The Human Soul
[This topic is treated in Modes of the Finite, Part 3, Section 4, Chapters 1-5.]
10.1. Understanding and sensations
Having seen what understanding and choosing are like as acts, we now have to go back and pick up some loose ends we left dangling. The first of these deals with understanding's relation to the sensations it abstracts from, and what its faculty, if any, is.
I said three chapters ago that when instinct makes an association, it turns understanding on; and then understanding "examines" the association and we have the experience of curiosity, before we actually form a concept.
The question here is whether the association or something connected with it (either in the sensation or the brain) determines the particular relation understanding knows (and so the "curiosity" phase is just a kind of waiting for it to happen), or whether understanding determines itself using the association. I think the latter is what happens.
The reason I say that is this: If you will go back to the pictures earlier, you will note that these same pictures can give rise to all sorts of relationships, a few of which I named in that place. And if you try finding some others, you will observe that the longer you look at them, the more you can find.
Now either of two things is going on: (a) your instinct is associating these pictures by different "routes" in your brain, and each "route" gives rise to the relation you understand, or (b) your understanding is itself "picking out" the relations.
If case (a) is true, then when you consider all of the positive relationships the objects have, this supposes enormous brain power to make the associations that give rise to the concepts you so easily can draw. For instance, once you understand that they are on the page, then you can with no problem understand that they are at the bottom of the page, that they are in line, that they don't take up much room on the page, that they interrupt the text, that there is a lot more white space in the pictures than in the text, that they are on the left-hand page, etc., etc., etc.
Each of the concepts involved in these judgments is different. If each of them were the result of a different act of associating these pictures with the page, then we would have instinct busy making all these associations, all below the conscious level (since we aren't aware of re-connecting the perceptions before we can begin to discover a new aspect). It doesn't seem that this squares with our experience; the curiosity with which we examine the pictures seems to be doing the job of finding the relations.
Further, if the "pathway" by which the images are associated is what determines what concept we understand, why don't we get the first concept right away (because the pictures are clearly associated at first, and must be associated along some "path"). But my experience is in showing others these pictures that people have to study them for a while before they understand any relation. So it doesn't sound as if the way the images are connected in your brain is what determines the concept you will abstract.
Finally, and most tellingly, I think, negative judgments could not have some nerve-pathway as the association underneath them. If what determined the concept of "not well drawn" were an association of these pictures with something, what would it be? Obviously, it would have to be with well-drawn things. But then, to understand that they are not well drawn, the association would have to fail; that is, there is precisely no connection between these objects and well-drawn pictures. How can an association's not happening give rise to a relationship? We saw this earlier in discussing why understanding can't be an association. What I am adding here is that understanding cannot have an association as its energy-"component" either.
So I think the most reasonable explanation for formation of concepts out of associated sensations is this:
Theory of understanding
Understanding is activated by the presence in consciousness of associated sensations. It then freely determines itself as understanding some definite relationship, but this freedom to determine is limited by the possibilities inherent in the sensations associated.
I think you can see now why I didn't want to make a big distinction between a "intellect" and "will" as "faculties." If the "will" is what chooses, it turns out that you have to choose what to understand; and as we saw in discussing choice, you understand what you are choosing and the reasons for which you are choosing. Not surprisingly, if "intellect" and "will" are spiritual, each contains the other as a "component" of itself--and it becomes a futile exercise to try to distinguish them neatly.
But to return to the point. As your intellect examines the sensations, it knows that it can understand any relation it wants to among these sensations; but it can't understand a relation that doesn't have a foundation in these sensations.
What I am saying is that, from the pictures on page 154, you can't get the concept of tyranny--because the pictures have no aspect by which each could be called "tyrannical." So the sensations don't determine the concept, but they do determine the limits within which the understanding can form concepts. But it is understanding which determines itself, within these limits.
Notice also that it is the conscious aspects of the sensations which set the limits to what you can understand. The association has to be there in consciousness before you can understand any relation among the sensations associated; and any part of the sensation which is below the conscious level is automatically excluded as an aspect which can be used to establish a relationship.
10.2. The "faculty" of understanding
Hence, it is the conscious "component" of sensation, and only this conscious "component," which has any effect on understanding. When the association becomes conscious, we can understand; and we can understand what we want about the sensations we are conscious of as associated. The energy-"component" of the sensations has nothing to do with the act of understanding. Understanding is itself only consciousness, and is based only on the conscious aspect of the sensations.
there is no energy-"component" to understanding at all; it is a totally spiritual act. It is related to energy only indirectly.
Understanding is related to energy in that it uses as the limiting factor of its self-determination the conscious "component" of sensations, and the sensations happen to have an energy-"component."
Notice that this is also true of choosing. As I said in the preceding chapter, we cannot use facts stored in our memory but not conscious as reasons for the choice; and it is only the alternatives we are aware of at the time which affect our choice. We can't opt for a course of action that we are not conscious of.
Once again, the "intellect" and the "will" seem to be distinguishable only abstractly. We can distinguish understanding from choosing in this way: Understanding determines itself alone; choosing determines the whole being.
That is, when the spiritual act merely determines the spiritual act itself, then this is what I have called "understanding" or "thinking"; and the result of this self-determination is, of course, a judgment. But when the spiritual act "spills out" and determines the whole person, (as when you determine yourself to pass a course in college), then this is called a "choice" rather than a judgment.
Or you could look at it another way. When understanding determines itself and makes itself agree with the way things are, this is thinking; when understanding determines itself but wants to make the way things are agree with what it thinks, then this is choosing. Understanding is self-determination as, so to speak, "passive"; choosing is self-determination as "active." Immanuel Kant saw this when he called the will "practical reason."
