More On the Nature of Spirits

November 1, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 6:43 pm   Category: Spirits/Intelligences

In the absence of revelation on the subject, we are left to speculate on the nature of spirits. In this post I will to sketch out some of the possibilities.

Spirits vs. Intelligences vs. Minds

One of the first difficulties we have is with definitions. There is no clear revelation that explains whether a spirit is the same thing as an intelligence or not. There is some evidence to support the idea that spirits/intelligences/minds are all names for the same thing, or at least that Joseph Smith considered them to all be names for the same thing. But counter arguments have been made that spirits are a more complex things than intelligences/minds. (Eternal minds and intelligences are almost universally considered to be the same thing in Mormonism as far as I can tell.)

Beginningless or not?

Near the end of his life Joseph Smith taught that the “mind of man” is co-eternal with God and thus without a beginning. Brigham Young was away on a mission when Joseph Smith publicly taught this idea and Brigham taught years later that the mind of man does indeed have a beginning. BH Roberts and others later attempted to bridge this gap between Joseph and Brigham with the tripartite model of spirits where our spirits are essentially bodies (with a beginning) made of spirit matter that are powered by our beginningless (presumably immaterial) minds/intelligences. Orson Pratt speculated that spirit matter is made up of atoms or particles like all other matter and that at least some individual spirit particles have a rudimentary intelligence. He further suggested that these intelligent particles could somehow unify to create higher order minds. So in his model, only the rudimentary parts of the mind of man are beginningless while the human-level mind clearly has a beginning.

Cartesian minds?

There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes (D&C 131: 7)

As the verse above shows, Mormonism is committed to at least a variation of materialism. Yet the tripartite model of spirits basically assumes that minds exist eternally prior to being united with spirit matter. These immaterial minds are sometimes referred to as Cartesian minds in reference to the influential philosopher Rene Descartes who taught of a mind/body (immaterial/material) dualism. While there is nothing in Mormonism that explicitly precludes the possibility of eternal Cartesian minds, the fact that the revelation in section 131 came through Joseph Smith combined with the fact that Joseph treated the words minds, intelligences, and spirits interchangeably serves as the basis for an argument against a beginningless Cartesian minds model.

Simple and irreducible vs. complex and destructible

On more than one occasion Joseph Smith taught:

The elements are eternal. That which has a beginning will surely have an end. Take a ring, it is without beginning or end; cut it for a beginning place, and at the same time you will have an ending place.
(5 January 1841- William Clayton’s Private Book)

The idea that everything that has a beginning must have an end has no conflict with the concept of eternal Cartesian minds. Cartesian minds presumably would be simple and irreducible and therefore in no danger of decomposition ever. But the idea that everything that has a beginning must have an end doesn’t jibe well at all with the idea that our “eternal” minds have a beginning as a result of quasi intelligent spirit particles joining together at some point in the distant past. Those who like a variation on the Orson Pratt model are mostly left to dismiss the teaching from Joseph Smith that everything which has a beginning will surely have an end as simply mistaken.

Eternal thumb twiddling, eternal hibernation, or eternal recursion

A problem with any beginningless minds model when combined with an eternal progression-toward-a-permanent-exaltation assumption is that these two assumptions don’t mix well. No matter how far we go back in time in this so-called eternal progression there is necessarily always an infinite amount of time prior to that that could also have been used for progression toward the prize of exaltation. If progression has been occurring for an infinite amount of time it is difficult to explain why just a little more time will finally do the trick (though Blake will vigorously show you why it is not logically impossible). I have said in the past that this reminds me of the old infinity+1 line kids would use on each other.

I have only encountered two approaches addressing this problem: (1) An eternal hibernation assumption in some variation, or (2) An eternal recursion assumption where all spirits cycle through probations throughout all eternity. The eternal hibernation model is essentially a way of saying minds have a beginning. Beginningless minds are a hard concept to account for and so there is some beauty in simply trying to avoid it if possible. Eternal recursion models are basically a way of dismissing the eternal unidirectional progression toward a permanent exaltation assumption by making eternal progress a loop or “eternal round”. I think variations on an eternal recursion model have a certain elegance to them but have noticed they tend to be too radical for many people besides me to find them intriguing. I’ll post specifically on that subject soon.

Why does it matter?

Well, because the answers to these questions are among the core building blocks to the answers of the great questions of existence: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?”

143 Comments »

  1. I like your why does it matter. I hope we get some revelation on this sometime. It would save a lot of thumb twiddling.

    I think I favor hibernation.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 1, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

  2. I’m no quantum physicist, but from what little I know, it seems like there’s an elephant in the room: time itself in your arguments is being treated as an assumed linear reality. What if that’s only true – as again, what little I know about theories involving parallel universes suggests – in our current very limited perceptions?

    I’m not going to pretend to have anything remotely approaching an answer, but it seems to me that given how much we have learned scientifically about how much we *don’t* know about the structure of time and space, that the options you lay out are inherently going to drive towards incorrect answers if they don’t acknowledge that we don’t really even know (scientifically or spiritually) what “eternal” means. If space can theoretically be bent or jumped through, maybe time (space-time) can as well, no? And that’s just in the universal rules of physics we think we understand for our corner of reality. What about other universes out there where space-time and the laws of physics may work completely differently?

    Which is all basically just a supremely frustrating way of saying ain’t no way we’re gonna figure this one out on our own. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to keep fiddling with. But if fiddle we will, we should open up the field wider.

    Comment by Jamal — November 1, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  3. Jamal: What about other universes

    Why should we even assume there is more than one universe? The primary definition of the word universe is usually something like “The sum of everything that exists”.

    Of course I understand that we won’t know the answers to any of these questions sans revelation, but that doesn’t mean we can’t evaluate models to see how well they work based on what we do know.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 1, 2009 @ 8:34 pm

  4. Fascinating topic. I’m interested in seeing where the conversation goes.

    I have a question as to cartesian minds. As far as I understand intelligence in this world, it emerges from the atoms in our brain that in working together, neurons, pathways, etc intelligence emerges. Im not sure how intelligence can even exist absent some form of matter. At least not in any way that science could currently explain. And if spirits/intelligence are the same in that intelligence emerges from spirit material, how do we transfer that intelligence from spirit to physical body to spirit again and so on?

    Comment by J. Madson — November 1, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

  5. It’s a good question J. Madson and no one seems to have a good answer. But the problem of continuity of mind is not just with the Cartesian mind model. There is no question that our physical brain is deeply connected to our minds here on earth so it is pretty difficult to figure out how pre-existing minds could transfer from spirit form into our earthly state.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 1, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

  6. Assuming some form of the Roberts model or at least some kind of beginningless mind bit, which I think Joseph believed, perhaps we must allow for our ignorance of what happens in this state. Hibernation is just one possibility. An infinite regress of embodiment cycles? (Finer and finer materials ;-)). Possibly some kind of progress that we would find difficult to name?

    The name “intelligence” might suggest growth in intellect somehow. Consider yourself at any point in the past, and there is only a finite wait time until the present. Nobody has or must wait “infinitely long,” whatever that means, for embodiment. On the other hand, perhaps there are long-line models of time for human existence. One can get caught behind a limit ordinal. Ugh. Need a little Divine help?

    Being bathed in QFT a bit, I think the term “universe” is misused a lot, along with the idea of “nonlinear time,” again, whatever that is(!)

    I think I’m going to do a series of posts on “infinity” at the home blog, just for reference purposes. It might be helpful for the uninitiated. ;)

    The idea of emergent mind from spirit “matter” is ground already claimed by both Pratts and Lorenzo Snow.

    Comment by WVS — November 1, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  7. WVS: along with the idea of “nonlinear time,” again, whatever that is(!)

    Amen.

    An infinite regress of embodiment cycles?

    This is part of the eternal recursion model I mentioned.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 1, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

  8. Geoff (3) the main reason to assume a multiverse in Mormon theology is that it is seems the only way to reconcile a traditional reading of an infinite past with eternal intelligences with the apparent cosmological history of the universe. One can doubt the cosmology the way No Death Before the Fall folks do the fossil record. But I’m not sure it’s possible to do so in a rigorous fashion. If most cosmology is true up to at least the first second of the universe then you need a multiverse with the ability to move between multiverses. The only other alternative is to accept a finite past of creation (which admittedly some do).

    Jamal (2) parallel universes are one kind of multiverse, typically tied to the Multiple Worlds Interpretation of QM. I think there huge problems reconciling MWI to Mormon thought. (If only because every physically possible choice actually happens – rendering evil and good problematic not to mention God impotent of a sort) However there are many others. String theory the past 10 years has postulated a strong kind of multiverse although there has been a pretty strong backlash against this the past couple of years.

    Regarding the main point, while Joseph did use the terms roughly synonymously I don’t think it follows that we can’t draw some distinctions. That said, I think most people would be shocked to find that most 20th century assumptions arise out of B.H. Roberts trying to harmonize 19th century writings with the philosophy he was reading at the time. (i.e. a lot of Cartesian assumptions)

    Comment by Clark — November 1, 2009 @ 11:07 pm

  9. No one needs to argue nonlinear time, they just need to argue nonlinear perception. Anyone ever taken a nap? Or been in a daze? Taken a while to wake up?

    Comment by Mark D. — November 1, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

  10. Clark,

    I am mostly looking for the word that means “The sum of everything that exists”. If universe doesn’t mean that maybe Universe (with a capital U) will do the trick. (I don’t think the details about a multiverse you mentioned are particularly relevant to this post.)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 2, 2009 @ 12:26 am

  11. Well the reason for the terminology is that the Universe had come to have a meaning in reference beyond it’s literal meaning.

    I actually think the issue of multiverse is relevant though. After all if one is a true dualist and if material is secondary then surviving through the big crunch of cosmology is trivial. It’s only a problem for true materialists.

    Comment by Clark — November 2, 2009 @ 12:59 am

  12. To add, it would be interesting to go through Joseph’s use of those terms and see if there were any properties or modifiers that differed. I’m not disputing they were used largely synonymously. But I’m not convinced they were used identically.

