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Landmarks in the History of Early Christianity



After this passage was ready for the press my friend, Mr. Robert P. Casey, sent me the following criticism: "It can hardly be said that 'we' gain through the loss of our personalities, since 'we' (a personal pronoun) are our personalities. On the other hand, it is quite conceivable that that Immaterial Purpose, which works in and through our personal life, or at least some parts of it, gains by rejecting us after our usefulness is past, seeking its further completion in those who come after us, and thus maintaining a unified and eternal Life through a multiplicity and diversity of lives. That this process is a gain from the point of view of history is apparent, yet it can hardly be said to be 'our' gain if 'we' are destroyed in the process.

"Furthermore, is the archipelago a fair analogy? In the sentence 'If those islands could have thought and spoken...' the fact that they cannot destroys the analogy at its most important point. The allegory fits= admirably the relation of the individual life and Immaterial Reality as a whole, but the crux of the problem of immortality from the point of the individual is the relation between (1) the unity established between the intellectual and moral elements (but not many other elements, e.g. evil) of his personal life and the sum total of Immaterial Reality, and (2) the equally real and more obvious unity presented by his own personality, including all his conscious experiences regardless of their value.

"The first unity is, if not everlasting, at least as permanent as= history itself, and is by its nature eternal and immaterial. The second unity is apparently transitory, being dependent physically on the brain and nervous system, psychically on the persistence of memory. Thus, to say a man has eternal life is simply to mean that certain of his activities or= experiences have the attribute of eternal or immaterial. It, however, leaves untouched the question whether the 'ego' which is conscious of these activities= continues after death."

The point seems to me to be well taken, and to express a widely spread and possibly correct opinion; yet I cannot but feel that Mr. Casey is a little too much influenced by the exigencies of language. Of course in all the ordinary dealings of life that which makes me "me" is a number of factors, which, taken together, may be called personality, but the real point at issue is whether in the last analysis these factors are part of "me," or are instruments which "I" use and circumstances under which "I" live. For myself I see no reason to doubt that most of them come to an end with, death. But behind all this there seems to me to be something in "me" which is Immaterial, and therefore eternal, and I believe that it is this, not that which now makes up my personality, which really makes me "me."

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Kirby, Peter. "Historical Jesus Theories." Early Christian Writings. <>.