Gnostically speaking, there are the "psychics" who can be saved or damned; then the "pneumatics", who by their nature cannot but be saved; and finally the "hylics", who cannot but be damned. Now Luther practically conceived only of this third category, and theoretically — with reservations and conditions — that of the "psychics", but in no wise that of the "pneumatics", hence all the tormentedness of his doctrine. In reality, in every man there are three seeds, the "pneumatic", the "psychic" and the "hylic"; it remains to be seen which predominates.

In practice, it suffices to know that to say "yes" to God, while abstaining from what takes one away from Him and accomplishing what brings one closer to Him, pertains to the "pneumatic" nature and assures salvation, all question of "original sin" and "predestination" aside; thus in practice there is no problem, save that which we conceive and impose upon ourselves.

The "pneumatic" is the man who so to speak incarnates "faith which saves", and thus incarnates its content, the "grace of Christ"; strictly speaking, he cannot sin — except perhaps from the point of appearances — because, his substance being "faith" and therefore"justice through faith", all that he touches turns to gold. This possibility is extremely rare, being "avataric" above all, but finally, it exists, and cannot but exist.

The "psychic" is saved through "conversion", whereas the "pneumatic" is saved by "nature". The second of these accepts the truth — as did Ali and Abu Bakr — without the least hesitation and from the heart, by virtue of an almost existential "reminiscence". One must bear in mind that in Pauline language, the "psychic" is the earthly and fleshly man, hence practically the "hylic" man ...

Whatever may be the general aspect of Islam, as a Semitic monotheism, one may nevertheless be amazed by the fact that many and even the majority of Sufis, if not the greatest among them, express themselves in the style of a will-dominated and emotional individualism, whereas Sufism itself, by definition, is founded on gnosis and fashioned by it.

The reason for this is that the majority of men, even at the level of sainthood, are “psychics” and not “pneumatics”; they are consequently subject indirectly to the regime of fear, and it would be hypocrisy or temerity on their part to express themselves otherwise than they do; it is true that many amongst them could subsequently have changed their mode of expression, but they sought to remain faithful to what their individual substance demanded of them at the start, more especially as it is better to appear less than one is than to be less than one appears. Account also must be taken of the point of view of religious solidarity, which demands or favors a common language, without forgetting the symbolism of love which readily rejoins the language of sentiments and emotions.

Having spoken of physical and psychic types, we are all the more obliged to take account of what we may term "eschatological types," whose order — like that of the castes — is vertical and hierarchical, not horizontal and neutral. Gnosticism — which despite its errors contains many a truth — distinguishes three fundamental types: the pneumatic, whose nature is ascending; the hylic or somatic, whose nature is descending; and the psychic, whose nature is ambiguous.

Clearly, this hierarchy is independent of ordinary hierarchies, and consequently it gives rise to cases that at first glance are paradoxical; as a matter of fact, we may meet with quasi-angelic individuals among the least endowed as well as among the most gifted men, and others who personify the opposite.

This leads us to the problem of predestination, which is intimately linked to that of initial possibilities and individual substances; of course, the divine foresight also embraces the psychics, whose case seems to be undecided, but who in reality "veil" their substance — and consequently their destiny — by a complex and moving fabric of contradictory and more or less superficial possibilities.

Still on the subject of fear and referring to the Gnostic, terminology, one could also put forth the argument that for the "hylic" or "somatic" type, it is primarily threats that determine the will; for the "psychic" it is primarily all of the promises or the imagery of religion in general; whereas for the "pneumatic," it is the metaphysical idea. But as man is not an absolute unity, we may also speak of man "inasmuch as" he is this or that, in order to avoid the idea that threats concern the "hylic" exclusively, or that the "psychic" — always in connection with volitive assimilation — is necessarily inaccessible to the language of universal principles.

Frithjof Schuon