Now then, I mentioned just before discussing racial and sexual differences that there is no reason why God would erase an immoral choice once made, and so save us from eternal frustration; and the reasoning I gave seemed to indicate that it would contradict God as Creator of a free person to do so.
There is, however, as I said, a hint that it might not be inconsistent for God to do something like this (though there is still no evidence philosophically available that would say that he does do it, which is why the discussion of Redemption was put into a footnote). We are not, when we make an immoral choice, in the completely informed condition which a person taking eternal consequences should really be expected to be in. It is only if you made a fully informed choice that you would have no reason afterwards to change your mind; because in that case you would have foreseen all the circumstances that would make your choice different, and rejected them. If the choice were perfectly informed, it would be obvious then that repentance was an act of pure capriciousness, and an abuse of the freedom.
But to see what this entails and why Redemption would not contradict our nature (and so God's in removing choices we repent having made) we have to bring in the evidence that indicates that the human being is not what we would expect him to be as an embodied spirit.
What you would predict of the life of an immortal spirit whose nature it is to organize a body is this:
First of all, such a being would never die. It makes no sense for a being whose nature it is to organize a body to live for practical purposes its whole life in an unnatural condition, unable to perform many of the acts it can by nature perform, because they require a body. And, as the struggle against death shows, death is clearly not a "welcome release" for the spirit, as if the bodily life were the unnatural one, and the truncated eternal life were unnatural; death means giving up, not gaining, as far as human nature is concerned.
Granted, in life as we now experience it, the after-death experience of total consciousness is not possible, because consciousness depends on the brain, which cannot have all its nerves active at once, since it doesn't have that much energy. Further, it seems that our bodies, by their very nature, must die and decay; and so eternal bodily life seems impossible.
But it isn't really. All quantified activity is is limited activity; it does not imply change in its essence. True, a being can change only if it is limited; but the converse is not necessarily true; it does not follow that if a being is limited, it must be changeable. If, in fact, a being involving energy is insulated from being able to absorb energy from outside, then once it reaches equilibrium, it will not ever change, even though it is still limited.
Further, if we look at what life does to a body, we notice that it makes it act in a direction counter to that body's natural tendency as a body. Even in the lowest forms of life, the unifying energy raises the body above its ground-state equilibrium and keeps it there, in spite of the body's tendency as a body to "run down." And the ability to move about and observe danger and nourishment give the sensitive body that much more ability to counter its tendency as a body toward ground-state equilibrium.
The unifying energy, then, has greater and greater control over the bodiliness of the body as one goes higher on the scale of life, and greater and greater protection against attack from unwanted energy which would tend to destroy it. It is certainly thinkable, therefore, that when the unifying energy had reached the level of actually being a spirit, it would have the ability after a time completely to isolate itself and its energy, neither losing nor gaining any from this time onward, and simply being a body in eternal equilibrium.
The second thing one could expect of an embodied spirit, whose choices determine the whole being is that it would never be out of control of itself. This has two aspects, internal and external.
The internal aspect of self-control also has two aspects. In the first place, you would predict that the emotions would never have any power to do more than what they normally do even now: provide information about what the relation is between the objects sensed and the body's condition--which understanding would then take into account and use as facts to influence the choice in the light of the goals set for the whole person, not just the aspect the emotion is reporting. And once the emotion provided its information, it could be shut off, if the action chosen were not what it was leading to, so there wouldn't be a conflict within the person.
After all, the conflict between where the emotions tend and where the choice tends is a conflict within consciousness itself; and it makes no sense that consciousness, which is one single act, would be divided against itself. If the spirit is identical with its energy-"dimension," and is by nature its controller, it makes no sense for the spirit to be controlled by what it controls. And if the spirit is infinitely beyond any amount of energy, how could what we said in the preceding section happen, when we remarked that in fact sometimes there is so much energy in a drive that the spirit is not able to get it out of that automatic response to the stimulus, and we do not do what we choose to do? And that spirit does by nature control energy is obvious from the fact that it is only rarely that drives or habits make a person unable to carry out his choices.
So if a human being were in the condition demanded by his nature as an embodied spirit, he would always have control over his emotions and his behavior; and this would be "easy"; there would be no conflict, no struggle. The body would not be the complete slave of the spirit; it would be the same being as the spirit, and its "instrument," as Aristotle would say. Can the hammer refuse the carpenter or fight against him?
Secondly, the emotions could never block information from the person making the choice, so that his choice was not based on all the information available to him. Clearly, if the choice is to govern the body, which is to be an eternal body, then the person who is to make eternally irrevocable decisions about himself would be expected to have all relevant information available to him when he makes the choice; otherwise, he could unwittingly damage himself forever and ever.
