Sunday, May 28, 2006

Sexual Souls

Have you ever wondered if your soul is male or female? During the time that our souls are separated from our bodies - between death and the Resurrection - will we have gender? Our souls are indeed sexed; they are not sexually neutral or unisex. In his book Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven, Peter Kreeft has a chapter entitled "Is there Sex in Heaven?" Despite my initial assumption, Kreeft is not asking if there is sexual intercourse in heaven (although he does touch on that toward the chapter's end), rather he is examining the gender of our souls.

In our present embodied state, the sexes are equal in value and dignity but they are nonetheless intrinsically different; male and female are not equal in nature. Kreeft (and the Catholic Church) holds that "sexuality is part of our inner essence." It is intrinsic to who we are at our core. If this is the case, "then it follows that there is sexuality in Heaven.” After all, grace perfects nature, it does not replace it, according to the Church.

Kreeft explains:

If sexual differences are natural, they are preserved in Heaven, for 'grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.' If sexual differences are only humanly and socially conventional, Heaven will remove them as it will remove economics and penology and politics. (Not many of us have job security after death. That is one advantage of being a philosopher.) All these things came after and because of the Fall, but sexuality came as part of God's original package: 'be fruitful and multiply.' God may
unmake what we make, but He does not unmake what He makes. God
made sex, and God makes no mistakes. . . . The body is not a mistake to be
unmade or a prison cell to be freed from, but a divine work of art designed to
show forth the soul as the soul is to show forth God. . . .

The reason this subject interests me, is because I am always curious about the differences between men and women. Isn't the opposite sex so enigmatic sometimes? Heck, I find my own sex enigmatic. ;-D Thinking about engendered souls is a whole new aspect of this topic which I have never before contemplated.

“For some strange reason people are shocked at the notion of sexual souls,” Kreeft says. “They not only disagree; the idea seems utterly crude, superstitious, repugnant, and incredible to them.” If we believe that the body is bad, crude, sinful, and/or a temporary shell, then it is easy to view the soul as a perfect essence imprisoned and in need of liberation from our corrupt flesh. In this view, a person is a “ghost in a machine . . . [where] one half of the person can be totally different from the other: the body can be sexual without the soul being sexual. The machine is sexed, the ghost is not,” writes Kreeft.

Kreeft points out that God invites each of us into relationship with Himself as the men and women He created us as – not as “monosexual souls”. I am fascinated by the beautiful differences of the sexes in our embodied states. The complimentarity God has designed is intriguing and awe inspiring. I am fascinated with John Paul II's teachings on the Theology of the Body which so thoroughly examine how both sexes uniquely image the very relationship within the Trinity. Although God is spirit and neither male nor female, He did create men and women in His image. (Yeah, we always refer to God as He.) If we are in God's image then each of the essential attributes of maleness and femaleness originate in God.

Kreeft comments:

A wholly male soul, whatever maleness means, or a wholly female soul, sounds unreal and oversimplified. But that is not what sexual souls implies. Rather, in every soul there is-to use Jungian terms- anima and animus, femaleness and maleness: just as in the body, one predominates but the other is also present.

I suppose Kreeft anticipated questions regarding hermaphrodism as well as the issue of persons who feel that they are the opposite sex "inside" from what they are externally. He writes, tongue in cheek . . .

If the dominant sex of soul is not the same as that of the body, we have a sexual misfit, a candidate for a sex change operation of body and soul, earthly or Heavenly. Perhaps Heaven supplies such changes just as it supplies all other needed forms of healing. In any case, the resurrection body perfectly expresses its soul, and since souls are innately sexual, that body will perfectly express its soul's true sexual identity.

Another controversy regarding the idea of sexed souls is that many hold a pantheistic "view of spirit as undifferentiated," as becoming one with some great Spirit and "leaving behind all the distinctions known to the body and the senses." "But this," Kreeft explains, "is not the Christian notion of spirit. . . . To call God infinite is not to say He is everything in general and nothing in particular: that is confusing God with The Blob! God's infinity means that each of His positive and definitive attributes, such as love, wisdom, power, justice, and fidelity, is unlimited."

Kreeft also says:

Spirit is no less differentiated, articulated, structured, or formed than matter. The fact that our own spirit can suffer and rejoice far more, more delicately and exquisitely, and in a far greater variety of ways, than can the body- this fact should be evidence of spirit's complexity. . . .

God is infinitely differentiated, for He is the Author of all differences, all forms. . . . Each act of creation in Genesis is an act of differentiation - light from darkness, land from sea, animals from plants, and so on. Creating is forming, and forming is differentiating. Materialism believes differences in form are utterly illusory appearance; the only root reality is matter. Pantheism also believes differences in form are ultimately illusory; the only root reality is one universal Spirit. But theism believes form is real because God created it. And whatever positive reality is in the creation must have its model in the Creator.
Before moving on to Kreeft's comments on sexual intercourse and the afterlife, I just want to remind you of a quote frequently repeated by our former Holy Father, Pope John Paul II:
Christ reveals man to himself.
Just contemplate this in regards to the issues Kreeft has already raised concerning our engendered souls.

Okay, are you ready? As for sexual intercourse in heaven, Kreeft writes that in heaven . . .

. . . all earthly perversions of true sexuality are overcome, especially the master perversion, selfishness. To make self God, to desire selfish pleasure as the summum bonum, is not only to miss God but to miss pleasure and self as well, and to miss the glory and joy of sex. Jesus did not merely say, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God', but also added that 'all these things shall be added' when we put first things first. Each story fits better when the foundation is put first.

