Updated: Mar 25, 2020
One of the biggest problems facing the soul of post-modern culture is the abdication of the intellect in favor of an inordinate attention to “feelings.” People are being treated as though they were a member of the opposite sex on the basis of their feelings rather than objective medical and scientific fact. People are being given license to alter and redefine ages-old social institutions based upon how their feelings are informing them. Feelings matter. If this were not so, artists and poets would never get their careers off of the runway. But they are only a part of a larger whole.
In Thomistic thought, the human soul is composed of the intellect, the will and the passions. To exercise any one of these at the expense of the other two is to risk diminishing our humanity. If the intellect does not inform the will, then we exercise license to do that which God never intended to be part of our nature. Overuse of the intellect is similarly dehumanizing; it makes us cold, legalistic and judgmental. If we over-emphasize the passions, we become hedonists whose only moral compass is how something makes us feel and this is what western culture is beginning to turn to more and more.
In C.S. Lewis’ great work The Screwtape Letters, the senior tempter Screwtape advises his nephew and protege Wormwood to “Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.” We’re all guilty of this: if something doesn’t make us feel the way we think we should feel, we give up on it and go on to whatever we think will make us feel “right.” This is a product of the “dis-integration” of the human person; feelings are not facts, and we are seeing the social repercussions of treating them that way.
The world will find some semblance of harmony again when we start seeing the person as an icon of the Holy Trinity, perfectly integrated and one.
Medical professionals, mental health specialists as well as spiritual directors all agree that mind-soul-body integration is crucial to the well-being of the entire person. So, when looked at from this perspective, the world is, in a real sense, very “sick.” Let’s pray for spiritual and personal integration for all people; then we can start living according to the nature that God endowed us with from the very beginning.
Artwork by Chady Elias