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Section 29

29. But- keeping to our illustration, by which the body is warmed by soul and not merely illuminated by it- how is it that when the higher soul withdraws there is no further trace of the vital principle?

For a brief space there is; and, precisely, it begins to fade away immediately upon the withdrawal of the other, as in the case of warmed objects when the fire is no longer near them: similarly hair and nails still grow on the dead; animals cut to pieces wriggle for a good time after; these are signs of a life force still indwelling.

Besides, simultaneous withdrawal would not prove the identity of the higher and lower phases: when the sun withdraws there goes with it not merely the light emanating from it, guided by it, attached to it, but also at once that light seen upon obliquely situated objects, a light secondary to the sun's and cast upon things outside of its path [reflected light showing as colour]; the two are not identical and yet they disappear together.

But is this simultaneous withdrawal or frank obliteration?

The question applies equally to this secondary light and to the corporeal life, that life which we think of as being completely sunk into body.

No light whatever remains in the objects once illuminated; that much is certain; but we have to ask whether it has sunk back into its source or is simply no longer in existence.

How could it pass out of being, a thing that once has been?

But what really was it? We must remember that what we know as colour belongs to bodies by the fact that they throw off light, yet when corruptible bodies are transformed the colour disappears and we no more ask where the colour of a burned-out fire is than where its shape is.

Still: the shape is merely a configuration, like the lie of the hands clenched or spread; the colour is no such accidental but is more like, for example, sweetness: when a material substance breaks up, the sweetness of what was sweet in it, and the fragrance of what was fragrant, may very well not be annihilated, but enter into some other substance, passing unobserved there because the new habitat is not such that the entrant qualities now offer anything solid to perception.

May we not think that, similarly, the light belonging to bodies that have been dissolved remains in being while the solid total, made up of all that is characteristic, disappears?

It might be said that the seeing is merely the sequel to some law [of our own nature], so that what we call qualities do not actually exist in the substances.

But this is to make the qualities indestructible and not dependent upon the composition of the body; it would no longer be the Reason-Principles within the sperm that produce, for instance, the colours of a bird's variegated plumage; these principles would merely blend and place them, or if they produced them would draw also on the full store of colours in the sky, producing in the sense, mainly, of showing in the formed bodies something very different from what appears in the heavens.

But whatever we may think on this doubtful point, if, as long as the bodies remain unaltered, the light is constant and unsevered, then it would seem natural that, on the dissolution of the body, the light- both that in immediate contact and any other attached to that- should pass away at the same moment, unseen in the going as in the coming.

But in the case of the soul it is a question whether the secondary phases follow their priors- the derivatives their sources- or whether every phase is self-governing, isolated from its predecessors and able to stand alone; in a word, whether no part of the soul is sundered from the total, but all the souls are simultaneously one soul and many, and, if so, by what mode; this question, however, is treated elsewhere.

Here we have to enquire into the nature and being of that vestige of the soul actually present in the living body: if there is truly a soul, then, as a thing never cut off from its total, it will go with soul as soul must: if it is rather to be thought of as belonging to the body, as the life of the body, we have the same question that rose in the case of the vestige of light; we must examine whether life can exist without the presence of soul, except of course in the sense of soul living above and acting upon the remote object.

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