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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 28

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 28.—Is the Soul Deformed by the Body’s Imperfections?

Now, again, what means it that you say, “The soul acquires form from the body, and grows and extends with the increase of the body,” without keeping in view what a monstrosity the soul of either a young man or an old man would become if his arm had been amputated when he was an infant? “The hand of the soul,” you say, “contracts itself, so that it is not amputated with the hand of the body, and by condensation it shrinks into other parts of the body.” At this rate the aforesaid arm of the soul will be kept, wherever it holds its ground, as short as it was at first when it received the form of the body, because it has lost the form by the growth of which it might itself have increased at an equal degree of expansion. Thus the soul of the young man or the old man who lost his hand in his infancy advances with two hands, indeed (because the one which shrank back escaped the amputation of the bodily limb), but one of these was the hand of an adult, young or old, according to the hypothesis, while the other was only an infant’s hand, just as it was when the amputation happened. Such souls, believe me, are not made in the mould and form of the body, but they are fictitiously framed under the deformed stamp of error. It seems to me impossible for you to be rescued from this error, unless with God’s help you fully and calmly examine the visions of those who dream, and from these convince yourself that some forms are not real bodies, but only the semblances of bodies. Now, although even those objects which we suppose to be like bodies are of the same class, 2496 yet so far as the dead are concerned, we can form an after guess about them from persons who are asleep. For it is not in vain that Holy Scripture describes as “asleep” those who are dead 2497 were it only because in a certain sense “sleep is akin to death.” 2498



That is (in opposition to the really “dead,” afterwards mentioned), such as are seen by living persons in visions.


1 Thess. iv. 13.


Virgil, Æneid, vi. 279, “Consanguineus Lethi sopor” (Death’s own brother, Sleep).

Next: Chapter 29

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