Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bulgakov on the Ontology of Death

  • not the annihilation of life but of a particular state of life.  If death equals complete nonbeing, then God has failed.
  • man is susceptible to death because of his ontological complexity.
  • Man is ultimately (originally) God-earth, an incarnate Godlike spirit.
  • Body and Soul and Spirit
    • Death’s dividing sickle passes between the spirit and the soul on one hand and the spirit and the body on the other.
    • The soul is an intermediate principle connecting the spirit with the creaturely world.  It is creaturely, like blood (but not blood).
    • The supraphysical energy of life (which finds it substratum in the blood) abides.
  • Death is a temporary cessation of the action of the soul upon the body.  The soul does not die but is relatively potentialized.
  • In death, an individual is separated only from his body, not his soul.
    • after death the soul abides in a supracorporeal shell, preserving some tenuous connection with spirit.
    • man was originally meant to see the spiritual world; the fall veiled that.  Flesh is separated from spirit by a wall of sensuality.
    • By tearing away man from his flesh, death opens for him the “gates of the spiritual world” (359).  This is why the dying can often see angels, demons, and appearances of departed loved ones.
    • Death divides human life into two halves
      • psychic-corporeal being (what we call “alive”)
      • spiritual-psychic body.
  • Since death is not complete nonbeing/cessation, it is necessarily a continuing of life.
  • What about the “judgment?”
    • first of all, self-consciousness and self-judgment.
    • it is not yet perfect self-knowledge, which can only happen at the final judgment with the totality of humanity (social knowing).
    • An existential self-determination follows this judgment.
  • He has an interesting take on the salvation of infants and the like:
    • First, he has already established that death is a new mode of existence.
    • Secondly, the afterlife is not a merely passive state (otherwise man is a mere object and not a knowing subject).
    • Therefore, he will live in this world with other spiritual, incorporeal beings.
    • Even the “Rich Man” in the Lazarus parable felt something new:  love towards his brothers.  Thus, there are degrees of change.
    • Acting in relation to others is an acting upon ourselves (365).
    • Thus, it seems beyond argument that the human spirit can undergo change in the afterlife.
  • The spirit is not a mere object which receives actions without inwardly transforming them.
  • Concerning the pangs of hell, the state of disincarnation after death does not admit corporeal pains.  
  • Further, since we are spirit, and spirit is freedom, it seems we would have a sort of freedom in the afterlife.

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