16

I’ve stumbled upon a person who has made a few interesting claims. According to her, among others:

  • Other people are only another physical form of yourself.

  • There exists only one unposseded [by ego] and indivisible mind.

  • In Truth, that is in the opposite of what we are presently in, we are one in Christ. We are thence one spirit of Christ and the body we don is temporary. So, as the apostles were saying, there is no female, slave, child… However the physical body must perceive something and perceives what it believes in. As in the beginning there was Adam and Eve as one. As there are branches in the vine but there is one vine.

  • For anyone, who wishes to think reasonably and wisely, [the one unpossesed and indivisible mind] is the mind of Holy Spirit. For those who prefer to let themselves be possessed by a separate mind (located in the brain – egoistic ego), Holy Spirit is inaccessible and their thinking by the so-called brain is, euphemistically speaking, a dissimulation of thinking.

(The above quotations are literally the statements she has made, I only made effort to translate them into English, hopefully the translation is faithful to the original claims.)

This person, who maintains these assertions, claims to be a Christian, and a consequent and radical one. For me, such assertions rather looked as if they were rooted in New Age or Buddhism rather than Christianity, so I asked her which Church does she belong to. To my astonishment, she said she was a Catholic. She further maintains that the above assertions are a result of her own studies of truth, of the more accurate and more faithful reading of the Bible, of the praying experience of befriended Catholics, and also that these claims are, in part, kind of a revelation that is testified by miracles.

To my knowledge, according to (almost?) all major denominations of Christianity, God, creating humans and angels, has created many persons, distinct from Himself and distinct from each other. Claiming that all humans are in fact one person, who is God, and that any other perception is an illusion of the physical brain that is possessed by ego, seems to me to either be an outright heresy or, at best, some unwarranted religious syncretism, attempting to mix in foreign philosophical systems (New Age? Buddhism?) into Christianity. Claiming that all people are “one spirit of Christ” seems to me to border blasphemy.

Or, maybe, am I wrong? After all, I do not have any official documents issued by the Church to disprove this person’s claims.

Therefore, since she claimed to be a Catholic, may I ask:

  • Does the Catholic Church teach what she claimed?
  • Does the Catholic Church teach something opposite to what she claimed, and therefore by definition one cannot maintain such assertions and be a Catholic at the same time?
  • Does the Catholic Church not teach anything in this matter, and therefore every Catholic is free to believe whatever they choose?
  • 4
    Why the downvote? Is it frowned upon to ask questions what does a specific Church teach about a particular matter? – gaazkam May 8 '17 at 13:27
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    @DJClayworth These quotes are from a person who claimed to be a Catholic. I’ve never said these quotes are from any Catholic official. I thought I was clear that I am very skeptical whether these quotes accurately describe the teaching of the Catholic Church, why this is what I’m asking here! If you want the source of these quotations, here you are: these are the statements made by user "glejt" in this thread of forum.wiara.pl: forum.wiara.pl/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=39208 – gaazkam May 8 '17 at 13:49
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    since this person claimed to be a Catholic, she must think her asserts are compatible with the teaching of the Catholic Church, otherwise by definition she wouldn’t be Catholic You are wrong about your If-Then assertion. Unless some official local to her cares enough to challenge her as a schismatic or a heretic, she can simply be wrong by misunderstanding and, like a lot of people these days, shooting off her mouth on the internet. – KorvinStarmast May 8 '17 at 14:13
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    Though the question is a bit broad, it seems clear enough to me, and it is scoped to a particular denomination, so I believe it is on topic here and should not be closed. – Lee Woofenden May 8 '17 at 17:35
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    I can't say whether or not these claims about Catholicism are true, but it makes me suspicious that the claims are based on "original research" ("her own studies of truth, of the more accurate and more faithful reading of the Bible"). If this were really a part of Catholicism, I would imagine there would be something that could be cited that shows this to be the case. – Shokhet May 8 '17 at 20:32
26

No, in fact the Catholic Church teaches no such thing. One approach to seeing this is to understand the way the Church sees the body and soul:

The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual. ... The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God ... and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 362, 366)

This implies that every human being is a separate creation with an individual soul, so that "Other people are only another physical form of yourself" is in fact false. So, indeed, is the statement that "The body we don is temporary". Our bodies, though they will die, will return at the Resurrection where they and the soul will be united eternally.

