I have always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library.
Jorge Luis Borges

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Saint John, Letter to Galatians 4:16

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We establish no religion in this country, nor will we ever. We command no worship. We mandate no belief. But we poison our society when we remove its theological underpinnings. We court corruption when we leave it bereft of belief. All are free to believe or not believe; all are free to practice a faith or not. But those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief.
Ronald Reagan (Temple Hillel Speech, 1984)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chapter 19: Anatomy of the Soul, Afterlife, and Reincarnation

Phenomenology of World Religions ©
Chapter 19
Anatomy of the Soul and Reincarnation
Death of Socrates, Giambettino Cignaroli
Death has several descriptions in both physical and spiritual concepts. I guess the most simplest description is at Plato, Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Death is life’s ending … However, life’s ending is one thing, and the condition of having life over is another. ‘Death’ can refer to either.
To me …
Death is a dream from which one cannot wake, the soul released from physical entrapment. It is a dream of chaos and all that which makes us fearful or which is pleasant. In that lies the true description and comparison of life after death and the difference between the concept of Heaven (Paradise) and Hell (Hades). It is all in the mind of the beholder, like beauty; the Dream Walker controls the dream and therefore may control their fate. If the soul be the spark of the divine, then we should protect it throughout our material lives. 

In life, death is feared not just in the concept of ending life as we know it, but the unknowing of what lies beyond or that there may be nothingness. Since physical death is inevitable, many of us realize and deal with that. If death brings nothingness, there is nothing to lose. If death brings the consequences of actions in life, then that can be disconcerting. These are all concepts and thoughts that disregard religious doctrine and theological philosophy.
While the gist of this essay is about the soul and concept of reincarnation of that soul, death plays a part in it as well.
Since the beginning of history, history of humanity, death has been a contemplation of every society. In personification, death in English is given the name Grim Reaper since the 15th century during the horrible plagues that decimated one quarter of the medieval population. It is a skeletal figure carrying a large scythe and clothed in a black cloak with a hood that covers his skeletal head. There is also the Angel of Death that is derived from the Bible and Talmud lore.
In some folk tales, the Grim Reaper can actually cause the death of a victim. Most tales depict death in the male form, while the Slavic perceive death as a female character, as well as deities in Norse and Greek mythologies.
Death occurs and the body decays and the person’s physical form no longer exist.
In philosophy, religion, mythology – the afterlife is a concept of what life is after death, when the soul, a spark of hope and energy, becomes the vessel of what that person’s life will be in the spiritual realm. 

The soul, energy in all living animals, is the essential aspect of the individual that continues that person’s identity in another plane, which may be naturalistic or supernatural. In investigation, the wonder of it is that the afterlife has nothing to do with religion or personal belief – it just exists. Quantum physics has certainly aided in paranormal and afterlife investigations. Science has aided what religious believers relied upon as faith that there was a place of reward for good souls. That concept dates far back into recorded history, especially with the ancient Egyptians.
Many of us, believing in religious doctrine and theology, or not, certainly would like to think that our spiritual self can continue in another plane. Some cultures and religions believe that souls are destined to continue returning to earthly life until they reach a certain state of pureness – and then can live forever in the light and place of perceived paradise. Afterlife may be just that: enjoying that which makes you happy, or something you longed to do when alive.
The ancient Greeks knew there was immortality, but viewed life after death as something dismal. 
Before scientific analysis and paranormal research, the soul was thought to originate from the heart, an organ that responds to emotion; however since the brain is the center of energy and the living computer that operates using electrical/chemical stimulus through the nervous system, it has been determined that that is where the soul resides. From my personal experience of my heart stopping while mowing the lawn, instant unconsciousness resulted and darkness. My heart had stopped, but my brain was still active in an unconscious state, even dreaming did not occur because brain activities were reduced drastically. Therefore, based upon that experience and my analysis, since my brain activity did not decrease to total loss of energy output, my soul did not ascend. Some people who have been pronounced dead, in the sense their heart stopped, and were revived like myself, stated they had felt like they were standing in the dark and being drawn toward a welcoming light, some say like a tunnel. I did not experience such a vision, possible for reasons which I just described.
