This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

The subtle or ‘psychic’ state

Having passed beyond the corporeal state, we are in territory that will almost certainly be ‘new’ to most readers, this being the point at which spatial conditions do not apply. This is the world of ‘soul’, which in the Greco-Catholic doctrine is the ‘form of the body’.

The term psychic ought to be addressed first because its usage today is mostly limited to Hollywood fantasy or else charlatans who claim to provide services that are called ‘paranormal’, for example through seances and the like. The doctrinal usage, on the other hand, is much more technical and not nearly so dramatic, going all the way back to Plato and Aristotle. What we call ‘psychic’ today is a distorted fragment of a science that may at one time have been operative but is now a matter of parlor magic.

To recover its full meaning, we will start by reminding the reader that the psychic is a ‘state of reality’ just like the corporeal and is no less real, even though more obscure. On the contrary, since the psychic world is also the formal world, the world of form, we could say that it is ‘more real’ than the corporeal, since here we find the principle of unity of all corporeal beings, and it is the ‘form’ of the being that is responsible for the structure and ordering without which they could not be what they are. This is true of man as a unity and for all of his component parts: limbs, organs, nerves, etc.

Doesn’t DNA with its famous ‘genetic code’ explain all of this, acting as the great ‘cookbook’ of all living creatures, so that attributing a non-spatial form as the principle of order is redundant? Here we can again only point to developments in genetic research, where we will find that the situation is much like what occurred with the theory of evolution: it was thought to explain everything, and to finally provide evidence of a ‘material cause’ for biological phenomena, eliminating the need for any non-material or supernatural hocus pocus. Unfortunately, the more the theory of evolution was examined, the more issues arose and the more inadequate it became, and soon Darwinism became Neo-Darwinism, which in turn became compromised and discarded. So it is with genetic research, which initially was presented as the answer to all of our questions and the ‘key’ to our ability to understand and even manipulate the mysterious self-structuring activity of living beings. At the present, this hope is breaking down. That is to say, we are beginning to realize that although there may be a link between a particular gene and a particular physical characteristic in a living being, we have no way of observing a causal relationship between the one and the other. The analogy of DNA being the code used to structure a being only holds if some force intervenes to read and execute the code, because a certain code might have a link to the structure of the eye, but it does not and could not ‘direct’ the construction of the eye. What we see is the link but not a deterministic relationship, and we definitely do not see a scale model of the eye embedded in the genetic code.

In the words of W.M. O’Neil:

“There is no way open yet for the deduction of manifest traits from the sequences of bases in the DNA molecule…For that matter, no one can yet say precisely how the ‘instructions’ coded in the molecule are carried out in cell differentiation.”[1]

The subtle world is the world of ‘thought’, but it is also the world of form, and form is the principle of order of living beings, which is precisely the element of the corporeal world that is inexplicable in terms of that world’s conditions and observable data. To go even further, we will say that it is incorrect to view the soul as some kind of fleeting presence in a foreign body, rather it is the body that is built up by the soul, which is in some sense its envelope (although any spatial metaphor is in this context invalid). Once the soul departs, the living being is no longer a being, even if the material structure of the organs and body take some time to decompose. From the instant the soul withdraws or is dispersed, that is to say, at the moment of death, the being is no more and only a corpse remains.

To touch on a point that will receive further development later, we will note that in this view, all living beings require a soul, for the soul animates the material body. This implies the presence of a soul in all living beings, plants and animals included. This will sound odd to contemporaries, even those who are religious, but without acknowledging this point the whole doctrine of the soul makes no sense. What distinguishes the human being from other beings is the presence of a specific kind of soul, absent in vegetable life (animated by a vegetal soul) and animal life (animated by an animal soul). But we must not get ahead of ourselves.

[1] W.M. O’Neil, Fact and Theory.

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