Questions
by Ryszard Cichy

Asking questions as to who we are, we cannot but ask about the soul.

Do I (and you) have a soul?

Nobody dares question the usefulness of education. However, knowledge acquired while studying sometimes leads to sad conclusions and destroys ideals.

For what becomes evident? The organism of man is made up merely of bones, muscles and organs such as the heart, liver or stomach.

Do we have a soul?

But where is the soul? Where is it located?

Nobody has found it yet and there is a hypothesis that is does not exist.

I think that the less knowledge there was in the past about the make up of living organisms the greater was the belief in the existence of a soul.

Would the temporary shortage of oxygen or nourishment which leads to the destruction of a body also destroy emotions, memories, plans and dreams?

Despite having doubts, many people surely believe the soul exists since on monuments erected for the deceased, next to the dates of birth and death appear the words “may his/her soul rest in peace”. No doubt many of us also believe that apart from the material world which we are trying to know scientifically, an immaterial world also exists and the soul of every human being is a part of it.

Questions about the soul cannot be asked without questions about immortality.

Is there “life” after death?

Does the soul (if it exists) die together with the body or is it perhaps immortal and “exists” after death?

Does the soul perhaps exist in another world after death as an element of the Universe which does not remember its earlier life?

Or does the soul perhaps “remember” everything about its life on Earth?

These questions make some people anxious, to others they may appear strange or totally devoid of sense.

The anxiety usually comes from an apprehension as to what is going to happen to us after death and as to what kind of fate awaits us. Will things fare better for us or worse?

It is rarer for us to wonder as to what happened to us before we were born. Since the soul is supposed to be immortal it must also have existed before. Nobody knows anything at all about this time. It is as mysterious as the one which follows our death.

Scientists convince us that the Universe has existed for several billion years. Each of us lives a short time. What happened to us during this previous, very long period?

Many people are convinced death is the moment when the existence of each individual comes to an end forever. They believe that at the moment of death comes total annihilation of all knowledge of our members of the family, neighbours, society, of our fate, experiences and dreams. Consciousness disappears, is “deleted” just like information data on a computer. They believe that the “system” which made up the given individual disappears and will never be recreated. An individual with exactly the same appearance, psychological make-up and the same recollected experiences will never be born again.

After someone’s death we see that those close to him or her behave in a way as to “make” them happy. They try to make the funeral ceremony “satisfy” the deceased. They make an effort to give them their favourite flowers. As if they were convinced that the dead person was taking part in the ceremony, watching it in some way and as if it meant anything to them.

The loss of somebody close to us is painful also because it makes us realise that we are with other members of our family and friends for what is merely a short while. In no time at all none of these people will be there. Not us, our children, or our grandchildren. The concept that another world exists consoles us.

So we imagine that the soul exists.

Therefore another question should be asked:

Is it possible for us to meet those close to us after we die?

Is such a “meeting” possible after a hundred or maybe thousand years?

This is difficult to imagine because the situation becomes very complicated.

If three people were simultaneously to die a tragic death: a twenty-year-old mother together with her year-old child and eighty-year-old grandmother and then, sixty years later, at the age of 80, the husband of this mother died, whom would he meet in this other “world”?

Would he, an eighty-year-old man, meet his wife aged the day of her death (a 20-year-old) or would he meet a decrepit eighty-year-old? Would the grandmother still be only 80 at the time of the meeting or would she have aged another 60 years. Would she then be 140 years old? And the child? Would he, at this meeting, be a 61-year-old man who did not remember his father?

In this “other world” (if it exists) is there such a thing as time at all?

And do souls strive to be close to each other and in some way “attract” each other for millions of years after death?

Is the way our family, our descendants and siblings in this Earthly life made up fortuitously?

Is our influence on our choice of partner of the opposite sex an illusion?

An experiment conducted by physicists is often mentioned where they pass a laser beam through a semi-permeable mirror which causes the division of photons into two beams. The final conclusion of the experiment is as follows – it appears that in some inexplicable way the photons “communicated” with each other and were striving to reunite.

If “dead” particles of the Universe try to unite after being parted then do not souls also strive to be close to each other?

