My question(s) relates to how the soul fits in with the existence "equation" and I have 2 main questions:

Is the human soul part of your person or your essence, if essence then do humans each have a unique essence and essence =/= nature? If person, does that mean your person is essentially your personality + soul?

Does God have a soul and is the soul part of God's essence or is it his essence (and would this mean divine nature =/= divine essence?)

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I would also recommend reading the Help Center's sections on asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Oct 23, 2023 at 3:52
  • 2
    You have asked two questions. Actually, each is a multi-question and to answer your two multi-questions would require pages and pages of definitions and explanations. I suggest you take this in small steps and stages, giving users opportunity to answer one facet at a time. Also, the archives treat of all that you have asked and treat of it in depth and extent. I suggest removal of one question and a very firm edit of the second and to focus on one aspect at a time.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 23, 2023 at 7:04
  • 1
    You might find this question/answer helpful: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/68657/…
    – Lesley
    Oct 23, 2023 at 9:40
  • 1
    The word "essence" isn't biblical, but the question uses it as if everyone already knows what it means (along with "soul", "person", "nature"). It would be good to provide definitions for what these terms mean and which denomination defines them that way. Oct 24, 2023 at 3:05

1 Answer 1


How does the soul fit in with the existence of being?

The human being is composed of a soul and a physical body! The makes up the human person. At death, the immortal soul of man separates from the human body, thus the human being as such ceases to exist as a person.

Although, many think of the Saints in heaven as people, they are in fact simply Holy Souls in Heaven waiting to be reunited with their human bodies and thus becoming completely human once again as individual human persons.

Person (Definition)

The classic definition is that given by Boethius in "De persona et duabus naturis", c. ii: Naturæ rationalis individua substantia (an individual substance of a rational nature).

Substantia - "Substance" is used to exclude accidents: "We see that accidents cannot constitute person" (Boethius, op. cit.). Substantia is used in two senses: of the concrete substance as existing in the individual, called substantia prima, corresponding to Aristotle's ousia prote; and of abstractions, substance as existing in genus and species, called substantia secunda, Aristotle's ousia deutera. It is disputed which of the two the word taken by itself here signifies. It seems probable that of itself it prescinds from substantia prima and substantia secunda, and is restricted to the former signification only by the word individua.

IndividuaIndividua, i.e., indivisum in se, is that which, unlike the higher branches in the tree of Porphyry, genus and species, cannot be further subdivided. Boethius in giving his definition does not seem to attach any further signification to the word. It is merely synonymous with singularis.

Rationalis naturae - Person is predicated only of intellectual beings. The generic word which includes all individual existing substances is suppositum. Thus person is a subdivision of suppositum which is applied equally to rational and irrational, living and non-living individuals. A person is therefore sometimes defined as suppositum naturae rationalis.

The definition of Boethius as it stands can hardly be considered a satisfactory one. The words taken literally can be applied to the rational soul of man, and also the human nature of Christ. That St. Thomas accepts it is presumably due to the fact that he found it in possession, and recognized as the traditional definition. He explains it in terms that practically constitute a new definition. Individua substantia signifies, he says, substantia, completa, per se subsistens, separata ab aliia, i.e., a substance, complete, subsisting per se, existing apart from others (III, Q. xvi, a. 12, ad 2um).

If to this be added rationalis naturae, we have a definition comprising the five notes that go to make up a person: (a) substantia - this excludes accident; (b) completa - it must form a complete nature; that which is a part, either actually or "aptitudinally" does not satisfy the definition; (c) per se subsistens - the person exists in himself and for himself; he is sui juris, the ultimate possessor of his nature and all its acts, the ultimate subject of predication of all his attributes; that which exists in another is not a person; (d) separata ab aliis - this excludes the universal, substantia secunda, which has no existence apart from the individual; (e) rationalis naturae - excludes all non-intellectual supposita.

To a person therefore belongs a threefold incommunicability, expressed in notes (b), (c), and (d). The human soul belongs to the nature as a part of it, and is therefore not a person, even when existing separately. The human nature of Christ does not exist per se seorsum, but in alio, in the Divine Personality of the Word. It is therefore communicated by assumption and so is not a person. Lastly the Divine Essence, though subsisting per se, is so communicated to the Three Persons that it does not exist apart from them; it is therefore not a person.

Theologians agree that in the Hypostatic Union the immediate reason why the Sacred Humanity, though complete and individual, is not a person is that it is not a subsistence, not per se seorsum subsistens. They have, however, disputed for centuries as to what may be the ultimate determination of the nature which if present would make it a subsistence and so a person, what in other words is the ultimate foundation of personality. According to Scotus, as he is usually understood, the ultimate foundation is a mere negation. That individual intellectual nature is a person which is neither of its nature destined to be communicated - as is the human soul - nor is actually communicated - as is the Sacred Humanity. If the Hypostatic Union ceased, the latter would ipso facto, without any further determination, become a person. To this it is objected that the person possesses the nature and all its attributes. It is difficult to believe that this possessor, as distinct from the objects possessed, is constituted only by a negative. Consequently, the traditional Thomists, following Cajetan, hold that there is a positive determination which they call the "mode" of subsistence. It is the function of this mode to make the nature incommunicable, terminated in itself, and capable of receiving its own esse, or existence. Without this mode the human nature of Christ exists only by the uncreated esse of the Word.


