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Terminologies of man: bipartite, intellect, etc.


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#1 Guest_Sean Kealey

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 02:35 PM

I am confused with some of the terminology used to describe parts of man. From my background, man is tri-partite - spirit, soul, and body. The soul is made up off the mind, the will, and the emotions. I am curious what the orthodox position on that is. In reading orthodox liturature I come across terms that I either don't know, or am not sure how they are being used, what they mean, such as nous and intellect. The intellect, which I would naturally take to mean the mind, in my understanding is part of the soul, and I for whatever reason take that to be not a good way to know or worship the Lord. I would say that should be done in spirit. (Don't ask me, however, what protestants even mean by that, I don't think many of us know)

From what I can gather from reading, the nous is the "heart and the mind". If that is not true, please correct me, and if it is, what does that mean?

I have heard that orthodox belief is that man is tri-partite, but I never hear much talk about the spirit. It's always the nous or the intellect. Are they interchangable? Are they the same thing? I guess I am just being redundant. Any clerification would be much appreciated.

Sean

#2 Ken McRae

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 10:09 PM

hi there ~ these links will answer a few questions of your questions, and may the Lord guide you in your studies!

01) The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition

02) The Person in the Orthodox Tradition

03) Orthodox Psychotherapy


#3 Ken McRae

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 11:06 PM

p.s. - I've noticed the above error in my post, but I'm not allowed to edit my own posts, so cannot change it; and the several recent requests I've made to the Moderator, asking him to edit my posts for me, have all been ignored.


#4 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 06:26 AM

Dear Sean,

I think you'll find the links provided by Theophilus quite useful in your study. Here is a short piece from the OCA to accompany those sites Man. Orthodox anthropology is rich, fascinating and varied. Different fathers use similar terms to describe different things at times, but there is an accepted teaching and a consensus on the human person in relationship to God. There is also an interesting book by Panayiotis Nellas on Orthodox anthropology, but I think Metropolitan Hierotheos' writings are perhaps more approachable to begin with. One personal reservation is the sometimes poor translation and the occasionally circuitous way of explaining things in the Metropolitan's otherwise very good writings!

In Christ
Byron


#5 Guest_Doug Gwinn

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 06:24 AM

Thanks all. Great question, Sean! I have struggled with the same. Our priest has tried to explain the "nous" but I'm sure I don't quite get it.

I think it's just another place where the barbarian English language fails us in adequately interpreting the Greek!

Doug


#6 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 30 April 2006 - 08:40 PM

Dear Sean and others,

The matter of the composition of the human person is one addressed extensively in the writings of the Church. Some renewed discussion here could be interesting. You wrote:

I am confused with some of the terminology used to describe parts of man. From my background, man is tri-partite - spirit, soul, and body.


This depends. There are two classic conceptions drawn by the fathers: a bi-partite (body and soul, or body and spirit) and a tri-partite (body, soul and spirit). The distinction is not absolute, even within the writings of a given patristic source; but by and large the two models are meant to work together, linking the created being to the life of God whose image it bears.

The basic route to conceiving this is to think of the created reality as bi-partite: the human creature is the thing fashioned from the dust (body), and a created, immaterial element 'breathed' into that dust/body (the soul). The basic bi-partite model is essentially a tool for understanding that humanity, as creature, is fashioned as a thing both immaterial and material, united as a single reality, wholly created. Within this schema, it doesn't matter whether one refers to the immaterial element as 'soul' or 'spirit'.

The tri-partite conception is used by many of the fathers, in conjunction with the basic assertions of the bi-partite, as a way of linking the created being to the uncreated God, for the 'spirit' is in fact the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, borne into the human frame through the immaterial reality of the soul. So the whole human creature is a material frame joined to an immaterial soul, which transmits to the creature the life of God.

This is probably most clearly laid out in the early period by Irenaeus, but one encounters similar exegesis in Justin, Tertullian, Cyril of Jerusalem, and many others.

The soul is made up off the mind, the will, and the emotions. I am curious what the orthodox position on that is.