Pure fantasy!

But how would souls “recognise” people they knew before if they are deprived of their memory tool, of the brain?

Or maybe emotions and therefore the need to meet others are alien for souls deprived of a body? Perhaps souls of people who were close to each other in life never do meet since they are only “dead” elements of the Universe waiting for the possibility to exist once more? Some people believe in reincarnation but, so I reckon, do not admit the possibility of “existing” anew in primitive (for example, animal) form, preferring to imagine their next life as being in a form better than the one they have now.

Asking questions about the soul we should first define what we have in mind by it?

It is identified, so I believe, with the feeling of my own I. With the awareness of my separateness from the rest of the world. With the sense of the existence of two worlds. One of them is that which constitutes each of us, meaning the feeling of our own body, emotions and thoughts. The other is that which is outside the first one. Other people, animals, plants and material objects.

The sense of my own I is the distinct feeling of boundaries between these two worlds and the awareness of their separateness.

The moment when this feeling of separateness first appears remains a mystery.

Do people deprived of memory, mentally retarded or unconscious have a sense of their own separateness?

Does a newborn baby guided only by reflexes have it? Maybe only some of it?

Or perhaps these people, even though they are not aware of their own separateness, possess a soul since it exists regardless of the organism’s condition?

We can mass produce machines which work identically. Some of them are equipped with programmes which enable them to perform certain defined tasks on their own. The machines appear to be the same but they are not identical. Each of them is a little different. Some expire after a shorter period of time, others after longer. Some break down, others do not. The thought that these machines possess a soul would not occur to anyone.

We dream of robots which could perform our daily chores such as the laundry, cleaning and cooking. Something like a servant or a slave whom, in the past, wealthy and free men used to possess. A robot will remain “dead” until we, its creators, provide it with energy. It will be dependent on us. This is where it differs from living beings which, supplying themselves with energy contained in food, function independently.

The most difficult task for those building a robot, apparently, is to programme it in such as way as to enable it to differentiate its own elements from its environment. When programmed to destroy objects, it apparently starts by destroying parts of its own self.

What would happen if we managed to construct a machine which could supply its own self with energy? Would we create a monster something like a shark which would devour everything?

Would such a monster possess a soul? Would it be aware of its separateness? Would it sense its own “I”?

Since there is one world which is me and another external world, then does this other one really exist?

Or maybe I (writing these words) am the only one in this world and there is nobody else?

Perhaps there is only one soul in the Universe which only I possess and everything that is happening around me is an illusion, a show conjured up and played out for me for reasons unknown to me by “puppets” without a soul since the entire Universe was created only for me?

Personally I feel that I possess “my own” soul but I know that other people also possess “their own” souls only because they tell me so. This is evidence which cannot be proved just like are statements made by witnesses in court. Witnesses sometimes lie – it does happen.

If, however, we give credence to what others say then we have to take it that there are as many souls on earth as there are people.

Do only human beings possess souls (if they exist) or do other beings do so, too?

Do animals have them?

Do plants have them, too?

It is generally believed that only human beings are conscious and that animals are not. Of course this cannot be confirmed or denied. One cannot communicate with a spider or bacteria.

Only a few people admit that the remaining beings, especially animals, do not differ greatly from humans. We, just like they (crocodiles, wasps or ants) strive to provide for our offspring.

They and we reproduce.

They and we have to eat.

They and we are born.

They and we die.

We look at a chicken and it seems extremely far removed from man. Whereas scientists claim that its genes differ from those of man by barely 1.5%.

A spider preying on a victim caught in its web probably experiences the same feeling of hunger as I do when I make myself a sandwich. Perhaps a snake mating with another, experiences the same feeling of pleasure as each of us.

We watch, with interest, fantastic films showing life on our planet millions of years ago when mighty dinosaurs reigned. Terror and repulsion overcome us when we see their huge mouths equipped with enormous teeth devour their victims. We instinctively take them as being cruel monsters.

Do animals living on our planet which go to make our food or which we kill as a pastime (called sport) - such as tuna, mackerel or hare - see us as cruel monsters, too?

