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Origen De Principiis by Origen

Chapter VIII.--On the Soul (Anima).

1. The order of our arrangement now requires us, after the discussion of the preceding subjects, to institute a general inquiry regarding the soul; and, beginning with points of inferior importance, to ascend to those that are of greater. Now, that there are souls in all living things, even in those which live in the waters, is, I suppose, doubted by no one. For the general opinion of all men maintains this; and confirmation from the authority of holy Scripture is added, when it is said that |God made great whales, and every living creature that moveth which the waters brought forth after their kind.| It is confirmed also from the common intelligence of reason, by those who lay down in certain words a definition of soul. For soul is defined as follows: a substance phantastike and hormetike, which may be rendered into Latin, although not so appropriately, sensibilis et mobilis. This certainly may be said appropriately of all living beings, even of those which abide in the waters; and of winged creatures too, this same definition of animamay be shown to hold good. Scripture also has added its authority to a second opinion, when it says, |Ye shall not eat the blood, because the life of all flesh is its blood; and ye shall not eat the life with the flesh;| in which it intimates most clearly that the blood of every animal is its life. And if any one now were to ask how it can be said with respect to bees, wasps, and ants, and those other things which are in the waters, oysters and cockles, and all others which are without blood, and are most clearly shown to be living things, that the |life of all flesh is the blood,| we must answer, that in living things of that sort the force which is exerted in other animals by the power of red blood is exerted in them by that liquid which is within them, although it be of a different colour; for colour is a thing of no importance, provided the substance be endowed with life. That beasts of burden or cattle of smaller size are endowed with souls, there is, by general assent, no doubt whatever. The opinion of holy Scripture, however, is manifest, when God says, |Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, four-footed beasts, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind.| And now with respect to man, although no one entertains any doubt, or needs to inquire, yet holy Scripture declares that |God breathed into his countenance the breath of life, and man became a living soul.| It remains that we inquire respecting the angelic order whether they also have souls, or are souls; and also respecting the other divine and celestial powers, as well as those of an opposite kind. We nowhere, indeed, find any authority in holy Scripture for asserting that either the angels, or any other divine spirits that are ministers of God, either possess souls or are called souls, and yet they are felt by very many persons to be endowed with life. But with regard to God, we find it written as follows: |And I will put My soul upon that soul which has eaten blood, and I will root him out from among his people;| and also in another passage, |Your new moons, and sabbaths, and great days, I will not accept; your fasts, and holidays, and festal days, My soul hateth.| And in the twenty-second Psalm, regarding Christ -- for it is certain, as the Gospel bears witness, that this Psalm is spoken of Him -- the following words occur: |O Lord, be not far from helping me; look to my defence: O God, deliver my soul from the sword, and my beloved one from the hand of the dog;| although there are also many other testimonies respecting the soul of Christ when He tabernacled in the flesh.

2. But the nature of the incarnation will render unnecessary any inquiry into the soul of Christ. For as He truly possessed flesh, so also He truly possessed a soul. It is difficult indeed both to feel and to state how that which is called in Scripture the soul of God is to be understood; for we acknowledge that nature to be simple, and without any intermixture or addition. In whatever way, however, it is to be understood, it seems, meanwhile, to be named the soul of God; whereas regarding Christ there is no doubt. And therefore there seems to me no absurdity in either understanding or asserting some such thing regarding the holy angels and the other heavenly powers, since that definition of soul appears applicable also to them. For who can rationally deny that they are |sensible and moveable?| But if that definition appear to be correct, according to which a soul is said to be a substance rationally |sensible and moveable,| the same definition would seem also to apply to angels. For what else is in them than rational feeling and motion? Now those beings who are comprehended under the same definition have undoubtedly the same substance. Paul indeed intimates that there is a kind of animal-man who, he says, cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, but declares that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit seems to him foolish, and that he cannot understand what is to be spiritually discerned. In another passage he says it is sown an animal body, and arises a spiritual body, pointing out that in the resurrection of the just there will be nothing of an animal nature. And therefore we inquire whether there happen to be any substance which, in respect of its being anima, is imperfect. But whether it be imperfect because it falls away from perfection, or because it was so created by God, will form the subject of inquiry when each individual topic shall begin to be discussed in order. For if the animal man receive not the things of the Spirit of God, and because he is animal, is unable to admit the understanding of a better, i.e., of a divine nature, it is for this reason perhaps that Paul, wishing to teach us more plainly what that is by means of which we are able to comprehend those things which are of the Spirit, i.e., spiritual things, conjoins and associates with the Holy Spirit an understanding rather than a soul. For this, I think, he indicates when he says, |I will pray with the spirit, I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, I will sing with the understanding also.| And he does not say that |I will pray with the soul,| but with the spirit and the understanding. Nor does he say, |I will sing with the soul,| but with the spirit and the understanding.

