Souls, immortality and eternity
Posted 29 August 2003 - 01:41 PM
Posted 29 August 2003 - 08:33 PM
From: Encyclopedia of North American Indians
Do our Orthodox Yupik brethren in Alaska still hold to these beliefs?
Guest_Jurretta J. Heckscher
Posted 30 August 2003 - 09:54 PM
Father Michael J. Oleksa has two books which might be able to answer that question: Alaskan Missionary Spirituality (1987), which he edited, and Orthodox Alaska: A Theology of Mission (1992). He is an Orthodox priest living in Alaska, married to a Native Alaskan woman, and very knowledgeable about (and appreciative of) the cultural and spiritual history of the Orthodox Christians there who are of Native Alaskan heritage.
Yours in Christ,
Posted 06 June 2004 - 09:38 PM
History full of ‘smart’ animal stories
by Robert Holdgreve
Faithful Companion in the Bible
In the Old Testament Book of Tobit, Tobias sets off on a trek to collect a debt to help his blind father. He is accompanied on his journey by the angel Raphael and a small dog. After all the adventures have finished, he returns home, the dog running ahead* to announce his arrival. Tradition maintains that this dog even proceeded Tobias into heaven. It is this story that accounts for the sustained popularity of the name Toby for dogs.
* "Then the dog, which had been with them in the way, ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail."
Tobit 11:9 (Douay Rheims)
Patrick MacAlpern’s life was strangely entwined with dogs. Around A.D. 400, at age sixteen, Patrick was abducted by Irish marauders. He was enslaved and kept as a shepherd for six years, his sole companion being a dog. In response to a dream, he made his way to the coast, where he found the ship that the dream foretold would return him to his own land.
The ship was from Gaul, and the master had put into Irish waters in order to get a cargo of hunting hounds, which were bringing fabulous prices on European markets. Not surprisingly, as a penniless runaway slave, Patrick was received unsympathetically when he tried to gain passage. However, just as he was leaving, he was suddenly called back. Over one hundred great Irish wolfhounds now packed the holds and filled the deck of the ship. Taken from their masters and their familiar surroundings, the giant dogs were frantic and furious, ready to attack anyone who came near. Some of the sailors had noticed that during Patrick’s brief visit to the ship, he had spoken with some of the dogs and seemed to have a calming effect on them. Therefore, in exchange for feeding, cleaning up after, and otherwise caring for the dogs — Patrick received passage to the continent.
The ship was badly underprovisioned and reached a ruined and deserted section of Gaul with nothing left to feed dogs or men. Because the dogs were worth more than the ship, the crew abandoned the ship, and set off on foot, heading inland. With no inhabitants or food in the area, the dogs and men were soon in jeopardy of dying of starvation. The shipmaster, who had learned that Patrick was a Christian, turned to him and in a taunting manner said, “If your god is so great, then pray to him to send us food.” Patrick did so, and the story goes, a miracle occurred. A herd of wild pigs appeared, seemingly from nowhere. Instead of bolting and running, as one might have expected, the swine stayed long enough for the starving men, with the assistance of the dogs, to kill some of them, providing meat for all. Patrick’s reputation rose considerably, and, after the dogs were marketed, the crew made a gift to him of some food and money to help him on his way.
Many years later, he returned to Ireland, and his goal was to preach Christianity. It seems the news that a strange ship had just landed, from which emerged white-robed men with clean shaved heads who chanted in a strange tongue, prompted an Irish prince named to go to the coast to investigate the situation. He was accompanied by his favorite large hunting dog. Observing St. Patrick’s missionary group, Dichie decided that the best course was to kill these odd clerics and be done with it. With a shout he set his dog at Patrick. The dog lept forward in full fury, but when Patrick uttered a short prayer, the dog halted, grew quiet, and then approached Patrick and nuzzled his hand. Dichie was so touched by this scene that he aided Patrick’s mission in Ireland in many ways.
The point of these stories seems to be that the dogs could somehow sense or respond to Patrick’s piety. According to Irish folklore, Patrick repaid dogs for their deference to him by allowing the legendary character Oissain, to take hounds to heaven with him when he died, where we can suppose that they are keeping Tobias’s little dog company.
Posted 06 June 2004 - 10:24 PM
I very much appreciate your post about The Book of Tobias. It is the sole scriptural reference I believe to my guardian Archangel Raphael. The explanation of why dogs can be named Toby is very sweet. I will try to keep it in mind.
By the way- did anyone ever come up with the answer to, "do animals have souls?" I have been wondering for a long time whether the souls of animals survive death- or perhaps I should say my cat keeps asking me the question & I just can't seem to find the answer yet!
