Body and Soul

On the ‘Sunday’ programme (5 June) there was a brief discussion between three professors of science: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. The topic was the relationship of science and religion – always relevant to this column. They all took constructive views but, not surprisingly, I leant towards the Christian view of Professor MacLeish, a physicist at Durham. He spoke of nature being woven into the human story, and the concept of the resurrection eventually embracing the whole of creation. It may be useful to unpack this concept.

We enjoy two approaches to knowledge: one is material, the other is immaterial. Science is the province of the first, and human perception is the province of the second. Science is necessarily concerned with the empirical. It constructs theories of causality and demonstrates the truth by material evidence. Perhaps ‘truth’ should be followed by a question mark because, in principle at least, any scientific conclusion can be modified by further evidence. Nevertheless, many such conclusions are so definite that it would be pedantic to deny them. Where scientists of a secularist tendency may go wrong is to infer from this that immaterial knowledge does not merit the description. It cannot be demonstrated materially and thus, being subjective, cannot lead to truth.

Immaterial knowledge concerns such phenomena as: need for meaning, reflective consciousness, the ability to recognise moral obligations — stemming from our ability to distinguish right from wrong, our rational capacity and our freedom to choose. It would be philosophically, and indeed scientifically, illiterate to conclude that this is not knowledge on the mere grounds that it is not empirical. Investigating the truth here is not advanced by dismissing our perceptions but by considering what qualities would be needed to provide an adequate cause for them. There is a parallel with the scientific method, for both may start by observing a phenomenon and hypothesising a sufficient cause.

Professor MacLeish’s view of nature being woven into the human story is rich indeed. But we are inclined to impoverish it. We recognise that the soul is the life and the form of the body and we know that the two are integrated, but we do not easily think that way. So we speak of saving our souls instead of ourselves, or of souls in Purgatory or heaven – as if a soul was an entity in its own right, when it only exists in relation to the body of which it is the form. Thankfully, there is literally no time between death and resurrection for time is a human concept. Our mistake lies in needing to identify concepts of which, in this world, we have no experience.

I occasionally come across, otherwise well educated, Catholics who refer to evolution as a theory – using theory in its sense of plausible but unproven. I suspect that their failure to accept manifest evidence is born from a distorted view of creation. God is not the first cause but the perennial cause. The material world down to the smallest sub atomic particle is held in existence by his active will. Existence is a continuous miracle. Given life and a form of reproduction which allows characteristics to be inherited and modified, evolution is a necessary outcome. In itself it is as blind as a mathematical equation, and every bit as useful. It is our vocation, inherited from Adam, to modify its effects when conditions require. In human judgment, we might well see evolution as one of God’s better ideas: one principle producing all species, including one fit for an immortal soul.

As I write I do not know the outcome of the EU referendum but we have all just been through an informative example of the material and immaterial working together so closely that we are hard put to discriminate between the two. Much has turned on forecast outcomes supplied by different authorities, and since we know that forecasts are only probabilities, great weight has had to be put on our value systems. How do we rate sovereignty versus integrated cooperation? What weight do we put on the historical tendencies of both options? Should we focus on the short term effects or on the long term? How dependable are our judgments of the protagonists? What unhealthy prejudices and partisan exaggerations have contaminated the arguments, and may have contaminated us?

Such issues, and many others, contribute to our overall preference for the result which best promotes the human flourishing of our country, and other countries which may be affected. Our different decisions remind us that we are all different people. Different genes, different upbringing and different experience ensure this. Such factors can, at least in principle, be investigated by science. But overall we retain the freedom to decide in the light of our values. It is not through discrete decisions but through the sort of person — body and soul, we have become through grace that the choice is made.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Church and Society, evolution, Moral judgment, Philosophy, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Body and Soul

  1. tim says:

    “Come, let us tell the gladsome news
    Which is most undeniable:
    That nothing is significant
    That is not verifiable”
    (.. this statement always excepted, of course).