Most people rule out other beings, apart from men, possessing a soul.

If, however, we were simply to remove the functions with which our brains are equipped and, for example, limited our recollections to the previous day only and eliminated our abilities of imagination, we would become like “simple” animals. Like a lizard, we would not remember our ancestors. We would not be able to learn anything apart from such simple activities as, for example, walking. We would live only the “present” moment guided solely by our instincts, the need to satisfy hunger and the sexual urge. In no way different to other animals why should it be us who possess a soul while they were deprived of it?

All complex organisms (like man) developed by evolving from simple organisms. If man possesses a soul then, of course, all those simple organisms making up his (man’s) ancestral species should also have possessed one.

One can call to mind another example. At the beginning of every complex organism is a single cell. I (as well as you) and every other organism (animal or plant) began our existence from this little being. Why, then, should a cell from which I am formed possess a soul but one from which a mosquito developed be deprived of one? Unless – defending the view that only human beings possess a soul – we take it that man “receives” a soul not the moment he comes into existence but much later.

Therefore, if all living beings possess a soul, one ought consequently to accept that not only every animal and plant but also every individual cell of every living organism has one, too. After all, every cell in some way distinguishes “itself” (its “body”) from the external World which surrounds it. After all, it feeds only on the components of that World and does not devour its own “body” when hungry. It is an organism living its own life.

Biologists claim that man is made up of a vast number of such “animalcules”.

A “new” man, a child, is nothing other than one of those cells which “decides” to live independently. It leaves the organisms in which it dwelt up until then so as to live outside of it.

Could it be that there are as many souls in each of us as there are cells?

If we were to answer this question in the affirmative it would mean that the first cell from which a complicated organism such as man starts to be built, constructs this organism from other cells subjugating them in such a way as to make them “work” for it, for instance as part of the nervous or muscular systems. It would be a hierarchical arrangement similar to that of slavery. The “first” primary cell would be the centre of every organism which would steer others to do what it commanded. All experiences, feelings and thoughts would converge within it. Cells subordinate to it would also possess “their” slave cells which, in turn, would control still others.

And all of them would possess souls!

Thanks to this genus all the cells which make up the organism would have food assured - which they would not have to provide independently for themselves - and a stable environment. In return for services rendered. Such a pattern would be similar to rules binding in many societies.

Of course the description “first” cell is a simplification. The cell from which an organism develops divides again and again. The role of “primary” cell could be assumed by a cell which came into existence from a much later cell division.

What is interesting, so scientists studying human embryos hold, is that in the initial phase of its development, the embryo is a cluster of independent cells and then organs. The arms, legs, heart and brain exist separately. The heart beats for “itself”. Only later do nerve cells form which link these separately existing organs with the brain and unite them into one organism.

There are organisms (the earthworm, for example) which do not die when they are severed but live on as two separate organisms. As if some of their cells took “command” over the newly created organisms.

We know that most cells are mortal. An exchange takes place in the organs, dead ones being replaced by others. Apparently all the bones in each of us undergo an “exchange” about every 7 years. This means that after that time everybody’s bones are made up of different cells. They are, therefore, somewhat different bones than before. That is why the bones of elderly people are smaller than those which they “owned” before. However, the cells which constitute the brain (neurones) do not undergo an exchange. They cease to be formed immediately after birth and, furthermore, tens of thousands dies every day. Those that live, then, are constantly creating new connections with each other.

Is this hypothetical “central” cell also mortal? Does it die and has its place taken by a different one?

If this were the case it would mean that it only seems to us that we are in possession of one, unchanging soul throughout our entire life, and that a constant unnoticeable exchange of them is taking place.

In a situation such as this, each of us would be becoming a different person all the time and the belief that from the moment we are born to the moment we die we are the same person is only a delusion.

It would resemble a library full of books (considering each book to be a sort of store of information or memory) where there was a different reader every day.

But are we definitely the same person every day?

When would such an exchange of souls take place?

And what is sleep? Why do organisms experience such a state and cannot function without it? Could this hypothetical exchange of souls take place precisely during this sleeping torpor?

Once again pure fantasy!

