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Theory Of Souls

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Posted by Harvey on June 6, 2003 16:41:51 UTC

How is an afterlife possible given that so many of our mental abilities (e.g., memory, emotions, alertness, etc) are found to be sourced in the neuron activity of the human brain? It would seem that after the brain stops functioning that whatever memories, emotions, collectiver personality, consciousness, etc would also perish with the brain of the deceased.

Philosophically, there is another problem for an afterlife in terms of identity. What does it mean to be 'you' or 'me' when throughout our lives we are many people. There is a 'baby' us, a young 'child' us, an 'adolescent' us, etc. Also, we have many moods and temperments, some of which are chemically induced and neurotransmitter induced at each point of our lives. What constitutes 'us' at those moments? For example, if you are a runner, your brain might release more endomorphines in your brain that affects your moods, temperments, and hence your personality. Has the effects of running become 'you'? What about 'you' before you became a runner, or 'you' after you stopped running? What about our physique? Does it not also affect who we are and how others perceive us? Our physique changes drastically throughout our lives. If we are extremely overweight, is that 'us'? If we lose that weight, what happens to 'us' are we a 'new person'?

Yet another issue is the nature of the afterlife itself. Is it just picking up where we left off here in this life? Do we live another 100 years, 500 years, 10,000 years, 1 million years, or does it just go on and on without any end? What prevents us from getting bored with life after say 100 billion years? Do we change throughout our existence? What happens if we meet new people, do we expand our number of friends and family? In short, it seems to be problematical if there is not something drastically different about an afterlife than this life. Otherwise it might not be such a pleasant thought after all, in fact it might be a little too much like the movie 'Highlander' (where the main character could not die since the Middle Ages).

So, any 'theory of souls' or 'theory of an afterlife' would need to account not only for the biological issues of how such information lives on past our biological existence, it would also have to account for any identity issues that are more complex than what we might imagine. The sense of 'us' is based on a temporal timeline, and our attitude of ourselves change throughout that timeline. And, finally, any theory would need to frame an afterlife in a new setting that we would find pleasurable, but not one in which we would find a need to start a business or wrote a novel so that we could explore our human need of self-actualization. Any needs for self-actualization would only cheapen the whole effect of an afterlife, and giving it that 'Highlander' after effect.

Finally, there's the whole question of why humans have believed in an afterlife in the first place. As we know, this belief is widespread even today, even in Western secular countries, and it has been so in human culture since recorded history. Which raises the serious question about Neanderthals and what is apparently their interest in an afterlife by placing objects of value in a grave. Maybe the evidence is not conclusive here, but from what we can tell Neanderthals believed in an afterlife, and that all makes the issue more confusing since it raises the legitimate question: which species gets an afterlife and which species don't? Do crocodiles get an afterlife? How about the mosquito that I swatted last night? Does belief in an afterlife play any role? Do atheists not get an afterlife because they didn't believe in one? What constitutes the threshhold for those who get one and those who don't? Is ones religious beliefs a factor? Does God care if you are Catholic or Protestant? Irish or British? Muslim or Hindu? Or, is reincarnation the correct 'theory' and that what constitutes getting an afterlife is simply being alive and being a 'good' mosquito or 'bad' mosquito determining if you move 'up' the ladder to become a bird or 'down' the ladder to become a creepy crawly insect?

Ultimately, what becomes evident in looking at human belief about an afterlife is that human beliefs are there to fill a certain need and at least some attempts have been made to answer questions such as these. The attempts of offering an answer sometimes lead to different interpretations (i.e., multiple interpretations) in even one religion (e.g., Christianity). There just is no single consistent view that everyone in a particular concept of an afterlife holds. For example, some Christians hold to a purgatory, some don't, some see Dante's elaborate afterlife scheme, others see something much more simplistic.

Therefore, we cannot look to any one religion to necessarily guide us into finding a 'correct' afterlife concept, but rather we must select from hundreds of religious possibilities, and then we have to decide if these are even philosophically sound or scientifically sensible. Reincarnation, for example, has problems for humans since there are more humans today than in the past. Does this mean new human souls are created each generation, or do chimpanzee souls get a crack at being human? For reasons such as these, it would seem the best means to approach an afterlife is to do so metaphysically (i.e., in a philosophical sense), and ignore religion for a few minutes. Also, even addressing this subject must be done so on the assumption that the main reason that humans believe in an afterlife is because it provides significant meaning to life and that it makes the passing of a loved one much more of an acceptable event if we have such a conviction. Thus, any 'theory' of an afterlife must be true to those convictions and the meaning it provides. For example, any afterlife such as what Frank Tipler introduced in "Immortality of Physics" is not true to the meaning that an afterlife provides. A future computer randomly simulating lives and possible lives and just hitting on the simulation that somehow 'identifies' our lives, is a little silly to suggest that somehow this is comforting to us. Who cares what simulations are run, it isn't us. We won't be there to enjoy the effects of the simulation. I think this response speaks for itself.