Here it is more difficult to speak with any kind of 'patristic consensus'; various fathers describe the various faculties of the soul in differing ways, depending to a large degree on the points wishing to be made (keep in mind that most patristic discourse is articulative, attempting to articulate the various facets of a theological mystery in a given context of approach - so points may change depending on the context. Distinctions between 'will' and 'desire' are good examples: some view them as synonymous, others as distinct pneumatic elements. Is 'memory' to be equated with the soul, or understood as a faculty of it? Again, it depends on whom one asks (or, when one asks: Tertullian, for example, speaks differently in different places on this particular point).

XB, Matthew

#7 Father David Moser

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 12:40 AM

There are two classic conceptions drawn by the fathers: a bi-partite (body and soul, or body and spirit) and a tri-partite (body, soul and spirit). The distinction is not absolute, even within the writings of a given patristic source; but by and large the two models are meant to work together, linking the created being to the life of God whose image it bears. ...

... various fathers describe the various faculties of the soul in differing ways, depending to a large degree on the points wishing to be made Matthew


I'm not sure how this quote thing is going to work but I think I got the basic points in.

First the bi-partate vs tri-partate issue. I like the way that Matthew wrapped these two together in that they are two models meant to work together. I think that is quite apparent in how the parts of the person are described. For those who consider that man is bi-partate, body and soul, there is always a clarification that the spirit is the highest part of the soul - uniquely human and distinct from the other parts and that the spirit has its own function in connecting us to God. So in essence, even with the bi-partate approach you have body & soul (with a spirit) in order to distinguish man from the animals which have both body and soul (without a spirit). A lot does depend on how the particular father develops the idea. Even in more modern writings you will see these two approaches used and described in almost completely interchangeable ways.

Second, the suggestion that the soul is mind, will and emotion. These indeed are the three aspects of the soul most often described - the intellective (mind), the incensive (heart/emotion), and the desiring (will). St Theophan the Recluse in his work "The Path to Salvation" deals quite exhaustively with it - there are also sections in "The Art of Prayer" where he addresses it. I know that other spiritual writers have also dealt quite extensively with it. For the more simple minded I gave a talk at a youth conference comparing the three aspects of the soul to a car http://www.rocor.org...d2004/soul.html
Another good resource where the concept is very simply discussed is "The Spiritual Life and how to be attuned to it" again by St Theophan.

Fr David Moser

#8 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 09:27 AM

For the more simple minded I gave a talk at a youth conference comparing the three aspects of the soul to a car.


Indeed - and an enjoyable analogy. Here is the key snippet for those for whom clicking Australian links is still too much a journey. From Fr David's talk The Nature of the Soul, located here:

Now that we know a little about the three aspects of the soul and what their functions are, let us continue to look at how they relate to one another. One of the easiest ways to do this is to relate the soul, which we don’t fully understand, to something that we do comprehend - say a car. We all know the basics of how a car works, you fill the tank with gas, get in, turn the key start the engine and put it into gear. Then you take the wheel and guide the car to wherever it is you want to go. But how does a car tell us anything about the soul?

The source of the energy of the soul, the source of its “power” is the heart. The heart produces feelings and emotions which are full of energy and which bring that energy to the pursuits of the soul. In a car the energy is provided by the fuel - the gasoline that you put in the tank. Like the emotions, the gasoline is full of energy. So we can say in one sense that the heart is the “gas tank” of the soul and the emotions produced in the heart is the gasoline that brings energy to the rest of the soul.

But while a car will not run without fuel, neither is fuel the only thing necessary for the operation of a car. Just because it is full of energy, gasoline must be properly used in order for it to be useful. (Don’t really try this at home or anywhere else for that matter!!!) If you took some gasoline and poured it out on the ground - then light a match to it - what happens? There is a big FOOF and lots of fire and heat and then the gasoline is gone, the energy is released and nothing is left (except the burnt patch on the ground) Nothing useful results from this. In fact if this burning gasoline comes into contact with anything else combustible (like your hair or skin!) that will begin to burn too and not only will the release from the burning gas be useless, it will be destructive. In order for the gasoline to be useful it has to be contained. Another example is a firecracker. If you take a fire cracker and light it holding it in you open palm, it will go off, making a big bang, maybe leaving a little soot or even possibly a minor burn on the surface of your skin, but no other damage. But, if you take that firecracker and close your hand around it and light it. It will explode, just as before, but it will also take a few fingers off with it. The energy of the explosion is contained and instead of dissipating that force is directed toward the weakest link in its container - your fingers! The energy produced by the incensive aspect of the soul is also useless if it is undirected and allowed just to dissipate with no focus. A temper tantrum is full of lots of energetic emotion - but after its over what was accomplished? Nothing, absolutely nothing - just a lot of flash, bang and smoke and all that’s left is a little burnt patch. In order for the energy of the incensive aspect to be useful it has to be contained and focused. Just as in a car, the release of the energy in the fuel must be contained and focused.

