Anneliese Meis Wörmer, El Espíritu Santo y el Sentimiento: Nexo Misterioso entre Espíritu y Cuerpo en Edith Stein. Ediciones Universidad San Dámaso, 2016; 377pp. ISBN: 978-8416639298.F

Reviewed by Antonio Calcagno, King’s University College.

Scholars and philosophers interested in the philosophy of Edith Stein have only lately focussed on the concept of feeling. Feelings occupy a central place in Stein’s phenomenology and her idea of subjectivity and personhood. Most works on emotion and feeling in Stein concentrate on her earlier phenomenological texts, focussing either on the connection between feelings/emotion and action or the link between feeling and value. These works tend to make only scant reference to her later work. Anneliese Meis Wörmer’s El Espíritu Santo y el sentimiento: Nexo misterioso entre espíritu y cuerpo en Edith Stein fills this lacuna.

The monograph provides a systematic and comprehensive account of feeling, from Stein’s earliest discussion of it in On the Problem of Empathy to her later works, Finite and Eternal Being and Science of the Cross. Meis Wörmer’s central thesis is that one finds, in Stein’s philosophy, a complete theory of feeling that accounts for how feelings work in the lived body, psyche, and spirit: feeling allows human beings to experience themselves as unities of body, psyche, and spirit. And this unity is what allows us to experience ourselves as persons. Meis Wörmer also maintains that feeling is a bridge that links finite being to eternal being, especially in mystical experience. Feeling, contends Meis Wörmer, unites the body, psyche and spirit in an analogous way to how the members of the Trinity are united in the feeling and living of love. (61)

The book is divided into four substantial parts. The introduction contextualizes Stein’s thinking about feelings, framing her project within phenomenology, while explaining important sources for her thinking, including the ideas of Husserl and other philosophers. It also introduces the central thesis and highlights important resources for the study, including Stein’s notion of the security of being and her views on woman. (54) It should be remarked that, right from the start of the book, the author makes ample reference to Stein’s writings on woman, a part of the philosopher’s thought that has largely gone unmined by scholars. Stein, as Meis Wörmer points out, believes that woman or the feminine (das Weibliche) is marked by a great sensitivity to feeling, which not only yields knowledge and awareness but also directs and guides human judgement and decision.

Part One focusses on how feeling and emotion are treated in Stein’s phenomenology. Meis Wörmer examines Stein’s work on empathy, psychic causality and community as well as her Introduction to Philosophy. The lived experience of the body reveals that feeling is a key condition for being able to experience anything at all. The body is the primary site of expression for feeling and emotion, from basic sense experience (e.g., touch, sight, hearing, etc.) to sensory perceptions (like pleasure) to the wide-ranging emotions of affectivity, including joy and sadness. The author astutely traces the importance of psychic causality in the manifestation of feelings and emotions, for it allows the individual to link and explain the origins of certain psycho-physical phenomena, not only in oneself but also in others and in the community. (92) Feeling and emotion also connect to the spirit, understood phenomenologically as the movement of reason and free will. We see this in the interconnection between value and motivation, as well as Gemüt. (123–130) A certain emotion, for example, love and hate, makes manifest values or disvalues we hold about others or things. These feelings come into discourse with reason and motivation, bringing forth the necessity of making a judgement or perhaps a decision or even taking a certain action. By the end of Part One, Meis Wörmer shows how, through feeing, the body, psyche and spirit work together as a unity, making possible the fundamental reality of the human person. (105–108)

Part Two delves more deeply into Steinian anthropology and shows how feeling must also be analysed from a theological perspective. The author notes that Stein’s turn to medieval Christian philosophy allows her to view the human person not only as a unity of body, psyche and spirit, but also as a unity of body and soul, matter and form. As ensouled, the human person does not only possess affectivity, sensibility, and Gemüt, but also bears the imprint of the divine Creator. The human spirit lives in the human soul and has a profound relationship with God. The “soul of the soul” (or the depths of the soul) is where humans encounter God, and this locus is identified as the seat of feelings, including feelings about God and the relationship between God and the individual human being. (186–188) Meis Wörmer concludes this section of her book by exploring the unique essence of the feminine in relation to the soul and in relation to God. (200)

Part Three is devoted to Stein’s ontology and mystical writings. The author focusses on Stein’s later works, Finite and Eternal Being and Science of the Cross. The former is a philosophical account of how being in general must be understood as moving from basic constituent concepts like matter and form to animate and inanimate things, to human beings and the Triune God. The true sense of being, according to Stein, must be viewed as an ascent from the most basic meanings of being to its highest manifestation in the divine. By focussing on experiences of joy, one of Stein’s favourite examples, Meis Wörmer shows how the divine being manifests itself, especially as Holy Spirit, in our own being. (218) The joy and expectation of being kept in being, from moment to moment of our existence, is a source of joy, for it points to the reality of a God that sustains and wills us to persist in being. Finally, Stein’s treatment of the mystic John of the Cross shows how human feeling and emotion, especially in the experience of the dark night, reveal not only our own body, psyche and spirit working (and not working) together, but also how the interplay of God’s absence and presence brings forth the mysterious union between the body and spirit. The book ends with a summary conclusion of the central claims of the book, along with a comprehensive bibliography, which will be very useful to all scholars working on Stein’s philosophy and theology.

Meis Wörmer provides a comprehensive picture of the Steinian account of personal and divine unity: the union of body, psyche and spirit, as well as the union of human and divine being, all made manifest and grounded in the rich life of feelings and emotion. The book brings to the fore Stein’s unique contribution to philosophy, phenomenology, and theology. Her work is deeply framed within the lived body and feeling, and it must not only be read within the framework of the understanding of sense. Indeed, the life of feeling is what makes sense and meaning possible. This book was a real pleasure to read, not only for its clarity and acuity, but also for its comprehensive analysis of a foundational aspect of Stein’s thought—namely, feelings and emotions.