367. Does a spirit, in uniting itself with a body, identify itself with matter?
“Matter is only the envelope of the spirit, as clothing is the envelope of the body. A spirit, in uniting himself with a body, retains the attributes of his spiritual nature.”
368. Does a spirit exercise his faculties in full freedom after his union with a body?
“The exercise of faculties depends on the organs which serve them for instruments. Their exercise is weakened by the grossness of matter.”
– It would appear, then, that the material envelope is an obstacle to the free manifestation of a spirit’s faculties, as the opacity of ground glass is an obstacle to the free emission of light?
“Yes, an obstacle which is exceedingly opaque.”
The action exercised upon a spirit by the gross matter of his body may also be compared to that of muddy water, impeding the movements of the objects plunged into it.
369. Is the free exercise of a spirit’s faculties subordinated, during his incarnation, to the development of his corporeal organs?
“Those organs are the soul’s instruments for the manifestation of its faculties; that manifestation is, therefore, necessarily subordinated to the degree of development and perfection of those organs, as the perfection of a piece of manual work depends on the goodness of the tool employed.”
370. May we, from the influence of the corporeal organs, infer a connection between the development of the cerebral organs and that of the moral and intellectual faculties?
“Do not confound effect and cause. A spirit always possesses the faculties that belong to him; but you must remember that it is not the organs that give the faculties, but the faculties that incite to the development of the organs.”
– According to this view of the subject the diversity of aptitudes in each man depends solely on the state of his spirit?
“To say that it does so ‘solely,’ would not be altogether correct. The qualities of the incarnated spirit are, undoubtedly, the determining principle of those aptitudes; but allowance must be made for the influence of matter, which hinders every man, more or less, in the exercise of the faculties inherent in his soul.”
A spirit, in incarnating himself, brings with him certain characterial predispositions therefore, if we admit the existence, for each of these, of a special organ in the brain. The development of the cerebral organs is seen to be an effect, and not a cause. If his faculties were a result of his bodily organs, man would be a mere machine, without free-will, and would not be responsible for his actions. Moreover, if such were the case, we should be forced to admit that the greatest geniuses-men of science, poets, artists-are only such because a lucky chance has given them certain special organs whence it would follow, still further, that, but for the chance-acquisition of those organs, they would not have been geniuses, and that the stupidest of men might have been a Newton, a Virgil, or a Raphael, If he had been provided with certain organs a supposition still more flagrantly absurd, if we attempt to apply it to the explanation of the moral qualities.
For, according to this system, Saint Vincent de Paul, had he been gifted by nature with such and such an organ, might have been a scoundrel and the greatest scoundrel alive, had he only been gifted with an organ of an opposite nature, might have been a Saint Vincent de Paul. If, on the contrary, we admit that our special organs, supposing such to exist, are an effect and not a cause, that they are developed by the exercise of the faculties to which they correspond, as muscles are developed by movement, we arrive at a theory which is certainly not irrational. Let us employ an illustration equally conclusive and commonplace. By certain physiognomic signs we recognise a man who is addicted to drink. Is it those signs that make him a drunkard, or is it his drunkenness that produces those signs? It may be safely asserted that our organs are a consequence of our faculties.
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