If we are spiritual-physical hybrids, then why...?

The question: Do we experience spiritual reality as much as physical reality? Apparently not. Shouldn’t we? Apparently so, since the Church teaches we are spirit-matter hybrids, a unity of spirit and flesh. Why don’t we? I understand that sin separates us from God (literally, by definition), so the more we sin the less we see and know God, but it seems the reverse should be true as well (the less we sin, the more we should see), yet it doesn’t seem to be: After receiving the Sacrament of Confession, being forgiven of all sin, being “clean”, refraining from sin, I still cannot experience God in the Eucharist – I “just chew on a wafer” for a few moments, swallow, and that is all.

I have thought to posit “the stain of original sin” as being something that makes us unable to experience spiritual realities, but this seems an inadequate response, merely “adding on to” a hypothesis ad hoc to explain away the problem, the same way Trent Horn criticizes the Flying Spaghetti Monster parody in his Answering Atheism.

The background for this question: This question has come up as part of my most recent trial of faith, “Is belief in God self-delusion? What evidence is there that supports atheism?” It seems to me the fact that we don’t experience spiritual reality “just as much as” physical reality is evidence for atheism. Trent Horn says there are no good reasons for believing atheism is true, but I think there are good reasons if one honestly thinks about it. He presents a straw man of this line of thinking by dealing in his book only with the simplistic arguments, “The universe is larger/smaller than we would expect if God were to exist,” but I think my argument here is much deeper. Just as Horn says that not finding presents from Santa under the tree, instead parents putting them there, is evidence that Santa does not exist, so here the fact that we do not experience spiritual realities, but only through physical means (sacraments, thought) assert that we experience them, is evidence that spiritual realities do not exist, or that we are not spirit-body hybrids, and hence the Church is wrong. No experience of spiritual realities = no presents from Santa under the tree; relying on physical means (sacraments, thought) = parents putting presents from Santa under the tree.

What would experiencing spiritual reality be like? Well, perhaps what I am thinking of is heaven, but one could still imagine something similar on earth: Being able to see angels and demons when they are interacting with us, actually having conversations with God where God actually answers you (private revelation) when you are in right standing with the Church, in communion with Him (perhaps through proxy, as Our Lady of Akita used Sister Agnes’ guardian angel – obviously the All Holy Infinite God is too much for humans to bear directly), perhaps even “walking with God” at times as fabled in the Old Testament (early on, I suppose before everyone started “sinning it up” by the time of Noah) perhaps with Jesus (again, since we can relate to God on a human level, but not as God exists Within Himself), or conversing with one’s guardian angel. We see there are many ways we could experience spiritual reality. If we are engaged in spiritual warfare, actually seeing the war – the demons attacking us – would be a good start. (You must identify your enemy to fight him! You can’t pull the trigger of your weapon until your sights are on your target!) Seeing the Body of Christ when it actually becomes the Body of Christ would be another example.

Such a reality would not necessarily deprive us of free will, either: Just as we forget the details of a vacation when we return to daily life, and it comes to seem like a dream, so too could our walking with God if we commit sin. The same happens when we turn away from friends and family in real life: Out of sight, out of mind. How many relatives or classmates have you forgotten about since you’ve moved away from them and stopped communicating with them? More to the point, how many turned away from Jesus while they were actually walking with Him?! This is even recorded in John 6. But to be fair to my argument, perhaps here, too, they only experienced physical reality – hence they turned away from Jesus because they saw only a human being. But maybe they saw Him work miracles, too – and this would be another example of experiencing spiritual reality: God actually healing people when they have faith, and not making them continue suffering in silence.

Sometimes I pray and answers do come to mind. Is this my guardian angel answering me? Presumably not: When answers come to mind, it is on a topic I have studied. When I ask harder questions that I genuinely do not know the answers to – “For what purpose am I suffering this? How much longer must I suffer this?” I am met with silence. So it seems answers that come to mind during prayer or meditation come from my own brain, and not from an external source.

