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Division between man’s soul and spirit

May 1, 2012

Ever wondered what was really the difference between man’s “soul” and “spirit”? Sometimes, they seem synonymous, and there are battles between “dichotomists” and “trichotomists” over that. Both are said to be the “invisible” part of man, and how can we know where one ends, and the other begins to identify them clearly? A good guideline in differentiating between them I have found in the works of the late Christian psychologist Conrad A. Baars (Feeling and Healing Your Emotions Plainfield, NJ, Logos International, 1979). He divides our 12* basic emotions into “humane” emotions, (love/hate, desire/aversion, joy/sadness), which are ennobled by our or “intellect” (“intuitive”, or “contemplative” mind); thus making up our “heart“; and also our “utilitarian” emotions (hope/despair, courage/fear, peace*/anger), which aid our “reason” (“working” or “discursive” mind) thus making up our “mind“. (“intuitive” comes from a Latin word meaning “look” or “view”, and “intellect” from “to read between”, both as opposed to simply “reasoning”)

“Upwardly” he says, “the humane emotions are intimately linked with our spirit, and the utilitarian emotions with our reason” [i.e. soul]. Downward, both groups are linked with our body. (p.33).
The humane emotions are from our “pleasure appetite” and cause inner movement within the psyche. They are our responses to what we perceive as “good” or “bad”. Our intuitive mind also receives its knowledge from such sources as nature, the arts, faith, and directly from God through the Spirit, thus echoing the biblical statement.
The utilitarian emotions of our “utility appetite” move us to action to make life better or respond to threats to our happiness or well being. Thus, they are concerned with mundane things; what is useful or harmful.
It’s the humane emotions that distinguish us from animals (hence, “humane”). While they certainly share the utilitarian emotions (anger, courage, etc) with us, the other set of emotions are not “ennobled” in them, being that they have instinct to guide them. Since we have those emotions, our instincts are undeveloped or “sophisticated” (its character altered).

Soul is also connected with “Eros”, which is said to involve “integration”, while spirit is connected with “Logos”, which is involved with “differentiation”.
Logos is the rational (in this case, likely what Baars calls “intuitive” or “intellect”) principle that structures and informs matter, seeing to it that different parts of a system behave differently and independently of each other.
Eros is the affective principle that pulls things together, seeing to it that different parts of a system are connected to each other and so bound to the fate of the whole.
We need Logos to discriminate between good and evil [hence, the focus of the humane emotions] and to recognize ourselves as rational creatures capable of free choice. But we need Eros to unify opposing psychological elements and to create new states of consciousness (this will tie into the utilitarian emotion’s focus on what’s “useful”).

Carl Jung mistakenly had the idea that a woman’s psychology is founded on Eros and a man’s on Logos. This was probably based on the fact that women have children, so their primary sense of self is necessarily established in relationship. Men, on the other hand, have traditionally supplied the means to support the family, so he figured their primary sense of self is established by rational goals and distinctions of status or power. But, both are really grounded on Eros (hence, matters of the soul), as evidenced by the fact that women have a “good-guy/bad-boy” desire, just as much as men have a “madonna/whore syndrome”. Those represent a desire for Eros in both genders. Women desire Logos only when still psychologically tied to their father.
Psychological development requires the existence of both Eros and Logos.

So this gives us a good idea of how to distinguish our soul from our spirit: just think of the emotions associated with them!

I find it helpful to categorize the different pairs into categories:

description Anticipating (future) Present reality reactive (past)
“humane” emotions SPIRIT: “intellect” (“intuitive”, or “contemplative” mind) “heart”; logos desire/aversion joy/sadness love/hate
“utilitarian” emotions SOUL: “reason” (“working” or “discursive” mind) “mind”; eros. courage/fear hope/despair peace*/anger

*Baars does not recognize an opposite of “anger”, which he calls the “ultimate emotion”. But it seems “peace” or “contentment” would fit. Anger is a “sense-evil” emotion sort of like an active, charged version of sadness, and a temporal cousin to hate. So its opposite would be similarly related to love and joy. “Peace”, as it is defined in the Bible is a more spiritually charged form of joy, and is connected with love. It is needed when the other utility emotions are not able to remove the cause of pain or unhappiness, or when something gives you pleasure apart from the intuitive mind. The proof is that animals such as our pets would have the sense-evil reaction of anger if teased, but if petted, a sense-good reaction that is not the “humane” love or joy, and certainly not hope or courage. They are then peaceful. Baars and his colleagues considered this state (which they referred to as “meekness”) as not an emotion, but as a spiritual state. But this would probably result from the fact of anger appearing to be the “ultimate emotion”. It’s opposite then, may appear not to be an emotion at all. But its presence in animals proves it must not be “spiritual”. The “peace that surpasses understanding” given by God would be the spiritual state.

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