The use of the word persona and its Greek equivalents in connection with the Trinitarian disputes

For the constitution of a person it is required that a reality be subsistent and absolutely distinct, i.e. incommunicable. The three Divine realities are relations, each identified with the Divine Essence. A finite relation has reality only in so far as it is an accident; it has the reality of inherence. The Divine relations, however, are in the nature not by inherence but by identity. The reality they have, therefore, is not that of an accident, but that of a subsistence. They are one with ipsum esse subsistens. Again every relation, by its very nature, implies opposition and so distinction. In the finite relation this distinction is between subject and term. In the infinite relations there is no subject as distinct from the relation itself; the Paternity is the Father--and no term as distinct from the opposing relation; the Filiation is the Son. The Divine realities are therefore distinct and mutually incommunicable through this relative opposition; they are subsistent as being identified with the subsistence of the Godhead, i.e. they are persons. The use of the word persona to denote them, however, led to controversy between East and West. The precise Greek equivalent was prosopon, likewise used originally of the actor's mask and then of the character he represented, but the meaning of the word had not passed on, as had that of persona, to the general signification of individual. Consequently tres personae, tria prosopa, savoured of Sabellianism to the Greeks. On the other hand their word hypostasis, from hypo-histemi, was taken to correspond to the Latin substantia, from sub-stare. Tres hypostases therefore appeared to conflict with the Nicaean doctrine of unity of substance in the Trinity. This difference was a main cause of the Antiochene schism of the fourth century. Eventually in the West, it was recognized that the true equivalent of hypostasis was not substantia but subsistentia, and in the East that to understand prosopon in the sense of the Latin persona precluded the possibility of a Sabellian interpretation. By the First Council of Constantinople, therefore, it was recognized that the words hypostasis, prosopon, and persona were equally applicable to the three Divine realities.

God is Spirit. For most Christians God is Trinitarian in nature.

Man has a soul which many say to a meaning a human spirit. A man's personality is that of which he has cognizance under the concept of "self". It is that entity, substantial, permanent, unitary, which is the subject of all the states and acts that constitute his complete life.


In Psychology, "spirit" is used (with the adjective "spiritual") to denote all that belongs to our higher life of reason, art, morality, and religion as contrasted with the life of mere sense-perception and passion. The latter is intrinsically dependent on matter and conditioned by its laws; the former is characterized by freedom or the power of self-determination; "spirit" in this sense is essentially personal. Hegelianism, indeed, in its doctrines of Subjective, Objective, and Absolute Spirit, tries to maintain the categories of spiritual philosophy (freedom, self-consciousness and the like), in a Monistic framework. But such conceptions demand the recognition of individual personality as an ultimate fact.

In Theology, the uses of the word are various. In the New Testament, it signifies sometimes the soul of man (generally its highest part, e.g., "the spirit is willing"), sometimes the supernatural action of God in man, sometimes the Holy Ghost ("the Spirit of Truth Whom the world cannot receive"). The use of this term to signify the supernatural life of grace is the explanation of St. Paul's language about the spiritual and the carnal man and his enumeration of the three elements, spirit, soul, and body, which gave occasion to the error of the Trichotomists (1 Thessalonians 5:23, Ephesians 4:23).

Matter has generally been conceived as in one sense or another the limitation of spirit. Hence, finite spirits were thought to require a body as a principle of individuation and limitation; only God, the Infinite Spirit, was free from all admixture of matter. Thus, when we find the angels described as asomatoi or auloi, in the writings of the Fathers, this properly means only that the angels do not possess a gross, fleshly body; it does not at all imply a nature absolutely immaterial. Such Scripture expressions as "bread of angels", "they shall shine as the angels", as well as the apparitions of these heavenly beings, were adduced as proofs of their corporeality. So speak Sts. Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome, Hilary, Origen and many other Fathers. Even in Scholastic times, the degree of immateriality that belongs to finite spirits was disputed. St. Thomas teaches the complete simplicity of all spiritual natures, but the Scotists, by means of their famous materia primo prima, introduced a real composition, which they conceived to be necessary to a created nature. As regards the functions of spirits in the world, and their active relations to the visible order of things. Scripture abounds in instances of their dealings with men, chiefly in the character of intermediaries between God and His servants. They are the heralds who announce his commands, and often too the ministers who execute His justice. They take a benevolent interest in the spiritual good of men (Luke 15:10). For these reasons, the Church permits and encourages devotion to the angels.

  • 1
    I'm fairly sure that The Catholic Encyclopedia represents the views of the Church, and think that Ken has summarized those citations correctly. I don't understand the question itself well enough to say whether it properly answers the question, but I expect it does. What other reasons could there be for down-voting this answer? Drive-by down-votes are useless without either adding a comment or up-voting a relevant existing comment. (Yes, I know this is futile, but sometimes one needs to rant.) Oct 24, 2023 at 14:11
  • I have often wondered about the necessity of a soul getting a new human body after we die. A physical body is a necessity for existing on the Earth, yet as far as I can see it, there shouldn't be a need for a physical body for existing in the spiritual realm for all eternity.
    – user57467
    Oct 24, 2023 at 18:48
  • I didn't downvote, but perhaps it could be useful to clarify that this is only the Catholic view on a subject that many groups would disagree on, given the question did not specifically address the Catholic Church Oct 25, 2023 at 1:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .