A Materialist Case For The Potential Existence of The Soul

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A common idealist interpretation of consciousness

Materialism as a philosophy proclaims that matter and energy are all that exist. Traditionally materialism, especially the materialism of Feuerbach and Marx, correctly leaves no room for the medieval idea of the incorporeal spirit controlling the body, being the force which drives human consciousness. Consciousness is rightfully proclaimed to be the highest known organizational form of matter. This notion therefore, traditionally does away with the idea of an afterlife, of an immortal soul, of a God, etc. As to the specifics of this I have no intention of trying to specifically justify my views about the nature of God, the afterlife, etc. but only to postulate the potentiality of the existence of the soul within a materialist framework. If this is possible, then all else follows.

The materialist viewpoint seems to conform to what we know science tells us about the world. But all of this assumes the traditional model of consciousness, a form of consciousness based on the physics embodied in the theories of classical mechanics. Traditionally the debate between idealism and materialism in regards to consciousness has been as follows: the mind exists either as science understands it, being material and a product of the processes of the brain in materialism, or as part of an incorporeal spirit that is immaterial in idealism. Obviously this medieval notion of a purely incorporeal spirit is nonsense. It follows then, traditionally, that there is no such thing as the soul. But all of this, as previously stated, rests on the traditional model of consciousness.

It can no doubt be said that the traditional model hitherto conforms with known scientific laws, that the exception with which I am to bring up is merely a scientific hypotheses and not a theory. But its possibility throws into question the very atheistic shell of materialist philosophy and should thus be, at the very least, investigated by any self-proclaimed materialist. The hypotheses which I am referring to is known as the quantum mind, or quantum consciousness hypothesis. To explain it in a nutshell I will reluctantly quote Wikipedia:

“The quantum mind or quantum consciousness group of hypotheses propose that classical mechanics cannot explain consciousness. It posits that quantum mechanical phenomena, such as quantum entanglement and superposition, may play an important part in the brain’s function and could form the basis of an explanation of consciousness.” [2]

But what does this have to do with idealism vs. materialism? With atheism and theism? With the existence of the soul? To answer this question we have to go back to another hypothesis that is a part of the quantum mind hypothesis called “Orchestrated objective reduction”. It was first formulated by theoretical physicist Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff in the 90’s. It should be said that Hameroff is, by his own admission, an idealist. He believes that consciousness does, to a certain extent, create the material world. But even with this, one can easily take his hypothesis and apply it to a materialist framework. For his hypothesis in and of itself, makes no assertion to the immaterial nature of consciousness, for quantum physics is as material a process as Newtonian physics. The hypothesis says that

“consciousness in the brain originates from processes inside neurons, rather than from connections between neurons (the conventional view). The mechanism is held to be a quantum physics process called objective reduction that is orchestrated by molecular structures called microtubules. Objective reduction is proposed to be influenced by non-computable factors imbedded in spacetime geometry which thus may account for the Hard Problem of Consciousness.” [3]

When we take the traditional model of consciousness into account we can conclude that consciousness dies with the decay of the human brain, that it does not and can not go on after death by any known processes. If we presume consciousness to be quantum in nature, it follows then that consciousness obeys the laws of quantum physics. We know that nothing can go faster than the speed of light, that for it to do so is a violation of the laws of Newtonian physics. But in quantum physics there exists the process of quantum entanglement, which is the

“physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance—instead, a quantum state must be described for the system as a whole… This has been shown to occur even when the measurements are performed more quickly than light could travel between the sites of measurement: there is no lightspeed or slower influence that can pass between the entangled particles.” [4]

It is in this process that the adherents of the Quantum Consciousness hypothesis find a potential mechanism for how consciousness could escape the body in the form of quantum information at a speed faster than the speed of light without violating the known laws of physics. It is precisely in this spirit that Hameroff postulates how his theory might apply to life after death:

“‘Let’s say the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing, the microtubules lose their quantum state. The quantum information within the microtubules is not destroyed, it can’t be destroyed, it just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large,’ Dr. Hameroff told the Science Channel’s ‘Through the Wormhole’ documentary.

If the patient is revived, however, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and that is what we describe as ‘a near death experience‘.

‘If they’re not revived, and the patient dies, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul,’ Dr. Hameroff said…

‘The energy of your consciousness peels away from the physical vehicle at death, in the same way that a pianist can get up and walk away from the piano,’ Steven Bancarz wrote in an article.” [5]

Some would say that materialism degrades the human condition by asserting that consciousness is merely a result of physical phenomena. But on the contrary, I say it empowers the human spirit by showing the complexity not only of the universe but of the human mind. As for the idea of quantum consciousness, it is all, of course, speculative, as the hypothesis is just that- a hypothesis. But if true its ramifications could be enormous in the field of materialist philosophy and philosophy at large. Is it a bit of a stretch? Perhaps, but then again perhaps not. What do you think?

 

Sources:

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2: Quantum Mind

3: Orch OR-Quantum

4: Quantum Entanglement

5: Hameroff Quote

 

Controversial View: Religion Should Be A Private Matter Not only In Relation To The State, But To The Party Of The Advanced Proletariat

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“I am a seminarian and I will join the New People’s Army! Christians For National Liberation!”

I will start by saying that while I consider myself to be a (rather unorthodox) Leninist and a Trotskyist, I fundamentally disagree with Lenin’s and Trotsky’s position on how religion relates to the party of the advanced proletariat.

The Traditional Leninist Position

It should be said that, contrary to myth, Lenin never outlawed religion as such, and made it explicitly clear in his writings that freedom of conscience should reign in socialist society. In The Attitude of The Workers’ Party to Religion, Lenin stated that while

“Marxism has always regarded all modern religions and churches, and each and every religious organization, as instruments of bourgeois reaction that serve to defend exploitation and to befuddle the working class” (Lenin Collected Works Volume 15, p. 403)

that,

“Engels frequently condemned the efforts of people who desired to be ‘more left’ or ‘more revolutionary’ than the Social-Democrats to introduce into the programme of the workers’ party an explicit proclamation of atheism, in the sense of declaring war on religion”(Ibid).

This, by the way, shows the anti-Leninist attitude of Albania under Enver Hoxha, who declared all religious worship and practice to be illegal in 1967 and barred religious cadres from joining the party. This pseudo-revolutionary policy of barring religious cadres is also taken up by the Communist Party of China today.

Furthermore, Lenin goes on saying that

“…in 1877, too, in his Anti- Dühring, while ruthlessly attacking the slightest concessions made by Dühring the philosopher to idealism and religion, Engels no less resolutely condemns Dühring’s pseudo-revolutionary idea that religion should be prohibited in socialist society. To declare such a war on-religion, Engels says, is to ‘out-Bismarck Bismarck’, i.e., to repeat the folly of Bismarck’s struggle against the clericals…” (Ibid).

But make no mistake as to Lenin’s position on the matter. Lenin also said

Social-Democrats regard religion as a private matter in relation to the state, but not in relation to themselves, not in relation to Marxism, and not in relation to the workers’ party” (Idib, 404).

Despite this, Lenin actually advocated the allowances of religious members and even priests into the communist party if they so wished, saying,

“If a priest comes to us to take part in our common political work and conscientiously performs Party duties, without opposing the programme of the Party, he may be allowed to join the ranks of the Social-Democrats; for the contradiction between the spirit and principles of our programme and the religious convictions of the priest would in such circumstances be something that concerned him alone, his own private contradiction; and a political organisation cannot put its members through an examination to see if there is no contradiction between their views and the Party programme.” (Ibid, 408).

“Discrimination among citizens on account of their religious convictions is wholly intolerable. Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated.” (Lenin Collected Works, Volume 10, p. 84)

But Lenin constantly emphasized the atheism of materialism and Marxism in saying,

“Marxism is materialism. As such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion as was the materialism of the eighteenth- century Encyclopaedists or the materialism of Feuerbach. This is beyond doubt. But the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels goes further than the Encyclopaedists and Feuerbach, for it applies the materialist philosophy to the do- main of history, to the domain of the social sciences. We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism.” (Lenin Collected Works Volume 15, p. 405)

In short, Lenin believed that religion should be a private affair in regard to the state, but not in regard to the party of the advanced proletariat. Lenin taught that the party of the advanced proletariat should fight against religious beliefs as such, even though it never believed in barring religious members from joining, as the contradiction of doing so was a purely personal one. Lenin believed that religion itself was to be combatted, and not merely the bourgeois nature of modern religion.

The Position of Rosa Luxemburg and James Connolly, and Consequently, My Position

Rosa Luxemburg and James Connolly, two of the famous revolutionary Marxists of the 20th century take an entirely different position on the matter of religion in regards to the party of the advanced proletariat. It is precisely their position that I advocate instead of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s.

