Holy Soul


Do you ever think seriously about the soul? Consider the holy souls who have worked their time through purgation and are now waiting, very happily, for the Day of Judgment. In fact, from their point of view, not waiting at all. They are outside the realm of time. They experience no time between death and resurrection, just as there was no time for those who lived before Christ but benefitted, as the Creed assures us, from his redemption. While we have to use “time” words in order to express these mysteries in human language, that is no reason for interpreting them literally.

Ensoulment is an interesting concept. We encounter it at two major points: one is the ensoulment of the first human being and the other is the ensoulment of every human being at, or after, conception. How do we think this works? Perhaps God identified a member of the species homo erectus who, as the result of a mutation, was brighter than usual, and decided that this was worth a soul – and injected it. Similarly, he recognises the zygote (the first cell after conception) and does the same. I am not trivialising: this is how I know many Catholics think and, when I am not wary, I think myself.

The old (and splendidly scholarly) Catholic Encyclopaedia gives us: “The soul may be defined as the ultimate internal principle by which we think, feel, and will, and by which our bodies are animated.” And it goes on to speak of the faculties and the powers of the soul. Written 100 years ago, the Encyclopaedia was clear that these powers worked in some sense through and with the biological processes.

And nothing has changed, although our knowledge of the brain and, through types of scan, its functions has grown mightily. So much so that many neuroscientists, of a secular turn of mind, mistakenly believe that all of what we call the powers of the soul are determined psychologically.

We do not have to cross this Rubicon to grasp something of the integration between body and soul. Take, as an obvious example, our use of free will. We know that our decisions are so strongly influenced by our genetic inheritance, by our nurturing experiences and by the nature of our subjective perception, that it is hard to determine, in any particular instance, that our decision is free. Aquinas taught that virtue is a habit which makes us good and our work likewise. And we recognise habit as an outcome of strengthened neural connections; just try to imagine exercising any of the soul’s functions without the help of both instinctive and conscious memory.

Since the human soul works through biology, but in some mysterious way transcends it, it can make no sense to us to think of a human soul without its body. But of course we don’t have to, if we go from our mortal body immediately to our resurrected body. The alternative idea of souls, minus time and space, blipping immaterially around eternity seems odd to me. (Please don’t ask me about angels; they can furnish their own explanation if they wish.) I have parents, a brother and a sister, and a miscarried child in heaven. I can pray to or for all of them – confident that they know I am praying and that not a word is wasted. Exactly how is not yet my business to know.

One Catholic asked me why it is that God cooperates with immorality by giving a soul to a foetus conceived in a petri dish. This is a reasonable question if one accepts the injection theory of ensoulment. But if the soul, both naturally and supernaturally, is bound in with the body, then the creation of the body with its human faculties (through evolution, as I think, or otherwise) is the occasion of the soul. God cannot make a fully human body without a soul, for without a soul it would not be a fully human body.

Are new issues raised by the fact that the foetus is initially not capable of exercising the powers of the soul, other than the power of animation? I think not, because the human foetus is by intrinsic nature ordered to developing the required biological form for their exercise. Even the axis of the nervous system is affected by the entry point of the sperm at conception. I am not speaking of a soul that develops, but I am speaking of a developing body and brain, and that means that the ability of the soul to exercise its powers must similarly develop. For example, it will be a matter of years, not months, before a human being can exercise reason, notwithstanding our recognition that rationality is a cardinal characteristic of human beings.

In this matter I go back to Heraclitus, who famously said: “You cannot step in the same stream twice.” His doctrine of continuous change applies a fortiori to the human organism.  We change and develop throughout our lives, stopping only when the bell tolls. A human life is a continuously changing identity. Even reading this column you have been subject to thousands of mutations: my hair has grown a little thinner, and all of us are nearer to our graves.

But feel free. I speak with no authority beyond the force of argument – although I do not think that my speculations on the soul take me outside the perimeter of orthodoxy. But if you disagree, or wish to take my speculations further,  and tell us about it.



About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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50 Responses to Holy Soul

  1. tim says:

    Fair enough. However I am nervous that one or more of our regular correspondents will write in to explain that the lack of development of the powers of the soul in the early stages of pregnancy justifies our terminating it if it is inconvenient. So I’m getting my retaliation in first! Not so!

