Human Personality And Human Nature

What is human personality? It is a psychic entity whose most important

function is to unify the parts of a man's nature. It is the principle

of unity and the instrument of unity. A man's thought, will and

feeling are distinct and real entities. His intelligence takes various

forms from perception to abstract thought; it may be directed to

outward things, to thoughts of things, or to pure idea. He wills many

and wills them in different modes and with varying degrees of

intensity. A wide range of feeling is found in him, from physical to

mental, from organic to ideal feeling. His nature is tripartite. Each

part admits of variation in itself and in its interaction with the

other parts. Each of the three expresses the man at the moment. No

one of the three gives the whole account of his being. Nor do the

three taken together. Though his nature is tripartite the man himself

cannot be resolved into component parts. He has his faculties and

states, but he is more than their sum. He may lose himself in thought

or activity, or abandon himself to feeling, but when he is fulfilling

his true function, when he is most himself, all parts of his nature are

concentrated to a point. Partial activity of thought, will, or feeling

is then replaced by activity of the personality. Personality is the

synthetic unity of all parts of a man's nature. It has the wonderful

power of compressing to a point a medley of psychic elements. Moods

and memories, perceptions and ideas, wishes and purposes, it tensions

them all up, merges them and expresses them in characteristic acts

representative of the man.

Personality differs from nature also in respect of relation to

environment. It is relatively independent of circumstances. Habit and

education mould the nature, but if they touch the person they do so

only indirectly. The nature must be deeply affected before a change in

the person is registered. Personality is not synonomous with inherited

disposition; but it bears a similar relation to nature as inherited

disposition does to acquired habit. It is to nature what character is

to action. It is to nature what in Weismann's theory the germ plasm is

to the somatic cell. Changes in it are mediated by nature and are

almost imperceptible in a life time.

Again, nature is the superficies of the soul. It is the part that

comes in contact with the world of things and people. A man's nature

is what he is for other people; what he is in and for himself alone is

personality. There is a substance or self-existence of the psychic

states. Thought, will and feeling have all and each an external

reference. The internal reference of the whole is the core of being.

Our perception of personality in other people is a subtle thing. In

the ordinary give and take of life we are not aware of it. It is when

we realise the subject as a self-existent unity that we recognise

personality. We judge a man's nature by his thought or will or

feelings as conveyed through the ordinary channels of communication.

Personality is felt. It is a magnetism that influences, but remains


Person and nature differ also in respect of relation to the body. The

co-existence of heterogeneous natures in the same body is a fact of

experience. Different universes of thought, different levels of will

and feeling can be lodged in one organism. The higher the development

of the individual, the more clearly marked is the duality or plurality

of nature. It is otherwise with personality. In normal cases no two

personalities can tenant the one body. The unity of the organism is

the outward expression and guarantee of the unity of the person. There

are of course pathological cases which form exceptions to this rule.

Such cases, however, only serve to emphasise the distinction between

person and nature. In cases of dual personality the occupancy of the

one body is not simultaneous. Jekyll alternates with Hyde. Dual

personality is a totally different phenomenon from duality of nature.

Duality of nature is relatively superficial. In dual personality the

divergence in mental and moral outlook is so radical that

responsibility for the acts of the one entity cannot attach to the

other entity.

Personality then is the synthetic principle in man's being. Psychology

reveals it as unifying the parts of a man's soul and welding into an

indivisible whole the various elements of conscious and subconscious

experience. The student of Christology welcomes this account of

personality, but he requires more. He seeks a parallel for the union

of two whole and perfect natures. He demands some reason for holding

the central dogma of the incarnation to be intelligible and probable.

The next step in the argument accordingly is to ask, "Why limit the

synthetic power of personality?" If personality can synthesise parts

of a nature, why should it not also synthesise natures? If human

personality can unify such heterogeneous psychic elements as thought,

will and feeling, and present them as a harmonious whole, is it not

credible that divine personality should carry the synthesis a step

further and harmonise in one being the thoughts, wills and feelings of

God and man? The hypostatic union of natures in Christ is a phenomenon

not psychologically improbable, and one which can be paralleled from

human experience. There is in man what is tantamount to a conjunction

of the two natures. Man is rather diphysite than monophysite. We

pointed out above the extensive modifications that can be produced in a

man's nature by environment. There is in him a deeper duality which we

can only characterise as an association of divine and human. Man is an

inhabitant of the earth, of earthly descent and finite destiny; yet the

divine is not totally foreign to him. He has hopes of heaven, moments

of supraconsciousness, at times vision, resolve and emotion that are

supra-normal. The divine is an element in him. It is more than an

aspect of his nature. Its influence operates often in opposition to

the human element. He is, as Bergson puts it, at the meeting-point of

the upward and the downward currents. He can know God, can do the will

of God, can be filled with the love of God. Here are the three factors

of his nature, raised to a higher power. His experience may lie and

often does lie on two planes. He is "double lived in regions new."

In applying this human analogy to the ideal man caution is necessary.

The duality of natures is a fact in both cases, but there is one

essential difference. The personal substratum of the natures in one

case is human, in the other case divine. In man the divine element is

part of his nature, but not part of his person. The ego remains human

through all spiritual development. "The best of saints is a saint at

the best." The secondary element in him is a fact, but it is part of

his nature, not of his person. It is otherwise in the case of Christ.

He came from the ideal world and returned there. The background of his

experience was and is divine. The secondary element in Him was the

human, the primary the divine. He shared man's experience and shared

it really, but it did not form part of the core of His being. When He

thought or willed or felt as a man, it was a kenosis, a limiting of

his natural mode of self-expression. Divine and human are both present

in the experience of Christ and of mankind, but with this

difference--man rises to the divine; Christ condescended to the human.