In Christ- Fr Raphael
Posted 07 June 2004 - 02:38 AM
I think I first read the term in the Orthodox Study Bible when I locate the text I will post it. Anyway, I think in short a cat does what a cat does in the cat's role in creation individually and collectively. I might add I'm often reminded by a loving dog that some animals are quite loving and not judgemental irrespective circumstances.
Saint Basil's Homily VIII (The Hexaemeron) The Creation of Fowl and Water Animals is a good read on the subject matter a small part of which I have posted below. Saint John Chrysostom has written much on Genesis as well.
2. "Let the earth bring forth a living soul." Why did the earth produce a living soul? so that you may make a difference between the soul of cattle and that of man. You will soon learn how the human soul was formed; hear now about the soul of creatures devoid of reason. Since, according to Scripture, "the life of every creature is in the blood," as the blood when thickened changes into flesh, and flesh when corrupted decomposes into earth, so the soul of beasts is naturally an earthy substance. "Let the earth bring forth a living soul." See the affinity of the soul with blood, of blood with flesh,of flesh with earth; and remounting in an inverse sense from the earth to the flesh, from the flesh to the blood, from the blood to the soul, you will find that the soul of beasts is earth. Do not suppose that it is older than the essence of their body, nor that it survives the dissolution of the flesh; avoid the nonsense of those arrogant philosophers who do not blush to liken their soul to that of a dog; who say that they have been formerly themselves women, shrubs, fish. Have they ever been fish? I do not know; but I do not fear to affirm that in their writings they show less sense than fish. "Let the earth bring forth the living creature." Perhaps many of you ask why there is such a long silence in the middle of the rapid rush of my discourse. The more studious among my auditors will not be ignorant of the reason why words fail me. What! Have I not seen them look at each other, and make signs to make me look at them, and to remind me of what I have passed over? I have forgotten a part of the creation, and that one of the most considerable, and my discourse was almost finished without touching upon it. "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament, of heaven." I spoke of fish as long as eventide allowed: to-day we have passed to the examination of terrestrial animals; between the two, birds have escaped as. We are forgetful like travellers who unmindful of some important object, are obliged, although they be far on their road, to retrace their steps, punished for their negligence by the weariness of the journey. So we have to turn back. That which we have omitted is not to be despised. It is the third part of the animal creation, if indeed there are three kinds of animals, land, winged and water."Let the waters" it is said "bring forth abundantly moving creature that hath life and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven." Why do the waters give birth also to birds? Because there is, so to say, a family link between the creatures that fly and those that swim. In the same way that fish cut the waters, using their fins to carry them forward and their tails to direct their movements round and round and straightforward, so we see birds float in the air by the help of their wings. Both endowed with the property of swimming, their common derivation from the waters has made them of one family. At the same time no bird is without feet, because finding all its food upon the earth it cannot do without their service. Rapacious birds have pointed claws to enable them to close on their prey; to the rest has been given the indispensable ministry of feet to seek their food and to provide for the other needs of life. There are a few who walk badly, whose feet are neither suitable for walking nor for preying. Among this number are swallows, incapable of walking and seeking their prey, and the birds called swifts who live on little insects carried about by the air. As to the swallow, its flight, which grazes the earth, fulfils the function of feet.
St. Maximos the Confessor has written:
Man is not a being isolated from the rest of creation; by his very nature he is bound up with the whole of the universe... In his way to union with God, man in no way leaves creatures aside, but gathers together in his love the whole cosmos disordered by sin, that it may be transfigured by grace.
St. John of Kronstadt has written:
Do not breathe malice, vengence, and murder even towards animals, lest your own soul should be given up to death by the spiritual enemy breathing wickedness in you even toward dumb animals, and lest you should become accustomed to breathe malice and vengence against men also. Remember, that animals are called to life by God's mercy that they may enjoy their existence as much as they can during their short life. "The Lord is good to all."(Ps. cxlv.9) Do not beat them if they are unreasonable, or if they play tricks, or if any of your property is damaged by them. "Blessed is the man who is merciful to his beast."
Our Church has a tape for sale regarding the subject matter.
(Message edited by admin on 07 June, 2004)
Posted 07 June 2004 - 11:52 AM
Thanks so much for those beautiful quotes from the fathers- I will have to let the part about animal souls sink in. The holy fathers think in such a different way from most of us; one almost has to go through a spiritual detox from ones own way of thinking when one encounters ideas like these. It is a very holy perspective which I think St. Paul refers to:"then we shall see clearly." Part of our spiritual growth is catching glimpses that the fog we live in is not reality. So with animals we see them as either beasts or as new-age artists ready to jump out of their skin (if we could only figure out a way to get them to paint or speak!).
