Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIV.: THE SOUL OF MAN IS IMMORTAL. - The Triumph of the Cross
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CHAPTER XIV.: THE SOUL OF MAN IS IMMORTAL. - Girolamo Savonarola, The Triumph of the Cross 
The Triumph of the Cross, trans. from the Italian, edited, with an Introduction by the Very Rev. Father John Procter, S.T.L. With a frontispiece portrait of the author (London: Sands & Co., 1901).
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THE SOUL OF MAN IS IMMORTAL.
The arguments set forth in the last chapter leave no room to doubt that there is another life; and that the human soul is immortal. For, as the Providence of God conducts everything to its own end, man, if his end be not attainable in this life, must be rendered capable of securing it in a life to come. Were it otherwise, the Providence of God would not extend to human affairs.
There is every proof of the existence of a germ of immortality in the human soul. The operations of the intellect cannot proceed from a physical force; because they extend beyond corporeal things, and are occupied with God. This argument has compelled philosophers to acknowledge the immortality and immateriality of the soul. It is, nevertheless, so difficult to understand how an immaterial substance can be the form of the body, that many different opinions have been held about the mode of this immortality in man, which is called intellect. It cannot, however, reasonably be denied, that the intellectual soul is the form of the human body, since all men acknowledge that it is the rationality of man which distinguishes him from other animals. This distinction could not exist were not a rational soul the form of man; for all specific differences arise from form.
Again, it is universally allowed, that the peculiar and pre-eminent activity of man is understanding and reasoning; and man is the principle of this activity. Man is composed of matter and form. We cannot say that he is the principle of this activity by virtue of the matter of which he is composed, but solely by virtue of the form. Consequently, as this form is nothing but the intelligent soul, it is the intelligent soul which is the form of man.
Another argument for the immortality of the soul lies in the fact that man, like other animals, has the power of self-motion. Now, as the other animals move by means of their form, which is their soul, it follows that it must also be his soul which enables man to move. We know that man is governed by will and understanding. The form of man, therefore, must be an intelligent soul, capable of volition.
If a rational soul were not the form of man, the fact that a child, unable to use his understanding, is man would be inexplicable; neither could we see how intelligence could be attributed to a man who does not use his reason. If rational substance be not the form of man, but be self-subsisting, it will not be man, but that rational substance, which works with the intellect. We may, of course, maintain, with Plato, that man is not composed of soul and body; but that he is merely soul, which is united to the body as a motor is joined to that which is movable. But this opinion, if we adopt it, will lead us into many inconsistencies.
For, firstly, if the soul be the whole of man, to the exclusion of the body, man will not be sensitive; and when the soul leaves the body, corruption will not ensue; for the substance of a movable being does not change when the motor leaves it. It follows, likewise, that the human body does not live by the intellectual soul, and is not generated by union with the soul; for a movable thing is not generated by union with its motor. Human generation must, therefore, cease; for as, according to Plato, the soul is not generated, if the body be not man, one man will not be able to generate another. If neither the generated body, nor the soul and body together, but only the soul (which is not generated), be man, there will no longer, in human generation, be either fathers or children. These, and similar absurdities, beset those who will not acknowledge that the form of the body is an intelligent and immortal soul.
As the soul is, by its perfection, supreme among all natural and material forms, it partakes of the nature of incorporeal and immaterial substances; and, inasmuch as it partakes of the nature of inferior forms, it is said to be the form of the human body. In the perfection wherein it pertains to immaterial forms, it is separated from the body, so that the intellectual faculty of the soul is not, like its sensitive faculties, joined to any corporeal organ. Hence, the soul is sometimes called the nexus of the world, being the link between the highest and the lowest things.
We cannot then escape the conclusion, that the form of the body is a rational soul, which, in spite of the corruptibility of the body, remains incorruptible. This attribute of incorruptibility is proper to all intellectual substances, and is so for divers reasons:—
First, because every perfection must be proportioned to the thing of which it is the perfection, and, as universal and incorruptible things, and principally God, are the perfection of the intellectual soul, whose beatitude consists in contemplating them, the soul must be incorruptible.
Secondly, as we know that the perfection of the soul is proportionate to its abstraction from material, and its elevation to immaterial and Divine things, it is folly to say that the soul becomes corrupted by segregation from the body. Such an assertion is tantamount to saying, that separation from corporeal things is, at one and the same time, both the perfection, and the destruction of the soul. And it is equally futile to argue, that the soul attains perfection, by abstraction from the body, by means of the understanding, but suffers corruption by separation from the body by means of its essence. For operation follows nature; and therefore it is impossible that when the operation becomes perfect, the nature should become imperfect. Hence, it is quite unreasonable to say, that the intellectual soul suffers corruption when it is separated from the body.
The natural bias of mankind is a further argument in favour of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. We see that all men are anxious about what takes place after death, and that none have been able to persuade themselves, that there is no future life. Thus the desire to know something of the hereafter is apparent in the writings of philosophers, of poets, and of orators. The fact of such a desire is a proof of our immortality; for if there were no future life, not only would this yearning for knowledge about it be of no service to man, but it would be injurious to him, by raising desires doomed only to disappointment. But if we assume that the intellectual soul is immortal, this natural desire to understand something of its future life is, far from being useless, both wholesome and necessary; it enables man to direct his thoughts to another life, and to tend towards beatitude.
It is evident, then, that if we deny that the intellectual soul is the form of the body, and is immortal, we shall be involved in many inconsistencies. We shall find it impossible to understand how man can be a rational animal endowed with free will, and justly liable to punishment for sin. Neither shall we be able to comprehend what is the End of man, and what the Providence of God in his regard. But, granted that an intellectual and immortal soul be the form of man, all these difficulties will disappear.
Since the consideration of the other life, which awaits the soul after death, exceeds the limits of human reason, we will here conclude our First Book, in order to treat in the next of the supernatural truths of Faith. For where reason halts, Faith begins. When we shall have shown, as we hope to do in the following Book, the truth of our faith, the immortality of the soul will be beyond doubt.