Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How Spirit Works in Our Soul

According to Saint Theophan, the soul includes an intellectual, an active and a sensual aspect. In a human being the presence of Spirit uplifts each of these parts above the animal soul.

The spirit brings to this aspect a striving for the ideal.  We are continuously making observations and gaining new experiences which we strive to make sense out of all this data. We make assumptions which make up what we call a wold view allowing us to act.  But with Spirit, we strive even higher and seek the significance of each thing as part of the whole of creation.  We want to know the purpose of life and our part in creation. With this we find meaning in our lives.

Saint Theophan says,
This yearning is universal to everyone. Even those who do not place any value on any kind of knowledge other than that from experience, without noticing it are unable to refrain from idealizing against their will. They reject ideas with their tongues, but build them in actual fact. They accept conjectures, which are the lowest class of knowledge, but without which we could not have a single domain of knowledge....  The spirit which is ever present within us as a significant force, itself contemplating God as Creator and Providence, also draws the soul into that invisible and boundless realm.
It is our spiritual challenge to accept this higher kind of knowledge brought to us through spirit. Too often we reject it because our worldly mind says its not practical or not congruent with societal norms. 

 The spirit in the active part is what brings us the desire for and production of unselfish deeds or virtues. 
 St. Theophan says,
The standard of the holy, virtuous and righteous life is inscribed in the conscience once it has received information about such a life through its binding with the spirit, the soul is drawn by its invisible beauty and majesty, and it decides to introduce it into the domain of its deeds and into its own life, transforming even this according to its requirements. 
While we have these yearnings we do not always act on them.

Spirit brings to the sensual part of the soul a yearning for love for the beautiful.  From this comes our joy and admiration for the beauty of a flower, the beauty we find in works of art music and poetry.

St. Theophan says,
The spirit, which knows God, naturally, comprehends divine beauty and seeks to delight in it alone. The spirit cannot definitely prove what divine beauty is, but, by carrying within itself the design of it, it definitely proves what it is not, expressing this evidence by the fact that it is not satisfied by anything which is  created...  Having received information about divine beauty through its binding with the spirit, the soul too follows in its steps, and, comprehending Divine beauty by means of its own mental image, it leaps with joy because within its realm it is presented with reflection of that Divine beauty (delights), then itself devises and manufacturers things in which it hopes to reflect it as it is presented to it  (artists and actors)... The soul seeks not only what is beautiful, being guided by the spirit, but also the expression of the beautiful in beautiful forms of the invisible world, to where the spirit by its action beckons.
Here we see that Saint Theophan has given us a road map to understanding the nature of a healthy soul that is fully integrated with Spirit. Out spiritual challenge to to pay attention to the spirit that lives within our soul and connects us the God allowing us to have joy in His creation and to act in a virtuous manner according to His commandments.  Out fallen condition is nothing more than a separation from Spirit.

Reference: The Spiritual Life by Saint Theophan the Recluse pp 66-71

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