    I’m not sure I follow your analysis, Quentin. To reason, you need a framework. You need a system of logic, and premises. If you are a theologian, you start with (one or more) religious truths. If you are a scientist, you start with the principle of the universal applicability of fundamental natural laws (you may of course not know which these are, but you are obliged to believe that there are some) or possibly, more insecurely, from a principle of induction. Hume as I understand it argued that uniform experience was that the laws of nature are universal – that nearly all experience supports this – so that any alleged breach requires exceptional evidence in support, which will not normally be available, given that the breach is in itself exceptional and not repeatable. In mathematics you reason from premises, which may or may not map the real world to a greater or lesser degree.
    I fear this comment will be torn in shreds by someone who knows some philosophy, but maybe I will learn something as a result.

  2. ignatius says:

    Sorry Quentin, all this is a bit too compressed to get anywhere with.

  3. Brendan says:

    Decisive…..thanks be to God !

  4. Alan says:

    “Perhaps ‘truth’ should be followed by a question mark because, in principle at least, any scientific conclusion can be modified by further evidence.”

    Isn’t the alternative deserving of a note of caution too?

    • St.Joseph says:

      I expect I am talking’ through my hat’ however I will say it anyway and that is If ‘Our Blessed Mother is and has been appearing to us for centuries, to me that is a fact, can that be proven by science’.?

    • Quentin says:

      Yes indeed. But the note of caution is different. Science is concerned with empirical evidence, and the caution relates to the possibility of new empirical evidence. You will recall that the great Karl Popper argued that, unless a proposition was in principle falsifiable, it could not be a scientific proposition. Immaterial knowledge is based on perception, e.g., the obligation we perceive when we distinguish right and wrong. Human reason can go no further than to identify the nature of a cause sufficient to account for this obligation. So the note of caution here would be, first, that we might be wrong about our perception: moral obligation does not exist and, second, that the ultimate conclusion we may derive from that, e.g. that God exists, is a belief which we choose to trust.

      It was Aristotle who pointed out in his Nicomachean Ethics that it was the mark of an educated man to look only for the degree of precision which the nature of the issue allowed. The challenge for the materialist, who nevertheless believes in moral obligation, is not whether God exists but to identify a possible materialist cause for his perception.

    • Alan says:

      “The challenge for the materialist, who nevertheless believes in moral obligation, is not whether God exists but to identify a possible materialist cause for his perception.”

      A challenge, but not one that seems either urgent or critical to the position from what I’ve read or understood. The alternative to moral obligation is a materialistic motivation (basically selfish in nature but leading arguably to exactly the same behaviour and interest in wellbeing) that you feel often runs in tandem with that obligation. It is an examination of your conscience that tells you that there is this mix and that “selfishness” alone is inadequate. I don’t see that this should require or compel the materialist to also feel that it is obviously inadequate or demand that they address that proposition. It deserves consideration of course, but no more so than any unknown.

      And even if that possibility hadn’t been muted or didn’t exist, “We don’t know” seems consistent with the empirical evidence.

      Yet this problem comes up repeatedly as if it were some important sticking point. When you talk about this sense of obligation is it something that you actually feel quite plainly and thus say must reflect a real obligation? Or is there a claim being made that it can’t (I would underline can’t for emphasis here if I could) be anything else? I’ve no long background in reading about these topics but I would say that, until I came across your letter on morality, I hadn’t identified any sense of such obligation in myself or heard others express it in that way. I can’t pin down the basis/origin of my sense of right and wrong nearly so precisely.

      • Quentin says:

        Alan, space prohibits me from answering all the questions you raise. But just let me extract one point for examination. As I read profound secularists – particularly when they are criticising the behaviour of religious people, they make it very clear that they appeal to morality. For example, Professor Dawkins compares the cruel behaviour of the Hebrews laying waste the local populations, e.g. Jericho, with the Nazi atrocities. He is clearly proposing that the Nazis were wicked but that the Hebrews (described as following God’s commands) were also wicked in the same way.

        Like everyone else he recognises the good (and, by contrast, the evil) when he sees it. I say ‘recognises’ because, as the philosopher G. E. Moore put it, we cannot define good except in its own terms. We might disagree about what constitutes good in certain instances, but that is an outcome of reason. Implicit in his judgment is its universality. That is, he is not saying that this recognition of good only applies to himself, but that it applies to everyone and every moral judgment which is relevantly similar. Otherwise there would be no point in making the comparison.

