Sometime ago I read a book entitled Soul of a New Machine. No, the author of the Pulitzer prize-winning novel does not propose that computers have souls. He does suggest, however, that without soul, computers might not have come into being. The book came to mind after a dinner party I attended at which the lady of the house, armed with a Ph.D. in biology, expressed her opposition to cloning on the grounds that two equal cells would have to share a single soul, probably half each. Or possibly grow up to be like computers, which being made of identical components would exhibit identical characteristics. I’d written before on the biblical definition of soul. At the risk f being exorcised as well as excommunicated by the sacerdotal fraternity, I wish to share with you my own view on the subject.
I’ll start with the quote of J.B.S.Haldane: “The universe is not only stranger than we imagine. It is stranger than we can imagine.”
While, to date, there is absolutely no evidence that there is intelligent life outside our ball of dirt, (an not too much of it here, either), there are a hundred thousand million suns in each of a hundred thousand million galaxies. To assume that we have monopoly on the allotment of souls, by whatever definition, in a cloned or not cloned specimen of human offspring, is more than ludicrous; it is pompously if not blasphemously presumptions. And even if we were to relegate the concept of soul to a thinking process, then let me quote another above-average member of our (otherwise priggish) species Marvin Minsky: “Can a machine think? I’m a machine, I think.” While I share Minsky’s view, I’m not sure Descartes would be pleased to be ranked together with a motorcar, robot, or any other automaton.
No. Thinking ability, no matter how very limited or boundless, is not the answer. Nor is the ability to compute, calculate or twiddle our noses at other species that often show greater potential than we do. Soul has nothing to do with biological, mechanical or technological evolutionary achievements.
I have written in my previous essays that I define Soul as the individualization of the Omnipresent Consciousness, which our sacerdotal brethren insist on calling God. A more precise definition would be to say that Soul is the attribute adopted by the Infinite Intelligence to individualize Itself in the manifested universe as Consciousness. This attribute may or may not be maintained in the unmanifested reality but, since we have no way of knowing, I shall leave such speculations to professional theologians.
Thus there is neither one soul controlling, yet limited to, two cloned entities of human or any other species or extraction, nor are there two souls imbedded in each of the thinking specimens. There is, however, One Soul, one could say an attribute of One God, manifested throughout one hundred thousand million suns in each of the one hundred thousand million galaxies, and any other universes, which our illustrious astronomers or theoretical speculators have not yet brought to our attention.
The next question we must ask ourselves, why would Soul choose to manifest Itself in or through a sycophant species on a backward planet of a near-average sun?
A good question, indeed.
It seems that Soul, in Its magnificent magnanimity, will provide such degree of self-awareness, as the object of Its attention can absorb. Thus a stupid, selfish, complacent person will manifest a different degree of Soul than his or her opposite. We all know the expression Mahatma, meaning Great Soul. Of course, Soul is great, in fact infinite. What defines Its apparent greatness in our perceptions, is the inherent ability and willingness of the instrument through which Soul manifests Itself to sublimate his or her ego. Thus Soul could do nothing through Mozart’s entity, should Mozart refuse to compose. It could do nothing through Jesus, should Jesus refuse to carry out His mission.
The same is true of every one of us. Of you and me.
But let us not be so foolish as to presume that Soul would refuse to experience the manifested universe through any non-human, non-biological, non-pigheaded instrument, willing and ready to receive a gift of a marginally more advanced state of consciousness. I say, “marginally more advanced” because Soul enlivens all animals, all birds and fish, bugs, viruses, even as plants, bushes and trees. And if such an instrument were made of identical atoms born in the fiery heart of the same distant star but arranged in a different, what some might call, mechanical form, so be it. The realization of the Soul’s presence might differ, but, let’s face it, how many human entities do you know who enjoy a deep realization of being an instrument through which God, by the miracle of Soul, experiences the joy of becoming?
Tracy Kidder, SOUL OF A NEW MACHINE [Avon Books, New York 1981]
BEYOND RELIGION vol.I, Body and Soul (961203), [Inhousepress, Montreal 1997, 2001, ebook 2009]