James Connolly explicitly addresses his view on the matter in a section of Workers’ Republic, June 17, 1899 titled The New Evangel, Socialism and Religion, The Known and the Unknowable. Connolly begins by addressing the fact that the relationship between socialism and atheism is often used as a last ditch attack by the bourgeoisie against the principles of socialism. We saw this in the 20th century with the addition of “In God We Trust” to American currency during the height of the Cold War to combat “Godless” Communism. But in the case of the Cold War, this bourgeois attack had a material basis in the shameful religious persecutions that took place in the so-called Marxist-Leninist states of the 20th Century. Connolly states that this intentional bourgeois obfuscation on the question of religion and socialism often works negatively to deter a religious worker away from socialist politics. A firmly established position of atheism no doubt turns the religious worker away from any socialist party 9/10 of the time, and is undoubtedly negative. In fact, religious persecution was one of the main factors contributing to the fall of the USSR and Eastern Bloc. Connolly further clarifies the pre-Leninist position of the socialists saying that,

“The Socialist Party of Ireland prohibits the discussion, of theological or anti-theological questions at its meetings, public or private. This is in conformity with the practice of the chief Socialist parties of the world, which have frequently, in Germany for example, declared Religion to be a private matter, and outside the scope of Socialist action.* Modern Socialism, in fact, as it exists in the minds of its leading exponents, and as it is held and worked for by an increasing number of enthusiastic adherents throughout the civilized world, has an essentially material, matter-of-fact foundation. We do not mean that its supporters are necessarily materialists in the vulgar, and merely anti-theological, sense of the term, but that they do not base their Socialism upon any interpretation of the language or meaning of Scripture, nor upon the real or supposed intentions of a beneficent Deity.* They as a party neither affirm or deny those things, but leave it to the individual conscience of each member to determine what beliefs on such questions they shall hold. As a political party they wisely prefer to take their stand upon the actual phenomena of social life as they can be observed in operation amongst us to-day, or as they can be traced in the recorded facts of history. If any special interpretation of the meanings of Scripture tends to influence human thought in the direction of Socialism, or is found to be on a plane with the postulates of Socialist doctrine, then the scientific Socialist considers that the said interpretation is stronger because of its identity with the teachings of Socialism, but he does not necessarily believe that Socialism is stronger, or its position more impregnable, because of its theological ally. He realises that the facts upon which his Socialist faith are based are strong enough in themselves to withstand every shock, and attacks from every quarter, and therefore while he is at all times willing to accept help from every extraneous source, he will only accept it on one condition, viz., that he is not to be required in return to identify his cause with any other whose discomfiture might also involve Socialism in discredit. This is the main reason why Socialists fight shy of theological dogmas and religions generally: because we feel that Socialism is based upon a series of facts requiring only unassisted human reason to grasp and master all their details, whereas Religion of every kind is admittedly based upon ‘faith’ in the occurrence in past ages of a series of phenomena inexplicable by any process of mere human reasoning. Obviously, therefore, to identify Socialism with Religion would be to abandon at once that universal, non-sectarian character which to-day we find indispensable to working-class unity, as it would mean that our members would be required to conform to one religious creed, as well as to one specific economic faith – a course of action we have no intention of entering upon as it would inevitably entangle us in the disputes of the warring sects of the world, and thus lead to the disintegration of the Socialist Party.

Socialism, as a party, bases itself upon its knowledge of facts, of economic truths, and leaves the building up of religious ideals or faiths to the outside public, or to its individual members if they so will. It is neither Freethinker nor Christian, Turk nor Jew, Buddhist nor Idolator, Mohammedan nor Parsee – it is only human” (Socialism and Religion, 1899, James Connolly).

*My Bold – TFB

Rosa Luxemburg, a figure so famous among the left that there can no doubt as to her loyalty to Marxism, goes a step further saying that not only should religion be considered a private matter in relation to the party of the advanced proletariat, but to social-democracy as such, saying,

“And here is the answer to all the attacks of the clergy: the Social-Democracy in no way fights against religious beliefs. On the contrary, it demands complete freedom of conscience for every individual and the widest possible toleration for every faith and every opinion.* But, from the moment when the priests use the pulpit as a means of political struggle against the working classes, the workers must fight against the enemies of their rights and their liberation. For he who defends the exploiters and who helps to prolong this present regime of misery, he is the mortal enemy of the proletariat, whether he be in a cassock or in the uniform of the police.” (Socialism and The Churches, 1905, Rosa Luxemburg).