From this, it follows that:
Understanding and choosing have, strictly speaking, no faculty.
A faculty, you will remember, is a subsystem of the body which allows an act to be turned on and off. But since understanding uses the conscious "component" of sensation as what turns it on and off, and since choosing uses understanding of facts as what turns it on and off, neither of these as conscious are parts of the body; they are the spiritual "component" of sensation.
But of course, since sensation does not occur except as the immaterial act one of whose "components" is the brain's nerve-energy, then it can be said that the brain is a kind of "pseudo-faculty" for thinking or choosing. When the nerves in the brain aren't active, the sensation doesn't occur as conscious; and when the sensation isn't conscious, understanding won't happen.
So indirectly, the brain is a kind of "faculty" of thinking and choosing; but it isn't a faculty in the strict sense. There is no faculty in the strict sense.
10.3. The human soul
Now if the human being performs a purely spiritual act (even if that act is indirectly related to energy)c, then it performs an act which is greater than any form of energy or any immaterial act (which has to have an energy-"component," which means it is internally limited).
But this means that the act of thinking or choosing cannot be explained either (a) by the brain (which is only indirectly the faculty), or (b) by the sensations (which are immaterial and thus more limited than the thinking which "results" from them). Hence, the act must be due to the way the body is organized, or the soul.
The human soul is spiritual, not immaterial.
If it were immaterial (needing an energy-"component") it could not produce an act that was totally free of this limitation.
Clearly, there is more than one human being; each of us has a body organized in a human way, but each of us has a greater or lesser limitation on this human organization. And what accounts for different examples of the same kind of body is (as we saw in Chapter 2) the quantity of the unifying energy of the body.
But how can a spiritual act be unifying energy, with a quantity? We saw one way when we were discussing sensation: it could "reduplicate" itself once as a form of energy. But we called that sort of thing immaterial, not spiritual.
The dilemma (the effect)
If the human soul organizes the body, it must be energy, and so would seem to be no more than immaterial. But if it is immaterial, it is incapable of performing a purely spiritual act.
The way out of the dilemma--I think--is this:
Theory of the human soul
The human soul does by its nature "reduplicate" itself as the form of energy organizing the body, and so has a quantitative "component." But as spiritual, the human soul does not need this quantitative "component" in order to exist.
That is, the human soul naturally exists as "also" a form of energy (the way an immaterial act does); but it doesn't have to exist in this way; in itself, it is totally beyond the energy which it happens to be.
Animals' souls, since they perform (as far as we know) nothing but immaterial acts, presumably have to have the "energy-component" in order to exist; and so, if they lose it (as when they die), the soul simply ceases to exist.
But this is not necessary for the human soul. The fact that it performs a purely spiritual act shows that it can act (i.e. exist) without any energy-"component" at all. Hence, it does not follow that when the human body dies, the soul ceases to exist. It can exist without organizing a body--at least in principle.
It should be pointed out, however, that this existing without organizing a body--if it occurs--is an unnatural existence for the human soul; its nature is to be a spiritual act which also organizes a body.
Note that the human soul, as spiritual, is itself contained in the acts of thinking and choosing; it is identical with all its spiritual acts.
The soul as spiritual and conscious is the "I" that we are conscious of when we think and choose. Pure sensation (as in dreams) is not conscious of an "I" that is doing the sensing. Notice that the "I" recognizes itself as greater than the act of thinking or choosing that it happens to be performing at the moment. This is because, as conscious, the soul is aware that it is determining itself to being (spiritually) just this particular act and no other.
In order to determine itself (i.e. to limit itself to being this judgment or this choice), the act must, of course, be beyond what it determines itself to be; you can't limit yourself unless in some sense you are beyond those limits. And since the human spirit can determine itself to be any judgment or choice (you can even choose to be God, even if you can't carry out the choice), then in itself it is beyond any limitation whatsoever.
The limitation of the human spirit does not consist in any prior limitation on it, but on the fact that it cannot act without somehow determining--limiting--itself.
That is, the human spirit cannot perform, by itself, an absolutely unlimited act, because you can't think without determining the thought using the associated sensations you happen to have, and you can't choose without understanding what alternatives are open to you. So even if, in itself, the human spirit is unlimited, it cannot act without limiting itself, and using the immaterial acts of sensations as the range within which it limits itself.
But since the human spirit in itself has no prior limitation, then it is in principle possible (i.e. not a contradiction) for it to perform the absolutely unlimited act. It cannot do this by itself, or by its own nature, because it is constrained by its nature to use the sensations as its range for acting.
But it is possible for God to lift this restriction on its activity, and enable it to perform the absolutely unlimited act of "absolute thought and choice" (which are one single act). But this act is God Himself. God is nothing but this absolutely unlimited act; this is his very life, this act.
Hence, when Christianity teaches that by "grace" (a gift) we "share the life of God," what this would mean, in the light of the theory we are developing here, is that God removes the restriction upon our spirit, so that it need not determine itself to be just one judgment or just one choice, but is Infinite Thought and Infinite Choice Itself; or in other words, the human soul becomes God Almighty.
And just as God "emptied himself," and by "reduplicating himself" in a human way "took on" human nature, so, because of this act, which redeemed us, he "de-empties" or "fills" us with the "fullness" which is His Infinite Reality, and we think the Divine Thought.
But just as Jesus is both Divine and human, so we do not lose our humanity or our individuality when this happens; it is one of the "reduplications" of the act we perform.
I said above that the human soul, as spiritual, need not go out of existence when the body dies; but that a disembodied existence would be unnatural for it. Does it in fact go on existing, or does it cease even though it doesn't have to (or does it, perhaps, have a choice as to whether to go on existing or not)?
