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The soul and the brain


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#21 Bill Schwan

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:57 AM

Actually this is incorrect according to the Fathers. The brain is the seat of the intellect, the reasoning power of the soul, but it is not where the spiritual nature of the soul resides. If anything we would have to locate the soul in the heart along with the incensive aspect of the soul - but I'm not sure that any physical organ can be identified as the "seat" of the spirit.

Fr David Moser


With all due respect to these fathers, I probably have a little more experience with the relationship between the soul and brain owing to a number of tests required prior to a right temporal lobectomy. Admittedly I'm only coming at this from the personal experience of having each side of my brain put to sleep to test memory and locate where speech is centered, but in that process at one point I found myself thinking and processing information faster than I ever had (again, my perception of events and I was off my epilepsy medications for the first time in 13 years) and this was happening when my brain was in a chemically induced snooze. If my brain, the seat of the intellect, was for all intents and purposes switched off (the higher cognitive functions, at least), where did I find the means to analyse the situation? The person administering the Wada test said that a lot of folks mention heightened awareness but he wouldn't hazard a guess as to why. I have my own theories, which involve the soul's ability to function independent from its body.

#22 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 03:24 PM

The brain is an interface unit that allows the spiritual side of our existence to interact with a physical universe. And we exist as an integrated whole, soul and body together. And because of some neurosurgical experiences from my past, I'm not entirely convinced of the brain's absolute necessity to this integrated whole to which I refer.


I agree that the brain acts as an interface. But since the interface itself (ie the brain) is physical then it affects the whole in a fundamental way. Thus for example if we remove all of our nerves then sense is deprived us and much else even though the soul is sensory in its own way. So too the brain- if we remove it from a person then it's going to lead to only one result- the person will drop dead, because now so much of the interafce has been removed.

In other words for purposes of our discussion the sensory powers of the soul according to the Fathers are not identical to our physical sensory powers. Remove the physical and the sensory remains in the soul, but in a more basic or fundmamental sense, likely unknowable to us here. But this still doesn't deny that the physcial once it is removed, deprives our being of something crucial to its being in this state.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael
PS; this isn't to deny the incredible powers of recovery, likely due to the souls' power within what is physical. However for this to occcur I would say that at least something must remain of the physical (eg Kathy Gifford); ie it cannot be completely obliterated.

#23 Owen Jones

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 04:07 PM

I think we are leaving out nous.

#24 Mary Lanser

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 05:06 PM

Is the resurrection of the dead precisely the same thing as an intrinsically immortal soul? Does Scripture teach the resurrection of the body?...or the immortality of the soul?

M.

#25 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 07:08 PM

We are created in a trinitarian manner, we have a body, a soul and a spirit. All three will once again be reunited at the Resurrection of Creation at Christ's second coming.

#26 Mary Lanser

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 07:54 PM

We are created in a trinitarian manner, we have a body, a soul and a spirit. All three will once again be reunited at the Resurrection of Creation at Christ's second coming.


If you are responding to my post, then may I say that you are advancing on the path that we rightly anticipate being a resurrected people [persons] in the hope of life everlasting, and not with intrinsically immortal souls?

I press the point because it clearly has bearing on how the holy fathers and we approach the materiality of human nature which includes as you say body, soul, and spirit.

M.

#27 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 05:39 PM

I don't know about advancing or retreating, just explaining my understanding of Orthodox teaching. If I am wrong I eagerly await correction.

It is also my understanding that we do NOT possess "intrinsically immortal souls", or at least that our souls do not have immortality of their own (isn't that what "intrinsically" means?), but only through Christ. It is something imparted, not something intrinsic, or I am not understanding the definitions here, which is entirely possible being a bear of very little brain and all.

O Bother.

Herman the intrinsic Pooh

#28 Mary Lanser

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 09:07 PM

I don't know about advancing or retreating, just explaining my understanding of Orthodox teaching. If I am wrong I eagerly await correction.

It is also my understanding that we do NOT possess "intrinsically immortal souls", or at least that our souls do not have immortality of their own (isn't that what "intrinsically" means?), but only through Christ. It is something imparted, not something intrinsic, or I am not understanding the definitions here, which is entirely possible being a bear of very little brain and all.

O Bother.

Herman the intrinsic Pooh


LOL...I think we are on the same wave-length, dear Intrinsic Pooh-Bah.

We are all a people of the resurrection.

How that effects our mutual or respective understandings of the materiality of human nature is somethings else again, but I am nigh onto certain that it does.

Also, as long as we reference the intellect, patristically speaking, we have not in any way neglected the nous.

M.

#29 Jack R.

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 12:47 AM

Is the resurrection of the dead precisely the same thing as an intrinsically immortal soul? Does Scripture teach the resurrection of the body?...or the immortality of the soul?

M.



Our spirits are immortal due to the breath of God breathed in man. At death the human spirit separates from the body, but continues to live. At the resurrection, the spirit reunites with the body and continues to live forever, in the body. The human spirit/soul never ceases to exist and is always conscious and alive.

Everything that exists both physically and spiritually exists by God's grace. It is unheard of in Orthodox thoelogy that the human spirit/soul dies with the body or ceases to exist for any human who has ever lived since Adam until today. Can God will a human spirit/soul to cease to exist, to be annihilated? There is no accepted tradition to my limited knowledge that this has ever happened.

