Unity of Soul and Body

The widely influential Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-c. 394), for instance, held so strongly to the unity of soul and body that he could not imagine the body developing at all without the soul being present. In a work called On the Making of Man, Gregory wrote: "As man is one, the being consisting of soul and body, we are to suppose that the beginning of his existence is one, common to both parts so that it is not true to say either that the soul exists before the body, or that the body exists without the soul, but that there is one beginning of both" (chap. 29). According to Gregory, at every stage of human development, from inception to resurrection, body and soul function as one.

In the same work, Gregory elaborates on the development of the soul with the body:

For as the body proceeds from a very small original to the perfect state, so also the operation of the soul, growing in correspondence with the subject, gains and increases with it. For at its first formation there comes first of all its power of growth and nutriment alone, as though it were some root buried in the ground; for the limited nature of the recipient does not admit of more; then, as the plant comes forth to the light and shows its shoot to the sun, the gift of sensibility blossoms in addition, but when at last it is ripened and has grown up to its proper height, the power of reason begins to shine forth like a fruit, not appearing in its whole vigour all at once, but by care increasing with the perfection of the instrument, bearing always as much fruit as the powers of the subject allow. (chap. 29)

In Gregory's view, there is no moment or process of ensoulment subsequent to conception. Existence and ensoulment are one.

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