How does the Soul "Work"?

I was asked this today in a facebook debate. If the soul is the mind, or a component of the mind, how does it work? I really couldn’t give an answer.

Maybe you could say the “soul” is the dative of manifestation. We are the “to whom” beings manifest themselves as they are in themselves. But how that works is magic.

Using an analogy, I think of the soul as the picture on the television set. The TV signal would be the spirit and the TV would be analogous to the body.

I believe that our entire inner being, including consciousness, is the result of (good and evil) spirit. It’s evil spirit that gives rise to inner temptations which the ego has to deal with. Temptation, even though it is governed by evil spirit, can give rise to finer character traits if dealt with honorably.

My soul is a personalized spiritual repository of my interconnection with both the Trinity and with humanity.

Does your “spiritual repository” result in things like awareness?

Yes. I should have written:

My soul is an active personalized spiritual repository of my interconnection with both the Trinity and with humanity.

I think my soul is what I am. I tend to see it like CS Lewis, who said something like, I do not have a soul, I am a soul. I have a body.

Disclaimer: Not sure if this is Catholic teaching though.

Soul is one component of mind. The human brain is the other component.

The brain retains cross-linked data which it makes available to the soul via an associative access mechanism.

The soul is primarily responsible for conceptual understanding. In most human beings, the activity of soul accounts for no more than 5% of the human cognitive ability, such as it is. Nonetheless, human consciousness is a function of the soul.

The brain also maintains an interface, similar in function to that of a television tuner, which connects soul, and also disconnects it when needed (as in sleep).

The book “Philosophical Psychology,” by J.F. Donceel, might be a good starting point. It is out of print but can be found on some used book websites.

For the benefit of thread discussion - a look at Church teaching on the soul:



362 The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person. But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

364 The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:

[INDENT]Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.

365 The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not “produced” by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

367 Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people “wholly”, with “spirit and soul and body” kept sound and blameless at the Lord’s coming. The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. “Spirit” signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.

368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God.[/INDENT]

Good thing I checked in today but prob won’t much longer

Go back to facebook and furnish them with the following. Nothing can refute. Don’t worry about the experts in psychology, theology or science re the relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind.It is bullet proof because it is true.

As we know the quality of an individual is a measure of potentiality in worthy contribution to society. Worthy contribution in all relative to the on going genuine flourishing …of humanity as a whole. This attribute is measurable and enhances what we call peace or calm in the consolation of quality in being. Self acknowledged purpose. A reason for being . A constructive part of the entirety in the individuals enrollment of, humanity.

The soul and the unconscious mind have the same relationship “allowing” for above. The soul is the measure of potentiality in state… of the unconscious mind… State of the soul. State of the un-conscious mind. The true essence of self…innosence in self .A measure.
This is the Souls ultimate form …and contributory role…The soul is always within an individual regardless of will or neglect. Our will, is a growing or depreciation in true value . A value which avails consequence as well integrity in state, allowing for a focus to growth or flourish within self… A focused reality. Our focused reality. The soul.

So what I’m saying above…because theres NOTHING but problems around here with hasty posting

The soul represents and is the… quality or innocence …of the un-conscious mind.

Looking at this thread I have a request.

If Jesus thought the people would understand implications regarding the mind and so forth he would of most certainly included answers to questions in this area.
Obviously the subject is of keen interest to man who is a very very curious fellow.
Justifying an assumption that God would have in allowing for growth in spirituality

If something fails to grow in knowledge and understanding it is in digress.

Can the bible quoters “knock it off” unless they include up-dated scientific info which SOME spiritual people are in keeping with following Gods program !!!

Everybody understands the concept …its time to get the real show on the road. I have no idea whats wrong with this world. This could be my final post

Are you sure you meant to post this in this thread? What Bible-quoters are you referring to?

Steve, very respectfully…your post earlier is exactly what ? It is data which man has been mulling over for 1000’s of years. Or data from data. Let me ask you something…

Lets take a group of people in history, The Apostles, St Thomas & St Augustine.
Now, if they were alive today, and had been alive since their birth, what do you think they would be doing…going over& over& over the same stuff ? Endlessly…?
No…they would be hungry for all knowledge, a hunger to know more. We are supposed to be
following the road in work done. Not going over and over the same thing…

Tell me this…where do you see Catholicism in 15,000 years…? The sun has quite a ways to go. Christians seem to want to put limitations on everything in order to feel self important.
The fact of the matter is, The Catholic Faith in principal does not reject logical realities in discovery. But, people or enrollment contradict the prudential premise in example…of their faith. With intentional no interest to contemporary discovery.I think its an insult to work done by above early groups. We are totally STUCK .This site is in a ditch and cannot get out.
How about the Catholic Faith in 50,000 years…? If a person cannot answer or think its a bizarre
notion, well then…how primitive indeed . Reckless in opinion.

OK thats it I’m outta here…its not Catholic…give me a break

Wow. Well, atleast you’re not over-reacting to the discussion :rolleyes:

I posted those quotations (from the CCC by the way), to aid in the discussion…not because I am desperately seeking answers to questions that may or may not have been sufficiently answered throughout history.

But hey, look…on behalf of everyone here, let me apologize for contributing to a discussion which apparently you know all the answers to. Sorry you had to waste your time to come into this vastly less gnostic thread and begrudgingly share your vast expertise on the inner working of the soul, and then reprimand us for even contemplating the issue.

I can see why you despise this site so much, if this is how you have to spend your day.

There is another excellent book of the same name by a different author (still living) that is in print ---- “Philosophical Psychology” by D. Q. McInerny. He’s a philosophy professor at a Fraternity of St. Peter Seminary. Goes into the questions “What is the soul?” “What are the emotions?” Very good; follows Aristotelian/Thomistic philosophy.