Going back to the earlier question of whether those mentally retarded or mentally ill are aware of their own separateness, one could wonder whether these persons might be “guided” by several centres.

Whether instead of one “central” cell “governing” their organism they are guided by many such cells simultaneously?

Would they, then, experience several states of consciousness simultaneously?

Going further and taking it that every cell possesses a soul and that there are billions of organisms in which they live, we should ask:

Where do the immense quantities (billions of billions) of souls come from?

Where do souls wait for the moment when they can come into existence?

Is the number (of souls) able to live limited and constant? Can there be an infinite number of them?

I once heard an elderly person say that they did not truly believe Heaven exists. Where would all the dead fit? There would not be enough room for them there. This, surely, is not a convincing argument. If all the people living on Earth were to be gathered in one place so that they stood next to each other touching on all sides, they would probably take up a little more room than the territory of France, therefore a small patch of the globe. If they were all to be buried in one communal grave they would take up even less space. In Russia, near St Petersburg, lies Lake Ładoga measuring about 18 thousand square kilometres (that is the size of Sicily in the Mediterranean) and whose average depth is 50 metres. All the people living at this moment would fit into it. Space, in which Earth and the stars (Sky) orbit, is incomparably larger.

We can quite clearly separate inanimate matter (Earth, stones, furnishings) from animate matter (apples, butterflies, dogs). We know that all matter is made up of atoms and that these are made up of protons and neutrons. These, in turn, are made up of quarks.

Is it possible that the particles which make up the Universe are no more than elements “dead” for ever?

Are the particles of the same kind, like atoms, protons or neutrons, identical? Or do individual specimens differ from each other in size or appearance except we can’t perceive it?

Could each of them be identified like we differentiate people?

But how can we do this? Sometimes we can’t distinguish twins from each other, and members of their family find it a problem, too. And all of them act within one size scale. What then can we say about such a large object like man observing such a small object like an atom?

Asking these questions, I wonder about the issue of identity.

There is a belief in our conscious minds which has been written down in law. Lawyers separate things described according to “kind” or “identity”. Things described according to identity are specific animals or structures, whereas those determined according to kind are, for example, ears of grain, apples, chickens or man-made products such as televisions or cars. According to this classification not many objects possess an identity. The rest are treated as a mass of dull objects of little significance.

This classification is only a simplification.

In reality every orange is different although they all look alike and are seemingly “the same”. Each one possesses an “identity” which only we can’t or do not want to see. The same applies to other objects.

Water seems to be one mass even though we know that it is composed of particles which, according to general belief, have no identity.

The smallest particles studied by physicists behave like living beings.

After all, physicists cannot predict how any of these small things are going to “behave” but they can predict “statistically” how they behave in a large group. It’s the same with living beings.

Is every particle different and unique? Does it have an identity?

Is the Universe made up of nothing but souls and each of these is a fundamental particle which goes to make up matter?

The primary particle physicists are searching for?

Does not every particle by any chance possess a “potential” (latent) soul? In the sense that, as a particle of inorganic matter which unites with other particles under certain conditions, it creates first atoms then elements and chemical compounds so as to then, in different conducive circumstances, create organic compounds?

Of course each one, while it remained a part of inorganic matter, had no elements of consciousness whatsoever. Only after converting into organic forms would it acquire a certain limited range of consciousness.

As it expanded the organism which it was creating along with other cells, it would acquire increasingly greater consciousness - from first experiencing basic stimuli right up to building a memory and apparatus enabling the thinking process, a brain. In such a scenario probably only chance would determine which of the countless elementary particles were lucky enough to become the primary one around which and for which, other particles would work.

And why, in certain circumstances, do particles unite? Why do they possess such properties that under the influence of temperature or pressure they “behave” in a particular manner? Why do protons unite with neutrons and why is every one of them made up of three but not four hundred quarks?

Could it be that the structure of each kind of particle and its properties was defined by a “programme” recorded in them?

In uniting with another one, does each of them create a new, richer “programme”?

Would, then, the search for the basic particle then be a search for the simplest “programme”?