  2. mike Horsnall says:


    Perhaps one or more of our regular correspondents without souls might even write in to explain what a pointless waste of time they are………

    Ok I know…. 300 lines starting now…… I must be more serious…I must be more serious….I must be more ….

  3. Iona says:

    Quentin says:
    “One Catholic asked me why it is that God cooperates with immorality by giving a soul to a foetus conceived in a petri dish. This is a reasonable question if one accepts the injection theory of ensoulment. But if the soul, both naturally and supernaturally, is bound in with the body, then the creation of the body with its human faculties (through evolution, as I think, or otherwise) is the occasion of the soul. God cannot make a fully human body without a soul, for without a soul it would not be a fully human body.”

    (I think that Catholic may have been me).
    But Quentin’s contention only pushes my question (if it was mine) one step further back. Why is God permitting the conception of a fully human being in a petri dish at all? This isn’t just a variant of “Why does God permit evil?” – The beginning of a new human life needs God’s positive co-operation, whereas for an evil act to take place merely requires that God doesn’t step in to prevent it.

    • Nektarios says:


      Your argument makes God the Creator of evil. We think we know what evil is and use all sorts of adjectives to describe it, which only goes to show we are not in actual contact with evil, thank God!
      If you mean, why does God allow man to do evil acts as we would and can only describe them, it simple to answer. God gave man a free will. In that man is similar to God. But when that free will thinks it is a god, then as history shows, they are clearly mad, insane, brutal and usually land up being killed or killing themselves.

      If we are going to have a serious discussion about Holy Souls, I suppose it is quite natural to start at the periphery, in the realm of the known, like we are doing so far in this discussion. But what is a truly Holy Soul? What is a soul actually? Where does it come from? how is it actually knitted together in the womb and why?
      we may reach the point of discussing later perhaps on this topic, so what is Holy actually? And putting the two words together, what is a Holy Soul actually?

      Giving some sort of descriptive is not a truly Holy Soul in actuality – it is beyond our capability to assess – I hope I am communicating, so we can looking into all this together?

      As to the issue of, `why is God permitting the conception of a fully human being in a petri-dish at all?’
      There is no proof that He is.
      We spoke about this under another topic. The hype about how much the geneticists have accomplished is relatively small, but to listen to them you think they were creating life, where in fact, all they are doing has not moved very far since IVF began.
      All they have accomplished so far is, taking a female egg and a male sperm, both living organisms
      and fusing the two artificially together, whereupon the success of that procedure, it has to be placed in the female womb for a fully developed human being to come into being with a soul. Right!
      So there is no proof whatsoever for the claim of ensoulment by injection method, the fiat of God decreed it took place, hidden in the womb of the woman.

    • tim says:

      A Catholic colleague has suggested that conception in a Petri dish doesn’t necessarily give rise to a human being. I think we have to give the product of such conception the benefit of any doubt. Presumably God’s rule is that when sperm meets egg, a human being results. This applies in wedlock, out of wedlock, following rape or in a Petri dish. I don’t see that any ‘positive co-operation’ needs to be required, unless you take the view that ensoulment must require some special affirmative action by God (or His servants or agents) beyond natural laws. What would the case for that be?

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, I am not sure that I have fully grasped your difficulty, but here goes.
      First, it’s useful to remember that God does not normally interfere with natural processes.
      Second, it would be easier to deal, John Nolan-like, in Latin. It reminds us that soul = anima = animate = being alive.Thus anything alive, from cabbages to kings, is animated and thus has a soul (vegetable, animal, or human). When a human sperm is introduced into a human ovum(whether in a fallopian tube or under a microscope), a human being is conceived. It has a human anima, or soul, what else could it have?

    • Jerome says:

      What God permits is God’s business. We will all find out ere long. I do not believe, as Quentin seems to, that the human being evolved into a souled creature. I believe, as my bible says in the Book of Genesis, that God created us in His own Image and Likeness – body and soul. God permits the evil of abortion, rampant homosexuality and the destruction of our civilisation – all is so His Glory may be known.

  4. Rahner says:

    Any discussion of the soul is bound to be highly speculative. But I would suggest that what we call the “soul” is a related set of emergent, non-reducible, properties that arise when a physical, biological entity of a certain degree of complexity comes into being.

    • Nektarios says:


      This sounds good, but is in fact just evolutionary theory.