This is where the second aspect of the soul - the will - comes in. In a car the fuel is pumped into the motor where it is exploded in the cylinders and the resulting energy is channeled into the wheels which turn and push the car in a particular direction. The unfocused energy of the fuel is now taken by the motor and the drive train and turned into useful motion by focusing it from the motor to the transmission to the drive train to the wheels. This is how the will functions in the soul. The will takes the energy produced in the heart and carried by the emotions and focuses it into a productive path. By choosing how it is that energy will be invested in this or that pursuit, goals are reached and needs and desires are satisfied. Something productive is accomplished.

Let’s stop here for just a moment and “revisit” the fuel situation. What if we decided not to use gasoline for fuel, what if we used ethanol instead? (Ethanol is grain alcohol). Ethanol is a great fuel for a car, except for the fact that the car is not designed to use it well. Ethanol has less energy potential than gasoline - so it may not actually have enough power to do the task at hand. Also ethanol is corrosive to rubber and similar compounds, it will eat away at the gaskets and hoses in your car until finally they spring leaks or disintegrate and the fuel will leak out all over the ground (or worse yet, will ignite on the hot engine). By the same token, it might be possible to use a fuel with a higher energy potential - say nitrous oxide (a gas used as a fuel additive in racing cars). Nitrous is great for giving a quick boost of energy to a dragster at just the right moment to outrun the competition - but it is also so powerful that if the engine isn’t designed to handle the extra power, instead of blowing away the competition you will only succeed in blowing up your engine. Now I mention all this to point out that it is necessary to use the correct fuel. If we allow the passions to drive the soul, they are so powerful that they eventually will blow the soul to bits. Even if a passion might seem “manageable” it is still corrosive and over time will destroy the soul from the inside out. This is why we do not use the passions as fuel for the soul.

If the will is dysfunctional then the motor may turn, but the energy never gets to the wheels. The transmission might be disengaged or there might not be sufficient spark to release the energy in the cylinder in the first place or any other host of reasons. If there is a flat tire, it might still turn but it won’t easily go where it is supposed to go. Any kind of dysfunction in the will can short circuit this process. But even if the will is working perfectly it is still possible that nothing profitable is accomplished. Here is something else not to try. Start the car, open the throttle and put it in gear so that you start to move, then take your hands off the steering wheel and see what happens. Well, if you car is well aligned and you were pointed in a straight line and the surface of the road is smooth with no sloping or bumps then you might end up going in a straight line for a while, but sooner or later the wheels will turn this way and that and the car will swerve and end up in the ditch. The motor and drive train can focus the energy of the car, but without direction they don’t know where to go. Similarly the will can focus the incensive energy of the soul, but without some over riding direction, the will will end up swerving all over from this place to that and going around in circles and finally end up in the ditch. Something needs to provide an overall sense of direction to the will.

Back to our car, if you were to take the wheel and correct the variations in the direction of the wheels, then we would avoid the going in the ditch. The steering wheel and the nut behind the wheel (that’s you!) are the third vital segment of the car’s functioning. If you want to go from here to Sydney or Brisbane, you would know exactly where to turn and which routes to take and how far to go, how long it will take, how much gas you need and so on. But the car won’t know this by itself, you have to guide it there. You are the “brains” of the car.

Here we come to the third aspect of the soul, the intellective aspect, the mind. It is the task of the mind to take in information, to process it and to come to conclusions - to make a plan, to set long term goals, to define where we want to go and who we want to be. The will needs to be steered, guided and directed. There needs to be some overall sense of where to go and a plan of how to get there. This is the place of the mind.






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