Leaving Islam



Soul and Immortality 


By Ali Sina 

Is there such thing as soul and does it survive the death of the body?

I cannot say for certainty whether there is a life after death or not. This is a subject that needs to be studied further and I believe there is no definite answer in support or against it yet.

It seems that we, or rather all living beings, have something more than just our physical existence that could be called soul. But let us define first what is physical existence.

We consider the mater as existing and what does not have material existence as non-existing. At least this is the materialistic definition of existence. Nevertheless this is not a comprehensive definition. There are realities that do exist yet they do not have a material existence. As a matter of fact the Matter itself does not have any real existence. Matter is energy in motion.

The smallest element of matter is atom. It is made of electrons that are whirling about the nucleolus that is jiggling in the center of the atom. “If we drew the atom to scale and made protons and neutrons a centimeter in diameter, then the electrons and quarks would be less than the diameter of a hair and the entire atom's diameter would be greater than the length of thirty football fields! 99.999999999999% of an atom's volume is just empty space!” (1) So as you see what appears to be solid matter is mostly empty space. If you squish the atoms of the Earth to fill up all the empty spaces, this planet of ours will become smaller than a pea.

Electrons are leptons; they are believed to be fundamentals, i.e. the smallest indivisible particle of matter. The nucleolus is composed of protons and neutrons. They are made of quarks. Quarks are also believed to be fundamentals. (Scientists do not discard the possibility that leptons and quarks may not be fundamentals but composites of yet smaller particles.)

We still do not know what is the basic nature of matter. What we know is that matter and energy are intimately related. “According to the law of mass-energy equivalence, developed by Albert Einstein as part of his theory of relativity, a quantity of matter of mass m possesses an intrinsic rest mass energy E given by E= mc2, where c is the speed of light. This equivalence is dramatically demonstrated in the phenomena of nuclear fission and fusion in which a small amount of matter is converted to a rather large amount of energy. The converse reaction, the conversion of energy to matter, has been observed frequently in the creation of many new elementary particles.” (2)

So if you crack the atom or the particles composing it you find that it does not have any tangible existence. All existence, even the material world is nothing but a perception. This world that you and I see and experience is only a chimera. It has no existence beyond our perceptions. This is the scientific definition of mater. By this definition can you say that matter has any existence?

As you see “existence” is a relative term. If you were so tiny that you could live inside an atom, this material world would not be tangible to you. Actually we cannot say “inside” the atom because atoms do not have shells. It is just an open space—a field of probabilities. The electrons that whirl about the nucleus in orbits form a cloud of charge. These orbits are referred to as “shells” but really they are not.

Therefore matter does not exist. Matter is energy and energy is insubstantial. We perceive the matter as existing. Yet it really does not exist beyond our perception. Now, suppose you were made of an immaterial substance. In that case you will have a total different perception of the matter and the material world. So matter is an “inexistent” existence that our senses perceive.

Let me clarify this with an example. Take the example of sounds. Our ears perceive the waves with certain lengths as sound. Any wavelength longer or shorter cannot be heard. Other animals such as dogs hear wavelengths that we do not. We cannot say that because we do not hear that wavelength that sound does not exist. If dogs hear it, it must exist even if we don’t. There are creatures, e.g. earthworms that do not need to hear anything for their survival. For them sounds have no existence. They perceive the world through other senses but not through sounds. If we were worms we could argue that there is no such thing as sound.

The same thing can be said of light and what can be seen by our eyes. We only see a certain gamma of lights. We cannot see anything outside those wavelengths and therefore we are not aware of the existence of other lights or colors even though they exist and some other animals and insects see them.

The world that we know is a world that we perceive through our senses. It does not have any reality beyond our perceptions. Therefore it is not outlandish to believe that the world as we perceive it exists only in our minds. Other animals and creatures perceive it differently. The perceived world is just that. It is only relative to us. In reality it has no “real” existence. The only reality is perception.

We have to ask ourselves whether there are existences that are beyond our perception. Let us see what is Life! Can we say that an animate being has something that an inanimate thing does not have? Can we say that Life is a reality that “exists” in living beings, which does not exist in dead or inanimate objects? If so then Life is an existing reality. What is the difference between a living being and a dead thing? One HAS something that the other does not have. This “thing” is Life. So Life exists. It is a reality that transcends matter. Of course life cannot exist without matter. Nevertheless life is a distinct reality from matter.

Now we have two forms of existences: Matter and Life. One can be sensed and the other is the sensor. Is that all or are there other existences? What is Intelligence? Does Intelligence have existence? You can argue that Intelligence does not exist and it is just the function of the brain. But so is Life. Life is the function of the Matter. Life is generated when molecules interact. Yet we agree that it has its own existence. The same thing can be said about the Matter. Matter as we discussed above has no independent reality. It is the function of speed and energy. E=MC2. However speed and energy do not have any existences. Therefore it is fair to say that Intelligence is no less a being than Life and Matter.

What about Love? What about Compassion, what about Devotion, what about the sense of humor? If we agree that intelligence has independent existence, why not Love, Compassion or Fairness? These are all functions of Life but Life is also a function of Matter and Matter is the function of speed and speed is nothing. Thus everything is a function of nothing.