C. S. Lewis calls this the principle of "first and second things". In any area of life, putting second things first loses not only the first things but also the second things, and putting first things first gains not only the first things but the second things as well. So to treat sexual pleasure as God is to miss not only God but sexual pleasure too.

The highest pleasure always comes in self-forgetfulness. . . The self has a built-in, God-imaging design of self-fulfillment by self-forgetfulness, pleasure through unselfishness, ecstasy by ekstasis, "standing-outside-the-self". This is not the self-conscious self-sacrifice of the do-gooder but the spontaneous, unconscious generosity of the lover.
(Rodin, Auguste. The Kiss, 1886. )

If there is sexual intercourse in heaven it is not for "baby-making". Kreeft says, "Earth is the breeding colony; Heaven is the homeland." Christ makes clear that at the resurrection we will not be married or given in marriage.

Kreeft asks, "Might there be another function in which baby-making and marriage are swallowed up and transformed? Everything on earth is analogous to something in Heaven. . ."

Sexual intercourse is spiritual. Kreeft says, "We are made complete by such union: "It is not good that the man should be alone." He continues that "God does not simply rip up His design for human fulfillment." He says that, "Monogamy is for earth. On earth, our bodies are private. In Heaven, we share each other's secrets without shame, and voluntarily. In the Communion of Saints, promiscuity of spirit is a virtue." Uh, yeah, "promiscuity of spirit" sounds a bit crass, but I understand what he's trying to convey.

This sort of intimacy is different from romantic love here on earth because it is "free, not driven; from soul to body, not from body to soul." Intimacy with others in heaven is not opposed to or apart from our relationship with God, but rather it is "a part of it or a consequence of it." Communion of saints is God's own invention! Our relationships with one another in heaven will be "totally unselfconscious and unselfish: the ethical goodness of agape joined to the passion of eros; agape without external, abstract law and duty, and eros without selfishness or animal drives."

These thoughts thrill me and give me great hope because you know as well as I do that no matter how close you get to someone you love physically or emotionally, it is still not possible to fully know one another down to the minutest detail of their being. Heck, we don't even know ourselves to that degree; only God does! In heaven, we can most fully know ourselves, and know one another. In heaven, we canexpress love and experience the deepest intimacy possible with those whom we now love on earth. (This is a good reason to express your love to others here on earth in such a way as to help you both get to heaven. I mean, if one or both of you leave this life out of relationship with our God and Creator, then . . . well . . . you won't get to experience this ultimate, heavenly knowing of one another.)

After the Resurrection we will all be embodied in Heaven as Mary and Christ are already. We'll be able to eat and to be touched. Therefore physical intercourse is possible. Why would we actualize this potential? Why not?

Kreeft offers the following explanation:

Animal reasons for intercourse include (i) the conscious drive for pleasure and (2) the unconscious drive to perpetuate the species. Both would be absent in Heaven. For although there are unimaginably great pleasures in Heaven, we are not driven by them. And the species is complete in eternity: no need for breeding.

Transhuman reasons for intercourse include (i) idolatrous love of the beloved as a substitute for God and (2) the Dante-Beatrice love of the beloved as an image of God. As to the first, there is, of course, no idolatry in Heaven. No substitutes for God are even tempting when God Himself is present. As to the second, the earthly beloved was a window to God, a mirror reflecting the divine beauty. That is why the lover was so smitten. Now that the reality is present, why stare at the mirror? The impulse to adore has found its perfect object.

Specifically human reasons for intercourse include (1) consummating a monogamous marriage and (2) the desire to express personal love. As to the first, there is no marriage in Heaven. But what of the second?

. . . Even the most satisfying earthly intercourse between spouses cannot perfectly express all their love. If the possibility of intercourse in Heaven is not actualized, it is only for the same reason earthly lovers do not eat candy during intercourse: there is something much better to do. The question of intercourse in Heaven is like the child's question whether you can eat candy during intercourse: a funny question only from the adult's point of view. Candy is one of children's greatest pleasures; how can they conceive a pleasure so intense that it renders candy irrelevant?

This spiritual intercourse with God is the ecstasy hinted at in all earthly intercourse, physical or spiritual. It is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong, so different from other passions, so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that just elude our grasp. No mere practical needs account for it. No mere animal drive explains it. No animal falls in love, writes profound romantic poetry, or sees sex as a symbol of the ultimate meaning of life because no animal is made in the image of God. Human sexuality is that image, and human sexuality is a foretaste of that self-giving, that losing and finding the self, that oneness-in-manyness that is the heart of the life and joy of the Trinity. That is what we long for; that is why we tremble to stand outside ourselves in the other, to give our whole selves, body and soul: because we are images of God the sexual being. We love the other sex because God loves God.

And this earthly love is so passionate because Heaven is full of passion, of energy and dynamism. We correctly deny that God has passions in the passive sense, being moved, driven, or conditioned by them, as we are. But to think of the love that made the worlds, the love that became human, suffered alienation from itself and died to save us rebels, the love that gleams through the fanatic joy of Jesus' obedience to the will of His Father and that shines in the eyes and lives of the saints—to think of this love as any less passionate than our temporary and conditioned passions "is a most disastrous fantasy". And that consuming fire of love is our destined Husband, according to His own promise.

2 comments:

tiffiny said...

Natalie, this was most interesting; thanks so much for sharing!

Mattias A. Caro said...

Einstein used to say that if he couldn't explain his most complex examples to a small child, then he didn't really understand it at all. The whole "child and candy" analogy really brought it home for me! :)