[TRANSLATED BY PETER HOLMES, D.D.]
CHAP. I.—IT IS NOT TO THE PHILOSOPHERS THAT WE RESORT FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE SOUL BUT TO GOD.(2)
HAVING discussed with Hermogenes the single point of the origin of the soul, so far as his assumption led me, that the soul consisted rather in an adaptation(3) of matter than of the inspiration(4) of God, I now turn to the other questions incidental to the subject; and (in my treatment of these) I shall evidently have mostly to contend with the philosophers. In the very prison of Socrates they skirmished about the state of the soul. I have my doubts at once whether the time was an opportune one for their (great) master—(to say nothing of the place), although that perhaps does not much matter. For what could the soul of Socrates then contemplate with clearness and serenity? The sacred ship had returned (from Delos), the hemlock draft to which he had been condemned had been drunk, death was now present before him: (his mind) was,(5) as one may suppose,(6) naturally excited(6) at every emotion; or if nature had lost her influence, it must have been deprived of all power of thought.(7) Or let it have been as placid and tranquil so you please, inflexible, in spite of the claims of natural duty,(8) at the tears of her who was so soon to be his widow, and at the sight of his thenceforward orphan children, yet his soul must have been moved even by its very efforts to suppress emotion; and his constancy itself must have been shaken, as he struggled against the disturbance of the excitement around him. Besides, what other thoughts could any man entertain who had been unjustly condemned to die, but such as should solace him for the injury done to him? Especially would this be the case with that glorious creature, the philosopher, to whom injurious treatment would not suggest a craving for consolation, but rather the feeling of resentment and indignation. Accordingly, after his sentence, when his wife came to him with her effeminate cry, O Socrates, you are unjustly condemned! he seemed already to find joy in answering, Would you then wish me justly condemned? It is therefore not to be wondered at, if even in his prison, from a desire to break the foul hands of Anytus and Melitus, he, in the face of death itself, asserts the immortality of the soul by a strong assumption such as was wanted to frustrate the wrong (they had inflicted upon him). So that all the wisdom of Socrates, at that moment, proceeded from the affectation of an assumed composure, rather than the firm conviction of ascertained truth. For by whom has truth ever been discovered without God? By whom has God ever been found without Christ? By whom has Christ ever been explored without the Holy Spirit? By whom has the Holy Spirit ever been attained without the mysterious gift of faith?(9) Socrates, as none can doubt, was actuated by a different spirit. For they say that a demon clave to
him from his boyhood—the very worst teacher certainly, notwithstanding the high place assigned to it by poets and philosophers—even next to, (nay, along with) the gods themselves. The teachings of the power of Christ had not yet been given—(that power) which alone can confute this most pernicious influence of evil that has nothing good in it, but is rather the author of all error, and the seducer from all truth. Now if Socrates was pronounced the wisest of men by the oracle of the Pythian demon, which, you may be sure, neatly managed the business for his friend, of how much greater dignity and constancy is the assertion of the Christian wisdom, before the very breath of which the whole host of demons is scattered! This wisdom of the school of heaven frankly and without reserve denies the gods of this world, and shows no such inconsistency as to order a “cock to be sacrificed to AEsculapius:”(1) no new gods and demons does it introduce, but expels the old ones; it corrupts not youth, but instructs them in all goodness and moderation; and so it bears the unjust condemnation not of one city only, but of all the world, in the cause of that truth which incurs indeed the greater hatred in proportion to its fulness: so that it tastes death not out of a (poisoned) cup almost in the way of jollity; but it exhausts it in every kind of bitter cruelty, on gibbets and in holocausts.(2) Meanwhile, in the still gloomier prison of the world amongst your Cebeses and Phaedos, in every investigation concerning (man’s) soul, it directs its inquiry according to the rules of God. At all events, you can show us no more powerful expounder of the soul than the Author thereof. From God you may learn about that which you hold of God; but from none else will you get this knowledge, if you get it not from God. For who is to reveal that which God has hidden? To that quarter must we resort in our inquiries whence we are most safe even in deriving our ignorance. For it is really better for us not to know a thing, because He has not revealed it to us, than to know it according to man’s wisdom, because he has been bold enough to assume it.
CHAP. II.—THE CHRISTIAN HAS SURE AND SIMPLE KNOWLEDGE CONCERNING THE SUBJECT BEFORE US.
