Who’s who & what’s what?

Some of you will know that I run a philosophy group. I am not a philosopher nor do I teach philosophy, but I provide a fortnightly opportunity for about a dozen people to discuss philosophy and philosophers. Surprisingly often the material from this group finds it way to this Blog, and vice versa. Some years ago I noted an interesting question which concerns the nature of identity. Here was what I wrote:

“My friend Joe is a skilled carpenter and boat builder. Some years ago he built a small rowing boat. Being a perfectionist his habit was to replace any part of the boat which was in the slightest damaged or worn. The first two or three planks he replaced gave me no philosophical difficulty – it was clearly Joe’s old boat with a few repairs.

But the day came when he had in fact replaced every single part of the boat. When I suggested that he had made a new boat with a different identity he denied this, saying: “The shape and length of every replacement piece has been dictated by the form of the boat so there has clearly been a continuity of identity because of the continuity of the form.”

But I had a better idea. Joe never throws anything away. When I looked under the tarpaulin at the back of the shed I found all the pieces and planks he had removed. So I put the old boat together again. Every part had to be put into the only place it could fit – the form was preserved. And I asked him to tell me whether the two boats shared the same identity. Joe is still scratching his head.

This is an old problem – it was originally Theseus’s boat, and the story comes to us through Plutarch. Nor is it academic, for the meaning of identity is important to us. I am told that throughout our lives the cells in our body, except in the neural cortex, die and are replaced – just like Joe and his boat. But if the body I have now has been replaced, cell by cell, a number of times, am I the same person? You might argue that the new cells, nevertheless inherit the same information. I hold in my memory the experience of being a child even if that memory is held in replacement cells.

Imagine that Hitler did not die in his bunker. He survived. But a nearby explosion permanently removed his memory from the age of 10 onwards. At his Nuremberg trial, the prosecution argued that he was clearly the same person who could properly be tried and punished. But the defence argued that it was plainly unjust to punish him for crimes of which he could have no knowledge. What would you decide?

And of course there is the knotty Catholic problem. In the matter of the real presence in the Eucharist we accept that the wafer before consecration has the identity of bread. The theologian distinguishes between substance – what it really is – and the accidents of that substance which we recognise through our senses. After consecration its substance, and therefore its identity, is radically changed but its accidents remain. No wonder that some theologians have looked for solutions in the concepts of symbol or sign. And the Lutherans hold that bread and wine body and blood coexist with each other. Yet such approaches do not appear to be an adequate response to Christ’s own description which emphasises the literality of the doctrine. Indeed, in John 6, he presents it as a challenge of faith to his listeners. It remains a challenge to us.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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51 Responses to Who’s who & what’s what?

  1. Peter D. Wilson says:

    Quentin – I remember your posing the question of the boat some years ago when you seemed to like my analogy with, say, a long-established symphony orchestra that retains its identity despite a complete though gradual change of personnel. Extending it, should the departed members re-form into another orchestra, it would have to take a different identity. Similarly the rejected components of Joe’s boat would lose their identity as part of it. If recombined in their original relationship they would form an unseaworthy craft that he would not deign to acknowledge as his boat, but that is another matter altogether.

    On substance and accident, status as substance seems to be associated with function, though I couldn’t suggest how closely. Perhaps other contributors might clarify that issue.

    • Horace says:

      From a Scientific point of view ‘Substance’ is inferred from ‘accidents’ i.e.. what we can observe or measure from an object. There is no such concept as substance divorced from accidents.

      When Jesus says [John 6; 51] “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. … This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” he is clearly not using scientific language. He is saying “ even though this looks like bread it is my flesh . . “ i.e. eating it is the same, from a spiritual point of view, as physically eating my flesh.

      I am aware that this interpretaion will be challenged and I am fascinated to see how!

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Horace – As a scientist, or at least a retired technologist, I agree completely with your first paragraph as far as it goes, which is purely within the physical domain. As a Christian, I accept that the consecrated host is now Christ’s body since he has taken it as such for his present purpose.

    • Brendan says:

      Joe’s ‘ first boat ‘ has served him well ; but ‘ he ‘ has chartered the course every time. His new ‘second boat ‘ may serve him equally as well ; but his fond memories are with the ‘ first boat ‘ – the ‘ second has yet to prove ‘itself ‘ in life to him . His imagined shape and form of the new boat may or may not matter , although he seems to think so . He is the creator and mover of himself and his new boat.
      For people of ‘faith’ , God is the prime mover of all things that charts our course and no matter how we ‘ change ‘ through life our gathered fond memories are incorruptible and ‘unchanging.’