*My bold – TFB

It is in this tradition, that of the pre-Leninist Marxists that I fall. It is well known to my readers that I am a follower of Liberation Theology, and, consequently, a religious communist. It must be said, however, that while we have to combat bourgeois religion due to its loyalty to the bourgeoisie, this fight should be taken up because it is bourgeois and not because it is religion as such. This fight should be taken up by religious communists as well, for every minute a religious institution supports capitalism, it betrays its own emancipatory foundations. We should support any religious movement that tries to emancipate itself from the chains of bourgeois ideology and the defense of capitalist exploitation. Religion always defends the prevailing socioeconomic order, but, with the stubborn struggle against social change, it eventually comes around to support the new order once it is firmly established. Such will no doubt be the path taken by the church when socialism inevitably triumphs over the earth. But by making the struggle against religion an active policy of the party of the advanced proletariat, as was the case in the 20th century, it actually works to prevent this future support by religious institutions of socialism. On the contrary, religious institutions under a socialist state hostile to religious belief will never come around to support socialist society as they did support capitalist society, even though the ethics of socialism fall infinitely more in line with religious teachings than those of capitalism. Such institutions under such conditions will act to militantly defend the reign of the bourgeoisie, and be permanently opposed to socialism.

To quote St. Paisios of Mt. Athos,

“Personally, if the communists weren’t atheist, if they didn’t hunt Christ, I would agree with them. It’s good for the plots of land, the factories, to belong to everyone; not for one to be hungry while someone else is throwing away food.”
-Elder Paisios

That is the only contradiction between religion and socialism the socialist movement of the 21st century need worry about.

I consider myself to be a materialist but not an atheist, and no, there is no contradiction. An actual philosophical inquiry as to my interpretation of materialism and consciousness, however, will be saved for a future post as it would be too lengthy to go into in this post.

I strongly advocate that socialist and communist parties everywhere, not only in the spirit of Rosa Luxemburg and James Connolly, but in the spirit of learning from the horrendous tragedies of the 20th century Marxist-Leninist states, take on an attitude of neutrality towards religion as such.

Sources:

Lenin Collected Works Volume 10

Lenin Collected Works Volume 15

Socialism and Religion, James Connolly

Socialism and The Churches, 1905, Rosa Luxemburg

Elder Paisios Quote

The Marxist Case for Human Rights

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“Liberty consists of doing anything which does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society the enjoyment of these same rights. These borders can be determined only by the law.” -Article 4 of the Declaration of The Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789
 
Call into memory the philosophy of Karl Popper. To be tolerant of intolerance as a position leads society towards the abandonment of tolerance as its prime virtue. Indeed with the passage of time we can say that inevitably such tolerance of intolerance leads towards a fundamentally intolerant society.
 
The Marxist Critique of the liberal approach to human rights is generally correct in regarding such rights as fundamental but not universal. By this it is meant that such rights do not prevail historically in times of war or revolution, but that they require a socioeconomic foundation. Moreover, Western human rights embodies the utmost expansion of negative liberty with the squandering of positive liberty. The Stalinist/ Marxist rights of humanity historically (taking the 20th century as an active example) embody the utmost expansion of positive liberty with the squandering of negative liberty.
 
To quote Marxists Internet Archive’s definition of negative and positive freedom: “In hitherto existing Socialist states, like the Soviet Union and China, ‘negative freedoms’ were severely restricted, while ‘positive freedoms’ were advanced. All people had universal access to health care, full university education, etc, but people could only use those things they had in a particular way – in support of the government. In the most advanced capitalist governments, this relationship is the other way around: ‘positive freedoms’ are restricted or do not exist all together, while ‘negative freedoms’ are more advanced than ever before. A worker in capitalist society has the freedom to say whatever she believes, but she does not have the freedom to live if crippled by a disease regardless of how much money she has. A socialist society that has been established from a capitalist society will strengthen ‘negative freedoms’, while ushering in real ‘positive freedoms’ across the board, ensuring equal and free access to social services by all.”
 
It is in this that we find the foundational basis for an expansion of what we think of as “human rights”. Also, we find in Popper’s philosophical analysis a justification of the Marxist critique of liberal human rights. We cannot be tolerant of political organizations and movements fundamentally based on intolerance, as a matter of fundamental law. This is not a sign of an unfree or intolerant society, but rather of one so free and tolerant that the roots of unfreedom and intolerance can never get a grip on its fundamental virtue: tolerance.
 