Of course we shall not deny that philosophers have sometimes thought the same things as ourselves. The testimony of truth is the issue thereof. It sometimes happens even in a storm, when the boundaries of sky and sea are lost in confusion, that some harbour is stumbled on (by the labouring ship) by some happy chance; and sometimes in the very shades of night, through blind luck alone, one finds access to a spot, or egress from it. In nature, however, most conclusions are suggested, as it were, by that common intelligence wherewith God has been pleased to endow the soul of man. This intelligence has been caught up by philosophy, and, with the view of glorifying her own art, has been inflated (it is not to be wondered at that I use this language) with straining after that facility of language which is practised in the building up and pulling down of everything, and which has greater aptitude for persuading men by speaking than by teaching. She assigns to things their forms and conditions; sometimes makes them common and public, sometimes appropriates them to private use; on certainties she capriciously stamps the character of uncertainty; she appeals to precedents, as if all things are capable of being compared together; she describes all things by rule and definition, allotting diverse properties even to similar objects; she attributes nothing to the divine permission, but assumes as her principles the laws of nature. I could bear with her pretensions, if only she were herself true to nature, and would prove to me that she had a mastery over nature as being associated with its creation. She thought, no doubt, that she was deriving her mysteries from sacred sources, as men deem them, because in ancient times most authors were supposed to be (I will not say godlike, but) actually gods: as, for instance, the Egyptian Mercury,(3) to whom Plato paid very great deference;(4) and the Phrygian Silenus, to whom Midas lent his long ears, when the shepherds brought him to him; and Hermotimus, to whom the good people of Clazomenae built a temple after his death; and Orpheus; and Musaeus; and Pherecydes, the master of Pythagoras. But why need we care, since these philosophers have also made their attacks upon those writings which are condemned by us under the title of apocryphal,(5) certain as we are that nothing ought to be received which does not agree with the true system of prophecy, which has arisen in this present age;(6) because we do not forget that there have been false proph-
ets, and long previous to them fallen spirits, which have instructed the entire tone and aspect of the world with cunning knowledge of this (philosophic) cast? It is, indeed, not incredible that any man who is in quest of wisdom may have gone so far, as a matter of curiosity, as to consult the very prophets; (but be this as it may), if you take t he philosophers, you would find in them more diversity than agreement, since even in their agreement their diversity is discoverable. Whatever things are true in their systems, and agreeable to prophetic wisdom, they either recommend as emanating from some other source, or else perversely apply(1) in some other sense. This process is attended with very great detriment to the truth, when they pretend that it is either helped by falsehood, or else that falsehood derives support from it. The following circumstance must needs have set ourselves and the philosophers by the ears, especially in this present matter, that they sometimes clothe sentiments which are common to both sides, in arguments which are peculiar to themselves, but contrary in some points to our rule and standard of faith; and at other times defend opinions which are especially their, own, with arguments which both sides acknowledge to be valid, and occasionally conformable to their system of belief. The truth has, at this rate, been well-nigh excluded by the philosophers, through the poisons with which they have infected it; and thus, if we regard both the modes of coalition which we have now mentioned, and which are equally hostile to the truth, we feel the urgent necessity of freeing, on the one hand, the sentiments held by us in common with them from the arguments of the philosophers, and of separating, on the other hand, the arguments which both parties employ from the opinions of the same philosophers. And this we may do by recalling all questions to God’s inspired standard, with the obvious exception of such simple cases as being free from the entanglement of any preconceived conceits, one may fairly admit on mere human testimony; because plain evidence of this sort we must sometimes borrow from opponents, when our opponents have nothing to gain from it. Now I am not unaware what a vast mass of literature the philosophers have accumulated concerning the subject before us, in their own commentaries thereon—what various schools of principles there are, what conflicts of opinion, what prolific sources of questions, what perplexing methods of solution. Moreover, I have looked into Medical Science also, the sister (as they say) of Philosophy, which claims as her function to cure the body, and thereby to have a special acquaintance with the soul. From this circumstance she has great differences with her sister, pretending as the latter does to know more about the soul, through the more obvious treatment, as it were, of her in her domicile of the body. But never mind all this contention between them for pre-eminence! For extending their several researches on the soul, Philosophy, on the one hand, has enjoyed the full scope of her genius; while Medicine, on the other hand, has possessed the stringent demands of her art and practice. Wide are men’s inquiries into uncertainties; wider still are their disputes about conjectures. However great the difficulty of adducing proofs, the labour of producing conviction is not one whit less; so that the gloomy Heraclitus was quite right, when, observing the thick darkness which obscured the researches of the inquirers about the soul, and wearied with their interminable questions, he declared that he had certainly not explored the limits of the soul, although he had traversed every road in her domains. To the Christian, however, but few words are necessary for the clear understanding of the whole subject. But in the few words there always arises certainty to him; nor is he permitted to give his inquiries a wider range than is compatible with their solution; for “endless questions” the apostle forbids.(2) It must, however, be added, that no solution may be found by any man, but such as is learned from God; and that which is learned of God is the sum and substance of the whole thing.
CHAP. III.—THE SOUL’S ORIGIN DEFINED OUT OF THE SIMPLE WORDS OF SCRIPTURE.
Would to God that no “heresies had been ever necessary, in order that they which are; approved may be made manifest!”(3) We should then be never required to try our strength in contests about the soul with philosophers, those patriarchs of heretics, as they may be fairly called.(4) The apostle, so far back as his own time, foresaw, indeed, that philosophy would do violent injury to the truth.(5) This admonition about false philosophy he was induced to offer after he had been at Athens, had become acquainted with that loquacious city,(6) and had there had a taste of its huckstering wiseacres and talkers. In like manner is the treatment of the soul according to the sophistical doctrines of men which “mix their
wine with water.”(1) Some of them deny the immortality of the soul; others affirm that it is immortal, and something more. Some raise disputes about its substance; others about its form; others, again, respecting each of its several faculties. One school of philosophers derives its state from various sources, while another ascribes its departure to different destinations. The various schools reflect the character of their masters, according as they have received their impressions from the dignity(2) of Plato, or the vigour(3) of Zeno, or the equanimity(4) of Aristotle, or the stupidity(5) of Epicurus, or the sadness(6) of Heraclitus, or the madness(7) of Empedocles. The fault, I suppose, of the divine doctrine lies in its springing from Judaea(8) rather than from Greece. Christ made a mistake, too, in sending forth fishermen to preach, rather than the sophist. Whatever noxious vapours, accordingly, exhaled from philosophy, obscure the clear and wholesome atmosphere of truth, it will be for Christians to clear away, both by shattering to pieces the arguments which are drawn from the principles of things—I mean those of the philosophers—and by opposing to them the maxims of heavenly wisdom—that is, such as are revealed by the Lord; in order that both the pitfalls wherewith philosophy captivates the heathen may be removed, and the means employed by heresy to shake the faith of Christians may be repressed. We have already decided one point in our controversy with Hermogenes, as we said at the beginning of this treatise, when we claimed the soul to be formed by the breathing(9) of God, and not out of matter. We relied even there on the clear direction of the inspired statement which informs us how that “the Lord God breathed on man’s face the breath of life, so that man became a living soul”(10)—by that inspiration of God, of course. On this point, therefore, nothing further need be investigated or advanced by us. It has its own treatise,(11) and its own heretic. I shall regard it as my introduction to the other branches of the subject.