        In doing so he overlooks the secularist claim that a truth must be demonstrated empirically. And no wonder: the judgment of good and evil is not a material judgment but an immaterial value judgment, which, as such, is not open to material evidence. If he wishes to he would have to suggest what cause would be sufficient to make it possible for us to distinguish between good and evil. And from where comes the obligation to follow the former?

        Two solutions come to mind. David Hume hypothesised that we are born with a disposition to be altruistic. A J Ayer put it down to an immediate reaction (the ‘Boo! Hurrah!’ theory). But neither of these stand up to our perception of good or evil as objective qualities – what obligation do these impose on us to choose the good over the evil?

      • Alan says:

        Quentin,

        “In doing so he [Dawkins] overlooks the secularist claim that a truth must be demonstrated empirically. And no wonder: the judgment of good and evil is not a material judgment but an immaterial value judgment”

        Accepted truth should be demonstrated empirically but a hypothesis or what is considered a possibility needn’t be. And, from the secularist’s position, there will be no rush to progress from a lack of evidence to the conclusion that there can never be such evidence. After a little checking and from my own memory of science I would have said that hypotheses are in no sense critically wounded by lack of evidence but are instead overturned by a competing hypothesis that is better evidenced or explains the data more fully (although these might still co-exit) or by contradictory evidence. Other than that they can and do live very long – and sometimes prosperous – “lives”.

        “But neither of these stand up to our perception of good or evil as objective qualities – what obligation do these impose on us to choose the good over the evil?”

        I’ve not seen the particular examples you mention but I have read other ideas that offer motive and that may explain our behaviour – but not an obligation as far as I have understood them. As I mentioned, I’ve not shared this perception you talk about. The vested interest in the “welfare of the whole” (an objective quality albeit difficult to pin down precisely!) might not be what you would call morality at all, but that doesn’t impact on the extent to which may fit the bill. Even to the point of perhaps accounting for self sacrifice. I don’t accept this any truth. There isn’t a way for us to demonstrate this possibility as far as I know. More sophisticated fMRI scanners might one day shed some light. But there doesn’t appear to be any sign of contradictory evidence either.

      • Quentin says:

        “The vested interest in the ‘welfare of the whole’” – despite its complications is a good point to start. If ‘vested’ means that I am motivated by the benefit I (perhaps ultimately) receive for my choice, then we are not speaking of morality but of quid pro quo. If, on the other hand, I decide that I have an obligation to contribute to this welfare (I ought to do so) irrespective of my own benefit then we are speaking of morality. Or, to use other words, I recognise that to do so is good, and not to do so is bad.

        I would suggest that our sense of moral ‘oughtness’ is a perception, which cannot be explained empirically. But if a non believer denies that this disinterested oughtness exists then his claim to be moral is simply empty. That is why when Dawkins makes a strong moral point he is using an obligation which can have no meaning in terms of his philosophy.

      • Alan says:

        “But if a non believer denies that this disinterested oughtness exists then his claim to be moral is simply empty.”

        I’m sure this must have been dealt with elsewhere but is it possible to explain, in the simplest of step by step terms that perhaps a hard science student could understand, the requirement for an immaterially established “oughtness” to impact upon a material proposition? Or, as it relates only to the behaviour we exhibit rather than a sense of obligation, where does a motivation to judge what is good and what isn’t – based on our wellbeing – run into conflict with its own materialistic philosophy?

        Perhaps it is too long or complex a thing to get into and I would need to have read the sources you reference but, because I am a very slow and easily distracted reader, I can only consider your ideas against those little snippets I pick up elsewhere. Dawkins and others aren’t here to defend their views and I’m probably doing them a diservice. His website may have something on the topic.

      • Quentin says:

        “Dawkins and others aren’t here to defend their views and I’m probably doing them a diservice. His website may have something on the topic.”

