Spirit, psyche and body
I have recently been reading much on the topic of the so called perennial philosophy to analyse it from a Catholic point of view , and encountered, many times, the distinction made in humans into spirit, psyche and body. I remember reading the same in Boris Mouravieff's Gnosis, as he was more or less (rather less, but still) connected with this school. Now I know that in Catholicism and Christianity as such duality, and not trinity is taught in this regard. However, the controversial Fr (or, some say, Dr) Rama Coomaraswamy, a sedevacantist, taught exactly the tripartite structure. Rama is actually a representative of the perennial philosophy school but also a traditional Catholic. Many times I've seen sources that tried to debunk him as a hidden Gnostic. I'm not saying there wasn't certain grain of truth in these accusations, but I'm wondering, can his view on the trinity of spirit, psyche and body (as opposed to soul/body) be held by Catholics?


Interestingly, the second link is hosted on a traditional Catholic site.

Do you know the answer? I know that in Ott it was stated that the tripartite view was condemned by the Church, but is it precisely in this condemned context that Cooramaswamy taught this?
It seems that for him (and, perhaps, other perennialists, but I don't know), body and psyche are considered to be more directly connected, so that (forgive me if I'm misunderstanding, I know next to nothing about psychology) there is our body with our psyche and, more separately, spirit (soul?). Is that okay?
Well, this is an old way of looking at humans. You'll find it in Plotinus et al. and in St. Augustine and even St. Thomas (I'm pretty sure about St. Thomas, though not in a precise way). The spirit is that most inner part of yourself, that is immaterial and that communicates with God, that is inaccessible to the demons, etc. (also called the intellect), the psyche or the soul is related to the body, its where emotions are, etc., and the body is the body.
I'm pretty sure no theologian would make an analogy with the trinity (maybe in a very indirect way, the same indirect way St. Augustine would find trinities in all creation, e.g., being, essence and a third thing on things that I don't remember). St. Augustine took the intellect (the spirit) as a model for understanding the Trinity—his thought was that we know God from created things, and the created thing that we know of that is closest to God is our intellect.

I'm curious to know what is the condemnation of this way of looking at humans. Can someone cite Ott on this?

Thank you for your answer.

Ott has this to say, it seems
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I would say that it is very different from Fr Rama taught but can you or someone confirm that? On the other Trad Forum Which Must Not Be Named someone accused Cooramaswamy of gnosticism precisely because in the first article I linked he had this table comparing views on the subject matter in different religions. Was, then, the accuser overzealous and criticised Rama for what was not any error?
Well, I think this scheme (at least what I said, I don't know about these perennial fellas; I'll read them tomorrow maybe) does not fall under this condemnation: as I said, the soul is part of the body—so the body is really a bit more than the collection of the material parts. After all, imagination is in the body, and yet it is somehow mental. But yes, when the intellect is separated from the body the body dies, there's not another principle of life within the body. Here's a bit of St. Augustine.

Of course, this generates other problems, like, what about the memory of the saints? Well, they are in the beatific vision, so as they know who is praying for them through God they might have their memories through God. But who knows. Maybe someone more knowledgeable could comment?
When traditionalists speak of a distinction between soul and spirit, they do not have in mind a distinction between an animal soul and a spiritual soul. Rather, the distinction is between reason and intellect. While our rational faculties are, in this schema, oriented toward the process of ratiocination, our intellect is oriented toward a perception of spiritual realities. For this reason, one will often find traditionalists referring to the spirit or intellect as the "inner eye," the "eyes of fire," or the "soul of the soul." The doctrine is related to the traditionalist belief in non-dualism, as the spirit is considered to be a trace of the transcendent or the Absolute in man.

I don't have the energy to find a bunch of quotations right now (though perhaps tomorrow), but one can find a very similar anthropology in many Patristic writings, for instance those of St. Irenaeus or St. Basil, and it is closely related to the Patristic doctrine of deification. This view of man was gradually lost in the West, but one can still find it in orthodox writings up into the fourteenth century. For instance, Johannes Tauler, a disciple of Meister Eckhart, tells us, "Man is in a certain sense three men: an animal man who lives according to his senses, a rational man, and finally the highest man in the form of God, deiform." Meister Eckhart himself talks of a "little spark", saying, "In the innermost part, where no one dwells, there is contentment for that light, and there it is more inward than it can be to itself, for this ground is a simple silence, in itself immovable, and by this immovability all things are moved, all life is received by those who in themselves have rational being."
Well, I have to admit, according to CP's explanation that does sound dangerously gnostic.
I would say it's closer to neoplatonism than gnosticism.

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