What is the ultimate destiny of the human self?

As I approach, however closely or distantly, the end, I feel that my self, along with its qualities and talents, is coming into some kind of completion and consummation. But that experience also sharpens the question: what happens to our self, our personality, after we die? Does it continue, or disappear? If it continues, in what realm and what form does it continue? The answers to these questions are utterly beyond us in our present state. Yet the very fact of our human existence compels us to ask them. My friend, who is a Cathoiic, says the puzzle can only be solved via the Catholic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body. If it is only our soul, and not our body, along with the accompanying personality, that survives, that is not our whole, human self. Our self is a unique creation of God, and God having created it, he is not going to destroy it.

Just some preliminary thoughts.

And I am happy to report that I am still happy.

- end of initial entry -

Daniel T. writes:

On the subject of what, if any, portion of our personality/body/soul carries over to Heaven, you might enjoy the fourth chapter of Jerry Walls’ Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy, which discusses many of the different beliefs on the topic held by theologians throughout history. Personally I found the Catholic belief in Monism (that the body and soul are ultimately inseparable in terms of defining our personal identity) not as convincing as the idea of body-soul-dualism (which holds that the body is merely a shell, and not intrinsic to our being).

The main problem lies in the state of the body between the period of death and ascension to heaven (or descent to hell). If monism is true, then do we remain with the body in the grave (or, horror of horrors, wherever our ashes have been spread) until Christ’s second coming as detailed in Revelation? Or do we go to heaven more immediately? What of the perfected bodies we have in Heaven? Will those be our own bodies, perfected, or entirely new ones?

On the other hand, what is the purpose of ‘heavenly bodies’ if we can exist as souls, without bodies?

Sam writes:

Let me try to give an Aristotelian-Thomistic account of the self after death; you may either accept it or reject it, but I send this because I believe that it is true on the basis of both scripture, reason, and the historical teachings of The Church. And because I believe that the truth is edifying.

As human beings, we are composites of body and soul, and so we have both material and immaterial aspects. We are animals, but we are rational and spiritual animals. Thus, we have a unique capacity for intellection and will that does not exist among the mere brutes. Now, on the classical Aristotelian and Thomistic account of human nature, we are like everything else in nature that God has created; we are composites of form and matter. When we die, the soul will separate from the body. The soul, by its very nature, cannot go out of existence in the natural order of things, because the content of the soul (that which makes the soul what it is ) concerns eternal abstract ideas which do not come into being and do not cease to exist. (This is why Plato, incidentally, spoke of philosophy as “preparation for death”, he thought that the soul would ascend to a place in the fixed firmament of abstract ideas, and that its fixed place would be contingent upon the content of its immaterial intellecitons) Plato had the basic idea right, but he did not know of Jesus, who is the concrete embodiment of the Logos and who is the “fixed firmament” itself. Plato was thus a pagan who nevertheless correctly discerned the nature of the soul.

Now, we Christians fixate upon Christ and his life, and upon his death and resurrection. We thus “fixate” our minds upon the possibility of an afterlife in which the content of our minds is suited to the afterlife; a life in heaven in which we eternally adore the Trinity: God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ. (And, lest this seem like pelagianism, I should note that our very ability to adore the Trinity is dependent upon God’s free choice to apply his Grace to us and to enable us to even consider Him as an object of worship. This grace stems directly from the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made when he was lifted up upon the cross. And apart from the movements of Grace, we are lost; completely and utterly lost and hopeless; we do not have the power, in the natural order, to worship God in spirit and in Truth.)

Now, a human being is a composite of matter and form, soul and body; and yet after death the body passes away as a result of the consequences of original sin, and the soul remains because God decreed it to be eternal. So when a human dies, he exists in a truncated state. He is a soul without a body, but because God chose to create him as a rational animal, only some part of him exists; his rational nature persists but his animal nature is gone due to the effects of original sin. Thus, the disembodied man is not complete, and he will not be so until the “resurrection of the body” that we hope for. Only then will we be whole. But, to exist as a disembodied soul, and to gaze upon the Holy Trinity, is an enviable state in comparison to earthly embodied existence.

So, after death, you will, if you go to Heaven, be like a man in a wheelchair or a man in a mutilated state who, nevertheless, has everything he needs or could want: namely, the beatific vision of God Himself. But it can and will get even better after the last judgment: God will resurrect your body and bring into the fullness of human perfection, so you will no longer exist in a mutilated state but will enjoy the beatific vision in a state of completed embodiment.