While the actual weight of soul, which scientifically proves that it is a bio or mass of energy is variable in scientific research, but generally believed to weigh 1/16th of an ounce. However, another researcher determined that the soul weighs 21 grams. In the weird world of metric versus SAE, which the Americans stubbornly cling to SAE instead of using the more accurate division by 10 system instead of division by 12 of the metric system; scientists and the world of medicine uses the metric, more accurate system. Which means that researchers (one American in 2003, German in 1990, and British in 2001, Russians in 2001, and Dutch in 2003 ) mentioned came up with the same result; however, some critics claim that the process of investigation was flawed. I find the critics must be like those who believe that humanity causes global weather fluctuations, instead of looking to the obvious cause - the Sun, which is a star that changes over time and erupts serious blasts into space and has shown a recent period of unusual disturbances on its surface. 
But I digress ...
The soul is mentioned in religious text, like in the Bible (KJV), Matthew 10:28:
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.
There is also a concept in the passage of a place where evil doers dwell.
In the Septuagint (LXX), Genesis 1:20, KJV Bible:
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth.
The concept being that the soul is life’s breath vital to living beings.
Aristotle defined the soul as being the psyche, but did not believe it had separate existence from the physical body. He wrote an entire work about the soul entitled De Anima (On the Soul), and concluded in the fifth chapter of the third book that the human intellect is immortal.
St. Thomas Aquinas read the works of Aristotle and Avicenna, and was a dedicated Christian who understood the soul to be the essence of the living body and distinguished life in three orders: plants, animal, and humans. The soul operated separately, not requiring a bodily organ, and thus could subsist without the body. Since the rational soul of human beings was a subsistent form and not something made up of matter and form, it could not be destroyed in any natural process. His full theory is found, based upon the Aristotelian theory in Question 75 of the Summa Theologica.
The question of the reality of the soul and its distinction from the body is among the most important problems of philosophy, for with it is bound up the doctrine of a future life. Various theories as to the nature of the soul have claimed to be reconcilable with the tenet of immortality, but it is a sure instinct that leads us to suspect every attack on the substantiality or spirituality of the soul as an assault on the belief in existence after death. The soul may be defined as the ultimate internal principle by which we think, feel, and will, and by which our bodies are animated. The term "mind" usually denotes this principle as the subject of our conscious states, while "soul" denotes the source of our vegetative activities as well. That our vital activities proceed from a principle capable of subsisting in itself, is the thesis of the substantiality of the soul: that this principle is not itself composite, extended, corporeal, or essentially and intrinsically dependent on the body, is the doctrine of spirituality. If there be a life after death, clearly the agent or subject of our vital activities must be capable of an existence separate from the body.
Therefore, the soul is the instrument which propels us beyond death into another realm or physical plane in spiritual form requiring no physical body to sustain it and its own sustainable energy.
In the Rig-Veda, and other liturgical books of India, there is frequent reference to manas (meaning the mind or soul). Many cultures believed that the soul resided within the brain, the place where intellect is found, and others believed it was like a capsule of energy within the breast like where the heart beats.
The Stoics taught that all existence is material, describing the soul as a particle of the divine, composed of ethereal matter.
Epicureanism accepted the Atomist theory of Leucippus and Democritus, in which the soul consists of finely grained atoms in the universe, fluent in thought and sensation. The Lucretian version of Epicureanism believed the seat of the soul is the heart, the center of emotional life.
In Jewish theology, the Sadducees were materialists that denied immortality and spiritual existence. The Pharisees added to those beliefs there was pre-existence and transmigration of the soul. Later, Platonism was integrated within those philosophies by Philo of Alexandria who taught the Divine origin of the soul was within that pre-existence. This revived Dualism in the concept of the origin of sin and evil to the union of spirit with matter.
This was all refined by the advent of Christianity, based on Christ’s teachings that the center of all interests are in the spiritual side of man and nature. Body and soul were recognized as dualism, as Matthew later wrote of Christ’s description of body and soul.
Saint Paul was more technical in his descriptions and phrases of the Psyche or soul that was the principle of the Holy Spirit, dwelling and operating from the heart.
The Fathers of the early Christian Church rejected Gnosticism because of their Stoic ideology, yet in later Christian texts and essays, like De Anima, the Tertullian theory was founded and continued the Stoic realism.