Do not be fooled by "scientism" to think that the following investigation is not scientific.
"But how can you claim that an investigation of what goes on after death is 'scientific?'" you say. "How can you get beyond death and test it and then come back? Science deals with what is tangible and concrete." Oh yes? How tangible are radio waves? In what sense are they "concrete"? How tangible are dinosaurs? All we can see are the bones, and it's a theory that these bones belonged to animals.
It would be advisable at this point to reread what was said in Section 1.3. of Chapter 1. Science starts with observable evidence; it concludes to what is beyond the observable evidence, by finding causes for observable effects. This is true of any science, philosophy included.
So what we are after is the "dinosaur bones" that are evidence that the soul goes on (or doesn't go on) after death: those observable facts about human life that show that it is a contradiction unless the soul survives death.
With that said by way of preliminary, then,
Note, first of all, once the human soul "drops" its energy-"component" and becomes purely spiritual (if it ever does), it cannot naturally regain it or gain another; in fact, it cannot change at all.
We saw in the chapter on bodies that change needs the quantity which is the limitation that makes energy energy; and we argued that the function of immaterial consciousness was precisely to give consciousness the energy-"component" it would need in order to be able to change and be affected by its surroundings.
Hence, if the human soul stops existing as also a form of energy, then it is in equilibrium from then on, and cannot change any more.
If the human soul survives death, it is immortal; it cannot "die" again, because that would be to change, and it cannot change.
This is confirmed by the fact that the human spirit, like any spiritual act, is "simple": that is, it is not a system of interconnected parts, but each form of activity "interpenetrates" all the other forms of the one polymorphous act. Eliminate one, and you eliminate all, because all the other "parts" are "parts" of this one "part," and it is "part" of each other "part." So there is nothing the soul, as spiritual, could "break up into." Hence, it cannot "die," at least as we know death.
Now then, is there any evidence that the soul doesn't just go out of existence when the body dies?
There are several indications that it doesn't.
The four-fold argument
that the human soul survives death
1. The argument from spirituality: The soul does not need the body to exist. If it went out of existence when the body stopped being organized by it, then in practice it couldn't exist without the body, and hence it would need what it didn't need--which is a contradiction. That is, the soul wouldn't "need" the body only in theory; in practice, it would need it, because in practice it wouldn't exist without it.
This is a very weak argument, because it leaves open the possibility that the soul could go on existing but just doesn't, or that it has a choice as to whether or not to continue existing. Still, what does "it doesn't need the body in order to exist" mean if not that when the body dies, it doesn't stop existing? The argument is especially weak if one takes into account that the soul's existence without a body would be unnatural, even if possible. Since the unnatural existence would be immortal, then by far the greatest portion of the soul's life (for practical purposes the whole of it) would be spent in an unnatural condition.
So all this proves is what we proved above. The soul can exist after death.
2. The argument from the nature of life: The nature of life is to continue existing as long as possible. All the other living acts of a body have as their function the continued existence of either the individual as living or the species--the form of life. Thus, the thrust of life is to continue indefinitely. In beings lower than the human, this thrust is thwarted by the necessary material element that they have.
But if the human soul (which can continue to exist without its energy-"component" and without a body) were to go out of existence when the body died, this would directly contradict its nature as life.
Hence, it would be a contradiction for it either to "naturally" stop existing or to choose to stop existing. The first would contradict its nature, the second would be a deliberate violation of its nature as life.
3. The argument from choice: Human self-determination (choice) implies that we have no "built-in" goal for ourselves. We ourselves choose what our "final reality" is to be like, and that we then set out to achieve these goals.
But if human life were to absolutely cease with death, then the goals implied in choices would not be able to be realized. Hence, it contradicts the nature of choice for human life to end with death.
What this means is this: Either we achieve our goals before we die (and so "become ourselves") or we don't. If we don't achieve our goals, then we are in the unstable condition of being in process toward them--and instability, remember, is an internally self-contradictory condition which is only resolved at the end of the process. Hence, a being which is in nothing but process toward a goal that cannot be reached is a contradiction. But there are no real contradictions, as we saw in Chapter 1.
If we do achieve our goals, however, we immediately set up a "pseudo-goal" of "security," or "trying to hold onto success and happiness." After all, when we are happy and successful, our overriding fear is losing what we've got. This, then, is a real goal of the happy and successful person: to stay this way indefinitely. But obviously, if life ends with death, this goal can't be achieved, and we have to give up our total self--which is a direct contradiction of self-determination (which implies that our self is under our control).
Therefore, whether you achieve your ambitions in life or not, you are still in a self-contradictory condition if life ends with death. But there are no real contradictions. Therefore, life must go on after death.
4. The evidence from morality: Often a person finds that he can fulfill important aspects of his reality only by violating unimportant ones. That is, it is possible for a person to choose to do something that violates his nature and goes beyond the limitations imposed by his genes. But if he does, of course, he sets up a goal that in some respect cannot be achieved. Hence he deliberately chooses his own frustration.
But we find that people who deliberately violate their natures (who lie and cheat and steal and murder) often can achieve more of their goals and be happier than those who stay within the limits of their natures.
The reason for this is that in this life, circumstances beyond your control can prevent your fulfilling a goal. So, for example, if you cheat on an examination, you are deliberately lying and contradicting your ability to communicate; you are claiming to know what you don't know, and so are setting yourself up as someone you aren't. But on the other hand, if you don't cheat, then you won't pass the course, and so you won't get the degree you want and won't be able to pursue the career you have chosen. Your whole life can depend on getting a good grade on this test.