  2. Galerimo says:

    Thanks Quentin.

    Substance is not the same as identity.

    Substance is an ontological reality. It applies in the sense in which the Theologians used it to describe the Eucharistic phenomenon as the first level of reality namely “being”.

    Identity is a a psychological reality. It applies in the sense in which it is commonly used to name any reality. It only exists of itself in the mind. “Boat” is the name I have learned from others so that we can talk meaningfully about what Joe built.

    With respect I think its the wrong question.

    The question is “Does everything change?

    • Brendan says:

      Yes Galerimo ! The question is what is change ? How is change effected ? Who effects change etc. ?
      There are two realities of change ‘ knowable ‘ and ‘ unknowable ‘. Shape and substance do not then matter in that ‘ change ‘ only the inner / knowable process to effect what is ‘ unknowable,’
      Joe’s affection ( attachment ) to the ‘old boat ( the ‘knowable ) overrides the real difference in the present shape or form – however intrinsically the same in shape and content/form as the ‘ new boat ‘. Another ‘ boat ‘ made up of the exact contents/ pieces of the old boat are meaningless to Joe.
      The Eucharist for the Christian is effected through the’ knowable ‘ ( the bread and wine ) and the ‘ unknowable’ ( Body and Blood of Christ ). Bread and wine ( the ‘boat ‘ ) and are accidentals and do not effect ‘ change ‘. The ‘ unknowable ‘ ( God ) effects change/ holiness through The Eucharist.
      ” To live is to change , to become holy is to have changed often. ( Newman )

      i’ll stop there … losing it a bit … I might start contradicting myself . Over to the Blog!

    • Quentin says:

      Galerimo, the distinction you make between identity and substance is surely correct. But you will need to show how this affects the general line of argument. Are you claiming that identity has no meaning in reality simply because it is a judgment we make in our minds? Or are there objective phenomena which could lead to this judgment?

      You say the question is “Does everything change?” Can you expand on this.

      • pnyikos says:

        Personal identity is as fundamental to reality as time itself. Your essay reminds me of a Gedankenexperiment I performed at about the age of 19, suggested by the book Three Faces of Eve, which featured what a dualist might interpret as three souls occupying the same body.

        Suppose that the cells in my brain were replaced, one at a time, by other cells, identical in every way, At what point would I be annihilated and another “I”, thinking it was myself but having no prior history as a conscious self, appear? [My own conscious self goes back at least to the age of three, and enormous changes have taken place in my body, even my brain, since then.] My instincts say “never.”

        I used this as an argument for an indivisible soul being the real “me” and thus as an argument against materialism. Today, when dealing with atheists, I suggest to them that our conscious selves may be single particles of dark matter (of which there is more than five times as much in our universe, as ordinary matter), which would solve the conundrum of personal identity. That way I bypass all their prejudices about spiritual souls and the supernatural.

        In New Scientist some time in the middle of last year, there was a cover article suggesting that dark matter particles may be very much larger than even the Higgs boson. Thus they might have lots of inner life, accounting for the perceived indivisibility of my own personal identity.

      • Alan says:

        pnyikos – [My own conscious self goes back at least to the age of three, and enormous changes have taken place in my body, even my brain, since then.] My instincts say “never.”

        I used this as an argument for an indivisible soul being the real “me” and thus as an argument against materialism.

        Perhaps, but there would seem to me to be an alternative. If our identity is not the particular material that makes up our bodies, but is instead an arrangement of that material – one that changes over time but retains a form that defines who we are – then we still might not need a soul to be the real “us” despite what we do and don’t retain over the course of our lives.

        Rather than the boat I have heard instead the analogy of a wave. We have no trouble identifying and following the progress of a single wave within a water tank, even though the material it is made up of changes from moment to moment.

      • Alan says:

        Sorry but I missed putting quotes around your words pnyikos. It should be clear though I hope.

      • pnyikos says:

        Alan, I cannot go along with this “strong AI” assumption that a mere pattern is what produces my sense of identity. Even if one embraces materialism, the existence of a suitable substrate is necessary (but far from sufficient). Strong AI would have us believe that if my cells were incrementally replaced by cells made of silicon, I would go on being myself even after I have become as far from a biological organism as the Tin Woodman of Oz. But if materialism is correct, surely the inner life of a silicon chip is very different from the inner life of a carbon-oxygen-nitrogen-hydrogen based organism.

