St. Edmund Campion Catechism Group - Series 2 Lesson 3

The immortal soul

Podcast: The Immortal Soul
Podcast: Notes
Catechism: Q5-6
My Catholic Faith: Chapter 17
Catholic Encyclopedia: Soul
Catholic Encyclopedia: Immortality
Aquinas 101: Body and Soul
Aquinas 101: The immortality of the soul
Aquinas 101: Powers of the Soul - a closer look
Aquinas 101: The three acts of the mind
Summa Theologica: 1aQ75a6
Companion to the Summa - Chapter 12



To understand the following:

1. Recap:

  • The four causes of man.
  • The formal cause of man is his soul. His soul animates his body. It is co-principal of man with his body.
  • Man is distinguished from the animals in that he has the faculties of intellect and will which are faculties of the soul.
  • By the faculty of the intellect, man has more than sense knowledge of things; he can abstract the essence of things. When he does this, his intellect "becomes the thing known". In effect, by knowledge of an object, we possess the object in a spiritual way (see the subject  of epistemology).
  • By the faculty of the will, man directs himself to the possession of a perceived good. If this perceived corresponds to the judgement of the intellect, then the action is morally good. If he directs himself to the possession of an object (motivated by wayward passions) against the judgment of his intellect, then the action is evil. An analogy of the relationship of the intellect to the will is the relationship of the judiciary to the executive branch of government in a state.

2. The soul of man is purely spiritual because the acts of its faculties of the intellect and will are purely spiritual.

3. The soul of man is subsistent (it can exist apart from the body). The reasons are several:

  • The soul is more than the co-principal of the body because its activities of knowing and loving are activities that are higher than those of his vital activities which rely on physical organs. In short, the soul has powers that reach for something higher than the perfection of the body and higher than the material order of being.
  • Man longs for an ideal state of perfect happiness, such happiness as is impossible to attain on earth. This universal longing must have been placed in men's souls by God Himself; it is a desire for the infinite happiness of a union with the Creator. If, therefore, man's soul were not immortal, he would have no chance to realize his dream of bliss, and God would be cruel in implanting the longing for it in his breast.
  • There have been many instances of the dead appearing to the living. In the Gospel, Moses and Elias appeared on Mount Thabor to Christ and three of His Apostles. At Christ's death, many who were dead rose and appeared in Jerusalem.
  • Belief in the immortality of the soul and a life after death is universal among mankind, including the most primitive peoples.
  • If the soul were not immortal, the wicked who commit evil all their lives would go unpunished. The just who suffer continually on earth would not receive any reward. This would be injustice impossible to the perfect justice of God.
  • Holy Scripture, the Word of God, teaches that the soul is immortal: The firm belief in the other world expressed in the New Testament rests on the conviction of personal immortality. Jesus teaches: “ Fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul ” (Mt. 10, 28). “ These shall go into everlasting punishment; but the just into eternal life ” (Mt. 23, 46).

4. The separation of body and soul at death is unnatural, for the soul is for animating the body and for knowing and loving God. Hence, the saints achieve final perfection when they are re-united to their bodies at the general judgement resurrection of the body.