The quote from St. Basil is similiar to a passage found in St Gregory the Theologian, "Look, again, at the types of birds, with the manifold varieties of design and color all of them, including song-birds, possess. How are we to account for their music, and where did they get it? Who puts a sounding-board in the cicada's chest with the chirping songs it makes in the branches? Whenever the Sun sets them going they make mid-day music, stirring the groves and giving the traveler an escort of sound. Who wove the web of song for the swan, when it spreads out its wings to the breeze, turning its hissing into melody?" (Oration 28, chap. 24)
Such a worshipful(yet not idolatrous) attitude towards God's creation.
In Christ- Fr Raphael
Posted 07 June 2004 - 12:37 PM
Thank you for that. I was wondering how I was going to break the news to my cat that her soul would not survive her earthly journey- it would have been heart-breaking!
PS: I just told my cat the news; she replies, "I do not like your DOG-matic assertions- I am CAT-lick."
Posted 07 June 2004 - 03:08 PM
Taken from Orthodox Psychotherapy by Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos), page 105.
We have to realize that the word "soul" is a construct, and different people use the word differently. Even within Orthodoxy, you see words like "soul" and "spirit" used somewhat indiscriminately, sometimes as substitutes for each other, others assigning specific and different meanings to each. And what one calls spirit the other calls soul. It is not the words we must focus on, but the concepts. Metropolitan Hiertheos comments on this at length.
He goes further to state that, contrary to some populist beliefs circulating today, there is no such thing as an inherently immortal soul. Immortality is granted to a soul by God, it cannot exist apart from God. According to St. Gregory as quoted by Metr. Hierotheos, the immortality granted by God to the "essense" of the human soul is not extended to the "energy" of the animal soul, at least that is how it seems to this simple mind.
This simple mind would summarize the Orthodox teaching as follows:
Do animals have souls? - Yes, depending on your definition of soul
Do All Dogs go to Heaven (Gospel according to Disney)? - Not according to most Orthodox authorities
Will I see dear old Scruffy in Heaven (in deference to Fr. A)? - We'll find out if/when we get there...
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Posted 07 June 2004 - 04:20 PM
I have been looking for that quote for a year now about how animals possess a soul not as essence but as energy. I thought I had read it in St. John of Damascus. Not that I really understand what it means yet!
I wonder though. It is a clear Orthodox teaching that the creation groans (including animals) because of man's sin; death came because of man; so man is the cause of the death of animals; (yes? I suppose so since they are not the cause of the Fall & of death). Now we also know that at the Second Coming of Christ death will be destroyed- so does not it follow that animals will then no longer die? At least -and this is only idle speculation I guess- the animals that were already here when Christ returns? So the conclusion from this is that a time will come when animals will no longer die and will be with us in the Kingdom. If they are not present when WE die (assuming we die before Christ's Second Coming) as an aspect of the 'groaning' of creation just as we also will not have yet our resurrected bodies, they will certainly be there after the Second Coming. Hmmm! Have to make sure that gets into the next edition of the Law of God book!
In Christ- Fr Raphael
Posted 07 June 2004 - 05:52 PM
This comes from Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave: ps.122-26. It comes from the Life of St. Simeon the Stylite, May 24.
"Of all the visions of the Holy Fathers that are known to us, the most vivid & detailed vision of Paradise is that which appeared to St. Andrew, a fool for Christ's sake, who for two weeks supernaturally contemplated the invisible Paradise. He told his vision to a man who knew his secrets, Nicephorus. This is what he said, 'I saw that I was in a beautiful and most marvellous garden...I saw myself dressed in a most light garment which seemed woven from lightening; on my head was a crown made of large flowers, and I was girded with a belt worthy of a king...I saw many gardens with tall trees ...their branches emitted a wonderful fragrance...There were countless multitudes of birds in these gardens. Some were sitting on the branches of the trees and sang beautifully- so beautifully that I did not remember who I was, so sweetly was my heart affected. It seemed to me that their song reached the very height of heaven."
Of course these visions do not represent a scientific description of Paradise- different visions vary. But they do represent a general and over-arching truth. So it is interesting to see the descriptions of things like gardens, trees, and yes- birds. What is clear here is that this is a world unaffected by the Fall, a beyond-beautiful & harmonious world with Christ, the Theotokos & the saints in 'the middle' of Paradise. (This comes later on in the description of the vision) Much of this is not possible to describe properly in words- but it is interesting that what is described is something sensory if refined, relative to our standards. So perhaps there is a promise that animals will be even in the future world.