Kenneth B. writes:

The reason I write now is because I’m seeing a complete lack of knowledge from everybody now posting on the subject of the afterlife, which by the way, is one more area that a materialistic Darwinian mechanism can’t explain and yet is never brought up! The number of TV documentaries, news specials, talk shows, books, youtube videos, and websites that have covered the subjects of Near Death Experiences after clinical death and revival, Out of Body Experiences, and Past Life Memories is so vast, I’m shocked when I find so many people who seem to have gone out of their way to avoid even just once looking at this information their entire lives. There are neurosurgeons now admitting that the brain doesn’t generate consciousness, but that it is the receiver of consciousness. That consciousness is a separate entity the exists after death and before you were born. There are people who remember floating outside their physical bodies before being “pushed into them” upon birth (years later they can recall what happened and what people said in the delivery room). Verification of people separated from their bodies after clinical death has waken up a lot of doctors and surgeons. There is so much known about what happens after death that the major elements of a typical NDE are well known to just about anybody: * you find yourself above your body and seeing the surroundings yet still in your physical earthly location * you see a bright light and go towards it * you travel at high speed through a lit tunnel * you come out in some other realm * you go through a life review where everything you’ve said and done come back up, and you feel things from the perspective of other people you’ve interacted with, etc. Or you don’t see the light and enter into a hell-like NDE which is awful (search youtube for “Hell NDE” for lots of testimony).

Evidence of past life memories and the easy verification of those memories is so irrefutable that even atheist astronomer Carl Sagan wrote the following: There are three claims in the ESP field which in my opinion, deserve serious study … (3) that young children sometimes report the details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation.

So there is no need to speculate or guess about any of this. It would take me quite a while to round up all of the videos on the web that everybody should know about, but just to start off with a few to get the ball rolling for those who might want to learn about the subject, below are a few:

Near Death Experiences of Children. I believe sometime after making this video he later says that some/all of these WERE after clinical death. Unfortunately the original video is lost do to account termination and only this crappy quality one remains.

Reincarnation research including the fascinating aspect of injuries in a past life manifesting themselves in the form of birthmarks and birth defects in a current life. Darwinism and DNA can’t explain that!

Pam Reynolds NDE is well documented by medical staff, so it’s a good case to look at.

Two main websites for NDE research and cases are below. The second site has continually updated posts from people who have experienced NDE’s from all around the world and contain over 3000 cases (3rd link brings you straight to those cases. The expanded version can be found by clicking on the link for the experiencer’s name.)

Roger G/ writes:

You know my own feeling is that you should go where the evidence leads you.

There is overwhelming evidence that we survive death. My own mother, with her kidney trouble, had one of those Near Death Experiences you read about (my brother—an ophthalmologist, chemical engineer by training, and thoroughgoing materialist—dismissed it completely as a physiological reaction).

The evidence also indicates that at least some people reincarnate. A division within the University of Virginia Medical School is devoted to the study of reincarnation. One of their main interests is very young children’s supposed past life memories.

I can tell you that, before I was four, I used to try to tell my family about how I used to be an adult. I don’t remember to what extent they listened or understood. However, my own experiences, to me, don’t necessarily indicate anything more that a child’s attempt to make sense of his life.

This ABC show might be of interest.

February 21

LA writes:

I posted my thoughts on this subject, and readers had the right to reply. But the full discussion, with all the different teachings and views on the afterlife, is beyond me at the moment, so I am just posting the comments to make them available, without responding to them myself.

Brandon F. writes:

I did the same thing Roger G. says he did at the same age. I used to tell others “I used to be a man.” I remember it seeming profound and true to me at the time.

It is hard to believe in reincarnation in it’s simplistic form. It is also hard to believe in a separation of soul and body. I am also inclined, as you are, to believe in some kind of pre-existence. Otherwise, our sexual acts would compel God to grant a created soul. I don’t think we can compel God in any way much less through the heat of passion.

Judith H. writes:

The Armenian doctrine is slightly different. Here are a few tenets:

—The body dies and is corrupted, for what is created of earth must again become earth, according to the Divine decree, “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

—The resurrection is the coming back into life of the bodies of the dead.