This means that it is better to do wrong (be morally "bad"--to deliberately violate your own reality) than to act consistently with what you are. But this is absurd. Why? Because in order to fulfill yourself, you must frustrate yourself; to do what is reasonable (what gets you to your important goal), you must do what is unreasonable (self-contradictory). How can it be good to be bad? How can it be reasonable to be unreasonable?
But if life ends with death, this is the way things are.
Therefore, there must be a life after death where those who act consistently can fulfill all their goals, and those who deliberately set goals for themselves which they know are in principle impossible to fulfill will be frustrated.
That is, it doesn't make sense to be moral if you suffer for it, while evil people are the ones who have the best chance of being happy--unless life goes on after death, and a life such that those who are moral are fulfilled and those who aren't suffer.
Human life, in its most important aspects, contradicts itself unless the human soul goes on existing after the death of the body.
This means, as I said above, that it is scientifically proved that the human soul is immortal, and continues existing (as a mind) after death. We didn't do any measurements, but you don't have to measure to be scientific. These four pieces of evidence are the "instrument" we have used to look beyond the grave.
Now then, what about this life after death? Can we say anything about it, based on what we know about life on this side of the grave?
First of all, is the life after death a disembodied life, or is there reincarnation, and we actually live an endless succession of lives in a body?
In the first place, if there is reincarnation, this "reembodiment" would have to be immediate. If there were any existence at all without a body, it would be impossible to be "reincarnated," because that would involve a change, and a pure spirit cannot change.
Secondly, it would be difficult to see what would be meant by "the same" soul as organizing two different bodies at different times. Which human soul you are talking about is not determined by the particular elements and parts that make up the body (the "stuff" that forms the body), as can be seen from the fact that the living body is constantly losing the "stuff" it is "made of" and taking in new "stuff," and yet is the same body--because it is organized by one and the same unifying energy--i.e., soul with its energy-"component."
Hence, if the same soul organized "another" body, it wouldn't be another body; it would be the same one, by definition. Unless, of course, this soul "acquired" a new and different energy-level. But then in what sense is it the "same" soul? Your soul is different from mine precisely in that yours has an energy-"component" that is a different level of energy from mine. That is, as human (i.e. form of activity) we are identical. If the soul were reincarnated with a different biological equilibrium, this would simply mean that it had produced offspring, not that it returned to existence. After all, my son is the same form of unifying energy as I am; he is different because the quantity of that energy is different; he (as he would be the first to declare) is not me all over again, but a completely different person.
Again, one might possibly argue that the soul is "the same" in that spiritually it is the same. But spiritually it is consciousness; and your consciousness is different from mine (and "the same" as itself) in that it is one set of interpenetrating acts of consciousness, and mine is a different set.
But then if the "same" soul were to be reincarnated, it would have to actually have all of the experiences of its previous life. If it loses this consciousness when "reembodied," then it loses the essence of itself, and then there would be no sense in which one can call it "the same" and mean anything.
Further, if we have to start all over again with a brand-new birth as a baby, and then live and die and start again, it would follow that human goals would never be achieved (because each time you would die before achieving them) and this contradicts one of the most important pieces of evidence for saying that there is a life after death at all.
Again, presumably the bad person would be reborn as a person in a lower condition of life, but if there is no objective "goodness," this lower condition is not "objectively worse," and hence is not a punishment. Goodness and badness depend on what goals a person has, and whether he fulfills them or not.
Of course, if the person is reincarnated as an animal, then the essential nature of his soul has changed, and it is nonsense to call it "the same," because it is now not even immortal, and will cease to exist when the animal dies.
There is no way you can make rational sense out of a series of lives with "the same" soul born many times.
As to supposed evidence in support of the theory, such as "remembrances" of previous lives, it has been shown that people "remembering" under hypnosis, when asked to recall what went on before their conception, make up an imaginary life based on things they heard from youth. (The famous case of Bridie Murphy in the 'forties is an example of this. It caused quite a stir at the time, until it was discovered that the hypnotized woman--who described life in an Irish town she hadn't visited--had talked to the real Bridget Murphy, who was a neighbor, and who described the town to her. She could not consciously remember this.)
Hence, there is no real evidence to support the theory, and all kinds of evidence against it. It is actually based on a misconception of the "sameness" of living things.
Beware of being fooled by beliefs that you are "comfortable with." We are after what the facts are, not what would be nice.
This must particularly be kept in mind in our investigation of immortality. There either is a life after death or there isn't; and it's either of a certain nature or it isn't. The fact that you want to believe that it exists or that it's a certain way doesn't change what the facts are. And since we're all going to verify or falsify our theory by the bitter experience of death, then it makes sense to base your life now on the best evidence of what the facts are, rather than believe what would be comforting and just trust to luck that you're correct.
10.5. The nature of the afterlife
If the survival of the soul after death does not imply a series of reincarnations, then it follows that it must be a disembodied, spiritual existence (since it is so manifest that the body decays, and the only thing left is the spiritual "component" of the soul). Is there anything we can say about what this spiritual existence must be like?
It turns out that there is. We already saw that it has to be immortal.
But it can be seen from the evidence from human choice and from violation of one's nature (morality) that the life, whatever it is, must be a continuation of individual existence, and not an "absorption" into some sort of "universal being" with loss of identity, as Plato and various Indian philosophies seem to hold. What fulfillment of goals would it be if you lost your identity? If you lose your identity, it makes no difference what you do or what you choose on earth. And the same goes for being moral or immoral. If the individual who violates his nature is not "punished" somehow as an individual, then it makes more sense to violate your nature and reap the benefits here on earth.
So this life after death, whatever it is, must be such that an individual who has goals will be able to fulfill them--unless, violating his nature, he sets impossible goals for himself, in which case, he ought to be frustrated.
