Episode 23: Body Soul Duality Part II
And welcome to Episode 23 in which we will continue our reflection on body-soul duality.
The overemphasis placed on the Flesh Body contributes to the single greatest misunderstanding in all of Christianity. When we elevate the status of Flesh Body above its proper place, we encourage widespread belief that the Flesh Body is resurrected.
This is logical. If I believe I am intrinsically the Flesh Body, and I believe in the promise of an After Life, then the Flesh Body must be resurrected. And, if our Flesh Body is resurrected, we need not concern ourselves with the nature of the soul.
I hope you can see how this type of thinking puts all the attention on the Flesh Body, which becomes all that matters. But the belief that the Flesh Body is resurrected is false, incorrect, a widespread faulty belief.
Who better to help us understand how this confusion came about than Benedict XVI. In one of the most important chapters in contemporary theology — the final chapter of Introduction to Christianity — Benedict explains the mistranslation. He writes:
“English cannot fully convey the enigmatic character of the biblical Greek. In Greek the word soma means something like ‘body,’ but at the same time it also means ‘the self.’”
Benedict goes on to explain this further:
“And this soma can be sarx, that is, ‘body’ in the earthly, historical, and thus chemical, physical, sense; but it can also be ‘breath’ — according to the dictionary, it would then have to be translated ‘spirit’;”
Thus, we have fallen into error through mistranslation. The Bible, translated properly, does not say the Flesh Body is resurrected. Benedict does not leave us hanging. He continues:
“… in reality this means that the self, which now appears in a body that can be conceived in chemico-physical terms, can, again, appear definitively in the guise of a transphysical reality.”
Take a minute to reflect on what he is saying. You, as a soul, now appear in a flesh body. But you, as a soul, will appear again in a reality that transcends physical reality, as we know it. So, we are not talking about a Flesh Body but rather something quite different.
Thus, when we parse the language of scripture, we begin to see how one word, when translated correctly, points to the resurrection of spirit, of the immortal soul, a Self that retains a continuity of consciousness. Another passage from Introduction to Christianity adds clarity. Benedict writes:
“Let us start from [Corinthians 15] verse 50…” He then quotes this line: “I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
In the quote, Paul has made a very clear distinction between perishable and imperishable. Of course, the flesh body is perishable; the soul is imperishable.
But, it is not only Paul who helps us understand. Benedict goes on to point out the similarity between Paul’s thought and Chapter 5 of John’s Gospel. He notes, “… these two seemingly widely separated texts are much more closely related than is apparent at first sight.”
Thus, the teachings of Paul and of John are in accord. Benedict XVI continues to consult scripture to help us come to an understanding consistent with spiritual reality. He writes:
“In Paul’s language ‘body’ and ‘spirit’ are not opposites; the opposites are called ‘physical body’ and ‘spiritual body.’”
On your own, reflect on the idea that physical body and spiritual body are not the same. Then consider the conclusion Benedict reaches. He writes:
“One thing at any rate may be fairly clear: both John (6:63) and Paul (1 Cor 15:50) state with all possible emphasis that the ‘resurrection of the flesh,’ the ‘resurrection of the body,’ is not a ‘resurrection of physical bodies.’”
I realize this discussion is taking some listeners into brand new territory. Perhaps they must pull out their reality maps and check their bearings. But, there is no reason to worry. Paul remains our steady guide. He clearly states flesh and spirit exist as duality. This creates a logical framework for understanding Divine Self. Quoting Benedict XVI:
“Paul teaches, not the resurrection of physical bodies, but the resurrection of persons…”
Benedict goes on to emphasize this does not happen through the return of the Flesh Body, the biological structure — an idea Paul expressly describes as impossible when he writes, “The perishable cannot become imperishable.”
Benedict explains our post-mortem continuity is found “… in the different form of the life of the resurrection, as shown in the risen Lord.” Benedict thus invites us to reflect on the nature of Jesus Christ resurrected.
Before we take up that new reflection, I want to note, once again, that Paul was not alone in this analysis. John concurs. In Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict writes:
“John distinguishes between bios and zoé—between biological life (bios) and the fullness of life (zoé) ...” Thus John also makes a distinction between perishable and imperishable life. Benedict emphasizes this duality when he writes:
“The idea of the soul is meant to convey nothing other than… the continuing reality of the person in separation from his or her body.”
The idea that the soul can separate from the body does not only apply in the post- mortem state. Saints like Padre Pio and Francis of Assisi were said to have the ability to bi-locate. This meant they could perceive something at a distance from their physical form.
Furthermore, reports of “out of body experiences” and “near death experiences” support the idea the soul has the potential of being separate from the physical body even during earthly life.
That’s an interesting topic but more important, on a day- to-day basis, is the soul’s ability to exercise free will. From a dualistic perspective, in a proper relationship between body and soul, the soul exercises free will. The flesh body is not in charge, but rather serves to enrich the spirit, as Benedict notes in volume one of Jesus of Nazareth. The spirit or soul is the intentional agent, the body is a stimulus-response organism overseen by the soul.
So, let’s review our reflection. The flesh body is not resurrected. That which is perishable does not become imperishable. Instead, the Person, the soul, enjoys continued life. They enjoy continuity of consciousness — they continue as a Person who knows who they are.
It turns out the prior confusion regarding resurrection can be boiled down to a failure to discern Flesh Body from Heavenly or Glorified Body. The post-mortem body differs from the Flesh Body. It is a spiritual form — much like the resurrected body of Jesus that moved through walls and otherwise transcended physical limits.
The idea of a Heavenly or Glorified or Spiritual body should be easier to understand in light of the earlier episodes that introduced Idealism. When we realize that all forms — with different levels of density and substance — exist in the Mind of God, we can grasp the existence of different types of bodies.
We can also grasp how the spiritual consciousness of a soul in mystical unity with the Mind of God surpasses the importance of any one form. Resurrection is about the Person, not the form. This is not a trivial matter.
The Christian faith promises an After Life. Jesus promised his followers a post-mortem existence in which they would be united with him, once again. But did he promise the Flesh Body would live on? No. Rather, he promised life stretching into eternity — life as an immortal soul.
We have wandered into the territory known as eschatology — the study of life beyond this earthly life. But for the sake of peacemaking our interest lies in “knowing Divine Self.” If we hope to bring peace to this world, lasting peace, we must work with the truth of who we really are.
And for that to happen, we need spiritual directors who have worked through any confusion regarding resurrection of the body. And spiritual directors who understand the nature of an immortal soul.
Good day, and God Bless.