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Chris Almond wrote:

Dear Friends,

I really appreciate the purpose of this web site.

I have a lot of questions of a theological nature as well as questions that relate to the individual.

I have been attending Mass and reading books for about a month now and am really drawn to it, but due to my background in Hinduism, I have questions that are not typical and unfortunately,
I don't think are even necessarily answerable. One, in particular, I am even afraid to ask a priest, but am hoping you can answer:

When the Bible and/or the Church says I am a sinner, I need clarification on the meaning of this.

I come from studying philosophical Monism in the form of Advaita Vedanta. One of the teaching examples given is called the "seer-seen model" which is an explanation for what the self is and its nature. Here is how that goes.

  1. The eyes see
  2. the mind witnesses the eye's content, and
  3. then the self witnesses what the mind contains.

This "self" also witnesses any thoughts that are reactions to what it sees. Then the teaching examples say, what sees this seer? Clearly the implication is the seer of the mind is what you really are, as opposed the mind. To restate this again, this teaching is that you are not the mind or its contents but the seer of the mind. This seer is the "self".

I hope I have explained this in a clear way. If not, please let me know.

Based on this explanation, here is my question.

  • First, are the mind and soul identical?

Secondly, In Advaita Vedanta, it is said that the self is the seer of the mind and not the mind.

  • What is the self in Christianity?
  • Is it:
    • the mind and its contents?
    • or is it the seer of the mind?
    • or is it both?
  • Also what is the sinner?
    • Is it the mind and its contents or
    • Is it the total package of mind and seer of the mind, or
    • Is it just the seer's nature?
  • Lastly, is there a resource that deals with questions of this nature which I would define as questions related to the nature of the individual?

This becomes important to me because I'm trying to find out if I am really a sinner or not.

  • If I am the seer, then it seems I am not; I am only a witness of the mind in that case.
  • If I am the mind, and this is what the soul is, then in fact, I seem to indeed be a sinner.

Sincerely Yours,

Chris Almond

  { Coming from a Hindu background and philosophy of Monism, what is the self in Christianity? }

Paul replied:

Dear Chris,

Thank you for your good questions. They are outside of the realm of catechesis and apologetics, which this site is generally used for, and goes into the realm of philosophy. Most philosophical inquiry has not been dogmatized by the Church, which sticks to matters pertaining to salvation in her official teachings, so I will give you one Catholic philosopher's take on it based upon the patrimony of Catholic tradition.

The mind or intellect is a power of the soul, as is the will. It is the power that thinks, reasons, and discerns truth from falsehood. The will chooses and decides. These spiritual powers, (the human soul is spiritual), rise above the physiological realm of our being and indicate the difference between humans and other animals.

What you would call the "seer of the self" I would simply call the "I" or personal dimension of the human being. "I" think and "I" choose. This mysterious "I", which is unique in every individual, even though we all share a common human nature, is what can be forgiven and transformed by grace in this life. The entire self (body and soul) will be transformed at the Resurrection.

If I know something is wrong and I freely choose it anyway, "I" have sinned and if I condemn my actions, repent, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with God and His Church, I may receive that from Christ in the sacrament of Confession.

Keep in mind, sin can occur in four ways, by:

  1. thought
  2. word
  3. deed, or
  4. omission.

It is a transgression of the law of God for human beings (the natural law) of which we know is wrong and freely choose.

Let me know if this helps at all.

Peace,

Paul

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