The Purgatorial Trenches of Wilfred Owen Print E-mail

TS Jan 2017(The Truth Seeker January 15, 2017)

In The Future of an Illusion, Sigmund Freud describes how humankind made up from the intolerable “helplessness” of our childhood fears and the hellish randomness of nature, fate, and human society the balm of religion—in our jurisdiction, Christianity. His is among the most cogent explanations for a system of divine judgment and afterlife protection that insists people conform to the creator’s (human-authored) mandate. Freud says “the gist” of the Christian presumption is this:

     Life in the world serves a higher purpose; no doubt it is not easy to guess what that purpose is, but it certainly signifies a perfecting of man’s nature. It is probably the spiritual part of man, the soul, which in the course of time has so slowly and unwillingly detached itself from the body, that is the object of this elevation and exaltation. Everything that happens in this world is an expression of the intentions of an intelligence superior to us . . . which in the end . . . orders everything for the best.

That humans have felt pulled between here and beyond in our being has always been true. We contrast our carnal embodiment with an eternal dimension, body and soul. We live, we die, and we cease to be is not how we have defined ourselves. That which is unlived or treasured in us, we hope not to give up—for ourselves, for those we love and mourn, or for those whose deaths, say, an enemy combatant we killed, feel unfinished. All these lead us to assume some reverse incarnation of self in death. (Soul, mind, self, spirit—it’s all rather confusing.) Since it clearly cannot be the body, whose remains are composted by worms and time, it must be the soul, a nonmaterial substance, that lives on, even, some say, progresses and purifies through eternity. Religions regard the soul’s immortality, its existence separated post-death, as their faith’s highest virtue and capitalize on it, to say the least.

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