    Comment by Clark — November 2, 2009 @ 1:03 am

  13. To add, it would be interesting to go through Joseph’s use of those terms and see if there were any properties or modifiers that differed. I’m not disputing they were used largely synonymously. But I’m not convinced they were used identically.

    The only problem with that is we have very little from Joseph Smith directly where he would have specified the modifiers or properties–these were all controlled by his scribes. Further, the scribes could have been the ones to decide which word (spirit, intelligence, and mind) were used, more as a reflection of their own understanding and not always an exact quote from JS. Not to say such a study wouldn’t be useful, but that there are important problems associated with it.

    Personally, having gone through JS’s Nauvoo theology in depth recently for a couple of forthcoming articles, I don’t see any difference in “spirit,” “intelligence,” or “mind” in his theology–though I still leave the important caveat that with the problematic nature of his recorded sermons, we can never know for sure.

    Concerning historiography, I think Harrell’s article does a good job in laying out the theory that there was no difference, though his conclusion that JS likely taught some form of spiritual birth seems contradictory to the majority of his argument; I wouldn’t be surprised if BYU Studies made him change his conclusion to support the status quo. It will be interesting what his book says when it comes out next year. (Also, of course, Blake’s article is very useful as well.)

    Givens’s new volume on pre-mortal existence, in the section that deals with Joseph Smith, also held that there was no difference between the three terms.

    fwiw, concerning your Cartesian section, I did a post over at JI on the Pratt brothers and the difficulty in characterizing their materialism and how it related to spirit.

    Comment by Ben — November 2, 2009 @ 3:24 am

  14. I would suggest a slightly different view. Mind or Intelligence is equal to the intrinsic capabilities and abilities of matter.

    So, an Oxygen atom has a “mind” or intelligence that proscribes its abilities. When it is combined with hydrogen to make water (H2O), its mind is increased, as also its capabilities, while still retaining the former abilities intrinsically.

    Eventually one can create/form expansive minds/intelligences that require a specialized body: a spirit, and later a physical body.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 2, 2009 @ 6:45 am

  15. For my own purposes, I define three forms of matter:

    Physical Matter: The form of matter which our current physics models.

    Spirit Matter: The kind of matter which constitutes our spirit bodies.

    Intelligent Matter: The kind of matter which constitutes our uncreate being.

    Now, some models will equate IM with SM, some SM with PM, and so no. Yet, a priori with have no real justification to not distinguish them. These three elements become the building blocks of any model.

    Given the building blocks then models will describe the properties to various elements.

    IM alone possesses vitalism? SM and PM possess vitalism? IM is the same as SM and intelligence is an emergent property? Is intelligence/consciousness/free-will fundamentally present with IM or is there organization that must first occur?

    Comment by A. Davis — November 2, 2009 @ 7:36 am

  16. I have no reason to believe that “spirit matter” is fundamentally a different kind, i.e. has fundamentally different properties in the way of property dualism, intelligence, etc. than “physical matter”.

    To me “spirit matter” is just lightweight “physical matter”. More fine or pure as the scripture says. No tripartite model required either.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 2, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  17. Rameumptom: I would suggest a slightly different view.

    How is your view different than what I already mentioned? It sounds just like the Pratt model to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 2, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  18. Ben / Rameumptom, you might want to check out the discussion over at the latest article on Ken Miller’s position, with regard to prominent, respectable biologists who claim either that reductionism is not true, or reductionism entails laws of physics beyond the ones we now know.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 2, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  19. Well Mark (#16), assuming completely different kinds of matter does have the dualist advantage of explaining how spirits could survive infinite Big Crunches intact.

    Of course permanent physical resurrection makes surviving a Big Crunch harder to explain…

    Comment by Geoff J — November 2, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  20. Can’t say I believe in Big Crunches, and I am just a little skeptical of Big Bangs for the same reason. A physical theory that is based on the ultimate violation of the laws of physics seems pretty dubious to me.

    The term “Big Bang” was originally a derisive term based on the criticism that it was suspiciously close to creatio ex nihilo. The latter is a nice respectable theological position, if not remotely compatible with LDS theology.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 2, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  21. To me “spirit matter” is just lightweight “physical matter”. More fine or pure as the scripture says. No tripartite model required either.

    That may be. Yet it remains that until we know what “fine” and “pure” mean, the distinction becomes relevant to classification of models.

    Indeed, we don’t know the physics behind spirit matter and until such time the distinction becomes, not merely useful, but mandatory in my opinion.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 2, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  22. I agree with Mark D. on the Big Crunches. 1. It’s not at all the preferred model based on our secular observations of cosmology. 2. It is theologically dubious.

    Given these two points, I view discussing a Big Crunch on par with discussing Steady State models.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 2, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  23. It is worth pointing out that the whole “what did Joseph really mean” debate hinges on the assumption that JS had some answers to these questions. It seems more likely than not that he had hardly considered these technical questions enough to know what to ask before his death.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 2, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  24. I wholeheartedly agree with Geoff’s point here. Trying to pin Joseph as having a precise and technical meaning in his language is just plain silly in my opinion. Heck, I doubt he was even fully consistent with his language over the years.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 2, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  25. Assuming an infinite past, the vast majority of the time (still an infinite set, just a smaller infinity) must logically be in a state with close to zero knowledge.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 2, 2009 @ 11:58 am

  26. Stapley,

    Yep. That is why one solution to the problem I mentioned in the post is to assume some variation of eternal stasis/hibernation. It is not my current favorite solution but it is coherent.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 2, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

  27. What I think is most instructive is Joseph’s use of “the mind of man” and “soul” “the inglligent part” interchangeably with spirit and intelligence. We have the following statements:

    Smith Diary: The soul. Doctors of Divinity. God created in the beginning– he never the character of man. don’t believe it.–who told you God was self existent? correct enough.–in hebrew put into him his spirit.–which was created before. Mind of man coequal with God himself. friends separated for a small moment from their spirits. coequal with God. and hold converse when they are one with another– If man had a beginning he must have an end.

    Bullock: The soul the in[ne]r Spirit--of God man says created in the beging. the very idea lessens man in my idea–I don’t bel. the doct: hear it all ye Ends of the World for God has told me so I am going to tell of things more noble– We say that God himself is a self-existing God, who told you so, how did it get it into your head who told you that man did not exist in like manner– how does it read in the Heb. that God made man & put into it Adams Spirit & so became a living Spirit–the mind of man–the min mind of man is as immortal as God himself–hence while I talk to these mourners–they are only separated from their bodies for a short period–their Spirits coexisted with God & now converse one another same as we do–does not this give your satisfactn. I want to reason more on the Spirit of Man

    Woodruff Journal: The soul the mind of man, where did it come from? The learned says God made it in the beginning, but it is not so, I know better God has told me so. If you dont believe it, it wont make the truth without effect, God was a self exhisting being, man exists upon the same principle. God made a tabernacle & put a spirit in it and it became a Human soul, man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself,

    Clayton: Another subject–the soul–the mind of man–they say God created it in the beginning. The idea lessens man in my estimation. Don’t believe the doctrine–know better–God told me so–Make a man appear a fool before he gets through if he dont believe it. We say that God was self–existent who told you so? It’s correct enough but how did it get into your heads–who told you that man did not exist upon the same principle (refer to the bible) Don’t say so in the old Hebrew–God made man out of the earth and put into him his spirit and then it became a living body The mind of man–the intelligent part is coequal with God himself.

    Times & Seasons: the soul, the mind of man, the immortal spirit. All men say God created it in the beginning. The very idea lessens man in my estimation; I do not believe the doctrine, I know better. Hear it all ye ends of the world, for God has told me so. I will make a man appear a fool before I get through, if you dont believe it. I am going to tell of things more noble–we say that God himself is a self existing God; who told you so? it is correct enough, but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? (refers to the old Bible,) how does it read in the Hebrew? It dont say so in the Hebrew, it says God made man out of the earth, and put into him Adam’s spirit, and so became a living body. The mind of man is as immortal as God himself.

    What is clear is that the part of us that is mind, or soul, or spirit or the intelligent part of us is uncreated and eternal. There is no mindless, soul-less proto-spirit or spirit stuff that Joseph has in mind. He has in mind that thinking part of us that is the mind and soul and has intelligence. That is what is uncreated as far as Joseph Smith is concerned — and I say he is the first and last authority on this issue.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  28. Blake, I’m not sure of your position here (i.e. how you are reading Joseph and taking him as authoritative). Are you saying that you think a fully developed spirit body always existed? Or are you saying there was something Cartesian like that is the soul, mind and spirit?

    Put an other way, what are your beliefs about the nature of our existence in the spirit world prior to birth. It sounds like you are taking Joseph to be preaching Roberts minus Roberts conception of spirit.

    Comment by Clark — November 2, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  29. Nice quotations from Blake. It further evidences the hypothesis that Joseph Smith was not always consistent with his language.

    Note the Woodruff journal. Bolded part 1.
    “the soul the mind of man”
    “God made a tabernacle & put a spirit in it and it became a Human soul”

    But that’s just quibbling. It is very clear that Joseph Smith was talking about something that was fundamental to our identity, that it is inherent in who we are, and that it is self-existent. But, it is also seems that he had no good word for it. And so he is grasping for one using multiple words to convey the meaning such as “mind, or soul, or spirit or the intelligent part”.

    The word “mind” is heavy with contextual baggage. What does Joseph mean by mind? Not a good word.
    Soul has a more specific definition of the spirit and the body combined (D&C 88:13).
    Spirit isn’t good as this uncreate thing because we often use it to mean the thing God created before we were flesh (Moses 6:51).

    Joseph may the be the first and last authority on the subject (personally, I think subsequent prophets may have had a better understanding /shrug) but it is not at all clear that he was saying.

    Was he saying that we had bodies of spirit with 2 eyes and 10 fingers and 10 toes from all eternity? I don’t think so. Is that what Blake is saying? I’m not sure.

