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Order of Being

April 18, 2009


The dualism between body and spirit has a long history of division and conflict.  I have always baulked at the idea of a dualistic universe and at any attempt to elevate one side over the other.  In particular, much of what I encounter sets spirit over the body upon a hierarchical ladder that reaches into the realm of reality.  What happens is that the non-material is associated with what is real and the material with what is less real, or the opposition is expressed in terms of what is good and what is evil, or true and false.


Some of the problems this leads to are:

  1. Escapism – abandoning this world for the next.
  2. An inordinate reliance upon reason.
  3. Utilitarianism – value transfers from being to efficiency.


The problem I have always had regarding dualistic frameworks has been the notion that they represent an hierarchy of being.  What happens if the hierarchy is understood rather in terms of order?


I was reminded of this after reviewing Iranaeus’ beliefs concerning subordination among the persons of the Trinity in his defense against the Gnostics.  He argues that the subordination of persons is not in terms of being, but in terms of doing the will of the Father.  This does not limit the being of the Son or of the Spirit, but rather expresses the ways God is fully present in the creation.  Subordination does not limit the being of God, but rather unveils the fullness of God.


If we view the relation between the senses and the soul in this light a different image emerges.  The senses are not in any way less than the mind or soul.  They are not less real, less good, less true.  They are precisely what they are – the senses.  They are however, subordinate. 


I believe without a doubt that the universe is sustained by order.  The material world is governed by immaterial “laws.”  I do not see how the material governs the immaterial, except in the case of miracles.  In the same way, the human person consists of parts that can be termed as material (body, senses) and immaterial (soul, mind, will).  Human beingness is ordered in such a way that mirrors that of the creation, and, I would argue, that of the Triune Creator.  The soul ought to govern the body, not the body the soul.  This has nothing to do with degrees of beingness, but everything to do with the order of being.




From → Philosophy, Theology

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