        Yes indeed. I reviewed God Delusion when it came out. The review then appeared on the Dawkins website — and I was taken on by several of his supporters. Believe me — the correspondence went on for over 20,000 words. Morality was the major subject. We got nowhere — they were never able to explain the source of moral obligation, but equally not able to deny its existence in their perception.

        However, changing tack slightly: The generally accepted Catholic philosophical approach (mainly Aquinas) is that reason recognises the fundamental principle that the good ought to be done and the evil ought to be avoided. This is regarded as the first principle of natural law — thus everyone who has the use of reason is able to affirm that. The natural law develops from there, and Aquinas accepts that the more we get into detail the more we may disagree. However you may accept that someone who denies the first principle is not talking about moral obligation for this has no meaning in his terms.

      • Alan says:

        Perhaps the problem has been that the discussion has been about morality at all. You have said before that a motive based on an interest in our wellbeing is quid pro quo rather than morality and I have tried to ask about just our behaviour instead.

        Quid pro quo doesn’t conform to a requirement for “oughtness”. The requirement for “oughtness” is something you say “cannot be explained empirically”. Yet a truth from within a secular philosophy is something that you say “must be demonstrated empirically”. Assuming this is true, “oughtness” wouldn’t then seem to be a secular truth. And yet it is supposed to be the thing that conflicts with a suggested explanation for our behaviour from within a secular philosophy?

        The blending of a “truth” not based on empirical evidence with a philosophy that requires empirical evidence to establish a “truth” looks very odd to me.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin.
        Ghosts such as poltergeist are evil spirits, Does that not have proof to atheists that there is life after death ?That our bodies have a soul!.

      • Alan says:

        St Joseph,

        I think most atheists would feel roughly the same about ghosts as I do. I believe the experiences are very real but I’m far from convinced that the experiences actually reflect the souls of once living people. As with near death experiences, out of body experiences, alien abduction experiences, etc. I think there could be other explanations for what people are going through when they report them.

        Take another example of an experience that quite a lot of people have that we would also find very hard to study closely – deja vu. Nobody denies that it is real sensation. It is something we typically see and hear. I certainly have. It feels to us like an exact repetition of a moment we have already been through. But not many people would say that this is actually what it is. Time is not believed to be repeating itself before our eyes. Another possible explanation is that our minds are creating some sort of false memory for us and we interpret this as a past event being repeated.

        And it is the same for me with these other examples. Not to say that they are exactly like deja vu in that way, but that they aren’t well enough understood or researched at present for me to decide that the experiences match the reality.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Alan.
        Thank you for your reply.
        Many years ago well 13 years ago I remember that now as my grandson was 12yrs now 25 as he was with me at a meeting which were taking place in the Deanery parish’s by a priest an Exorcist instructed by Rome for the Catholic Church, A Father Clement Machido.
        His talk was on his experiences of exorcism . And if one did not believe it before then one certainly believed it after he finished, The Priest of the Parish was the Exorcist for the Diocese. He left us with some blessed oil and some blessed salt.
        I have never experienced it myself, but know those who have where the priest went to places to exorcise . One close by where a friend worked in a Elderly peoples Home. . Also in a local hospital, also Princess Michael of Kent who resided near me before they moved to London, that was general big news in the newspapers.
        Many years ago at a meeting in Bristol amongst the feminists, they were so outraged the parish priest threw blessed salt over the room for calm.
        Some would say this is superstition, I believe some can be hysterical about these things and through mental problems believe all sorts, however, we must remember that Satan exists .He is here to confuse us.
        When I was 9 and made my Confirmation, we did not have a big party, my friends and I ‘marched’ strongly believing that were were soldiers for Christ and I have continued to believe that now in my 70s.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I spelt Machado wrong, Just so as if one would like to see his talk on You Tube – Spiritual Warfare . It is very interesting and food for ones soul. I believe!

  5. G.D. says:

    The concepts in each separate paragraph could sustain a whole weeks blog on it’s own, and raise more questions than answers for me.
    From par 1. ‘the concept of the resurrection eventually embracing the whole of creation’ …… Does this (the creation, as God created it initially) perennially ‘happen’?

