Personality or soul

by Andrea Elizabeth

St. Vladimir Seminarian, Reader David, has thankfully shared his paper, The Scriptural Christology of St. Cyril of Alexandria on his blog.

I don’t believe I’ve ever thought about the nature of Christ’s soul before. This portion deals with it,

‘Cyril counters that, though the Scriptures do indeed describe Christ as the Word made flesh, and thus imply instrumentation, we must nonetheless be diligent in teaching “that the body which he united to himself was endowed with a rational soul, for the Word, who is God, would hardly neglect our finer part, the soul, and have regard only for the earthly body.”‘

I infer from this that Christ’s soul was created, and that soul includes mind. I don’t have a problem with understanding that His mind and heart were created and assumed by his unchanging person, but “soul” to me implies personality and identity. I’m sure one could get pretty technical about what personality and identity is, but I’ll just speculate for now. It is given that Christ did not change when he became Incarnate, but that he assumed a human nature into his eternal hypostasis. Perhaps since He has two wills, His soul has to do more with his human will. But this means that we are what we choose. Along with this is preference, we are what we like, not that we can change our mind about what we like. One can acquire tastes however. So if Christ preferred broccoli over brussel sprouts, or more likely, black over green olives, or vice versa, I don’t think this necessary means that the Trinity prefers one food over the other. Perhaps Christ didn’t either. Please pardon the past tense. People can get criticized for making statements similar to ‘if Christ were alive today’. People usually mean before He ascended. This can still cause a false division between heavenly and earthly life though. Christ could still be eating and drinking in heaven at this moment just as he did with the Apostles after His resurrection.

So, I think it is a mistake to say we are what we prefer. This does not take into account immaturity nor less than ideal situations. Society places too big an emphasis on personal preference. Computer cookies make this even more of a problem. Everything is customized. Even adds that are displayed in web site side bars are tailored based on past google searches. People are getting used to this customization and are loosing their aversion to their privacy being invaded. Commercials targeting the general public are also invasive and incite people’s passions so I don’t know how much worse individualized ones are except maybe they make a person more aware and thus responsible for what they search for and how they respond to advertising.

You are what you choose is an interesting notion. We have the capacity to choose against personal preferences. If a person seeks to make right choices instead of selfish choices then one has to look outward. Christ even said, ‘not my will but Thine be done’. This is Mary’s claim to fame too, ‘be it done unto me according to your word.’ Reader David Bryan’s paper emphasizes the necessity of Christ to assume human nature in order to conform our nature by obedience. Christ submitted His human will to His Divine will. We are to do the same regardless of our preferences. So is one’s personality shaped by their willingness to obey? One who prefers to obey has less of a struggle on their hands, if obedience is their goal. But even Christ struggled at least in the Garden. To some extent. I think I’ve heard explanations that His obedience was always instant, but I guess He had a process or painful sequence of right decision making that night.

But these are all in the category of human nature, not individual personality or the individual soul. I wonder if Christ’s human soul was determined by Mary as much as his physical DNA would also have been. If we take away preferences as defining a soul, then I’m not sure I know what else makes us distinct from each other. Besides male and femaleness. Males and females are equally human, and I think one can speak of a category of human soul, but there probably is also a male soul and a female soul. I know a lot of male and female characteristics are determined by chromasomes and hormones, but there is also an essence of both that isn’t. However, if a soul is highly individual, lines drawn between who a male soul and female soul is cannot be strictly judged on this point. One reason I talked about anemia instead of my individual circumstance, which is due to being female, is that males can become anemic too from different causes. Their symptoms are the same. But then, so probably are an animal’s, so that doesn’t get me very far.

I think psychology (technically the study of the soul) is generally studied on a generally human level. Gender may sway statistics, but again the lines are fuzzy when diagnosing people. Psychology also tends to deal with nurture over nature. External forces affect humans in similar ways. It takes determination a lot of the time to alter one’s psychological course. I think there is credence to the idea that one can choose to be happy for instance. Thankfulness can be obedience. So that puts temperament outside the realm of individual personality. The above is one reason I don’t subscribe to personality tests such as the Myers Briggs test. It puts people in a rigid box that they may be better served by being encouraged to venture out of. Even if a person who lives a life of repentance still gets the same results no matter at what stage he takes the test, I still don’t like to be so rigidly defined, but that may just be my preference.

Anyway, I don’t think we need female deacons. A nun who does similar duties should probably be called something similar to altar nun.