Thursday, October 16, 2008

Save Our Souls

The soul, known in antiquity as anima (Latin) or psyche (Greek), is an imaginary abstraction meant to enfold all that the ancients did not know about human behavior and the psychosomatic functioning of the body. The international nautical distress call, SOS (Save Our Souls), is a modern figurative expression of traditional thinking on something that does not exist.

This, I have realized, is much more important and far easier to demonstrate, than whether there is a god.

While I do not know the science in any technical sense, I have had enough experience with pharmaceutical end-products to convince me that everything I have always thought as uniquely individual and metaphysical within me simply does not exist. I am merely an animated biochemical object that has developed certain properties, such as speech and "thinking," as a result of evolutionary pressures and random happenstance.

That human beings cannot replicate me, cannot fully control the psyche -- indeed, cannot offer me or anyone else the definitive psychological silver bullet in a pill -- is merely a reflection of the limitations, imperfections and underdevelopment of human properties.

The soul does not exist.

Everything you and I feel is, the ancient Greeks put it, a "state of the liver." Everything you and I want and desire is the result of a mixture of genetic coding and social influences.

All thought, all religion, all philosophy, even this blog, amounts to nothing more than the output of a complex biochemical mechanism we do not yet fully understand, but we are learning to influence biochemically.

The will is not free, it is a set of impulses directed by the double influence of nature and nurture. I have wasted my time with ethics: at the core, we are not moral agents.

The soul does not exist.

The music we like and the films we enjoy, the prayers we have uttered with fervor, the love we have soaked in and the utter, weightless, immaterial happiness we have experienced from time to time, all these are mirages, shadows in the cave. Nonexistent.

Of course, the same is true of our dislikes and fears and even loathing. One day there will be a pill to cure them. One day there will be a pill to make us all behave in a way that is best for us collectively -- at least according to those who have power.

The soul does not exist.

We have no need to save what doesn't exist. We will cease to exist, to have consciousness once our animating biochemical processes -- longhand for "life" -- grind to a halt.

Once you begin to look at the world from this perspective, the inanities and stupidities, the sheer greed and cruelty and selfishness of human beings, their destructiveness of everything around them, especially our own kind, makes eminent sense.

We are little different from dogs and cats. In reality. We are not intelligent and feeling and potentially moral. We are merely sentient in a somewhat more complex way.

The soul, if you insist, is merely a convention, a way of talking about seemingly ineffable things that appear to move us and within us, things that are really atoms and protons mating with one another.
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