    Was Joseph saying there is something that existed from all eternity? Yes! Yet, what is this something? Lacking a better word and given the synonymity Abraham gives to intelligence and spirit, I use the word “intelligent matter” to mean mind, or inner spirit, or whatever it is that is our fundamentally constituent and uncreate self.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 2, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  30. Clark: Yeah, I’m saying is that Joseph thought that whatever was essential to be the personality that we are, the intelligent part, the soul, the mind are all synonyms for what Joseph had in mind and that is what is eternal. I think that Joseph didn’t think in terms of anything other than what we knows as persons in their essential structure. I think that may be termed Roberts minus spirit birth where the intelligence just is the spirit. I don’t know that he thought in terms of a “spirit-body” but in terms of the mind or intelligent part or what he termed the soul.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

  31. A. — Yeah, Joseph used “soul” in an equivocal sense because he couldn’t possibly have meant both the spirit and the mortal or glorified body united to be the soul as he did in D&C 88:13. However, by “soul” I believe he just means whatever we most essentially are in terms of our personality and ability to think as the persons that we just are. Did he think that this mind or soul or eternal spirit was material? Not in terms of matter as we know it.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  32. The reason I ask Blake is because clearly there is a tension here between spirit-body and spirit. It seems like you are taking them as equivalent but if we separate them then we have the tri-partite model, of course.

    Now clearly Joseph thought spirits were basically anthropomorphic. (Such as in his discussion in the March 21, 1841 discussion of identifying spirits) From the Martha Coray Notebook:

    Brethren be not deceived an nor doubtful of this fact a spirit of a good man or an angell from heaven who has not a body will never undertake to shake hands with you for he knows you cannot perceive his touch and never will extend his hand but any spirit or body that is attended by a dove you may know to be a pure spirit Thus you may in some measure detect them the spirits who may come unto you

    Now the question is whether this spirit is the same as a soul talked about elsewhere. To say that a spirit is used synonymously with mind is true, but the converse is not true. That is spirit and intelligence as used also convey a kind of personage. This is why I said earlier we can draw out distinctions even if the terminology is unclear.

    An other interesting text is the Times and Seasons from 1 April 1842 which has Joseph as author.

    In tracing the thing to the foundation, and looking at it philosophically, we shall find a very material difference between the body and the spirit; the body is supposed to be organized matter, and the spirit, by many, is thought to be immaterial, without substance. With this latter statement we should beg leave to differ, and state that spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that it is more pure, elastic and refined matter than the body; that it existed before the body, can exist in the body; and will exist separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the dust; and will in the resurrection, be again united with it. Without attempting to describe this mysterious connection, and the laws that govern the body and the spirit of man, their relationship to each other, and the design of God in relation to the human body and spirit, I would just remark, that the spirits of men are eternal…

    Once again one has to ask, when did this “elastic body” become humanoid? Was it always so developed? Does it have parts or is it without parts? Is Joseph simply using a figure of speech to equate the spirit as mind with the spirit as body since the spirit as body has mind?

    It seems like these, rather serious questions, have to be addressed. I’m fully willing to say Joseph is at best vague on such matters and probably ought be seen as not providing answers. But the very fact he distinguishes such things suggest one ought be careful.

    Comment by Clark — November 2, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

  33. I think a somewhat satisfying variation on hibernation is a period of non-stimulated solitude.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 2, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  34. Clark: The reason I ask Blake is because clearly there is a tension here between spirit-body and spirit. It seems like you are taking them as equivalent but if we separate them then we have the tri-partite model, of course.

    You make two inferences here that don’t seem to follow to me. First, you assert that there is a tension between spirit and spirit-body? Why so? Why can’t spirit be spirit but possibly manifest in a bodily form? Second, how does the tri-partite model follow from the notion that spirit and spirit-body are the same thing? I would think that all that follows is that a spirit-body without birth and without parts other than spirit exists eternally.

    Comment by Blake — November 2, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

  35. Did he think that this mind or soul or eternal spirit was material? Not in terms of matter as we know it.

    I agree. Which is why I personally distinguish between the three forms of “matter”. Intelligent matter is not, as far as we know yet, the same as matter as we know it – physical matter. It is something different. Here we seem to agree.

    However, by “soul” I believe he just means whatever we most essentially are in terms of our personality and ability to think as the persons that we just are.

    I think that intelligent matter, for whatever form any model of being asks it to be, must form our fundamental unit of identity – that which makes A. Davis A. Davis and not Blake, or Bob, or Ted, or Sally. But, I think we differ in our mental models on how much a being composed of just intelligent matter can do. For me, for example, I a being of just intelligent matter can identify the first 9 prime numbers without an attendant spirit body. On the other hand, I extrapolate from your comments as saying that a being of intelligent matter, absent its attendant spirit body, can identify the first 9 prime numbers.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 2, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

  36. A. Davis: Which is why I personally distinguish between the three forms of “matter”

    As long as you acknowledge that this idea is entirely made up out of thin air I don’t mind you trying to hawk it.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 2, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  37. Blake: Why can’t spirit be spirit but possibly manifest in a bodily form?

    Why not indeed. I think this idea that eternal and uncreated spirits can manifest in more than one form is the cleanest way to reconcile beginningless spirits with the fact that Joseph spoke of spirits looking like humans.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 2, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

  38. Why can’t spirit be spirit but possibly manifest in a bodily form? Because it belies the question of why we have a body with enormously sophisticated physiology to accomplish relatively simple tasks. So if a spirit is a natural entity that can effortlessly be or appear as a person (or a dog, or a cat…) whenever it feels like it, one wonders what in the world biology is good for?

    I am repeating myself, but I find it completely impossible to distinguish between spirits that are natural shape shifters and a full blown magical world view.

    I suspect, for example, that potentially everything out there has a little bit of intelligence or something like that, but on the other hand I don’t go around wondering if the rock next to me is going to turn into a tiger when I am not looking. And that is what a full blown magical world view entails – the inability to think rationally about (or place faith in) anyone or anything because nothing has any natural properties nor follows any natural rules.

    It is like shows about the occult have to invent rules just so the story can have a plot. If there are no rules, if nothing has a nature, then how can there be a reason for anything?

    Is God good? Is he naturally good? Does his goodness naturally continue from day to day? Or is God good just because he feels that way today?

    Comment by Mark D. — November 3, 2009 @ 12:08 am

  39. I mean reason beyond sheer arbitrariness of course.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 3, 2009 @ 1:01 am

  40. In thinking on this a bit more, another potential option is that spirits, not having a material brain, lacked any storage capabilities with which to retain memories. It’s a little unorthodox, but is not recursion or hibernation.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 3, 2009 @ 6:26 am

  41. Geoff J: As long as you acknowledge that this idea is entirely made up out of thin air I don’t mind you trying to hawk it.
    It’s not so much made up out of thin air as it becomes what’s necessary to categorize the various models. This is what we know:

    1. We have a physical body. This body is made of matter that we describe with our current laws of physics.

    2. We have a body made of spirit stuff. This body was created.

    3. There is some aspect of us that is uncreate and has existed for all eternity.

    These are the three things we know. Being a materialist myself, I hence must describe each of these things as being some kind of thing that exits in space and time — in other words “matter”.

    Now some may wish to say stuff 2 and stuff 3 is the same (not sure how, but some do) and some say stuff 1 and stuff 2 are the same (which I can demonstrate is very likely untrue). Nonetheless, a priori there must be at minimum three types of stuff to describe (at least in a materialist framework).

    Unless you can demonstrate that the three points I pointed out are well not well established LDS thought, to say that it was made up “out of thin air” is offensively glib and just plain false.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 7:50 am

  42. I think that there are likely many people who would actually be comfortable with at least the essence of your “eternal recursion” model. Anyone who believes in reincarnation doesn’t think that this life is it. In Buddhism, we may live in mortality for a time, then as a “god” for time is we have accumulated positive karma, then back to mortality, etc. We keep repeating “recursively” until we are released from samsara, or the whole cycle.

    Comment by Mike S — November 3, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  43. Another concept:

    Could the “spirit/intelligence” be the “software” to our mortal body’s “hardware”? Software is a very specific thing, organized from existing codes and paradigms. Each piece of software is unique. Software can’t be “seen”, as it’s essentially just an abstraction.

    Perhaps, in order to attain the “full measure of creation”, a spirit requires a physical body, just like for software to do something, it requires a piece of hardware. Similarly, a piece of hardware without the software is just an inert piece of plastic/silicone/metal.

    Comment by Mike S — November 3, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  44. Mark: I am repeating myself, but I find it completely impossible to distinguish between spirits that are natural shape shifters and a full blown magical world view.

    Wow. Do you feel that way about silly putty too? How is this any more magical than matter that exhibits intelligence and mind?

    Mike: A lot of materialist believe that mind is like software and the body is like hardware — the problem is that there is working software without a physical body on that view. In other words, we still have to explain the body and where it comes from it it is created at some point.

    Comment by Blake — November 3, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  45. Blake is spot on here. Mark, why is it necessary that a spirit’s form be essentially immutable in your view?

    A. Davis, your #2 is pure speculation.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 3, 2009 @ 9:15 am

  46. A. Davis: 2. We have a body made of spirit stuff. This body was created.

    J. Stapley: A. Davis, your #2 is pure speculation.

    Hogwash. I assume you are familiar with the numerous scriptures about our “spirit” form before physical birth. That form was created.

    And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying: I am God; I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh. (Moses 6:51)

    Unless one wants to assume that we had 10 fingers and 10 toes for all eternity then the reference to “create” is straight forward. Otherwise one must allow for more imaginative interpretations of the word (which I’m not absolutely opposed to, albeit it isn’t my personal bias).