Now then, we know that, during life as a body, our spiritual acts are indirectly dependent on energy in the brain; if the energy isn't flowing through the nerves, the sensation doesn't take place, and if the sensation isn't there, thinking or choosing doesn't occur. But of course, when we die, there isn't any energy flowing in the brain. That, in fact, is the criterion doctors are now using to tell when a person has died.
But this would seem to mean that all consciousness would stop at death. But this does not necessarily have to happen. Spiritual consciousness (thinking and choosing) only indirectly depends on the brain's energy-flow; it doesn't have an energy-"component" of its own, and so doesn't need energy in order to act.
Thinking and choosing is dependent on the brain's nerve-energy only in our embodied condition.
What the nerve-energy does is determine which sensation takes place, which sets the limits for the self-determination of understanding or choosing. In other words, the nerve-energy selects among the acts of consciousness we now have, by being the faculty which turns consciousness off. Since it would be too much to cope with if we were conscious of all our experiences at once (How would we single out the perceptions, and how would we zero in on the important aspects of them?), then the immaterial aspect of consciousness allows selective awareness by means of the energy-flow in the brain.
Therefore, When the brain ceases to act, this does not (in human beings) mean that consciousness ceases, but that consciousness has dropped the restrictions that the brain imposes on it. And this is consistent with the human soul's "dropping" the reduplication of itself that is its form of energy. It "loses" a limitation, a restriction, and becomes a spiritual act, without an energy-"component."
And so we can conclude the following:
At death, when the brain stops, consciousness suddenly "awakens" into a single polymorphous act that contains as "components" of itself every thought, every choice, and the conscious aspect of every sensation we have ever had during life.
The reason the immaterial sensations are included here (while animals' sensations, of course, vanish when the animal dies) is that the conscious aspect of the sensation is included within the acts of thinking and choosing, as one of the forms of the polymorphous act. So we suddenly become, as far as our consciousness is concerned, our absolutely total consciousness; an act of consciousness which contains every moment from the first one we had in our mother's uterus to the last one we had at death. Or what happens to us is what is supposed to happen to the drowning person; "our whole life flashes before our eyes."
It is this act of total summation of all our consciousness that remains eternal and unchanging after death.
We can add no new experiences, because we no longer are bodies and have no energy; we can lose no experience, because we no longer have brains to shut some experience out of our memory.
Now this act of eternal, total consciousness is, first of all, what distinguishes each of us after we die. I will be an act of consciousness which contains all the forms of consciousness that happened during my life; you will be an act of consciousness which contains all the acts that happened during your life, and so on. Our spiritual acts will differ by their relation to the body we had, with its experiences with the world; and this relation is the contents of the consciousness we have because of our life as a body.
Does this act of total, eternal consciousness fulfill the conditions necessary for it to make sense out of human choice and morality?
First of all, it makes sense out of morality very neatly. If a person makes an immoral choice, what this means is that he has chosen to act in violation of what he knows his nature to be. But if he does this, he is trying to do something that his nature will not actually allow him to do (at least as he intends). Therefore, he is deliberately seeking (at least in some respect) to frustrate himself.
For example, the thief wants what he steals to belong to him; but the act of taking it against another's will does not make the thing belong to him, and so he can only pretend it belongs to him, and act as if it belonged to him when it doesn't. The murderer wants to end another's life; but he can't; the other is immortal. And so on. There is always some aspect of the evil act which cannot be fulfilled, no matter what the circumstances (or the act wouldn't be evil).
Now since the immoral (and self-frustrating) choice is a conscious act, it is a part of the total consciousness that awakens at death, even if it was made years ago, and the person (while a body) has forgotten all about it.
And since it is a choice, then the person eternally has the conscious intention of trying to do something he knows he can never do; or the person is eternally frustrated.
This makes sense out of the idea that everyone has that a human being should try to act consistently with what he is, and that you should never consciously violate your nature, no matter what the advantage from doing so.
We have to make another assumption, however, if we are going to make the argument from choice work. If a person has not made immoral choices (i.e. all his choices have been consistent), then these choices must be fulfilled after death, or human self-determination is meaningless.
In fact, the moral person, if this were not so, would be even worse off than the immoral one. The moral person, if his unachieved goals were not fulfilled after death, would then have these as goals eternally, but would not be able to achieve them, and so would be eternally frustrated, but through no fault of his own.
This would make it more rational to court a little frustration while living as a body and fulfill more of the important goals you have (i.e. sin, as long as it gets you where you really want to go); because both the sinner and the virtuous person will be frustrated eternally; but the sinner, having achieved more of his more important goals, would be less frustrated.
So the non-fulfillment of consistent goals makes both acting morally and goal-setting itself nonsense.
All goals which are in principle achievable (all goals consistent with the person's nature) will be achieved at death, and the achievement will be eternally experienced. All immoral choices will live on eternally with the experience of eternal frustration.
That is, a good person will be eternally rewarded with just exactly the success he has set his sights on. The "fulfillment" or "happiness" will depend on what goals he has set; each and every one will be achieved--but presumably, "goals" he is not interested in will not be achieved. And this fulfillment, since the person is simply a spirit now, will never be able to be lost. The person is eternally happy: he is eternally exactly the self he has chosen to be.
And this is what it means to be a "self": to be able to make yourself into exactly the self you choose for yourself, and to be what you have made yourself forever.
But this is the subject of the next chapter.
10.6. Human nature as "fallen"
But there is still something that really needs a little exploring here. If our life after death (without a body) is eternal and immortal, what does this say about a being whose nature it is to be a spiritual act that organizes a body?
