I assert the nature of all reality is spiritual, not material or a dualism of matter and spirit.
Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize in Physics (1932)
For anyone interested in the question of who and what we are, I have included a short excerpt of a discussion on this topic that occurs between the two main characters James and Mo. This is taken from chapter 7 of Elysium's Passage. Are we spirits or are we just material beings that have evolved over time by chance? The philosopher James argues for matter while his companion Mo argues for spirit.
But if are essentially spirits in a material body, then what about the brain when we no longer are in a human body? How is that possible to function without a brain? This subject is debated and discussed several times throughout the book.
The dialogue below is one of their first discussions on the controversy.
Eli hadn't returned with the firewood yet, so Mo suggested we take a short hike along the Summit. While we climbed up to the ridge, he said, ‘Eli and I were wondering if you still have any questions about how the life you’re experiencing here with us now.’ Had he been reading my mind?’
‘Of course,’ I said, most emphatically. Ever since I got here I’ve asked you and I Eli about a lot of things without getting any satisfactory answers.’
‘So what would you like to know,’ he said. ‘Aren’t things rather obvious to you by now? Have we not been constantly telling you that you now exist here as an immortal spirit body, even while your mortal physical earth body remains convalescing in London. The problem with our answers is that you can’t seem to accept them, preferring to dismiss them as fantasy. Once you accept your current state of existence, however, everything else will make sense to you. So why do you still find this so hard to believe?’
‘Because it makes no sense,’ I said, almost shouting. ‘It’s simply not possible for anyone to exist outside their biological body. As I’ve said before, one may have hallucinations of being outside the body, but such experiences are only mental distortions of what’s occurring within the brain: nothing more. You don't go anywhere, it’s only an illusion. And so, whatever paranormal experiences I seem to be having up here is a result of my brain being knocked about during my fall.’
‘I see,’ Mo said, ‘it would appear then, you really don’t have any questions, since you already have it all figured out. Or is it simply a matter of beliefs; what you believe to be possible and you don’t? If so, then let me tell you how important it is that you don’t cling too tightly to old beliefs because they may blind you from seeing the truth of what else is out there.
‘Contrary to what some say, reality isn’t just based on whatever we wish to believe. Though perceptions may vary, truth is truth. Even though it’s possibly to create an illusion of reality, which is what the ego does, the truth is often much different than what many are willing to accept. Spiritual reality, from which all temporal experiences are derived, is more expansive than can possibly be imagined, which is why it scares so many into living small insular lives when they could have so much more.
‘With that said, let me reaffirm your current state of existence here, since you still seem to have much confusion about it. Though your physical body continues to function on the earth plane, albeit marginally, you are here with us in an imperishable, non-temporal form. Let me state once again, most emphatically, this is not a dream or hallucinatory state of existence you are experiencing with us. This will later become obvious when we visit your body in London.
‘In the future, after you awake in your physical body, you will become aware of all your lessons here, including whatever experiences you may have in an even higher dimension. Assuming, of course, you return to your biological body.’
‘But then,’ I said, ‘what is it that’s having these experiences here? You seem to have forgotten the question of individuation. Obviously it wouldn’t be possible to have an individuated identity without the boundaries of a body.’
‘That's correct,’ Mo said, ‘and that's why we keep telling you that you will always have a body, even after the death of your mortal body. You seem to still have this belief that only your physical body can be a body. Not so! In fact, it never was who you were, no matter how impressive you thought you looked on the outside. It never was your identity, but the means by which you express your identity and whatever beauty lies within. As we say, what appears outwardly in the spirit body is what already exists within; form follows content, never otherwise.
‘It may be said, therefore, inward consciousness is what characterizes the soul no matter what suit you may be wearing. Yet it's difficult for you to accept you're not currently in your biological form, even though your current experiences and past memories will always remain accessible to you in this spirit body.’
‘Let's back up a moment,’ I said. ‘You still didn’t answer how it would be possible for me to have memories if I didn’t have a brain.’
‘It’s possible because your memories aren’t there, only the material impressions are. And of course, these memories can be stimulated from these imprints, which are adaptations for the material plane of existence. But these are but recorded effects of your memories like grove imprints on a CD or vinyl record. They are not the music; the music belongs to the spirit, therefore the music remains when the soul departs the body.’
‘But still, where are they? They have to be somewhere if not in the brain.’
‘And so they are,’ Mo said. ‘Like a radiant wave, they dwell in the amorphous field or cloud of universal consciousness. But memories are not composed of brain meat. By the way, materialists don’t appreciate this frank talk about meat when such starkness threatens their reverence for the brain.’
‘It does seem rather disrespectful,’ I said, ‘to not give credit to what it is able to do.’
‘The wonderment isn’t what it does,’ Mo said, ‘but how it does.’
‘Consciousness may create brain patterns, as the science of neo-plasticity shows, but the brain can’t create consciousness, no more than it can create memories. However, the brain’s ability to access memories, or remain conscious, may be affected by biological limitations, which is often evident with aging or brain injury, as with you. Regardless of memory loss, or the brain’s decomposition after death, memories remain in the universal field of consciousness, which may also be understood as ultimately existing within the Mind of God, since the Source is all there is or can be.’
‘That may be fine for you to believe. Obviously you're a religious man, but I’m not. With few exceptions in the past, I would describe myself as an agonistic.’
‘The same goes for agnostics, atheists and mud wrestlers; no exceptions,’ he said. ‘Reality is reality whether you acknowledge it or not.’
‘Well fine, but in my reality I would say that one body is plenty enough. And most obviously that body is mine!’
‘Of course it is; but it’s interesting that you didn’t say that body is me, just that it is mine.’
‘Yes, I suppose that’s rather interesting I would say that. I must be spending too much time with you two.’
‘What you don't realize,’ Mo said, ‘is that in order for you to be here with us, you had to leave that body behind, since it’s limitations obstructed your view of us in this domain, and for that matter, the view of our cabin.’
‘And yet I know of no respectable philosophical discipline which accepts such a notion of leaving the body behind.’
‘No?’ Mo said. ‘Well you may be astonished how many traditions accept these beliefs, whether you consider them respectable or not.....
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