Since God has never done this, to state that that there is no intrinsic immortality of the soul as opposed to an immortality of the soul dependent on grace seems superfluous, since everything in creation, both spiritual and physical is known to exist by God's grace, will, and permission. No one in Orthodox argues that we created ourselves or that we are immortal in and of our selves, intrinsically. This would seem to be a known, given, an axiom.


In my thinking, the scriptures teach BOTH clearly, the immortality of the soul AND the resurrection of the body. The creation of each human involves the generation of a body and soul/spirit. The death of each person entails the separation of the soul/spirit from the body, and the resurrection is the reuniting of the soul/spirit with the resurrected body. In none of these stages after the creation of the human person, does the soul/spirit cease to exist or become unconscious.

#30 Jack R.

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 01:11 AM

St Justin Martyr

For reflect upon the end of each of the preceding kings, how they died the death

common to all, which, if it issued in insensibility, would be a godsend to all thewicked. But since sensation remains to all who have ever lived, and eternalpunishment is laid up (i.e., for the wicked), see that you do not neglect to beconvinced, and to hold as your belief, that these things are true. For let evennecromancy, and the divinations you practise by immaculate children, and theevoking of departed human souls, and those who are called among the magi,Dream-senders and Assistant-spirits (Familiars), and all that is done by thosewho are skilled in such matters -let these persuade you that even after death

souls are in a state of sensation

The resurrection is a resurrection of the flesh which died. For the spirit dies not; the soul is in the body, and without a soul it cannot live. The body, when the soulforsakes it, is not. For the body is the house of the soul; and the soul the house of the spirit. These three, in all those who cherish a sincere hope and
unquestioning faith in God, will be save


St. Irenaeus

The Lord has taught with very great fulness, that souls not only continue to exist, not by passing from body to body, but that they preserve the same form [intheir separate state] as the body had to which they were adapted, and that they
remember the deeds which they did in this state of existence, and from whichthey have now ceased,-in that narrative which is recorded respecting the richman and that Lazarus who found repose in the bosom of Abraham. In thisaccount He states that Dives knew Lazarus after death, and Abraham in likemanner, and that each one of these persons continued in his own properposition, and that [Dives] requested Lazarus to be sent to relieve him-[Lazarus],on whom he did not [formerly] bestow even the crumbs [which fell] from histable. [He tells us] also of the answer given by Abraham, who was acquaintednot only with what respected himself, but Dives also, and who enjoined thosewho did not wish to come into that place of torment to believe Moses and theprophets, and to receive the preaching of Him who was to rise again from thedead. By these things, then, it is plainly declared that souls continue to exist thatthey do not pass from body to body, that they possess the form of a man, so thatthey may be recognised, and retain the memory of things in this world;moreover, that the gift of prophecy was possessed by Abraham, and that eachclass [of souls] receives a habitation such as it has deserved, even before the

judgment.



St. Athanasius the Great, the Apostolic Father of Orthodoxy


But that the soul is made immortal is a further point in the Church’s teaching which you must know ... For this is the reason why the soul thinks of and bears in mind things immortal and eternal, namely, because it is itself immortal. And just as, the body being mortal, its senses also have mortal things as their objects, so, since the soul contemplates and beholds immortal things, it follows that it is immortal and lives for ever. (Against the Heathen: Section 33)


St John Cassian

The souls of the dead not only do not lose consciousness, they do not even lose their dispositions – that is, hope and fear, joy and grief, and something of that which they expect for themselves at the Universal Judgement they begin already to foretaste… They become yet more alive and more zealously cling to the glorification of God.

And truly, if we were to reason on the basis of the testimony of the Sacred Scripture concerning the nature of the soul, in the measure of our understanding, would it not be, I will not say extreme stupidity, but at least folly, to suspect even in the least that the most precious part of man (that is, the soul), in which, according to the blessed Apostle, the image and likeness of God is contained, after putting off this fleshly coarseness in which it finds itself in this present life, should become unconscious – that part which, containing in itself the power of reason, makes sensitive by its presence even the dumb and unconscious matter of the flesh?” (First Conference of Abba Moses)

St John Chrysostom

Do not say to me, ‘He who has died does not hear, does not speak, does not see, does not feel, since neither does a man who sleeps.’ If it is necessary to say something wondrous, the soul of a sleeping man somehow sleeps, but not so with him who has died, for [his soul] has awakened.

St John Maximovich

Many appearances of the dead have given us to know in part what happens with the soul when it leaves the body. When it no longer sees with its bodily eyes, its spiritual vision is opened. This frequently occurs even before actual death; while seeing and even conversing with those around them, the dying see that which others do not. Leaving the body, the soul finds itself among other spirits, good and evil. Usually it strives towards those which are more akin to it, but if while still in the body it was under the influence of certain spirits, it remains dependent upon them when it leaves the body, no matter how unpleasant they might prove to be at the encounter.



I am grateful to Fr. Peter Farrington of the British Orthodox Church who collected many of the above sayings of the Fathers.

Edited by Jack R., 13 March 2012 - 01:24 AM.
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#31 Mary Lanser

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 05:41 PM

What I was trying to tease out of this with my question was the idea that I have seen, expressed from the most surprising sources, that being immortal means that the soul has no beginning and no end: Something like the difference between being eternal and being ever lasting. Eternal has no beginning and no end. Everlasting has a beginning and no end, which is of course what is meant by Christians, most of them, when they speak of immortal souls:everlasting souls.

Guess I was a bit too obtuse.

M.




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