This doesn't say much directly about the mind. Aquinas, however, did deal with this. In his Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 76 Article 2, Aquinas asks "Whether the intellectual principle is multiplied according to the number of bodies", that is, whether there is just one mind, or one mind for each body. His conclusion is:

If there is one intellect ... in no way is it possible to say that Socrates and Plato are otherwise than one understanding man. And if to this we add that to understand, which is the act of the intellect, is not affected by any organ other than the intellect itself; it will further follow that there is but one agent and one action: that is to say that all men are but one "understander," and have but one act of understanding. ...

However, it would be possible to distinguish my intellectual action from yours by the distinction of the phantasms---that is to say, were there one phantasm of a stone in me, and another in you---if the phantasm itself, as it is one thing in me and another in you, were a form of the possible intellect; since the same agent according to divers forms produces divers actions. ... But the phantasm itself is not a form of the possible intellect; it is the intelligible species abstracted from the phantasm that is a form. Now in one intellect, from different phantasms of the same species, only one intelligible species is abstracted; as appears in one man, in whom there may be different phantasms of a stone; yet from all of them only one intelligible species of a stone is abstracted; by which the intellect of that one man, by one operation, understands the nature of a stone, notwithstanding the diversity of phantasms. Therefore, if there were one intellect for all men, the diversity of phantasms which are in this one and that one would not cause a diversity of intellectual operation in this man and that man. It follows, therefore, that it is altogether impossible and unreasonable to maintain that there exists one intellect for all men.

This is difficult; but essentially what he's saying is that if there were only one mind, then there would be only one "understander" and therefore only one way of understanding each thing. Everyone, then, would understand everything the same way. But this is obviously false. Therefore there is not "only one unpossessed and indivisible mind".

What your friend seems to be embracing is not Catholicism, but something a bit like Buddhism and a bit like some form of gnosticism.

  • 3
    Interesting to note: this article is specifically directed against the interpretation of Aristotle made by Averroes, who thinks that there is only one possible intellect since it cannot be individuated by matter. It would be a mistake, though, to claim that Averroes represents orthodox Islamic thought. – brianpck May 9 '17 at 15:52
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    @brianpck Having read both, it seemed to fit Geremia's better. :-) – KorvinStarmast May 11 '17 at 15:39
15

The O.P.’s question is not addressed by Church documents, because it is a philosophical one. Nevertheless, based on Church teaching, it is possible to assess the position expressed by the interlocutor.

What is a person?

In order to understand this question, it is necessary to understand what the Church means by “person.” Although the Church does not make a definition in Magisterial documents, the term does have a history in Catholic dogma:

  • The term “person” is used in Trinitarian theology. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are Persons or Hypostases (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 252).

  • It also appears in Christology: we say that the two natures of Christ are united according to the hypostasis; or, that Christ is two natures in one Divine Person (the Son) (CCC 466-468).

The most commonly accepted definition among theologians of the term “person” is the one given by Severinus Boëthius in his Liber de persona et duabus naturis:

Persona est naturae rationalis individua substantia [A person is an individual substance with a rational nature] (III, PL 1343D).

By “individual substance,” Boethius means any single entity that stands by itself (things like trees, stones, human beings, and angels; but not, say, the color of the tree, the hardness of the stone, the intellect of the human being, or the actions of the angel). An individual substance is a person, however, only if its nature is rational: that is, if it is capable of truly intellectual knowledge. (In the list of substances above, only human beings and angels qualify as persons.)