Eventually this was abandoned in favor of Creationism, where Origen taught the pre-existence of the soul and that terrestrial life was a punishment, yet a remedy against prenatal sin.
Immanuel Kant was a rational psychologist (1724-1804) who identified the soul as the “I” in the strictest sense.
Buddhism teaches that all things are in a constant state of flux: all is changing, and no permanent state exists by itself. [Sources of Indian Tradition, vol. 1, Theodore Barry, NY 1958, pp. 92-93]
However, various schools of Buddhism have differing ideas about what is beyond death.
In Islam, according to the Qur’an, the soul is spirit called Ruh and commanded by Allah (God).
Theosophy by Helena Blavatskythe soul is the field of our psychological activity as well as the so-called paranormal or psychic phenomena.
While the spirit is eternal and incorruptible, the soul is not. The soul acts as a link between the material body and the spiritual self, and shares some characteristics of both. The soul can be attracted either towards the spiritual or towards the material realm, thus a battlefield of good and evil.  It is only when the soul is attracted towards the spiritual and merges with the Self that it becomes eternal and divine.
The ancient concept of Ka & Ba, the soul is the energy of light that shines in the darkness of death and space continuum. Ka is the vital spark, Ba is the soul. The Book of the Dead was a collection of spells that aided a person into the afterlife, preventing a second death in the underworld where souls were judged. Because of the concept of Ka and Ba, the idea of ghosts was also believed. The Pharaoh Akhenaten was a follower of the god Aten, the sun god. He changed the religious structure in Egypt making enemies in the priesthood who cursed him to wander after his death for eternity. Even to this day there have been claims to have seen Akhenaten’s ghost in the deserts of Egypt. [Morya Caldecott, The Ghost of Akhenaten, Mushroom Publishing, 2003, p. 1]
Zoroastrianism is a religious philosophy based upon the teachings of Zoroaster (known as Zarathustra in Avestan). It was founded around 500 to 600 years before Christ in the eastern part of ancient Iran. Zoroastrians believe there is one universal and transcendent God – Ahura Mazda. At the end of time, a savior figure (Saoshyant) will bring about a final renovated world where the dead will be revived. Life is a state in which a mortal is expected to fight the continuing battle against evil. Prior to being born, the soul (urvan) of an individual is united with its guardian spirit (fravashi), which has existed since Mazda created the universe. Certain cults of Zoroastrianism believe in reincarnation, not within Orthodox Zoroastrianism.
Albert Einstein stated that energy cannot be destroyed, but takes another form (E=MC2). That form requires no physical body in the afterlife to exist, but only the energy of hope, love, and knowledge – or the quest for knowledge.
Therefore, if life was lived for the light of enlightenment that overcomes chaos, so then can a soul live on after physical death when the body can no longer function.
If that soul has sought purity of mind and the blessing of enlightenment and the goal of purpose, so then does the perpetual dream of death be overcome as well as chaos and darkness.
If that great light of afterlife be the combination of souls or a supreme being; what we conceive as God, is but an energy with clear purpose that requires no physical body nor the need for gender.
Some souls reach a state of no desire of physical existence or the need of it; while others are condemned to repeat physical life until they have elevated the soul to the level required for the perfect existence and satisfying quest for enlightenment.
That would be a good description of reincarnation, the concept and its theory in theological, metaphysical, or philosophical context.
The concept of the soul has survived the mystical doctrine of religion, melded into metaphysical philosophies, and into the investigative science of reality.
In Phenomenology of the Spirit by the philosopher Hegel in 1807, he traced the development of spirit and mind. Although the concept of phenomenology originated with Johann Heinrich Lambert, German philosopher, it represented logic thought and an investigation of subjects, like religion, as perceived by those who practiced the faith in that particular religious philosophy and doctrine.