What I am getting at is what I mentioned in passing a couple of times: It is the nature of the human soul to be a spiritual act that (though it doesn't need it to exist) has an energy-"component" organizing a body; hence, for the human soul to exist not organizing a body is possible but unnatural.
Yet after death, the human soul exists in this unnatural condition eternally. That means that the eighty (let us say) years of natural existence become a smaller and smaller percent of its actual existence as life after death gets longer and longer, and in the limit is a vanishingly infinitesimal part of it. For practical purposes, the whole of human existence is spent in the unnatural condition of not organizing a body.
This does not seem to make sense.
Further, we said that we have, in large measure, control over our instinct (our emotions); and that we need this control in order to prevent "programs" genetically built-in (which adapted our ancestors to cave-man life) from causing behavior inappropriate to our actual lives now. Yet our emotions sometimes take over control and force us to do acts that we choose not to do, or blind us to information which we need in order to make rational choices. Yet the emotions are "components" of the self-same polymorphous act of choice, because all of our consciousness at any one moment is a single act.
That is, when your emotions "fight" against your better judgment, it isn't really, as St. Paul said, "a law in your body that fights against the law in your mind," but one and the same act which is at war with itself. True, your emotions, as immaterial, have an energy-"component", and your choice doesn't. But this energy-"component" is a reduplication of the same spiritual act which is the conscious emotion and is also one and the same act as the choice itself and as your "reason." Both of them are the spiritual act of the soul, which is one soul. But how can one act be at war with itself?
This doesn't make sense either.
Let us look for a minute of what you would expect of a body which is organized with a spiritual (and therefore, immortal) act whose nature is to be also a form of energy organizing a body and whose understanding knows the facts and whose choices control and determine the body based on factual knowledge.
First, what would be the role of instinct and emotion in such a being? It would provide information: that is, attractions would tell the intellect, "This object suits the organism in its primitive state; do you want to have it?" and repulsions would say, "This object is to be shunned normally; is that what you want?" The intellect would then use this information along with other information in evaluating the object, and once a decision is reached, the emotion could be shut off, and would no longer pester the person or insist on fulfillment at the expense of reason. That is, emotions would be there, but under the control of our choices, so that they would only "want" satisfaction if we thought it good to do the act which satisfied them.
Second, such a being would never die, and never grow old. To grow old (as we now experience it) is to die by degrees, because it is to lose the power to perform acts which our unifying energy still possesses. We would "grow old" in the sense that we would acquire experience and come closer to our goals; but we would not grow old in the sense of having to give up skills and so on that we had acquired.
Third, such a being would not be able to be damaged against its will. It could sustain damage, but only if it were willing to let it happen. Otherwise, circumstances beyond its control would determine eternal deprivation (since the body could not die). Just as now we can mess up our eternal lives--but only if we choose to do so--so in this "logical" state, where this life continues for eternity, the "messing up" to be not self-contradictory would have to be willingly embraced.
One might dismiss the second and third points above as just impossible, defying the laws of physics. But remember, living bodies from the very lowest are defying the laws of physics. A living body has control over its energy, and defends itself against harm; all I am doing in this hypothetical case is extending this control to the level you would expect from a body that is organized with a truly spiritual act.
Thus, the life of such a being ought to look like this: childhood would be pretty much as we now see it, with the person gradually discovering what (a) human capabilities are, and (b) what his own special talents and inclinations are. There would then be a more or less extended period of adolescence when a person would begin to pick out actual goals to be achieved by him and defining his own particular life.
Once one set a goal for himself, it would be guaranteed that eventually he would fulfill it, whether it took a year or a thousand years to do so. The only case where a goal would not be fulfillable would be if it is an immoral goal, involving a contradiction in the person's nature, as we saw above. That is, frustration would always depend only on the person's choice, never on circumstances beyond his control.
The person would then set up the instabilities in himself that would lead to fulfillment, and set out achieving the goals (possibly on the way acquiring--as we now do--new ones and adding to the complexity of the "ultimate goal").
Finally, when all the goals of the person had been achieved, he would close off his energy, and become in himself a totally closed system in equilibrium, and stop changing, and continue to do the sum total of the acts he had chosen forever and ever. He would be eternally the body he had created himself to be. That's what you would expect of an embodied spirit based on the spirit's eternal nature and control over the body.
Oddly enough, I think the "Adam legend" of the Bible provides a mythical version of the correct answer. This is what I think is the explanation, not in story form:
Once the mammalian body had evolved to the point where the brain capacity was great enough for it to be able to be organized with a spiritual soul, the offspring of that "missing link" was given by God a spiritual soul, and the first human being existed.
This first human being was, however, a completely different kind of thing from a mammal, and had much greater control over himself, because he could know what he was, what he could be, and what the world was. I think this first human being was in the state described above, which the Theologians call "original justice."
I also think the first human being was given the option of choosing what the human genetic structure was to be, within the limits of being basically a mammal. That is, just as each of us can modify his own body within the broad limits set down by our given genetic structure, the first human was the one who had the choice of the basic structure of the human body: relation of limbs to trunk, what the hand would be like, where we would have hair, etc., etc.--the basic human "design," if you will. He had much more control of what he was to be (and what we as his offspring would be) than we do. We depend on his choice for what our body is.
But I think that this human, because he had so much control of himself, refused to accept any limitation on what he could do with himself, and wanted to be absolutely his own master, without any limits whatever.
At this point, God intervened, and said, "Because you refuse to accept any limits and any subordination to your Creator, your very body will be insubordinate to yourself; your own mind as embodied will war against your mind as spiritual, and your emotions will escape control from your spirit; and ultimately, your body will escape from you, and you will die. Instead of being an embodied spirit, you will be a rational animal; and since this is your choice of what the human body is, this insubordination is something that will be built into the genes you have designed, to be passed on to your offspring."
