Continuing the discussion between the Saintly brother and sister,
I rejoined, Nay, it may be very possible to infer a wisdom transcending the universe from the skilful and artistic designs observable in this harmonized fabric of physical nature; but, as regards the soul, what knowledge is possible to those who would trace, from any indications the body has to give, the unknown through the known?
Most certainly, the Virgin replied, the soul herself, to those who wish to follow the wise proverb and know themselves, is a competent1758 instructress; of the fact, I mean, that she is an immaterial and spiritual thing, working and moving in a way corresponding to her peculiar nature, and evincing these peculiar emotions through the organs of the body. For this bodily organization exists the same even in those who have just been reduced by death to the state of corpses, but it remains without motion or action because the force of the soul is no longer in it. It moves only when there is sensation in the organs, and not only that, but the mental force by means of that sensation penetrates with its own impulses and moves whither it will all those organs of sensation.
Interesting distinction between the presence of the soul and it’s force.
The soul is an essence created, and living, and intellectual, transmitting from itself to an organized and sentient body the power of living and of grasping objects of sense, as long as a natural constitution capable of this holds together.
Following an interesting explanation of the apophatic approach to the invisible, which Devil’s Advocate St. Gregory replies may mean that the invisible does not exist, St. Macrina describes how the mind (not sure if she is distinguishing this from the soul) is like the invisible aspects of God,
Shame on such absurdity! said she, indignantly interrupting. A fine conclusion this narrow-minded, grovelling view of the world brings us to! If all that is not cognizable by sense is to be wiped out of existence, the all-embracing Power that presides over things is admitted by this same assertion not to be; once a man has been told about the non-material and invisible nature of the Deity, he must perforce with such a premise reckon it as absolutely non-existent. If, on the other hand, the absence of such characteristics in His case does not constitute any limitation of His existence, how can the Mind of man be squeezed out of existence along with this withdrawal one by one of each property of matter?
Well, then, I retorted, we only exchange one paradox for another by arguing in this way; for our reason will be reduced to the conclusion that the Deity and the Mind of man are identical, if it be true that neither can be thought of, except by the withdrawal of all the data of sense.
Say not so, she replied; to talk so also is blasphemous. Rather, as the Scripture tells you, say that the one is like the other. For that which is “made in the image” of the Deity necessarily possesses a likeness to its prototype in every respect; it resembles it in being intellectual, immaterial, unconnected 96with any notion of weight1771 and in eluding any measurement of its dimensions1772; yet as regards its own peculiar nature it is something different from that other. Indeed, it would be no longer an “image,” if it were altogether identical with that other; but1773 where we have A in that uncreate prototype we have a in the image;
[…] Just, then, as we have no doubts, owing to the display of a Divine mysterious wisdom in the universe, about a Divine Being and a Divine Power existing in it all which secures its continuance (though if you required a definition of that Being you would therein find the Deity completely sundered from every object in creation, whether of sense or thought, while in these last, too, natural distinctions are admitted), so, too, there is nothing strange in the soul’s separate existence as a substance (whatever we may think that substance to be) being no hindrance to her actual existence, in spite of the elemental atoms of the world not harmonizing with her in the definition of her being. In the case of our living bodies, composed as they are from the blending of these atoms, there is no sort of communion, as has been just said, on the score of substance, between the simplicity and invisibility of the soul, and the grossness of those bodies; but, notwithstanding that, there is not a doubt that there is in them the soul’s vivifying influence exerted by a law which it is beyond the human understanding to comprehend.
I was waiting for the explanation! Yet I want to know more about the unvivifying presence of the soul in the perished body that I think she alluded to earlier.
[…] so, when that framework is dissolved, and has returned to its kindred elements, there is nothing against probability that that simple and incomposite essence which has once for all by some inexplicable law grown with the growth of the bodily framework should continually remain beside the atoms with which it has been blended, and should in no way be sundered from a union once formed. For it does not follow that because the composite is dissolved the incomposite must be dissolved with it.
[St. Gregory logically follows,…] but once these atoms are separated from each other, and have gone whither their nature impels them, what is to become of the soul when her vessel is thus scattered in many directions? As a sailor, when his ship has been wrecked and gone to pieces, cannot float upon all the pieces at once which have been scattered this way and that over the surface of the sea (for he seizes any bit that comes to hand, and lets all the rest drift away), in the same way the soul, being by nature incapable of dissolution along with the atoms, will, if she finds it hard to be parted from the body altogether, cling to some one of them; and if we take this view, consistency will no more allow us to regard her as immortal for living in one atom than as mortal for not living in a number of them.
[To which she replies,…] In locality, in peculiar qualities, these elemental atoms are held to be far removed from each other; but an undimensional nature finds it no labour to cling to what is locally divided, seeing that even now it is possible for the mind at once to contemplate the heavens above us and to extend its busy scrutiny beyond the horizon, nor is its contemplative power at all distracted by these excursions into distances so great. There is nothing, then, to hinder the soul’s presence in the body’s atoms, whether fused in union or decomposed in dissolution. […] Therefore the soul exists in the actual atoms which she has once animated, and there is no force to tear her away from her cohesion with them. What cause for melancholy, then, is there herein, that the visible is exchanged for the invisible; and wherefore is it that your mind has conceived such a hatred of death?
So the properties of union still exist even if the parts are separated, and this is of sufficient nature (apparently for St. Macrina) to maintain the presence of the individual, including his body, among us.
Since the discussion turns to the emotions, I assume of those still living, I will continue, Lord willing and me cooperating, in another post.