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Previous: 23.4 Spirituality in life Up: 23. Spiritual Discrete Degrees Next: 24. Discrete Degrees in Nature

23.5 Heavenly states

This chapter has discussed a spiritual degree, one made up of three sub-degrees in which there are ‘specialists’ in the love of wisdom, the love of truth, and the love of good action in life. But do we experience these things in our everyday life? We may sometimes experience moments of grace and some brief insight into a spiritual state that seems far removed from our everyday life, but it certainly does not look like we are persistently aware of any of those three spiritual sub-degrees.

Maybe we come into these spiritual states in a more permanent way only after we die. Then, our physical body will have decayed, and there will no longer be the external constraints of selection on the actions of our inner spiritual and mental degrees. That is, provided of course, we built up suitable fixed structures in the spiritual degree by suitable physical actions in our life. Once that is done, we can imagine ourselves existing in heavenly states where we have many more possibilities to express our (fixed) spiritual loves in new ranges of mental experience. This is certainly what has been suggested by common belief about life after bodily death, even if it is not in the explicit doctrine of many of the leading churches.

Many thinkers deny the possibility of a spiritual existence for the soul because they think that persons in such states would have to be disembodied, and they can not conceive of anything like a normal life without any sense of body nor of relations of juxtaposition between distinct persons. They are mistaken, however, to think that the continued spiritual existence of a soul is without a body or any substance. Certainly such souls cannot continue to exist in physical space. We will never find them by searching under the earth or in the visible heavens. But in our multilevel theistic structure, spiritual beings will have their own kind of substance, namely love, and their own kind of relational space, namely the space defined by possibilities for interactions of distinct spiritual loves.

This is in contrast to Aquinas’ view that souls are purely forms in conjunction with an ‘act of existing’ in the sense of being immaterial and having no matter. That view does indeed remove souls from physical space. It makes them completely absent from any space and also from any change, being, or consciousness. It is true that Aquinas’ meaning of ‘form’ does include that of ‘causal principle’, and we both agree that souls are or contain the causal principles of our life. The question is whether the causal principles or forms (whatever make up the soul) are more akin to fixed mathematical forms or more akin to living forms. If they are like mathematical forms, they would not be of the kind to which any loving or lovable person would aspire, either before bodily death or afterwards.

The present view, by contrast, takes souls to be living forms of which spiritual love is their substance. This means that spiritual beings do have their bodies23.6 and should well be visible by some appropriate kind of spiritual sight. Such beings will be composed of forms of love and will think by means of ideas, in manners presumably very similar to the way we do on earth. More details concerning this mode of living will have to depend on further insights, inferences, and investigations.


Previous: 23.4 Spirituality in life Up: 23. Spiritual Discrete Degrees Next: 24. Discrete Degrees in Nature

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