In science fiction, I ran across one interesting afterlife scenario. It was in the movie "A.I.". The movie showed an artificially intelligent species in the future who had succeeded an extinct human race discovered the ability to 'resurrect' humans if they could find any trace of the human. The problem was, in this movie, if they resurrected the human, the resurrection was only feasible for one earthly day and then there existence would vanish. The premise behind the resurrection is that spacetime is an addressable medium that technology was able to access and somehow instantiate the lifeform located at that spacetime address.

This concept actually has some merit. One interpretation of General Relativity Theory (GRT) is that spacetime 'exists' and that just like you can travel to a specific point in space if you travel a sufficient distance, you can in principle travel to a point in time as well (hence the name 'spacetime'). If this view of time is correct, then objects continue to exist after the present and before the present, and any lifeform that is out there can conceivably be resurrected by accessing those 'data points' and doing something that we know not what. The only problem with this scenario is that if one 'pulled' us out of the spacetime location that we were in to some afterlife realm, it would be no different if someone grabbed an object after moving a certain distance, and taking it with them. All those around them would see the event and know that the individual just disappeared into thin air. Therefore, any resurrection wouldn't be a 'move' but a 'copy'. Copying someone's spacetime software code, for example, could do the trick. None of us would know that a person's spacetime address was accessed and the 'person' resurrected somewhere else.

Another approach, also scientific, is to think in terms of quantum cosmology. In this theory, quantum rules apply not just to quantum mechanical systems (very, very small), but to large size objects. Every object in the universe including the universe all have quantum wavefunctions that identify the object and each of those objects evolves as the wavefunction that describes that object evolves. Extending quantum cosmology to a metaphysical level, we could conceive of a 'person' as dying in say 1524 of the Black Death, but their wavefunction also points to them existing in another place and time far away from our present period. This is more understandable from a quantum perspective since quantum objects can undergo quantum tunneling where their location can 'jump' from location to another. Taken as a quantum cosmological basis, macro objects not only 'jump' from one location to another, but from time to another. In fact, this is the basis of the science fiction series "Quantum Leap".

More philosophically tinted afterlife theories don't so much look to a theory of science, but look to the concept of reality and what it means to exist. One concept that I favor is that approximate realities 'exist'. For example, a chair is an approximation of millions and millions of quarks arranged in a certain structure at a particular place in space, and this conglomerate of particles form our concept of a chair. The chair is an approximation of something else (in this case, quarks), but the approximation actually 'exists' in a certain context, therefore a chair 'exists' just like anything else 'exists'. Quarks themselves are just approximations of something more primitive (e.g., strings), which are approximations of something even more primitive and so on. Eventually, the thing that 'exists' is no longer an approximation of anything physical, but is an approximation of something logical (or is a truth). Those truths approximate more fundamental truths until you get to one holistic truth (God), and this is the source of all reality.

In this view, then, 'we' are not just one slice of ourselves here and now, but we are rather an approximation of 'something' that exists 'out there' (sorry for all the quotes but the quotes help to understand that each concept is not to be taken too literally). The most basic approximation of 'us' is some holistic definition of who we are (i.e., our real identity), and acts as a definition of who we are. One location of 'us' is right here, right now reading this. Another location of 'us' is what we did before this, and what we will do after this. Another location is where we will be beyond this life, whereever 'where' is.

Although the scientific explanations are always more tangible, I think when we talk about an afterlife we have to say that if such a concept is real, then we cannot limit ourselves to the purely scientific. We should look for fundamental descriptions of reality, and my view is that the last theory provides that kind of description.

With the last theory I can now answer many of the earlier questions:


How is an afterlife possible given that so many of our mental abilities (e.g., memory, emotions, alertness, etc) are found to be sourced in the neuron activity of the human brain?

The life that we experience with the neurons, memories, experiences, are overall just an approximation of an 'holistic image' that defines who we are. This 'holistic image' is actually the reason we are who we are, and it defines us at each point in our lives and what is biologically going on.

It would seem that after the brain stops functioning that whatever memories, emotions, collectiver personality, consciousness, etc would also perish with the brain of the deceased.

The physical reflection of 'us' has ceased to exist. However, the eternal image still exists and there exists a holistic relationship between our physical lives ('the proof') and our eternal lives ('the theorem'). Neither can exist without the other.

Philosophically, there is another problem for an afterlife in terms of identity. What does it mean to be 'you' or 'me' when throughout our lives we are many people.

The identities we possess at each point in our lives are just approximations of a holistic phenomena called 'us'. Hence, our lives only appear segmented just like a slice of a pie, but if you stand a distance away, you can see the whole pie.

