The Western Tradition teaches the four Kingdoms and that Man participates in all of them through body and soul. In common with other traditions, there are different layers to the soul, as shown in the following diagram adapted from St Thomas Aquinas:
In man, these form a unity, unlike some gnostic and theosophical systems which try to separate them. As Aquinas puts it, “the sensitive soul, the intellectual, and the nutritive soul are in a man, and are numerically one and the same soul.” But the body, also, is a part of man. Unlike dualist systems which view the soul and body as separate substances, or monist systems such as materialism or spiritualism which deny the existence of the soul or body, respectively, this system is nondual. That is, the soul as spirit is the form of the body as matter.
This is the traditional teaching, which regards the material world as the reflection of the spiritual. Theologians have not really drawn out fully the consequences of this teaching. In particular, it means that all aspects of the sensitive soul, nutritive soul, and body take on the form of the intellectual soul. This has to include our racial and physical characteristics as well as our mental characteristics.
Aquinas makes this clear in his doctrine of subordination, which is accepted by both Evola and Guenon. He writes:
the sensitive is subordinate to the intellective and the nutritive to the sensitive, as potency is subordinate to act, since in the order of generations the intellective comes after the sensitive and the sensitive after the nutritive.
Yet things are not so simple. Aquinas continues:
man’s intellectual soul contains virtually whatever belongs to the sensitive soul of brute animals, and to the nutritive soul of plants.
So although the lower parts of the soul and the body are passive in relation to the intellectual soul, this is only virtual, not actual. That is why we see man as fragmented. Instead of being guided by his intelligence, his acts are motivated by physical desires, conflicted emotions, and personal whims. Man comes to see this as his “normal” and “natural” condition. If he hears otherwise, he will dismiss it as being “life denying”, prudish, authoritarian, uptight, and so on. Such a person, similarly to Nietzsche, will regard intelligence as merely instrumental; that is, it will help him devise the means to satisfy his desires. However, he does not use his intelligence to determine the ends themselves.
Even when a man is drawn to such a teaching by virtue of his spiritual condition or destiny, in today’s world there is nowhere he can turn. The philosophy books explain all this in the abstract, while what he really needs is a direct intuitive understanding or gnosis. In the Hermetic schools, he would learn to observe the various movements of his soul just as the physicist observes the movements of physical bodies. In this way he learns to distinguish between the processes of the various parts of the soul. He can catalog them and, through various exercises, develop the skills to actualize the proper relationships among those parts.
As he learns to see things in the clear light of the intellect, he will develop a sense of detachment and will no longer be driven by the irrational desires of the body nor be perturbed by emotional swings. This is not to say that he will not experience higher emotions such as equanimity and peacefulness, just that they are not the motivating factor. Only when a man acts from the intellectual soul is he free. Then he will possess the virtues: temperance, courage, prudence, and justice.