    Suffice it to say that we have some form which pre-dates our physical form is absolutely correct. There is no speculation about point #2 except in particular assumptions that you may be unnecessarily imposing on the statement.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  47. I’m sure it would be unfair for me to take credit, but I feel like my point in this post has finally taken hold with several people here, which makes me happy. I agree totally with Blake’s #27. I think Joseph’s language rules out completely (with respect to his own view) the idea that there was spirit-stuff which God rolled into a ball and cooked at 350° for 25 minutes to make the first instance of “us.” Beyond that, it is very dicey to assign specific ideas about minds, spirits, and bodies to Joseph Smith because he made statements that appear to be in conflict and never resolved those conflicts (or even let on that he was aware of them).

    Comment by Jacob J — November 3, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  48. TK Smoothie Rule: “If a doctrine of the church seems like it has been created in order to ‘fix’ or explain another, it might be a TK Smoothie.”

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  49. Mark: So if a spirit is a natural entity that can effortlessly be or appear as a person (or a dog, or a cat…) whenever it feels like it, one wonders what in the world biology is good for?

    Ok. But we wonder about a lot of things. What is your point here?

    I find it completely impossible to distinguish between spirits that are natural shape shifters and a full blown magical world view.

    Sounds like a personal problem. Lots of other people don’t have that problem at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

  50. Joseph Smith said at least that the Holy Ghost couldn’t shape shift into a dove.

    “The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove;”(Teachings p 275)

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  51. A. Davis,

    Your reading of Moses 6:51 is plausible. Maybe it does say God made men before they were made flesh (meaning maybe it says God created spirits). Or maybe it says men, before they were made flesh here, helped God make the world. Or maybe it means that God made men flesh on previous planets before he did so here. My point is that that scripture is not crystal clear.

    If you are going to claim that spirits are created by using that scripture you have to contend with the prophet who translated it. See #27.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  52. #44: Blake

    “where the body comes from…” and how it relates to the spirit

    One possibility/musing: If I understand string theory correctly (a big if), the physical characteristics of matter depend on vibrations at various levels of the “wrapped-up” dimensions. Perhaps our spirits were “created” in these other dimensions. Their intersection with this world therefore translates the “information/intelligence” consisting of a spirit into a physical body. Mortality would therefore consist of being constrained into our dimensions of space-time.

    This satisfies several things:
    - While the spirit body could actually exist in these other dimensions with form, etc, it’s “representation” in our world would better be described as “intelligence” as it’s mostly the vibrations of the wrapped up dimensions. This could help describe Joseph’s difficulty in putting it into words.

    - We couldn’t see spirit things with our natural eyes – the dimensions are too small to detect (at least at the energies we have created thus far)

    - The spirit world could be among us, just slightly removed in a different dimensionality

    - The goal of spirits could be learning how to control the instantiation in our space-time given uncertainty, etc.

    - There are many other things. This post is getting too long.

    Thoughts on this concept?

    Comment by Mike S — November 3, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

  53. Geoff J: If you are going to claim that spirits are created by using that scripture you have to contend with the prophet who translated it. See #27.

    If you think post #27 is relevant, I think you miss the point. A) We know we have a spirit body and that it is in the likeness of our physical body (see for example D&C 77:2). B) We know that something about us has always existed.

    Now, some might say A) an B) are the same thing but I don’t start off by speculating that. And there is nothing that I see to warrant such speculation other than the most circumstantial of evidence coupled with tremendous leaps of faith.

    The starting point should be that they are distinct. The weight of plain scripture interpretation and post-Joseph teachings of prophets is that they are distinct. One could make a case for A=B, – but that just it – one has to make a case for it. It’s not the starting point. It is speculation, until otherwise forcibly argued, that our spirit body is the uncreate aspect of us.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

  54. A. Davis: A) We know we have a spirit body and that it is in the likeness of our physical body

    This is an overstatement. What we know is that spirits can manifest themselves in the likeness of human bodies. I see no reason why we should preclude the possibility that whatever about us is eternal can manifest itself in visions in more than one form. (A la your comment in #50)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  55. The only know form for our spirit bodies is the form that resembles our physical body. Thus, it becomes pure speculation that our spirit body can manifest in forms other than that which is in the likeness of our physical body. If you’d like to soften the “overstatement” make the case instead of pulling shape-shifting out of thin air.

    I’m willing to entertain the shape-shifting model, but so far it smells like TK smoothie. Note, I interpret the quote in post #50 as evidence against shape-shifting.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  56. Geoff,

    On the quote in #50 I am with A. Davis. It seems to say directly that the Holy Ghost cannot shape-shift. Given what we know of his view of signs coupled with his interpretation of fig 7 I think it is safe to say his intention was to directly refute the idea that the Holy Ghost descended in the bodily shape of a dove. See also the EOM.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 3, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

  57. A. Davis, I really don’t want to think about what a TK Smoothie smells like. In the future, please use something else like “strikes me as” or “seems like” when referring to the TK Smoothie.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 3, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  58. Oops, for some reason I was thinking #50 was saying the opposite of what it actually says. My bad.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

  59. Jacob J: A. Davis, I really don’t want to think about what a TK Smoothie smells like. In the future, please use something else like “strikes me as” or “seems like” when referring to the TK Smoothie.

    Hehe. If I were to think about it (I don’t – not believing in a TK smoothing) I’d probably go with a the smell of Barbie Doll plastic. :)

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  60. But, in the interest of amiability and discourse, I open the door for wider speculation and soften the list of 3 knowns:

    1. We have a physical body made of physical matter.
    2. We have a spirit body.
    3. Some aspect fundamental to our identity which is uncreate, eternal, and self-existent.

    We know a great deal about known point #1 (although not nearly enough).

    We know very little of #2 but we know it is stuff. I call that stuff “spirit matter”.

    We know even less about #3. I don’t know what it is, but being a materialist, I’ll call it “intelligent matter”.

    Note that the above is not a theory but a categorization scheme.

    At present this categorization makes no assumption that spirit matter is uniform any more than physical matter is (a handful of different particles exist), whether or not any aspect of spirit matter is identifiable with physical matter, etc.

    Similarly, in this categorization, no assumption that intelligent matter is uniform any more than spirit matter might be (maybe there is just once kind of intelligent matter, maybe not) or that any subset of intelligent matter is identifiable or not identifiable with spirit matter.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

  61. A. Davis,

    Categorizing spirit matter and intelligent matter separately is begging the question here. One of the points of debate is whether your #2 and #3 are in fact one in the same. By separating them into categories you already are assuming they are not.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  62. Geoff,

    I thought A. Davis’ point all the way back from #15 has been that some of these categories may turn out to be identical (and in fact are identical in various models). If there are differences among the theories about which of the categories is identical, it means that the only way to NOT assume a given theory is to list each separately and let the theories postulate which are distinct and which are identical.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 3, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

  63. Right Jacob. The type of categorization A. Davis is suggesting is begging the question of this post. If we could agree on a categorization we we be able to agree on all sorts of things that follow from that categorization.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  64. Geoff, I take it from #61 that when you say “begging the question” you mean it in the original sense as the logic fallacy of “assuming the very point in question.” If so, I disagree that his categorization is begging the question. It isn’t question-begging to start from simple statements everyone can agree on. I think 1-3 from #60 are common to all theories I am aware of.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 3, 2009 @ 6:30 pm

  65. Hmmm. I clearly need to read more closely (or at least less hastily) in this thread. It appears you are right that the way he worded things in #61 is pretty uncontroversial after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 3, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  66. A Davis, I’ll see your Moses and raise you an Abraham (3:16):

    …if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

    Abraham has the nice attribute of also being received much later than Moses, and clearly informed Joseph Smith’s expansions in Nauvoo. If you want to say that Joseph didn’t mean spirits were never created by this verse, regardless of how flexible his definitions were, you’ve got a tough row to hoe.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 3, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

  67. Part of what I find challenging about various strains of Mormon materialism is that people appear to be arguing analogically and assuming a continuous system, when no actual evidence for continuity exists.

    That is to say people look at their current body and assume that because a spirit appears as a personage it must necessarily have a comparable material body. While I concede that Joseph Smith believed and revealed the spirits exist and are real we have absolutely zero evidence to suggest a continuity between the material universe which we can observe and spiritual existence.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 3, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  68. Geoff J: Hmmm. I clearly need to read more closely (or at least less hastily) in this thread. It appears you are right that the way he worded things in #61 is pretty uncontroversial after all.
    Thanks! (And to Jacob J.)

    J. Stapley: If you want to say that Joseph didn’t mean spirits were never created by this verse, regardless of how flexible his definitions were, you’ve got a tough row to hoe.

    Turns out that arguing spirit matter = intelligent matter (or if you don’t like the terms – “truth 2″ = “truth 3″) and arguing spirit matter != intelligent matter both have difficulties. Mix that with whether or not consciousness/intelligence predates our spirit body and things get all kinds of dicey.

    But, I’m more than willing to hoe the row and see what seeds sprout. At some point we have to speculate but I think it’ll be more fruitful if we at least to start from a level/uncontroversial/agreed upon field.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

  69. J. Stapley: Part of what I find challenging about various strains of Mormon materialism is that people appear to be arguing analogically and assuming a continuous system, when no actual evidence for continuity exists.

    The categorization / level playing field I suggested makes no such assumption. I know many who do argue that spirit matter is just a gradation of physical matter (a la Parley P. Pratt). Turns out that I’m not one of those and will argue against it.

    J. Stapley That is to say people look at their current body and assume that because a spirit appears as a personage it must necessarily have a comparable material body. While I concede that Joseph Smith believed and revealed the spirits exist and are real we have absolutely zero evidence to suggest a continuity between the material universe which we can observe and spiritual existence.

    I’m not sure I quite follow your statements here. The phenotypical form of a spirit body is a data point independent of any assumed relationship between spirit matter and physical matter. Perhaps you can clarify.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

  70. Oh, I suppose if and when we do have some set of agreed upon “facts” that are uncontroversial upon which to form speculative models I suppose what comes next is some mild agreement upon some relatively uncontroversial standards of speculation/model-building. Otherwise we just run butting heads like rams during mating season.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 3, 2009 @ 7:39 pm

  71. Great comments everyone. I have so much to learn.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 3, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

  72. I’m not sure I quite follow your statements here. The phenotypical form of a spirit body is a data point independent of any assumed relationship between spirit matter and physical matter. Perhaps you can clarify.

