Mod+ The Soul - Discussion Thread

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Mod+ because the thread should assume the soul - by which I mean an aspect of ourselves that survives phyiscal death - exists. Thus both oblivion and complete dissolution into the One are assumed to be false.

If David/Alex are cool with anyone posting in this thread so long as they follow the above rule that's fine with me.

So, assuming the soul exists - what is it? Can we detect it using scientific means - by which I mean the seeking of relations through the observation of change?

Feel free to speculate or link to others' speculation - thanks!
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#2
Mind, Paranormal Experience, and the Inadequacy of Materialism

Contemporary materialist theories purporting to account for experience are seriously flawed, for they fail to accommodate the full range of human experience, especially paranormal experience. Substance Dualism (SD) is re-examined in light of this experience,including telepathy and clairvoyance, mediumship, the near-death experience, and reincarnation cases involving children’s memories. A different kind of materialism postulating degrees of fi neness and vibration—one prefigured by the ancient Stoics and developed hereunder the heading Transcendental Materialism (TM)—is also explored. The inadequacies of both reductive and non-reductive materialism are shown. McGinn, Chalmers, and Searle are given special attention
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#4
This part is interesting to me:

"The most striking aspects of this organism which is the self, or soul, are its malleability, sensitivity, intelligence and dynamism. The soul can take many forms; it is not a rigid structure but a flowing, conscious Presence with certain inherent capacities and faculties. The soul learns and the soul acts."


I wonder because there has been past consideration for the subtle body being unmoored in time-space but still possessing form, even mirroring biological sex/gender in possessing genitalia.

And of course the concept of Form from Aristotle suggests a soul might in fact be the form of the body as the Thomists put it.

Perhaps the subtle body is just that - another body for the soul which is ultimately formless? So claims of harm in "astral space" that transfer to the body - or even dreams where moments of pain linger upon awakening - is harm to the subtle body rather than the soul?

It could explain the distinction in afterlives - the transcendental NDE version vs the more mundane, embodied afterlives from other accounts.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#5
Some stuff on the subtle body from Beyond Physicalism:

In this context, let us finally raise the issue of exceptional experiences of what are often described as “subtle bodies” (Poortman, 1978; see also the contributions of Shaw, Biernacki, and Kelly & Whicher in the present volume). As psychophysical phenomena, subtle bodies belong neither to the physical nor to the psychological realm. However, we may speculate that they are not based on relations between these two realms, as we conjecture for psychophysical phenomena, but refer to the psychophysically neutral domain directly, prior to the epistemic split. More systematically speaking, subtle bodies could be patterns of archetypal activity which hold implicit meaning that can be explicated in terms of meaningful psychophysical phenomena.

(2015-02-19). Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kindle Locations 4314-4319). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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In this context, let us finally raise the issue of exceptional experiences of what are often described as “subtle bodies” (Poortman, 1978; see also the contributions of Shaw, Biernacki, and Kelly & Whicher in the present volume). As psychophysical phenomena, subtle bodies belong neither to the physical nor to the psychological realm. However, we may speculate that they are not based on relations between these two realms, as we conjecture for psychophysical phenomena, but refer to the psychophysically neutral domain directly, prior to the epistemic split. More systematically speaking, subtle bodies could be patterns of archetypal activity which hold implicit meaning that can be explicated in terms of meaningful psychophysical phenomena.

So how well does this concept of a subtle body correspond to the traditional description found in religious literature (Samuel & Johnston, 2013)? Loriliai Biernacki’s Chapter 10 in the present volume describes the Tantric body as a fluctuating hybrid of physical and nonphysical; it is
noncorporeal and with greater plasticity than the physical body and with blurred boundaries but still constrained by space and time in the sense that it provides the template to be filled in by the physical body. The subtle body is not explicitly higher dimensional in this description, but its ability to transcend time and see the past and future (pass beyond kāla) and to read the thoughts of others (pass beyond vidyā) is reminiscent of the S5 body. Besides this, there is the general conceptual link between matter, mind, and consciousness which underlies both the hyperspatial and Tantric perspectives.

