2009-12-29

Living and Not

Before, I used a metaphor of a storm to describe a person, to explain how we can understand a person as a process. Each one of us is, indeed, a force of nature. We are like storms in matter that give rise to spiritual storms. We usually do not think that storms will last very long, but under the right circumstances, they can last indefinitely. Perpetuating a process requires preparing and maintaining the right conditions. Maintaining a life and a living person requires arranging the right conditions..
 
The spiritual is different from the physical, but the two are interdependent, and the spiritual depends upon the physical for determining the nature that it has. There can be body without spirit, if the body is incomplete or disordered or defective in some way. There can also be a spirit enabled by more than one type of body. But no spirit can exist without some sort of body, because spirit needs some type of embodiment to give rise to it. There can be many types of bodies - biological, robotic, virtual, utility fog. But in all of these, in some way, embodiment in the world can give rise to spirit.
 
The soul arises from the working of the body. That means the body is not worthless or inferior. The body must be working right in order for the soul to work right. When the brain is damaged, a person's mind is deranged. What people eat or drink may affect how they think or feel. This is because the soul arises from the working of the body. When injury to the body is healed, injury to the mind can be healed. This is why a person who has a fever may be delirious, but when the fever goes away, the person's mind returns to normal. So the soul depends upon a body, and the two are not separate or separable.
 
If the full, characteristic process of person does not continue for a time, for the time during which it does not continue, the person is not present. We can say that when a person is thoroughly unconscious, the person as a living soul is absent for that time. The distinctive person, as a living person, is paused. But if consciousness is regained, the person resumes. A person may continue in a modified form, as in a dream, but when the dream ends, the original person can continue.
 
When a person's body is lastingly altered, as in brain damage or brain illness, such as Alzheimer's disease, the person may be modified, so that the previous person as a distinctive process does not fully continue. Although the body may continue, and the mind of a discernible person may be present, worthy of all our compassion, disorder of the body can lead to a condition in which the previous person is absent in the most meaningful sense. So the continuation of the full person as a living spirit depends upon not only on an embodiment, but upon an embodiment which can continue the characteristic process of the person, including that person's character of mind or spirit. 
 
When a person's body "dies", the soul can still be available from the body which supported it, although the soul is inactive, similar in some ways to the case of a person who is undreamingly asleep or deeply unconscious. If the parts of the body which supported the soul are destroyed, the soul itself is no longer able to be supported, although it continues to exist, as what it was, in the past, along with all things that have been. But there can be no "ghosts" in the present, and there can be no disembodied spirits. There is no passing away or to another (to another place or to another person).
 
We have come to two conclusions that are not obvious to many - that the potential of soul, of a living person in his or her characteristic nature, can survive in the body after the cessation of heartbeat and all activity in the brain; and yet, the realization of that person can cease while the body continues to live, even when a certain person continues to be realized by the body as a mind. This is why we should not see the death of the body as necessarily the death of the soul, but we understand that the soul can die before the body dies.
 
Physical reality makes spiritual reality possible, not the reverse. Matter is the fulcrum of spirit. By controlling the physical, one can control the spiritual. The omnipotence over the physical and thus the spiritual also is an aspect of godhood, which is coming into being.
 
Uplifting the body is one way to uplift the soul, and this is important to understand, because the soul is not only enabled but also limited by its body. By uplifting the body, the soul can be uplifted. Our bodies must be able to support the realization of the divine nature, the divine mind and soul. Our present-day bodies cannot yet support the realization of this divine nature, so we must work toward uplifting our embodiment.

 


2009-12-20

The Living Soul

If the body gives rise to the soul, what we think of as the self, how can we understand the soul? What truly are we? We are not only our bodies, only material things, but we are also not only minds, disembodied or able to be disembodied. If the body gives rise to mind, then what we are is both together, in a way that is difficult to put into words.
 
We may take a metaphor from meteorology. A whirlwind is an energetic vortex of particles. The wind's movement takes on a pattern, and the wind picks up dust and moves them, and drops them, and picks up new particles as it moves along, changing in size and strength and structure depending on its surroundings, and it can change its surroundings, too, by its nature. A whirlwind is a storm in matter, whose true identity is not any particular particles, or even any particular configuration, but rather, the process.
 
A person is also a process. The soul and the body are ever changing in nature, dynamic patterns in which new elements are continually brought in and old elements removed, changed by what is around them and also changing what is around them.
 