CHAP. IV.—IN OPPOSITION TO PLATO, THE SOUL WAS CREATED AND ORIGINATED AT BIRTH.
After settling the origin of the soul, its condition or state comes up next. For when we acknowledge that the soul originates in the breath of God, it follows that we attribute a beginning to it. This Plato, indeed, refuses to assign to it, for he will have the soul to be unborn and unmade.(12) We, however, from the very fact of its having had a beginning, as well as from the nature thereof, teach that it had both birth and creation. And when we ascribe both birth and creation to it, we have made no mistake: for being born, indeed, is one thing, and being made is another,—the former being the term which is best suited to living beings. When distinctions, however, have places and times of their own, they occasionally possess also reciprocity of application among themselves. Thus, the being made admits of being taken in the sense of being brought forth;(13) inasmuch as everything which receives being or existence, in any way whatever, is in fact generated. For the maker may really be called the parent of the thing that is made: in this sense Plato also uses the phraseology. So far, therefore, as concerns our belief in the souls being made or born, the opinion of the philosopher is overthrown by the authority of prophecy(14) even.
CHAP. V.—PROBABLE VIEW OF THE STOICS, THAT THE SOUL HAS A CORPOREAL NATURE.
Suppose one summons a Eubulus to his assistance, and a Critolaus, and a Zenocrates, and on this occasion Plato’s friend Aristotle. They may very possibly hold themselves ready for stripping the soul of its corporeity, unless they happen to see other philosophers opposed to them in their purpose—and this, too, in greater numbers—asserting for the soul a corporeal nature. Now I am not referring merely to those who mould the soul out of manifest bodily substances, as Hipparchus and Heraclitus (do) out of fire; as Hippon and Thales (do) out of water; as Empedocles and Critias (do) out of blood; as Epicurus (does) out of atoms, since even atoms by their coherence form corporeal masses; as Critolaus and his Peripatetics (do) out of a certain indescribable quintessence,(15) if that may be called a body which rather includes and embraces bodily substances;—but I call on the Stoics also to help me, who, while declaring almost in our own terms that the soul is a spiritual essence (inasmuch as breath and spirit are in their nature very near akin to each other), will yet have no difficulty in persuading (us) that the soul is a corporeal
substance. Indeed, Zeno, defining the soul to be a spirit generated with (the body,(1)) constructs his argument in this way: That substance which by its departure causes the living being to die is a corporeal one. Now it is by the departure of the spirit, which is generated with (the body,) that the living being dies; therefore the spirit which is generated with (the body) is a corporeal substance. But this spirit which is generated with (the body) is the soul: it follows, then, that the soul is a corporeal substance. Cleanthes, too, will have it that family likeness passes from parents to their children not merely in bodily features, but in characteristics of the soul; as if it were out of a mirror of (a man’s) manners, and faculties, and affections, that bodily likeness and unlikeness are caught and reflected by the soul also. It is therefore as being corporeal that it is susceptible of likeness and unlikeness. Again, there is nothing in common between things corporeal and things incorporeal as to their susceptibility. But the soul certainly sympathizes with the body, and shares in its pain, whenever it is injured by bruises, and wounds, and sores: the body, too, suffers with the soul, and is united with it (whenever it is afflicted with anxiety, distress, or love) in the loss of vigour which its companion sustains, whose shame and fear it testifies by its own blushes and paleness. The soul, therefore, is (proved to be) corporeal from this inter-communion of susceptibility. Chrysippus also joins hands in fellowship with Cleanthes when he lays it down that it is not at all possible for things which are endued with body to be separated from things which have not body; because they have no such relation as mutual contact or coherence. Accordingly Lucretius says:(2)
“Tangere enim et tangi nisi corpus nulla potest res.”
“For nothing but body is capable of touching or of being touched.”
(Such severance, however, is quite natural between the soul and the body); for when the body is deserted by the soul, it is overcome by death. The soul, therefore, is endued with a body; for if it were not corporeal, it could not desert the body.
CHAP. VI.—THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PLATONISTS FOR THE SOUL’S INCORPOREALITY, OPPOSED, PERHAPS FRIVOLOUSLY.