This is not a legend or a myth I am stating, precisely. I offer it as a hypothesis to explain how the human body got into the unnatural condition it so clearly is in. In this connection, I find it significant that every major philosophy regards human beings as being somehow in an unnatural condition; some as a reason of a "fall," as I have hypothesized; some as "developing toward" the "real" state (as in Marxism and evolutionism in general); some as because of society--and so on. But no philosophy really says that humans are as we would really expect them to be, whatever their view of what it is to be human.
Hence, there is scientific evidence for something like "original sin," which, interestingly enough, is not regarded by the Theologians nowadays as an event that actually happened; they like to think of the Adam legend as a kind of metaphor describing the innate propensity of humans to mess up their lives, not as an explanation of why we do so. I think it is a lot more factual than that; and I think in fact it explains why we are driven to do what we recognize as stupid and self-defeating--and why we grow old and die.
This is why all of this about "fallen nature" is not in a Theological note; it has nothing to do, really with revealed truth (which adds the promise of Redemption, which you can't argue to from the observable data); it is simply something that the facts about human life indicate to anyone who puts his mind to examining them.
Notice that the fulfillment of goals after death (as sketched in the previous section) has nothing to do with the thinking of the Divine Thought (the "Beatific Vision," or the becoming divine) that we spoke of in previous Theological notes. That is because such a raising to the Divine is obviously beyond nature, and is miraculous, even if it isn't self-contradictory.
You will also notice (as I mentioned just above) that in the little section on violation of nature (morality) there is no talk of a "redemption" or "forgiveness" of a sin. The reason is (a) that the sin is a conscious act, and conscious acts, once made, are "components" of the total consciousness, and so cannot naturally be "erased." Further, (b) the frustration connected with the sin is the sin itself--the impossible goal intended deliberately, knowing it to be impossible; and if the person is free to set such a goal, it is a contradiction, or almost a contradiction, to take the frustration away from him.
Thus, eternal frustration is not a "punishment" by an angry God, who doesn't "want" us to sin, but the simple consequence of (a) any choice's being an eternal act, and (b) wanting to frustrate oneself. Hence, from God's point of view, there is nothing to "forgive," and there is no reason why he should thwart the sinner's "will to unhappiness."
For the sin to be erased as an operative choice would take a miracle. Since humans are embodied spirits, and can change while they are bodies, and since (especially because our nature is fallen) their whole personality is not involved in a sin (since most of the person's "stream of consciousness" is unconscious while in this life), it is not a contradiction (a) for a living human body to regret that he has sinned, and (b) to wish to become another person: the person he would have been if he didn't "have" the sin as a "component" of his consciousness.
Hence, it is not a contradiction if God were to choose to erase the sin; and Christianity teaches that he does so, if the person loves God for his own sake, and not for what he can get out of loving him.
But the person must be willing to reject himself: give up the self which he is, and become someone else; because that is what "redemption" from sin entails. Remove any "component" of the consciousness of any spirit, and the whole spirit is wholly different, because each "component" contains all the others as "components" of it, and vice versa.
And, of course, this leap into the unknown ("Who will I be when I become this new person?") is a fearsome thing. One must die in order to live the new life. Note further that this new life is also a sharing in the Divine life, and a thinking of God's thought, as we saw in earlier notes.
Again, note that reembodiment is philosophically out of the question; because once you die, you can't change, and to be relimited with an energy-"component" would be a change. Once again, God could relimit the soul by a miraculous, supernatural act--though there is really no reason for him to do so, except that the "Adam" messed up the situation and made us all live partial (even though psychologically fulfilled) lives forever. The Athenians laughed at Paul when he spoke of a bodily resurrection.
You can see, therefore, that Christianity is not just an extension of philosophy; it is not, in fact, a philosophy at all, but a person. The Christian becomes someone else, and that person's name is the name of the human being who lives with God's life: Jesus.
Plato (400 B.C.) held that the soul was spiritual, and in fact was a spirit "trapped" in the body, which limited and "clouded" it. He held a kind of reincarnation. He interpreted understanding as "remembering Aspects" on the occasion of sensations; and this implied a previous life as a pure spirit where we "saw" the Aspects in their purity. But "bad" spirits got trapped into bodies--first into men's, then if they led bad lives as men, into women's, and then into animals'. If, on the other hand, you were a good woman, say, next time round you would become a man; and if you were a good man, eventually you could escape the body altogether and become "Humanity-itself": the Aspect. It meant you lost your individual identity, but for Plato this was no big deal.
Aristotle (350 B.C.) thought that the "mind" in its active sense was not actually a "component" of the human soul; the human soul was only spiritual enough to receive concepts impressed on it by this Mind. He seems to have held that when we die, that is the end of us as individuals; though, of course, this external "active Mind" goes on existing eternally.
St. Augustine (400) took over a kind of Platonism into what was known from Christianity. He held (with Plato) the spirituality of the soul; but he did not hold that there was a previous life, or reincarnation. He interpreted Plato's desire to contemplate the Aspects as being our nature's longing for the Beatific vision, which he interpreted as God's purpose for our lives. (In this I think he was wrong. How can a purpose be a gift?) He held, with Christianity, that we will be reembodied at the last day, when history is all over; but he held that this will be miraculous. Of course, he held that there is a heaven of happiness for good people and a hell of unhappiness for sinners.
St. Thomas (1250) was the one to Christianize Aristotle's view; and when he did so, it came fairly close to Augustine's Christianization of Plato. St. Thomas interpreted Aristotle as implying that the "active mind" was in the individual, and hence that the human soul (the form of the body) was immortal; and its happiness consisted in eternally knowing and loving God.