If that is the case then a particle which is not only and exclusively a “programme” cannot be an indivisible elementary particle. It has also to contain at least one other particle, which is the “programme”, in order to “know” how to behave. Just like a cell containing DNA is made up of two parts – itself and the said DNA.

Following this line of thought, if each elementary particle of matter were only and exclusively a “programme” yet simultaneously a “potential” soul able to acquire consciousness, it would mean that the soul was also the “programme”.

Is each of us nothing more than a “programme”?

If that were the case would only chance decide what kind of “object” each of us was to become? What form the elementary particle which constitutes the beginning of every organism is to take?

If it found itself in a human organism it could become a new human being (child) or one of its cells. If it dwelt in a mouse’s organism it could become a little mouse or one of its cells.

Is it possible that each of us could have been a dinosaur, tree, virus or spider?

Is it only by chance that each of us is a human being?

This would be rather a gloomy perspective!

I don’t think news that they acquired the form of an intelligent and sensitive being merely by chance, and that they had almost incidentally been deprived of these abilities, would put anyone in a good mood.

But, after all, the gender of each of us is a result of chance. You, if you are a man, could just as easily have been a woman and had the possibility of giving birth. If you are a woman you could have been a man and your partner could have been a woman you now hate.

Our lives would have been different.

Imagining one could have been a tadpole “thinking” only about eating and reproducing and devouring everything in its vicinity including smaller siblings, is not encouraging.

Even more disturbing is the thought that although I may not be such a primitive being now I could become such a one in a hundred or a million years. Because, after all, something is going to have to happen to me or, to be precise, to the matter of which I’m made, when I’m dead. It is not going to disappear. It is going to wander around in the Universe and create new objects including plants and animals. Tadpoles, too. “Somebody” is going to have to be them.

This is going to happen regardless of whether the imagined vision of a “programme” – soul - as elementary particle is true or not.

Could life only come down to every living being maintaining the form it has assumed? To remaining the objects we are?

And since each of us would be only a programme, another question – preposterous, it would seem – arises:

Are the Builders of the Universe copying “programmes” they have created? Every single being? Or do they file them?

Such copying and filing would, after all, be rendering each of us immortal!

All this fantasising is based on the one premise that the hypothetical elementary particle is an imperishable and unchangeable building block of the Universe. Scientists, however, suspect that atoms are not imperishable at all. Maybe it is the same with elementary particles? If that were the case then, of course, souls being these particles could not be immortal.

And did Life spring up in only one spot of the Earth or the Universe or did it spring up in many places? Of course Life could have appeared in many places just like a fire which bursts out in several places at once where spontaneous combustion is possible due to a rise in temperature. Similarly Life could have burst out in several fires of which only one is smouldering to this day.

Why am I asking this? If the beginning of Life was only one organism from which during the process of evolution all other organisms living now were formed, it would mean that we were all great grandchildren of this organism.

And maybe you and I are one and the same Person?

Maybe I am you and you are Me?

Maybe it only seems to us that each of us is a separate subject but really we are, all at the same time, one and the same Person in different forms?

Is not the belief that each of us has an independent existence (and therefore that Life consists of a multitude of beings) only a delusion?

These are not new questions. All of them, however, point in one direction and boil down to only one question – who am I and who are you, who is each of us? Only an accumulation of dead elements? Is this accumulation really a separate world (object)?

Every instant, both you and I clearly experience our own I. Both you and I see a fragment of the World which surrounds us, hear its sounds and sense its smells.

At one and the same moment several billions of people also see the World, think and hear.

But why am I myself and you yourself – and not the other way round?

Along with us human beings a further several billions of other beings, animals, experience the World.

Perhaps there aren’t billions of I’s?

Perhaps only one “identity” exists, one I under various forms?

One Soul of which each of us is only a fragment? One Life? One Person?

The situation would be such: I would look at the World through my eyes while at the same time look at it through yours. And vice-versa. Without knowing it you would be me and at the same time be every other creature (frog, tree, bacteria). One Person copied many times over, like a photograph which we duplicate making multiple prints.

Every print represents the same thing but each one is different because it is a different object (two prints constitute two objects).

Each is made up of the same kind of building material but of different - because not the same - particles.