These conclusions the Platonists disturb more by subtilty than by truth. Every body, they say, has necessarily either an animate nature(3) or an inanimate one.(4) If it has the inanimate nature, it receives motion externally to itself; if the animate one, internally. Now the soul receives motion neither externally nor internally: not externally, since it has not the inanimate nature; nor internally, because it is itself rather the giver of motion to the body. It evidently, then, is not a bodily substance, inasmuch as it receives motion neither way, according to the nature and law of corporeal substances. Now, what first surprises us here, is the unsuitableness of a definition which appeals to objects which have no affinity with the soul. For it is impossible for the soul to be called either an animate body or an inanimate one, inasmuch as it is the soul itself which makes the body either animate, if it be present to it, or else inanimate, if it be absent from it. That, therefore, which produces a result, cannot itself be the result, so as to be entitled to the designation of an animate thing or an inanimate one. The soul is so called in respect of its own substance. If, then, that which is the soul admits not of being called an animate body or an inanimate one, how can it challenge comparison with the nature and law of animate and inanimate bodies? Furthermore, since it is characteristic of a body to be moved externally by something else, and as we have already shown that the soul receives motion from some other thing when it is swayed (from the outside, of course, by something else) by prophetic influence or by madness, therefore I must be right in regarding that as bodily substance which, according to the examples we have quoted, is moved by some other object from without. Now, if to receive motion from some other thing is characteristic of a body, how much more is it so to impart motion to something else! But the soul moves the body, all whose efforts are apparent externally, and from without. It is the soul which gives motion to the feet for walking, and to the hands for touching, and to the eyes for sight, and to the tongue for speech—a sort of internal image which moves and animates the surface. Whence could accrue such power to the soul, if it were incorporeal? How could an unsubstantial thing propel solid objects? But in what way do the senses in man seem to be divisible into the corporeal and the intellectual classes? They tell is that the qualities of things corporeal, such as earth and fire, are indicated by the bodily senses—of touch and sight; whilst (the qualities) of incorporeal things—for instance, benevolence and malignity—are
discovered by the intellectual faculties. And from this (they deduce what is to them) the manifest conclusion, that the soul is incorporeal, its properties being comprehended by the perception not of bodily organs, but of intellectual faculties. Well, (I shall be much surprised) if I do not at once cut away the very ground on which their argument stands. For I show them how incorporeal things are commonly submitted to the bodily senses—sound, for instance, to the organ of hearing; colour, to the organ of sight; smell, to the olfactory organ. And, just as in these instances, the soul likewise has its contact with(1) the body; not to say that the incorporeal objects are reported to us through the bodily organs, for the express reason that they come into contact with the said organs. Inasmuch, then, as it is evident that even incorporeal objects are embraced and comprehended by corporeal ones, why should not the soul, which is corporeal, be equally comprehended and understood by incorporeal faculties? It is thus certain that their argument fails. Among their more conspicuous arguments will be found this, that in their judgment every bodily substance is nourished by bodily substances; whereas the soul, as being an incorporeal essence, is nourished by incorporeal aliments—for instance, by the studies of wisdom. But even this ground has no stability in it, since Soranus, who is a most accomplished authority in medical science, affords us as answer, when he asserts that the soul is even nourished by corporeal aliments; that in fact it is, when failing and weak, actually refreshed oftentimes by food. Indeed, when deprived of all food, does not the soul entirely remove from the body? Soranus, then, after discoursing about the soul in the amplest manner, filling four volumes with his dissertations, and after weighing well all the opinions of the philosophers, defends the corporeality of the soul, although in the process he has robbed it of its immortality. For to all men it is not given to believe the truth which Christians are privileged to hold. As, therefore, Soranus has shown us from facts that the soul is nourished by corporeal aliments, let the philosopher (adopt a similar mode of proof, and) show that it is sustained by an incorporeal food. But the fact is, that no one has even been able to quench this man’s(2) doubts and difficulties about the condition of the soul with the honey-water of Plato’s subtle eloquence, nor to surfeit them with the crumbs from the minute nostrums of Aristotle. But what is to become of the souls of all those robust barbarians, which have had no nurture of philosopher’s lore indeed, and yet are strong in untaught practical wisdom, and which although very starvelings in philosophy, without your Athenian academies and porches, and even the prison of Socrates, do yet contrive to live? For it is not the soul’s actual substance which is benefited by the aliment of learned study, but only its conduct and discipline; such ailment contributing nothing to increase its bulk, but only to enhance its grace. It is, moreover, a happy circumstance that the Stoics affirm that even the arts have corporeality; since at the rate the soul too must be corporeal, since it is commonly supposed to be nourished by the arts. Such, however, is the enormous preoccupation of the philosophic mind, that it is generally unable to see straight before it. Hence (the story of) Thales falling into the well.(3) It very commonly, too, through not understanding even its own opinions, suspects a failure of its own health. Hence (the story of) Chrysippus and the hellebore. Some such hallucination, I take it, must have occurred to him, when he asserted that two bodies could not possibly be contained in one: he must have kept out of mind and sight the case of those pregnant women who, day after day, bear not one body, but even two and three at a time, within the embrace of a single womb. One finds likewise, in the records of the civil law, the instance of a certain Greek woman who gave birth to a quint(4) of children, the mother of all these at one parturition, the manifold parent of a single brood, the prolific produce from a single womb, who, guarded by so many bodies—I had almost said, a people—was herself no less then the sixth person! The whole creation testifies how that those bodies which are naturally destined to issue from bodies, are already (included) in that from which they proceed. Now that which proceeds from some other thing must needs be second to it. Nothing, however, proceeds out of another thing except by the process of generation; but then they are two (things).
CHAP.VII. —THE SOUL’S CORPOREALITY DEMONSTRATED OUT OF THE GOSPELS.
