This article is a rebuttal to the article; “Souls: It’s Time We Give Up the Ghost” recently published in Psychology Today by Bill Sullivan Ph.D. While I am not an academic, I am an author and paranormal researcher who can certainly spot a bad argument when I see one.
The article suggests that we should give up the idea of a soul. It suggests we find the hidden power in refuting the idea of a soul. It is rather like saying one should deny the existence of our thoughts. These thoughts certainly exist but have no material form. The author suggests that all emotion is controlled by the brain. Therefore, that would suggest that no matter what emotion we experience, it would be a purely physical process. But emotions are also thoughts, and the physical experience of emotion comes from those non-material thoughts.
The arguments put forth regarding emotion and healing or experiences of a visual nature and degeneration or disease, suggest that split-brain means that consciousness is the brain when in fact, this could not be further from the truth. Conclusive research, as noted in Science Daily and Brain, indicates that split-brain does not mean split consciousness (Split brain: divided perception but undivided consciousness)
The Argument Against The Soul Is Weak
Sullivan begins his argument with an example of how split-brain patients experience two different realities at the same time. He then argues that this would not happen with a unified soul. This argument is one of the better ones that are made in defense of materialism, but it relies on materialist assumptions.
Once you examine those assumptions, the argument is less clear-cut. Consider this, if a radio is broken or cannot receive transmissions in the field – perhaps in a military environment. The soldier or operator would not blame the signal. It is not the signal that is broken. In fact, the signal is still operating perfectly. The radio signal does not require a receiver for its existence. Therefore, the signal exists whether the receiver is there or not. The reality is the radio receiver is broken. Therefore, the only issue is the receiver. Should the soldier Sullivan is therefore blaming the radio signal, which is nonsensical and the argument is rather futile.
In my opinion, it seems to me that Sullivan is labeling the soul as a being or separate entity. Suggesting the doppelgänger if you will, existing as an entity on its own with form and function parallel to the material form. The article actually shows that he has very specific perceptions of the reality of the soul. He thinks he understands what the soul actually is, and what part it plays in human function. His belief is based upon the assumption the brain is acting as the soul, or that because the brain acts within its varying pathways based on stimulus and emotion, the soul cannot exist.
A Potential Understanding Of The Soul
If one is forced to believe a soul is a separate form, that it has its own identity and personality, then of course Sullivan’s assumptions may have some merit. But this assumption is at best, based on a reductionist, materialistic view of science and does not look toward the plethora of survival evidence that suggests the contrary. Consequently, in the article, the author tries to forcibly play his hand by claiming the newest research in this field supports his assumptions. Furthermore, it is noted the article does not cite any real case studies that have valid efficacy and are replicable, as continually pointed out – a requirement of real scientific inquiry. The scientific evidence for Psi is overwhelming and serves to refute materialist claims and assumptions. Not including this research as part of the discussion in Bill’s article, means the conclusions are cherry-picked to suit.
The soul, like any word in our language, has an etymological history. We find it easier to attach labels to concepts in order to satisfy our need for understanding. If we look at the origin of the word, we can deduce where this concept or construct has come from.
The modern English word soul derives from the Old English sáwol, sáwel, which itself comes from the Old High German sêula, sêla. The Germanic word is a translation of the Greek psychē (ψυχή- “life, spirit, consciousness”) by missionaries such as Ulfila, apostle to the Goths (fourth century C.E.).
This has become increasingly misunderstood, as in modern times, many people tend to label the soul and give it form with the assumption of it being a separate form from consciousness. The reality, of course, is the soul is not formed and is not biological or physiological in function.
Theories In Biocentrism
Again, this is my own opinion with regard to the soul and whether it exists as a separate being or energy. In my mind, the soul is an aspect of the animating force that gives life, that allows the functioning of the being in human form within the constructs of material existence. This is also an opinion shared by others and noted in Robert Lanza M.D’s article: “Does the soul exist, the evidence says yes!”. Robert cites many new hypotheses from modern research on the subject titled Biocentrism. This theory challenges the model widely accepted in the science community, which is based in materialism and draws many conclusions based on false assumptions.
Soul, therefore, is spirit and spirit is the aspect of the animating force that is creation itself. It is not a separate being that is outside the human form and in the same way that the brain is needed to function in the rest of the material or corporeal form, so too, the spirit is needed for the human brain to function. Without this animating force, the brain is lifeless and is connected to nothing.
Where are the replicable studies?
Sullivan further states in his article,
“Science has definitively shown that all of the things that define us, including our thoughts, emotions, and memories, are generated by the brain.”
Where are these studies cited and are they replicable? Scientists are forever hammering us about the need for studies to be validated through replication. Yet nowhere in this article does the author try to prove his assumptions. He only gleans over information that is gathered from hypotheses and perceptions. His argument also falls flat with other studies that have further evidence of a vastly different hypothesis that can be replicated.
Intelligent discourse and reasoning
We know from afterlife research and evidential communications from discarnate beings, that reasoning and intelligent discarnate communications exist. Yet, if we were relying on the assumptions of the author, this would be impossible. Why? Because there is no human brain, which means that these beings who communicate from the other side of life would not be able to communicate intelligently or reason with information being gleaned.
If indeed the brain is the only form of consciousness and all emotion is contained within those neural pathways, then how can near-death experiences give empirical evidence of events and intelligent information with the capacity to reason, when the brain is in fact – dead – for lack of a better term.
