Saturday 31 December 2022

Post-mortal, pre-resurrected, spirit life is analogous to dreaming sleep

From The Last Battle by CS Lewis - Lewis's vision of the choice confronting post-mortal spirits

After mortal life we die and become spirit-beings - and it is these post-mortal spirits who may choose to become resurrected. 

What is life like as a post-mortal spirit? What will you and I be like at the time when we are confronted by the chance and choice of resurrected eternal life? 

The condition of post-mortal souls seems to have been accessible and known in ancient times; and in the years before Christ; the ancient Greeks left us with descriptions of Hades, while the ancient Hebrews described much the same condition as Sheol.  

The condition of such spirit life can be described in terms of a state of 'dementia' or 'delirium'; but is perhaps most easily comprehended in terms of dreaming sleep

During dreaming sleep; our spirit is cut-off from the body, and from the environment. That is, in general; we lose sensations of what is going-on inside us, and in the world around us. 

Our spiritual self mostly breaks free from the body - but in sleep the spirit does not wholly break-free, because the spirit must return to the body on awakening - and therefore there must remain a connection, and this residual connection of spirit with body can be greater or lesser. 

When the connection is greater, then the body and/or the environment around the sleeping body can influence the dreaming spirit; and we find some degree in which the physical shapes our dreams. For instance, a stomach pain or a ticking clock may be taken-up in the dream, and (in part or in whole) become part of a dream. 

But sometimes the connection between spirit and body is diminished to the merest thread; and to the extent that the spirit does break free; we are then in a similar state to post-mortal spirit life. 

What are the characteristic experiences of this kind of dreaming sleep, in a qualitative and formal sense? 

In dreaming we retain our sense of 'self', of being an individual with a personal persepctive, and we remain who-we-are; but the quality of experience changes. 

The typical mood of dreaming is one of perplexity - a sense of insecure grasp of the situation; of our understanding continually slipping-away. 

We forget important things in the dream, and then later in the dream they are recalled with a sense of puzzlement: how could I have forgotten that? Or else we may discover major things of great importance in the dream that, somehow, (in real life) we had never noticed before. 

In the dream we may take-for-granted bizarre situations that we (somehow!) find ourselves in; or conversely, may find ourselves unable to comprehend and function in situations that we would normally find routine. 

Recognition of people and situations is unmoored - much as the spirit is unmoored from the body. For example, we may recognize someone familiar who then turns-out 'really' to be someone else; or else it turns-out that a stranger in the dream is 'really' someone familiar (although they may look and behave completely differently). 

(These dream experiences are very similar to delusional misidentifications observed in psychoses.) 

These kinds of dreaming experiences derive, I believe, from the greatly diminished connection between the spirit and the body during dreaming sleep. If we can imagine this disconnection becoming total and potentially 'permanent'; then we may have some idea of what it may be like to be dead - but not resurrected. 

And it may be from such a dreamlike state - or perhaps more exactly from a temporarily lucid dream state (made possible by divine intervention) - that we make the choice about resurrection. 

That is; a state when the dream situation becomes suffused by an increased self-consciousness and ability to choose; when (perhaps) the dream-self becomes more detached-from dream-experience - and knows it as "a dream" - in other words, knows the reality of the situation. 

Then, it may be, we are confronted by the decision of whether to follow Jesus Christ through the process of transformation that is resurrection, to render us eternally incarnated, and to continue into Heaven.  

Perhaps this transformation can itself be imagined, as if from a dream; as our spirits meeting with Jesus Christ and knowing Him to be Jesus Christ - standing as the Good Shepherd in front of a portal, a doorway - the entrance into the 'sheep fold' that is Heaven. 

We are granted the comprehension that we may choose to follow Jesus through that doorway; and the knowledge that if we do so - as we are solidifying ('condensing') into eternal bodies - we will be taking with us only that which Good; only that which is Love - Love of God, of fellow Men, of divine creation... 

Also, if we choose to pass through that doorway; all that is of sin, death, corruption - will be left-behind. 

What I would emphasize here, is that when we make that decision; it will be from an experienced-situation that is somewhat like a dream, and the decision will be made by selves that are somewhat like our dream selves...

But a dream-like-state that we know to be reality; and the choice will be made by what we then-know to be our real, eternal and divine self.


James Higham said...

Pre-mortal soul as well?

ben said...