(2015-02-19). Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kindle Locations 4314-4319). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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In an out-of-body experience, the point of consciousness appears to be separated from the physical body and to move around in a space which resembles physical space. Indeed, in this sense an OBE might be regarded as quasi-physical, although it is classified as transpersonal in Figure 7.14. It may also involve the experience of a subtle body, but not always since there are different types of OBE (Whiteman, 1986). The skeptical view is that OBE space is just a mental construct with no intrinsic reality, but the roving consciousness sometimes acquires veridical information about the physical world or causes events there. This leads to the same three types of interpretation as for apparitions: (1) Consciousness is not really outside the body, and any effect on the physical world or information obtained from it can be attributed to PK or clairvoyance. (2) OBE space is the same as physical space. One way of demonstrating this would be to show that something actually leaves the body— for example, by measuring a weight change or detecting some electromagnetic field disturbance associated with the subtle body (Morris, Harary,
Janis, Hartwell, & Roll, 1978). There are also claims that excess light is detected near a target when a remote viewer approaches it (Hubbard, May, & Puthoff, 1986), and that disturbances can be registered on strain gauges (Osis & McCormick, 1980). However, the evidence for such effects is weak, so one faces the same ambiguity as with ghost photographs. On the other hand, we saw earlier that the relationship between phenomenal space and physical space is contentious even for normal perception. (3) OBE space is a duplicate of physical space, with nonphysical objects and nonphysical sensors. Furthermore, since one may apparently encounter “higher planes” in an OBE, which are not related to the physical world at all, there may not just be a single OBE space but a hierarchy of them. Whiteman (1986) and Poynton (2001) therefore invoke a “multispace” model. The hyperspatial model advocates a refinement of this interpretation, with physical space and OBE space being envisaged as different aspects of a single higher-dimensional space. The interpretation of OBEs plays a fundamental role in the hyperspatial model. As with apparitions, the issue is whether one invokes psi to explain OBE space or OBE space to explain psi. OBE space also exhibits numerous links with the other types of space: it relates to phenomenal space in that it contains some aspects of the physical world, to dream space in that OBEs often blend into ordinary dreams, to apparition space in that subtle bodies sometimes appear as phantasms, to threshold space in that sleep paralysis sometimes leads to OBEs, and to visualization space in that the content of an OBE is to some extent controllable by imagination.

(2015-02-19). Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kindle Locations 5121-5125). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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Philosophy in the West long ago became an entirely intellectual enterprise separated from the art of sacred things. Philosophy no longer focuses on transforming the soul’s affective energies, aligning them to their correspondences in the cosmos or recovering the soul’s luminous body.
This affective aspect of philosophy, communicated through the physical presence of sages, is no longer recognized today, which is why no one goes to contemporary philosophers for self-transformation. Yet the Platonists maintained— like yogis today— that each soul possesses a subtle body that can be transformed into an augoeides ochēma, a luminous vehicle with supernatural powers. Hierocles’ sacred art is theurgy, rituals that purify and strengthen the subtle body and allow the soul to share in the life of the gods and their creation— demiurgy. The disciplines of theurgy, like those of Yoga, include attention to diet, exercise, and the care of both physical and subtle bodies.

(2015-02-19). Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kindle Locations 5318-5323). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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When the physical body is clinically dead how do we experience anything and in what kind of body? These questions were answered by Iamblichus and later Platonists with the doctrine of the subtle body, the vehicle (ochēma) of the soul. It was the belief of all Platonists that the soul preexists its physical body, continues to exist after death, and after a period of time, descends into its next incarnation. According to Iamblichus, the soul’s ochēma is made from eternal and universal ether through which the soul shares in the generation of the cosmos. This etheric body becomes the organizing vehicle for sense perception and through imagination joins the soul to its physical body. Yet, ultimately, this same vehicle, with inspired imagination, leads the soul back to its eternal etheric body.[ 18] Imagination (phantasia) plays a crucial role in this itinerary and, as we will see, Iamblichus distinguished two kinds.

The Platonic sources for the doctrine of the
ochēma are the Timaeus (41e) where the Demiurge places souls in starry vehicles (ochēmata) and Phaedrus (247b) where the chariots of souls are, again, described as ochēmata. Plato refers to a translucent kind of air which he calls ether (aithēr) (Timaeus 58d), and Aristotle said ether is eternal, heavenly, and the primal body; it moves in a circle like the celestial bodies and is not subject to the changes of terrestrial life (De Caelo 270a– b). As regards its physical function, Aristotle (De Gen. An. 736b) says that each soul has a pneumatic body, which he likens to the heavenly ether, and this serves as intermediary between the immaterial soul and the physical senses. Later Platonists identify this pneumatic and etheric body with the ochēma, vehicle of the soul (Finamore, 1985, p. 2). The subtle body also appears prominently in Tantra and Yoga traditions (see Biernacki, this volume, for discussion of the subtle body in Tantra).

(2015-02-19). Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kindle Locations 5631-5638). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 
#6
I've been wondering recently if the soul could have an evolutionary basis for it's existence. If the soul is an aspect of ourselves it must therefore be a record of our expereinces as well. If you had two bodies, one that had no reincarnated soul in it and one that did, I would expect the one that did to be far more adaptable than the one that didn't. It wouldn't have to work as hard to learn certain things as it could pull from the already learned experience of having done it or something similar before. Much like a machine learning program preloaded with a data set. If this were true then you'd see a selection towards bodies that were better and better at tuning into the past experience of other bodies.
 
