KARL JASPERS FORUM
TA 115 (Lothane)
PSYCHE and PNEUMA
by Maurice McCarthy
13 June 2009, posted 20 June 2009
Schouborg's Commentary 1 mentioned the encyclopediac nature of this Target Article. Indeed, my reaction on first reading it was, 'Where do I even begin to comment on this ? Do I really grasp what he is getting at overall ?' Then reading the commentary it struck me - it is like the contemplation of a memory map, an array of related accessibilities in a specific mind. How appropriate for a psychoanalyst. It is a statement of free associations. So I ought not attempt to comment on the whole but only on the one two parts which particularly seized my attention.
/From the point of view of my esoteric understanding/, there were two points that I was not happy with. Firstly, the obfuscation of soul and spirit or psyche and pneuma. Secondly, the lack of positive definition of the spirit which was only given meaning as the negative of the material.
The forgotten meaning of the Greek word 'psyche' is butterfly - that ephemeral beauty whose chaotic flight seems to lug its body around fitfully; like a suitcase which is far too heavy for it to carry. This image of the soul as something passing is a most important distinction and badly needs to be re-established. It was effectively outlawed in by the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 869 A.D. (Albeit that it was not /explicitly/ stated in Canon 11 where it speaks of two immortal souls, nevertheless that was its effect.) Its loss was important for the 'pre-history' of science. This is because it was a major step in the materialising of religious thought - the historically necessary prerequisite to the birth of materialistic science. Without a third to articulate the distinction between spirit and matter a strife of opposition was set up. Since the Church dominated all knowledge then its own thinking had to become materialistic in the course of this strife for the physical sciences to be allowed into the world. (This materialism exhibits itself in the insistence on the Six Days of Creation for example.)
The psyche, soul or personality is the perishable part of the non-material whereas the pneuma or spirit is permanent. The soul is the face-mask of the individuality who incarnates in successive lives. The spirit is 'buried' in the psyche, from a materialistic view.
So, as said in TA115, the material and the spiritual are opposites, ignoring the soular since it is perishable like material forms, but in what sense ? Material processes have the tendency to disintegration, as expressed in the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics - the entropy of a closed system tends to increase. Since mass-energy is neither created nor destroyed then the entropy of the universe should increase to a maximum at equilibrium. This is the heat death of the Universe. Spiritual processes are self-realising and therefore the tendency to unification, the opposite of disintegration. The most obvious spiritual processes are the observation of our own thinking and the maintaining of a society or social order.
Thinking occurs (manifests to consciousness) in the soul - for the word 'soul' is but a shorter name for consciousness - and therefore a soul who learns to think well raises part of its own substance to the spiritual and therefore carries this achievement to all subsequent incarnations. The individuality carries a power of thinking I mean, but not a specific world-view, which latter only belongs to the perishable.
If 'faith seeks understanding' is the proper way to understand Anselm, then the real challenge for the spiritually minded is how to reconceive the concept of the spiritual to accommodate science - Biological Science especially.
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