Man’s essential desires reveal themselves in action, work, and objective achievements. He is less concerned with problems of being, whether his own or of others. Certainly being and doing cannot be wholly separated. The human soul is not a complete, static, unchanging, monolithic existence. It is being in the state of becoming and in the process of becoming; the soul must bring to fruition those predispositions with which it was endowed when coming into the world; however, it can develop them only through activation. Thus woman can achieve perfect development of her personality only by activating her spiritual powers. So do men, even without envisaging it as a goal, work in the same way when they endeavor to perform anything objectively. In both instances the structure of the soul is fundamentally the same. The soul is housed in a body on whose vigor and health its own vigor and health depend – even if not exclusively nor simply. On the other hand, the body receives its nature as body – life, motion, form, gestalt, and spiritual significance—through the soul. The world of the spirit is founded on sensuousness which is spiritual as much as physical: the intellect, knowing its activity to be rational, reveals a world; the will intervenes creatively and formatively in this world; the emotion receives this world inwardly and puts it to the test. But the extent and relationship of these powers vary from one individual to another, and particularly from man to woman.
I would also like to believe that even the relationship of soul and body is not completely similar in man and woman; with woman, the soul’s union with the body is naturally more intimately emphasized. (I would like to underline the term "naturally," for there is—as I have at one time intimated—the possibility of an extensive emancipation of the soul from the body, which now, oddly enough, seems to be more easily accomplished normally in the case of woman.) Woman’s soul is present and lives more intensely in all parts of the body, and it is inwardly affected by that which happens to the body; whereas, with men, the body has more pronouncedly the character of an instrument which serves them in their work and which is accompanied by a certain detachment. This is closely related to the vocation of motherhood. The task of assimilating in oneself a living being which is evolving and growing, of containing and nourishing it, signifies a definite end in itself. Moreover, the mysterious process of the formation of a new creature in the maternal organism represents such an intimate unity of the physical and spiritual that one is well able to understand that this unity imposes itself on the entire nature of woman. But a certain danger is involved here. If the correct, natural order is to exist between soul and body (i.e., the order as it corresponds to unfallen nature), then the necessary nourishment, care, and exercise must be provided for the healthy organism’s smooth function. As soon as more physical satisfaction is given to the body, and it corresponds to its corrupted nature to demand more, then it results in a decline of spiritual existence. Instead of controlling and spiritualizing the body, the soul is controlled by it; and the body loses accordingly in its character as a human body. The more intimate the relationship of the soul and body is, just so will the danger of the spiritual decline be greater. (On the other hand, certainly, there is also the greater possibility here that the soul will spiritualize the body.)
© 2023 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: [email protected] The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.