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The Illusion of the Eternal Soul

Posted in The R-Evolution of Political Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 17th, 2008 by mrdirt

I am the beginning and the end.

I am Life and I am Death.

The existence of the soul is a myth which, like most religious/spiritual/metaphysical fairy-tales, has one purpose and one purpose only: to quench your lust of life, to make you oblivious of the true nature of life and to keep you mentally enslaved within an illusion, a virtual reality where the meaning of life is labour and procreation.

The myth of the soul has existed, much like other religious myths, for hundreds of thousands of years, ever since the formation of the first proto-societies/family-tribes. It is safe to say that the myth arose ever since we became self-conscious of our existence and aware of our own mortality. Even now, if you try to grasp the notion of death as the end of your existence you will not be able to do so, the thought that you will forever seize to exist is extremely frightening and disturbing. A simpler example would be to ask you to contemplate the universe. The idea of infinity cannot be grasped with the human mind, it is impossible for us to think outside the notion of space/distance. But in the same way, and in fact probably even harder, we are also unable to understand a universe that is not endless. You imagine the universe as a sphere, an area that somewhere has an end. But what exists beyond its borders? Nothingness is not a concept that the human brain can grasp.

In the same way, the brain cannot grasp these concepts when applied to time. Eternity, the existence of time without beginning and end is difficult to understand. Even more difficult is to understand a state of things where time does not exist. This inability to understand the end of existence, that death is the end and there is absolutely nothing after it, creates such awesome fear within our hearts that is is easy to understand how the first humans chose to create a bed time story with a happy ending for their children and themselves. And so death became nothing more than a passage to the afterlife.

The development of the notion of the soul was affected by a variety of factors. It was not only the fear of the unknown and our mortality that played a part. It was also the understanding that we were somehow different from all the other creatures that walked the earth. We were the only life-form to be self-conscious of our actions and our choices, of good and evil, of life and death, of mathematical patterns, of our bodies, of nature, and so much more. This led the first humans to conclude that we are different, we are higher beings, and thus arose the myth that we were made in the image of the gods (read the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus). And of course, since the gods(the sun) were immortal, so were we.

But even though it was decided that we should be immortal, it was still to be decided what it was that was immortal in us. Certainly it could not have been the body. The body dies and rots and returns to the mother earth. So what is it that rises up to the heavens? More importantly, what is it that comes from the life-giving creator-god, the sun? Light and warmth. And what is it that creates the same effect here on earth? Fire. So the sun-god was a huge fireball. And sitting around the fire that kept them safe and warm at night, what did our ancestors see rising to the sky? Smoke. As simple as that, our immortality came to be represented by a smoke-like existence, an intangible, ethereal, airy presence that could be seen like the smoke, a ghost or a spirit, the soul.

Having existed for hundreds of thousands of years, the myth of the soul has permeated the human subconscious and is now considered by all as a given, a fact. The non-affiliated nature of this myth has accommodated its existence within all religions and all societies. Even today’s atheists and agnostics uncritically accept the existence of the soul. “I may not believe in a creator-being, but I still like to bask in the lie that is my immortality”. Indeed, the myth of the soul is so established within human society and psyche that the denial of its existence is met by shock and horror. To confess that you deny the existence of the soul would be in the same region as someone in the Dark Ages claiming that the earth is round.

But why is it that even now, having advanced so far in terms of knowledge and technology and so much more, do we still stick to this notion of the eternal soul? After all there is no proof to justify it. On the contrary, the evidence point towards a wholly humanistic nature of the self. We know today that a person’s personality and his illusion of the “self” is the result of the structure and workings of his brain, combined with his experiences during his pre-pubescent life. So it must be something else that causes this ignorance. A conscious effort to deny the facts like an ostrich who buries his head in the sand. Certainly there is the fear of the unknown. But is that enough to justify the unwillingness to progress? Or is it the case that certain people benefit from this myth?

I want you to consider what you would do if you were told with no uncertain terms that there is no afterlife of one sort or the other and after you die you simply seize to exist? Would you still be willing to spend the largest part of your life in the modern slavery that is wage-labour consumerism? Would you accept the system as it is, a system in which you get the wonderful things that exist around you in the “afterlife” while those who take advantage of you enjoy them in the real life? The afterlife, the immortality of the soul is nothing else but another dogma by which you are kept in chains, educated to become unwilling to rise up and fight for your freedom and your rightful share of the beautiful miracle that is life. They tell you “blessed be the poor for they will enter heaven with Jesus while the rich will spend eternity in hell”. They tell you “blessed be the martyrs because if you die fighting for your religion Allah will give you lots of beautiful wives to fuck for the rest of eternity”. And then they send you off to do their dirty work.

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