Episode 22: Body Soul Duality Part I
Today, in Episode 22, we will wade into deep waters. We will venture into territory known for controversy. Today’s topic may be the most difficult of the entire series. It is a topic that has generated considerable confusion — more than any other aspect of Christianity. So, settle into your most reflective mindset and prepare for a period of deep contemplation.
First, we will set the stage by recalling our previous reflections on False Self and Divine Self. In those reflections, we learned conflict was the result of a clash between two False Selves. The path to peace involved stripping away the False Self to reveal the Divine Self.
We embarked on a journey leading from falsehood to truth. On that journey, we took up Bonaventure’s idea that we must work with the Master Sculptor to chip away the dust and dross — the falsehoods — so that we might reveal Divine Self.
We learned to help parties jettison clusters of False Self traits. We learned that parties must abandon ego identities. The peace process required parties to cease clinging to anything that was not their true nature. Only once they achieved this sculpted state could they enjoy the I-and-Thou experience of encountering divinity in one another.
In the earlier episodes, I did not enumerate all possible false-self traits — as the number of possibilities was so huge. Nonetheless, I believe most listeners realized that the majority of False Self traits arose in connection with worldly existence in a flesh body.
And, in those episodes, I touched only lightly on the nature of Divine Self – noting it is a Self that’s endowed with the image and likeness of God. Divine Self referred to a Self with supernatural traits. Divine Self was another term for our basic essence as an immortal soul.
In our true nature as Divine Self we enjoy post-mortem existence, an After Life. We experience a continuity of consciousness. This is another way of saying that our personhood is continuous — throughout this life and beyond the death of the flesh body. We are that conscious person. That is who we are as a soul.
So, as we study and reflect on scripture, we discover a duality between Flesh Body and Immortal Soul or Spirit. They are not the same thing. The Flesh Body is perishable. It is transitory. Its existence is fleeting. In contrast, an immortal soul — who we are as Divine Self — does not perish. We enjoy eternal life.
As an immortal soul we will live on, transcending the perishable life of our flesh body. The body may exist for sixty, seventy, or eighty years, or slightly more. But we never cease to exist.
Paul – especially in his letter to the Romans — speaks at length about the difference between Flesh and Spirit. In fact, you might want to design a retreat devoted entirely to passages from Romans that describe differences between Flesh and Spirit.
But why is there so much confusion regarding body-soul duality?
Confusion begins with the experience of being incarnate in a flesh body. When a soul is buried in the “dust and dross” of the flesh body, it finds its spiritual identity conflated with traits of the perishable body. Identity becomes muddied. Souls walk around puzzling over the most basic question — Who am I?
Does this mean we should believe the flesh body is intrinsically bad? No. That is not what I am saying. Rather, I’m saying we err when we assume our flesh body, which is not Divine Self, is our true identity. The flesh body is not bad; it simply is not our true self.
We should reflect closely on this matter. Too often we give insufficient thought to the topic. We do not take the time to discern the key issues.
We start by reassuring listeners it is not an error to admire corporeal existence. Life is precious. It is natural for us to love Creation. We stand in awe of its beauty. We appreciate every breath we take. We give thanks for the bounty we enjoy.
Our error is falsely identifying that which is immortal with that which is perishable and transitory. We err in saying, “I am Flesh” instead of “I am Spirit.” When we equate the Flesh Body with Divine Self we assume a mistaken identity.
For the sake of clarity, I will restate the premise: The flesh body is not bad; it simply differs from an immortal spirit. When we say that Flesh and Spirit are different — as Paul does, over and over, in his letters — we do not say the body is bad, we do not say that Creation is bad. We simply note there is a difference; there is a duality, body and soul.
Unfortunately, in the shadow of poor theology, there has been a tendency to ignore this very real duality. If one mentions the soul, a frequent response is that soul and body are one, a unity. This “unity assumption” then negates any need to talk about the soul. The conversation continues based on the assumption our identity is solely dictated by our biology. Thus, there is no need to talk about the soul. In this scheme, soul is irrelevant. Might as well just focus on the body.
I’ve speculated that this theological error — collapsing soul into body — came about as an overreaction to the heresy of the Cathars. Their heresy denigrated all material aspects of Creation. Everything to do with the body was considered especially bad. The only good was Spirit. The heresy, the rejection of material existence, was essentially a spiritual pathology of imbalance.
But the solution was equally unbalanced. The pendulum swung in the opposite direction. In an overreaction, the First Inquisition elevated the status of the flesh body and diminished the status of spirit or soul. Body and soul were collapsed into an equivalency. This theological hiccup resulted in souls identifying with the flesh body — they began to say, “I am my body.”
This collapse of duality led the Church into a major disaster. When people identified with the flesh body they fell into agreement with the view of the dominant secular and atheist culture — the view that man is a body and only a body. Nothing more.
When theologians slipped into a misunderstanding of duality, the faithful were left to fall into line with contemporary materialism. The difference between the Church and the broader culture evaporated.
Once the church abandoned the separate and senior status of the soul, the culture was free to treat the church as nothing more than a social endeavor. Thus, it has become seen as nothing more than one large NGO — a place where people go to signal their virtue — nothing more than another organization within the secular culture.
Once man is considered to be only and solely a flesh body a great threat arises —in the form of the atheist discipline of psychology. Once man is reduced to the status of a biological entity, an animal, the discipline of psychology takes over and becomes the cultural arbiter when it comes to the nature of man. The church is silenced.
In the presence of weak theology and weak faith, psychology makes the claim that its view of man is more valid than a faith view. Claiming to be science, psychology captures the high ground in the effort to help man understand who am I?
The mental health profession then goes a step further and asserts that faith deals only in delusions — for example, belief in the existence of souls. That belief is crazy in their view. As long as religion confines itself to picnics or fundraising events, that is fine. When it comes to talk of the supernatural, however, a line has been crossed.
Plagued by bad theology the church capitulates to the atheist profession of psychology. It no longer speaks about the true nature of man — at least not in public. Maybe in a sanctuary where the faithful cannot bother anyone — it is okay there. But the church is no longer welcome to speak about such things in the public square, and certainly not in the schools or universities. The public debate is over — and the church has retreated in defeat.
But that is not worst news. The church has invited the atheist profession into its midst. If you doubt this scenario, I suggest you survey any diocese in the country. You will find the church staffed with or serviced by psychologists — who have no business in an organization that tends to the salvation of souls. They don’t even believe in the existence of souls.
For more on the ubiquitous and destructive role of psychologists in today’s church, I recommend the book Goodbye, Good Men by Michael Rose. Tough subject. Difficult to read. But very informative.
The church’s acceptance of the myth of psychology’s superiority may seem strange, until one understands the church abandoned the definition of man as an immortal soul. When faulty theology collapsed the soul into the body and ignored body soul duality, the stage was set for psychology to take over as the authority on the nature of man. This has been nothing short of a total disaster for the faith.
Hold that thought and go on to Episode 23 in which I take the topic to a new level.