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.