Is there one person, or more than one?

Based on this definition, it is clear that there is more than one person.

Even the Persons of the Holy Trinity are really distinct from one another (CCC 252). Since God has created angels and human beings—and evidently multiple individuals of the human species—He has, moreover, created more than one person.

Clearly, therefore, the interpretation given by the O.P.’s interlocutor is very much contradicted by Church teaching.

(When Christ prays that we be “one” in John 17:21, he is clearly referring to a moral, not a metaphysical, unity.)

  • 1
    Great answer: the simple reductio ad absurdum is to point to the many dogmatic formulations of the Trinity as three distinct persons, though obviously the OP is more concerned with the idea of person as it applies to created substances. – brianpck May 9 '17 at 15:55
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Objection 1: Other people are only another physical form of yourself.

Objection 2: There exists only one unposseded [by ego] and indivisible mind.

No, the Catholic Church doesn't believe in this. In Matthew 26:28

for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of MANY for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus wouldn't say for "many" if there was only one soul/self. The whole idea of salvation wouldn't really make sense if there is only one soul experiencing all these lives in different bodies.

Objection 3: For anyone, who wishes to think reasonably and wisely, [the one unpossesed and indivisible mind] is the mind of Holy Spirit. For those who prefer to let themselves be possessed by a separate mind (located in the brain – egoistic ego), Holy Spirit is inaccessible and their thinking by the so-called brain is, euphemistically speaking, a dissimulation of thinking.

This statement totally contradicts our free-will. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a3.htm

Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

11

What this "person who has made a few interesting claims" appears to be arguing is the Averroist tenet that there is one collective soul for all humans (i.e., that humans do not have individual souls).

According to the OED, an Averroist is

One of a sect of peripatetic philosophers who appeared in Italy some time before the restoration of learning, and adopted the leading tenets of Ibn Roshd or Averrhoes, an Arabian philosopher born at Cordova, viz. that the soul is mortal, or (as others stated it) that the only immortal soul is a universal one, from which particular souls arise, and into which they return at death.

The Church has vehemently opposed Averroism in part because (1) Catholics must believe that God creates a unique soul for each human (a human is an unique soul + body), and (2) Averroism destroys all moral responsibility for an individual's actions.

For an excellent refutation of Averroism, see St. Thomas Aquinas's short work De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas (On the uniqueness of intellect[ual soul] against the Averroists).

3

Considering the Catholic Church teaches that there are three persons in one God (St. Patrick famously used the three-leaf clover as an analogy), there have to be at least three persons.

I'm not sure what religion your friend is, but he or she doesn't follow the canon of the Catholic Church.

  • It should be ‘canon’ :-) – can-ned_food May 10 '17 at 0:36
  • Very sound answer. I cannot understand why someone would downvote that. On second thought and after reading the other answers, this one is by far the best ! – Titou May 10 '17 at 13:12
3

In addition to the above great answers, I would also like to quote the Fifth Lateran Council, session 8, which for me also seems to oppose such claims:

Consequently, since in our days (which we endure with sorrow) the sower of cockle, the ancient enemy of the human race, has dared to scatter and multiply in the Lord's field some extremely pernicious errors, which have always been rejected by the faithful, especially on the nature of the rational soul, with the claim that it is mortal, or only one among all human beings, and since some, playing the philosopher without due care, assert that this proposition is true at least according to philosophy, it is our desire to apply suitable remedies against this infection and, with the approval of the sacred council, we condemn and reject all those who insist that the intellectual soul is mortal, or that it is only one among all human beings, and those who suggest doubts on this topic. For the soul not only truly exists of itself and essentially as the form of the human body, as is said in the canon of our predecessor of happy memory, pope Clement V, promulgated in the general council of Vienne, but it is also immortal; and further, for the enormous number of bodies into which it is infused individually, it can and ought to be and is multiplied.

http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Councils/ecum18.htm

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