3. But perhaps this question is asked, If it be the understanding which prays and sings with the spirit, and if it be the same which receives both perfection and salvation, how is it that Peter says, |Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls?| If the soul neither prays nor sings with the spirit, how shall it hope for salvation? or when it attains to blessedness, shall it be no longer called a soul? Let us see if perhaps an answer may be given in this way, that as the Saviour came to save what was lost, that which formerly was said to be lost is not lost when it is saved; so also, perhaps, this which is saved is called a soul, and when it has been placed in a state of salvation will receive a name from the Word that denotes its more perfect condition. But it appears to some that this also may be added, that as the thing which was lost undoubtedly existed before it was lost, at which time it was something else than destroyed, so also will be the case when it is no longer in a ruined condition. In like manner also, the soul which is said to have perished will appear to have been something at one time, when as yet it had not perished, and on that account would be termed soul, and being again freed from destruction, it may become a second time what it was before it perished, and be called a soul. But from the very signification of the name soul which the Greek word conveys, it has appeared to a few curious inquirers that a meaning of no small importance may be suggested. For in sacred language God is called a fire, as when Scripture says,| Our God is a consuming fire.| Respecting the substance of the angels also it speaks as follows: |Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a burning fire;| and in another place, |The angel of the Lord appeared in a flame of fire in the bush.| We have, moreover, received a commandment to be |fervent in spirit;| by which expression undoubtedly the Word of God is shown to be hot and fiery. The prophet Jeremiah also hears from Him, who gave him his answers, |Behold, I have given My words into thy mouth a fire.| As God, then, is a fire, and the angels a flame of fire, and all the saints are fervent in spirit, so, on the contrary, those who have fallen away from the love of God are undoubtedly said to have cooled in their affection for Him, and to have become cold. For the Lord also says, that, |because iniquity has abounded, the love of many will grow cold.| Nay, all things, whatever they are, which in holy Scripture are compared with the hostile power, the devil is said to be perpetually finding cold; and what is found to be colder than he? In the sea also the dragon is said to reign. For the prophet intimates that the serpent and dragon, which certainly is referred to one of the wicked spirits, is also in the sea. And elsewhere the prophet says, |I will draw out my holy sword upon the dragon the flying serpent, upon the dragon the crooked serpent, and will slay him.| And again he says: |Even though they hide from my eyes, and descend into the depths of the sea, there will I command the serpent, and it shall bite them.| In the book of Job also, he is said to be the king of all things in the waters. The prophet threatens that evils will be kindled by the north wind upon all who inhabit the earth. Now the north wind is described in holy Scripture as cold, according to the statement in the book of Wisdom, |That cold north wind;| which same thing also must undoubtedly be understood of the devil. If, then, those things which are holy are named fire, and light, and fervent, while those which are of an opposite nature are said to be cold; and if the love of many is said to wax cold; we have to inquire whether perhaps the name soul, which in Greek is termed psuche, be so termed from growing cold out of a better and more divine condition, and be thence derived, because it seems to have cooled from that natural and divine warmth, and therefore has been placed in its present position, and called by its present name. Finally, see if you can easily find a place in holy Scripture where the soul is properly mentioned in terms of praise: it frequently occurs, on the contrary, accompanied with expressions of censure, as in the passage, |An evil soul ruins him who possesses it;| and, |The soul which sinneth, it shall die.| For after it has been said, |All souls are Mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is Mine,| it seemed to follow that He would say, |The soul that doeth righteousness, it shall be saved,| and |The soul which sinneth, it shall die.| But now we see that He has associated with the soul what is censurable, and has been silent as to that which was deserving of praise. We have therefore to see if, perchance, as we have said is declared by the name itself, it was called psuche, i.e., anima, because it has waxed cold from the fervour of just things, and from participation in the divine fire, and yet has not lost the power of restoring itself to that condition of fervour in which it was at the beginning. Whence the prophet also appears to point out some such state of things by the words, |Return, O my soul, unto thy rest.| From all which this appears to be made out, that the understanding, falling away from its status and dignity, was made or named soul; and that, if repaired and corrected, it returns to the condition of the understanding.