So far as the philosophers are concerned, we have said enough. As for our own teachers, indeed, our reference to them is ex abundanti—a surplusage of authority: in the Gospel itself they will be found to have the
clearest evidence for the corporeal nature of the soul. In hell the soul of a certain man is in torment, punished in flames, suffering excruciating thirst, and imploring from the finger of a happier soul, for his tongue, the solace of a drop of water.(1) Do you suppose that this end of the blessed poor man and the miserable rich man is only imaginary? Then why the name of Lazarus in this narrative, if the circumstance is not in (the category of) a real occurrence? But even if it is to be regarded as imaginary, it will still be a testimony to truth and reality. For unless the soul possessed corporeality, the image of a soul could not possibly contain a finger of a bodily substance; nor would the Scripture feign a statement about the limbs of a body, if these had no existence. But what is that which is removed to Hades(2) after the separation of the body; which is there detained; which is reserved until the day of judgment; to which Christ also, on dying, descended? I imagine it is the souls of the patriarchs. But wherefore (all this), if the soul is nothing in its subterranean abode? For nothing it certainly is, if it is not a bodily substance. For whatever is incorporeal is incapable of being kept and guarded in any way; it is also exempt from either punishment or refreshment. That must be a body, by which punishment and refreshment can be experienced. Of this I shall treat more fully in a more fitting place. Therefore, whatever amount of punishment or refreshment the soul tastes in Hades, in its prison or lodging,(3) in the fire or in Abraham’s bosom, it gives proof thereby of its own corporeality. For an incorporeal thing suffers nothing, not having that which makes it capable of suffering; else, if it has such capacity, it must be a bodily substance. For in as far as every corporeal thing is capable of suffering, in so far is that which is capable of suffering also corporeal.(4)
CHAP. VIII.—OTHER PLATONIST ARGUMENTS
Besides, it would be a harsh and absurd proceeding to exempt anything from the class cf corporeal beings, on the ground that it is not exactly like the other constituents of that class. And where individual creature’s possess various properties, does not this variety in works of the same class indicate the greatness of the Creator, in making them at the same time different and yet like, amicable yet rivals? Indeed, the philosophers themselves agree in saying that the universe consists of harmonious oppositions, according to Empedocles’ (theory of) friendship and enmity. Thus, then, although corporeal essences are opposed to incorporeal ones, they yet differ from each other in such sort as to amplify their species by their variety, without changing their genus, remaining all alike corporeal; contributing to God’s glory in their manifold existence by reason of their variety; so various, by reason of their differencs; so diverse, in that some of them possess one kind of perception, others another; some feeding on one kind of aliment, others on another; some, again, possessing visibility, while others are invisible; some being weighty, others light. They are in the habit of saying that the soul must be pronounced incorporeal on this account, because the bodies of the dead, after its departure from them, become heavier, whereas they ought to be lighter, being deprived of the weight of a body—since the soul is a bodily substance. But what, says Soranus (in answer to this argument), if men should deny that the sea is a bodily substance, because a ship out of the water becomes a heavy and motionless mass? How much truer and stronger, then, is the soul’s corporeal essence, which carries about the body, which eventually assumes so great a weight with the nimblest motion! Again, even if the soul is invisible, it is only in strict accordance with the condition of its own corporeality, and suitably to the property of its own essence, as well as to the nature of even those beings to which its destiny made it to be invisible. The eyes of the owl cannot endure the sun, whilst the eagle is so well able to face his glory, that the noble character of its young is determined by the unblinking strength of their gaze; while the eaglet, which turns away its eye from the sun’s ray, is expelled from the nest as a degenerate creature! So true is it, therefore, than to one eye an object is invisible, which may be quite plainly seen by another,—without implying any incorporeality in that which is not endued with an equally strong power (of vision). The sun is indeed a bodily substance, because it is (composed of) fire; the object, however, which the eaglet at once admits the existence of, the owl denies, without. any prejudice, nevertheless, to the testimony of the eagle. There is the selfsame difference in respect of the soul’s corporeality, which is (perhaps) invisible to the flesh, but perfectly visible to the spirit. Thus John, being “in the Spirit”
of God,(1) beheld plainly the souls of the martyrs.(2)
CHAP. IX.—PARTICULARS OF THE ALLEGED COMMUNICATION TO A MONTANIST SISTER.
When we aver that the soul has a body of a quality and kind peculiar to itself, in this special condition of it we shall be already supplied with a decision respecting all the other accidents of its corporeity; how that they belong to it, because we have shown it to be a body, but that even they have a quality peculiar to themselves, proportioned to the special nature of the body (to which they belong); or else, if any accidents (of a body) are remarkable in this instance for their absence, then this, too, results from the peculiarity of the condition of the soul’s corporeity, from which are absent sundry qualities which are present to all other corporeal beings. And yet, notwithstanding all this, we shall not be at all inconsistent if we declare that the more usual characteristics of a body, such as invariably accrue to the corporeal condition, belong also to the soul—such as form(3) and limitation; and that triad of dimensions(4)—I mean length, and breadth and height—by which philosophers gauge al bodies. What now remains but for us to give the soul a figure?(5) Plato refuses to do this, as if it endangered the soul’s immortality.(6) For everything which has figure is, according to him, compound, and composed of parts;(7) whereas the soul is immortal; and being immortal, it is therefore indissoluble; and being indissoluble, it is figureless: for if, on the contrary, it had figure, it would be of a composite and structural formation. He, however, in some other manner frames for the soul an effigy of intellectual forms, beautiful for its just symmetry and tuitions of philosophy, but misshapen by some contrary