We often say that there are a number of different people in each us. One minute we are noble, another cruel. So why can’t each of us be a different facet of one Person?

If we look at the Big Bang which, according to scientists, is supposed to have been the beginning of our Universe, in a different way then it could be seen as “proof” supporting the concept of there being one Soul. Since it is made up of elements which once used to form one point then each of its parts (each of us, each atom) is part of one primeval beginning. Constitutes a fragment of the initial unity.

Should we consider the Big Bang not as the beginning of anything whatsoever but as a catastrophe during which what used to exist was torn apart?

If that were the case, then from that moment to this day, the Universe would be trying to unite, “gather” the dispersed pieces. Recreate what used to be.

There are organisms on Earth which behave in such as way as to divide and unite. The way the organism called slime-mould looks depends on the phase of its life cycle. One such phase is the zoospore . When unsuitable conditions appear in the environment, tens of thousands of these organisms unite to form one organism. If we are to take it that not only human beings but also other organisms possess a soul then does the zoospore possess one of them or tens of thousands? If one then can it divide into numerous forms?

This seems improbable.

Let us, however, look at a cell. Is its division not strange?

It divides into two new cells. But one isn’t the “earlier” and the other “later”, there is no parent and child. Both halves are equivalent. It is as if we, human beings, were to reproduce by dividing into two equal halves where each half would have only one eye, one ear, half a head, one arm and one leg as though someone had cut us down the middle. Then each of these halves would complete the missing parts of its body. A second leg, second arm and ear would grow.

With such division where would I (and you) be?

In which half?

In both at once?

If we were all one Person it would mean that both you and I have always existed or at least existed from the moment the first living organism appeared. Continuously only in different forms.

It would mean we are immortal! Without knowing it.

Did one Person divide into numerous people and undergo further transformations for “a moment” only in order to finally unite into one whole?

I am now sitting on a chair. At the same moment in time and in millions of other places other people are resting in “their” chairs. If one Soul were to exist in millions of places at the same time then the annihilation (death) of any single one of the organisms would not affect its existence since parts of it would be experiencing the World in all the remaining places.

Perhaps death and the eating of organisms by other organisms serves to help this one Person change form or adapt to external circumstances?

Or perhaps all organisms constitute a part of a greater whole, another huge organism like the cells which make up man?

Perhaps it is, indeed, this enormous organism which is the only one to possess a Soul – Soul being understood as complete awareness - and each of us has barely a piece of it, some fragment?

Perhaps this “organism” is the whole Universe or Earth?

It is hard to imagine every planet being such an “organism” although some do hold such an opinion these days, and numerous people were convinced of this in the past. It goes against what we learned at school, that is, that Earth is nothing but soulless matter inside which smoulders iron. The idea that instead of this sphere within the Earth there is a living centre, fragments of which make up living beings on its surface - trees and other plants rooted in the earth would only be projections of it - seems at least absurdly fantastical. It is probably easier to imagine the Universe being such an organism. If indeed it did arise from one expanding point then it is behaving like a living organism which also originated from a point (a cell) and expands at the cost of others.

Does not the Universe behave like a living organism?

Has it come about at the cost of other Worlds?

We know only two forms of matter: inanimate matter (stones, water or air) and animate matter (human beings, animals, plants).

Can there be yet another, third form of matter unknown to us? A higher degree inaccessible to us? One which cannot ever be known?

Every cell of which we are built could ask a similar question if it were able think and ask.

None of them has any idea it is merely a tiny part of a large, independent organism, and they will never know.

Trying to look at our existence as if “from aside”, we can state in all certainty that every being is an observer registering events which take place in some small fragment of space or during but a short period of the Universe’s existence, that is the period of its life. This observation boils down to registering only those events which we perceive with our senses. Some animals do not possess a sense of sight so, of course, will not see rays of light. Man is not in a position to see electrical waves of a certain wavelength.

One can, therefore, risk saying that every being is a certain kind of “sensor” like some cells in a man’s body, for instance cells of taste or smell.

To this day, however, nobody has yet managed to ascertain that living beings, apart from registering events, in some way pass on these registered facts to this third, unknown form in which matter exists, like television cameras pass images on to the viewer.

