by Andrea Elizabeth
From Kierkegaard’s exposition on Plato’s Phaedo in The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, p. 73:
Now, the soul has the greatest similarity to what is divine, immortal, rational, homogeneous, indissoluble, and is ever self-consistent and invariable; whereas the body has the greatest similarity to that which is human, mortal, irrational, multiform, dissoluble, and never self-consistent (p47). But here we come to an equally abstract view of the existence of the soul and its relation to the body. To be more specific, this view is by no means guilty of tangibly assigning the soul a specific place in the body, but on the other hand it does disregard, and completely, the soul’s relation to the body, and the soul, instead of moving freely in the body produced by it, continually tries to sneak out of the body. […] That the soul is not compounded is quite admissible, but as long as there is no more explicit answer to the question in what sense it is not compounded and, in another sense, to what extent it is a summary of qualifications, the definition of the soul naturally becomes totally negative, and its immortality becomes just as langweilig (boring) as the eternal number one.
Here I assume he is comparing the soul to Absolute Divine Simplicity or the One. Earlier he talked about all the virtues being many but ultimately one, but I’ll leave that for now, except that it is relevant to the discussion in Phaedo about how one’s acquisition of the virtues affects one’s afterlife. There is a part at the end of Phaedo that talks about the unvirtuous soul, though remaining a fully intact soul, is pretty much shunned in the afterlife. The idea that an individual soul can be shunned by other souls seems to place the soul more in the realm of the particular, or diverse, or many, than the universal one. Perhaps the virtuous souls are absorbed by the abstract, and as Kierkegaard surmises, the negative One, and the unvirtuous ones are left to their diverse independence. I can see the appeal of licentiousness in that case.
The problem with the ever shrinking amount of abstract forms in the ascent of the hierarchy to the One is that it has trouble reconciling and maintaining the many. In the essence/energy distinction, the many are retained, but in order to do this the proper Ordo Theologiae must be assumed. Instead of going from essence to activity to person, person is the starting point who determines activities according to nature, unoriginate in the Father’s case, created in ours. A person is many and one. A person has a vast amount of energies which enable him to eat, think, gaze, etc. all at once. There is one human nature, which Yannaras explains in the link, and I think says is more about how we are and do the many things in a personal way. An individual is one person who has a human will to choose the different activities, good or bad. If God is seen as an essence first, then reducing His component parts into one poses problems, the first being boredom to Søren and me. His essence, beyond beingly being as Dr. Jones says (see the St. Dionisius category), is the mode in which He personally moves, but stays immovable, which gets us back to Kierkegaard.
The supposed superiority of the soul is due to its immutability compared to the body’s being subject to change. Likewise a soul that is governed by a passionate body harnesses itself to changeableness and does not achieve a good end in the afterlife, even if it of itself does not change, however that may be. St. Maximus says that it must attain a habit of virtue – virtue achieved not only internally, but through the body. A properly governed body positively affects the everlasting stable soul. Thus it can be said that in some respect, in that case, the body shares in the soul’s stability. This is the point in unGnostic theosis. The body comes to partake of unchangeableness. This is why many bodies of the Saints remain incorrupt.
In the above I am borrowing the idea of the immutable soul from Plato. While I believe the soul has a beginning, I agree it doesn’t have an end. The above doesn’t depend on the idea of a stable soul that doesn’t change and which is not in and of itself affected by the body, but can also be applied to the notion that a person – body, soul and spirit or whatever three parts you want to say make up a human person – was created to achieve a state of unchangeableness. “Ever moving rest” as St. Maximus calls it. Adam in the Garden was yet to attain it in that he was immature and needed to develop stable maturity even before he sinned. He had a gnomic will that had to deliberate in a less than omniscient state. God, even as Incarnate Son, does not have a gnomic will, in that He is omniscient and doesn’t have to blindly choose between good and bad options. He knows all the good options for sure. In partaking of His nature by grace (we will always have a human nature but can be joined to God’s divine nature through His communicating energies), we can attain a conscious stability which extends to our human bodies as illustrated above.
If one does not achieve theosis in this life, then their body at the final resurrection, I suppose, will be unused to being joined to a dispassionate soul, or at least to God’s kingdom. Even if the soul is not dispassionate, contrary to Plato, I think that with the removal of sinful options that one is accustomed to will cause torment in the soul and the body. This lack of options is not due to their being none but One, but due to there being no sin in heaven. This has been explained as the existential state of hell by some. I have heard from western sources that there is sin in their idea of a physical hell, but how that brings suffering I’d have to look more into.
As far as the soul seeking to go in and out of the body, before death there is a demonic way that can occur, but there is also a Christian way. Many saints while still living have trans-located, but their appearance in other places was not disembodied. I do not know the nature of their being in another place at the same time other than that. It appears though that we are created to partake of a certain amount of divine omnipresence.