedness"...
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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2011, 08:00:47 PM »
I still haven't read the text by St. Thomas Aquinas, but I do plan on doing so (honestly!  ;D ). However, I did run across another passage in St. Augustine today, somewhat related to the discussion:

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Here arises the question: If the fire is not to be immaterial, analogous to the pain of the soul, but material, burning by contact, so that bodies may be tormented in it, how can evil spirits be punished in it? For it is undoubtedly the same fire which is to serve for the punishment of men and of devils, according to the words of Christ: “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels;” (Matt. 25:41) unless, perhaps, as learned men have thought, the devils have a kind of body made of that dense and humid air which we feel strikes us when the wind is blowing. And if this kind of substance could not be affected by fire, it could not burn when heated in the baths. For in order to burn, it is first burned, and affects other things as itself is affected. But if any one maintains that the devils have no bodies, this is not a matter either to be laboriously investigated, or to be debated with keenness. For why may we not assert that even immaterial spirits may, in some extraordinary way, yet really be pained by the punishment of material fire, if the spirits of men, which also are certainly immaterial, are both now contained in material members of the body, and in the world to come shall be indissolubly united to their own bodies? Therefore, though the devils have no bodies, yet their spirits, that is, the devils themselves, shall be brought into thorough contact with the material fires, to be tormented by them; not that the fires themselves with which they are brought into contact shall be animated by their connection with these spirits, and become animals composed of body and spirit, but, as I said, this junction will be effected in a wonderful and ineffable way, so that they shall receive pain from the fires, but give no life to them. And, in truth, this other mode of union, by which bodies and spirits are bound together and become animals, is thoroughly marvellous, and beyond the comprehension of man, though this it is which is man.

I would indeed say that these spirits will burn without any body of their own, as that rich man was burning in hell when he exclaimed, “I am tormented in this flame,” (Luke 16:24) were I not aware that it is aptly said in reply, that that flame was of the same nature as the eyes he raised and fixed on Lazarus, as the tongue on which he entreated that a little cooling water might be dropped, or as the finger of Lazarus, with which he asked that this might be done—all of which took place where souls exist without bodies. Thus, therefore, both that flame in which he burned and that drop he begged were immaterial, and resembled the visions of sleepers or persons in an ecstasy, to whom immaterial objects appear in a bodily form. For the man himself who is in such a state, though it be in spirit only, not in body, yet sees himself so like to his own body that he cannot discern any difference whatever. But that hell, which also is called a lake of fire and brimstone, (Rev. 20:10) will be material fire, and will torment the bodies of the damned, whether men or devils,— the solid bodies of the one, aerial bodies of the others; or if only men have bodies as well as souls, yet the evil spirits, though without bodies, shall be so connected with the bodily fires as to receive pain without imparting life. One fire certainly shall be the lot of both, for thus the truth has declared.

--St. Augustine, City of God, 21, 10
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Re: The Materiality of the Soul?
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2011, 09:03:02 PM »
Anyone know of any other relevant patristic passages on this subject? :)
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