      • Alan says:

        pnyikos,

        Thank you for the reply.

        “But if materialism is correct, surely the inner life of a silicon chip is very different from the inner life of a carbon-oxygen-nitrogen-hydrogen based organism.”

        This may very well be so but we are struggling, and not just on this blog, to pin down what our identify actually is so I don’t know if the inner life of the stuff we are made of is important to that point. Our identities may have little or nothing to do with the inner life of the suitable substrate. A wave is still a wave be it in oil or water or earth. The mediums need only be suitable, not necessarily have some fundamental wavelike essence.

        Rather than it being my assumption that we are just a pattern I would suggest that I’m only leaving that possibility open in the face of a chasm of unknowns. I couldn’t begin to place some upper limit on what a “mere” pattern might be capable of. I can’t assume much (if anything) about its lack of potential. I tend to think that what I know about it, what we all know about it, could be far from sufficient to pass such judgement.

        We may not be that far off creating an identity that is more silicon than carbon. The Turing Test (such as it is) has recently been passed. We may run out of ways to test the difference between a biological personality and a non-biological one – at least in terms of it being an actual personality/identity. I think this is going to be especially true when we don’t really know what it is in ourselves that we are looking at in the first place.

      • pnyikos says:

        “The Turing Test (such as it is) has recently been passed.”

        I’d like to know the details, since Turing was very vague about details of how the test was to be run. However, this is a theme that is of interest only because it shows what computers can do, and has nothing to do with the topic of consciousness and personal identity. Turing himself made that clear in the way he sidestepped the objection that thinking involves consciousness, and no one can determine from mere behavior whether there is consciousness behind it.

        Turing’s answer conflated solipsism with this common sense recognition of a philosophical conundrum: he said we could disregard this objection because no one really wants to embrace solipsism.

      • Alan says:

        pnyikos – “I’d like to know the details, since Turing was very vague about details of how the test was to be run.”

        I don’t think I picked up on many of the details. Perhaps they are outlined somewhere online. It was in 2014 and sufficient numbers of people where convinced that they were talking remotely to a person rather than a computer to pass the test as it was laid out. It’s a test which I don’t think is as impressive now as it once sounded. It’s easy enough to imagine a purely “brute force” approach to the computer responses I think. But it does show progress and hint at potential.

        “However, this is a theme that is of interest only because it shows what computers can do, and has nothing to do with the topic of consciousness and personal identity.”

        No other implications? I can imagine a time when a new test might be passed and we find ourselves entirely unable to distinguish between our own consciousness/identity and that of a machine (excepting the difference in the building materials of course). That wont tell us for certain what our consciousness is, but I’d suggest that it will tell us what it could be. What would there be to indicate that our identity was substantially something more than a “mechanical” version if we can’t tell the difference?

    • pnyikos says:

      Galerimo: At first I took your `It only exists of itself in the mind’ to mean that only minds (in the Cartesian sense) can have an identity which can truly be said to “exist of itself.” And with this I agree, except that if quanta are truly indivisible and unchangeable in themselves, then each one has an identity which exists of itself, but in an entirely different way — as an object instead of as a subject.

      But is this really what you meant to say? or did you mean to say almost the opposite, that the identity of anything, like the boat John built, is all in our minds, that it is what we make of it?

      Depending on what we consider relevant, we could call either of the two boats of which Quentin wrote as having “the same identity” as the original boat or we could deny that either has the same identity. It is not the same thing as my own subjective identity, which has persisted through at least 96% of my life through all the changes in my body and my personality. Analogical reasoning thus makes the first choice of Quentin’s the better candidate, but it is very weak since we do not ascribe an inner subjective life to Joe’s original boat nor to any of its “successors.”

      • Quentin says:

        As I read your comment, a thought occurs to me. Suppose you and I each have a first edition Agatha Christie. The two books share an identity (of form?). But my book is not your book – and I shall be distressed if you nick it. Here the identity seems to come from ownership. But it could be anything which distinguishes one book from another, e.g., the date is was bought. It’s looking more and more subjective to me yet ownership and origin are objective qualities. As Lear said, on an occasion of particular stress: “O Fool, I shall go mad.”

