Is the spirit/soul superior to the body?

Hello I am new to these forums and this is my first post besides the meet & greet,

I am well aware that both the soul/spirit and the body are holy, good, and sacred as God’s creations. After all, the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and belongs to God. However, the body is the cause of much sin, and I forgot what the exact verse was, but I think I remember reading something about how the spirit is willing but the body lacks or something like that. So, what I am asking is, is the soul/spirit superior to the body, even though both are holy? What is the Church’s teaching on this and could you cite any Biblical, CCC, or otherwise theological references that could help answer my question?

Also, is there, and if there is, what is the difference between the soul and the spirit. And does the soul/spirit differ from the mind, intellect, or reason (and what are the difference between these three, if any)?

Peace brother and sisters in Christ

It’s the wrong question.

Surely the spiritual soul (there are not two “things”, only one) is superior to the body, in being deathless, but still requires the body, in order to live life!

Your spiritual soul makes you “you”, but it is your body that makes you somebody!

The human soul can exist without the body but would not be alive, because only the body can hold and express life. Life requires a body.
Life eternal will require an eternal body, which we will be given.

Also, the body whether alive or dead does not contain sin. You could examine me from skull dome to toetips and hands, without finding my numerous sins, which reside in my mind/soul.


Modern Catholic Dictionary:

SOUL. The spiritual immortal part in human beings that animates their body. Though a substance in itself, the soul is naturally ordained toward a body; separated, it is an “incomplete” substance. The soul has no parts, it is therefore simple, but it is not without accidents. The faculties are its proper accidents. Every experience adds to its accidental form. It is individually created for each person by God and infused into the body at the time of human insemination. It is moreover created in respect to the body it will inform, so that the substance of bodily features and of mental characteristics insofar as they depend on organic functions is safeguarded. As a simple and spiritual substance, the soul cannot die. Yet it is not the total human nature, since a human person is composed of body animated by the soul. In philosophy, animals and plants are also said to have souls, which operate as sensitive and vegetative principles of life. Unlike the human spirit, these souls are perishable. The rational soul contains all the powers of the two other souls and is the origin of the sensitive and vegetative functions in the human being.

SPIRIT. That which is positively immaterial. It is pure spirit if it has no dependence on matter either for its existence or for any of its activities. God is uncreated pure Spirit; the angels are created pure spirits. The human soul is more properly called spiritual. Although it can exist independent of the body, it nevertheless in this life depends extrinsically on the body for its operations, and in the life to come retains a natural affinity for the body, with which after the resurrection it will be reunited for all eternity. (Etym. Latin spiritus, breath, life, soul, mind, spirit, power.)

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?” Jesus.
“Pray, for the soul is willing but the flesh is weak.” Jesus in the Garden.
St. Paul also said that the body is fighting the soul.

There are other statements as well which point out the struggle the soul, the will of man, has controlling the body’s desires. I think this is rather apparent in all of us…how to say “no”.

So it means that either the body wins or the soul wins the control. And in one place St. Paul says we need to keep struggling an praying if the soul is to win control. This is the reason for the sacraments.

There was a heresy long ago which said the body was bad. But this is not what the scripture is saying. Rather it is saying that the body is good since it has been made a temple of God’s presence, but that the bad effects of sin weigh it down and make it weak to temptation to lean toward passion. So this is where the soul has to be in the driver’s seat and lead the body instead of the body leading it.

Blessed be God who comforts us in all our trials

“Just as a blind man is unable to form any idea about colors, or a deaf person to fathom what it means to hear sounds… so the body cannot comprehend the delights of the soul… For we live in a material world, and the only kind of pleasure we can understand is that experienced through our body. But the joys of the spirit are everlasting and ceaseless. There is no resemblance of any kind between the enjoyments of the soul and those of the body.”

I say that Maimonides is correct and that our soul, independent of the body, will one day delight in God.

"On the contrary, It is written (Job 19:25-26): “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth, and I shall be clothed again with my skin,” etc. Therefore there will be a resurrection of the body. …] Further, …] “Christ rising again from the dead dieth now no more” (Romans 6:8). Therefore men who are His members will live in body and soul; and consequently there must needs be a resurrection of the body.

“[It] is written (Wisdom 9:15) that “the corruptible body is a load upon the soul.” If, then, there be removed from the body all those things wherein it hampers the soul’s action, the soul will be simply more perfect while existing in such a body than when separated therefrom.”

–St. Thomas Aquinas (S.T. Supp. Q. 75, a1; Q. 93, a1)

The Angelic Doctor was, by the way, a student and admirer of Maimonides.

Just for clarification

I would just make the following points regarding life here and then in the after life.

Souls who leave this life and are now in heaven, are without bodies…for the time being. That doesn’t mean they are without life. They are more alive in heaven than they ever were in the flesh. Yes, body and soul will someday be reunited because that’s how God made us, body & soul, but until that reunification happens, which might not happen for billions of years from now, while the body is dead, the point is, the soul continues to live. It doesn’t sleep, it doesn’t go into a coma waiting till the end of the world. The soul once created by God, lives forever. And our immortal soul has memory intellect and will, here in this life as it does in the afterlife, fully functional. That’s true in heaven as it is in hell, even when the soul and body are waiting to be reunited.

Once the body dies, it’s not lights out for the soul until the end of the world. At death of the body, our souls (we as unique individuals) are immediately judged by Jesus, and we knoiw exactly what’s going on. We either go to Heaven with possible purgatory first, or hell. And we know the realities of where we are.

Someday, at the resurrection of all the dead, whenever that day comes, souls in heaven will be reunited with their resurrected body in heaven. Souls in hell will be reunited with their resurrected body in hell. Souls in purgatory at the end of time, will then be in heaven body and soul. Purgatory will cease to exist.