      • tim says:

        Evolutionary theory is not necessarily wrong. Sometimes it appears (to the non-expert, at any rate) to be capable of explaining anything, which is a defect, because a scientific theory needs to be falsifiable. I don’t see why Rahner’s definition can’t be accepted, perhaps slightly modified: “What we call the ‘soul’ is an entity having a related set of emergent, non-reducible, properties that God chooses to create in physical, biological entities of a certain degree of complexity”.

  5. mike Horsnall says:

    I think thats an excellent starting point. Antonio Damascio is worth reading on this. He is a current darling of neuro biology and wrote: Looking for Spinoza: Joy sorrow and the Feeling Brain
    The basic drift of the argument is that what we term as free emotion in fact arises as a kind of reflex activity from what might be termed the neurologic self……at this point enter Horace….

  6. Alan Pontet-Piccolomini says:

    God does not ‘permit’ evil or cooperate in it. Evil is of human perpetration. If human life is indeed created outside of the womb, it is subject and entitled to the same benefits, including Divine Love and Mercy; it forms and begets a soul in ‘the image and likeness of God’. God is the Creator, man is the destroyer.

    Since memory, mind, and soul, are not biological realities but abstracts, I believe that, rather than being three separate entities – which would surely be confusing for the brain, they are – like the Holy Trinity, actually one and the same, and I believe that this is how man is created in the image and likeness of God.

    Will-power is the extent to which the soul excercises its God-given potential. Since it is the soul which has the opportunity – subject to its will-power, to enter Heaven immediately upon death of the body or, undgo purification in Purgatory beforehand, thus each of us, in the image and likeness of God, rises to everlasting life with Him .

    I believe therefore that memoery mind and soul should be collectively referred to as the soul.

    At the point of death our soul goes to hell, or Purgatory, or Heaven – there is no other place of waiting whilst a decision is made. I believe therefore that there is no grand final day for humanity, as our interpretations seem to assume; rather, judgement takes place at the moment of death.

    If our soul enters purgatory, our salvation is assured and accordingly, the soul becomes Holy. Again, read Medjugorje about the conditions under which souls undergo purification before Heaven, including how our intercession for Holy Souls influences the duration of their purification. Yet again, there is no grand final day when all souls ascend to Heaven en bloc – they could be waiting indefinitely! No, since there is no reason or purpose to a cessation of humanity, human life continues indefinitely, and each of us arrives at our final day.

  7. Nektarios says:

    Alan Pontet- Piccolomini

    So are you saying, Christ died on the Cross for a mere abstraction? Surely not?

    Speaking of the soul is fraught with difficulties and we can all be caught in illusions, so go slowly step by step, then we may avoid being caught by certain illusions because of fear, or wanting heaven, fear of pugatory and all the questions that flow from such fear and illusion.
    Assertions about the soul until we know in ourselves what that actually is, is useless, probably wrong as we get caught in our hopes, illusions and dreams.

  8. st.joseph says:

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us what we ‘need’ to know about the soul.
    Numbers 362-368.
    Unless of course one wants to know the scientific point of view.
    But I dont believe one will find it in biology or disection with a surgeons knife.
    The Lord is the only one who will know the truth, and we trust in Him and the teaching of Holy Mother Church.

    • Nektarios says:

      st. joseph

      As I don’t have a CCC what does Nos. 362 – 368 say?
      If it is lengthy, can you give me the main points.
      Thank you

      • st.joseph says:

        If you type ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ 362. You will find it.
        So my 8 year old showed me, after I picked him up from school.
        hope it works. It did for him.
        Thank you.

      • Nektarios says:

        st joseph

        Thank your 8 year old from me, and yes, I found the CCC Nos. 362-368 easily.
        bless him!

  9. Mike Horsnall says:

    APP: “…Since memory, mind, and soul, are not biological realities but abstracts, I believe that, rather than being three separate entities – which would surely be confusing for the brain, they are – like the Holy Trinity, actually one and the same, and I believe that this is how man is created in the image and likeness of God…..”

    Not quite sure that the Alzheimers Society would fully concur with your view….

  10. John Nolan says:

    Has anyone considered the Thomistic idea of the vegetative soul, as in plants, the sensitive soul, as in the higher animals, and the rational soul, as in man? And if not, why not?

    • st.joseph says:

      John ,will it bring me closer to The Lord.I wouldn’t know where to find it.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Sorry guv’nor we a culpa once again….

      Perhaps you could forgive and enlighten us John?