In Christ- Fr R
Posted 08 June 2004 - 01:46 AM
I have been reading this thread with much interest and thanks to God. For, in creating, each creature was given a purpose in His loving, merciful Plan. As to whether or not animals have souls, and also the possibility of their living on in the "world to come" I do not know. All I know is that for me, I have experienced a few times a connectedness with God in deep peace-filled ways, animals having been the bearers of a comforting, silent message; and this after my mother's death.
While house sitting once for a friend in the wilds of Maine, a deep feeling of nostalgia came over me, missing my mother deeply, and tears started flowing from my eyes. The shepherd-dog was quietly napping in "her chair" as I was looking over the hills through the large windows.
All of a sudden the dog left its place and came over to me and nuzzled me and looked at me with a kind of knowing that filled me with a sense of wonder, of deep peace and joy and gratitude, that one of God's creatures, a beautiful dog, was a comfort to me in this solitary moment of sorrowful grieving in the rememberance of my dear mother.
How could this animal, thus act in my behalf? except through the intervention of the Mercy and Compassion of our Living, Present God? So, I do give "glory to God for all things!
Sometimes it feel as if, my soul wishes to be constantly praising God for the Beauty and Wisdom of His created universe!
Posted 08 June 2004 - 11:47 PM
The Garden of Eden was created by God as good, not intended to be temporary.
Man fell, and all of creation has been affected. But only Man fell (leaving aside of course the angels at this point . . . )
I believe pets are an echo to us, as for instance Marie-Duquette's story illustrates, of a close connection between animals & man and God.
All of creation celebrates the glory of God, if we read the Psalms, for example, as being realistic and not just poetic/allegorical. See for example Pss 8, 19, 65, 84:3, 96: 11-13, 148, & 150:6. See also Isaiah 11: 2-9.
I think we are mixing two issues here, (1) do animals have souls (whatever that means!) (2) will animals be in heaven with us.
Personally, my understanding of "soul" is so mixed between the various definitions that it approaches being a term that causes more trouble than I can handle, esp. in discussions such as these. So I beg ignorance on this, and no opinion, many questions.
As far as animals in heaven, I have an opinion based on the Scriptures noted above, and the thought that only man has been barred from heaven (again, leaving angels out of the discussion), don't see anywhere that the rest of creation is barred. Scripture deals with how many has been redeemed, and connects creation's groaning with man's sin, but not any sense of "guilt" or consignment to non-existence at death for any of God's creatures. So I don't see any reason to think animals WON'T be in heaven with the saints, and many reasons to think they will!
Certainly not creedal issue, but meditating on this over the past five years or so has made me re-think the Fall, and heaven such that I treat God's creation differently now.
My two cents!
Guest_Jurretta J. Heckscher
Posted 10 June 2004 - 01:09 AM
Recently Father John Breck, a distinguished pastor and emeritus faculty member at both l'Institut Saint-Serge and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, published a beautiful and poignant reflection on the possibility of immortality for animals, based on the death of a beloved dog. You can read it at [Link].
Yours in Christ,
(Message edited by admin on 10 June, 2004)
Guest_W. Lindsay Wheeler
Posted 10 August 2004 - 01:50 PM
Anything that has self-movement has soul. It is what moves a thing. All living things are made of dead matter. Humans are 75% water, the rest carbon, nitrogen etc. None of this is alive. The principle of life is somewhere else. This is called soul. Plants, Amoeba, bacteria, Animals, Humans have souls. Only humans are immortal for we share in the divine spark. God "*breathed*" onto the human mud form and we recieved life. We share more with God for God implanted to us the power of reasoning. The human soul is partly divine. Animal and Plant souls are not immortal but nonetheless they have soul. All souls came from God for he is the source of all life. For he is life.
Plant souls have the power of growth and reproduction.
Animal Souls have the same powers as plants but with one more power and that is of movement.
Human souls have the plant and animal powers plus one more, that of reasoning.
Posted 12 August 2004 - 09:02 PM
I found your last post in this thread (your #10, on souls) interesting, though perhaps a bit troubling vis-a-vis the terminology of 'soul' as applied to all living things (e.g. plants, amoeba, bateria, as per a few of your examples). More still in the closing remarks, on plants having certain souls, while animals with the abilities of motion have souls of 'more power'. I agree that there is some warrant for this among various classical Greek philosophies; but it is un-patristic to the best of my knowledge. It seems to me also essentially unscriptural. I would be curious to know your thoughts on how it applies (if at all) to a Christian view on the soul.
As a connected aside, there is no consensus among the fathers that the human soul is itself naturally immortal, nor inherently divine. These are characteristics imbued in the human soul as that which breathes the life (eternal and divine) of God's Spirit into the human person. Only God is immortal; a human soul (together with the human body) is so only by participation in the divine life. In this sense, the soul is no more eternal, no more life-ful, than the body.
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