Is There Life Before Death?
Why? I don't know, just a little glass bead parlor game I like to play, that is, putting two random things side by side and seeing how they can be reconciled into a higher unity. For one thing, it helps me vault myself into the unKnown, beyond the edge of the subjective space I've already colonized. You might say it's my hobby. I mean, if you really only want Father Rose's take, you can always get his book.
Remember, all science -- including the science of God -- involves the reduction of multiplicity to unity, or in apprehending the unity underlying the multiplicity. But also, I feel as if I'm actually learning something if, instead of just rewordgitating someone else's work, I let the ingredients macerate in my own crockpot. I may well end up saying the same thing, but at least it will have my own grubby soulprint on it. It may be a crock, but at least it's my own.
As a matter of fact, much of this morbid discussion comes down to the question of whether the soul exists. If she does, then I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that she is nonlocal (both in space and time) and that she could under no absurcumstances result from a strictly blind material process. Therefore, the soul must continue after the event of biological death, or it's not much of a soul, now is it?
Before we veered in this new deadly direction, Bolton was just about to get into this. He notes that Descartes affirms the existence of the soul, but then diminishes its significance by equating it "with things the Scholastics would have called its accidents," that is, mere thoughts. This is in contrast to Aquinas, who maintained (correctly, in my opinion) that the soul must be an individual substance which determines "the nature of the whole person, independently of the conscious phenomena of thoughts and sensations they may entertain."
Now, most any person infected with the soul-killing virus of postmodernism will say that Aquinas is not only wrong, but that he cannot possibly be correct, since he is making an "essentialist" argument, and we all know that essences do not exist. There is no enduring self; rather, it's just a side effect -- a persistent illusion -- that is recreated on a moment-to-moment basis by brain activity. Thus, not only is it not unchanging, but it is always changing, until you croak. Like your body -- or better yet, like a whirlpool -- it is a function of its own activity. At this very moment we're all circling the drain, and soon enough we'll all be down it.
But for Aquinas, the soul is the form of the body; or, body is the substance of soul. The soul is its "immaterial type and causal principle," which is precisely the opposite of the postmodern view that insists the soul is the accidental expression of the body.
There are so many insurmountable problems with the latter view, that it could only gain traction in a world that has lost any sense of the wisdom and truth at its own origin and center. For to say that all is accident and contingency is to say that nothing can be known by nobody, and that there's no earthly reason to pretend to know it anyway.
This is a strictly insane worldview, which would make sanity a kind of insanity, since there would no ontological basis for any kind of stability or continuity, much less post-biological continuity. (Here again, the conservative project of honoring and conserving the "permanent things" is another word for sanity in a world gone mad with relativism and nihilism.)
I think this little preface is helpful, because it lays a foundation for some of the things Father Rose says, which otherwise might sound implausible. We left off with his account of the two angels who meet the newly reposed, like a couple of taxi drivers waiting down at the terminal when you disembark from the plane. I can see them now, holding an improvised cardboard sign saying GOODWIN. (People always add in the extra O.)
By the way, Father Rose makes the important point that while angels are immaterial in relation to us, they are material in relation to God; this accords with the idea of the "ray of creation" extending from the cosmic center to the periphery, and which becomes increasingly material the further it extends from the center. You will have no doubt noticed that as you develop spiritually, you become "lighter" and more "transparent," so to speak. You may become especially aware of it during a religious service, while meditating, doing hatha yoga, etc.
Father Rose next discusses the "visions of heaven" that are sometimes seen by dying people, and which are possibly false and misleading. Often, "these visions are not spiritual, but worldly. They are so quick, so easily attained, so common, so earthly in their imagery, that there can be no serious comparison of them with the Christian visions of heaven..." One immediately thinks of Islamist visions of the afterlife, -- the 72 virgins, and all the rest -- which are pure demonic fantasy disgorged from the primitive unconscious.
In order to provide some additional context, Father Rose next discusses "how man, having originally been capable of the sensuous perception of spirits, has generally lost this capacity as a result of the fall." Interestingly, "by a man's own means," he "can enter into communion with fallen spirits; but he cannot enter into communion with angels except by God's will."
Now, I don't think it matters whether one regards the Fall as literal or metaphorical, for the more important point is the perennial truth it conveys. And it is surely true that, for whatever reason, as a man develops spiritually, it is as if he recover a capacity to discern the spiritual world.
In a way, this is no more mysterious -- indeed, probably less so! -- than what happens to an infant. One of the first things I noticed about having a child is that it is literally like watching someone miraculously age in reverse -- like a person recovering from a crippling stroke. At first he's paralyzed, nonverbal, and incontinent; he can't walk, feed himself, or auto-regulate his emotions.
But it's not just a "physical" recovery. Rather, day by day, he enters the nonlocal human realm and discovers -- recovers? -- himSelf. And I believe -- no, I'm convinced -- that this is a lifelong process. That is, in a very real sense, life is the process of "becoming who you already are." Only someone who is profoundly and tragically alienated from himself is incapable of sensing this.
I might add that this is one of the seals of authenticity in genuine mental illness, e.g., a real depression or anxiety disorder. One of the most difficult aspects of depression is the loss of one's self, as it causes a kind of profound ontological -- and therefore spiritual -- disorientation. Everything that connected oneself to oneself and to the world suddenly goes dead -- as if someone cut the lines. All the signposts of meaning vanish, so that the world becomes flat and empty.
To me, that is death. In other words, "death" is not something that could occur "after" life, only "within" it. It's like they say -- the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. To lose one's soul is to be dead, whenever it occurs.
To be continued....