Empirical Mediumship Evidence
One particular medium stands out in the annals of parapsychological history. Leonora Piper was one of the most remarkable mediums in the world and one of the most researched mediums. Piper produced remarkable empirical evidence over many years and was subjected to rigorous scientific research by notable pioneers in parapsychology. Professor William James of Harvard sat with Piper and was so convinced of the evidence that he continued to arrange sittings for research purposes. James arranged for a colleague from the Society of Psychical Research (SPR) to carry on the sittings. Richard Hodgson, an Australian who had been teaching law and philosophy in England, began to work full time on the sittings which were conducted three times per week.
Several reports were presented on the sittings with Piper and research continued. Noted researcher Sir Oliver Lodge remarked:
The trance is, to the best of my belief, a genuine one. In it Mrs. Piper is (sometimes, at least) insensible to pain, as tested by suddenly pushing a needle into her hand, which causes not the slightest flinching; and her pulse is affected beyond what I can imagine to be the control of volition.8Remarkable Evidence Verified.
Frederick Myers Founding Member Of The Society Of Psychical Research
Frederick Meyers, who also researched Piper noted her integrity and honesty. In a statement made as to the nature of the intelligent discourse, he confirmed the following:
that many of the facts given could not have been learnt even by a skilled detective; (2) that to learn others of them, although possible, would have needed an expenditure of money as well as of time which it seems impossible to suppose that Mrs. Piper could have met; and (3) that her conduct has never given any ground whatever for supposing her capable of fraud or trickery. Few persons have been so long and so carefully observed; and she has left on all observers the impression of thorough uprightness, candour, and honesty.
If we are refuting the idea that the brain controls all intelligence and consciousness, it is important to also consider examples of cross correspondences. This was a research modality that was prevalent in the early 20th century as scientific research into the phenomenon of automatic writing. Piper was also involved in these formal studies and research. This form of communication, performed under scientific conditions, is perhaps one of the best forms of evidential communication that refutes the necessity of the existence of the brain for the existence of consciousness. In fact, by 1936, there were over 3000 transcripts recorded and analyzed by notable SPR researchers. The evidence contained within those transcripts was considered to be the best proof of survival of bodily death.
Cross correspondences demonstrate that information coming from a discarnate being through automatic writing under trance conditions can not only be validated but the information gained could not be attained through other means. Again, this would be impossible if the brain was indeed in control. Even though cross correspondences are still controversial, the given examples of intelligence still refute the necessity of the brain for consciousness to exist.
Further Empirical Validation
Another example of this type of empirical evidence was demonstrated in another séance by a medium known as Estelle Roberts and her guide Red Cloud, who was known to get it wrong on occasion. Nevertheless, during one particular sitting, Bessie Manning came through the medium and asked Barbanell to pass a message to her mother. Barbannel sent her mother 2 telegrams in order to relay the message and the evidence given by the discarnate spirit was properly validated.
This should be impossible under Sullivan’s materialist assumptions, but it did indeed happen and here we are.
Research into past lives suggests the existence of more than one personality experience in other lives prior to the one in the present moment. Dr. Ian Stevenson (Now Deceased) was perhaps the most notable researcher in the field of past life research. His work is now continued by Dr. Jim Tucker of the Division Of Perceptual Studies At Virginia University. Stevenson’s work spanned many years and culminated in thousands of cases of children whose evidence of past lives was incredibly accurate.
If memory was stored in the brain only and the soul contained only in the brain, how can the evidence of a past life surface when the brain of the subject would be different from the brain in the past life’s existence? This suggests that consciousness or the existence of the soul is not a prerequisite of brain function.
In Memory Of You
In another remarkable statement, the author suggests that memory is indeed a function of the brain and that losing memory in a case such as Alzheimer’s would mean the soul does not exist. The following statement is a weak point of his argument for the non-existence of the brain.
If our soul contains our memories and experiences, then the amyloid plaques that form in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients should not rob us of them. If our soul was separate from our brain, lobotomies should not work. Anesthesia should not work. Novocain should not work.
Our memories here are not as full and real as the memories in the spirit; what escapes us here, cannot escape the memory in the spirit. The reality is that we are all a sum total of all memories. There have been examples of discarnate beings who in this life suffered from memory loss or from the effects of psychological disturbance, yet the evidence relayed brings forth the memories they once forgot that had to be third person validated. Once more, this refutes the idea that the brain is the constant in all forms of conscious experiences.
“I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.” —address to the Society for Psychical Research in England” ― C.G. Jung
In this article, Sullivan tried to argue that the soul did not exist. However, the basis of the argument is in material assumptions and beliefs. He fails to consider other evidence that weighs heavily in favor of the soul, and he further rejects other parapsychological evidence that supports the survival of consciousness. To a materialist, he is convincing, but his argument fails when you provide research that adequately refutes his argument.
Etymology of the soul: https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Soul
Split Brain Does Not Lead To Split Consciousness: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170125093823.htm?fbclid=IwAR1dw38PnZ8oIaf8qm44gw0s0dELkH_S9sGe_bc4f3ourDTgBuXkDL7W3Yk
Split Brain Theory: Sperry, R.W. (1968) Hemisphere deconnection and unity in consciousness. American Psychologist, 23, 723-33
Brain: Yair Pinto, David A. Neville, Marte Otten, Paul M. Corballis, Victor A.F. Lamme, Edward H.F. de Haan, Nicoletta Foschi, Mara Fabri. Split brain: divided perception but undivided consciousness. Brain, January 2017 DOI: 10.1093/brain/aww358
SPR (Cross Correspondences) : https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/cross-correspondences
Myers, Frederic et al. (1890). ‘A Record of Observations of Certain Phenomena of Trance’, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 6, pp. 436-660.
McLuhan, R. and Matlock, J. G (2015). ‘Children with Past-Life Memories (overview)’. Psi Encyclopedia. London: The Society for Psychical Research. https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/children-past-life-memories-overview.