Sunday 6 December 2015

What did Christ save us from? Discarnate unconsciousness (Hell = Sheol/ Hades + Insight)

Jesus Christ is known to have saved us - but what from?

From what the Ancient Hebrews of the Old Testament called Sheol (which is much the same a what the Ancient Greeks called Hades). And the descriptions of Sheol/ Hades are of a state of discarnate un-consciousness.

So - before Christ, when mortal Men died, they lost their bodies and their 'wits' - they become 'demented', lost self-awareness, lost the meaning and purpose of existence, lost all relationships with other Men and with God.

And this is what Christ saved us from - because after Christ Men are resurrected - that is they have restored and perfected bodies, and become again capable (indeed in an enhanced way) of consciousness: they have real relationships, their lives are self-aware with meaning and purpose.

Sheol/ Hades is the consequence of the death of an incarnate mortal. Yet (Mormons believe, and so do I) that before mortality we had a spiritual existence in which we were conscious souls, had relationships, meaning and purpose.

From this I infer that our incarnation as mortal Men was not merely our souls being given a body - but that the soul and body become one, interpenetrated - such that when the body dies, our souls are left incomplete - as described for Sheol/ Hades.

It was always a part of the plan that Jesus Christ would remedy this state (only the fully-divine Christ being incarnated, dying and Himself being resurrected could accomplish this) - and that Jesus would by his mystical work enable resurrection, and thereby restoration of our wholeness.

Why then did the advent of Christ also bring Hell - a place of tormented rather than 'demented' souls as in Sheol/ Hades?

Because Christ brought post-mortal awareness - we must choose to accept Christ's gift of resurrection and a post-mortal eternal life as Sons and Daughters of God, siblings of Christ - of working towards higher levels of our divinization. And to chose this entails to remain aware in the post-mortal state.

Therefore, Hell is Sheol/ Hades PLUS post-mortal awareness: Hell is Hades but ALSO to know Hades - to know that we chose Hades above Heaven and to experience meaninglessness, purposelessness and existential alone-ness.

(Approximately) Hell = Hades + Insight   


Adam G. said...


It does seem to me that there is something dreamlike and indefinite about the spiritual state, which would fit with this point of view you espouse here.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - I am not familiar with the term High-proof, and I can't find it online?

Eric Fesh said...

The inference about the nature of the soul seems to me (a rank amateur) to track well with the Aristotelian-Thomist understanding...

Bruce Charlton said...

@Eric - Actually, it probably doesn't!

A few years ago I went deeply enough into Thomism that I actually understood it... for a while (Ed Feser was a big help).

But the Thomist idea of soul is significantly different from 'common sense' - and it is different from the Mormon idea as well, because for Thomists the soul is immaterial, while for Mormons everything is material.

But here I just meant a commonsensical sort of idea of soul without trying to take a position about what it was 'made of'.

Fred said...

I thought Latter-day Saints believed in an immaterial soul. That you started with a spirit body, which entered your physical body when you were born on earth.

It was explained to me by missionaries that Michael's spirit body entered Adam's physical body, not that Michael's physical body was transformed into to Adam's physical body.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Fred - I only know Mormonism theoretically and by reading - but I think it would be fair to say: 1. This is not really the kind of question that concerns most 'ordinary' active Mormons, indeed they seem to regard this sort of theological discussion as counter-productive. 2. There are going to be a lot of different beliefs about the nature of the soul at ground level - and this doesn't really matter. 3. But the 'official' (and high status scholarly) theology is probably that there is no immaterial substance, and implicitly the soul is material - but of some kind of undetectable material (perhaps, analogously, like physical forces such as some wavelengths of electromagnetism used to be undetectable, and gravity still is).