How about the idea that the choice is made *between* states, so that the dying man chooses either to slowly transition back to spirithood or to transition suddenly into a resurrected body. Maybe as the body naturally begins to transition back to spirithood (this would manifest as age-related dementia), the person can be 'snatched' (saved) by Jesus' offer. Death would be a process that actually begins with what's understood as ageing - ageing wouldn't just be preceding death.

Maybe there's something very difficult or strenuous about spirit-to-body or body-to-spirit transformation that is accommodated by the gradual-incarnation (and excarnation?) process.

This would explain why there's not a sudden transformation from spirit to body - there's the whole conception, growth (spirit diminishing and body accumulating) situation.

It'd also explain why the agony in the garden was so agonising - if Jesus was offering cleansing and bodification to a mass of post-mortal spirits, but with gradual spirit-to-resurrected body being impossible because missing out the gradual incarnation step (that this world provides).

Bruce Charlton said...

@James - "Pre-mortal soul as well?"

No. My understanding is that the *necessity* of Jesus Christ - and the fact we need to follow him - tells us that a Man cannot go directly from a pre-mortal soul to resurrection, but must go-through the intermediate stage of mortal incarnation. ...Even if that stage is very brief - such as happens when an embryo or fetus dies in the womb, or a child dies around or soon after birth.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ben - I believe that if you follow through that gradual transition idea, you will find that it leads to all sorts of problems with incoherence. There must be, at some point, a qualitative and irreversible state transition.

ben said...

@Dr Charlton

Yes, there would be a natural transition from body to spirit that's interrupted by an offer of sudden transformation to new body.

cae said...

@Dr. Charlton - You know, I don't disagree with your over-all premise here...but I have to say:

My experience of "dreaming" is utterly unlike what you describe. I mean, just this morning I had an incredibly life-like dream in which I was 'me' (yet not the particular 'me' of my waking self), and within the dream there was no sense of "perplexity" or uncertainty. Everything that happened unfolded in a clear and even 'tangible' manner - it was like being a character in a book or movie...normal, everyday life, just not 'my' actual life and no one from my real life, not even 'my'self.

I also quite often have dreams which I 'experience' from more than one perspective.

I've had dreams with huge, epic, 'storylines' - in one of them, I was living in what seemed to be (on wakening) a version of the US if the Japanese had won WW2 and taken over California, where (within the dream) I lived and became part of a resistance force...

In another (from over 30 years ago) I was living in a strange 'future' during a sort of civil war between the men and women of the world - the women started it, because they were fed up with being subjugated and oppressed. Then when they won the war, I was extremely disappointed to see that instead of using their freedom to make a better world, they just turned right around and began to subjugate and oppress the men!

All of the above said, I can report that I have also had a dream (actually terrible nightmare), which specifically affirms your premise about the partial 'detaching' of the "spiritual self" from the body. And in point of fact, I don't believe that one was entirely 'just' a felt (upon awakening) like something which had 'really been happening'.


No Longer Reading said...

A natural question that arises is what carries over into that state?

WJT mentioned in this post ( that Tiresias and Samuel had more capabilities than other shades in the stories mentioning them after death. And perhaps shamans would as well. Of course, such people weren't common in the ancient world and are more scarce now.

There's also the idea of repetitive prayers and the Eastern Orthodox idea of perpetually prarying the Jesus prayer. Perhaps if these can be internalized, they give a guiding thread running through the otherwise confused thoughts of the soul.

In any case, I believe that there are things that can guide the soul after death, though what exactly those are, how can something be so internalized that it's still there after death, I'm not sure.

Sasha Melnik said...

I suspect our Names are akin to the colour of a pair of earthly gloves we might wear for a job but then discard when we pass on. But in dreams, I have come to try and give my name consciously when given the opportunity. It's _quite_ hard to do.

But I suspect the soul doesn't give a darn for a name. It's an earthly label and as much use to a soul as a gravestone.

But that doesn't completely add up with our earthly use of Jesus's name, does it.

They have a use in communication and prayer.

I've a dream-derived anecdote - a friend of mine from some decades ago - school days, died by suicide after floundering adrift in the modern world.

In a dream I met his soul - it was in tatters, like a badly sun-bleached plastic bag blowing in the wind on a barbed wire fence. I immediately recognised him as this friend of mine and said so, gave him his name and suddenly there he was, restored, dressed in a white robe, shining and giving me thanks.

If I had not remembered his name, I'm unsure it would have worked.

David Earle said...

How you describe the similarity between dreams and our post-mortal state is something I've thought about before and strikes me as true.