There is a 'baby' us, a young 'child' us, an 'adolescent' us, etc. Also, we have many moods and temperments, some of which are chemically induced and neurotransmitter induced at each point of our lives. What constitutes 'us' at those moments? For example, if you are a runner, your brain might release more endomorphines in your brain that affects your moods, temperments, and hence your personality. Has the effects of running become 'you'? What about 'you' before you became a runner, or 'you' after you stopped running? What about our physique? Does it not also affect who we are and how others perceive us? Our physique changes drastically throughout our lives. If we are extremely overweight, is that 'us'? If we lose that weight, what happens to 'us' are we a 'new person'?

The specific chemistry or state is also an approximation to what is reflecting from this holistic image of us. That doesn't mean that a specific chemistry (e.g., endomorphines) are required, but these are just close approximations to emulate what exists 'out there'.

Yet another issue is the nature of the afterlife itself. Is it just picking up where we left off here in this life? Do we live another 100 years, 500 years, 10,000 years, 1 million years, or does it just go on and on without any end? What prevents us from getting bored with life after say 100 billion years? Do we change throughout our existence? What happens if we meet new people, do we expand our number of friends and family?

No, the approximations of 'us' is the details of our lives. Those details contain all the little aspects that define the 'holistic image' (or soul). Our state of the 'holistic image' is just one eternal experience that has no real counterpart in our earthly experience. The closest approximation are all the days that make up our existence.

So, any 'theory of souls' or 'theory of an afterlife' would need to account not only for the biological issues of how such information lives on past our biological existence, it would also have to account for any identity issues that are more complex than what we might imagine. The sense of 'us' is based on a temporal timeline, and our attitude of ourselves change throughout that timeline. And, finally, any theory would need to frame an afterlife in a new setting that we would find pleasurable, but not one in which we would find a need to start a business or wrote a novel so that we could explore our human need of self-actualization.

If you were the kind of person who was defined by being self-actualized, and being happy, and finding the meaning and wonder in life, then this is the best approximation of your eternal holistic existence that's 'out there'.

Any needs for self-actualization would only cheapen the whole effect of an afterlife, and giving it that 'Highlander' after effect.

You are not Highlander. You just 'are'.

Maybe the evidence is not conclusive here, but from what we can tell Neanderthals believed in an afterlife, and that all makes the issue more confusing since it raises the legitimate question: which species gets an afterlife and which species don't? Do crocodiles get an afterlife? How about the mosquito that I swatted last night?

The concept behind an 'eternal image' is that this image is 'real'. That is, reality has conferred on it the status of being a truthful reality. This doesn't preclude anything from having such an image per se, but one idea is that the reason these 'eternal images' of humans exist is that they are a more fundamental approximation of God, and therefore not everything that exists on earth (or did exist on earth) has to have such an eternal image. Rather, these things on earth are a physical approximation of the 'eternal world' that exists (let's call it New Earth for fun), and therefore the New Earth is the holistic image and earth and its history is the approximation of it. Similarly, the universe (or heavens) are an approximation of a New Heavens, and not all the details of the universe exist per se in the New Heavens, but these details are definitely an approximation of it.

In the case of insects, mammals, even certain hominids, it is undecidable whether these things have 'eternal images' by and of themselves, or if they are merely an approximation of the New Earth. The same for all the objects and life that exists in the universe (or has existed), it is undecidable at this point if any of these objects or life have 'eternal images' or are just approximations of the New Heaven. Perhaps every object that has existed is a unique approximation of a eternal object (or heavenly object), or perhaps the existence of an eternal object is a closer approximation of God, and few objects actually exist with this eternal image status.

Does belief in an afterlife play any role? Do atheists not get an afterlife because they didn't believe in one? What constitutes the threshhold for those who get one and those who don't? Is ones religious beliefs a factor? Does God care if you are Catholic or Protestant? Irish or British? Muslim or Hindu?

All of these questions are not decidable since we have no idea what eternal images are rejected from existing because they do not serve as a good enough approximation to God. Nor can we know what criteria is used to make that determination. The only thing might be said is that truth might be the basis of existing for anything, in which case one would be better off exhibiting characteristics of truth. Religious-like living might not be a bad idea.

Of course, with a little imagination, one could extract any religious belief they want to from this theory of souls, but that's neither here nor there. The point is that this is a theory and not meant to substantiate any particular religion. It is constructed from a more Christian perspective, but I can't imagine that it couldn't be re-constructed in a Hindu or Buddhist (etc) perspective. Not all profitable, but the theory is only to highlight how an afterlife is possible given the seriousness of the questions that question the existence of such a thing.

Or, is reincarnation the correct 'theory' and that what constitutes getting an afterlife is simply being alive and being a 'good' mosquito or 'bad' mosquito determining if you move 'up' the ladder to become a bird or 'down' the ladder to become a creepy crawly insect?

I see no reason why reincarnation cannot be constructed in some fashion in light of this theory. It would simply mean that more than one lifeform can approximate one eternal image, and that's not too difficult to imagine.

Harv

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