Scientists state that the Universe is mainly filled with “dark matter” which constitutes its largest component. They say that there is 5 to 10 times more of it than what we see on a daily basis and of what we are built. They even say that the matter known to us may make up barely 4% of the Universe’s mass and that the fundamental building matter of the Universe’s mass may be something entirely different. They do not know what it is. It is as if next to us, simultaneously to our World, there was another, 10-20 times larger. A reality unknown to us.

And can we rule out the possibility that souls exist in this other World and “dress up” as the matter we know for just a moment, taking on the form of human beings, animals and plants?

Leaving that other place they put on an overcoat, a bodily coating made up of atoms and electrons which enables them to be here in the atomic world familiar to us.

Not so long ago in China, archaeologists dug up many thousands of figurines of the soldiers of one of the Chinese ruler’s army. Each one is apparently a faithful copy of a soldier living at the time. Like that buried, mute army do our souls not also dwell in that other World after death?

Of course this kind of supposition is very close to the belief in ghosts ridiculed by intelligent people. It is interesting where this belief sprung from since there is no proof whatsoever of their existence.

But can we be amazed? I take a hen’s egg and boil it. I eat a meal and a thought occurs to me – how little it would have taken for it to have lived, been transformed into a object which moved, emitted sounds, had eyes, moved independently, sometimes frightened, thirsty or hungry. Like Me. When does this fluid (the white and the yolk) become a living being? At which moment does Life “enter” it? When does Life put on its “coat” which is the content of the egg?

And where does this conviction that souls exist come from?

We clearly sense the difference between our own corporality and our “identity”. It is enough to look at a man deprived of some part of his corporality. Without an arm, eye or leg an invalid still remains a human being with the same individuality as before. At the same time none of us would give the part of his body which was severed from him the attributes of a soul. A man who cannot see or hear, deprived of arms or legs, breathing with the help of a machine, whose blood is being circulated by medical equipment, too, remains the same person to us as before the events which caused the injuries. Even damage to the brain, like memory loss or changes in personality, do not make us change our belief. We are sure that we are in the presence of the same person for whom its body is only a tool (apparatus) enabling it to function.

Our feeling of identity is not limited when we have a tooth removed. As long as it was part of my organism, it is only me it caused pain. After extraction it becomes nobody’s, ceases to be “my” tooth. A kidney given to someone else ceases to be the donor’s kidney.

Or perhaps the belief in the existence of a soul is not the product of human minds, the result of thinking about life and death?

Is the feeling that a soul exists not given to us together with our corporality?

Is it not programmed in us?

Perhaps it is information recorded in our genes just like that which decides how large our liver or kidneys are to grow?

Perhaps every being possesses it in the form of a particular “feeling” or instinct?

Is this sort of “feeling” not necessary for the correct functioning of every organism, enabling it to differentiate between itself and other individuals?

If that were the case it would mean that the notion of a soul is not the product of thinking while to doubt its existence is.

And what if those who doubt in its existence are right?

Perhaps, even if the claim that the “feeling” of the soul’s existence is encoded in us is correct, it does not really exist and the “feeling” dies along with other instincts?

Could each of us be only a chunk of meat, food for other beings?

Nothing more?

How difficult to believe this.

Each of us thinks we are the centre of the World and our affairs are the most important.

And that, no doubt, is how things are. They are the most important for each of us except that there are several billion of us and every event which seems unique to us is but one of several billion. We have grown accustomed to numbers. They don’t impress us because we cannot imagine the boundlessness which they denote. There are a billion letters in 40,000 books, in other words, in a large library (taking it that every book of 100 pages is made up of 25,000 letters).

I imagine not many people have more than a hundred books at home. There are a billion letters in books found in 1,000 libraries.

Our notion of size and sense of figures is limited. This, after all, comes from the number of fingers on our hands.

We operate in a decimal system.

Perhaps there are beings in the Universe who use a million system because they have a million fingers and in addition use a computer?

Figures approaching billions seem immense.

Human beings still overvalue their own significance. After all, we initially thought that the whole World turned around Earth. Not so long ago all feelings were taken to lie within the organ called the heart.