    • Horace says:

      The best quote I can find is Aquinas: SUMMA THEOLOGICA – First Part, Q 78 “The specific powers of the soul”.
      To be honest I don’t think it helps very much – ay least without a lot more background knowledge than I have!

  11. Vincent says:

    I find it very difficult to get my head around the concept of soul. Perhaps my difficulty comes from trying to see the soul as a “thing”. This, I think, comes as an infant memory from the Catechism: “What is a character? A character is a mark or seal on the soul which cannot he effaced, and therefore the Sacrament conferring it may not he repeated.” That makes the would very like a “thing” which can be marked.

    But, if I understand Quentin aright, a soul is more like a collection of powers such as the power of self reflection, the power of abstraction, the power of freewill, the power to distinguish right and wrong. etc. But all these powers are collected under the heading of human life, and must be exercised through the human body and, in particular, the brain.

    Of course what I have described may be a poor description of the soul. But I wonder if I am on the right lines?

    • Nektarios says:


      In a word, YES, you are on the right lines…. and beginning to enquire into the soul and a holy soul. wonderful!
      The descriptive is never the actual.
      Is it possible to be aware of the workings of ones soul?

  12. Geordie says:

    I have always condsidered my soul to be me; the life-force whom God created in His own image. The body is the container which deteriorates and dies when the soul (i.e. me) leaves it.
    It becomes a glorified body (I hope) when God restores the soul (me) to my re-newed container.

    • Nektarios says:


      It all depends on what you mean by `me’?
      When we speak of `me’ is it not what I think of myself to be?
      If it is, then ` me’ is a contruct of thought.
      How about `SELF’? Is it nothing more than a contruct of our thoughts too?
      What is the relationship between `Self’ and the `me’?
      Is `me’ the life force in us – surely not?
      If when I die, thoughts cease, then what happens to Self and me which is a product of thought?

  13. Horace says:

    Note Quentin’s phrase “They are outside the realm of time.”
    How can we argue about -even think about – entities which are “outside time”.
    At a deep level – consciousness>outside of time? Consciousness implies thinking, thought implies progression (what is a completely static thought?), progression implies time.
    And what about free will? As Quentin says “just try to imagine exercising any of the soul’s functions without the help of both instinctive and conscious memory”, and memory implies time. Indeed the very concept of free will implies action, implies time.
    And yet God knows our actions:- Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee ( “priusquam te formarem in utero novi te “).

    Much of the controversy regarding the relationship of soul and body hinges around the emotive question of abortion – and not just in the last 30/40 years in America but going back to the 14th Century, perhaps even earlier to Graeco-Roman times.
    “Are new issues raised by the fact that the foetus is initially not capable of exercising the powers of the soul, other than the power of animation?”
    In the teaching of the church, despite differing views about ‘ensoulment’, it has always been quite clear that any attempt deliberately to destroy the conceptus, zygote, embryo, foetus, infant . . was objectively grave fault.
    Still, perhaps just at an emotional level, I should like to repeat a comment that I made in response to “Human beings from conception” (Oct 9 2008) :-
    [When I was a medical student around 1950 I had the job of clearing up after a delivery or miscarriage on the district. (The fourth stage of labour!)
    One day I found a tiny egg-shaped object – a sparkling translucent gel encased in a transparent membrane.
    When I drew the attention of my midwife colleague to it she insisted on cutting it open to baptize the tiny primitive streak.
    For some reason I felt this to be almost a desecration.]

    • Nektarios says:


      Is consciousness outside time? What is our conscousness?
      I wonder if we have ever really looked into it?
      I would posit that our consciousness is not outside time.
      Consider what our consciousness is, is it not the sum total of all our development since we were created? All our experiences, joys, sorrows, memories and so forth all taking place in time. Right?
      Perhaps we can ask another question, is our invididual consciousness linked in some way to the consciousness of every human being alive or dead? After all, You are everyman and everyman is you.

      • tim says:

        I’m not convinced I’m everyman, or vice versa. I agree that all our experiences take place in time – that’s not to say they don’t have extension into other dimensions, too. My memory is not what it was.

      • Horace says:

        Is consciousness outside time?
        Wether our human consciousness is ‘outside of time’ is perhaps debatable, but God is conscious and God is outside of time, therefore consciousness CAN exist outside of time. My difficulty is that I cannot CONCEIVE how this might be! [Unsurprising perhaps because of my (currently) time-bound human consciousness.]