qualities. As for ourselves, indeed, we inscribe on the soul the lineaments of corporeity, not simply from the assurance which reasoning has taught us of its corporeal nature, but also from the firm conviction which divine grace impresses on us by revelation. For, seeing that we acknowledge spiritual charismata, or gifts, we too have merited the attainment of the prophetic gift, although coming after John (the Baptist). We have now amongst us a sister whose lot it has been to be favoured with sundry gifts of revelation, which she experiences in the Spirit by ecstatic vision amidst the sacred rites of the Lord’s day in the church: she converses with angels, and sometimes even with the Lord; she both sees and hears mysterious communications;(8) some men’s hearts she understands, and to them who are in need she distributes remedies. Whether it be in the reading of Scriptures, or in the chanting of psalms, or in the preaching of sermons, or in the offering up of prayers, m all these religious services matter and opportunity are afforded to her of seeing visions. It may possibly have happened to us, whilst this sister of ours was rapt in the Spirit, that we had discoursed in some ineffable way about the soul. After the people are dismissed at the conclusion of the sacred services, she is in the regular habit of reporting to us whatever things she may have seen in vision (for all her communications are examined with the most scrupulous care, in order that their truth may be probed). “Amongst other things,” says she, “there has been shown to me a soul in bodily shape, and a spirit has been in the habit of appearing to me; not, however, a void and empty illusion, but such as would offer itself to be even grasped by the hand, soft and transparent and of an etherial colour, and in form resembling that of a human being in every respect.” This was her vision, and for her witness there was God; and the apostle most assuredly foretold that there were to be “spiritual gifts” in the church.(9) Now, can you refuse to believe this, even if indubitable evidence on every point is forthcoming for your conviction? Since, then, the soul is a corporeal substance, no doubt it possesses qualities such as those which we have just mentioned, amongst them the property of colour, which is inherent in every bodily substance. Now what colour would you attribute to the soul but an etherial transparent one? Not that its substance is actually the ether or air (although this was the opinion of Aenesidemus and Anaximenes, and I suppose of Heraclitus also, as some say of him), nor transparent light (although Heraclides of Pontus held it to be so). “Thunder-stones,”(10)indeed, are not of igne-ous substance, because they shine with ruddy redness; nor are beryls composed of aqueous matter, because they are of a pure wavy whiteness. How many things also besides these are there which their colour would associate in the same class, but which nature keeps widely apart! Since, however, everything which is very attenuated and transparent
bears a strong resemblance to the air, such would be the case with the soul, since in its material nature(1) it is wind and breath, (or spirit); whence it is that the belief of its corporeal quality is endangered, in consequence of the extreme tenuity and subtilty of its essence. Likewise, as regards the figure of the human soul from your own conception, you can well imagine that it is none other than the human form; indeed, none other than the shape of that body which each individual soul animates and moves about. This we may at once be induced to admit from contemplating man’s original formation. For only carefully consider, after God hath breathed upon the face of man the breath of life, and man had consequently become a living soul, surely that breath must have passed through the face at once into the interior structure, and have spread itself throughout all the spaces of the body; and as soon as by the divine inspiration it had become condensed, it must have impressed itself on each internal feature, which the condensation had filled in, and so have been, as it were, congealed in shape, (or stereotyped). Hence, by this densifying process, there arose a fixing of the soul’s corporeity; and by the impression its figure was formed and moulded. This is the inner man, different from the outer, but yet one in the twofold condition.(2) It, too, has eyes and ears of its own, by means of which Paul must have heard and seen the Lord;(3) it has, moreover all the other members of the body by the help of which it effects all processes of thinking and all activity in dreams. Thus it happens that the rich man in hell has a tongue and poor (Lazarus) a finger and Abraham a bosom.(4) By these features also the souls of the martyrs under the altar are distinguished and known. The soul indeed which in the beginning was associated with Adam’s body, which grew with its growth and was moulded after its form proved to be the germ both of the entire substance (of the human soul) and of that (part of) creation
CHAP. X.—THE SIMPLE NATURE OF THE SOUL IS ASSERTED WITH PLATO. THE IDENTITY OF SPIRIT AND SOUL.
It is essential to a firm faith to declare with Plato(5) that the soul is simple; in other words uniform and uncompounded; simply that is to say in respect of its substance. Never mind men’s artificial views and theories, and away with the fabrications of heresy!(6) Some maintain that there is within the soul a natural substance—the spirit—which is different from it:(7) as if to have life—the function of the soul—were one thing; and to emit breath—the alleged(8) function of the spirit—were another thing. Now it is not in all animals that these two functions are found; for there are many which only live but do not breathe in that they do not possess the organs of respiration—lungs and windpipes.(9) But of what use is it, in an examination of the soul of man, to borrow proofs from a gnat or an ant, when the great Creator in His divine arrangements has allotted to every animal organs of vitality suited to its own disposition and nature, so that we ought not to catch at any conjectures from comparisons of this sort? Man, indeed, although organically furnished with lungs and windpipes, will not on that account be proved to breathe by one process, and to live by another;(10) nor can the ant, although defective in these organs, be on that account said to be without respiration, as if it lived and that was all. For by whom has so clear an insight into the works of God been really attained, as to entitle him to assume that these organic resources are wanting to any living thing ? There is that Herophilus, the well-known surgeon, or (as I may almost call him) butcher, who cut up no end of persons,(11) in order to investigate the secrets of nature, who ruthlessly handled(12) human creatures to discover (their form and make): I have my doubts whether he succeeded in clearly exploring all the internal parts of their structure, since death itself changes and disturbs the natural functions of life, especially when the death is not a natural one, but such as must cause irregularity and error amidst the very processes of dissection. Philosophers have affirmed it to be a certain fact, that gnats, and ants, and moths have no pulmonary or arterial organs. Well, then, tell me, you curious and elaborate investigator of these mysteries, have they eyes for seeing withal? But yet they proceed to whatever point they wish, and they both shun and aim at various objects by processes of sight: point out their eyes to me, show me their pupils. Moths also gnaw and eat: demonstrate to me their mandibles, reveal their jaw-teeth. Then,
again, gnats hum and buzz, nor even in the dark are they unable to find their way to our ears:(1) point out to me, then, not only the noisy tube, but the stinging lance of that mouth of theirs. Take any living thing whatever, be it the tiniest you can find, it must needs be fed and sustained by some food or other: show me, then, their organs for taking into their system, digesting, and ejecting food. What must we say, therefore? If it is by such instruments that life is maintained, these instrumental means must of course exist in all things which are to live, even though they are not apparent to the eye or to the apprehension by reason of their minuteness. You can more readily believe this, if you remember that God manifests His creative greatness quite as much in small objects as in the very largest. If, however, you suppose that God’s wisdom has no capacity for forming such infinitesimal corpuscles, you can still recognise His greatness, in that He has furnished even to the smallest animals the functions of life, although in the absence of the suitable organs,—securing to them the power of sight, even without eyes; of eating, even without teeth; and of digestion, even