This would presumably mean not only that the emotions would not block out information or create illusions, but that the person would be able to find out all the relevant facts about his choice, even those he had not previously learned. Emotions, after all, only deal with information that has been stored in the brain; they do not affect information we have never yet encountered. But this information can be just as vital as information we already learned but might forget at the crucial moment. Hence, if human choice is not to be self-determination involving the gratuitous cruelty of bringing disaster upon oneself because of invincible ignorance, then access to all relevant information must be given to the being.
This does not, of course, imply that the information has to be known by the person as he makes his choice; it just has to be readily available, so that if he doesn't have it, he has chosen to remain ignorant of it, and to take the temporal and eternal consequences of his ignorance. To force knowledge on a person who refuses it would be a violation of his freedom. But there shouldn't be any great struggle in acquiring the knowledge, if the person is to be really in control of his destiny, for the same reason that there shouldn't be any struggle with the emotions over carrying out the choice once made.
As to the external implications of self-determination and control, the human being would not be able to be harmed against his will, if he were in the condition you would predict from his being an embodied spirit. This actually is a kind of corollary of the previous points. A spirit should have such control over its energy-"dimension" that it could defend itself against any unwanted energy, even while it was changing, and would only absorb that energy if it led to goals that the being chose for itself.
We do this to a certain extent even now, just as we control our emotions to a certain extent. We obviously move away from danger and struggle against attacks. And, for instance, we have melanin in our skin, which protects our bodies (by tanning them) from ultraviolet light as the exposure to it becomes stronger and more prolonged. We grow callouses on our hands, hardening them against constant wear which would normally tear them apart; and so on. There is obviously a tendency of the body to adapt itself to energy that it is constantly exposed to, and to neutralize its harmful effects. All this prediction says it that the protection is not as great as you would expect from a body that was going to exist as a body eternally, and whose eternal existence depended on choice rather than the action-reaction sort of thing you find in inanimate bodies.
This is not to say that the body could not be harmed at all. If a person did not care whether or not harm would come to him from a certain act, and wanted the act anyway, then (even if it was harmless in itself and only harmful in its effects), he would have accepted the possible harmful effects, and presumably then they would happen. Again, this is something that happens now. We don't see anything wrong in a person's being harmed if he "brought it on himself," knowingly doing what was risky.
It is because we realize that human beings "really are" in this happy condition of not being able to be harmed unless they at least implicitly will it that it is hard for us to sympathize with the agonies of an alcoholic or drug addict. "Well," we say, "He knew that this is what happens if you take this stuff. What can he expect?"
But of course as we now exist, first of all, how much he knew when he stepped on that slippery slope is open to question, as is how much information that he would otherwise have known was being blocked out by his emotions at the time. Secondly, we can all be harmed against our wills by doing something perfectly innocent, that we have no reason to believe will be harmful; and so it is not true that "where there's smoke there's fire." If something bad happens to us as we now exist, it is not true that we somehow or other brought it upon ourselves.
But if we are to be eternal bodies who determine for ourselves what our eternal existence is to be, then obviously, being crippled or otherwise harmed against our wills contradicts our nature.
A corollary of this is that we would never grow old, and gradually lose our powers. We could develop and improve our skills; but once we reached the level of expertise we chose, then we would never lose this; and so eventually, we would be at the peak of our form in every aspect of our lives that we chose to develop.
Once there, presumably, since any change would be for the worse, we would then make the final choice and close off our energy, and stop changing and release our consciousness from dependency on which nerves are active in the brain, so that we would be our complete embodied selves forever and ever and ever.
Hence, the life you would expect of a "true" human being would look like this:
In the early part of life, he would live much as we now live, learning about what it is to be human from observing others around him, and discovering his own talents. The only real difference would be that he would not be able to be harmed against his will, and would never have to struggle to overcome temptations. The child would have to learn that he could be harmed, but only if he were willing to be harmed, and would have to be warned against those who would persuade him to do what is harmful. But this knowledge would be efficacious, so that he could not be duped into being harmed by a clever adult; even then, he would have to will it, at least by implication.
In the transitional, adolescent, phase of his life, he would make choices about the basic self he wanted to be (always modifiable by addition as long as he remained as changing), and would take the steps leading himself to his goal, knowing more or less how long it would take. The goals would be guaranteed, but it might take thousands of years to fulfill them, depending on the laws of nature.
There would, of course, be no struggle against injustice and inhumane treatment, because no human being would be able to harm another unless the other (with full knowledge) foresaw and accepted the possible harm.