        Is our individual consciousness linked in some way to the consciousness of every human being alive or dead? As I understand it this is the basis of the Buddhist faith. I doubt if it has any relevance to Catholic belief. My only personal experience is that a long time ago I undertook some experiments, in association with I.J.Good, to see if we could demonstrate any link between the mental functions of identical twin siblings — with a total lack of success!

  14. mike Horsnall says:

    Yet David spoke to his own soul…”Soul why are you downcast within me..”

    The whole interaction of God with man is of one moving across the barrier of time….. the bush that burned but was not consumed, the Passion, the ressurection, eucharist,baptism, pentecost…etc We should not pretend that the barrier of time is sealed and that we cannot conceive of anything from outside it when in fact we ourselves come from outside it, this is the nature of Chrisitain life as it is lived here and now in the present moment- with God moving in and out of our hearts which are his dwelling place. What is it that takes place in our church buildings on saturdays and sundays? Is it in time or out of time?
    In the catechism and the divine office we have more than a thousand years of the detailed interactions between God and man-this is not ‘mere thought’ as some would have it but a documenting of encounter and of experience; we should not presume learned ignorance on our own part when it is possible, through the weight of accumulated experience, to speak intelligbly of the human soul. Each of us knows the voice of selfishness in our hearts, each of us knows the presence of a voice that wishes ill, each of us ,hopefully., knows the warming of the heart The movements of the soul are mysterious and wonderful but they are not beyond analysis..My soul praise the lord…

    • st.joseph says:

      My mother used to say to my brothers and myself when we were children-‘eat your porrage it will keep your body & soul together’.!!
      Thinking at 5 thats what we do. But I know differently.
      I think we call it more the Spirit now, and the graces we receive through the Sacraments.

  15. Vincent says:

    Thanks Mike; I find this helpful.

    I look at what takes place on Sundays. It is something out of time which God instances in time so that it can touch us. Similarly the incarnation thrusts the Logos which was in the beginning, and subsists outside time, into time. A measurable, if uncertain, date, a measurable, if uncertain, place. To be able to say that Mary, when her baby was restive, reached out her hand to test the temperature of God’s forehead is a remarkable thing

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Yes I think it is-a profound and wonderful thing….So much so that it either is what we say it is or else we are all raving barmy. Yawheh has come and walked among his people, stood among them taught them,had supper with them, died for them and risen again to take his rightful place outside of time, from whence he will return again to judge the living and the dead-amazing.

    • st.joseph says:

      Even more remarkable (although an understatment) is when we receive the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the The Real Presence ,
      at the hands of a priest,every time we celebtare Holy Mass.
      What a wonderfulf gift from God that is to us ,His children.
      So sad that non-catholics do not understand that miracle.
      We receive the Holy Spirit into our soul, uinting with our spirit, making us one with Him.
      We ought to be shouting it from the hill tops.

  16. Nektarios says:

    Tim & Fellow Bloggers,

    Let’s see if we can answer your point first: ` I am not convinced I am everyman and vice versa.’

    I am sure you agree that we all share one human nature – Yes? There are not billions of human natures, only one and that we share with all mankind. So from that point of view you are everyman and everyman is you.
    Now, all that is true of mankind in that fallen nature, apart from obvious superifical differences,
    is true of us too, so again, you are everyman and everyman is you.
    Do I need to go on or do you see all the myriad of aspects where you are everyman is you and you are everyman?

    Mike Horsnall
    All I was saying was, consciousness as such lies within time. All that you mentally know, physically know, most of the experience in life that you have had takes place in time.

    I agree with you the soul as such is not of time.
    Now, please, go slowly here and consider very carefully, what happens to the soul when it is subjected to Time? This is a very important question for all of us.
    Consider what happens in time, there is fear, anxiety, wars, there is conditioning, there is pettyiness, selfishness, anger, sorrow, misery and at the end, death.
    Are we subjecting our souls to all that is of time? Do you think the soul is not affected by all these horrors and miseries that take place in time?

    You say, ` we should not pretend the barrier of time is sealed.’ Your right, but it is a fixed gulf.
    I don’t want to say more on this at the moment. The reason is, it is spiritually dangerous on this blog to go into all these areas without one having a worthy spiritual director. Finding a worthy spiritual director is not that easy, and it would be wise to have one to help you make safe spiritual progress in these deep waters of the spiritual life.