So it seems God puts us in the unfair position of blindfolding us and numbing our senses to spiritual reality, making us form conclusions about it, and then rewarding or punishing us for eternity based on our conclusions. It seems like a game show where someone numbs your tongue, makes you taste-test two foods, and then forces you to eat a meal of the one that seemed to taste better when you couldn’t really taste anything.

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It seems the answer the Church has to this question is that we know spiritual realities by the intellect, and that the faculties of the intellect are really powers of the spirit. So this gameshow analogy is incorrect, because we are not deprived of our faculties of reason, which are how we come to know spiritual reality. But this doesn’t answer my question: Why don’t we experience spiritual reality?! I can learn about the United States from books, etc., but that is not the same thing as living in the United States. The point here, of course, is that the Church is claiming you are in fact living there (existing as a spirit within and around spiritual realities). And, back to my gameshow analogy, many begin living in grave sin because they are not aware of the harm they are committing, which perhaps they would be if they were not blind to the corresponding spiritual reality. For example, I think it is St. Paul who writes that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Christ’s body, and speaks about the spiritual reality of fornication and prostitution – seeing this reality, for example, would be a strong deterrent, just as we are deterred from feticide after seeing an ultrasound: We are less likely to destroy a body after we actually see it.

I do realize that God is being merciful by hiding Himself in the Eucharist. Just as God revealed Himself on the mountain to the Israelites, and they falled down in terror begging not to hear His voice any more, because of how overpowering it was, so to would we be overwhelmed by the Eucharist if we really encountered the Soul and Divinity of Jesus in it. And yet Jesus can meet me at my level, in some small way, and so I am discouraged each time I encounter absolutely nothing except the appearance of bread – no Jesus at all. How wonderful it would be to spend time with Jesus as a friend, like He calls us! To walk in the park, or play a video game together, or to receive consolation from Him while in His Sanctuary at church after suffering all week. Instead, Jesus is absent, as if He died two thousand years ago.

Please help me with these questions. Thanks for your time.

I am reminded of a conversation with an “old-school” priest (ordained prior to Vatican II) at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Orlando, Florida. He told me bluntly, “God isn’t going to talk to you! He’s already told you everything you need to know in the Bible.” This would resolve the matter on one level – God is busy being Ruler of the Universe, and doesn’t have time, or it would offend His dignity, to condescend to deal directly with simple matters for a sinful person – but it raises other questions insofar as it contradicts Fr. Larry Richards and the modern sentiment about “having a relationship with God”: Having a relationship with someone means actually interacting with them on a personal level, which means they reciprocate the relationship and talk to you after you talk to them.

You presented an excellent, well written analysis.

It simply makes no sense that God interacted with our ancestors - and they suffered no adverse affects from directly communicating with God, and all of a sudden the line of communication was shut down by God, and we are left hanging high and dry. The usual “pat” answer which says “blessed are the ones who have not seen, yet believe” is just a cop-out. Why is blind faith touted as being superior? Why should we abandon our reason and logic when it comes to “spiritual reality”, and why are we expected to be trusting as “little children” - when we know that little children will swallow everything - indiscriminately - since they have no critical skills?

Obviously my reply is simple: because there is no “spiritual reality”.

What you wrote played an integral part in my process of abandoning “blind faith” for the harsh reality. To believe in God is just like a security blanket (Linus van Pelt in Peanuts) which feels very good… but eventually one should acquire the intellectual courage to look reality straight in the eye and discard the “childish things” as Paul has written in Corinthians 13:11 - “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Not easy, but it is part of the growing up process.

I am not necessarily in your camp on this issue; but, if we ask the question in reverse, it leaves some issues unanswered as well. That is, if, as you state, ‘blessed are the ones who have not seen, yet believe’ is true, then why were our spiritual ancestors permitted to speak and interact with G-d more directly than we do? IOW, why were THEY not blessed by believing in G-d despite not knowing or directly interacting with Him, considering how holy and righteous some of them were considered to be?