  3. John Candido says:

    Trying to make sense of mysteries might be a human trait but in the end you are left with the mystery and your response to it. We could cover another century of debate and never get to transubstantiation’s inner kernel. We may never, or indeed we will never get to a day where much like Archimedes running naked down the street exclaiming ‘eureka’, that some obscure theologian will ‘solve’ or ‘completely understand’ this teaching. We would have much the same luck in trying to draw a square circle. Truth like humility hurts sometimes.

    • Vincent says:

      I agree. The mystery as such will never be solved. But that of course does not mean that we should not explore it. What, for instance, was Christ trying to effect by giving us the mystery? What would be the difference between religion which accepted the ‘real presence’ and a religion which regarded it as no more than a liturgical sign of commemoration?

  4. Nektarios says:

    Vincent’s turn of phrase is interesting, ‘What, for instance, was Christ trying to effect by giving us the mystery? ‘
    To Vincents comment, I would not look for the mystery so much, as what was Christ doing here on earth and what if anything has that to do with identity per se? Far from giving us a mystery of which there are many, He was in fact resolving the mystery of Man’s identity.

  5. John Nolan says:

    Theseus’s boat was also Trigger’s broom in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ – the council roadsweeper boasted that he had used the same broom for twenty years in which time it had had five new heads and four new handles.

    Is the new Mass essentially the same as the classic Roman Rite? To use an analogy of Cardinal Ratzinger’s, it was like demolishing a house and erecting a new one on the same foundations. It served a similar purpose; it could even be argued that it was better than the old; but it was not by any stretch of the imagination the same house.

  6. Nektarios says:

    Philosophy will take us just a far as to say there is something wrong with man.
    As our nature is intrinsically wrong, our view of identity is also intrinsically wrong.
    Our nature, that is our human fallen nature is not only inherited as the children of Adam, we also fell in him in our nature for Adam. He was not only seminal, he is also the representative of all mankind.
    Therefore his fallen nature is fallen too. So every child born of human nature is not born good or
    sinless, with a clean sheet. We are children of Adam, when he fell, so did the whole of mankind apart from the God man, Jesus Christ the Son of God.

    What is identity? it is the manifestation of the old nature in various ways, with different temperaments, talents, upbringing class an all that. Man thinks his identity is, local, national, cultural, religious lie in these peripherals, but man real true identity lies in his fallen nature, all of it.

    Thank God he has not left us to ourselves but has provided the way of escape for us all in Christ.
    The New Adam.
    I stop here fro now.

    • Nektarios says:

      Quentin
      God forbid, that my identity as a child of God remains a copy of the old boat – it isn’t!
      With the wrong idea of individuality, we think we are or have different identities. We form part of the whole of humanity. The problem of sin affects the whole of humanity. The fall as I explained earlier affects the whole of humanity at the very roots of our being.

      There are two main identities of humanity, those in Christ, God’s children, the other are those of humanity that are not nor indeed want to be.

      If you are speaking about different identities, their name, nationality colour, creed, talents language
      and so on, these are superficialities and peripheral to our actual being from whence our identity shows itself, that is whose we are, what we are and whom we serve.
      Reply

  7. Martha says:

    I am not competent to discuss this in philosophical terms, bot it does occur to me that we readily accept in many areas of life the idea that reality can be independent of outward form to greater or lesser extents. A caterpillar will metamorphose into a butterfly, a piece of stone can be a precious jewel, and in traditional tales no one bats an eye lid when the frog is revealed to be a prince.

    • Quentin says:

      Martha, you may claim that you are not a philosopher, but a philosopher will, like you, look at apparently parallel cases to distinguish the elements relevant to his or her thoughts. Take your caterpillar example. It shows us a form of identity which is not based on appearance. But you would claim that, although you looked very different at an embryotic stage, your identity remained the same. You know this because if you had died in the womb or been aborted you would not be here now. Identity in the caterpillar and you is recognised through living continuity.

      So can we apply this to the boat? A case might be made that the boat was a concept in Joe’s eye, and his replacements were faithful to that concept. Perhaps this is enough to establish continuing identity. The replacement boat was perforce also faithful to the concept because, as the story tells us, the shapes of the planks obliged it to conform to the same concept. The concept (or form, if you wish) was inherent in both boats. We might be forced to say that both boats were identical as to concept, but different as to expression. In this case we are getting close to Galerimo’s claim (January 22, 2016 at 12:46 am ) that identity is a psychological reality imposed by our minds.