This sort of view was held with variations right from Augustine's time until about the middle of the last century. But after the Renaissance not too much was made of it.
With Spinoza (1650), for instance, the immortality of the soul got merged into a kind of identification with God, where we are "modes" of God anyway. Hegel (1820) brilliantly developed this pantheistic view into a tight logical system.
It was Immanuel Kant (1790), once again, with his investigation into human knowing, who seemed to have conclusively proved that the question of immortality could not be scientifically settled; it would forever be raised (like the question of spirituality, God, and freedom), and never be able to be answered. People disagreed with Kant, but they seem to have bought his idea that these questions could not be settled by evidence.
Then, somewhere in the last century, particularly with Karl Marx (1850) and Charles Darwin (1880), survival after death began to be increasingly called into question. We seemed more and more to be just biological; and the biological seemed more and more to be a complicated system of physics and chemistry, to be interpreted in accordance with "natural laws" (i.e. the laws of energy).
Nowadays, the whole question has been relegated to "religion," which supposedly is nothing but emotionally-based wishful thinking. Arguments that in fact we survive death are dismissed without examination, more or less the way most people dismiss as nonsense the "influence of the stars," though they let people who want to believe in this sort of thing alone. It is a dogma nowadays that there is and can be no evidence in support of immortality.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER 10
Understanding knows the relationship between associated sensations. But the way the sensations are connected in the brain cannot be the basis of the relation understood, or we could not understand several concepts from the same set of images, and specific negative concepts (such as "different in color") would be impossible. Therefore, only the conscious "component" of the sensations is used by understanding.
This means that everything about the act of understanding is spiritual; or that it is a purely spiritual act, without (like an immaterial act) an energy-"component." What corresponds to the energy-"component" is the conscious (spiritual) "components" of the sensations; but they are merely limits within which understanding determines itself, "picking out" the particular relationship to understand at any given time. Understanding, therefore, is the human spirit as determining only itself; choosing is the human spirit as determining both itself and the whole body.
Indirectly, understanding has a faculty, because understanding won't occur without (the conscious "component" of) sensations, and sensations have an energy-"component," and so won't occur without energy in the proper nerves in the brain. Thus, indirectly, the brain acts as a kind of "faculty" for understanding, by which it can be turned on and off.
If understanding is a purely spiritual act, then the human soul must be spiritual, not immaterial; because an immaterial act (needing an energy-"component") cannot produce a purely spiritual act. But the human soul also is the energy organizing the body (the unifying energy), and so does have an energy-"component." The solution to this dilemma is that the human soul naturally "reduplicates" itself as a form of energy (with a quantity), but need not do so in order to exist (act), as immaterial acts must. Thus, the human being is an embodied spirit.
Since the human spirit can exist without an energy-"component," then (1) it does not have to stop existing when the human body dies. (2) Since it is the nature of life to go on existing if possible, then the human soul must in fact continue existing after death, or it contradicts itself as (a form of) life. (3) Unless life continued after death, human self-determination would contradict itself, because setting up goals creates instabilities (internal contradictions) which are only resolved by achieving the goals; and death occurs before achieving many goals, and always before achieving the "goal" of security when one has been successful. (4) Unless life continues after death, then since we can be frustrated in this life by circumstances beyond our control, it becomes advantageous to deliberately violate our nature in order to achieve a goal more important than the frustration implied in the violation. Thus it becomes reasonable to do what is unreasonable.
Therefore, life must go on after death. But this afterlife cannot be another embodied life (a reincarnated one), because there is no way one can make sense out of the "same" soul's "inhabiting" a "new" body.
The afterlife, then, must be just the spiritual life of continued consciousness. This must be unending and eternal, because a pure spirit cannot change. Since the brain now selects which sensation we are to have, then after the brain cannot function, consciousness must consist of absolutely every conscious act we have ever had, all rolled into one polymorphous act; the sensations will be included, since they as conscious are "components" of the act of understanding. This act will continue unchanged eternally. It will also include all non-self-contradictory goals we have set up in this life with consciousness of their fulfillment, and also all self-contradictory (immoral) goals with eternal intention to fulfill them and knowledge that they will never be fulfilled.
Examination of the condition the human being is in as an embodied spirit indicates that we exist in an unnatural condition. An embodied spirit ought not to be able to grow old or die, because then practically all of its life is spent as only part of itself; further, a body determined by a spirit as its unifier is essentially self-determining, and ought not to be able to be harmed against its will, and certainly ought not to have its senses (emotions) fight against what understanding knows is factually good. But this is how we are. Probably, a rebellion by the first human being when he was choosing the human genetic structure was "punished" by having the energy-aspect of the human rebel against the spirit which organizes it. Thus, there seems to have been something like "original sin."
Exercises and questions for discussion
1. If there is no faculty of understanding as such (since understanding is a spiritual act), then why is it that when a person's brain is injured, he can no longer understand facts which involve the injured area of his brain?
2. If it is essential to the human soul to be the energy organizing a body, then how can the soul exist without doing this? And doesn't this prove that the soul can't be immortal?
3. You can't prove that the soul continues after death, because to do so you would have to die and then observe what happens. So your guess as to whether the soul goes on living after death is as good as mine.
4. Many people feel more comfortable believing in reincarnation than in believing that we have only this one life to determine ourselves. Doesn't that mean that reincarnation is a fact for them, and that we have no business saying that they are wrong?
5. God loves me too much to have me be eternally frustrated; because if he loves me, then my suffering will make him suffer too, and so even for his own sake, he will free me sooner or later.