    I’m not sure we have any really good data on the absolute phenotype (a concept that requires systemic continuity) of spirits. What we know is that when people have visions of them, they perceive them in human form.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 3, 2009 @ 7:53 pm

  73. J. Stapley,

    we have absolutely zero evidence to suggest a continuity between the material universe which we can observe and spiritual existence.

    As I have pointed out to you before, this is simply not true. We have a statement from Joseph Smith that specifically claims a similarity between spirit and matter. You have suggested that his statement that “all spirit is matter” was merely intended to mean that the spiritual realm is real. But, that’s not what the statement says. It says all spirit is matter.

    You further argued that if spirit matter really was similar to physical matter then we’d have some empirical evidence for it, but that requirement seems to make the error you accuse others of. It seems entirely unwarranted for you reject Joseph’s statement based on the inability of our instruments to detect spirit matter. It ignores Joseph’s statement that “it can only be discerned by purer eyes,” and more importantly, it ignores the fact that this qualifier seems to have been added by Joseph precisely because his meaning in the statement before would at first blush cause one to conclude that we should be able to see or detect spirit matter.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 3, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

  74. Sorry things really moved on since I last was able to comment.

    Blake (34) First, you assert that there is a tension between spirit and spirit-body? Why so? Why can’t spirit be spirit but possibly manifest in a bodily form?

    I’m not quite sure what you are saying here. It sounds almost like what Catholics claim about Thomist souls (say an angel). They only have bodies when taking upon matter temporarily. I think that’s not what you want to say, although I’m unsure.

    The problem anyway is that in the first quote I provided (32) the spirit isn’t embodied by material (in the normal sense of the term) but clearly looks like body.

    Now perhaps this tension is more a product of the language and culture Joseph finds himself in. By then most mental language simply wasn’t physical language. (And isn’t today either) We make a split between how we talk about the two. Yet if our mind and intelligence is not our body but is talked about disembodied there is a problem.

    Put an other way, I think the question is whether we have some odd material body (perhaps elastic) that has a mind or do we have some odd material body that is mind. In the same way a normal physicalist who thinks the mind is reductive to the brain would never say my body is my mind. Simply the question is whether the mind is part of the spirit or is the spirit.

    Now I’ll fully confess you can read it either way. My sense is you and Geoff are taking it in the sense that the mind is not a part of the spirit body but is the spirit body. And of course there is plenty of linguistic evidence to show people who think the mind is part of a person but not wholly the person will talk of people as intelligences and so forth. (And of course there are style of metaphors to talk that way in which a part represents the whole)

    Comment by Clark — November 3, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  75. A. Davis (35) Intelligent matter is not, as far as we know yet, the same as matter as we know it – physical matter. It is something different.

    While that’s a defensible reading I’m not sure it’s the only reading. (Depending upon what you mean by “matter as we know it.”) I doubt spirits are dark matter but let’s say they were. That’s matter as we know it but not matter we phenomenologically encounter in our day to day encounters. The one thing most readings proffer is the idea that spirits are still spatial and thus within the universe and – to many Mormon physicists I suspect – made up of space-time.

    Of course there is an other interesting reading, repopularized I believe by Quinn. The more neoPlatonic reading where spirit matter is a kind of place for intelligence like space is a place for material properties. (NeoPlatonists and a gradation from prime matter up through soul to intelligence to the One – Prime matter was a kind of pure place but there was intelligent matter higher up)

    I’m not in the least saying Joseph taught such an idea. (Indeed his talk about elasticity goes against it in preference to a rather popular view of spirits which goes back at least to the Renaissance) However it’s worth keeping in mind that there are more possibilities here.

    Geoff (37) I think this idea that eternal and uncreated spirits can manifest in more than one form is the cleanest way to reconcile beginningless spirits with the fact that Joseph spoke of spirits looking like humans.

    Although his treatment of the sign of the Holy Ghost becomes odd in this view. If spirits can do this what would keep the Holy Ghost from literally appearing as a dove? Recall this is a major point of the January 29, 1843 sermon.

    Comment by Clark — November 3, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

  76. Clark,

    Simply the question is whether the mind is part of the spirit or is the spirit.

    Exactly right. Trying to sort out the nature of spirits inevitably leads back to this question. Unfortunately, the mind-body problem is the most impenetrable problem of philosophy and the “hard” problem of consciousness is the most impenetrable problem in science. So, yea, good luck with that.

    Comment by Jacob J — November 3, 2009 @ 9:59 pm

  77. Oh, I see A. Davis brought up the same point about the Holy Ghost as I did. (50). (Although documentary sources are better to refer to than the highly edited TPJS) I think though this point is a key point to be addressed by those who see spirits as more pure, refined T-1000s.

    Personally given the constraints and even acknowledging the relatively synonymous usage by Joseph I think some variation of a tripartite model (either Pratt’s or Roberts’) ends up being the best fit for the data. Spirits might have always been intelligences but I think there’s a lot of evidence that they change and suggestive evidence they have parts. Get to that stage and you’re already at the tripartite model.

    J. Stapley (67) That is to say people look at their current body and assume that because a spirit appears as a personage it must necessarily have a comparable material body. While I concede that Joseph Smith believed and revealed the spirits exist and are real we have absolutely zero evidence to suggest a continuity between the material universe which we can observe and spiritual existence.

    Well, I think the main argument is that they keep appearing as humans and then that Jan 1843 sermon where the HG can’t shape shift. This seems to really undermine the idea of spirits and something really odd. I think all the textual evidence points to Joseph taking them as roughly humanoid.

    Of course he could be wrong. I think some put too much trust in these uncanonized statements. What I get out of it all is that Joseph didn’t really understand spirits much himself.

    Comment by Clark — November 3, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

  78. Blake: Wow. Do you feel that way about silly putty too? How is this any more magical than matter that exhibits intelligence and mind?

    No. Silly putty has a natural form at any given moment. That form is determined by the nature of its current material structure. That form persists from one moment to the next. If it changes, it changes continuously.

    But most importantly, the nature of silly putty has little or nothing to do with the form that it is in, because it is amorphous. It could “care” less.

    Now, if per hypothesis, the nature of a spirit has absolutely nothing to do with the form that it is in, then its form at any given time is as irrelevant to its nature as the the form of a ball of silly putty is to its nature. In short, if this hypothesis true, any non-trivial bodily form of a spirit (eyes, hands, etc) is completely irrelevant and without substantive explanation.

    That violates the principle of sufficient reason. If we dig up a fossil in the ground, we readily assume that the structure of the fossil had something to do with its function and capacity. No matter how different spirit matter is from ordinary matter the idea that it has or can have a non-trivial form that has nothing to do with its function or capacity is dubious.

    As to your other question, I don’t naturally assume that just because matter has a tinge of intelligence that it is capable of re-forming from a puddle into a functioning human being or vice versa at the drop of a hat. It is practically a miracle of biology that we can control our bodies according to our own (libertarian) free will at all.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 3, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

  79. J. Stapley: Blake is spot on here. Mark, why is it necessary that a spirit’s form be essentially immutable in your view?

    I don’t think it is immutable, nor more than ours is at any rate. I do think that the form of a spirit is stable, that it naturally persists from one moment to the next, and that if it is non-trivial it has some functional purpose, some reason to be there at all.

    And again, the main argument for this position is that given the extraordinary sophistication necessary for our present bodies to accomplish even relatively simple tasks, the idea that spirits have a form anything like ours without that form having a function is a gratuitous hypothesis.

    This sort of argument was a staple of natural philosophy twenty four hundred years ago. It is hard to say that the foundation that Aristotle and his successors laid in that regard did not turn out to be a roaring success. Where has the belief in magical shape shifters got us? The intellectual tradition within Mormonism is the opposite – spirit matter, i.e. material particles of some sort, in some sort of stable (but certainly not immutable) form.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 3, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

  80. Clark: The problem anyway is that in the first quote I provided (32) the spirit isn’t embodied by material (in the normal sense of the term) but clearly looks like body.

    Actually, spirits don’t look like anything to human eyes because spirit matter is reportedly indiscernible to human eyes. I suspect that is why people see spirits in “visions” (dreams, waking visions, etc.). This visions issue changes the “what spirits look like” discussion.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 12:11 am

  81. Mark D: And again, the main argument for this position is that given the extraordinary sophistication necessary for our present bodies to accomplish even relatively simple tasks, the idea that spirits have a form anything like ours without that form having a function is a gratuitous hypothesis.

    I think that is a great comment. If spirit bodies have a nose and eyes, we can reasonable safely assume the nose and eyes are used (and probably used for something like smelling and looking).

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 7:46 am

  82. Geoff J: Actually, spirits don’t look like anything to human eyes because spirit matter is reportedly indiscernible to human eyes. I suspect that is why people see spirits in “visions” (dreams, waking visions, etc.). This visions issue changes the “what spirits look like” discussion.

    Yes, well since electromagnetic photons are the necessary stimulus for our physical eyes then we can’t see a spirit body with our physical eyes. But it still is an extra step of faith to say that simply because we have to have an extraordinary stimulus for our physical brain to “see” a spirit body (seeing how spirit bodies don’t seem to emit electromagnetic photons) that such an extraordinary stimulus is deliberately deceptive. That is, the vision is designed to show us a form other than the form like unto the form that the spirit body really has in space-time. But, it is what the many of the transhumanists argue (that and this entire universe may be just a simulacrum).

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 7:52 am

  83. A. Davis (35): Intelligent matter is not, as far as we know yet, the same as matter as we know it – physical matter. It is something different.

    Clark (75): While that’s a defensible reading I’m not sure it’s the only reading. (Depending upon what you mean by “matter as we know it.”) I doubt spirits are dark matter but let’s say they were. That’s matter as we know it but not matter we phenomenologically encounter in our day to day encounters.

