The Immortality of the Soul, Body and Mind

Problems with Awakening of the Body

The doctrine of the resurrection experiences several philosophical problems which stem from considerations about personal identity; that is, how is the person raised identical with the person who has lived? If we accept the dualism and the criteria for the soul for personal identity, then there are not many problems: at death, the soul and body are divided, the soul remains intangible until the time of resurrection, and the soul becomes attached to the newly resurrected body. In as much as a person is the same, if and only if, he preserves the same soul, then we can legitimately claim that the person raised is identical to the person who has ever lived.

But if we reject dualism or the criteria of the soul for personal identity, then we must face some difficulties. According to the most popular conception of the resurrection, we will be resurrected with the same body we once lived. Suppose the resurrected body is actually made of the same cells that make up the original body, and likewise, the resurrected body has the same shape as the original body. Are they identical?

Peter Van Inwagen thinks not (Van Inwagen, 1997). If, for example, an original manuscript written by Augustine was destroyed, and then, miraculously God re-created a manuscript with the same atom that formed Augustine’s original manuscript, we should not regard it as the same manuscript. Apparently, between Augustine’s original text, and the text created by God, there was no Spatio-temporal continuity. And, if such continuity is lacking, then we cannot legitimately claim that the recreated object is the same original object. For the same reason, it seems that the body that is raised cannot be identical to the original body. At best, the body raised will be a replica.

However, our intuition is not entirely clear. Consider, for example, the following case: a bicycle is displayed in a store, and a customer buys it. To bring it home, customers unload the bikes, put their belongings in a box, take them home, and when they get there, reassemble the pieces. Is that the same bicycle? Of course Yes, even if there is no Spatio-temporal continuity.

However, there is room for doubt that the resurrected body will consist of the same atoms as the original body. We know that matter recycles itself, and that because of metabolism, atoms that once shaped a person’s human body can later form another person’s body. How can you resurrect a body that has the same atom?

However, maybe, in the resurrection, God does not need to resurrect the body. If we accept the body’s criteria for personal identity, then, indeed, the body that is raised must be the same original body. However, if we accept psychological criteria, maybe God just needs to re-create people who are psychologically constantly with the original person, regardless of whether that person has the same body or not. John Hick believes this is how God can indeed continue (Hick, 1994).

Hick invites thought experiments. Suppose a man disappears in London, and suddenly someone with the same appearance and personality appears in New York. It seems reasonable to consider that the person who disappeared in London was the same person who appeared in New York. Now, suppose a man dies in London, and suddenly appears in New York with the same appearance and personality. Hick believes that, even if his body was in London, it would be justified to claim that the person who appeared in New York was the same person who died in London. Hick’s implication is that bodily continuity is not required for personal identity; only psychological continuity is needed.

And, Hick assumes that, in the same way, if someone dies, and someone in the world of resurrection emerges with the same character traits, memories, etc., then we must conclude that such a person in the resurrected world is identical with someone who is resurrected previously dead. Hick acknowledged that the body that was resurrected would be a replica, but as long as that is psychologically resurrected continuously with the original person, then it is identical to the original person.

However, as much as the Hick model depends on psychological criteria for personal identity, it experiences the same problem that we have reviewed when considering psychological criteria. It seems doubtful that a replica will be identical to the original person because more than one replica can be made again. And, if there is more than one replica, then they will all claim to be genuine, but obviously, not all of them can be genuine. Hick postulates that we can believe that God will only create one replica, but it is not clear how it will solve the problem. Because the mere possibility that God can make more than one replica is enough to conclude that the replica will not be the original person.


The discipline of parapsychology is intended to prove that there is scientific evidence for life after death; or at the very least, that there is scientific evidence for the existence of paranormal abilities which would imply that the mind is not a material substance. Originally founded by JBS Rhine in the 1950s, parapsychology is not preferred by contemporary neuroscientists, although some universities still support the parapsychology department.


Parapsychologists usually claim that there is ample evidence supporting the doctrine of reincarnation. Two alleged evidence is very significant: (1) past life regression; (2) the case of children who seem to remember past lives.

Under hypnosis, some patients often experience regression and recall events from their childhood. However, some patients have gone further and, allegedly, have clear memories of past lives. Some parapsychologists consider this to be what is called ‘past life regression’ as proof of reincarnation (Sclotterbeck, 2003).

