a heresy i am particualily scared of is the heresy that there is no soul and thta everything we think of and our memory and stuff is just from our brains and nothing more. many neurologists have been discovering more and more evidence of everything we think about is just from our brain, this seems to push the soul out, i dont want to stop believing in God’s gift to us, can anyone give me advice on keeping this belief strong?
One of the insights that the Catholic Church retains, one which some of our separated bretheren have lost to varying degrees, is the intrinsic goodness of matter. This includes the matter in our own bodies, Jesus Himself, fully human, had a body just as we have now (and now has a glorified body which we will, by His grace, someday have ourselves).
There is nothing in the findings of neurology that, to me, suggests that there’s a basis to eliminate even the concept of God – and I’m a life scientist myself. Fine, one could hook up electrodes on the surface of the head, and measure a moment of “inspiration.” But the mere detection of neural activity would not therefore imply that we have found the source of the inspiration, just it’s manifestation in the matter that is part and parcel of our being.
When the Lord sought to give us His ultimate gift, His Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, he used matter – bread and wine. When he wants to enter our thoughts, it is not at all inconsistent that he uses the matter in our minds.
Also, be careful of segregating the body and the soul into separated entities. Together they form man and woman. The idea that somehow the spirit soul is caged in a matter body is gnostic, not Christian.
Body and soul comprise a unity. But the soul in its essence is non-material, (i.e. it is a spirit) which is why it can survive even being ripped apart from the body, which is death.
I think it was Aquinas or perhaps Aristotle who said that all knowledge begins in the senses. We are humans, and we need sensory input to function. The brain integrates that sensory input and it is not surprising that we find brain activity closely related to sensory and mental activity. But it is the mind (or intellect)–a spiritual faculty of the soul–which abstracts from the sensory input all materiality, leaving a non-material entity which we can call an idea, or a continuous succession of ideas. Without the ability for abstraction, books could not be written; internet forums could not continue. Even the smartest of hominids do not engage in such activities!
Here is a powerful observation from St. Thomas Aquinas.
Every bodily faculty can be damaged by excess of its proper object. For example, if you stare into the sun, you damage your eyes; if a loud sound blasts in your ears, you damage your ears; etc.
But the intellectual faculty is not damaged by excess of its proper object, which is being. It is not possible to conceive of too big a thought, or too infinite a being. On the contrary, it is what finally satisfies the intellect.
I might add that every sense-faculty can be stimulated in a cause and effect way. If you blink a light, the eye responds; if you sound a tone, the ear responds. But you can present all the pieces of a mathematical puzzle before two people, and one of them will have an insight while the other will not. And you can’t say one is smarter than the other. Isaac Newton remarked once that he couldn’t see why Descartes failed to invent calculus since he and Descartes had the exact same raw givens, the same pictures that would relate tangents and quadratures.
The intellect is not a little deterministic box. The brain is, but the intellect is not. That should tell you something important, no?.
The other posters are so right: you have to avoid making the mistakes of materialism, dualism, and gnosticism. Matter is good. I would frankly be suspicious if we *couldn’t *locate a physical organ associated with cognition. But the intellect is immaterial and immortal.