I see the various multiple body theories as something like arguing about the layers of a complex pastry. It may be technically composed of layers but some of the layers are paper-thin and any attempt to separate individual layers (or even groups of layers) ultimately only violates the integrity of the piece. The pastry, like the human life, is designed to be experienced wholly without tearing it apart.
Now, I believe there is enough evidence to conclude there is a spiritual component to the world. Miracles happen. Sometimes people get better and the doctors can not explain it. People around the world have had deep personal relationships with their deities since the dawn of man. To ignore all the evidence of a spiritual component is to ignore a vast amount of human experience.
In this post, I'm going to argue against the simplest and most common of the multi-body theories. This is the theory that there is a physical body and a separate soul that can exist independently to the physical body. I don't think a theory of a soul that enters and exits and can otherwise exist independent to the physical body makes the most sense with the available set of facts and assumptions. My arguments against this works well enough for the other theories as well.
The evidence for the theory of souls or spirits surviving physical bodies -- other than religious texts -- would be various ghosts and apparitions that people have experienced. Mind you, some of the experiences people have with the spirits of their dead relatives have been intensely powerful, life-changing things. The haunted places may or may not be best explained by the souls or spirits of dead, but some of the experiences people have with ancestors and loved ones make most sense if the actual dead person is involved somehow.
That's the thing, though, it requires a "somehow". I assert that it not only does not require a separable soul, but that the presence of a separable soul adds unneeded complexity to the situation.
Now, I agree that the soul can transcend space and time. Astral travel and remote viewing are legitimate in my world-view.
In fact, on a personal note, I once lost an argument with someone on whether or not he was real. My argument was based upon the fact that the being had never been incarnate. His argument was based upon his ability to interact with the world and be felt. As I said, I lost the argument and had to conclude being incarnate wasn't as important as being experienced. However, I believe it may be fallacy to expect a being which has never been human to be similar to some concrete part of a human being.
It is like saying a chocolate pudding in a parfait glass is equivalent to the chocolate pudding found in a pudding cake. The flavor may be similar, and in fact you may be able to carefully scrape off a spoonful of pudding, but you can never completely remove the crumbs of cake. More than that, the structure of the cake was never native to the pudding. (Pudding, unlike cake, can never be easily eaten with fingers.) A spirit or a soul without some container -- like pudding -- may drip and dissolve and ultimately cease to be. Of course what sort of container a spirit that has never had a physical form may use is beyond the scope of this conversation. I only assert that it makes sense to believe that there is some other kind of vessel -- though like a glass dish we may see through it.
Back to topic, though, it appears that we may be multi-dimensional beings that span beyond the traditional four dimensions (three dimensions of space plus one for time). In this case it makes sense that it is hard -- if not impossible -- for us to use science grounded in these four dimensions to measure something which exists fundamentally elsewhere. This is only to say we not only do not need science to prove the existence of the soul, it is expected that real-world science will always fail find anything measurable when it comes to the soul.
If we are fundamentally multi-dimensional beings existing both in the four normal dimensions, and in one or more dimensions we have no direct way to measure then it makes sense for the spiritual side of our being -- that part of our being which exists beyond the ordinary world -- is capable of reaching out and back in to space and time in ways that science can not explain.
That being said, we only have solid memories of our experiences as we live them. We can astral travel in our sleep and still have little to no memory of it at all. If the majority of our soul exists someplace else then our souls could experience the "afterlife" while still rooted firmly to our physical bodies. The afterlife just as you always envisioned it can coexist -- without requiring a separable soul.
This allows communion with the dead -- but the soul or spirit of the person you are communing with is rooted to the person's life. While this may not make immediate sense with the messages (explicitly stating the person is in heaven) or attitudes of the loved ones (clearly transcended beyond the pain of life) which are related in these messages, you're communing with a part of their being that transcended space and time to reach you. It is unlikely they would be carrying the same baggage with them as they had in their life. More than that, it is likely the route they took to reach you, reaching out beyond time and space and back in, took them through heaven (even more than one heaven) or through other places of love and peace.
I say the theories about after-lives can exist as you envision within this theory, and that is the case... more-or-less. Without a separable soul you can't do reincarnation. Interestingly, you can still have past-life experiences. I imagine that there is a resonance between two lives and a person can -- literally -- experience someone else's life. You're experiencing it as the other person and not as an observer so it feels like it is your life. As there needed to be a resonance -- a commonality -- before the link could be formed it is easy to draw similarities. (I'll be going in to this a little further in depth in another post.)
I take a relative view to time. I am immortal between the points of my birth and my death -- whatever trials I go through nothing can kill me during this time. I think it is possible that when we die our point-of-focus simply reverts to our birth. We're essentially reincarnated in to our own lives. We're forever alive, forever at choice, but we rarely know our other choices except perhaps in deja vu, dreams, or visions. (I, for one, have had profound experiences of deja vu where I've done things differently. Different choices led to different experiences. It produced deja vu, but it was flawed.)
There is no way for the soul to go on to some "afterlife" because my life never ends. This means the only way I could experience the traditional afterlife would be if I could experience it concurrently or even tangentially to my life. Even then, it is likely the only heaven or hell that any of us will ever experience is the one we create around ourselves. More than that, if I'm right you exist in that heaven or hell forever -- or at least until you change your mind and make a better choice.
I hope that by now I've explained you do not need separable souls to describe the sum of our experiences with the spirits of ancestors and loved ones. We are profoundly spiritual beings even without having detachable souls. The experiences remain as valid and accurate. Only the explanation of the experiences changes.
(If you wonder how this can work with the concept of "Walk-Ins", you'll have to wait for another post. I'll explain it, but not right now.)