    The ‘two approaches to knowledge: one is material, the other is immaterial’. Are they aspects of the same thing? Each ‘false’ and ‘divisive’ without the other? ‘for both may start by observing a phenomenon and hypothesising a sufficient cause’ from a partial bias that is only able to conceive a partial (dual) result? That does not, cannot reflect the Original Unity that God created? That perennially exists?

    Despite the way we assume material and immaterial (spiritual?) are ‘two’, in reality are they one? Of the same substance, that is not ‘either/or’ but is ‘both &’ …… whatever it IS.

    ‘Science is necessarily concerned with the empirical. It constructs theories of causality and demonstrates the truth by material evidence’ …. Yet quantum physics is proving that the material ‘realm’ isn’t as empirical a foundation as previously thought, and is ‘affected’ by the way we subjectively perceive it. (See link below for the ‘double slit’ experimental proof, scroll down to the video, the rest of the article is speculative. But interesting!). If that is so ‘Immaterial knowledge’ as the ‘need for meaning, reflective consciousness, the ability to recognise moral obligations’ is also only a partial reflection, and may have a more empirical element to it than previously assumed.

    ‘Body and Soul’ split being the main way we perceive ‘wrongly’ (dualistically). A personal perception that creates subjectively, an unbalanced (i.e. heavily biased to the physical) and therefore an incorrect, objective reflection of the Unity God IS.
    And it’s that Unity (perennial unity) that enables correction, change (no time doesn’t exist!) in our subjective selves towards ‘perceiving’ and objectifying, the Unity of Reality more and more and more …. ad infinitude

    We create our own false reality – objective reality – and God creates The Reality. Perennial Unity with ‘himself’ subjectively in us humans (collectively & individually) and objectively in all of creation. It’s just that we can’t perceive it; while we perceive dualistically. That’s where contemplation (not meditation) comes in ………….
    ……………..Think I’d better stop there i’m even confusing myself with this un-thought liberal Joycean illogical free flowing gibberish ……….

    One last thought before someone accuses me ….. I am NOT advocating Pantheism! God is God, and only God is God. Always a singular ‘entity’.
    But God, in some way, is also the only truly subjective principal within us all, and the only true objective principal in all creation. Permanently without change. (There really is no time!).

    http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/06/03/how-is-this-possible-scientists-observe-one-particle-exist-in-multiple-states/

    (Another interesting site for Religion and Science discussions is http://opensciences.org/videos/philosophy-and-theory)

    • St.Joseph says:

      Quentin.
      I went to the doctor on Monday, (another infection). The doctor said to me ‘Pavorotti died of what you have – but of course you went to Lourdes! They are all amazed with how I am still alive (thanks to all your prayers and Our Lady) .They just can not believe it, science hasn’t got the answer. the doctors have not got the answer,
      I am blessed to receive the Blessed Sacrament nearly every day, except when I am not able to go to Mid-day Office, being so ill.
      However still able to blog!!! I have gone well over my 8 weeks 2 years ago .
      I say this to give others Hope and to believe in prayer and to faith.
      Our Lady of Lourde’s pray or us.

  6. Martha says:

    I am very pleased for you St. Joseph, and very encouraged and inspired by your deep faith.

  7. Galerimo says:

    thanks Quentin and blessings of good health and good spirits to you St Joseph.

    In our western culture the sciences have really emerged from our Christian faith and the two are part of the same continuum.

    In “An Expanding Theology”, Tony Kelly points out how in our day the vast knowledge of the sheer magnitude of our known universe as well as the infinitesimal intricacies of pattern and design are just so amazing and subversive of former visions of reality that scientific language verges on the religious in its effort to express the numinous value of the cosmos it celebrates.

    Maybe we are moving closer at this time to a greater mutuality between both of these areas you speak of, the material and the immaterial.

    P.S. Just flabbergasted at the result of the EU Referendum – “interesting times”!

  8. Nektarios says:

    In the interests of the blog and updating my own understanding of where Science is today, I have been watching on Ch.4 on my iplayer the Horizon programmes – very interesting.

