The Third Book.
1. Why the Author treats of the state of the Soul after Death, and in what Method. 2. Arguments to prove that the Soul is ever united vitally with some Matter or other. 3. Further Reasons to evince the same. 4. That the Soul is capable of an Aiery and Æthereal Body, as well as a Terrestrial. 5. That she ordinarily passes out of an Earthly into an Aëreal Vehicle first. 6. That in her Aiery Vehicle she is capable of Sense, Pleasure, and Pain. 7. That the main power of the Soul over her Aëreal Vehicle is the direction of Motion in the particles thereof. 8. That she may also adde or diminish Motion in her Æthereal. 9. How the purity of the Vehicle confers to the quickness of Sense and Knowledge. 10. Of the Soul's power of changing the temper of her Aëreal Vehicle; 11. As also the shape thereof. 12. The plainness of the last Axiome.
1. WE have, I hope, with undeniable evidence demonstrated the Immortality of the Soul to such as neither by their slowness of parts, nor any prejudice of Immorality, are made incompetent Judges of the truth of Demonstrations of this kind: so that I have already perfected my main Design. But my own curiosity, and the desire of gratifying others who love to entertain themselves with Speculations of this nature, do call me out something further; if the very Dignity of the present Matter I am upon doth not justly require me, as will be best seen after the finishing thereof: which is concerning the State of the Soul after Death. Wherein though I may not haply be able to fix my foot so firmly as in the foregoing part of this Treatise, yet I will assert nothing but what shall be reasonable, though not demonstrable, and far preponderating to whatever shall be alledged to the contrary, and in such clear order and <146> Method, that if what I write be not worthy to convince, it shall not be able to deceive or entangle by perplexedness and obscurity; and therefore I shall offer to view at once the main Principles upon which I shall build the residue of my Discourse.
The Soul separate from this Terrestrial Body is not released from all Vital Union with Matter.
2. THis is the general Opinion of the Platonists. Plotinus indeed dissents, especially concerning the most divine Souls, as if they at last were perfectly unbared of all Matter, and had no union with any thing but God himself: which I look upon as a fancy proceeding from the same inequality of temper, that made him surmise that the most degenerate Souls did at last sleep in the bodies of Trees, and grew up merely into Plantal life. Such fictions as these of fancyfull men have much depraved the ancient Cabbala and sacred Doctrine which the Platonists themselves do profess to be δεοπαράδοτον, a holy Tradition received from the mouth of God or Angels. But however Plotinus himself does not deny but till the Soul arrive to such an exceeding height of purification, that she acts in either an Aiery or Celestial Body.
But that she is never released so perfectly from all Matter, how pure soever and tenuious, her condition of operating here in this life is a greater presumption then can be fetcht from any thing else, that she ever is. For we find plainly that her most subtile and most Intellectual operations depend upon the fitness of temper in the Spirits; and that it is the fineness and purity of them that invites her and enables her to love and look after Divine and Intellectual Objects: Which kind of Motions if she could exert immediately by her own proper power and essence, what should hinder her but that, having a will, she should bring it to effect? which yet we find she cannot if the Spirits be indisposed. But, as I said, the Soul cannot be hindred by the undue temper of the Spirits in these Acts, if they be of that nature that they belong to the bare essence of the Soul quite prescinded from all Union with Matter. For then as to these Acts it is all one where the Soul is, that is, in what Matter she is (and she must be in some, because the Universe is every where thick-set with Matter) whether she be raised into the purest regions of the Aire, or plunged down into the foulest Receptacles of Earth or Water; for her Intellectual actings would be alike in both; this Conjunction in all likelihood engaging onely the Plastick and Sensitive powers of the Soul even when she is vitally united with Matter. What then is there imaginable in the Body that can hinder her in her nobler Operations?
Wherefore it is plain that the nature of the Soul is such, as that she cannot act but in dependence on Matter, and that her Operations are some way or other alwaies modified thereby. And therefore if the Soul act at all after death, (which we have demonstrated she does) it is evident that she is not released from all vital union with all kind of Matter <147> whatsoever: Which is not onely the Opinion of the Platonists, but of Aristotle also, as may be easily gathered out of what we have above cited out of him.
