Sunday, June 19, 2022

Clues to the Provenance of the Soul

Our subject is the special or "immediate creation" of the soul, about which I've always been a little ambivalent, since it seems a bit ad hoc. In other words, reason can't penetrate it, because God did it, and that's all there is to it. But how and why and when, and all that?

Some souls don't even believe in the soul, much less its immortality:

For the man who lives in the modern world, it is not the soul’s immortality in which it is difficult to believe, but its mere existence.

Others say 

We have fewer solid reasons to anticipate that there will be a tomorrow than to believe that there will be another life.

 Either way, 

What is difficult is not to believe in God, but to believe that we are important to Him.

How important?

Man is important only if it is true that a God has died for him.

Pretty important then. Conversely, if natural selection is man's sufficient reason, then we are literally of no importance -- and no conceivable importance -- whatsoever.

But no one short of utter psychosis believes man is unimportant, no matter how strenuously he argues otherwise. Which reminds us of another aphorism, that

We believe in many things in which we do not believe we believe.

No one here would dream of denying the truth of natural selection. However, 

It is not the false idea that is the dangerous one, but the partially correct one.

The other danger is a "total truth" that presumes to enclose man in relativism or reason, for 

A fool is he who thinks that what he knows is without mystery (Dávila x 7).

As Schuon says, there is no -- nor could there ever be any -- "common measure between" the "wholly contingent movement" of natural selection and the "sudden burst of intellectual and moral" -- not to mention aesthetic -- flowering that occurs some 50 or 60,000 years ago (more on this pneumatic Big Bang as we proceed). 

Clarke writes of how JP II encouraged us not to avoid Darwin's theory, but rather, to "integrate it into an enriched vision" of the cosmos, culminating in "humanity as the crown of the whole process."

No one needs to advise me to do this, because it's one of my innate preoccupations. Much as I've sometimes longed to be normal, it's my nature, and I'm stuck with it. I couldn't not try to weave the Area Rug that pulls the entire cosmos together. If I were a transcendental Thomist, I would go so far as to say that my inborn conformity to the nonlocal Area Rug is sufficient proof of its existence. In the words of Schuon,

Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing. The Absolute alone confers on our intelligence the power to accomplish to the full what it can accomplish and to be wholly what it is.

So, no God, no us. Which, now that I'm thinking about it, is an elegant way of talking about the necessity of the special creation of the soul. 

In other words, assuming an awareness of the soul's immaterial nature and capacities, there is literally no other conceivable explanation, even if we couch it in mythological terms so it can be understood and assimilated by HCE (Here Comes Everybody).

Besides, scientism is too easy, and we enjoy the challenge of synthesizing seeming opposites -- which, more often than not, are complementarities. Thus, it would be accurate to say that here at One Cosmos we are always fishing for complements.

Now, God and man can't actually be complementary, being that there can be no common measure between them. Unless....

Yes, unless Incarnation, in which case man is able to truly participate in God's own tri-complementarity, but that's probably getting ahead of ourselves. Let's slow down and stick with Clarke's article. 

In discussing the soul's immateriality, he writes of "our ability to meaningfully say 'I,'" which involves "no dispersal of parts-outside-of-parts that is characteristic of material bodies with their spatial extension."

I was thinking about this just this morning, in that every morning, upon waking up, I review the previous night's productions of the Dreamer -- plots, characters, sets, dialogue, themes, etc. 

Even if you insist that the dreams are somehow purely material, the Dreamer who dreams them can't be, much less the one who remembers, interprets, and maybe even understands them. Suffice it to say that matter can't fold over and see itself, let alone see itself seeing itself. Rocks don't wonder about their rockhood, nor can they even ride a bicycle.

Another important feature of the "I" -- related to its conformity to the Absolute -- is its "unlimited openness." We -- at least I do, anyway -- "desire to know all being without limit, which is impossible for any material being limited to space and time." Thus,

the soul, the principle of intellectual life, must itself be spiritual in nature. The higher cannot proceed from the essentially lower; this would violate the principle that the effect cannot be greater than its cause.  

We'll deal with the nature of "emergence" in a subsequent post. Meanwhile, this all reminds me of that wise crack of Sherlock Holmes to the effect that "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." We'll eliminate some additional impossibilities as we proceed, and then consider what's left. 

9 comments:

julie said...


Interesting; I wasn't familiar with the term "immediate creation" before.

Anonymous said...

Well this is certainly an improvement. No foolish and/or corrupt political teams to tussle over like the SNL superfans. We really should be more concerned about those materialistic scientism-tists, thinking they alone should be the refs. And we should maybe consider what Father Spitzer has to say about all this….

Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of Fr. Spitzer, he has a good riff on the first evidence of the soul at around 31:00. He puts it at around 70,000 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Well, it looks like Fr. Spitzer's top priority is ending abortion, which could happen soon.

I'm pretty new to him, but he also seems to believe that life ends at death instead of at birth, as some seem to think. Would he try to amp up a new age of free-will generosity towards the less fortunate? I sometimes worry about all these unwanted babies coming on line.

julie said...

Re. the first evidence of the soul, really interesting. Thanks.

julie said...

Ooo, Goedel's theorem. Now where have I heard that before...

julie said...

This is just one long, excellent riff. He's a master of brain jazz.

Cousin Dupree said...

I wonder if I can buy some pot from him?

Van Harvey said...

"A fool is he who thinks that what he knows is without mystery (Dávila x 7)."

Ooh, I like that. Yep, yep, yep.