On Being Wary of Postulates and Programs

Yes, of course: the doctrine of the Resurrection places the emphasis on a continuity—indeed a physical, “flesh and blood” continuity—between what we are (or seem to be) now and what we shall be after death.

For Christians, the Gospel accounts of Christ’s resurrectional body have always been regarded as paradigmatic: whatever was true of Him will be true for us as well, and this means that in the Resurrection we too will be able to eat and be touched, and our bodies will bear at least some of their distinguishing physical marks. For the Christian tradition, as for the other Semitic exoterisms, Paradise is thus limited (your word) to a perpetuation of the individual state, or—as you put it—to the idea that the “ego will live again”. Here we return, as so often, to the essential distinction between salvation on the one hand and liberation (moksha) on the other.

But we must be very cautious in using this term “limited” lest we end up despising Heaven’s promises and gifts! Commenting on the Sufi aphorism that “Paradise is but a prison”, Schuon wisely observes,

“The words in question are essentially the expression of an experience on the part of men who have penetrated the veil of M?y?; presented as a postulate or a program, it has about it something that is singularly disproportionate, unreal, and ill-sounding. That Paradise can be a ‘prison’ means: the world of phenomena, whatever it may be, is perceived as a limitation, or a system of limitations, by him who has tasted the Essence; it does not mean: Paradise is not good enough a priori for this man or that man; quod absit” (René Guénon, Some Observations [Sophia Perennis, 2004], p. 47).

And let’s be certain to remember this too: though Christian eschatology takes no explicit interest in anything beyond the individual state, a fully orthodox understanding of the Resurrection is nonetheless obliged to take seriously these words of the Beloved Disciple: “Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is” (1 John 3:2). He who sees God the Son as He is, and who has truly become a son of God himself, is clearly no longer merely human; or if he is human, we’re not! His “natural energies” have been replaced by the “uncreated energies” of God (Saint Maximos the Confessor), and he has become “without origin and infinite” (Saint Gregory Palamas).

To know that “we shall be like him” is to expect continuity, as I’ve admitted already, but isn’t it obvious that there must also be a dimension of discontinuity? For though He could be touched (John 20:27), He could also pass though locked doors (John 20:19). Here we have, at the very level of the Gospel’s “flesh and blood” narrative, an esoteric opening toward the supra-formal, and thus toward liberation or deliverance.

Asked whether in the Resurrection men would have the same body, a new body, or no body, Origen responded, “Yes!”

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