without stomachs. Some animals also have the ability to move forward without feet, as serpents, by a gliding motion; or as worms, by vertical efforts; or as snails and slugs, by their slimy crawl. Why should you not then believe that respiration likewise may be effected without the bellows of the lungs, and without arterial canals? You would thus supply yourself with a strong proof that the spirit or breath is an adjunct of the human soul, for the very reason that some creatures lack breath, and that they lack it because they are not furnished with organs of respiration. You think it possible for a thing to live without breath; then why not suppose that a thing might breathe without lungs? Pray, tell me, what is it to breathe? I suppose it means to emit breath from yourself. What is it not to live? I suppose it means not to emit breath from yourself. This is the answer which I should have to make, if “to breathe” is not the same thing as “to live.” It must, however, be characteristic of a dead man not to respire: to respire, therefore, is the characteristic of a living man. But to respire is likewise the characteristic of a breathing man: therefore also to breathe is the characteristic of a living man. Now, if both one and the other could possibly have been accomplished without the soul, to breathe might not be a function of the soul, but merely to live. But indeed to live is to breathe, and to breathe is to live. Therefore this entire process, both of breathing and living, belongs to that to which living belongs—that is, to the soul. Well, then, since you separate the spirit (or breath) and the soul, separate their operations also. Let both of them accomplish some act apart from one another—the soul apart, the spirit apart. Let the soul live without the spirit; let the spirit breathe without the soul. Let one of them quit men’s bodies, let the other remain; let death and life meet and agree. If indeed the soul and the spirit are two, they may be divided; and thus, by the separation of the one which departs from the one which remains, there would accrue the union and meeting together of life and of death. But such a union never will accrue: therefore they are not two, and they cannot be divided; but divided they might have been, if they had been (two). Still two things may surely coalesce in growth. But the two in question never will coalesce, since to live is one thing, and to breathe is another. Substances are distinguished by their operations. How much firmer ground have you for believing that the soul and the spirit are but one, since you assign to them no difference; so that the soul is itself the spirit, respiration being the function of that of which life also is! But what if you insist on supposing that the day is one thing, and the light, which is incidental to the day, is another thing, whereas day is only the light itself? There must, of course, be also different kinds of light, as (appears) from the ministry of fires. So likewise will there be different sorts of spirits, according as they emanate from God or from the devil. Whenever, indeed, the question is about soul and spirit, the soul will be (understood to be) itself the spirit, just is the day is the light itself. For a thing is itself identical with that by means of which itself exists.
CHAP. XI.—SPIRIT—A TERM EXPRESSIVE OF AN OPERATION OF THE SOUL, NOT OF ITS NATURE. TO BE CAREFULLY DISTINGUISHED FROM THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
But the nature of my present inquiry obliges me to call the soul spirit or breath, because to breathe is ascribed to another substance. We, however, claim this (operation) for the soul, which we acknowledge to be an indivisible simple substance, and therefore we must call it spirit in a definitive sense—not because of its condition, but of its action; not in respect of its nature, but of its operation; because it respires, and not because it is spirit
in any especial sense.(1) For to blow or breathe is to respire. So that we are driven to describe, by (the term which indicates this respi-ration—that is to say) spirit—the soul which we hold to be, by the propriety of its action, breath. Moreover, we properly and especially insist on calling it breath (or spirit), in opposition to Hermogenes, who derives the soul from matter instead of from the afflatus or breath of God. He, to be sure, goes flatly against the testimony of Scripture, and with this view converts breath into spirit, because he cannot believe that the (creature on which was breathed the) Spirit of God fell into sin, and then into condemnation; and therefore he would conclude that the soul came from matter rather than from the Spirit or breath of God. For this reason, we on our side even from that passage, maintain the soul to be breath and not the spirit, in the scriptural and distinctive sense of the spirit; and here it is with regret that we apply the term spirit at all in the lower sense, in consequence of the identical action of respiring and breathing. In that passage, the only question is about the natural substance; to respire being an act of nature. I would not tarry a moment longer on this point, were it not for those heretics who introduce into the soul some spiritual germ which passes my comprehension: (they make it to have been) conferred upon the soul by the secret liberality of her mother Sophia (Wisdom), without the knowledge of the Creator.(2) But (Holy) Scripture, which has a better knowledge of the soul’s Maker, or rather God, has told us nothing more than that God breathed on man’s face the breath of life, and that man became a living soul, by means of which he was both to live and breathe; at the same time making a sufficiently clear distinction between the spirit and the soul,(3) in such passages as the following, wherein God Himself declares: “My Spirit went forth from me, and I made the breath of each. And the breath of my Spirit became soul.”(4) And again: “He giveth breath unto the people that are on the earth, and Spirit to them that walk thereon.”(5) First of all there comes the (natural) soul, that is to say, the breath, to the people that are on the earth,—in other words, to those who act carnally in the flesh; then afterwards comes the Spirit to those who walk thereon,—that is, who subdue the works of the flesh; because the apostle also says, that “that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, (or in possession of the natural soul,) and afterward that which is spiritual.”(6) For, inasmuch as Adam straightway predicted that “great mystery of Christ and the church,”(7) when he said, “This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they two shall become one flesh,”(8) he experienced the influence of the Spirit. For there fell upon him that ecstasy, which is the Holy Ghost’s operative virtue of prophecy. And even the evil spirit too is an influence which comes upon a man. Indeed, the Spirit of God not more really “turned Saul into another man,”(9) that is to say, into a prophet, when “people said one to another, What is this which is come to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”(10) than did the evil spirit afterwards turn him into another man—in other words, into an apostate. Judas likewise was for a long time reckoned among the elect (apostles), and was even appointed to the office of their treasurer; he was not yet the traitor, although he was become fraudulent; but afterwards the devil entered into him. Consequently, as the spirit neither of God nor of the devil is naturally planted with a man’s soul at his birth, this soul must evidently exist apart and alone, previous to the accession to it of either spirit: if thus apart and alone, it must also be simple and un-compounded as regards its substance; and therefore it cannot respire from any other cause than from the actual condition of its own substance.