I practiced "lucid dreaming" in my college years, and that involved keeping a dream journal and getting in the habit of doing "reality checks" throughout the day, with the idea being I would subconsciously do them in a dream and trigger a lucid dream when the reality check fails. These checks are typically done when any out-of-the-ordiary things happen, or just whenever we think of it.

I've since been in plenty of dreams that have been so bizarre that I manage to "snap out of it" and recognize that I am in a dream, and then remember to "reality check" and confirm this fact.

I can imagine our post-mortal state being much like a dream. A story is unfolding, much like a dream, and after some time (what could possibly feel likes days for some or minutes for others), we realize that we are dreaming - or are we? Feels like deja vu. Perhaps we recall that we were just in a hospital bed, or involved in an accident. We become confused. Am I dead? Maybe at this point the dream starts to feel like a nightmare.

If we have been properly trained, we finally call out to Jesus. Maybe some people take longer than others. He appears and guides us. If not, perhaps we remain scared, confused, and tormented.

Christ's simple and important message to love and follow Him will be recalled in our post-mortal state. Even a child that has died and loves Jesus will know to cry out for Him when they're lost in the "after-life."

ben said...

I wonder if there might be other purposes to incarnation than only resurrection after death.

Maybe this world can be used for other things entirely. Maybe there's some learning to be done here that could be taken back to spirithood for those uninterested in progress (for example).

From the Wikipedia article on Dion Fortune:

"recommend to the white races the traditional Western system, which is admirably adapted to their psychic constitution"

Maybe she's not talking about Christianity there exactly, but it got me thinking - maybe the purpose for the incarnation of billions of eg Indians, Chinese... was never resurrection in the first place, and it was always some other purpose or purposes. Maybe Christianity (retaining bodyhood after death, developing into gods) really is suited to European beings especially.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ben - I disagree with the assumption behind the idea! I am pretty sure that (as, say, Plan A) God would like as many people as want, to accept the gift of resurrection; and this requires mortal incarnation. If somebody would prefer to remain a spirit, then he can do so, and does not need to incarnate.

Of course, someone may not be sure, and incarnates in order to make that decision; and only decides during mortal life that he does not want resurrection.

I think Dion Fortune's idea used to be quite common - CS Lewis speculated in the same kind of way. But this is to treat people as organized by blocs; which was probably broadly true in earlier years, but not now.

Recently, there seem to be many among the Chinese who become Christian as soon as they hear about it; so there are more practising Christians in China than in Europe (for whatever that is worth). I would not be surprising if there were a higher percentage of those who accepted salvation from Eastern than Western, nations - at present.

When cultures are corrupt and value-inverted, there is probably an inverse correlation between being taught about Jesus (or finding out about Him) and damnation - and the less people 'know' about Jesus in mortal life, the more likely that they will follow him post-mortally - because whatever they 'know' is likely to be false or so distorted as to be severely off-putting.

ben said...

@Dr Charlton

Now that I think about it, I suppose modern Westerners would be a good example of people who might've incarnated with motivation other than resurrection... My understanding is that God is still pitching Good to them, and resurrection.

It just seems like the *chosen* incarnation of (tens of?) billions of people who concern themselves with things contrary to Good-resurrection, needs explaining.

It also seems hard to accept that God would accept for people to be placed in a world that'd seriously harm their chances at resurrection.

How about this:

1. Masses of spirits with different things that interest them.

2. God creates so as to provide situations each of them wants while bodied (this can include opportunity for evil, or opportunity for learning unrelated to resurrection).

3. While bodied, God can show them what resurrection would mean by shaping the creation they're inhabiting.

4. After death, a situation is somehow created where that progress is then chosen, quite freely, for or against, from one's nature. Hang-ups like antichrist impressions somehow wouldn't be relevant. (Maybe persistent antichristians are actually just badly-motivated and just want evil according to their nature, maybe well-motivated antichristians would have their delusions swept away before the choice for or against resurrection, whatever the case may be).

5. 2000 years ago, Jesus incarnated to physically make resurrection possible, and to have other physical effects on reality (the Cosmic Christ idea). While incarnate, he also contributed to the development of Christianity. This Christianity would have complicated and important *but unnecessary* effects on the system.

Sorry if this is off-topic.

ben said...

To be clear - when I say unnecessary, I mean there could still be a basically functioning system without the Christian ideas.

At the same time, my understanding is that Christianity is necessary for the desired 'cosmic' development of some number of the tens of billions of people who've incarnated.