The Immortality of the Soul
by Rev. Roderick MacEachen


There are some tings that are by nature incorruptible. Corruption means dissolution or disintegration.  A simple spiritual being, not composed of parts, cannot perish.  It can not be subject to death or corruption.  To destroy a simple being would require a positive act of annihilation.  God alone can annihilate a being. It would be to withdraw the act of conservation.  The act of conservation is but the act of creation continued.

The human soul is not composed of elements.  It is a spiritual substance.  It has no extension in space, no component parts.  It cannot be weighed, measured or photographed.  It is essentially a simple being.  We know this from the fact of self-consciousness and from the simplicity of thoughts and ideas that form the intellectual life of the soul.  The human soul is therefore exempt from death and dissolution. 

The human body is a perishable being.  It consists of atomic combinations. By its very nature it is subject to decomposition.  After the resurrection, the body will be raised to a higher state.  It will be glorified.  This will take place by the intervention of Omnipotence. Then the body will be immortal.

The human soul depends on no other created principle for its life.  It is itself the principle of life within us.  The body receives its life from the soul.  When the body becomes an unfit habitation, the soul leaves it.  At death, the soul departs from the body.

Not so with animal life.  The so-called "animal soul" depends for its life upon the animal body.  The "animal soul" has none other than organic activities.  Hence, it has a mere material existence.  Its life and faculties are inseparable bound up with the material organism.  When the material organism is mortally injured the "animal soul" perishes.  For it is nothing else than the activity of an animal organism.

Occasionally someone declares that the brute has a soul, that it possesses the faculties of intellect and will.  There is not the least trace of these faculties in brute life.  Animals are capable of training, but they are not capable of education.  To possess intellect would be to have the powers of thought.

If even the highest type of ape could show, by word or sign, that it had formed within itself the simplest opinion, then we would be forced to surrender our position.  If it could ever be proved that a single dumb animal is self-conscious, then we would be forced to admit that the human race as a whole has been in error for six thousand years.

True, the lower animals show wonderful instinct.  Even the rats leave a leaking vessel.  It is known that they leave parts of mines before the roof begins to fall.  Skilled miners know there is danger when the rats begin to leave.  This is either instinct or intelligence.  If it is intelligence it is of a higher order than that of man.  It would, indeed, be mortifying to discover that we possess an intellect inferior to that of rats.

There is indeed a marked analogy between animal instinct and human intelligence.  Yet this but serves to show the marvelous harmony that exists in God's creation.  God is powerful enough to make all created natures follow certain universal laws.  God has so ordained that all living beings act not only accordance with their individual natures, but also in accordance with the state in which they actually exist.

"The caterpillar, pupa, and the butterfly, the same animal in the three distinct stages of its development, leads, in each of these, a different kind of life, has different instincts and different means of sustenance inasmuch as the faculties or functions adapt themselves to the natural state of the animal."

This is a universal law of nature.  The human soul is also subject to this law.  Whilst the soul is united with the body, it acts through the instrumentality of the bodily senses.  This is indeed a natural state of the soul.  It is, however, but a temporary state of dependence on the body.

The soul's activity does not necessarily depend on the body.  Its faculties are not powers of the body.  The material and the visible do not form the proper sphere for the soul's activity.  The intellect was created for truth.  The will was created for good.  Thus the proper sphere for the soul is the realm of the spiritual.

The soul can act even independently of the body.  Beyond the grave, the soul will deal with intellectual things, with principles, with essence, with the angels.  Then it can commune with God the true and ultimate end of its existence.  In the next life the soul can know, understand, will, remember, love.  It will possess all its proper faculties.  It will retain the spiritual ideas it has stored up during its earthly life.

The end and object of the soul's existence is not the perfection of the corporal organism to which it is united. It is the perfection of its own faculties.  This it will attain in the next world.

The body still exists after death.  It is, indeed, lifeless.  For the life-giving soul has abandoned it.  Yet the soul is more real than the body.  It has a much more perfect being.  It is made to the image of God Himself.  Surely, then, the soul can not cease to exist.

"Death shall not lord it over the soul; but neither annihilation.  Strictly speaking, even a simple, subsistent being might be annihilated.  But what power should bring the soul to naught?  A natural power is entirely out of the question.

We find in the whole universe an everlasting dying, but never, as yet, have we witnessed a single instance of annihilation.  Hence, we can justly conclude:  Annihilation of the soul through the powers of nature is an impossibility.  The chemical and physical powers can compose and decompose; they can make a tree wither away, lose its leaves, rot from crown to root.  But in all these processes no mite of matter, no atom, is lost, and hence, we see decomposition, not annihilation.

Water, whether it evaporate in the air, whether it freeze into ice, or whether, in the grape, it be boiled by the rays of the sun, ever remains the same water, just as much and just as little in one form as in another.  There was not a single drop of water that concurred to replenish the oceans in the first days of creation, which does not exist today.  Millions of times has it migrated from the tranquil surface of the ocean to the vapory mantle of the sky, from which it fell and alighted on the summit of a snow-capped mountain, whence it was driven over hill and dale, through forest and meadow, and finally back into the arms of Neptune.  Never in all these wanderings has it gone astray; no, not a single drop of all that indefinite number.

"A particle of iron may enter into combination with sulphur and form sulphite of iron; it may then liberate itself, and with oxygen form red iron ore; it may, in the meteorite, fly through the universe; in the wheel of the 'iron horse' dash along the rails; it ever remains the self-same particle in all these diverse forms.

And when once the human body 'lies moldering in the grave,' and the several constituent substances are resolved, not an atom is lost; everything remains, and enters new and ever new combinations.  Thus, if the weight of the universe on the first day of creation were compared with its weight today, it would be found to be identical.