However, past life regression may be a case of cryptomnesia, that is, hidden memories. Someone may have a memory, but not recognize it. A famous case is illustrative: an American woman in the 1950s was hypnotized and claimed to be Bridey Murphy, a 19th-century Irish woman. Under hypnosis, the woman offered a fairly clear 19th-century Irish description, even though she had never been to Ireland. However, it was later discovered that, as a child, he had an Irish neighbor. Most likely, he has a hidden memory of the neighbor, and under hypnosis, assumed the personality of an Irish woman of the 20th century.

It should also be remembered that hypnosis is a state of high suggestibility. People who do hypnosis can easily trigger false memories in people who are hypnotized; hence, the alleged memory that arises in hypnosis cannot be trusted at all.

Some children claim to remember past lives. Parapsychologist Ian Stevenson collected more than a thousand such cases (Stevenson, 2001). And, in most of these cases, children know things about the deceased person, which is presumed, they cannot possibly know otherwise.

However, Stevenson’s work has been criticized for its methodological weaknesses. In most cases, the child’s family had contact with the family of the deceased before Stevenson’s arrival; thus, the child can take information and give the impression that he knows more than what he knows. Paul Edwards also accused Stevenson of asking questions that led to his own preconceptions (Edwards, 1997: 14).

In addition, reincarnation experiences its own conceptual problems. If one does not remember a past life, then it seems that one cannot legitimately claim that he is the same person whose life he does not remember. However, some philosophers claim this is not a good objection at all, because one does not remember being a very young child, but can still claim to be the same person as that child (Ducasse, 1997: 199).

Population growth also seems to be a problem for reincarnation: according to defenders of reincarnation, souls migrate from one body to another. This, in a sense, presupposes that the number of souls has remained stable because no new souls have been created, they have only migrated from body to body. However, the number of corpses has consistently increased. Where, one might ask, were all souls before a new body present? (Edwards, 1997: 14). In fact, this objection is not so severe: maybe the soul exists in a form without a body while they are waiting for a new body to appear (D’Souza, 2009: 57).

Near-Death Experience

Since ancient times (for example, Plato’s myth of Er in the Republic), there have been reports of people who have lost some vital signs but regained them after a short period of time. Some people claim to have unique experiences at that time: loud sounds, feelings of peace and relaxation; feeling leaving the body, floating in the air and watching the body from above; a passageway that goes through a dark tunnel; bright light at the end of the tunnel; meetings with friends, relatives, and religious leaders; reviews of the most important moments in life. This is described as a near-death experience (Moody, 2001).

There are still other physiological explanations. These experiences can be induced by stimulating certain areas of the brain. In times of great crisis, the brain releases endorphins, and this can explain the sensation of peace and relaxation. Tunneling experience may be due to anoxia (lack of oxygen), or application of anesthesia containing quetamine. Reviews of the most important moments in life may be caused by the stimulation of neurons in the temporal lobule. Encounters with religious characters might be hallucinations as a result of anoxia (Blackmore, 2002).

Some patients who have experienced near-death experiences are suspected of providing verifiable information that they have no way to find out. Some parapsychologists take this as evidence that patients float in the air during near-death experiences and, during trials, they are able to travel to other locations. However, this evidence is anecdotal.

And there is conflicting evidence: Researchers have placed laptop computers with random images on the roof of the emergency room so that only someone watching from above can find out the image content, but, so far, no patient has ever accurately depicted such an image. (Roach, 2005).

Extra Sensor Perception

Parapsychologists have designed several experiments that are intended to prove that some people have the ability of extrasensory perception or ESP (Radin, 1997). If this ability did exist, it would not prove immortality, but would seem to prove dualism; that is, the mind cannot be reduced to the brain.

The best-formulated experiment is what is called the Ganzfeld experiment. Person A relaxes in the cabin, his eyes are covered with ping-pong balls, and listens to white sounds for fifteen minutes. This is intended to promote sense deprivation. In another cabin, person B is shown as a target image. After that, subject A has displayed the target image, along with three other images. We should expect a 25% probability that subject A will choose the target image, but when the experiment is carried out, 32% of the time, subject A succeeds. Parapsychologists claim this is proof that something strange is happening (because it contradicts expectations of opportunity), and their explanation is that some people have extrasensory perception abilities.

However, this experiment is not without criticism. There may be sensory leakage (maybe the cabin is not sufficiently isolated from each other). The trial protocol is not enough to display images in random order. And, even if, indeed, the results came out 32% accurate when only 25% was expected by chance, it shouldn’t be assumed that a paranormal phenomenon is occurring; at most, further research is needed to reach satisfying conclusions.

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