Its Halloween, which is the day of the dead. Who or what are the dead? Bodiless souls or soulless bodies? Aren’t zombies soulless bodies and ghosts bodiless souls? What would you rather be? Can you imagine being a zombie? Can you imagine being a ghost? I’d rather be a ghost for sure.
As a ghost I would be life without a physical body. As a zombie I’d be a body without life. Zombies move, walk, wander but they are void of life, spirit! Is that just perception? Well, yeah sort of if you are considering the life of another versus your own life. What I mean by this is that your consciousness can recognize the life in another. But if you have no consciousness, that recognition is impossible so you can’t see life or lack thereof in yourself or others. As a zombie, you would have no consciousness, therefore no recognition you exist. As a ghost, you have consciousness, but no body. Do you still exist? Yes, and your consciousness would be proof!
If existence is all there is, then at some point existence ceases to exist in your consciousness when your body dies, and so as existence ceases so does consciousness. But if consciousness transcends the physical realm or material existence, then we live on eternally. Do you believe your consciousness will cease to exist eventually? If so, you might be comforted by this quote by Steven Levine in his book, A Year to Live. “There is nothing more beautiful than an atheist with an open heart.”
Nonetheless, we tend not to believe in zombies. They are lifeless bodies. Yet, if they were real, we would have to acknowledge that they have the ability to move. That would require their brains to function at least in part, even though they still seem to be void of life. Is self-awareness the difference? What about the animal world? Do ants have consciousness? That doesn’t seem likely, but they do move. Perhaps that means ants and zombies share a commonality that they exist without consciousness. Do ants become ghosts when they die?
In the Seat of the Soul, by Gary Zukav, the author explains that while humans have individual souls, lower animals without consciousness belong to a collective soul. So individual ants do not have a soul, but they are part of a collective ant soul, so there is essentially one ant ghost, of which all ants return to when they die materially. Zukav says that humans on the other hand have individual souls. The psychiatrist, Carl Jung agrees which is apparent through his teachings of individual consciousness and unconscious and the collective conscious and unconscious. How did Zukav and Jung come to these conclusions? How do they know for sure? If animals are part of a collective soul while humans have individual souls, then the Hindu idea that a human could be reincarnated as an ant could not be true. Could it? Can individual souls intermix with the collective ant soul?
Big questions to be sure. Joseph Campbell, a fellow maverick, gave me a huge sigh of relief in the documentary, The Power of Myth, when he said that “those who think they know, don’t know and those who know they don’t know, know.” This is comforting because it means I can recognize I don’t have to know the answers and that my doubting thoughts and questions about consciousness and existence are normal. Still, I’d rather be a ghost than a zombie so I can live forever. Happy Halloween.