Ed Feser on the Soul:

The Soul
Aristotle, it will be remembered, held that the objects of our everyday experience are composites of form and matter, of a nature or essence on the one hand and a parcel of material stuff that takes on that form, nature, or essence on the other. This is as true of living things as of anything else. And for Aristotle, a soul is just the form or essence of a living thing. It is important not to misunderstand this.

But the form or essence of a living thing is just what Aristotle (and Aquinas) mean by the word “soul.” They aren’t saying, “We hypothesize that the soul, as popularly understood, is what gives a thing its nature”; they’re saying “By ‘soul’ we simply mean to refer to the nature of a living thing, whatever that turns out to be.” So the reader should not think of some ghostly object of the sort that floats away from a body after death as in the movies, because that’s simply not what they have in mind. The soul is just a kind of form.
It should for that reason also not be seen as odd that Aristotle and Aquinas think of living things in general, including plants and non-human animals, as having souls.

All they mean by this is that a plant or an animal has the form or essence characteristic of a living thing. They do not mean that when your favorite fern or dog dies, its soul goes to heaven. It doesn’t go anywhere but out of existence, since like the forms of rocks and tables, the forms of plant: and non-human animals are mere abstractions considered by themselves, and have no reality apart from the particular material thing: they are the forms of.

The soul of a plant is what Aristotelians call a “nutritive soul”; and that is just a form or essence that gives a thing that has it the powers of taking in nutrients, growing, and reproducing itself. The soul of a non-human animal is called a “sensory soul,” and it is just a form or essence that gives a thing that has it both the powers of a nutritive soul, and also an animal’s distinctive powers of being able to sense the world around it (by seeing, hearing, etc.) and to move itself (by walking, flying, etc.).

When we come to human beings we have what is called a “rational soul,’ which includes both the powers of the nutritive and sensory soul and also the distinctively human powers of intellect and will: that is, the power to grasp abstract concepts — namely, the forms or essences of things — and to reason on the basis of them, and freely to choose between different possible courses of action on the basis of what the intellect knows. As all of this indicates, the relationship between kinds of souls illustrates the Aristotelian idea that there is a hierarchy of forms: the sensory soul incorporates and adds to the powers of the nutritive soul, and the rational soul in turn incorporates and adds to the powers of both the nutritive and sensory souls, so that there is a natural hierarchical relationship between them.

The superiority of the rational soul goes beyond its place at the top of this hierarchy, however. As we have seen, a thing’s having a certain form goes hand in hand with its having a certain final cause or natural end, or a hierarchically ordered set of final causes or natural ends. A plant is ordered toward taking in nutrients, growing, and reproducing itself; those are the ends nature has given it. An animal has these ends too, along with the ends entailed by its distinctive powers of sensation and locomotion. Notice, though, that some of these ends are subordinated to the others. The point of nutrition, for example, is just to enable a plant or animal to carry out its other ends, such as growing and reproducing.
Now a human being has all of these ends too, but on top of them he has the ends or final causes entailed by being rational and having free will.

Rationality – the ability to grasp forms or essences and to reason on the basis of them – has as its natural end or final cause the attainment of truth, of understanding the world around us. And free will has as its natural end or final cause the choice of those actions that best accord with the truth as it is discovered by reason, and in particular in accord with the truth about a human being’s own nature or essence. That is exactly what morality is from the point of view of Aristotle and Aquinas: the habitual choice of actions that further the hierarchically ordered natural ends entailed by human nature.

But the intellect’s capacity to know the truth is more fully realized the deeper one’s understanding of the nature of the world and the causes underlying it. And the deepest truth about the world, as we have seen, is that it is caused and sustained in being by God.

The highest fulfillment of the distinctively human power of intellect, then, is, for Aristotle and Aquinas, to know God. And since the will’s natural end or purpose is to choose in accordance with the furtherance of those ends entailed by human nature, the highest fulfillment of free choice is to live in a way that facilitates the knowing of God. All the other powers of the soul, including the nutritive and sensory powers, also have their own ends or final causes, but they are all subordinate in human nature to the distinctive and overarching end.



The human soul, then, though it is, at the first level of analysis, just the form or essence of the living human body, turns out on deeper analysis to have a divine end or purpose which raises it above plant and animal souls in dignity. But the truth about the human soul goes beyond even this. Note that the powers of nutritive and sensory souls are completely tied to the material stuff that makes up the living things they are the souls of. Nutrition and growth require the taking in and alteration of bits of matter, and reproduction involves transforming bits of matter into something that is like the thing doing the transforming.

An animal’s sensing the world around itself requires the use of bodily organs (eyes, ear tongues, etc.), as does its moving about (legs, fins, wings, etc.). If there is no matter to make up the various physical organs that carry out these functions, the functions simply cannot be carried out. Hence if the matter that makes up a plant or animal goes away, the soul goes with it, for there is nothing left to underlie the operation of its powers. That is why I said earlier that the soul of a plant or non-human animal does not “go to heaven,” or anywhere else when it dies. If there is a sense in which plants and non-human animals have souls, then, they do not have immortal souls.

Now the rational soul, since it includes the powers of the nutritive and sensory souls, cannot fail to be to a very great extent dependent on matter for its operations. Like plants and animals, we need bodily organs if we are to fulfill our abilities to take in nutrients, grow, reproduce, and move about and sense the world around us.

But things are very different with the power of intellect…Central to the intellect’s operation is its grasp of forms, essences, or universals, and other abstractions like propositions. These things cannot be in any way material: this or that triangle is a material thing, but the form or essence triangularity is not; snow is material, but the proposition that snow is white cannot be; and so forth. But the immaterial nature of these things entails that the intellect which grasps them must itself be immaterial as well.

Incomplete but a good start. Continue with Ed Feser’s Aquinas.


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