As you see, existence does not begin and end with Matter only. There are other levels of existences that are perceived albeit not with senses. Now we have to ask ourselves whether existence is limited to what we sense and perceive? Are we humans the measure of all things? As you saw in the above discussion, I argued that this Universe does not exist beyond our perception. This Universe is made of atoms and when you crack the atom you find nothing therein. So we can conclude that the essence of the Universe is nothing. When Matter is nothing, its functions are also nothing. There is “nothing” to discuss about. It’s all a big void.

If everything is nothing then who am I? I must exist in order to pose this question or to doubt. “Cogito ergo sum”, as Descartes, concluded. Yes I must exist but my existence is only a function of nothing. We are all functions of nothing. But can something come out of nothing? Logic says no! Then, wherefrom comes this Universe, with its pullulating life and all its functions?

I submit that there must be another Reality that is neither part nor apart from the Universe. This Universe, with all its material and immaterial intricacies that we sense and perceive is only a reflection of that Reality. From nothingness this Universe comes into being by reflecting the existence of that absolute Reality. So Matter as well as Life, Love, Intelligence and other realities are reflections of a Reality that is absolute. Without the absolute Reality everything is but nothing.

This absolute reality is not a being. It is not a thing. Therefore it is not a person, a spirit or a god. It is HOW; how things happen; how things work. It is the law of the evolution. This Reality is the Single Principle underlying the creation. If this principle is HOW, the creation is WHAT. That is all there is: HOW and WHAT. The WHAT depends on HOW but HOW depend on nothing. The HOW is self-subsisting, is eternal and is omnipresent. The HOW is the Principle of all things.

The Principle is neither forgiving nor vindictive. It is neither loving nor hating. It is neither wise nor ignorant. These are human attributes. These are functions of Life and Matter. The Principle is above all these attributes.

In other words, this world that we perceive is nothing but a reflection from a higher Reality. It does not have any real existence. It is just a shadow, an image of a non-being Reality. This is an old concept of which many seers and mystics have spoken. Yet it should not be confused with religious gods. It is rather an antithesis to the concept of deity especially to Muhammad’s primitive notion of God.

Paradoxically the non-being is the only real Being and the beings are non-existent. What seems real is unreal and the unseen is real. What is not, IS; and what is, IS NOT. This is the real paradox of reality where the unreal is manifest and the real is hidden.

Now what about the soul? Does soul exist? As we saw above, everything is a function of other functions. By that definition we can say that soul is also a function of other functions such as Consciousness, Love, Intelligence, etc. That does not mean that it is any less real than other beings. The soul has its own independent existence, just like Love, just like Life and just like Matter. It has a functional existence that is as real, perhaps even more real than Matter. Soul is as real as the body. You perceive the body through senses while you cannot perceive the soul through senses.

We perceive Love, Intelligence, Consciousness and other functions somehow, even if not through our senses. Therefore we accept that these realities exist. Yet how can we be sure of such a thing as the soul when we cannot perceive it in anyways?

Well, we do actually! Soul is the ultimate function of a living being that makes it work. If your body can be compared to hardware your soul is the software that makes it work. If the hardware crashes, the software will stop working but if the software is damaged the hardware will produce garbage. Soul and body are interdependent. What is the difference between a person who is alive in one moment and is not in the next? His body is the same. All his organs could be working independently and can be transplanted to other persons. All the cells of his body are still alive and will continue to live for several more days. His hairs and nails will keep growing. His organs and cells are living. Yet he is dead. What is missing is the soul - the software that made it work is missing. Something in the hardware was damaged and the software stopped working. 

Now, will soul survive after the death occurs? I have no answer to that. If we think of soul as the function of Life, Consciousness, Intelligence, Love, etc, how can a function survive when the instrument that makes that function does no more exist? It is like saying that the music of a violin will survive after the violin is broken? This is not possible. Or is it? Once the violin is broken it can no more generate sounds, but sounds don't die. Sound waves are indestructible. Theoretically we could listen to the sounds of creatures long dead as we still can listen to the sound of Big Bang generated when the Universe was born.  So the sounds we utter are eternal even if we are mortals. Thus, if sound can survive, why can’t our soul?

To sum it up, the only reality is perception. This universe does not exist except in the perception of one who perceives it. We do not perceive the Reality with our senses for the Reality is intangible but we can witness the functions of that reality. This would not exist if there were no one perceiving it as such, just as sounds do not exist unless there is someone listening to it. This sounds a lot like George Berkeley's theory that
if an object is not perceived, it does not exist. The Irish Empiricist philosopher might have been up to something after all. It seems that in reality nothing exists and everything is our perception. The Universe is our perception of the function of the Reality. The Reality is a non-Being that paradoxically is the only thing that exists. To make this palatable to the religious minded people and mystics, let us say God is the only Reality that exists and nothing beyond God exists. But I am not talking about the God taught by religions. This God is a non-Being that is the mother of all beings.

"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings." - Albert Einstein


Suggested link: einsteinandreligion.com 

This site is created Prof. Arnold Lesikar Professor Emeritus of Physics St. Cloud State University and is about Einstein's Writings on Science and Religion


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