CHAP. XII.—DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MIND AND THE SOUL, AND THE RELATION BETWEEN THEM.
In like manner the mind also, or animus, which the Greeks designate NO
his mother Sige. How confused is the opinion of Anaxagoras! For, having imagined the mind to be the initiating principle of all things, and suspending on its axis the balance of the universe; affirming, moreover, that the mind is a simple principle, unmixed, and incapable of admixture, he mainly on this very consideration separates it from all amalgamation with the soul; and yet in another passage he actually incorporates it with(1) the soul. This (inconsistency) Aristotle has also observed: but whether he meant his criticism to be constructive, and to fill up a system of his own, rather than destructive of the principles of others, I am hardly able to decide. As for himself, indeed, although he postpones his definition of the mind, yet he begins by mentioning, as one of the two natural constituents of the mind,(2) that divine principle which he conjectures to be impassible, or incapable of emotion, and thereby removes from all association with the soul. For whereas it is evident that the soul is susceptible of those emotions which it falls to it naturally to suffer, it must needs suffer either by the mind or with the mind. Now if the soul is by nature associated with the mind, it is impossible to draw the conclusion that the mind is impassible; or again, if the soul suffers not either by the mind or with the mind, it cannot possibly have a natural association with the mind, with which it suffers nothing, and which suffers nothing itself. Moreover, if the soul suffers nothing by the mind and with the mind, it will experience no sensation, nor will it acquire any knowledge, nor will it undergo any emotion through the agency of the mind, as they maintain it will. For Aristotle makes even the senses passions, or states of emotion And rightly too. For to exercise the senses is to suffer emotion, because to suffer is to feel. In like manner, to acquire knowledge is to exercise the senses; and to undergo emotion is to exercise the senses; and the whole of this is a state of suffering. But we see that the soul experiences nothing of these things, in such a manner as that the mind also is affected by the emotion, by which, indeed, and with which, all is effected. It follows, therefore, that the mind is capable of admixture, in opposition to Anaxagoras; and passible or susceptible of emotion, contrary to the opinion of Aristotle. Besides, if a separate condition between the soul and mind is to be admitted, so that they be two things in substance, then of one of them, emotion and sensation, and every sort of taste, and all action and motion, will be the characteristics; whilst of the other the natural condition will be calm, and repose, and stupor. There is therefore no alternative: either the mind must be useless and void, or the soul. But if these affections may certainly be all of them ascribed to both, then in that case the two will be one and the same, and Democritus will carry his point when he suppresses all distinction between the two. The question will arise how two can be one—whether by the confusion of two substances, or by the disposition of one? We, however, affirm that the mind coalesces with(3) the soul,—not indeed as being distinct from it in substance, but as being its natural function and agent.(4)
CHAP. XIII.—THE SOUL’S SUPREMACY.
It next remains to examine where lies the supremacy; in other words, which of the two is superior to the other, so that with which the supremacy clearly lies shall be the essentially superior substance;(5) whilst that over which this essentially superior substance shall have authority shall be considered as the natural functionary of the superior substance. Now who will hesitate to ascribe this entire authority to the soul, from the name of which the whole man has received his own designation in common phraseology? How many souls, says the rich man, do I maintain? not how many minds. The pilot’s desire, also, is to rescue so many souls from shipwreck, not so many minds; the labourer, too, in his work, and the soldier on the field of battle, affirms that he lays down his soul (or life), not his mind. Which of the two has its perils or its vows and wishes more frequently on men’s lips—the mind or the soul? Which of the two are dying persons, said to have to do with the mind or the soul? In short, philosophers themselves, and medical men, even when it is their purpose to discourse about the mind, do in every instance inscribe on their title-page(6) and table of contents,(7) “De Anima” (“A treatise on the soul”). And that you may also have God’s voucher on the subject, it is the soul which He addresses; it is the soul which He exhorts and counsels, to turn the mind and intellect to Him. It is the soul which Christ came to save; it is the soul which He threatens to destroy in hell; it is the soul (or life) which He forbids being made too much of; it is His soul, too (or life), which the good Shepherd Himself lays down for His