Are souls pre-existent?


#1

A few people were sharing with me their belief that the soul pre-existed the creation of our earthly bodies. If I understood them correctly the soul is eternal. I think this is not the Catholic teaching of the soul. While a human soul is immortal isn’t God the only “eternal being”? Isn’t the immortality of our soul distinct from being eternal? When the Catholic church teaches life begins at conception doesn’t that include the life of our soul which comes into being with a human body? To suggest we existed as mere souls “from the beginning of time” without bodies rather creates a dualistic notion of the body/soul relationship. Fundamentally, what troubles me with this notion is that it adopts attributes which belong only to God who alone had no beginning. Isn’t this dangerously close to deifying ourselves? We are after all only creatures which by definition means we were created and had a beginning.

I would be grateful for any insight and references to clarify this question which presupposes you can understand my rambling.


#2

Souls are created directly by God at the moment of conception.


#3

In The first chapter of Jeramhia?? God said…“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”


#4

[quote=Rosalinda]A few people were sharing with me their belief that the soul pre-existed the creation of our earthly bodies. That notion has cute fairy tale qualities that so
[/quote]

[size=2]metimes is perpetuated by well meaning relatives who say stuff to children like “before you were born you were the prettiest angel:angel1: in heaven”. Which is a nice thing to say, but technically incorrect.

If I understood them correctly the soul is eternal. I think this is not the Catholic teaching of the soul. While a human soul is immortal isn’t God the only “eternal being”? Isn’t the immortality of our soul distinct from being eternal?

Yes, you are correct.

The idea of eternity of the soul is Platonic and was proposed by Origen, this was later condemned as a heresy by the fifth Council. Although he was open to correction he was basically a pioneer theologion delving into areas the church had yet to define, and he got some things wrong.

Origen’s idea was the preexistance of the soul with a free will which caused the soul to fall into certain rankings: angel - human - demon etc. These souls were each individually responsible for their own fall due to their own free will.

He believed that God being infinately good (as opposed to an agnostic idea of an unjust Old Testament God) wanted to restore all creation to salvation, this led Origen to propose that all creatures and even Satan could be saved [/size]*(apokatastasis).

*Since the rejection of Origen’s ideas concerning the preexistence of the soul and apokatastasis the church has not seriously considered the idea.

+T+
Michael


#5

[quote=chrisg93]In The first chapter of Jeramhia?? God said…“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”
[/quote]

Chris,

That is true, what God said to Jeremiah, but it doesn’t mean that Jeremiah’s soul was pre-existent. It means that God exists outside of time and space and sees everything in time happening “all at once” in His eternity.

  • Liberian

#6

Hesychios, Thank you for the historical background on this question; now I have a couple of leads of where to start researching.

By the way, the quote from Jeremiah was the same one given to me during our little discussion to justify the pre-existence of the soul. An artist, musician or writer has ideas and plans for a project but that is distinct from actually creating the painting, the musical composition or the novel.

Nonetheless, it is a very beautiful thought that God loves us so much that he knew us before we were born and before the foundations of the world were made. Out of all the billions of possibilities of people He could have created He carefully planned and selected each one of us to be brought into life.


#7

Sounds like Mormon Theology to me.


#8

Have you tried the Summa?

newadvent.org/summa/109004.htm
newadvent.org/summa/109000.htm


#9

Some New Age believers in reincarnation use Origen’s writing about pre-existence of the soul as proof that the early Church Church condemned that particular notion of Origen. Not all the writings and ideas of the Early Fathers where accepted by the nascent Church but there are still those who try to use these trial baloons of the Fathers against us. Fortunately Jesus left us a supreme teacher in the Popes as well as the Councils that have been able to resolve these tangles for us.


#10

[quote=chrisg93]In The first chapter of Jeramhia?? God said…“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”
[/quote]

God’s knowledge of us “precedes” our existence - we do not need to exist in this world for God to know us.

God “foreknew” the elect in a similar way - they are “chosen [in Christ] from before the foundation of the world”, even though they are born, not “before the foundation of the world”, but later. ##


#11

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