BTW, methinks you are taking St. Paul’s statement out of context to use in defense of your position. Be careful about doing such things, especially on a religious forum, where it is easily detectable. Besides, it is not kosher from the standpoint of literary criticism.

The premise is probably to an extent, inaccurate.

We are not “spiritual/physical hybrids.” We are physical beings, having a spiritual element to our being, but who live life and obtain knowledge primarily by means of physicality.

Presumably, in the other life, the reverse will be true.


Not only that, but we need our physical arms, legs, voice, etc. to do good deeds for others according to Jewish thinking on the matter. The acquiring of knowledge through our biological brain and psychological mind is also mainly in the domain of the present life according to Judaism.

I would say the simplest answer to this is.

Look at humans

Look at every other animal on the planet.

The dramatic difference is due to the fact we have a spiritual element and we experience it daily.

Hasidic Judaism would agree with the Church that “the faculties of the intellect are really powers of the spirit.” And Hasidism goes even further by strongly suggesting that even the most mundane, physical elements or behaviors in life have the potential to take on a spiritual character. These behaviors would include eating, sleeping, dressing, sexual relations, playing sports, working, typing on the computer, laughing, crying, singing, dancing, you name it: every behavior and task can be imbued by spiritual grace depending on the intimate relationship that the agent who performs the task has with G-d. The demarcation between the sacred and the profane is thus narrowed.

There’s another consideration here that you’re ignoring: the disposition of the recipient. The sacrament works ‘ex opere operato’ (that is, it works by the grace of God, not by the holiness of the priest or the recipient), but the fruits of the sacrament depend on the disposition of the recipient (see CCC #1128). The state of grace of the recipient comes into play, but it’s not the only salient issue. So, for example, if you’ve just walked out of the confessional and into the communion line, but do not really believe in the ‘Real Presence’, then it’s reasonable to expect that all you’re doing is “chewing on a wafer.”

Just as Horn says that not finding presents from Santa under the tree, instead parents putting them there, is evidence that Santa does not exist, so here the fact that we do not experience spiritual realities, but only through physical means (sacraments, thought) assert that we experience them, is evidence that spiritual realities do not exist

That argument doesn’t hold up. Here’s a counter-example: to a blind person, there is no experience of sight. Instead, his experiences come by means of other senses. By your argument, that would imply that, objectively, viewed realities do not exist.

, or that we are not spirit-body hybrids, and hence the Church is wrong. No experience of spiritual realities = no presents from Santa under the tree; relying on physical means (sacraments, thought) = parents putting presents from Santa under the tree.

This doesn’t hold water, either. It seems to be a misunderstanding of sacramental theology. The analogue would not be ‘relying on physical means’, it would be ‘experience of spiritual realities from some other source than that posited.’ On the other hand, “relying on physical means” is simply the definition of how sacraments work: there are visible signs of the invisible reality.

What would experiencing spiritual reality be like? Well, perhaps what I am thinking of is heaven, but one could still imagine something similar on earth: Being able to see angels and demons when they are interacting with us

Why is that an example of a ‘spiritual reality’? Rather, that’s an attempt to experience spiritual realities through physical experiences; and, in the ‘relying on physical means’ argument, you’ve already identified that as cheating – as proof that spiritual realities do not exist. In other words, on one hand, you see ‘physical means’ as proof that spiritual realities are illusory, but on the other hand, you demand physical means as proof that spiritual realities exist. You’ve presumed a conclusion and set it up as a tautology – that is unacceptable.

Seeing the Body of Christ when it actually becomes the Body of Christ would be another example.

Again, you’re misunderstanding sacramental theology. The Body of Christ is present sacramentally in the Eucharist, not visibly. The visible presence of Christ would not ‘prove’ the validity of the Eucharist.

This is a fair objection – but it raises a likewise reasonable question: do you really expect to be able to have a relationship with someone whose existence you doubt?

Some great points here!