    Well, we don’t know anything about what dark matter is, so I’m gonna say that such isn’t a very good analogy. But I get your point.

    By the expression “matter as we know it” I mean that what matter (again, since I’m a materialist) is at the heart of what we fundamentally and self-existently (that a word?) are then that matter isn’t protons, neutrons, electrons, neutrinos, muons, quarks, gluons, neutrinos or any other particle of the standard model. Make a hypothesis to the contrary. I’ll shoot it down. :)

    Clark (75): The one thing most readings proffer is the idea that spirits are still spatial and thus within the universe and – to many Mormon physicists I suspect – made up of space-time.

    Quite agree. That’s why I assign some form of “matter” to each of my three proposed minimalist/uncontroversial knowns.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 8:00 am

  84. I think one has to also deal with the term “elastic.” Does it mean that a spirit is “stretchy”? Or does it mean it can be a shape-shifter?

    How would the second description fit in with the Declaration on the Family, which specifies gender in spirits? Would they be elastic, but only to the point where they still show gender?

    Personally, I think an atom is an atom, a form of intelligence. Does it have “elasticity?” Depends upon the atom, I suppose. And the level of elasticity would depend upon many factors, as well.

    I agree that Silly Putty is elastic, solely because it is inherent in the nuclear traits of its construct. If you mix in other elements, suddenly the Silly Putty can lose its elasticity, or with temperature can become liquid. Can a spirit/intelligence also be found in liquid, gas and solid forms?

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 4, 2009 @ 8:30 am

  85. A. Davis,

    If people see spirits in dreams (sleeping or waking) as I suspect I see zero support for you claim that it would be “deliberately deceptive” if those people conceive of the eternal intelligence in human form. Rather, it is an example of God allowing the information to be passed along in a form that men can comprehend and handle (by allowing the human brain to do the organizing of the vision). Claiming it is deliberately deceptive is as much of a leap of faith as any other speculations I have seen on this topic.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 8:36 am

  86. Mark: In short, if this hypothesis true, any non-trivial bodily form of a spirit (eyes, hands, etc) is completely irrelevant and without substantive explanation.

    Right. The purpose of appearing like a human in visions to humans would be to not freak them out any more than they are already freaked out.

    Of course this principle only works if resurrection is not permanent — the theory I prefer.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  87. The idea that spirits can only appear in dreams and visions is inconsistent with D&C 129:6, which states that a spirit must “come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear”.

    Surely dreams and visions are not so limited. The whole idea about coming in glory by the way, is in indication that spirit matter can be made visible under the right circumstances.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 4, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  88. Clark: My sense is you and Geoff are taking it in the sense that the mind is not a part of the spirit body but is the spirit body.

    That is indeed where I currently lean. I have spent time trying to defend a spirit atomism model in the past but gave up on that because I now think it is fruitless. The problem is that the spirit atomism models are too at odds with what Joseph Smith believed about minds/intelligences/spirits being without beginning. And as Blake mentioned in #27 we don’t have much to go on here except for what Joseph Smith taught.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 8:50 am

  89. Mark,

    I disagree. Spirits can “come in their glory” in dreams. Further, do you know of any instances of spirits being seen with natural eyes? When Joseph Smith had visions most people in the same room with him saw and heard nothing after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 8:54 am

  90. Geoff J: Rather, it is an example of God allowing the information to be passed along in a form that men can comprehend and handle (by allowing the human brain to do the organizing of the vision). Claiming it is deliberately deceptive is as much of a leap of faith as any other speculations I have seen on this topic.

    Fine. I’ll add another option. Since essentially all accounts of visions that I’m aware of have humans interpreting spirits as having bodies. We can hypothesize

    A) God is deliberately deceptive.
    B) All humans are naturally inclined to interpret the data that way.
    C) The spirits actually have forms like a body.

    None of us like option A). My personal bias is towards option C). I think that a better case could be made for it than B). Option C) is also consistent with D&C 77:2 and all the other scriptures that say the temporal is in the likeness of the spiritual.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 8:55 am

  91. There are several problems with C). Here are a couple:

    1. As noted in this post and throughout this thread Joseph Smith said spirits have no beginninging so if spirits have human-like bodies we either have to assume they beginninglessly have them or we have to add steps to the process that JS didn’t add (tripartite model).
    2. We currently have primate, mammal bodies that evolved under very specific circumstances on this specific planet. If the exact same kind of bodies existed before this planet it would be useful to have at least some reason why. In other words what use would a pancreas be to an eternal spirit?

    I’m not saying no one can come up with creative responses to these issues. I just am pointing out that it does take some very creative imagining.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  92. Yep. Given my bias towards C) (that spirit bodies really do have 10 fingers and 10 toes) some extra stuff is needed to make the concept coherent. To address your two points:

    1. There are indeed extra steps. That the fundamental/uncreate aspect of our identity is not synonymous with our spirit body. I take it that when we are told that God the Father is the literal father of our spirits that it means that he literally created for us (our uncreate entities) a spirit body. That’s the extra step.

    2. Given that all things were created spiritually before they were temporally (several scriptures repeat this concept) then I assume our planet’s biology is like where we used to live (in the pre-mortal realm). So, I don’t buy into the whole completely independent evolution argument. Similar to Brigham Young, I’m a panspermist.

    Of course, I’m not saying that my model has to be the correct one. But I will argue for its internal consistency.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  93. What do you do to make B) (that all human beings naturally interpret information given to our body as mirroring our physical reality) rational? Humans naturally dream up all kinds of crazy — why the internal consistency of reliable accounts of visions?

    Note, that Joseph Smith taught that such spiritual input is not directed to our physical body.

    All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all; (Teachings p 355 – sorry no first source for this one, but I’d welcome a link)

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  94. why the internal consistency of reliable accounts of visions

    Whoever said visions were consistently reliable?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  95. A. Davis: I assume our planet’s biology is like where we used to live (in the pre-mortal realm)

    This assumes that we are just earth 2.0 and the original spirit earth is already done. It further assumes that the spirit people and animals there evolved just like people and animals evolved here with natural selection and all. So apparently spirit ice ages came to that spirit planet and spirit meteors hit it and spirit tsunamis killed people and spirit plagues thinned populations and spirit natural selection all led to a final spirit product that looks just like our current bodies right? (Or did they have a spirit Adam and Eve and a spirit Garden of Eden in your model?) In any case, since we had free will there that model pretty makes this life superfluous.

    I recommend you try Mark’s model (where spirit bodies first grow inside human bodies). His model is “out there” but it at least makes more sense than the unexplainable redundancy model you are suggesting.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  96. I disagree. Spirits can “come in their glory” in dreams. Further, do you know of any instances of spirits being seen with natural eyes? When Joseph Smith had visions most people in the same room with him saw and heard nothing after all.

    Sure they *can* appear come in glory in dreams. The question is whether they *must* come in glory in dreams. That is what the scripture says, and it doesn’t make any sense.

    Furthermore, how exactly is “the devil posing as an angel of light” supposed to insert himself (and interact with you) in your dreams? It is a scriptural principle that only God knows what people are thinking.

    Re: “natural eyes”, i.e. eyes without any extra assistance, a la transfiguration. Doesn’t mean the eyes (with such assistance) aren’t doing the seeing.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 4, 2009 @ 10:27 am

  97. i.e. The scripture says they only way spirits can appear is in glory, and that restriction in the context of dream or visions doesn’t make any sense.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 4, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  98. It is a scriptural principle that only God knows what people are thinking.

    Really? Can you show us where that scripture is?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 10:29 am

  99. A. Davis: Why the internal consistency of reliable accounts of visions?

    Geoff J: Whoever said visions were consistently reliable?

    Every reliable account of an encounter with a post-mortal being that I’m aware of describes the individual as being distinctly human looking. You’re more than welcome to provide a counter-example.

    I’ll second Mark D’s comments in 96 as well. Though the phrase “whether in body” or “out of body” is interesting (2 Cor. 12:2,3)

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 10:42 am

  100. Geoff J: Really? Can you show us where that scripture is?

    D&C 6:16.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 10:44 am

  101. Geoff J: This assumes that we are just earth 2.0 and the original spirit earth is already done. It further assumes that the spirit people and animals there evolved just like people and animals evolved here with natural selection and all. So apparently spirit ice ages came to that spirit planet and spirit meteors hit it and spirit tsunamis killed people and spirit plagues thinned populations and spirit natural selection all led to a final spirit product that looks just like our current bodies right? (Or did they have a spirit Adam and Eve and a spirit Garden of Eden in your model?) In any case, since we had free will there that model pretty makes this life superfluous.

    You assume far more parallels than is necessary or warranted. Is this deliberate because I’m honestly not sure where you’re getting this?

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 10:49 am

  102. Geoff (80), that issue of what one is actually seeing is an interesting one. However to throw a bit of a wrench in things there is a strong tradition that seeing spirits involves your spiritual eyes in a more literal sense than the more figurative sense you suggest (i.e. that it is all “virtual” ala a vision)

    I’m not saying your reading isn’t defensible. But I think it has difficulties with many cases, not the least of which the Brother of Jared encounter. (Which forms the picture I put on my post)

    A. Davis (83) Well, we don’t know anything about what dark matter is, so I’m gonna say that such isn’t a very good analogy.

    Since we don’t know much of anything about spirit matter I thought that is what made it an excellent analogy. (grin)

    Geoff, (88) when you say spirit “atomism” models are too at odds with what Joseph taught could you be more specific? I see Joseph as being fairly ambiguous. I can’t think of any teaching that is directly contrary to an atomism model. If you mean Joseph clearly taught spirits don’t have parts I just don’t see it. Whereas I can see where Joseph clearly taught spirits can’t change their form but are humanoid. (Which you’ve not really addressed)

    I think you give the compelling argument in (91). If spirits are beginningless and are humanoid then you have to say the humanoid form is essential, eternal and beginningless. Which frankly makes little sense and seems hard to believe. You yourself point out that this entails steps Joseph didn’t make explicit. I’m not sure how one can avoid that conclusion like you and Blake appear to be attempting.