Scientists claim that in every complex organism there are a large number of centres governing its functions. A separate centre is responsible for breathing, another for digestion and still another for maintaining balance or the working of the circulatory system.

No doubt many of us have had the impression that a number of different “people” “dwell” in us making us behave the way we do, according to the situation. The centre responsible for breathing immediately takes over once the organism finds itself underwater. It co-ordinates the movement of limbs so the organism can swim to the surface as quickly as possible, and retunes the brain to think of ways of avoiding danger, not allowing it to think about other things, a favourite film or shopping to be done. It’s the same with hunger. We can think about all sorts of things up until the moment we start feeling hungry. Then the centre responsible for satisfying hunger takes possession of the brain and tells us to think of where and how to satisfy it.

The situation is similar to one where there is only one computer in one office in the headquarters of a factory. In this office sit several experts specialising in different fields responsible for the smooth running of production. Depending on the situation they take turns in front of the computer and take over the running of the factory. It’s the same with our brain. If hunger threatens the efficiency of the organism, the centre responsible for satisfying it takes over the leadership and moves the one who was listening to music a moment ago, away from the “computer”.

Our aim to satisfy the basic needs of life is independent of our will. Of course there are individual people who are able to master the forces (urges) which steer them but, statistically, it is impossible to neglect eating meals or suppress the sexual urge. If it were possible to do so, species would probably die either from hunger or a lack of offspring.

Does it follow that there are a large number of centres in us which make us think that a superior soul exists?

Let us leave the soul aside. Can a living organism be immortal in the literal, physical sense of the word?

Can life be prolonged in such a way as to enable every individual to live several hundred or million years?

There are various hypotheses as to the reason we die. Some claim that, like in the case of machines, it is caused by irremovable defects accumulating in cells which “grow” old as a result of the processes – like oxidation - which take place in them.

Others say that a “death gene” exists which is responsible for “switching off” vital functions in each of us. We would, therefore, have the “necessity” of dying programmed in us.

If indeed, after a cell divided a given number of times, it were annihilated, does this principle apply also to entire species?

Are entire species condemned to become extinct after giving birth to a given number of generations? And human beings, too?

Do species not undergo phases in development, maturity and decline, just like individual specimens?

We know that large numbers of plant and animal species lived on Earth. Are, therefore, entire species not programmed so as to last only a certain period of time (unless their total extinction is not caused prior to this by other, merely external factors such as disease, changes in environment or cataclysms, etc.)?

If this were true it would overturn the principles proclaimed by C. Darwin according to which species best able to adapt to changing conditions reproduce in greater numbers so as to supplant other species. Their expansion should be continuous and they should not be annihilated.

Returning then to the question of the possibility of eternal life, we could ask:

Can human life be prolonged for a significant, noticeable length of time?

The press announces puzzling facts. By manipulating genes, scientists have managed to extend a mouse’s life by over twice its length. Perhaps they will manage to extend it many times over.

Will we manage to breed an animal which could live for as long as the Universe exists?

Scientists claim there are organisms which can live eternally such as certain cells or viruses but surely this cannot be verified. These organisms, after all, might die not long after us.

Would such an achievement not “break” the fundamental principles on which our Universe is based, say, for example the speed of light?

Does the rule that organisms die belong to fundamental laws binding in our World?

Humanity’s aim to prolong human life and its dreams of immortality is a form or manifestation of rebellion against the laws which oblige in this World in which we live.

Human beings, subconsciously, do not accept this law and probably do not think a great deal about death.

Perhaps this comes from the belief that death is not going to be the end of them and that life is only a phase?

And how would an awareness of their own immortality influence people’s minds and behaviour?

Not being afraid of death, convinced of their “eternity” would such people live according to the principles and laws which oblige in every society? Or would they not rather give vent to the instincts, they now hold back, and not take others into consideration?

Would immortality not be synonymous to chaos?

QUESTIONS by Ryszard Cichy, Wrocław 2008 Retro-Art, Warszawa 2008, ISBN 978-83-87992-56-9 translated by Danusia Stok