—We know the body must rise again because Christ clearly promised it, and he gave his own resurrection as a pledge for it.

—Must we rise with precisely our present bodies? No, our Adam-bodies undergoing a glorious and marvelous change shall become like the glorified Body of the second Adam (who is Jesus Christ), and must hence be like his incorruptible body.

—We learn that we must keep our body holy, that we should serve God with it. The Apostle writes: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price, glorify God in your body.”

This has to mean, among many other things, do not poison yourself, with substances that you know will harm you. And do not accept poisonous ideas because they will not only corrupt the mind, but that corruption will spill over into the body, causing disease. This explains why, in today’s toxic world, everybody is sick—obesity, diabetes, cancer, AIDS, as well as an unfathomable degree of mental illness, that is treated with drugs.

So, the body is resurrected, but it’s not the same body. It’s a completely different body. Someone once explained the argument against cremation: If the body is cremated it won’t be there on Judgment Day. The Bible does not say “ashes to ashes.” If the body is to be resurrected there has to be a body to resurrect. This means that God does not have an original template somewhere: he must have the “mortal remains.” I disagree with the anti-cremation view, though I can understand it in the context of the doctrine. I personally want to be rid of this body. It’s a burden, and it will become sickly with time and I won’t want it any more. But I try not to fast forward the event.

For me the only truth I can perceive is in the butterfly. The larva, the caterpillar and the butterfly. On earth, we are the caterpillar, waiting for the day when we can slough off this ugly carcass we have to carry around for a few decades, and to become something better. I cannot, even in my most juvenile musings, imagine why anyone would want to stay in the same body, once they are in another dimension of life. What subsists after death, I hope, is something freer, stronger and more evolved than our caterpillar bodies. Andreas Moritz said:

—A snake that glides out of its old skin is not concerned about a part of its body dying and falling off. As long as our sense of “I” remains, which it always will, physical death cannot destroy us.

Of course Moritz, who was not a doctor, was considered a “quack,” because he insisted that cancer was not a disease, but a survival mechanism of the body crying out for help. The body in its poorly nourished, overly acidic, oxygen-lacking, nutrient-deprived state forms tumors as a last desperate attempt to survive.

Look at how long you have survived with cancer. Your body was begging for health, but the world forces you to give it cytotoxins.

Alternative medicine is in its way very Christian. Here is one researcher:

—It may come as a surprise to some, especially those with conventional medical training, but the default state of the body is one of ceaseless regeneration. Without the flame-like process of continual cell turnover within the body—life and death ceaselessly intertwined—the miracle of the human body would not exist.

You said you have a core of happiness reminding you you are still alive. Use it. Use it either to prepare for the regeneration that will occur when you “die,” or (we would all prefer this) use it to try to find your way back. By now, you are so used to the idea of death, you are forgetting what life is. You are beginning to prefer death to life, because life is so lifeless, thanks to energy-destroying, vitality-sapping drugs and nuclear particles that work against the body.

You believe you came from somewhere and will go somewhere. Of course. We enter this world with lots of baggage and we leave with even more. I don’t know where you came from but I would imagine it was a region of intense emotions so overpowering and destructive that only death could partially extinguish them. I say that because in this phase of your life you have been so magisterially contained, controlled and reserved that it is clear you are riding a wild stallion and still learning to dominate him. And I would imagine that in the next phase you will find a tremendously peaceful control over yourself without the struggle of having to dominate emotions you no longer need. This sounds like reincarnation, but it could be that we have one life, that undergoes various transformations in different dimensions. Or maybe we do have different incarnations—I do not entirely believe it, but I don’t disbelieve either.

Note: The above is very loosely based on Martin Schulman’s book on the Nodes of the Moon and Re-incarnation. If you were born on January 26, 1949, your north Node may be in Taurus. The intensity you fight against comes from the south Node in Scorpio. If your Ascendent is Capricorn, you know that Pluto, planet of death and rebirth has been murdering you since it entered Capricorn a few years ago. Re-birth may take place in this life, or the next. There was no way of avoiding the killer-transit. But it did not necessarily have to result in your physical death.

I’m not a pious Christian. I have not taken communion in years. I like the four Gospels. I’m in awe of Jesus, he was a great alternative doctor. But I pray to God the Father, not the Son. I feel more comfortable away from people and the influence they always try to have over me. I don’t like having doctrines shoved down my throat, but I follow them of my own free will, insofar as they help me.