Interesting thread…the OP does make a good point, since our soul, and this is really what we are, is spiritual in nature, so we really should have at least some sense of the spiritual realm.

I think for the most part, in modern times, this is probably something most people have either forgot how to access, something lost to the ages, or we are discouraged from it (by the enemy no doubt).

Then again, there are some people who are spiritually sensitive, I once met a lady like this, she came into my ex-girlfriends house (many years ago) and immediately she sensed something negative in the house, said she felt nauseous, myself and few other people felt completely normal though, (but we did believe a ghost was in the house, due to alot of strange things happening), but we never actually felt it.?? So this may be like a kind of ‘talent’ and some are just more tuned into it than others, or it may be a part of the brain that some people know how to access, maybe it something that can be learned and/ or strengthened over time?

Plato’s Cave comes to mind. How are we to presume that the existence of the spiritual part of our nature means that our ability (and perspective!) to perceive spiritual realities is well-developed?

We are able to sense things spiritually only insofar as we are close to God.

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; (1 Peter 3:18)

The monks I know have great spiritual senses because they strive to always be close to God. Most people’s spiritual senses are dead.


Yes, but some people can sense more…I forgot about these 2 people when I responded last night…We hired a new store mgr about 8 months ago, my first time meeting her, someone nearby told me she could see spirits, I asked her about this, and she said shes always been able to see them, they are previously dead people, and according to her, they are going about their daily lives, like they didnt know they were dead!

IN this particular store, we had a manager die last year from a sudden heart attack, at the store, this new manager said she sees him every day, walking around the store, doing the jobs he used to do in life! I was pretty amazed, because she described him so well.

Also, when I was in high school, I had this counselor at my school who was the same, he used to tell me he would see school kids who previously died, walking around the halls. I think there probably is quite a few people like this out there…I wish I had this gift, but I dont, not even close!

With all due respect, this is really the problem.

Repeated “trials of faith” means that you are not docile to truth revealed to us by God through his Church. You are over-thinking these things instead of accepting them in a spirit of humility and childlike trust.

Everyone has moments where faith is tested and everyone goes through trials. The people who remain at peace however, are the ones who trust that God is present even though he can’t be felt and that his promises are true even though we can’t understand how.



I remember this show on the Discovery Channel featured a behavioral scientist’s findings on how men and women fall in love…then ruefully said that she never had “luck” with love.

We have spiritual senses: conscience, reason, etc. Use them.

Actually we already do. It’s just that we’ve fooled outselves that what we see is physical reality. In reality, the color or sensation of green, yelllow, blue, red, etc. is a production of your spiritual side and has nothing to do with the actual physical world other than being a spiritual representation of that world. All mental perceptions and awarenesses are in reality spiritual constructs.

The pertinent question really is, why don’t we have perception of the spiritual realm itself? I believe we do, through our consciences. These are our windows to God.


The question presupposes that the “spiritual world” is analogous to our human world and should be perceived in the same manner.

Spiritual life and truth is apprehended not by sensation, as in bodily life, but by the mind.

In the other life, there may well be a spirit world parallel to the one we now know, but it would be perceived via the “spiritual body” (pneumatikon soma).

We do not see it with the eyes of our human head, which is fine, as we do not live there.

The human mind is barely a match for one world at a time.


I believe in love, not because I have seen love but because I have seen the effects of love.

the same is true of hope.

are hope and love just imaginary things because it is not perceivable physically?

the same is true of faith. some people suffer martyrdom while others abandon whatever beliefs that have caused others to attack them. what are the physical laws that dictate these behaviors?

even some physical objects we perceive through their effects and not through our senses.

Jesus rose from the dead in a glorified body. what are the physical laws that governed that event?

I would ask the atheist, what evidence can you provide to me that proves your belief that only the physical realm exists? that is your faith, what is your evidence that propels you to assert this concept?

what reason is there for expecting to physically perceive the spiritual which by definition has nothing physical about it?

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