This, as well as the socialist character of such a declaration (the full expansion of positive freedom) strips from our bourgeois notion of liberty its capitalist character, exorcizing it of its status as a bourgeois ideology and bringing about its birth as a true proletarian ideology. It serves to be the largest possible expansion of the idea of human freedom, not it’s Stalinist squandering in the name of some future, far off society. If there is something to be learned from the Stalinist tragedy of the 20th century it is that the Marxist-Leninist approach to bourgeois liberty today is outdated. It was the “Marxist-Leninist” states that were compelled to sign a formal declaration respecting human rights by the capitalist countries, not the other way around. The liberty we know today, though no doubt limited and not actualized for a large portion of the population due to the near total absence of positive freedom, is in fact to a certain degree, real, and not merely a “bourgeois declaration”. It is real because of the bloody and peaceful working class struggles of the 20th century to gain true, even if largely formal, equality for women, people of color, etc. This is not something Lenin or Marx could have foreseen. Of course, the struggle continues today thanks to the heroic work of the Feminist movement and organizations like Black Lives Matter, but the original Marxist-Leninist critique of liberty still fails the test of time when we take the 20th century into account.
 
Still even today, despite the experiences of the 20th century, some Stalinists totally ignore the material reality of what took place in those countries and still clamor on about the “illusion” and “falseness” of a declaration of human rights. There is nothing more tragic than this. Socialism, especially coming from an advanced capitalist society, should serve as an enormous expansion of human rights (negative liberty) through providing the means for its actualization via the expansion of positive liberty.
 
To quote Engels, the aim of the communists is “to organize society in such a way that every member of it can develop and use all his capabilities and powers in complete freedom and without thereby infringing the basic conditions of this society.”
 
To quote Rosa Luxemburg, “Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of ‘justice’ but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege… Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!) Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc. (Lenin’s speech on discipline and corruption.)”
 
It is in this spirit that I make the case for the socialist and communist parties of the world to learn from the mistakes of the past and to declare not only the rights of humanity, but human rights, to be a fundamental aim of socialism. As socialists we aim not for liberal declarations of human rights but their actualization. We aim not for their Stalinist destitution in the name of communism, but their fulfillment in the name of communism. We aim for the total and complete liberation of the poor and the exploited classes, for a society in which that old phrase “all humans are born equal and free” is embodied by human society at large, where all have an equal chance to succeed at life, to pursue happiness and better themselves.
Sources:
Declaration of The Rights of Man and Citizen: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp
Karl Popper on tolerance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance
MIA on Liberty: https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/f/r.htm#freedom

Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith by Engels: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/06/09.htm

Rosa Luxemburg on The Russian Revolution: https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/ch06.htm

Briefly on the unspoken rule regarding torture and Trump’s disregarding of it

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No, of course torture should be dogmatically rejected by any politician. But secretly as an unspoken rule, in order to maintain the illusion of civility we do it anyways but keep it on the hush hush. Of course it becomes necessary when someone hid a bomb somewhere that’ll go off at X time in a busy city. You torture them, threaten their family, etc. Of course you do this, it’s a horrible thing to prevent an even more horrible atrocity. It is just to kill 5 people to directly prevent the deaths of 5000. You don’t make public an affirmation of the act, to do so is to normalize the innate barbarity of the state. Trump doesn’t understand this rule. This is what makes him dangerous.

I condemn the act of torture, but I recognize its necessity under extenuating circumstances when the lives of the innocent are at stake. There has to be someone willing to do the necessary thing, the unpleasant thing, when the situation calls for it. Cold, yes. Pragmatic, even more so.

The U.S. is as much a dictatorship as it is a democracy!

What was the early American state? What was an early Greek slave republic? Both were “democracies”, yes, but for who? For the ruling class which in those times consisted of male property/ slave owners to the forceful exclusion of everyone else. No democracy has ever been without a class dictatorship. Today this has been “formally” abolished but it de facto remains the same today, no one can deny this fact. It was a democracy as much as it was a dictatorship of the ruling class. The movements and struggles of the 20th century may have made this less apparent, may have guaranteed more liberty, more democracy, etc. but the general premise remains the same.

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For the haters of socialism, let it be said that Marx himself thought the first successful socialist revolutions would take place in the most advanced capitalist countries, at the end of capitalist development. Yet the exact opposite happened in 1917 Russia, one of the most backward countries on earth. It was a socialist revolution in such a country that wasn’t international, that was economically isolated from the rest of the world. Not only that, but when it degenerated into the Stalinist distortion of October that it did, this system became the basis of every singe self-identified “Marxist” state that came after it.. Am I somehow supposed to be surprised that one of the most democratic systems conceivable didn’t work in such a country when we can’t even get liberal democracy to work in Iraq?