Death is the most transcendental event we encounter. We can reconcile with the loss of an organ or a limb, but the loss of personhood, of I, is unbearable and unimaginable for us. Questions about life after death, life before birth, immortality, reincarnation, etc., have troubled human minds for millennia.
There are no direct references to life after death in the Torah. There is some information about it in the Prophets (Ezekiel, Daniel), but it is sometimes vague, and sometimes contradictory. As far as the issue of death is concerned, we can highlight two main positions. First, the materialist (physicalist) position, which denies the existence of the soul. According to it, with the demise of the body the person ceases to exist. Second, the dualist position, which supports the idea that a human being is a combination of their soul and body, and that as a result of death the body decomposes, while the soul remains immortal.
Materialists envisage a soulless body, and dualists a disembodied soul.
Plato supported the idea of prenatal life and life after death, which meant the existence of soul – body in our world and disembodied soul before birth and after death.
According to Aristotle a soul is a kind of principle of nature responsible for the various activities of living creatures, which meant that all the abilities of the souls require bodily parts and organs. Unlike Plato, the view of Aristotle was that human souls could not exist apart from the body. We can summarize the position of Aristotle as – soul-body in our world, and no immortal soul before birth and after death.
The position of William of Auvergne is that the soul is not dependent on the body: the latter is just an instrument and not a part of a human being. An instrument cannot move itself, cannot give life. The destruction of the body does not entail the destruction of the soul.
Thomas Aquinas was an ardent follower of Aristotle but he could not accept the idea of the mortality of the soul, therefore he has chosen the middle way.
Thomas Aquinas believed that willing (agency) and understanding are not actualities of the body. According to him, a soul without a body is incomplete. As a result, he put forward the statement that after death, the soul does not exist but subsists in anticipation of resurrection and reunification with the body.
We consciously exclude from this essay the analysis of the ideas of reincarnation, which are part of Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Kabbalah, because they relate to the multiplicity of lives rather than immortality.
Interesting ideas about the afterlife (summarized in the article Afterlife) were proposed by the philosopher H. H. Price. Price’s idea is that disembodied souls exist in a “world” of something akin to dream images – images that are shared between a number of more or less like-minded, telepathically interacting souls. The images of once own bodies and those of other people’s bodies are included among those images, so at first one might find it difficult to distinguish the image world from the ordinary physical world we presently inhabit. Price says: “If we are theists, we shall hold that the laws of nature, in other worlds as in this one, are in the end dependent on the will of a divine Creator”.
All the positions mentioned above raise a lot of questions. Where exactly does the soul exist before birth and after death? The notions of Hell and Heaven are poorly defined in Abrahamic religions. How does the immortality of the soul relate to the resurrection of the dead? Which laws govern the existence of the soul before birth and after death? How do souls interact with each other and with the Almighty? And many others.
A no less important question is which arguments can we use to convince non-believers, who reject the ideas of G-d, the soul and other worlds, of immortality.
In order to address these questions, we are going to use the Kabbalah of Information and modern science.
The Kabbalah of Information is a teaching based on the theosophical Kabbalah, the information theory, and other scientific notions and ideas.
The main tenets of the Kabbalah of Information are:
1. In the beginning, G-d in His essence (Ein Sof) created information: informational space made of concepts, and the recipient of information, Man.
In Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Formation), one of the basic books of the Kabbalah, it is written: “With 32 mystical paths of Wisdom <…> He created His universe with three books, with text, with number, and with communication” (1:1). Here, the 32 mystical paths of Wisdom are the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and ten numbers, which comprise an informational code.
In 1942, Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver developed The Mathematical Theory of Communication. They were pursuing a practical goal of transmitting messages with maximum efficiency and a minimal number of errors. Very soon the scientific community realised the great significance of their theory, which could be placed in line with the theories of Newton, Einstein, and quantum physics. Nowadays, there is a consensus in the scientific community that information is the basic building block of our reality, which can be described by the phrase “it from bit” coined by one of the brightest minds of the 20th century John A. Wheeler. In his book At Home in the Universe, he writes:
“It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom–at a very deep bottom, in most instances–an immaterial source and explanation: that what we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe.”