    • tim says:

      Thanks, Nektarios, now I understand what you meant. I was concentrating on the (other) myriad aspects in which I wasn’t everyman (and vice versa). I should have tried a little harder to make sense of it.

  17. Nektarios says:


    First, I am not a Bhuddist but a Christian an make my profession and stay upon Christ my Saviour. In Him alone does my soul rest, and also is my hope. Just thought I would clear that up before there is any confusion regarding my religious and spiritual understanding, poor though it is.

    I want you to see something simple to understand. Our consciousness is tied to time. Our brain seems wired to time. Time to be born, grow, develop, learn, procreate, and eventually die.
    I cannot speak with any authority about God’s consciousness.
    If it does exist in God, it cannot be limited by Time at all, for He is the Alpha and Omega.Therefore, He alone is a Totality.

    Another thing, if God consciousness exists as such, what is true of us is certainly not true of Him. He is total order, and on the otherhand are in various states of disorder. Can disorder ever bring about order? Here lies our limits.
    Now Horace, do you think God would allow such a disordered consciousness in heaven? I think not.
    I am sure you are agreeing so far, but agreement is not what this is about, we are just exploring together – Right?

    I posed a question about the the inter-connectedness of activity of the soul? As there is a interconnectedness in human nature, I questioned the possiblity of the same with the soul.
    It may not be of course, I don’t know.
    In an unregenerate person, the soul is governed by the lower nature, its understanding is ohe earth, the mechcanical, the technological, wonderful though the accomplishments have been, it leads to problems further down the line, always does and continues to be governed by the old nature.
    So with regeneration the soul under-goes a total change, from being under the old nature to a new principle of life and existence and one is changed.
    I have to stop there -other things to do – sorry.

    • Horace says:

      First: I must apologise if you thought that I was implying that you were a Buddhist. What I did say was that I thought that the idea of all human consciousness being linked, was the basis of the Buddhist faith. Again as I understand it (and I may be wrong) it is precisely this interlinking of all consciousness that, for the Buddhist, replaces (or perhaps subsumes) the idea of God.

      Starting from Quentin’s first paragraph “Consider the holy souls . . .. They are outside the realm of time.” I replied “Wether our human consciousness is ‘outside of time’ is perhaps debatable”. On the whole I agree with you “Our consciousness is tied to time.” On the point of God’s consciousness, however, I simply say I can’t comprehend it!

      Where I lose you is when you start to talk about “disordered consciousness”. I think that you and I may have different ideas about the meaning of the word ‘disordered’ in this context as well as having slightly different ideas about the meaning of the word ‘consciousness’.
      Do you remember – or could you perhaps have a look at – my little story which I told as a comment to Quentin’s post “Grandmama” (Aug 19th 2010). My point here was the relationship between subjective consciousness and memory. An individual may be objectively conscious, as judged by another individual interacting with them (although, as in this case, perhaps disordered [ie. deluded]) but if they are unable to remember the episode they will claim to have been unconscious. But are we sure that we can establish that an individual is conscious by interacting with him/her?

      • Nektarios says:

        Horace, Mike Horsnall
        & Fellow Bloggers

        On the question about disorder and order, let us see if we can clarify some things a little.

        Is there total order in our lives? Is there disorder in our lives? What would both mean?
        It is clearer when one sees they are everyman and everyman is them,the disorder in the world that has been going on since Adam with killing, war, tyranny sorrow, misery fear,
        suffering and so on, are all part of disorder in the world.

        If I am everyman and everyman is me, then the disorder that exists out there in the world exists in me. Right? I hope you are not just intellectually agreeing with me but going step by step seeing the disorder in ourselves.

        Consciousness, is the sum total of all we are, all that thought has constructed, all that thought has put together, the divsions it has produced, the religions that it has produced, the wars it has brought about, the sorrow and misery it has produced, all proceding out of disorder.

        Let me put this into a more Christian setting for you. When Adam was created by God,
        Adam had order. When the fall was occuring, Adam’s will was falling out of the state or order he was created in, to a will in disorder, in opposition to God. Two main aspects
        of this disorder were immediate, one was fear and the other was death, that is a death
        towards God. Other things came in. Prior to the Fall Adam lived and was sustained by that spiritual life,but after the Fall, he became subject to his lower nature and was governed by it. Adam’s mind was being darkened all the time and his relationship with God that he once enjoyed, ceased.
        His passions and his desires of an earthly nature became more dominant and ruled his mind and his darkened heart.