3. Besides, it seems a very wilde leap in nature, that the Soul of Man, from being so deeply and muddily immersed into Matter as to keep company with Beasts, by vitall union with gross flesh and bones, should so on a suddain be changed, that she should not adhere to any Matter whatsoever, but ascend into an ἀϋλότης competible haply to none but God himself; unless there be such Creatures as the Platonists call Νόες or pure Intellects. This must seem to any indifferent man very harsh and incongruous, especially if we consider what noble Beings there are on this side the Νόοι or Νόες, that all the Philosophers that ever treated of them acknowledge to be vitally united with either Aêrial or Æthereal Vehicles. For of this condition are all the Genii or Angels.
It is sufficient therefore that the Soul never exceed the immateriality of those Orders of Beings; the lower sort whereof that they are vitally united to Vehicles of Aire, their ignorance in Nature seems manifestly to bewray. For it had been an easy thing, and more for their credit, to have informed their followers better in the Mysteries of Nature; but that themselves were ignorant of these things, which they could not but know, if they were not thus bound to their Aiery bodies. For then they were not engaged to move with the whole course of the Aire, but keeping themselves steddy, as being disunited from all Matter, they might in a moment have perceived both the diurnal and annual motion of the Earth, and so have saved the Credit of their followers, by communicating this Theory to them; the want of the knowledge whereof spoils their repute with them that understand the Systeme of the world better then themselves, for all they boast of their Philosophy, so as if it were the Dictate of the highest Angels.
There is a Triple Vital Congruity in the Soul, namely Æthereall, Aëreal, and Terrestrial.
4. THat this is the common Opinion of the Platonists, I have above intimated. That this Opinion is also true in it self, appears from the foregoing Axiome. Of the Terrestrial Congruity there can be no doubt; and as little can there be but that at least one of the other two is to be granted, else the Soul would be released from all vital union with Matter after Death. Wherefore she has a Vital aptitude at least to unite with Aire: But Aire is a common Receptacle of bad and good Spirits, (as the Earth is of all sorts of men and beasts) nay indeed rather of those that are in some sort or other bad, then of good, as it is upon Earth. But the Soul of Man is capable of very high refinements, even to a condition purely Angelical. Whence Reason will judge it fit, and all Antiquity has voted it, That the Souls of men arrived to such a due pitch of purification must at last obtain Celestial Vehicles.
According to the usual custome of Nature, the Soul awakes orderly into these Vital Congruities, not passing from one Extreme to another without any stay in the middle.
5. THis Truth, besides that at first sight it cannot but seem very reasonable, according to that known Aphorism, Natura non facit saltum; so if it be further examined, the solidity thereof will more fully appear. For considering how small degrees of purification the Souls of almost all men get in this life, even theirs who pass vulgarly for honest and good men; it will plainly follow that very few arrive to their Æthereal Vehicle immediately upon quitting their Terrestrial Body; that being a priviledge that has appertained to none but very Noble and Heroical Spirits indeed, of which History records but very few. But that there may be degrees of purity and excellency in the Aërial Bodies, is a thing that is not to be denied, so that a just Nemesis will finde out every one after death.
The Soul in her Aerial Vehicle is capable of Sense properly so called, and consequently of Pleasure and Pain.
6. THIS plainly appears from the 27 and 28 Axioms. For there is a necessity of the resulting of Sense from Vital Union of the Soul with any Body whatsoever: and we may remember that the immediate Instrument of Sense, even in this Earthly Body, are the Spirits: so that there can be no doubt of this Truth. And Pleasure and Pain being the proper modifications of Sense, and there being no Body but what is passible, it is evident that these Vehicles of Aire are subject to Pain as well as Pleasure, in this Region where ill things are to be met with as well as good.
The Soul can neither impart to nor take away from the Matter of her Vehicle of Aire any considerable degree of Motion, but yet can direct the particles moved which way she pleases by the Imperium of her Will.
7. THE reasonableness of this Axiom may be evinced, partly out of the former; for considering the brushiness and angulosity of the parts of the Air, a more then ordinary Motion or compressive Rest may very well prove painful to the Soul, and dis-harmonious to her touch: and partly from what we may observe in our own Spirits in this Body, which we can onely direct, not give Motion to, nor diminish their Motion by our Imagination or Will, (for no man can imagine himself into Heat or Cold, the sure consequences of extraordinary Motion and Rest, by willing his Spirits to move faster or slower; but he may direct them <149> into the Organs of spontaneous Motion, and so by moving the grosser parts of the Body, by this direction he may spend them, and heat these parts in the expence of them; and this is all we can doe:) and partly from that Divine Providence that made all things, and measures out the Powers and Faculties of his Creatures according to his own Wisdome and Counsel, and therefore has bound that state of the Soul to streighter conditions, that is competible to the bad as well as to the good.