2. Hence, information is the basic block of Creation. It is irreducible, since the absence of information is information.
3. Existence in the Kabbalah of Information signifies existence not in spacetime but existence in the infospace of Creation.
4. The infospace consists of worlds – zones with different dimensionalities and complexities of concepts.
5. The infospace of Creation is governed by the following laws:
5.1. The Law of Likeness – distance is determined by the similarity of the informational content of concepts.
5.2. The Law of Dimensionality – an entity of higher dimensionality cannot exist in a zone with a lower dimensionality. An entity of lower dimensionality can exist in a zone of infospace with higher dimensionality but cannot deal with all the concepts of that zone.
5.3 The Law of Correspondence – every concept in Creation in general is presented in a form of a hierarchy of concepts with similar informational content but different dimensionalities and complexities.
5.4. The Law of Informational Exchange – the necessary condition for the existence of Creation is the continuous mutual informational exchange between Ein Sof and Man.
6. Man is an informational system comprising a body and a soul (both made of information).
7. The soul is a self-aware informational entity which can replicate concepts or their combinations, move in the infospace (in the process of thinking) and issue informational commands.
8. The body is an informational entity consisting of the concepts similar to the basic concepts of the world in which it exists. As a result, the body can interact with the concepts of that world and cause informational changes. For example, in our world, the body consists of the same elementary particles as the environment.
9. The Kabbala of Information fully endorses the premises of the theories of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, in as much as a soul is incomplete without the body, or cannot exist without the body but rejects the inferences.
10. The Position of Kabbala of Information is: there are no disembodied souls and soulless bodies
In every world, the soul must exist in a combination with a body in order to cause informational changes. The structure of the soul and the body in every world must correspond to the dimensionality and complexity of the concepts of that world. The founder of the Chabad movement Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Lyady writes in his book Torah Or: “Angels, like people, also consist of bodies and souls, but the difference is that the body of an angel is more spiritual”.
11. Since the soul must coexist with a body in every world, the notions of life and death are relative and can be applied only to a particular world. There are no notions of absolute life and absolute death. The Kabbalah of Information also puts forward the thesis of the relativity of existence, meaning that existence is relevant only with regards to a particular world.
Despite the visible success of modern science, our ontological knowledge is quite scarce. The main limitation of modern science is the so-called problem of initial conditions: science does not know the cause behind and the initial conditions of the origin of our Universe. All current theories become irrelevant in the moment of the Big Bang. In his book At Home in the Universe, John Archibald Wheeler writes: “Never has physics come up with a way to tell with what initial conditions the Universe was started off. On nothing is physics clearer than what is not physics: equation of motion, yes; initial position and velocity which follows that equation of motion, no.” A no less important problem of modern science is the absence of knowledge about consciousness. There are also many other epistemological problems which we are not going to list here.
- The differences in the approaches of the Kabbalah of Information and modern science are the following:
- By a tacit agreement, the scientific community considers the Universe as a closed system. According to the Kabbalah of Information, the Universe is an open system and just a part of the whole Creation.
- All leading scientific theories (except for the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is statistical by nature) are time-reverse invariant. The Kabbalah of Information considers time as irreversible.
- The Kabbalah of Information rejects the idea of continuous spacetime and maintains that it is discrete.
- Modern science considers the forces of interactions between the different entities of our Universe (at the moment, four forces). On top of that, the Kabbalah of Information considers the force that brought the entities of our world into existence and continually supports it.
- The Kabbalah of Information rejects the idea that probabilities (including quantum ones) are ontological properties of our reality.
- The Kabbalah of Information considers consciousness as a property of the soul, not of the physical brain.
In the next part of this essay, we will present the informational structure of Creation, a detailed analysis of the soul-body process of death, examples confirming the relativity of life and death from the Torah and the Kabbalah, and finally some ideas of modern science concerning the physics of black holes, the origin of the Universe, and certain quantum phenomena which, in my opinion, support the ideas of immortality and the relativity of life and death.
To purchase Eduard Shyfrin’s book ‘From Infinity to Man: The Fundamental Ideas of Kabbalah Within the Framework of Information Theory and Quantum Physics’ please click here. To purchase Eduard Shyfrin’s book ‘Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind’ please click here.