And not only matter, but force, too, is inadmissible.  It is one of the most important discoveries of modern physicists to have found the law of the conservation of energy, according to which, for example, the efficient motive power in the motion of a body is changed into a perfectly correlative amount of heat; heat, then, is changed into steam, and at the end of these processes it is found that not a fraction of the original amount of energy is lost.  The renowned English physicist, Tynbdall, is, therefore, right when he says that everywhere there is change, but nowhere annihilation.

"Even the end of the animal soul is not annihilation; just as little as its beginning was creation.  Since the animal's vital principle has no being of its own, but exists only in and through the organism, it neither originates nor ceases by itself, but does both in conjunction with the body.  As we can not predicate, for example, of a thought or a figure, that it originated from nothing, and will return to nothing, so neither can we predicate this of the animal soul.  It is conceived in, and produced by, the organism; but this is not creation, but transmutation; and with the death of the animal its soul does not become simply nothing, but the organism with which it formed one being becomes lifeless, which again is transmutation." 

The soul is immortal.  It is immortal and everlasting of its own nature.  Yet it is not immortal in the sense in which God is immortal.  God to be God is necessarily immortal and eternal.  The soul is immortal and everlasting because death cannot destroy it and God will not annihilate it.  Holy Scripture says: "Who (God) only hath immortality."  This means that God has immortality of Himself.  It may be also said that God alone has life.  It is He who gives life to creatures whether it last only for a time or forever.  It is God Who preserves life in immortal creatures.  If God were to withdraw His care from a creature it would, in that moment, pass into nothingness.  It has been said that whatever originates in time also passes away in time; whatever comes from nothing returns to nothing.  they tell us that if the soul is everlasting, it is infinite like God.  "In order to last infinitely, it is not necessary that the being be infinite; it must needs only be kept every moment in existence by an exterior power, by the Almighty Creator Who preserves all created beings."  "Whatever originates from nothing must return to nothing unless God preserves it in being."

The soul of man does not grow old.  When men become old and decrepit their mental powers are then often in their highest vigor.  The mind is still yearning for more light, more knowledge, when the body is tottering to grave.  This shows that the soul does not attain its perfection in this life.

Some of the greatest scholars pass from this life with the enigmas of life still unsolved.  The simplest questions are still shrouded in mystery for them.  Their being is filled with secrets that they were never able to discover.  Modern progress has added little to the perfection of man's faculties.  The struggle for existence in modern times seems rather to make for destruction than for perfection.

All other earthly beings attain their natural perfection in this life.  The soul of man, too, must attain its perfection.  Yet it can not attain it in this life.  It must, therefore, attain it in eternity.  In the next life the soul will know itself.  To know ourselves has ever been the great problem of life.

In that higher life the soul will possess that infinite Beauty, infinite Truth, infinite Good for which it has yearned in this life.  It will then possess the fullness of knowledge and wisdom for which it has struggled.  It will then rejoice in the endless glow of infinite Light and Reason.  It will then enjoy the  company of the angelic spirits and it will rest in the Bosom of its God and Creator.

Holy Scripture explicitly teaches that the soul of man is immortal.  "Fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul"  Here reference is made to the mortality of the body and the immortality of the soul.  "Jesus said to him: Amen, I say to thee, this thou shalt be with Me in Paradise!"  Thus Christ spoke to the good thief.  His lifeless body would be buried, but his soul would be with God.

Christ "preached to those spirits that were in prison." By this is meant the souls of the just who were waiting in Limbo for the Redemption.

"What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?"  said Jesus.  "Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?  For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with His angels and then will He render to every man according to his works."  At the last Judgment all the souls of men will still be alive, according to this testimony of Christ.

"For though, for the present time," says the aged Eleazar, "I should be delivered from the punishments of men, yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty neither alive nor dead."  Eleazar here professed his belief in the life beyond the grave.

The history of the martyrdom suffered by the seven Machabees and their mother is a profession of faith in the future life and the immortality of the soul.  Judas Machabee sent an offering "for sacrifices to be offered for the sins of the dead . . . because he considered that those who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid up for them.  It is therefore a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins."  "The just shall live for evermore," says the Book of Wisdom, "and their reward is with the Lord."  In the Book of Ecclesiastes we read: "Man shall go into the house of his eternity . . . and the dust return into its earth, from whence it was, and the spirit return to God, who gave it."

When Ecclesiastes says: "The death of man and of beasts is one, and the condition of them both is equal." he refers to the fallen state of man.  After he rebelled against god, man became subject to death.  His body would go down to corruption like the body of the brute.  This is clear, for a little earlier, he speaks of the Judgment: "God shall judge both the just and the wicked.

It must be remembered that the Revelation in the Old Testament was less complete than that of the New.  Hence, many doctrines are expressed in a veiled and somewhat obscure manner.  However, the whole life and teaching of the Jews clearly show their belief in the immortality of the soul.

The early Fathers of the Church sometimes considered the soul's immortality as a gratuitous gift of God.  They did not wish to deny that the soul is by nature immortal.  They simply intended to emphasize the fact that God alone is immortal of Himself.  Elsewhere they mention beatitude as the only true immortality.  By this they would say that a happy eternity is the only immortality to be desired.

All religion, all morality, all peace of heart and all hope depend upon the truth that the soul of man is immortal.  Without an immortal soul man would be an enigma. His own nature would be unreasonable.  It would simply serve to tantalize him in this life.  Life, at best, would be a cruel portion were we not filled with the hope of an endless life beyond the grave.