      I am thinking aloud, and by no means sure I am right. But see where your thought has got me!

    • Nektarios says:

      Martha
      There is a story by Sadhu Sandar Singh, Often called the Apostle of India, when he was a young lad, picked up a stone from the river bed. He smashed the stone and found that the inside was bone dry, yet it had been in the river for a very long time.

      He thought this was due to the hard exterior and all the years of water running over it, had made it smooth, but left the middle of the stone totally unaffected.
      He further thought, this was a reflection of so many Christians, brought up in the Church. The water flowed over them, the effect was it conditioned the exterior, but inside, it was still
      a dry hard stoney heart.
      You might like to Google up his name – a very interesting man of God.

  8. Martha says:

    Thank you Quentin, I was mainly thinking about the Eucharist, and ideas about the appearance of things. The boat has its parts replaced gradually over a period of time allowing each part to blend in with the whole before the next one wears out and is duly replaced. This is very different from a replica copy of the boat which could be made all in one go, and would definitely be seen as another boat, maybe a twin, but with a distinct identity. How to describe this difference is beyond me.

  9. G.D. says:

    The boat being inanimate has form only, not a living personal identity? The boat may or may not be the same one depending on how it’s form is interpreted?
    To have/be a living being/personality is the personal essence that remains constant?
    My form has changed, my self is as it is always. My consciousness of that self may develop as i give up my form?

  10. Nektarios says:

    I wonder how, if ever, we think about identity? Without going over what I mentioned in an earlier posting.
    I notice, for example Our Lord’s attitude concerning being a man, He humbled Himself. Then the disciples one day they were discussing who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God among them.
    Two very different attitudes and identities.

    Our fallen nature gives rise to our identity, we do not see that aspect, but we if we are not truly Christian, can only operate out of the old fallen nature instead of the new nature. This means that our idea of identity is distorted, just like the disciples were. We never really understand ourselves totally.

    For we believers in Christ, our life, as well as our identity is hidden in Christ and when Christ appears we also will appear with him in glory with the identity known to all there and the angels
    as the Sons of God.

  11. G.D. says:

    “as our identity is hidden in Christ”

    Exactly. As i give up (detach from) ‘my form’ (the fallen ‘I’, or whatever it is that stops me fully participating in Christ) so i become what my identity (true self) is created to be in with and through Christ.
    Obviously it won’t happen fully untill this mortal frame is cast off at death but i hope, and can wait.

    • Nektarios says:

      G.D.
      If you are ‘in Christ’, though not perfected yet here on earth, we are fully participating in Christ up to the measure growing spiritually, becoming more Christ-like and holy.
      On that day our new name which summarises ones identity will be revealed, but till then it is hidden in Christ.
      What an identity, what a eternal future and weight of glory will be given to us – till then
      let us abide in Him and He in us and press on.

  12. Iona says:

    Suppose someone comes to visit me when my boat is new; and does not visit me again until all the parts of the boat have been gradually replaced. He looks at the boat and asks: “Is that the same boat as you had last time I was here?”
    I think I would be inclined to answer “Well, yes and no”.
    Whereas if he said of my son (who was a toddler when he first visited, but is now a young man) “Is that the same child as I played ’round and round the garden’ with, last time I was here?” I would undoubtedly say “Yes”.

    I like Alan’s analogy of the wave, which keeps the same form as it moves through whatever medium it is moving through despite the molecules it’s made up of constantly changing.

    • St.Joseph says:

      10 years ago outside a cottage in my village was an old small Triumph bike with a sign saying ‘going to the Tip please take if someone wants it’. I already had a big bike.
      I knocked on the door and said I would take it. Thank you.
      My neighbour used to manage a Cycle Shop so offered to do it up for me. No charge, I would buy the spare parts.
      He stripped it down to the frame, replaced most of the rusty and broken parts.
      When he had finished , new tyres, new brakes, hand grips, new saddle and carrier and gears.
      To me even though it was before it was reconditioned ‘my new bike’ it belonged to me.
      However to the last owner it was be his old bike reconditioned.
      I gave it to my grandson while at Uni, so it was his new bike.
      It kept its identity having its original frame and wheels and handlebars etc;
      Has anyone anything to add to that. I am speaking probably non-sense!
      I think of the Sacrament of Confession , same body goes in and comes out changed.
      And if we look after our soul, it will stay in a presentable condition.