Though the Soul can neither confer nor take away any considerable degree of Motion from the Matter of her Aiery Vehicle, yet nothing hinders but that she may doe both in her Æthereal.
8. THE reason hereof is, because the particles of her Æthereal Vehicle consist partly of smooth sphericall Figures, and partly of tenuious Matter, so exceeding liquid that it will without any violence comply to any thing: whenas the Aire, as may be observed in Winde-Guns, has parts so stubborn and so stiff, that after they have been compressed to such a certain degree that the barrel of the Piece grows hot again, they have not lost their shapes nor virtue; but like a spring of Steel, liberty being given, they return to their natural posture with that violence, that they discharge a Bullet with equal force that Gun-powder does. Besides that the Goodness of that Deity on whom all Beings depend, may be justly thought to have priviledged the Æthereal Congruity of Life (which awakes onely in perfectly-obedient Souls, such as may be trusted as throughly faithful to his Empire) with a larger power then the other, there being no incompetibleness in the Subject. For it is as easy a thing to conceive that God may endow a Soul with a power of moving or resting Matter, as of determining the motions thereof.
The purer the Vehicle is, the more quick and perfect are the Perceptive Faculties of the Soul.
9. THE truth of this we may in a manner experience in this life, where we find that the quickness of Hearing, Seeing, Tasting, Smelling, the nimbleness of Reminiscency, Reason, and all other Perceptive Faculties, are advanced or abated by the clearness, or foulness and dulness of the Spirits of our Body; and that Oblivion and Sottishness arise from their thickness and earthiness, or waterishness, or whatsoever other gross consistency of them: which distemper removed, and the Body being replenished with good Spirits in sufficient plenty and purity, the Mind recovers her activity again, remembers what she had forgot, and understands what she was before uncapable of, sees and hears at a greater distance; and so of the rest.
The Soul has a marvellous power of not onely changing the temper of her Aiery Vehicle, but also of the external shape thereof.
10. THE truth of the first part of this Axiome appears from daily experience; for we may frequently observe how strangely the Passions of the Mind will work upon our Spirits in this state; how Wrath, and Grief, and Envy will alter the Body, to say nothing of other Affections. And assuredly the finer the Body is, the more mutable it is upon this account: so that the Passions of the Mind must needs have a very great influence upon the Soul's Aëreal Vehicle; which though they cannot change into any thing but Air, yet they may change this Air into qualifications as vastly different as Vertue is from Vice, Sickness from Health, Pain from Pleasure, Light from Darkness, and the stink of a Gaol from the Aromatick odours of a flourishing Paradise.
11. The truth of the latter part is demonstrable from the latter part of the 31 Axiome. For supposing a power in the Soul of directing the motions of the particles of her fluid Vehicle, it must needs follow that she will also have a power of shaping it in some measure according to her own Will & Fancy. To which you may adde, as no contemptible pledge of this Truth, what is done in that kind by our Will and Fancy in this life: as, onely because I will and fancy the moving of my Mouth, Foot, or Fingers, I can move them, provided I have but Spirits to direct into this motion; and the whole Vehicle of the Soul is in a manner nothing else but Spirits. The Signatures also of the Fœtus in the Womb by the Desire and Imagination of the Mother is very serviceable for the evincing of this Truth: but I shall speak of it more fully in its place.
It is rational to think, that as some Faculties are laid asleep in Death or after Death, so others may awake that are more sutable for that state.
12. THE truth of this Axiome appears from hence, That our Souls come not by chance, but are made by an All-wise God, who foreseeing all their states, has fitted the Excitation or Consopition of Powers and Faculties sutably to the present condition they are to be in.
Whether the Vital Congruity of the Soul expire, as whose period being quite unwound, or that of the Matter be defaced by any essential Dis-harmony, Vital Union immediately ceases.
13. THis last Axiome is plain enough of it self at first sight, and the usefulness thereof may be glanced at in his due place.
These are the main Truths I shall recurre to, or at least suppose, in my <151> following Disquisitions: others will be more seasonably delivered in the continuation of our Discourse.
 Book 2. ch. 14. sect. 4, 5.
 * Book 2. ch. 14. sect. 1.
 Chap. 5. sect. 11, 12. ch. 6.
Cite as: Henry More, The Immortality of the Soul, 2nd ed., from A Collection of Several Philosophical Writings (1662), pp. 145-151, https://www.cambridge-platonism.divinity.cam.ac.uk/view/texts/diplomatic/More1662G-excerpt003, accessed 2023-12-01.