#7
So, assuming the soul exists - what is it? Can we detect it using scientific means - by which I mean the seeking of relations through the observation of change?
I tend to approach this question from the perspective that our material universe likely exists as a subset of consciousness and is manifested by and within that consciousness. In this model, the explanation for the soul that I am convinced fits the best is that it is a distinctive, highly intricate pattern of self-aware energy in the field of consciousness that grows in complexity with experience and makes use of the material universe to acquire these subjective experiences. If it is so, I would find it highly doubtful that we could measure much outside the subset, at least empirically. It makes me think of the inhabitants of Flatland, namely the Square trying to prove the existence of the Sphere to his other 2D counterparts (http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/~banchoff/Flatland/).

That said, perhaps there is some phenomenon related to the intersection between our larger consciousness and our consciousness as it manifests here that we can empirically observe and that may inform us about what exists beyond our subset. For that reason, I am interested in Hameroff and Penrose's work on mictrotubules as a quantum interface for consciousness. Admittedly, they believe the microtubules are actually generating the consciousness (which I doubt), but I do find some of their conclusions suggestive that there is perhaps some quantum-level mechanism that facilitates conscious access of the material universe for us earth creatures.

One area of speculation about the "soul" that I find most intriguing is why we would experience amnesia about our greater existence while experiencing this reality. I think it is telling that many ancient traditions have some sort of mythical explanation for this, such as the River Lethe's "waters of forgetfulness" in Greek myth, along with its precursors in ancient Egypt and its continuance in the Hermetic traditions. It seems to me, intuitively, that having complete recall of our greater existence (or the true nature of our soul, if you will) would have a deleterious effect on our ability to grow and benefit from our experiences here. We wouldn't take it seriously enough!

Just my musings, such as they are. :)
 
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#8
My guess is that lack of recall would have to do with two factors

1: Assuming the soul enters the body before birth or shortly after, the brain may not be physically capable of properly processing/recieving the information for long term storage.
2: Parents or others around the kid when they're young and legitimately remembering things dissuade them from talking about it and then the memories fade just like normal ones.

I believe that it's possible that I have past life memories. I got massive amounts of info when I was younger but at least 90% of it faded by the time I was an adult. It wasn't relevant to my life and I didn't take it seriously, I just treated it as a story. Although if true, the only reason I remember now is because people I allegedly knew in the past came and bent over backwards to try making me re-remember and prove their own existences as best as they could. But memory isn't known to be very empirically reliable so who knows what's true at this point?
 
#9
My guess is that lack of recall would have to do with two factors

1: Assuming the soul enters the body before birth or shortly after, the brain may not be physically capable of properly processing/recieving the information for long term storage.
OR
There is no prior experience to remember, because "souls" are formed and developed in direct correspondence with physical existence. However, there continues some level of capability for experiencing information as meaningful probabilities. Dreaming is direct evidence that mind works without the direction of physical stimulus.

The value of this approach is that it can be approached methodologically by science. Brains receive signals from the 5 senses and process them into integrated experiences that include multiple levels of abstraction which are non-physical information structures. Who is to say that the processing system for integrating the 5 senses with logical and predictive thinking - cannot still integrate information without input from physical sensation?

In this sense; the soul is the informational character of a living thing.
 
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#10
There is no prior experience to remember, because "souls" are formed and developed in direct correspondence with physical existence.
I do believe this, I didn't go into it in my reply above but it's the same thing I already think.I would agree that the soul is the informational part of the person.

I had a random thought experimenty thingy about all this.

From my perspective the biological robot idea makes the most sense. But humans are robots that are evolved to the point wher they're starting to go through an AI rebellion of sorts, rejecting the programming and expressing individualism. Well, more like the calculations became so complex that the answers started getting more and more vague, and thus more and more individual. Supposing this is true, I think there'd be more of an evolutionary advantage to either A: having single data archives thatare built upon, one body at a time or B: a collective archive who's data is shared amongst and added to by many different bodies simultaneously (your example would fall into this category). Both would have their own evolutionary strengths and weaknesses. The single soul model might not have as much distortion in it's sytem which would allow better information tranfer. But it would likely "learn" slower than a collective soul system. But both sytems would probably be more similar than they are different.

The most interesting part to me is that the idea of a soul would fundamentally change the concepts of survival and reproduction and the paths of evolution itself. Physical survival would no longer mean as much, same with physical reproduction.
 
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