When, finally, the person had fully developed himself, he would stop changing; and though his effect on the world would not necessarily cease if he wanted it to continue, the world could not any longer affect him. The reason for the first clause is that the cause is not affected by its being a cause; and even though a person might want (like Socrates, for instance) to have an effect on future generations, this would not add to his own development, and so there would be no reason for his staying in the changing world to accomplish this goal. Presumably in this state of absolute equilibrium, he would know all the persons he chose to be interested in, and be aware of their fulfillment also. This loving knowledge is not an incursion of their energy upon him, but is a "dimension" of his consciousness.
Well, there we are. That is what our life ought to look like. And be honest, reader; isn't that the kind of life you dream of, and only think isn't "realistic"? To be in total control of yourself and your world, so that the only way you can be thwarted or frustrated is by deliberately choosing to be so, with full knowledge of what you are doing to yourself--what more could you ask? And never to have to die, never to have to grow old and die by inches, never have to contend with handicaps, never to deteriorate from the pinnacle of your powers, never to have to worry about others taking advantage of you as they pursued their own happiness; what is there that you could desire that you wouldn't have?
"But there's no challenge to it," you might say. Oh, yes there would be. If the goal were very lofty it might be very difficult to achieve; but you would know that it would take a long time, but that you would in fact be able to achieve it--and you would in fact achieve it. Those who didn't want to face the challenge of working centuries for the goal could set their goals lower; but the point is that challenges would be there. All that would be missing is the possibility that you would not be able to win through in the end.
And even that would be there, of course, if you chose an impossible goal. Immorality would still be an option; and, of course, in this type of life it would be the only option which would lead to the frustration of eternal striving without fulfillment. And there would be those who would choose it, just as there are devils among the angels. Lessing is supposed to have said, "If I were offered all knowledge on the one hand and the eternal quest for knowledge without ever finding it on the other, I would take the second."
But why do we dream like this? This is not our life; it's what our life should be, perhaps, but it's not what our life is.
Conclusion 10: Human beings are not in their natural condition.
But then what happened? Why are we in this state where we have control over our emotions but they control us at times; where we base our choices on information, and even the information we have is not available to us; where accidents no one is responsible for (least of all ourselves) ruin our whole lives; where even if we succeed, we grow old and lose our powers and gradually have to watch ourselves rot before our very eyes; and finally, where our very being tears itself in two, and we live on as memory and only conscious fulfillment, while the thing that used to be our whole self crumbles to dust?
Given that contradictions don't happen, there has to be a cause for this effect.
In this connection, it is interesting to note that I don't know of any philosopher who has not held that in some respect we are not in a "natural" condition as we live now. Of course, there is a vast difference in the philosophers' ideas of what is wrong with out lives at the moment, and what the explanation is of this discrepancy between where we are and where their theories predict we should be. Some think that there was a "golden age" that we have fallen from, like the idyllic "noble savage" of Rousseau, making civilization the culprit. Some think that the ideal condition is just something that mankind as a whole hasn't developed to yet, like the "classless society" of Marx. Some think that it is just our perversity that got us here, and if we would all return to reason, everything would be fine. And so on. But all recognize that things are not as reason would expect them to be.
It seems to me, based on my analysis above, that circumstances in the world can't account for the radical discrepancies in the very makeup of the human being that exist. No new institution is going to keep us from dying or growing old, or having our emotions get out of control, even if it were to prevent any human being from taking unjust advantage over another.
My explanation is actually very close to the "Adam" legend of the Bible, and "original sin." Since human beings are essentially different from animals, and have an essentially higher degree of control of themselves because they are embodied spirits, then it is probable that the first body that had a soul like this (i.e. the first body which in the course of evolution could support one) was in fact as I have described the human being: capable of sinning, but in perfect control of himself ("And [he was] naked, to wit, and not ashamed.") and with all relevant information available to him as to the consequences of his choices; one who would never die, never grow old, and so on.
My hypothesis is that this new life form was uniquely given the choice of determining the human genetic structure, within the limits that it had to be a body, that it had to be capable of supporting a spiritual soul (and so probably mammalian), and so on. All future generations of human beings would inherit the body, with its genetic limits, that this first human chose from within these parameters; and once he chose the body, it would be fixed, not only for himself but all his descendants.
In other words, the first parent had the privilege of choosing what the species would be like: its basic physical characteristics, much as each of us can choose what we will be like within the basic characteristics the first parent chose for all of us. Personally, as far as human appearance and so on is concerned, I think he did a very good job of designing the human body. I also think that this choice of the species was given to one person only, and the "blame the woman" part of the Bible's legend is part of the (fallen) human author's interpretation of the basic truth he understood (either by direct revelation or by a reflection analogous to mine). Incidentally, the first human bodies were undoubtedly Black, if the human race originated in Africa, as the fossil evidence seems to indicate.
In any case, having such control over himself, he deliberately chose to have total control over himself, and refused to accept the restrictions on his choice that he had been given.
