The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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The Soul Loss Theory of Death

March 11th, 2006 · No Comments · christianity, history, metaphysics

One of the books that lent me is a look at the Old Testament from the perspective of Cultural . The title even states the same in fewer words. Within this text we are told that the miraculous revivals of the dead performed by Elijah and Elisha only make sense from the perspective of “the Soul Loss Theory of Death”. The activities of the ancient Hebrew prophets were compared to known shaman healing techniques that we are told also depend on this theory. We are told that this theory is that all sickness and death is caused by a loss of the soul, and that by returning the soul, the health will return.

This is a minor thing, and perhaps I’m reading too much into an arrangement of words in this case. However, it set off that long-standing grief I have about the way our self-righteous culture talks about faith and religion. I will happily admit that I am the freak, having had entertained all variety of unusual non-secular thought. All the same, I don’t think that anything is gained in the conversation when we frame a discussion so that we appear to be enlightened and they appear to be trapped in the neolithic.

Silent Stones
Although I was very active in Christian church as a youth, I had many questions that, instead of becoming resolved became more and more confusing as I grew older. The force of these unresolved queries eventually lead me away from the church, although I did eventually get answers for most of the questions, I have found that spiritual paths only coincidentally intersect with churches, so I haven’t gone back to Christianity to resolve any personal dilemmas.

A perennial favorite is “Why would anyone choose to worship God?”. On the face of it, the God of the Old Testament is not a terribly pleasant, or a terribly effective deity. The dogmas of heaven and hell, original sin, eye for an eye all stink of stone age moralism for serfs. The only really useful deity in the Christian pantheon is, naturally, demonized, so we’re left with a wholly pathetic corpse on a stick and an angry father in the sky. I never wondered why the ancient Hebrews preferred to dance and make merry around the golden calf: who wouldn’t rather hang out with a party animal?

The really difficult thing to understand is how, during the 2nd & 3rd centuries AD, when membership to a Christian group invited certain painful death, when these groups were considered to be crude, immoral terrorists, why anyone would willingly join a Christian group. I understand why it became so popular after the Imperial decree was issued offering the choice of death. But before that, there was still a fairly remarkable growth and diffusion of believers even when times were such that you would suspect that otherwise would be the case.

There’s a line in one of Sting’s songs from 20 years ago that echoed the explanation I was given once in Sunday school — the pagans realized that the stone idols that they worshiped weren’t really alive and turned to the Living God**. This rush to invalidate the power of native religious skill in defense of some institutional, committee built system of faith would be really humorous if it wasn’t so appalling.

Mankind has exhibited the ability to understand abstract thought for over a million years, so I find it very difficult to believe that European pagans didn’t understand that their statues weren’t the actual deities themselves. In fact, the native religious patterns that had supported and maintained European cultures for thousands of years, which had given birth to many of our great religious and philosophical truths, were largely obliterated in order to give the Roman Emperor a more hierarchical control over the very thoughts of the average Roman. It is this tragedy that is celebrated whenever those silent stones are remembered.

Oh, and to answer my question about who would be attracted to the : the early Church had a ripe recruiting ground from the disaffected underclasses that spun the cogs of the great Roman machine. The subtle message supporting the overthrow of their Imperial overlords was woven deeply into the cloth and spoke clearly to those who most heartily wanted to see their masters burn. Disdain of pagan tradition and centuries of religious practice was first trendy fashion for the underclass before it held the force of law in ancient Rome.

The Soulful Dead
As a result of some of the rather unique study I have done, I have a particular metaphysical philosophy that explains the interactions of the body, the spirit, and the soul. Much of my philosophy correlates very closely to native traditions and shamanistic practices worldwide. In brief, I view the soul as the immortal element that holds the spark of life. The spirit I equate to the ego, and the body as a bio-mechanical instrument for our souls. Our soul bodies are not bound by time or space and are very much larger than you’d be able to conveniently perceive.

In my view, when the soul leaves the body, the body slumps away like an disused sock puppet. That which animates the body and makes alive the spirit is the soul. In fact, it is the interaction between the body and the soul — the interference pattern between the intersection of body and soul in time and space — that creates the spirit (ego/consciousness). If you can somehow convince the soul to return to the body, it can frequently reanimate (especially if you can get the soul back to the corpse before it starts to rot too badly).

I have no problem, therefore, with the “Soul Loss Theory of Death”, except for the assertion that all illness and death is caused by Soul Loss. A more precise way of putting it is that death is preceded by soul loss, and if there is a long period of time between these two events, it can be interpreted as “illness”. My formulation allows for other causes of death, like snakes, bears, and falls from a great height. After which, the soul departs. Wow, suddenly not so kooky, eh?

Cultural-centrism is a well-recognized, and to a certain degree unavoidable, obstacle of cultural anthropology, so I’m not going to get too (much more) bent out of shape on this, other than to say that if I think of other examples of this sort, I’ll probably post about them whenever they come up.

While I’m on the topic, and I’ve already given the background. My metaphysic also allows for a variety of ghosts. As I mentioned, the spirit is the product of an interference pattern between the body and the soul. This pattern produces a “harmonic key” that is unique to a specific individual in a particular incarnation and can be used to identify or remember a person. At death, the violent tearing of the soul from the body typically rents asunder the spirit, leaving only resonance patterns behind wherever the larger collections of energy alight. A calm death allows for a strong, well-developed spirit energy to retain its general organization long after death by retaining the soul’s connection to the particular time and place. (That being said, a sufficiently strong spirit can often survive an expected violent death.)

Wherever people are, whatever they touch, they leave subtle energy patterns behind. Places they spend extended periods of time, like the home or an office, have substantial reserves of these energy patterns stored. So much so that after death, should the spirit retain its coherence, it will find that keeping that coherence is easier in such places. This is why the most communicative ghosts are typically found in their homes or places of business. Poltergeists and non-communicative ghosts are typically the result of violent ends and are not generally worth fussing with — their souls have long departed, these are simply echoes of a life long lost.

The situation is far less clear with the “living” ghosts. Most of them want to stick around because they’ve got family or friends that they are still close to. Quite a few of them have pretty clear paths of advancement as spirits into new forms of existence, including reincarnation, so there’s certainly something better for most of them to move on to, but with eternity before them, they can certainly wait until their last grandchild dies before taking their next steps on the great journey.

So what does one do about living in a haunted house? Is it necessary to drive out the spirits? Can’t folks just get along with the dead? I cringe at some of the exorcism techniques I’ve read about, both in Christian and in pagan literature. It’s all so rude to the dead and not the least bit taking any of their needs into consideration. If you have ghosts, you should get to know them. Find out who they were in life and build a little shrine for them. Even if you can’t directly perceive them, you should tell them that they’re welcome to stay with you and hope that you can both respect the other. If you have any problems after that, then you’re probably dealing with a poltergeist and all of this is irrelevant.

Personally, I like most of the ghosts I’ve met. At least the ones I could talk to, anyway.

**You remember the Living God, right? He’s the one connected to all the death imagery, like the tomb, the shroud, the cross, etc.

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