        His sorrow was, he was not able by himself to get back to God and to his prior heavenly spiritual first estate. When physical death came he was afraid, because he was aware that he could not escape it and death held all souls departed until the Lord that was promised came.

        Now we are inheritors or Adam’s nature with all its rebellion of will, a darkened mind on spiritual things, all this disorder in the will on man, producing sorrow misery, pain, suffering and death. Governed by our old nature in disorder, so what man thinks and does proceding from that old fallen nature can only produce further disorder.
        I trust I am communicating sufficiently clearly, you and perhaps also answering in part, Mike Horsnall’s posting.
        I would just add to Mike’s posting, We are not debating, show-boxing around the issue
        of order and disorder, just observing the actual disorder that is everywhere present. in us and without

        Lastly, let me just say, when one becomes a true Christian and follows Christ, he is given a clean heart and his/her spirit is made to operate out of a different principle, that is the life in Christ, and only that life is total order.
        Please let us observe all this going on in ourselves, for if it is not, we are playing a deadly game with our souls.

      • Nektarios says:


        Finally managed this morning to read your posting in Aug.2010 which was dated 1st Sept? However, let see if I can nswer to somewhat.
        “Can consciousness be in time and outside time as you tell the story of the poor epileptic
        woman who had come round from a seizure.
        Being conscious or unconscious does not affect consciousness as such.
        When one is asleep for example, one is both conscious and unconscious at the same time. But we know the brain’s activity is going on 24/7.
        Being conscious, one is awake and can communicate, when one is asleep one cannot
        communicate outwardly.
        But I think the confusion for you is you are perhaps seeing conscious Awake) and unconscious (Asleep), being bodily functions in a natural rythmn with what consciousnes actually is.
        You also infer that someone in an delirious state as the poor woman you mentioned,
        is somehow outside time? If she were you not have seen or heard her.
        The fact is she was bodily present, in a state of aura I think they call it but still within the time and present .

        It does however throw up an interesting question: Is it possible to bring Time with all the effects of Time and all that goes on in Time to an end?
        That to me is the beginning of true and real meditation/contemplation, as opposed to all the nonesense that so many people write and practice and call meditation/contemplation.

      • Horace says:

        I thought that I would look up the definition of consciousness in Wikipaedia – and this is what I found :-
        “Consciousness has not yet become a scientific term that can be defined in this way. Currently we all use the term consciousness in many different and often ambiguous ways.”

        ‘Nuff said!?

  18. mike Horsnall says:

    Another thing, if God consciousness exists as such, what is true of us is certainly not true of Him. He is total order, and on the otherhand are in various states of disorder. Can disorder ever bring about order? Here lies our limits

    I have felt for some time now that when we get into debates about order/disorder we begin to shadow box. This is because the notion of ‘disorder’ being unable to produce ‘order’ seems to me outside of Catholic belief. The notion of disorder is tied of course to the fall and some theology insists on the total and complete nature of that fall. However Catholic belief does not go that far seeing Man as disfigured by sin and death but remaining in the image of God though unable to display his likeness until redeemed. CCC705/6. Evangelical/fundamentalist/baptist belief seems to be very keen on the completely corrupted nature of the fall and so is able to reason that God and man are so far apart that nothing man does in his fallen state helps. As I understand it catholic belief-of which I am -says that the beauty, order reason and harmony evident in existence and in the work of mans hands (Art for example) declares the nature of God. So it makes very little sense to pursue a line based upon the’ complete disorder’ thesis which is simply one form of religious opinion about our state. I have no doubt here that some will claim special ‘experience’ or insight into this topic but as far as I am aware there has been no new insight about our nature-we remain as we are -disfigured but still in the image-we can know God we can please God -God reaches down deep into our disorder and is not afraid of it nor seperated from it because he has come to redeem it; human existence is not a one way street.

  19. Nektarios says:


    So the scientists cannot weigh, measure,quantify, use, theorize consciousness.
    Thank God!
    I gave you a working definition of consciousness, `it is the sum total of all that we are;’
    all that we are since we came into being on this planet called Earth, All our past, conditioning,
    education, religious beliefs or not, all our disorder, fears, anxieties, memories projections, hopes and dreams,illusions and delusions sorrows, miseries, joys and many more aspects.
    I don’t want you to disagree or agree with me, but want you to have sufficient love, to give you sufficient interest, to look for yourselves. Look for yourselves explore and find out and the light that you find within, no one can put out!

