Humans: Body and Soul

Would it be correct to say that the body makes the soul visible? Why or why not?

(In teaching my students about the Sacramentality of the Body and how a visible reality points to an invisible one - a student used the example that our bodies are the visible reality and our souls invisible. This caused me to wonder if this is true or not)

In believe it is a good way to put it. Because the statement presumes that we are one, body and soul. Our soul is our life. Soul comes from anima, it is the breath of God that gives us life and it is us.

In a way, yes. But I prefer to say that the soul is what animates the body, responsible for intellect and will.


We consist of a body and soul. The two cannot be regarded as separate.

I think that’s s difficult concept to put forth in such a simple way. What I mean is that some people don’t see a soul when they look at other people. Some people are emotional wrecks and their soul would be so veiled by their bodies dysfunction that the soul being visible wouldn’t even matter very much. Some people hide their soul intentionally to protect it - I’m thinking of a saint or two who did that.

So I’d say…not necessarily. It doesn’t even seem to be really practical to do so. But I think it’s a possibility for some people to see and be seen.

Which saint or two? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines human bodies and souls. The Bible has something to say about it as well.

What difference does it make?

I would like to help people avoid error here. If it makes no difference, then why mention it in the first place?

What difference does it make to you? I’m asking…what are you getting at. If you have something to say then say it.

So what happens when you die?

I would say “no”. “Body” and “soul” are distinct – although together, they are a “composite” – and so, since ‘body’ is purely physical and ‘soul’ is purely spiritual, it’s not that the body is the visible aspect of the soul. Our soul isn’t the “ghost” of the body that cartoons make it out to be.

Moreover, since it’s not physical, the soul doesn’t have the property of locality. So, we can’t say that when we see the body, the soul is “there” (in a physical sense).

However… if you wanted to say that the person is a body/soul composite, and body is what makes the person visible… then that would make sense.

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I think he’s referring to saints who could bilocate - where the saint’s body was still seen as present (in his/her regular place) while at the same time appearing to someone elsewhere - even hundreds or thousands of miles away. Eg. St. Padre Pio, St. Martin de Porres, St. Francis Xavier…

Right. :+1:
At death the soul separates from the body - CCC 997. So the 2 parts of our human nature can subsist when separated from each other. But the body will no longer be alive and begins to decay once the principle of it’s physical life, the soul, is no longer united to it.

But we need our bodies to be complete - God created us to be humans, not angels. Thus the resurrection of our bodies as part of our redemption. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord.

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Your student is correct. The body is the visible, material part of our human nature and our souls are the invisible, spirit part of our human nature.
We need our bodies in order to manifest our souls to others - through our physical speech, actions, expressions, etc. It all requires a body! God can grant exceptions of course; an example would be saints who could read peoples hearts (eg. know sins a penitent had committed without the penitent revealing it.)

It kind of depends on what we mean by soul.

I believe this thread is about the meaning/usage of the word “soul” given in the bolded lines below.

CCC 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.

I like the person/soul distinction. I would go a little bit further and say that the human person is a body/soul composite. For instance, God is three persons, and yet the Father and Spirit aren’t incarnated in a body. And yet, they are still Persons.
But great distinctions!

God bless

As Aquinas would point out, our souls have to go on living after our body dies. For the soul must be incorruptible since it is not material, and that which is immaterial is incorruptible. And the soul is a subsistence but not a substance. An example of this would be a chair. When you break the chair into a million pieces, it is no longer a chair, but the parts that make it up, the wood, that is the form of it, subsist.
A complete human substance is a soul/body composite. Which, again, as Aquinas points out, leads naturally to the Resurrection of the Body when all things are made whole again.
And thank the Lord for that!
“Praise the Lord all you people!”

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What is it you mean by incorruptible and immaterial since apparently Satan corrupted some Angels into following him and Angels are spirit which is not material? Is this view incorrect?

I wonder though, in breaking up the chair unless the parts are recognizably parts of the form of a chair whatever the material that subsists can no longer be considered parts that make up the substance of a chair. Otherwise all wooden material would be considered the subsistence of the form of a chair until made into the form of something else. In other words the thing you consider as the “form” of a chair is not the same as the subsisting material which make a chair possible. We make a linear connection between what remains after destruction of the chair with the subsistent material of the chair before but strictly speaking we are adding meaning to the subsisting material where there was none in the before. There is no reason to impart meaningful information to this subsistent thing in connection with the form of a chair until it is implemented into the form of a chair. However one must somehow impart meaningful connection from the subsistent thing called the soul to a particular body in order to retain a semblance of identity with a particular body. So if all souls are a subsistence of the form of a body with the form of the body giving identity to this subsistence then what is it that, upon death of the body, transcends into heaven or hell identifiable with the person it subsisted in? How do you have a person remain in the subsistent thing when it separates from the substantial thing if the person is a composite of both?

What’s meant is that they don’t have physical bodies that degrade, die, and decompose.

The “material of the chair” (and of any physical entity!) isn’t “subsistent” at all!

They aren’t, strictly speaking. Human souls are the form of the person, not the physical body. Maybe that’s why you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around the concept?

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