    It seems to me the simplest and least difficult explanation is that the humanoid form of a spirit isn’t essential form over time but that the spirits are locked into that form at a certain point by God and that spirits thus are organized and aren’t a single elastic mental atom.

    That’s not necessarily the only view. But it does seem the simplest one as I see it.

    Comment by Clark — November 4, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  103. As a quick side note, there is a lot going on in this thread, so hopefully instead of bouncing things around, I will pull a post together and focus the argument there.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 4, 2009 @ 11:30 am

  104. A. Davis: You assume far more parallels than is necessary or warranted.

    How so? If we assume causation in the universe (even an LFW universe) then the old “butterfly effect” arguments carries some weight here I think.

    Further, does your model assume there was a first human shaped spirit? If so how did it get that way in your model? Further why did it stay shaped that way if it had evolved to get there?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 11:59 am

  105. Clark: there is a strong tradition that seeing spirits involves your spiritual eyes in a more literal sense than the more figurative sense you suggest

    How is seeing with “spiritual eyes” different that having a waking vision? I fail to see the distinction.

    when you say spirit “atomism” models are too at odds with what Joseph taught could you be more specific?

    I have concluded that none of the spirit atomism models really handle the beginningless minds position Joseph held well.

    If spirits are beginningless and are humanoid then you have to say the humanoid form is essential, eternal and beginningless.

    Right. So I think a good solution is to reject this idea that spirits are eternally humanoid (if spirits are ever humanoid looking at all). Am I missing something in your comment?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

  106. Geoff, a vision implies a virtual reality whereas spiritual eyes implies a capacity to see something real that you normally couldn’t. So one’s virtual whereas one is real.

    I’ve read your posts, but I just don’t see how any variation on atomism invalidates the beginningless minds position. Take the general form of Pratt’s position (among many other possibilities) You have a mind that is eternal and parts that are added over time. The period where we talk about spirits they already have lots of parts. Thus everything Joseph says is true. There’s no contradiction. The objection isn’t a contradiction but just that Pratt adds ideas Joseph didn’t elucidate.

    As for what you are missing, it’s the fact spirits appear and humanoid and according to Joseph can’t appear in non-humanoid shape.

    Comment by Clark — November 4, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

  107. To add, with that last comment, I take that to entail the spirits involved in our creation rather than a comment on spirits in general. (If a dog has a spirit there’s no reason it has to be humanoid, for example)

    If you missed that comment search for “dove” in the above and you should find it along with references to the key texts.

    Comment by Clark — November 4, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  108. Geoff J: How so? If we assume causation in the universe (even an LFW universe) then the old “butterfly effect” arguments carries some weight here I think.

    There is nothing that requires that every event occurred spiritually on some spirit world that occurs here. We have a spirit body. Aardvarks have a spirit body. These were created before there were physical aardvarks on the planet.

    Moses 3:5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.

    I do not have all the details how this occurs. I think panspermia is a good argument. How much was the physical form of an aardvark allowed to diverge via evolution from the spirit aardvark shape? I don’t know (but my guess is that some divergence does occur). Does my spirit body have brown eyes like I do now or are they green? I don’t know. But I can say that my spirit body has eyes, 10 fingers, 10 toes, etc.

    But to require a 1:1 correspondence between all events (lest the butterfly effect take hold) between the pre-mortal spirit realm and our physical planet is utter nonsense.

    Geoff J: Further, does you model assume there was a first human shaped spirit? If so how did it get that way in your model?

    That was discussed in the previous thread.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  109. Clark: a vision implies a virtual reality whereas spiritual eyes implies a capacity to see something real

    It doesn’t imply those things to me. Where are you getting these definitions?

    I just don’t see how any variation on atomism invalidates the beginningless minds position.

    Well some versions of spirit atomism assume an emergent mind from intelligent particles unifying. So that variation is largely at odds with a beginningless mind. The model where we can be boiled down to a single intelligent particle might work, although it is a stretch if a single particle is about as smart as an amoeba or something.

    I am aware of the dove argument but if we only see spirits in waking dreams that argument is avoided. Plus the Willard Richards account says:

    Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage--does not confine itself to form of a dove–but in sign of a dove.

    So even that sermon is not an open and shut case for permanent human forms of spirits.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  110. A. Davis: These were created before there were physical aardvarks on the planet.

    If they were created at all which is at the heart of the debate here.

    Also, quoting the Book of Moses only gets you so far as Stapley has pointed out.

    But to require a 1:1 correspondence between all events (lest the butterfly effect take hold) between the pre-mortal spirit realm and our physical planet is utter nonsense.

    Hehe. Well I think the idea that spirits somehow evolved to look like human bodies and then physical bodies evolved to match them sounds like utter nonsense so I suppose we are even on that count.

    That was discussed in the previous thread.

    I remember Mark’s theory on this but not yours. Can you point me to the comments where you laid your theory out in that thread?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

  111. Geoff J: I remember Mark’s theory on this but not yours. Can you point me to the comments where you laid your theory out in that thread?

    Though we differed in some of the particulars, the basics were the same. But, given my difficulty in communicating with you so far, it is a tangent I’d rather not delve into at the moment.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  112. Ok, well Mark holds that human spirits are created as a result of human birth so as long as you hold that none of us had spirits that looked like humans before this life you are on the same page with him. (Somehow I don’t think you are on the same page with him)

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  113. A. Davis: These were created before there were physical aardvarks on the planet.

    Geoff J: If they were created at all which is at the heart of the debate here.

    It is silly to say, “Ok, if we assume that spirit bodies exist then what about [A]?” and then say, “But we can’t assume spirit bodies exist so your response to [A] doesn’t make sense.”

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

  114. Geoff J: Hehe. Well I think the idea that spirits somehow evolved to look like human bodies and then physical bodies evolved to match them sounds like utter nonsense so I suppose we are even on that count.

    It’s not what I said. Quite the contrary.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

  115. Sorry if I misread your position A. Davis. Feel free to clarify it.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  116. A) There are spirit bodies which has definite form. We have a pre-mortal existence in space and time.

    B) A world is created with physical bodies to (roughly?) correspond to our spirit bodies. These bodies did not blindly evolve but were directed and quite probably forms were brought from other planets.

    The nature, form, and function of our planet is not coincidence. It was specifically designed and designed to be similar to the world in which we used to live before coming to this earth. This wasn’t the first planet or only planet. There are many planets with very much human looking beings walking on them.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 4, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

  117. A Davis,

    That’s a start but I still don’t know how you think out pre-mortal spirit bodies started looking this way. Were they always this way? Were they viviparously born this way? If so do spirits have babies on your model? Was there ever a time before spirits looked like humans on your model? Was there ever a time when no “spirit” had a “spirit body” in your model? I can’t tell where you and Mark overlap in your assumptions.

    Regarding #114 — I think the issue is whether spirits are minds or if they have minds (as Clark mentioned in #74). I like the former and you seem to prefer the latter. The term “spirit body” is dicey for me because it seems to assume that spirits and minds are not the same thing.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

  118. Geoff, here is Moses 1:11, the only reference to “spiritual eyes” in the standard works:

    But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

    No one needs to be transfigured to have a dream. Dreams don’t generally carry the risk of withering and dying either.

    Take note of this passage from Exodus 24:

    And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.
    And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
    And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.
    And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

    This is not the account of dream. And of course the famous Exodus 33:11, “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend”.

    Finally, when Moses came down from the mount the second time (Ex 34:29-30):

    “And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him”

    The point being that he was transfigured (glorified) while on the mount, again not a usual thing to happen for a dream.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 4, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

  119. No one needs to be transfigured to have a dream.

    Unless perhaps God himself is going to visit one in that (waking?) dream. Joseph Smith clearly that he woke up immediately after his first vision:

    When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 4, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

  120. Geoff (#109),

    Let me quote the Smith Diary back to you with different emphasis:

    Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage–does not confine itself to form of a dove–but in sign of a dove. (Joseph Smith Diary, emphasis mine)

    It is not an open/shut case, I agree with you there. However, the thrust of his comment definitely seems to work against your argument here. Keep in mind that the Franklin Richards account uses a bit stronger language:

    The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a Dove (Franklin Richards “Scriptural Items”, emphasis mine)

    Comment by Jacob J — November 4, 2009 @ 11:40 pm

  121. Clark: a vision implies a virtual reality whereas spiritual eyes implies a capacity to see something real

    It doesn’t imply those things to me. Where are you getting these definitions?

    I thought it fairly straightforward. Visions including seeing things that obviously aren’t around you. (Say other places, figurative presentations, etc.) So it’s more like a 3D virtual reality.

    Spiritual eyes let people see things that are present but that people normally missed. Thus discernment of spirits who are purportedly in the room with you etc. The Brother of Jared being the obvious example. Although this is the usage in folk language I’ve always heard – and in a wide variety of places.

    Jacob made my other point so I won’t belabor it. I’d just say that looking through the various other places Joseph talks about this it’s pretty clear that he sees the HG as a person looking being who can’t be anything but a person looking being.

    Comment by Clark — November 5, 2009 @ 12:03 am

  122. Clark,

    If Joseph Smith is in with other people and having an open vision of Jesus and hearing Jesus’s voice and no one else in the room hears or sees anything then I say he is BOTH seeing things with his “spiritual eyes” (whatever the means) and having a vision. I still see no distinction between the two.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 5, 2009 @ 12:06 am

  123. Well some versions of spirit atomism assume an emergent mind from intelligent particles unifying. So that variation is largely at odds with a beginningless mind.

    I don’t think anyone has postulated the form you are suggesting. Pratt’s atoms are mind. So it doesn’t fit for him. Whether he has emergence is debatable I suppose, but it seems clear that the complexity of mind for him depends upon being unified with other minds with a complex mind like ours emerging.

    Now Blake’s kind of emergence would fit what you suggest except that he uses the infinite past trick to say they always are already emergent. So what you claim as a logical possibility never happens as an actual occurrence.

