The return of the soul?

Peter Tyler

As psychologists and theologians alike have recently started using ‘soul-language’ again, this article explores some of the implications of this ‘return of the soul’ for our understanding of the human person. Peter Tyler is Professor of Pastoral Theology and Spirituality at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

One of the most unusual phenomena in the past couple of decades has been the return of discourse about the soul in respectable psychological, and indeed theological, circles. In the 2012 new English translation of the Missal, the soul returned to the penitent communicant before the reception of the Blessed Sacrament when the muttered words, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed’ were replaced with, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’ It was the use of the word ‘soul’ that struck some commentators as somewhat old-fashioned and atavistic. Why start using the term ‘soul’ again? Especially after it seemed to have been quietly forgotten for the past thirty years – does it not have connotations of dualism and mind-body splits?

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