A human is a tripartite being — body, soul, and spirit. There are many different schema that take account of this basic reality, and so there are many different terms that have been used to denote these three levels of being. Furthermore, the dividing lines between each one and the next are not fixed and impermeable. There are fuzzy zones between body and soul and spirit.
What the “body” entails is pretty obvious to most people. The difference between soul and spirit is harder for many people to understand. “Soul” is made up of the mind, the will, the moral agent. It also encompasses everything integral to a person that is not bodily-defined. This includes one’s role in society, insofar as it is an expression of and an influence upon that person. It also includes sex, and race. Here we can see how interdependent body and soul are. A man’s sex is reflected in his body, but it is also reflected in his soul. Likewise for a woman.
[Of course, hard Leftists pretend that there is no such thing as “gender” outside of our beliefs about gender. That is, “gender is a construct.” I believe, on the contrary, that maleness and femaleness precede humanity itself. That there is a man and a woman in our species is merely a reflection of the deep nature of the universe. The Chinese have known this for thousands of years — the principles of yin and yang. But then, of course, all people have known this, for all time. Foolish moderns are the first ones not to know it. They call their ignorance holiness and wisdom.]
The spirit is the least determined part of a human being — the least material and therefore the least obvious. Although in fact every spirit is unique, and in many senses more specific than bodies and souls, because the spirit is the part of the human being that is closest to the eternal and the divine there is a sense in which the spirit is the most universal part of each person, the least differentiated. It all depends on what perspective you take; if you consider how matter is just highly organized atoms and molecules and how easy it is to disintegrate those organized patterns into meaningless goo, one can call our bodies the least specific part of our selves. What part of our being we consider most essentially individual is a question of emphasis — clearly all three levels are indispensable. Without one level or the other, the being is no longer recognizable as a human.
I’m interested in how very important all three levels are. So many people today live in willful ignorance of the spirit. They even deny the soul, though the denial is mostly rhetorical — they replace it with terms from neuroscience or whatever; no one can operate for 10 minutes in everyday life without a provisional theory of the soul. Modern people are so deeply messed-up in their appraisals of society partly because their own rhetoric about the non-existence of the soul forces them into provisional, slapdash explanations for human behavior.
But among people who understand and cultivate the soul and the spirit, I find there is often a corresponding neglect of the body. I am not speaking strictly about matters of bodily health (though of course health is hugely important). I am speaking also of how greatly matters of the body can affect matters of the soul and the spirit.
That the spirit has no physical location in the body (it doesn’t go away if you chop off someone’s leg, for example) does not mean that there is no link between the two.
Many of the manifestations of the body-soul-spirit connection are so obvious and everyday that it seems silly to point them out. A weakened body can very obviously contribute to a depressed soul, either through illness or through poor diet or lack of exercise.
But other ones, such as the connection between sexuality on the bodily level and spirituality, are less obvious and more controversial in modern times. Or the effect of behavior upon hormones, and the corresponding effect of hormonal harmony/imbalance on the will and indeed upon the beauty of the spirit.
I will have more to say about the specifics of how we neglect and nourish our bodies, souls, and spirits in later posts.