Now to describe situations where the separable soul simply does not make sense:
[Some of the current theories about separable souls are grounded on a premise that humanity is unique or if not unique then superior. I do not share either of these beliefs, and this has effected my spirituality. More details on exactly what I believe has souls are described in an earlier post on anthropocentrism.]
Babies born without lungs, according to most separable soul theories, can never acquire a soul for their sad short lives. (This is certainly the case if the soul enters at the first breath.)My theory allows for even babies without lungs to have souls.
What constitutes a first breath? Is it the exchange of gases with an environment outside of a parent? If a simple exchange of gases is required, then single-celled life-forms could have separable souls.Since I believe things can have souls without breathing, I don't need to deal with this question.
Separable soul theories tend to favor humans as the only hosts for souls. They sometimes require the hosts of souls to be animals (and not plants).Separable soul theories (as far as I know) universally require the hosts of the souls to distinct separate living entities.I believe that you do not need distinct separate living entities to have souls.
Conjoined twins may have two minds, but if they're conjoined in a way that they can not be separated does that necessitate them having two distinct souls? What if they share one lung? What if they share both lungs?
I've heard some say identical twins are (at least at times) different incarnations of a single soul. Is it even possible to describe conjoined twins as "different incarnations" when they distinctly share the same body?My theory allows conjoined twins to both have their own souls as well as have a separate shared soul.
When there are parasitic twins by definition one twin is more capable than the other. If you have separable souls where do you draw the line on whether a parasitic twin has a soul or not? If a parasitic twin does not have a head, a lot of theories on separable souls would not allow that twin to have a soul. Does the parasitic twin share the primary soul in that case, or is it just this soulless piece of flesh?My answer here is generally the same as my answer for conjoined twins -- there are three souls. One for each twin and one for the composite being. The only exception to this rule is that if a person were able to feel or move the limbs with sibling DNA (and thus belonging to a parasitic twin) they are effectively a single person and have no reason to have a separate soul for the parasitic twin.
There are symbiotic organisms which require the other to function. For instance, there is a tree which can not live without a particular type of ant living in it. If one can not live without the other, is this different than conjoined twins?Unsurprisingly, I treat this exactly like the conjoined twin case. There are individual souls as well as a soul for the gestalt entity. When dealing with the case of an insect colony as one of the organisms involved in the relationship the individual insects have separate souls in addition to a soul for the colony as a whole.
How does separable souls play with individuals who have chimerism? This would be a single human being who was -- at one time -- two different zygotes in their mother's womb. The zygotes merge in a way that produces a single organism with two different sets of DNA. If the soul is somehow tied to DNA, (as some anti-abortion Christians believe), then this person would have two human souls.
Is the soul tied to the brain? What if there is two different sets of DNA in the brain? Does the person have two human souls then? Is it still tied to the intake of first breath? What if each lung has different DNA? Are there two souls then?
If a chimera gets only one soul because it performs only a single inhale, do conjoined twins get a single soul when they perform a single inhale, too? Remember, they may share one or more lungs. They may even share their whole diaphragm.
Chimera have different DNA, while most conjoined twins are identical. Is this acceptable reasoning for why conjoined twins should share the same soul, while chimera should have two souls? Does this explanation really make it acceptable to believe a chimera has two concurrent souls?My theory ignores DNA and favors a practical approach. There is effectively one human being. That means chimera would only have one human soul. This doesn't require any special cases, either. Does it behave like a single being? If so it is treated as a single being with regards to how many souls it has.
My theories allow for a lot more souls than are even possible with separable souls.
- Separable souls do not work for relationship-based souls. The soul of a marriage or the soul of a relationship with a son or daughter isn't something that can exist within the bounds of a separable-soul world-view. I assert that the relationship is alive if it can grow and change and impacts the actions of others. It seems self-evident that relationships have souls.
- Separable souls do not work for things which are never born, like rocks or other inanimate objects. People who are fans of crystals, gemstones, and other rocks do seem to commune with them. If there is anything to commune with, there must be some spirit or soul there.
- Separable souls do not work for places, buildings, hills, or other structures -- natural or man-made. People can accept that a place has a spirit to it, they'll accept that a rock or stone will have a spirit to it, but they need to create separate theories to explain how this can be the case while they still have a separable soul.
- Separable souls do not work for the component organs, structures, cells, and systems within something already determined to have a soul. This creates a phenomena where many believe humans live on the Earth (which has a soul) instead of believing that humans are part of the Earth.
- Separable souls do not work in cases where the source or root of the soul is fundamentally different than expected. For there to be a separable soul, there needs to be a process for the soul to enter, and the soul may need to have a place of residence within the body. When things are fundamentally different than expected this can create problems.We see these problems with the chimera and some conjoined and parasitic twins, but there is no reason to expect this to be where the problem ends.
- Separable souls complicates birth, as you need to add the soul sometime.
- Separable souls complicate parasitic and symbiotic relationships -- especially in the cases where an organism was born conjoined.
- Separable souls require an entirely different explanation for the souls of places, rocks, and other things determined to not be "alive."
- Separable souls have a hard time dealing with conjoined twins and chimera in a manner which doesn't require explicit special cases.
- Existing spiritual and past-life experiences, including direct encounters with spirits of dead ancestors and loved ones do not require a separable soul to be explained.
- Few afterlife theories require separable souls.
- Any theory of separable souls requires a lot of special cases and even then fails to explain the spiritual aspects of some of reality.
That being said, I have some things to say regarding how this plays with ancestor worship and my particular form of polytheism. That will be discussed more in a later post.