4. Now, if this be the case, it seems to me that this very decay and falling away of the understanding is not the same in all, but that this conversion into a soul is carried to a greater or less degree in different instances, and that certain understandings retain something even of their former vigour, and others again either nothing or a very small amount. Whence some are found from the very commencement of their lives to be of more active intellect, others again of a slower habit of mind, and some are born wholly obtuse, and altogether incapable of instruction. Our statement, however, that the understanding is converted into a soul, or whatever else seems to have such a meaning, the reader must carefully consider and settle for himself, as these views are not be regarded as advanced by us in a dogmatic manner, but simply as opinions, treated in the style of investigation and discussion. Let the reader take this also into consideration, that it is observed with regard to the soul of the Saviour, that of those things which are written in the Gospel, some are ascribed to it under the name of soul, and others under that of spirit. For when it wishes to indicate any suffering or perturbation affecting Him, it indicates it under the name of soul; as when it says, |Now is My soul troubled;| and, |My soul is sorrowful, even unto death;| and, |No man taketh My soul from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.| Into the hands of His Father He commends not His soul, but His spirit; and when He says that the flesh is weak, He does not say that the soul is willing, but the spirit: whence it appears that the soul is something intermediate between the weak flesh and the willing spirit.

5. But perhaps some one may meet us with one of those objections which we have ourselves warned you of in our statements, and say, |How then is there said to be also a soul of God?| To which we answer as follows: That as with respect to everything corporeal which is spoken of God, such as fingers, or hands, or arms, or eyes, or feet, or mouth, we say that these are not to be understood as human members, but that certain of His powers are indicated by these names of members of the body; so also we are to suppose that it is something else which is pointed out by this title -- soul of God. And if it is allowable for us to venture to say anything more on such a subject, the soul of God may perhaps be understood to mean the only-begotten Son of God. For as the soul, when implanted in the body, moves all things in it, and exerts its force over everything on which it operates; so also the only-begotten Son of God, who is His Word and Wisdom, stretches and extends to every power of God, being implanted in it; and perhaps to indicate this mystery is God either called or described in Scripture as a body. We must, indeed, take into consideration whether it is not perhaps on this account that the soul of God may be understood to mean His only-begotten Son, because He Himself came into this world of affliction, and descended into this valley of tears, and into this place of our humiliation; as He says in the Psalm, |Because Thou hast humiliated us in the place of affliction.| Finally, I am aware that certain critics, in explaining the words used in the Gospel by the Saviour, |My soul is sorrowful, even unto death,| have interpreted them of the apostles, whom He termed His soul, as being better than the rest of His body. For as the multitude of believers is called His body, they say that the apostles, as being better than the rest of the body, ought to be understood to mean His soul.

We have brought forward as we best could these points regarding the rational soul, as topics of discussion for our readers, rather than as dogmatic and well-defined propositions. And with respect to the souls of animals and other dumb creatures, let that suffice which we have stated above in general terms.

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