Thursday, August 13, 2009

Synteresis


Is there, as the medieval mystics taught, a "spark" at the core of the Soul, which never consents to evil, a Divine nucleus in the heart of the personality, which can take no stain? ~Dean Inge


The word sinderesis has haunted me since I first found in an early edition Black's Law Dictionary so many years ago:

SINDERESIS. "A natural power of the soul, set in the highest part thereof, moving and stirring it to good, and adhorring evil. And therefore sinderesis our Lord put in man, to the intent that the order of things should be observed. And therefore sinderesis is called by some men the ‘law of reason,’ for it ministereth the principles of the law of reason, the which be in every man by nature, in that he is a reasonable creature." Doct. & Stud. 39.

Source: Black's Law Dictionary, 2nd Edition (1910)

That sounds much like what we commonly refer to as our conscious today, but there is still speculation as to whether or not Saint Jerome meant to define a distinction between the two:

"which the Greeks call synteresis: that spark of conscience which was not even extinguished in the breast of Cain after he was turned out of paradise, and by which we discern that we sin, when we are overcome by pleasures or frenzy and meanwhile are misled by an imitation of reason (St. Jerome, Commentarium in Ezechielem, I, 1, in Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 25, col. 22, mentioned in Fagothey, here)."

You may have noticed the variation in spelling. Sinderesis is also spelled synderesis, but the most proper spelling derives from its Greek origins synteresis. Some scholars believe that it is a corruption of suneidhsis or suneidesis, the normal Greek word for "conscience."

Maybe that is all it is, but perhaps there is this essence of God in each person that is above the conscience, that is above one's desire to preserve his own life, that yearns to have a relationship with the Creator. Philosophers may argue the meaning of word until the end of time, but I like to think of it as the essence left in each created being of the Creator, place of juncture with my Lord, free of sin, where He can abide in me and I in Him.

~ My Lord, if there is such a thing as my idea of synteresis, then it is my ultimate "happy place," because that is where we are together. ~

3 comments:

  1. You been reading the Quakers?: "walk cheerfully over the earth answering that of God in every man." George Fox.

    Some people have so buried themselves in the world & sin it's hard to discern anything of the divine in them but I do think it must *be* there as man was made in the image of God.

    And, though I haven't been able to verify this one[pastor's wife shared this]: the soul weighs a whole 3oz. NO idea of the exact mechanics but according to her there is a descrepancy of 3 oz between a live person & a dead one that cannot be accounted for.

    Interesting word & interesting too that even the Greeks, worldly & jaded as they were, concieved the idea of a God shaped void in the human being.

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  2. Oh, we could have quite a conversation about all this!

    I have this personal belief that all religions have some truth to them, because truth is truth and all truth comes from my Lord. So, people of any belief can recognize truth, but not all recognize its Source or the fullness of Truth Himself. For that matter, I am not sure anyone can in this existent with the limitations of our minds, but we all have that spark in us to be seeking for it.

    Now that I read what I just wrote, I guess that does sound much like a Christian Quaker's philosophy. Unfortunately, as soon as I put a label on my "personal religion," I would probably begin looking for flaws in it so that I can "unlabel" myself. (I am foremost complicated.)

    As to the weight of variance, I heard that before but I have not researched it. Interesting!

    I thought you might like that word if you had not heard of it before.

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  3. No, I hadn't heard it & I can't see me being able to work it into casual conversatiion any time soon but it is a great word! ☺

    Ooh, the murky waters! Yes truth is truth & scripture does say that God has so ordained His universe that even if we had never heard of Him we would know about Him & His nature from all creation & it also talks about some from every race & nation & tribe being saved. Those of us with more of the truth are more accountable.

    I can tie myself up in knots with this stuff but it is very interesting!!!

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.