    The one thing that seems to permeate the Scientific and Mathematic people is to see their enthusiasm, brilliant expertise and not so brilliant deductions. For example, I notice just how close they come in some respects to declaring that there must be a power or God that exists.
    As Quentin has demonstrated, theirs, is peering into the large and the small of the material world.
    They have discovered so many things, even things that seem to defy physics, but such is Our God who acts upon the universe and us defying logic, physics as and when He wants to. The definition
    of Christ’s miracles, is just that, it cannot be understood by Science and Maths and Physics, God acting is above and beyond that. He is Glorious!

    For the scientists and mathematichens, the idea of that which is higher and beyond nature with the power to move and change things and to act above in the material world is not conceivable until their eyes are opened, but even then, they could not utter it or they’d be thrown out of the universities, loose their Professorships and in the eyes of their peers, lose face and credibility.

    I see something of the same scenarios being played out in philosophy and so much of psychology too.They come close so often to God and then because of fear of their peers or losing their jobs or losing face and their credibility, they theorise and in some ways they are right in somethings but having not looked deep enough, overcome the screen of themselves they have to look through,
    all is like seeing through a glass with its distortions.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      You are right. I wonder sometimes if people think someone would find them foolish if they believed in the supernatural.

      • Nektarios says:

        St Joseph

        But that is just it, you see, supra -natural is just that, above nature. All of us are born in nature. – that is a big issue by itself. Nature is consigned to that which is visible, is replicated time and again and never getting to reach its former glory.
        What some folk have not grasped yet is, that Nature is travailing and groaning awaiting its returning to God’s state He created it in. Truly glorious!

        As Christians we have been given not only a new life in Christ, but a new nature – a supra- nature. it is spiritual in nature and necessitates a dimensional change to understand it and to live in it.
        The same applies to the universe and all in it. That moment in time is coming.

        One other thing, the Scientists talk a lot about Time. Time only means movement.

    • Vincent says:

      Science plays its part in miracles, too. It is able to establish in the case of healing miracles, whether there could possibly be a natural explanation for a cure. At Lourdes the standards are very high, but I suspect that this is less so for miracles related to canonisation.

      • Alan says:

        Vincent,

        Does the research group have a name or a site I could look at?

      • Vincent says:

        You will find something of a description at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26334964 . Or you could google ‘testing miracles at Lourdes’. I used to have a book on the subject.but can’t find it at the moment.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent,
        I knew an elderly couple who would take their holiday (a headmistress at a Grammar School) and parishioner at a local St Josephs’ Church .
        They would go all the way to Leeds to help the sick people onto a train who were going to Lourdes.
        They told me when some came back they that were walking off the train!.
        A local Parish priest who went was cured of cancer I saw his letter from the hospital, however died not long after with a heart attack.
        1984 I was cured by finding out through NFP the cause of my heavy bleeding. Also after returning from Lourdes! When I came out of the water a strange voice in my senses said to me ‘Lourdes is for the sick-Fatima is for the soul! That was disturbing at first.
        I am not cured of cancer, but living longer than expected..
        God works in strange and wonderous ways!

      • Alan says:

        Thank you Vincent. I had done a quick search as you recommended but the results were many and I didn’t know quite who to look for. I was hoping to see something more detailed regarding the methodology but there is the gist of it in this article you link and others I find having now looked at a couple more.

  9. G.D. says:

    The ‘super natural/ natural’ is a false split. It’s only a concept/term to express something ‘as spiritual’ we can’t understand ‘as having a material’ cause. In reality the two are not opposed. We experience they are oposite/different/separated because we see ‘partially’ ( ‘darkly’).
    In Jesus Christ (in christian terminology) they are reconcilled. Christ is the ‘brigde’ between the spirit/matter divide we experience as ‘true’. Perrenially.

    It’s the WAY we percieve (how we subjectively relate to Objective Reality/God), that is the problem, not the WHAT we percieve (as ‘our’ truth).
    And the WAY the vast majority percive is ‘heavily biased’, for both the ‘spiritual’ believer and ‘non-beleiver’ towards the materialistic ideology.
    ‘Both & … ??’