The visual of this can be seen in the story of the richman and Lazarus after each died. And we can’t overlook the fact it’s Jesus the one who will do the judging of ALL, is telling the story.


The soul can exist without body but would not be alive.

Living human beings have bodies.

In fact, a living human being **is ** a(n ensouled) body.


what is your source?

I am pointing to
990 , 997 , 1022 ,

1718 ,my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you.

2000 ,

Mt. 22:32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?** He is not God of the dead, but of the living**." 22:33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Be “astonished” GEddie. :slight_smile:

Thank you everyone for your answers.

However, no one here has actually answered the main question, unless I missed it. Perhaps I should clarify more on the topic question: is the spirit/soul superior to the body? I realize that both are very much good and holy, but is the soul superior to the body in its original form before the fall? And what about after the resurrection? I do realize that in our fallen state, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, but does this actually imply the spirit as a superior part of man, or are both the body and spirit equal as perfect creations of God (even after the fall?), but with the body’s fallen urges being at conflict with the spirtual needs of the soul?

Pax Christi

We can only conjecture about “before the fall.” A&E had biological bodies essentially the same as our own; not spiritual, everlasting bodies.

In eternity, your soul and body will be permanently unified and never again separable; they only appear distinct now because of impending death. Eternity will integrate you forever; you will think with your body and move with your mind. :):slight_smile:

And most of your “body’s fallen urges” really arise in your soul. CS Lewis said it better than I ever could:

"You are always dragging me down,’ said I to my Body. ‘Dragging you down!’ replied my Body. ‘Well I like that! Who taught me to like tobacco and alcohol? You, of course, with your idiotic adolescent idea of being “grown-up”. My palate loathed both at first: but you would have your way. Who put an end to all those angry and revengeful thoughts last night? Me, of course, by insisting on going to sleep. Who does his best to keep you from talking too much and eating too much by giving you dry throats and headaches and indigestion? Eh?’ ‘And what about sex?’ said I. ‘Yes, what about it?’ retorted the Body. ‘If you and your wretched imagination would leave me alone I’d give you no trouble. That’s Soul all over; you give me orders and then blame me for carrying them out.’]


Yes the soul is superior to the body insofar as it is more like God. But the body and soul together are superior to the soul alone, because they are parts of a whole and therefore together more perfect, thus more like God. An angel, however, is by nature superior to a body and soul taken together, because he is still more like God (in his nature, though our Lady is even greater yet by grace).

As others have pointed out, we must be careful not to think of the soul as our “real self.” Our real self is body and soul. The soul is not a ‘lesser angel’ but rather the counterpart to the body.

As an aside

“Mind” = Any state or activity of rational consciousness; also a collective name for all rationally conscious powers, states, and activities. In philosophy the mind is commonly identified with the intellect as recipient of knowledge.
From Catholic dictionary, MIND

So what happens when the body dies, does the mind cease to exist, because the brain is dead? No.

Our soul on its own has memory intellect and will. Since the soul is immortal and does NOT die, neither does memory intellect and will. Those powers don’t stop existing nor do they stop growing at the death of the body.

When the soul seperates from the body, it doesn’t mean the powers of the soul stop working just because there is no body.

That means the soul experiences the afterlife even without a body.

St. Thomas Aquinas agrees with the ancient Greek philosophers that “Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses” (De veritate 2, 3, 19). It seems that for a soul to exercise its powers without a body is a miracle of grace, not something proper to it. (Infused knowledge would be another exception to the rule, again a preternatural gift.)

No disagreement there.

Our body and soul are both created by God and sustained by God.

Being sustained in existence is one thing; being able to function outside one’s nature requires a special intervention of God. Like a donkey talking. A donkey existing may be a miracle in a loose sense of the word, but it is not a suspension of the laws of nature; a donkey talking is. So too a soul functioning without a body. According to St. Thomas, anyhow.

Again, no disagreement

At the transfiguration,

Mt 17:17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli′jah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli′jah.”a] 5 He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,**(“”)] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

pulling that apart

*]Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus, Peter, James, & John. APPEAR? With what? Those OT saints died 1000’s of years prior to this event.
*]Without a body, how does Peter and the others even recognize these guys?
*]Without a body, and all it’s parts, how can those saints talk? How can they see? How can they think in order to process data, without a brain?
*]Yet They were talking to Jesus, AND Peter sees and hears them. Peter even wants to make tents for Jesus, Moses, & Elijah
*]One has to ask, why would Peter want to make tents for 2 spirits?
*]Here’s another point. Heaven is closed. It’s not been opened yet. Jesus hasn’t done all His work yet. So where are Moses and Elijah till then, obviously aware and not in some coma?
[/LIST]I’m just picking this one event to show the soul even without a body has these powers after death of the body. Not on the souls own power, but from God’s design of the soul, sustained by God.

So God designed the soul without any powers of its own? God directly controls all our actions?

I think respondents are politely suggesting that the way you frame the question means the question cannot be helpfully answered directly because your understanding of the relationship of body and soul is not quite right.

If you reflect on some of the excellent answers below and come to be a deeper understanding of what it means to be human you will prob answer your own questions.

Remember sin comes from the Will (a faculty of the soul). The body can coerce and tempt and even provide the “straw” but it is the will that must decide to ignite it. So body and soul are intimately con-joined and co-responsible as it were in any human act of sin or grace.

For the Christian the body is not a corrupt prison for the noble soul. That way lies the errors of Gnosticism, Jansenism, Abligensianism and Dualism etc etc.

Yes the body is wounded since the fall, that is all. It is easier to sin than it is to cooperate with grace - it was the opposite in Eden.

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