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Fred, you are mostly right, but so is Bruce. The spirit body enters the physical body, creating a living soul. (The term "soul" in Mormonism technically refers to the combination of a spirit and a physical body.) However, even the spirit body is officially considered to be something material. "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; we cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter." (D&C 131:7-8)

Actually, now that I think of it, Mormon scripture does sometimes use "soul" to refer to pre-incarnate spirits (Abraham 3:23) as well as to the spirit-and-body combination, but never (as far as I can remember) to post-incarnate spirits. This meshes well with Bruce's idea, that a never-incarnated spirit is a complete soul in its own right, but that incarnation changes it such that it can never thereafter be a complete soul without its physical body.

The distinction (in modern English, though not in the language of the King James Bible) between a "spirit" and a "ghost" also fits with this idea. A spirit is a complete being (even Jehovah himself was a spirit), but a ghost (i.e., a once-incarnate soul which has lost its physical body) is something broken and incomplete.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Thanks for that.

I could not recall the location of that canonical quote from the Doctrine and Covenants - and had a false memory that it was in the King Follet discourse, where I failed to find it...

I give the full link here in case Fred is interested:

I personally find it very difficult to be wholly consistent in distinguishing 'soul' and 'spirit' except when these terms are put into a specific context - as you do above.

I have recently been reading Rudolf Steiner who makes a big deal of Man being a three-part combination of Soul, Spirit and Body - but I do not really understand what he means (I read the words, but I do not understand the distinction - probably because I do not understand why he makes such as big deal of it).

Anonymous said...

It LDS thought, the Soul is also seen as having three components:

Intelligence, or the Mind of the Spirit, which is uncreated, as described in The Pearl of Great Price (Abraham 3) and the King Follet Discourse

The Body of the Spirit, the creation of which is mentioned in the Pearl of Great Price (Moses 3) and the Book of Mormon (Ether 3)

The physical, mortal Body, which as mentioned is necessary to complete the Soul.

Steiner's view might be similar.
In most worldviews, the Soul is the most essential thing, the central and integral component of the person. To Mormons the Intelligence, the Spirit Body, and the Mortal Body are all part of the Soul because they are all equally important, but in other philosophies the Intelligence/Mind would often be considered superior or more essential to any other aspect of the person. While I'm not aware of any religion besides Mormonism that sees the Spirit as being a material substance, some do apply a three part structure to the Soul, only psychologically.
For example, Plato's division of the Soul into the Logical (rational, objective thought), the Spiritual (sentiment and emotions), and the Appetites (physical wants and desires), which might be what Steiner has in mind.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I'm not at all familiar with Steiner, but the Mormon distinction between "soul" and "spirit" must be quite different from his. There is no three-part combination in Mormonism -- just a two-part combination (spirit and body), and "soul" is the name for that two-part combination.

This is based on a straightforward reading of Genesis 2:7: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." It is explained ("in a certain place," as they like to say at the Jr. Ganymede) that the "breath of life" refers to Adam's spirit. When the spirit enters the body, the body becomes a soul.

Actually, some Mormons do believe that the soul is a three-part combination -- of body, spirit, and "intelligence." This is a non-canonical but very common idea, the purpose of which is to reconcile D&C 93:29 ("Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be") with the doctrine that God is the literal father of our spirits. The spirit, according to this interpretation, was created by God, but the intelligence was now.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anonymous 17:52 - Thanks for the comment - which goes with WmJas: usually I don't publish Anonymous comments, so could you add a pseudonym in future.

Bookslinger said...

Wm James: anonymous is right, Mormonism does have a 3 part makeup of man. The existence of, though not a clear explanation of, an "Intelligence" is given in Abraham.

God the Father, Elohim, is the father of our -spirit bodies-, our "spirit", but he is not the father of our "Intelligence".

A few years ago, no earlier than 2003, Elder Packer spoke at general conference mentioning that God "clothed our Intelligence in a spirit body. if I recall correctly, President McKay spoke or wrote along similar lines.

Since this is not something that is formally taught in the chapel on Sundays, it's not in the missionary discussions, it's not in Gospel Principles, it's not in the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School manual on Abraham (in the OT course)... Therefore it is not a binding doctrine, it's not "on the test" to get into the Celestial Kingdom, or part of the temple recommend interview.