Roger G. writes:

I sympathize with Kenneth B.”s apparent frustration. Flying saucers are my own particular hobbyhorse. I have presented an irrefutable case for their existence, to very intelligent and knowledgeable people, who have steadfastly refused to consider the evidence.

Sam writes:

I must take exception to Kenneth B’s insinuation that the previous comments exhibited a “complete lack of knowledge” about the afterlife. I am quite familiar with all of the empirical evidence for the afterlife that can be culled from NDE’s, and I am well aware of all of the data that he presents. In my previous comment, I was explaining the metaphysics of the afterlife, not the specific particulars of our experiences in the afterlife. NDE’s are relevant to the latter, but irrelevant to the former. Nothing in the data culled from NDE’s is in any way inconsistent with the Aristotelian-Thomistic account of the soul and its relationship with the body. Indeed, it serves to further confirm the fact that the self is not identical with the body even though our personal identity may be essentially tied to our embodiment. This truth can be established through pure reason, as it was by Plato, and Aristotle, and Aquinas and Locke, and Descartes, and virtually all prominent philosophers prior to the mid-twentieth century. NDE’s add additional empirical support for these truths that can be established through reason, but they do not supersede them.

And most neuroscientists have not, unfortunately, abandoned the hypothesis that the mind is identical to the brain or even the weaker hypothesis that the brain causes consciousness. Indeed, most of them cling so tenaciously to their materialism that they are prepared to even deny the existence of consciousness and the mind. (see Paul and Patricia Churchland and their “eliminativist” hypothesis. Alas, all to many intelligent materialists actually buy this.)

Dale S. writes:

Regarding all of your recent experiences, I am a Baptist pastor but, I graduated from Yale Divinity School and from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth). I want to leave you with some simple ideas.

I have always returned to this—the death and resurrection of Christ is a historical reality. That is enough. The kerygma (1 Cor. 15:3,4 sums it up) is not complicated. That which is proclaimed is not beyond us. Christ has been raised and in Him we have life. All other questions which there are many and they could occupy us for a long, long time these are all quiet in the face of this first order assertion—Christ has been raised! So, in our nature we feel certain things—that there is something of an afterlife, that we intuit the persistence of memory, the inherent rationality of the universe and its demand for and provision for justice, that our bodies are integral to our selves, etc. These truths that we intuit may come from the Natural Law that is within all of us and that all religions try to come to grips with but they are fulfilled in Christ. He has a body. His memory and personality persisted. He will bring justice and he is the central, rational Word behind all things. He secures the afterlife for us.

LA replies:

Dale S.’s message was simple and straightforwarward enough for my poor brain to take in.

Stogie writes:

I have found a lot of comfort in reading about near-death experiences, which seem to prove the existence of an afterlife. All of the experiences that I have read about point to a survival of the individual consciousness, the recognition of loved ones who have passed on before.

These experiences also point to a separation of soul from body. I disagree with the Catholic view about the resurrection of the body; the body is material and will pass away, but it is the soul that is immortal.

As I grow older, I find less and less joy in this worldly existence, and look forward to something better. I often have this reoccurring thought: “I want to go home!” Home, of course, is not of this world.

Bill D. writes:

Due to a close friend’s suicide and some strange events that followed here’s what I think you can do in the Afterlife:

Communicate with people by visiting them in their dreams, your words will be limited but your feelings won’t. You will instinctively know what they are feeling and can comfort them by your presence alone.

You may have the ability to influence some of their decisions, but only if they are open to listening. If they are your voice will be heard loud and clear.

You will be able to see their past but will not hold judgment over it, as you will understand the limitations of human morality and mortality.

Your ability to connect to them will be strongest right after your death and will diminish over time as they learn to let go, but will never be cut off completely.

You’ll be able to make your presence known, to a degree, by affecting their physical environment as it relates to their senses. The closer they are to you the more you’ll be “felt.”

You will have windows open to “touch” the living, but only those who call on you. At certain times the call will be so loud you will be compelled to answer it.

This has been my experience on multiple occasions and I am not a medium, psychic or a believer, just human and a longtime reader of your blog.

With peace.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 20, 2013 02:37 PM | Send

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