  13. G.D. says:

    Galerimo says:
    January 22, 2016 at 12:46 am

    “Identity is a a psychological reality. It applies in the sense in which it is commonly used to name any reality. It only exists of itself in the mind”

    The mind is a physical entity. Self awareness of my own mind – thought processes, logical thinking et – indicates there is ‘awareness’ that can be greater than, other than a mere fabrication from the mind only.

    Self awareness has been experienced by people that are actually and really brain dead (no mind) scientifically.
    Realise this won’t be accepted by the many ‘strictly logical’ personalities, but there’s no refuting some of the experiences many have had while, to all physical proofs, deceased. (Unless they are all lying of course).

    There have been many studies on consciousness that indicate identity & awareness exist in it’s own right …
    Not that I’ve read them, as i don’t need proof, but if any body cares to ………….

    (1) http://www.opensciences.org/files/pdfs/Manifesto-for-a-Post-Materialist-Science.pdf

    (2) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673601071008

    (3) http://www.mikepettigrew.com/afterlife/html/dutch_study.html

    (4) http://www.resuscitationjournal.com/article/S0300-9572%2814%2900739-4/fulltext

    (5) http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_10_1_puthoff.pdf

    • Quentin says:

      G.D. Your contribution had to be moderated because it exceeded the maximum of three links which the Blog allows. This may be why Galerimo had a similar difficulty. Sometimes, of course, a list of links is justified, but the rule was introduced to discourage argument by internet link.

  14. G.D. says:

    Galerimo says:
    January 22, 2016 at 12:46 am

    “Identity is a a psychological reality. It applies in the sense in which it is commonly used to name any reality. It only exists of itself in the mind.”

    Mind is physical. Self awareness of my mind’s physical processes would indicate there is an awareness that is greater than, other than, of or from the mind, and therefore not merely psychological. Identity beyond mind.
    Experiences by many who have been certified dead seem to indicate proofs of this.

    (Plenty of studies have been done. I did try to post links to the scientific studies but the first post didn’t take).

  15. Nektarios says:

    In the attempt to explain identity, I come back to my assertions, unpalatable though it be to some,
    and that is, all our attempts from the fallen nature will throw up its distortions regarding identity.
    That identity is also subject to changes, be it illness, suffering, sorrow, pain, loss, fear, anxieties, stress, and so on.
    Is identity a static aspect to our being? it would appear not.

    Further changes to identity, is mental illness, Changes that occur to soldiers on the battlefield.

    So am in his fallen state, really does not know what his identity actually is, apart from those aspects supplied by others – think about it.

    I have already explained what identity is in part in that of a regenerate Christian, one born again of the Spirit of God, even then, all is not revealed to us – we would not be able to carry the weight of glory. If we knew it now it would destroy us. That is why we must await the Lords coming where all will be revealed.
    I have looked into this in some detail from various disciplines, but cannot get beyond the point we are at.

  16. G.D. says:

    Yes, we ‘distort’ because of our ‘fallen’ nature. Including any ideas & theories of identity we may have.
    Yet, the more we embrace the Spirit and it’s Life the ‘less we distort’ – grow in the image & likeness of our real and actual ‘identity’ as God created it; and keeps it in perfection.

    The birth of (Christ) our identity (and of the whole of creation?) ‘in the Spirit’ is complete ( and God saw it was good ) and is given by God, continually, eternally, Now! Not in the past or future. Creation is Redeemed; and accepting salvation. God’s will eternally.

    We work out ( embrace more and more ) our salvation and grow into that (original) God given identity in Christ.
    We will never know it ‘all’, i don’t think. Even when ‘perfected’ and we see the ‘beatific vision’ (whatever that is) there will always be more ‘perfection of God’ to embrace and love – eternally.

    If it’s not so, we will claim to ‘know’ the fullness of God! And claim to be God. And claim any that don’t ‘know’ as we know, are not of God’s creating. More distortions of course!

    The journey is never complete; understanding will never know; only love will last.

    And God’s love created all into being. And on the 7th day God rested …. and our eternal journey began because we distorted ……. Mae Culpa …… thanks be to God!