    The Real Nature of creation as God created it is (perrenially) a Unity. That doesn’t change. (There is no Time or Change in the Reality that is God). We experience/perceive it as such (objectively) because we don’t see clearly …….. for whatever reasons…. and all are moving (we change subjectively) towards that Objective Reality of Unity. Perrenially.
    Even though we don’t ‘percieve’ it, and don’t live it perfectly.
    It’s a matter of HOW we percive, not WHAT we see.
    “There is a crack in everything. THat’s how the light gets in”

  10. Brendan says:

    I perceive that for me it is ‘ time ‘ that keeps reality in check ; if my belief that God is ” perennial ” and not just causal; while that is , my assent to the material nature of things is to ground me secure in myself – otherwise might I not find the ‘ truth ‘ in God. In that instance , the otherwise , everything is up for question …………….
    Unfortunately ! I will have to break off ; the ‘ material ‘ world in the shape of other pressing ‘ things ‘ has broken my ‘ time ‘ of perception with ‘ immaterial ‘ and both worlds – the two are not now joined and that thread ( the underlying link between ‘ God ‘ and my ‘ true self ‘ has been lost . Like the seemingly a-theist I’m in a cul-de-sac ?……………….to be contd.because God is ” perennial ” and He will come again.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Brendan.
      I am not too sure what you mean. Has it anything to do with the Habit that Priests and Nuns wear by living the religious life entirely, their whole life and nothing else?

    • G.D. says:

      Our perception is so ‘flippant’ in one situation of the immaterial, in another situation material. This has ever been the ‘reality’ we perceive.
      We really must ‘learn’ to look at both extremes through the ‘eyes of God’, so to speak. We then perceive both immaterial and material – as they are – United. Perennially.

      No matter where our preferences take our sight, God Being – endless undying ceaseless persisting permanent constant continual – perennial, God is never absent.

      • St.Joseph says:

        G.D
        The prayer to the Holy Spirit.
        ‘Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of the faithful and renew the face of the earth’.
        He is our Advocate and our Comforter Who descended on the Apostles on Pentecost to face the world and not be afraid.
        One of the principle gifts is to confirm our faith whereas we may become weak and timid and hide our light under a bushel.
        He is never absent however often unknown!.

  11. ignatius says:

    Brendan,GD and St Joseph,

    There is something quite important in this last exchange of views ( beginning with Brendan June 26th 6.10pm to here) We could do with teasing it out a bit.
    John Lennon once said:
    “life is what happens while we are making other plans”
    I guess I want to say something along the same lines about “Time” being Gods merciful instructor, coming along, sometimes with a rod, to remind us of what we are about while ‘testing and proving ‘ our faith in the process.

  12. ignatius says:

    GD,
    Just opening up a line of enquiry.
    Mostly an individuals thoughts about God, their theology if you like, are based in fantasy. Mine certainly are. However slowly but surely our corporeal existence finds us out and teaches us truths. We discover, often slowly and painfully, that we have worshipped wishful thinking, dressed it up in religious terminology like tinsel on a tree.
    We realise gradually that our motives are far from being as righteous as we hoped, we learn the depths of our self interest. We discover all these things through concrete occasions in the occurrence of our time bound lives; we begin to perceive our own smallness set as it is against the back drop of God’s mercy. All of this is’ written into time’.
    C S Lewis one said that suffering was God’s chisel (though he late repudiated this) In the same way ‘Time’ is God’s kindness,seeing as how, with it comes the erosion of pretence, which leads us into truth.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius.
      Now ‘I do not understand what you mean’!
      All I can work out from your comment that is as far as time is concerned ‘my relationship with Jesus Time’ is no different now from the’ time I was nine years old’
      He has always been Truth to me.
      please correct me if it is not what you mean.

    • G.D. says:

      Ignatius, ah … beautifully explained! And so true.
      Thank you.

      St. J. ‘Time’ in the sense that Ignatius is presenting it (my understanding of it anyway!) is the ‘passing’ of our false ‘ideas and concepts’ about God as we grow (change) more fully into the image and likeness of God’s Truth. The ‘passing though this physical life’ teaches us and makes us more fully ‘open’ to and accepting of the Real God.
      (Takes away our ‘ego’ and reveals our true life and way of living for God; our true selves).