And the Master of this embodied spirit then punished him for his sin by saying, "You have chosen not to accept the limits I have imposed on you. You will now learn what this refusal means; your own matter will refuse to accept the directions you enjoin on it, and will behave as if it were an animal; and you will be in constant conflict with yourself; and you will find yourself the prey of forces of nature, over which you will no longer have control. And ultimately your body will totally reject you, and you will die, remaining only part of yourself forever and ever. And you will pass on this rebellion to your descendants."(1)
And thus it was that we are in the unnatural condition we are now in. Our nature has not been ruined, because we still have basic control over ourself; but it is seriously wounded, and its wounds give us a propensity in our blindness to bring harm on ourselves by seeking what is only abstractly beneficial.
But here is the hint at redemption I mentioned. Given that we now are in this state because of the consequences of the initial rebellion of our first parent, our sins can no longer be like his, with full knowledge of all the facts relevant to our choice and full control. We are torn by legitimate fears of at least temporal disaster, and we do not have the eternal life after death clearly before our eyes; so that we make choices not knowing fully all the consequences of our choice (even I have my doubts about the afterlife, particularly in the midst of temptation), and dragged hither and yon by the winds of the emotions within us.
Hence, unlike the first parent, our whole personality is not wrapped up in any immoral or sinful choice we make; and therefore it is possible for us to awaken to all the facts after it has been done and to regret and repent it without doing violence to the nature we actually have in this fallen condition.
This means that it would not be inconsistent for God to rescue us from the damage that we have only half-wittingly done to ourselves, and not to hold us eternally accountable for an eternity which we only vaguely chose--if, having repented, we choose to get ourselves out of this sorry condition.
Supposing him to do this, it would also not be inconsistent for him to re-embody us some time after our death, with a body like the one we would have had if we were in the natural condition I spoke of; so that we could live eternally as our nature obviously meant us to live. Since the fallenness of our nature is not the fault of each of us, and we are only responsible, really, for the effects of our own choices, then it would make sense that the eternal consequences of the fallenness as such not be irrevocable for those who did not will them, at least implicitly.(2)
Of course, we have no philosophical evidence that God has actually done this; all I am saying here is that it would not be a contradiction if God were to do it.Next
1. I happen also to think (for various reasons) that the whole world under this human's control was "retroactively infected" with his immoral choice because of the eternity of God, who made it subject to human control. And therefore, destruction, pain, and so on entered our world--though before humans evolved--based on the choice the first human made. I also believe that Jesus's mission was to restore the world and us (as I will expand on in the next footnote) to where we would have been if the "original sin" had not been made--if we accepted him as King. That is, the lion would literally have lain down with the lamb, and so on.
2. And this is the Redemption, of course, with its offering of a bodily resurrection and an eternal life as an unchanging body.
Actually, if you read John's Report of the Good News carefully, what Jesus seems constantly to be offering people is that we will not die if we accept him. He says to Martha, "One who believes in me [referring to Lazarus, whom he is going to bring back to life] will be alive even if he is dead, and anyone who is alive and believes in me will not die ever. Do you believe this?" There are other passages like this also, which don't seem to indicate a resurrection after death, but not dying in the first place.
And so the way I read Scripture, it looks to me as if what would have happened if Jesus had been officially accepted as Prince by his people is that the logical condition of human life, lost by Adam's sin, would have been restored, and we would be more or less as I described above. The fact that he was officially rejected and killed meant that he used his death as a means by which individuals could regain bodily life after dying and be saved from their sins; but they would have to go through death just as he had to.
So don't blame Adam. Jesus, I think, would have completely undone the damage Adam had inflicted on us if the people of his time had accepted him. But "he came into his own lands, and his own people would not accept him." But don't blame them either. Would you have believed some preacher who told you that you were never going to die? If you have ever sinned, you have no reason to say that you would have done any better than the Jews in authority in his day.
I think it significant that Christianity, which has always thought of itself as the truth about God's restoring to us what we have lost by our messing up of our lives, fits so well with what in fact we have lost, and what would be needed to restore it. You may say that this is because I as a Christian have built my view in such a way that Christianity is what restores it--and there may be truth in that. But I don't think so, especially since it was only in recent years that I have realized that the philosophical evidence indicates that there was some kind of a fall; up to that time, I believed it as a Christian, and thought of the Adam legend as simply a parable to illustrate the fact that we are fallen, and in nowhere near as literal a sense as I now think of it. Many Theologians, in fact, scoff at people who interpret the Adam story as anything more than an imaginative way of referring to the perverse tendencies each of us has. But then, many Theologians hold all kinds of weird views nowadays, some of which directly contradict any sane interpretation of Scripture.