The body takes in elements and removes them; the atoms in our body come and go - we cannot identify ourselves with any particular matter that may compose our bodies at any particular moment in time. Our minds also acquire new memories, and new memories can change old memories, and so our associations can change over time; we cannot identify ourselves with any particular state of mind we may have at one particular moment in time. The energy we draw in powers this process, and as we expend the energy we need to take in new energy to continue the process. Each one of us is a force of nature, in nature. We arise from the world in which we are embedded and change the world in which we are embedded, each in our own characteristic way. The self is a vortex, taking in streams of events from the world around it, and also producing streams of events.
 
So we are also storms in matter. As a person can be identified with a process, we understand that a person can be characterized at any given cross-section of space-time as a static pattern, which can be captured as information. Any elements of matter that can carry forward the characteristic process that is the person can do so, and there is no change in identity. A process can be stopped, and start again, and if it resumes its process in the state at which it left off, continuing in the same character as it had before, there is no change in identity. As we live, we are not a static pattern; we are not disembodied spirit; we are not a set of material particles; we are not the information that captures a specific, momentary state; we are not a supernatural soul.
 
In this way we can understand that we do not need to fear the loss of any particular embodiment, and that we, in all our uniqueness, may be embodied in many forms of matter. We are also not identified with the soul that arises from any particular matter, so we do not need to cling to any particular matter (and indeed, our bodies already do not cling to any particular matter; our bodies are also a process). So we can understand that a process can be paused, and it can resume under the right conditions. These conditions include an embodiment which can continue the characteristic process that we are. If the same process continues from the state at which it paused, in its characteristic nature, it is the same process, under whatever conditions it finds itself when it resumes.
 

2009-12-14

Spirit and World

Many people think there is not one world, but two - one world is material, the visible world or the scientifically detectable world; and the other world is spiritual and invisible, a holy reality. According to this view, the material world we see is only part of the full reality; alongside it is another, more important, world, containing things like God or Heaven.
 
We may call this the "two-worlds theory", which human beings invented long ago. The two-worlds theory was used to explain the many things that were invisible, like the wind, or to understand unknown forces of the natural world, or to irrationally deny that the dead had wholly disappeared. Even today, many people believe that the innermost core of their own personal identity, their soul, is not of this world, but of the spirit world. After all, we cannot see our own souls; therefore our souls must not belong to this world.
 
But there is only one reality, and in this one reality there are not two worlds – a spiritual world and a material world - but only one world, in which the material things in it give rise to things we regard as spiritual, when they are truly real. The wind may be invisible, but now we know it consists of small molecules of gases. We can now see what is in Heaven by telescopes and space probes. Human beings themselves have now entered Heaven, and found no god there, no angels or realm of the departed.
 
The things we consider our soul, such as our memories, our personality, and our consciousness, arise from material things, the nerve cells in our brains. The things we have considered spiritual arise from and depend upon material things. A human being is not a composite of two things, a body and a soul, but rather, a human being is one single entity. The body, when it is properly active, can give rise to the things which we call the soul, such as mind, feeling, emotion, consciousness, memories, temperament, and personality. We may not be able to touch our inner experience, but what we experience arises from what is material, from the activity of something that is material, and it is the experience of what is material. The soul depends upon the activity of the body in order to exist and have the character it does.
 
We are not spirits imprisoned in matter. We are spirits of matter, matter taking on a spiritual nature and giving rise to spiritual experience. The body is not the husk of the soul, with the soul the living seed; the body and the soul together are both alive, intertwined with each other, with the soul depending on the body. The soul arose from matter historically, because the bodies of primitive animals without mind existed before bodies that gave rise to primitive mind. Minds that could reflect on themselves arose from minds that could only feel pain or pleasure, by the evolution of bodies that could support greater mind. Subjectivity has evolved alongside the evolution of bodies and nervous systems, because it is a particular, material nature which makes a particular, spiritual nature possible.
 
The soul, then, is intimately associated with the body. When the body is properly preserved, the soul can be preserved. We know now that almost all of what we regard as our soul arises from even one organ of our body, the brain, and that by preserving this we can preserve the material basis for the soul. The brain may be inactive, or unable to function spontaneously, but if its nature is preserved, the information necessary to give rise to that particular soul is also preserved. The soul does not depend on only one body or only one type of body; it can arise from the working of many possible bodies. That is why we must preserve the body, so we can preserve the soul in the only way that it can be preserved now.