      Some ‘moments’ of ‘true relationship’ with God (Grace revealed) break through our usual self-centred way of being, and we ‘know’ the Presence of God in ‘concrete occasions’ with others. (And in other concrete experiences of life).

      For me this is the ‘Sacrament of the Present Moment’ which is always the real ‘Moment’ and is always present ( you say ‘my relationship with Jesus Time … no different’ ) & The Presence of God. All grace of course!
      Not that i perceive or live that ‘Moment’ as often or fully as i would like; but i know it is always there. Grace is perennially given.
      Silent contemplation has been my (gate)way into that ‘knowing’, and it does spill over into ‘concrete occasions’ – the moments of being ‘suprised by joy’.

      Seems to me as if your openness to and acceptance of ‘The Sacrament of the Present Moment’ is ‘more constant’ than most of us; beyond time!
      (i knew it was before reading your last post and writing this!).

  13. Iona says:

    Time…
    The longer I live, and the more time I (thus) have to look back on, the more clearly I perceive what rubbish much of my earlier life was…. Is this what Ignatius and GD are saying?
    And St. Joseph, I am so glad you are still with us, and long may you remain so.

    • G.D. says:

      No Iona … i’m not saying your’s, or anyone’s, life was/is ‘rubbish’ at all.
      It’s all life given by God to be lived through …. ‘into’ God.
      No life, however it is lived, is rubbish. It’s the place where God is loving us.
      And the place where the first step to accepting that love is taken.
      And i believe that is the same for all of us; always. Every ‘moment’.
      No one lives perfectly; no one gets it ‘right’. Only God is good!
      We are all just taking the ‘next step’.
      Hopefully towards that love. But, alas, often three steps backwards.
      And God just goes on loving …..

    • ignatius says:

      Iona,

      Well..if you put it that way…erm…not quite so bad!! But it is true I think to say there is a kind of chastening that goes on in life which slowly gives rise to humility, and hopefully compassion, gratitude and a little humour!!. Rather like desert wells that fill slowly but are none theless precious finds for the weary and needy traveller perhaps? Either that process has its effect or else we find complacency or despair where life should be.

      Not quite sure how I got to this particular topic but I think its to do with the ‘Material’ and the ‘Immaterial’ in other words what we think is happening set against what actually IS happening at a different level entirely.

      As I understand it the whole ‘mind/body’ duality split thing was an enlightenment project following Descartes. But we never seem to be able to span the abyss between material and ‘non material’ in terms of the mind itself. Either there is a machine (biochemical) or there is a ghost (spirit) ..to misquote Koestler that is.

      I often ask my students, when we have these discussions, to explain who is the’I’that is speaking? This is a (usually failing) attempt to get them to see how much we tend to anthropomorphise our bodies by allowing them an intelligence or a life they do not actually possess. The classical osteopathic thinkers, who were engineers and doctors etc came up with the definition that: we are a body ensouled and a soul embodied. I’ve always liked that.

  14. G.D. says:

    Like your post and agree.
    Of course, the material and spiritual is ‘real’ to our usual way of perceiving, nothing negative about that. ‘we are a body ensouled and a soul embodied’ say’s it all. When we can do away with needing to ‘name’ (be aware of) both we ‘enter’ a state of non-dual perception …. and awareness of something else entirely.

    Not ‘got’ there myself, so don’t know what/how exactly; but have experienced the thin ‘border’ line between the two, in contemplation, and in situations with others.
    No scientific proofs of course. But real (to me/us) non the less.

    You may well be aware of this but ….. Try to get your students to look at the fact that when they are aware of a tree, awareness isn’t in the tree. If aware of ‘body functioning’, ‘mind thinking’ , then the awareness is not ‘in’ (of?) body or mind. Actual ‘awareness’ is ‘other than’ so to speak.
    The seat of consciousness (awareness) is illusive to scientific proof because it’s always prior to any other action or thought.
    Anything we do, and are aware of, is because we are conscious, and cannot be consciousness itself?

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