    That’s why i try ( and fail!) to be open to all ‘distorted’ feeble attempts at understanding and expressing; and try to see the glimmers of Grace & Truth that break through them all.
    That’s where identity becomes incarnated, maybe?

    • Nektarios says:

      G.D.
      Quite so G.D.

      You say,’That’s why i try ( and fail!) to be open to all ‘distorted’ feeble attempts at understanding and expressing; and try to see the glimmers of Grace & Truth that break through them all.
      That’s where identity becomes incarnated, maybe?

      Rather than incarnated, perhaps it is more ‘becoming?’ For the child of God, in Christ, he/she is already perfect in Him.
      But in our old man, our fallen nature, everything has become corrupted, dead and so man thinks what he is by way of identity or what he identifies with others is reality.
      In the fallen state, we know nothing as we ought, it is true, but in Christ there is a totally pristine life with all its potentials. Our life in Christ is truly a wonderful and amazing life. Amazing Grace indeed!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarious. Yes’
        Late have I loved Thee, Oh Beauty so Ancient and so New.
        Late have I lived Thee.
        My soul does not rest until it rests in Thee.
        St Augustine of Hippo.
        I believe that and only then can we truly see and understand the Beauty of the Beatific Vision. And the closeness of God in death,
        Nothing else on earth is worth worrying about. That is what is given to us through the Grace of God alone.!

      • G.D. says:

        “In the fallen state, we know nothing as we ought, it is true, but in Christ there is a totally pristine life with all its potentials”

        yes, that’s the jist of it. And, that state is all of us. The life of Christ (even if not recognised as such) is offered to all, eternally. Weather it will be accepted by all is another matter. God will know, that’s all that matters. Trust in Him.

      • G.D. says:

        St. Joseph, Your an inspiration in your simplicity in the best possible way! And that’s a compliment, not meant in any way as derogatory.

  17. John Candido says:

    Thanks G.D. for reminding me about the difficult conundrum or mystery of our human consciousness. We may refer to the mystery of transubstantiation but something that mirrors it metaphorically is the mystery of human consciousness. Human consciousness has been studied by scientists and philosophers, as we all know. Here is a BBC documentary on human consciousness that might enlighten and encourage debate on SecondSight. I hope that everyone enjoys it and finds it interesting.

    For link, see Quentin below.

  18. G.D. says:

    Yes, John fascinating stuff and enjoyed watching.
    Have to say the mechanistic dualism can see far. But does the brain’s electrical activity produce consciousness, as the video concludes?
    Manipulation of the physical matter of the brain – electrical perceptive or drug induced – will of course alter how the brain presents and interprets the stimulus.
    In as much as people rely on brain stimulus for a sense of reality, ‘I’ it can be said to be perceived as coming from ‘brain activity’ and be altered/affected by it. The vast majority if not all of us to varying degrees, of course.
    (Which is a bit scary as mood can be altered by many ‘silent’ electrical/sound waves too!)

    Or does consciousness, and self identity, produce electrical activity in the brain? ( Prior to manipulations!). Does it posit the physical even, as some claim?

    Other experiments with ‘brain dead’ people who are still consciously aware of a sense of self, and various states of meditative practice, would indicate consciousness exists, or in the least can exist, independently of neuronal stimulus.

    But as you say, like the mystery of the Eucharistic Presence, ….and the Trinity, quantum mechanics and the chicken & egg ….. consciousness itself is a hard one to pin down.
    Fascinating stuff indeed.

    • St.Joseph says:

      EWTN yesterday someone describing identity in relation to the Eucharist.’ We are what we eat’.
      Darwin speaks of evolution in biology, what has he told us about consciousness (Spirit)?

  19. overload says:

    Sorry I’m a bit late to catch up on this discussion, I marked it out earlier and got round to reading it through on thursday.

    My question: What does it really mean, and why does it matter, to say and believe that the consecrated bread is now the body and blood of Christ, and is no longer perishable bread?

    I read that by faith and baptism, I have been consecrated as the body of Christ. So my old nature—fallen and sinful—though it appears to remain, is overcome, is already no more.
    I ask Jesus, and ask myself, is this what He is really saying, and what does He really mean, and is there a living faith that witnesses to this?

    (“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable.. Death has been swallowed up in victory.”)

    …And, there is only one living bread.
    So I, to eat of Him (now also my own body!)… we must eat of (and thus be in) one another.
    Is this a hard saying, and is it true?

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