    One could point to Young’s view of mind and especially his view of sons of perdition. Except that it’s not entirely clear what he thinks the ultimate bits are. (IMO – others might disagree) I tend to see him more as an idealist, but I’d be hard pressed to say what he sees the ultimate constituents as. Whatever they are they are mind-like at best and so in my view (which may be wrong here – I’m far less confident on this point) I don’t think he fits either.

    So while what you say might indeed fit one small case, I don’t think it’s the case most, if any, actually put forward.

    Comment by Clark — November 5, 2009 @ 12:07 am

  124. Jacob,

    I understand where the evidence of that statement leans. I only was pointing out that it is not an open an shut case based on the differing accounts.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 5, 2009 @ 12:08 am

  125. Geoff, I think you are confusing the epistemological point with the physical point. Perhaps because you want to say there is no physical difference. But for most people if there is spiritual matter it can be among us unnoticed. If the entities are really there then that is important.

    Now for your example it matters if Joseph hears that and Jesus is actually there versus if he isn’t.

    Once again, this is how I’ve always heard the language used. But in any case, regardless of the common use of the terms, you at least see the distinction we’re bringing up, don’t you? The difference between perception of a virtual reality versus perception of actual reality.

    Comment by Clark — November 5, 2009 @ 12:09 am

  126. Clark,

    I see the distinction you are suggesting. I just don’t think it is an accurate distinction. That is because I think nearly all visual interactions between heavenly beings and humans are through visions.

    The clear exception to this rule is the resurrected Jesus visiting people after his crucifixion. Beyond that I don’t see any other visitations from angels or God in the records that I don’t think happened in a vision. The experiences of Joseph Smith (him having the vision in the same room as others who hear and see nothing) are the most instructive examples of this I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 5, 2009 @ 12:25 am

  127. Geoff, I agree that Joseph Smith’s experience is called the “First Vision” for a reason. Moses’ experience (if represented accurately) seems rather different in character.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 5, 2009 @ 5:18 am

  128. Geoff J (117):

    That’s a start but I still don’t know how you think out pre-mortal spirit bodies started looking this way. Were they always this way? Were they viviparously born this way? If so do spirits have babies on your model? Was there ever a time before spirits looked like humans on your model? Was there ever a time when no “spirit” had a “spirit body” in your model? I can’t tell where you and Mark overlap in your assumptions.

    You can probably refer to Orson Pratt’s intelligent particles model (i.e. intelligent matter). He describes a process. I differ from him in that I presently make no assumption that intelligent matter is spirit matter.

    Geoff J: Regarding #114 — I think the issue is whether spirits are minds or if they have minds (as Clark mentioned in #74). I like the former and you seem to prefer the latter. The term “spirit body” is dicey for me because it seems to assume that spirits and minds are not the same thing.

    That may be, but it’s not the issue as I see it. The question is whether or not the assumptions/speculations that I propose form a coherent and rational model. Obviously I think it does. Whether or not it conforms to one’s bias or not speaks nothing to its viability. I’m not asking you to believe it, but I do appreciate the probing of its strength. :)

    Are there other models where there is no “spirit body”? Perhaps, yet I have not seen any persuasive argument for such.

    Comment by A. Davis — November 5, 2009 @ 7:37 am

  129. That is because I think nearly all visual interactions between heavenly beings and humans are through visions.

    Why do you think that? I can accept that many are visions. But many experiences, like the Brother of Jared, don’t (to me) have that aspect. Further it’s not at all clear to me how Satan could give a vision of the sort you suggest. The model you are presenting is as if all spirits are actually psychic who project virtual realities into people’s mind.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a consistent model. It just seems to me you’re brushing aside a lot of presentation of spirits as literally present without really offering any evidence for why the prima facie interpretation is wrong.

    Comment by Clark — November 5, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  130. Mark, I believe the accounts of Joseph’s first encounter were God were named by others The First Vision – and years after the fact. I seem to recall an article on this I read some years back. Anyone remember?

    Comment by Clark — November 5, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  131. Clark: Why do you think that?

    I think it because the most detailed accounts we have of a prophet interacting with heavenly beings — the accounts from Joseph Smith — show that the interaction happened in visions. So considering the less detailed ancient accounts are silent on these details it makes sense to me to assume that Joseph Smith was not some strange anomaly in the way he was visited.

    If Joseph Smith didn’t mention that he woke up after his first vision we would have assumed he was fully awake and alert to the present world the whole time after all. So why assume the Brother of Jared is totally different that Joseph Smith?

    I understand that it is a popular assumption that many of the recorded visitations did not happen in vision. I just don’t think the evidence about how visitations really happen support that popular assumption.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 5, 2009 @ 9:49 am

  132. I think there are a number of ways that a “spirit” could be without an extended body prior to mortality. The main reason for this is the extended body pretty much has to go away prior to birth anyway, so it seems superfluous in most cases.

    I don’t see how it is practical to be without a spirit body between death and resurrection, however. For one, thing, where is the information going to come from to for a person to be resurrected if it is not carried around with him post mortality?

    Pre-mortality does not have nearly the same problem. Viviparous spirit birth is potentially superfluous for that reason.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 5, 2009 @ 10:04 am

  133. We have one of three possibilities (not necessarily mutually exclusive):

    1. The spirit emits photons of electromagnetic radiation (which they don’t normally do – otherwise we’d see them all the time) and it is with our physical eyes that we see them.

    2. Information related to whatever spirit analog of electromagnetic radiation is allowed to stimulate our visual senses (which it normally doesn’t do – otherwise we’d see them all the time).

    3. Direct download of information that has no physical analog.

    The physicist in me sides with option 1 or 2 where I’m not sure its always one or the other but is circumstantial.

    Option 2 would be appropriate Elisha and his servant (cuz’ the opposite army didn’t see the host of heaven).

    Option 1 would be appropriate the brother of Jared (though 2 would work too).

    Comment by A. Davis — November 5, 2009 @ 10:27 am

  134. Mark D.: I think there are a number of ways that a “spirit” could be without an extended body prior to mortality. The main reason for this is the extended body pretty much has to go away prior to birth anyway…

    Are you suggesting that a pre-mortal spirit might (or must?) not have physical extension prior to merger with a physical body?

    Comment by A. Davis — November 5, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  135. Clark, Joseph Smith himself calls his experience a “vision” in JSH 1:21. However, other than the verse (JSH 1:20) Geoff quoted, the account does read like an actual visit.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 5, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  136. A. Davis, when I say “extended body”, I mean a body that is more than a single simple entity (i.e. a “particle”).

    Comment by Mark D. — November 5, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  137. Ah. I think the idea of the eternal, uncreate aspect of us (I avoid calling it a “spirit” to avoid ambiguity) is a particle very sound. I think the idea of how it can still be “intelligent” much more difficult – but have a few ideas. We’ll have to have that discussion sometime (the Bohmian mechanics book I mentioned to you has been very interesting).

    Comment by A. Davis — November 5, 2009 @ 11:57 am

  138. I don’t know whether the eternal aspect of us is necessarily a single, simple entity like a particle, but that is certainly the most consistent with the KFD.

    As of late I am more sympathetic to the point of view that we were preceded by a number of particles each with a tinge of intelligence, not just one. That is more like the Brigham Young / Orson Pratt view.

    The difference for me, is I am inclined to delay bodily existence (as a person with an extended body) until mortality in nearly all cases. I don’t have a hard reason to reject viviparous spirit birth (VSB) I just don’t know what good it does in the general case.

    Post-mortality pre-resurrection is a different situation, as I mentioned above. We already have the essentials of a body, no reason to get rid of it completely. Can’t say I want to look like someone else in the next world either.

    I also don’t see how one can remember or even (in the general case) preserve fundamental habits, discipline, and character unless the internal structure of the brain is preserved in some form or another. The idea that our acquired character could be dumped on a computer disk isn’t very appealing, although sometimes I admit it might be a logical possibility. Either way, I can hardly believe that resurrection involves re-creating a person from a backup tape.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 5, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  139. I should add that of course that KFD implies an indestructible eternal mind, which isn’t exactly simple, even if its spatial extent is negligible.

    The particles I am thinking of are much more primitive – that is why I say a “tinge” of intelligence. Brigham Young appeared to hold more or less the same position.

    Orson Pratt was in between, i.e. every spirit particle could potentially have a full blown mind and be in fully cognizant unity with the head particle. As impractical as that sounds, the idea of a head particle with a full eternal mind is more compatible with the KFD than the tinge of intelligence model, of course.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 5, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

  140. Mark (135), I was referring more to the term “The First Vision.” However you’re right about the term. This is true in the 1835 version as well which is more interesting. So that’s a good argument about attributing the language use to Joseph. However my point was less about the language use of Joseph than modern language use and just keeping clear a distinction.

    The bigger point was that Joseph clearly thinks there’s real entities there even if combined with the experience is a vision in the sense I was using it. (A virtual reality presentation)

    an angel appeared before me, his hands and feet were naked pure and white, and he stood between the floors of the room, clothed with purity inexpressible, he said unto me I am a messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things, he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the Indians were the literal descendants of Abraham he explained many of the prophesies to me

    Comment by Clark — November 5, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

  141. Mark D: The difference for me, is I am inclined to delay bodily existence (as a person with an extended body) until mortality in nearly all cases. I don’t have a hard reason to reject viviparous spirit birth (VSB) I just don’t know what good it does in the general case.

    What is the interpretation of your model of the council in heaven?

    Comment by A. Davis — November 5, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  142. A. Davis, that is where “nearly all cases” comes in. Some (relatively large) number could have been present, and the rest skip that stage entirely.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 5, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

  143. Mark (#132 and #138),

    That is pretty radical idea you are preaching. basically in your model there is virtually no continuity between a premortal us and current us (if a premortal us even exists at all in your model which is not clear). In your model we are created basically from scratch here in our mortal bodies right?

    Comment by Geoff J — November 5, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

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