However, it does exist in -today's- "correlated material" in the form of the Institute Manual on the Pearl of Great Price. (Available online, in both html and pdf, and in the Gospel Library mobile app.) AFAIK, This is the only place with the church imprimatur, other than modern (post correlation) general conference talks, where it (attempts to) explain(s) how the "intelligence" relates to the "spirit (body)".

That Institute manual on the PofGP, in the lesson/section on Abraham does use quotes from JS, BY, and post-correlation members of the First Presidency.

Words that were used to describe the creation of the spirit body are "birthed" and "organized". Since the spirit body is material, some form of eternal element, it follows that God took spiritual elements and somehow fashioned spirit bodies around the Intelligences. Hence, Elder Packer's (and Pres McKay's) use of the phrase "clothed the Intelligences in spirit bodies".

The King Follet discourse, and other early prophets' talks found in History of the Church, and Journal of Discourses are not binding doctrine upon us today, unless they are preached over the pulpit at GC or formally taught in our chapels. BUT... The quotations from them that appear in _current correlated material_ (ie, the Institute manuals) certainly have more weight and deserve more attention than those parts which are not cited in current correlated material.

To say we don't have a formal or binding doctrine on what an "Intelligence" is, is like saying we don't have a formal or binding doctrine on a Mother in Heaven. Both statements are true. Neither is on the CK entrance exam, or on the baptismal or temple recommend interviews. But there are enough references from the JS/BY era to today, and brief mentions here and there, and obvious _inferences_ that one can't escape from in current formal/official teachings on eternal progression and exaltation... That we honestly can't deny the charge that we believe in a "Mrs. God." We can deny that we have any formal doctrines and teachings in the matter of Heavenly Mother, but when it comes down to it, for those who think through all the implications, yes, we do "believe".

The PofGP Intitute manual may be more arcane and hidden from the public than the more overt references to "heavenly parent_s_" (plural) in both the Gospel Principles manual, and the Declaration on the Family. However, that Institute manual does have several paragraphs on the matter versus a sentence each in GPnd DotF.

Granted, the Institute manuals are effectively "invisible" to virtually all adult converts, and even to born-in-church individuals who don't take Institute courses.

Bookslinger said...

Institute manuals, in pdf form, are here:

Bruce, if you haven't read them, I would strongly suggest them. They are the church's only teaching material for adults, outside of the general conference talks, the Ensign, and the sunday school material (the four year cycle of Gospel Doctrine) that has the formal church imprimatur.

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks Books!

JKC said...

Great thoughts, Bruce. I've thought for a few years now that there is a massive difference between an unembodied spirit and a disembodied spirit. That is, the event of incarnation itself changes the nature of the person in fundamental ways. The "self" so to speak, is not the spirit, which is then clothed in a body that can later be shed with no ill effect. The self of an embodied spirit is the body and the spirit, so that losing the body is an actual loss of a part of the self. This better explains, I think, Joseph F. Smith's vision of the redemption of the dead, and the comment that the dead viewed their disembodied state as a form of bondage.

FWIW, I'm not all that convinced by Roberts' tripartite model--just because it requires defining terms in a way that I find unscriptural. It might be right, but there are other models that are no less convincing. I respectfully disagree with Bookslinger's suggestion that the church has officially or definitively spoken on the matter because the tripartite model is used in some institute manuals.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JKC - Thanks. I have for a few years been thinking about this matter of Hell having been 'introduced' in the New Testament, by Christ (in some fashion) - presumably; and the apparent paradox that Hell seemed worse than Sheol. I do not accept divine-punitive explanations, as being incompatible with the Loving Fathership of God.

Adam G. said...


@Adam - I am not familiar with the term High-proof, and I can't find it online? *

High-proof means the insight is potent and distilled.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - Oh *that* meaning! It literally never crossed my mind that *that* is what *you* - of all people I know - meant (and as a term of praise!).