In the early Christian Church, reincarnation was discussed along with the concept of the soul. Irenaeus (Against Heresies):
We may undermine [the Hellenists’] doctrine as to transmigration from body to body by this fact—that souls remember nothing whatever of the events which took place in their previous states of existence. For if they were sent forth with this object, that they should have experience of every kind of action, they must of necessity retain a remembrance of those things which have been previously accomplished, that they might fill up those in which they were still deficient, and not by always hovering, without intermission, through the same pursuits, spend their labor wretchedly in vain. . . . With reference to these objections, Plato . . . attempted no kind of proof, but simply replied dogmatically that when souls enter into this life they are caused to drink of oblivion by that demon who watches their entrance, before they effect an entrance into the bodies. It escaped him that he fell into another, greater perplexity. For if the cup of oblivion, after it has been drunk, can obliterate the memory of all the deeds that have been done, how, O Plato, do you obtain the knowledge of this fact . . . ?"
Come now, if some philosopher affirms, as Laberius holds, following an opinion of Pythagoras, that a man may have his origin from a mule, a serpent from a woman, and with skill of speech twists every argument to prove his view, will he not gain an acceptance for it [among the pagans], and work in some conviction that on account of this, they should abstain from eating animal food? May anyone have the persuasion that he should abstain, lest, by chance, in his beef he eats some ancestor of his? But if a Christian promises the return of a man from a man, and the very actual Gaius [resurrected] from Gaius . . . they will not . . . grant him a hearing. If there is any ground for the moving to and fro of human souls into different bodies, why may they not return to the very matter they have left . . . ?"
[Scripture says] ‘And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" and he said, "I am not"’ [John 1:21]. No one can fail to remember in this connection what Jesus says of John: ‘If you will receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come’ [Matt. 11:14]. How then does John come to say to those who ask him, ‘Are you Elijah?’—‘I am not’? . . . One might say that John did not know that he was Elijah. This will be the explanation of those who find in our passage a support for their doctrine of reincarnation, as if the soul clothed itself in a fresh body and did not quite remember its former lives. . . . [H]owever, a churchman, who repudiates the doctrine of reincarnation as a false one and does not admit that the soul of John was ever Elijah, may appeal to the above-quoted words of the angel, and point out that it is not the soul of Elijah that is spoken of at John’s birth, but the spirit and power of Elijah.
Someone might say, however, that Herod and some of those of the people held the false dogma of the transmigration of souls into bodies, in consequence of which they thought that the former John had appeared again by a fresh birth, and had come from the dead into life as Jesus. But the time between the birth of John and the birth of Jesus, which was not more than six months, does not permit this false opinion to be considered credible. And perhaps rather some such idea as this was in the mind of Herod, that the powers which worked in John had passed over to Jesus, in consequence of which he was thought by the people to be John the Baptist. And one might use the following line of argument: Just as because the spirit and the power of Elijah, and not because of his soul, it is said about John, ‘This is Elijah who is to come’ [Matt. 11:14] . . . so Herod thought that the powers in John’s case worked in him works of baptism and teaching—for John did not do one miracle [John 10:41]—but in Jesus [they worked] miraculous portents.
What of Pythagoras, who was first called a philosopher, who judged that souls were indeed immortal, but that they passed into other bodies, either of cattle or of birds or of beasts? Would it not have been better that they should be destroyed, together with their bodies, than thus to be condemned to pass into the bodies of other animals? Would it not be better not to exist at all than, after having had the form of a man, to live as a swine or a dog? And the foolish man, to gain credit for his saying, said that he himself had been Euphorbus in the Trojan war, and that when he had been slain he passed into other figures of animals, and at last became Pythagoras. O happy man!—to whom alone so great a memory was given! Or rather unhappy, who when changed into a sheep was not permitted to be ignorant of what he was! And [I] would to heaven that he [Pythagoras] alone had been thus senseless!
It seems the only passage that closely follows the idea of reincarnation is in the Book of Matthew 11:10-14 and 17:10-13, where Jesus states that John the Baptist is the prophet Elijah who had lived centuries before.
There are Christian denominations that believe in reincarnation that includes the Liberal Catholic Church, Unity Church, The Christian Spiritualist Movement, the Rosicrucian Fellowship, and the Lectorium Rosicrucianum.
Despite some denials, reincarnation was a basic idea until the 4th century AD when Emperor Constantine decided to change those specified doctrines.
Reincarnation is a part of many Native American and Inuit traditions.
As Plato stated, we need only to recall our buried memories in order to manifest innate knowledge.


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