  20. mike Horsnall says:

    As I remember we were discussing the soul. I’m doing a project on it at the moment as part of my diaconate training and thought this might be worth posting. A few comments from
    the Formation programme booklet on The Existence of God:

    “To express the great truth of the resurrection and eterrnal life, Aquinas began from his everyday experience of human beings as a psycho-somatic unity. He used insights from both Plato and Aristotle to develop a new synthesis that was fundamentally Aristotelian yet retaining the spirituality of Plato. For Thomas, man belongs to two realms, the spiritual and the material which over lap within him; we are bound bodily to earth, yet in our minds and hearts, our potential is limitless. Thomas rejected Platonic dualism (material and spiritual separated) in favour of Aristotelian monism: man is a unity composed of body and soul. But whereas for Aristotle the soul is simply the form of the body, for Aquinas body and soul are two incomplete substances each requiring the other to exist (‘duo-monism). When united, they form one, living, complete substance. The body needs a living form, the soul, without which it dies; the soul is a spiritual substance needing a body to express itself.
    …Vatican 11 underlined the unity of the human person. Man “though made of body and soul is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life.
    “It is the whole person, including the body, which shares in the the dignity of the image of God. …The church therefore rejects divisive excessively spiritualising or excessively materialist approaches as reductionist views that diminish the truth and dignity of the human person….”

    This seems to me to be a good framework and to be a bulwark against “excessive spiritualising”
    of the human condition.

    • Quentin says:

      Yes, what interests me here is that modern neuroscience clearly confirms the extent to which the powers of the soul depend on the structure of the body (brain in particular) through which to operate.

      • mike Horsnall says:


        I agree -thats the really interesting bit-the amazing apparent plasticity of the brain and its readiness to change what were hitherto seen as fixed pathways is remarkable. I wonder if Horace has professional views on this? Yet I can’t see that modern neuro science alters the basic propositions of Vatican 2 that much.

  21. Nektarios says:

    What is all the rush to leave the subject of a Holy Soul?
    We have only reached an important point, the realization that everything we do proceeds from our thoughts, and isalso our biggest problem, for God is not in all our thoughts.
    We have not begun to enter into the question of what a Holy Soul is, or does, or thinks or acts.
    In otherwords, we have not begun to discuss what is a truly religious mind?
    But as usual, you leave the subject before we have got anywhere apart from the periphery of the whole question of a Holy Soul. One cannot move fast on such matters.
    But you have moved us all on to discuss what exactly, guilt tripping about something you or cannot do anything about. A magesterium who, like Priests, Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals are all not elected by the people atall as they were in the early Church.
    They only have power because we give the power and if they abuse others and the Church itself as many Popes have de in the past and are primarily concerned with keeping the status quo laity in their place.
    Any system that seeks to dominated another human being is not acting out of love as they pretend at all, but are brutal people, dogmatic people, rich people, hiding behind a mask of saintliness. What is behind that mask?
    What do you expect of a Church who plays politics?

  22. st.joseph says:

    The laity have the same duty as the Bishops.
    We all have the gift of the Holy Spirit in our Baptism.
    I dont think it is a case of keeping the laity in their place-we all have a free will ,a gift from God.
    But the responsibilty lies in the end , with the Hierarchy, who fail to teach the laity how to use our free will.
    If the Heirarchy dont know themselves- then the laity will follow them with the convenience of their conscience what ever suits them.
    The one Bishop O’Donogue, now retired in Ireland, given the opportunity to teach his ‘Fit for Mission, Fit for Schools. and Fit for Marriage, was not in the particular ‘mood’ of the Heirarchy in to-days modern Church!.So he was passed over. Shame on them!.
    He produced ‘not’ a system that would dominate another human being, but an act of love for Holy Mother Church.
    Why do I stay in the Church ? Because it is the One True Church founded on Christ and what He suffered for.!Regardless of those who think differently!

  23. mike Horsnall says:

    In fact it is well recognised that the Catholic Church responds, particularly in crisis, as a laity as much as an order. By this I mean it is the instinct of the faithfrul laity that keeps her moving along the faithul line through crisis or opposition. As soon as the word ‘system’ begins to trip off the tongue you can bet there is something wrong. We are living stones built together in love and we are beating hearts filled both with joy and shame, we are the people of God.

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