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Chapter LIII.—The Entire Soul Being Indivisible Remains to the Last Act of Vitality; Never Partially or Fractionally Withdrawn from the Body.
But where at last will the soul have to lodge, when it is bare and divested of the body? We must certainly not hesitate to follow it thither, in the order of our inquiry. We must, however, first of all fully state what belongs to the topic before us, in order that no one, because we have mentioned the various issues of death, may expect from us a special description of these, which ought rather to be left to medical men, who are the proper judges of the incidents which appertain to death, or its causes, and the actual conditions of the human body. Of course, with the view of preserving the truth of the soul’s immortality, whilst treating this topic, I shall have, on mentioning death, to introduce phrases about dissolution of such a purport as seems to intimate that the soul escapes by degrees, and piece by piece; for it withdraws (from the body) with all the circumstances of a decline, seeming to suffer consumption, and suggests to us the idea of being annihilated by the slow process of its departure. But the entire reason of this phenomenon is in the body, and arises from the body. For whatever be the kind of death (which operates on man), it undoubtedly produces the destruction either of the matter, or of the region, or of the passages of vitality: of the matter, such as the gall and the blood; of the region, such as the heart and the liver; of the passages, such as the veins and the arteries. Inasmuch, then, as these parts of the body are severally devastated by an injury proper to each of them, even to the very last ruin and annulling of the vital powers—in other words, of the ends, the sites, and the functions of nature—it must needs come to pass, amidst the gradual decay of its instruments, domiciles, and spaces, that the soul also itself, being driven to abandon each successive part, assumes the appearance of being lessened to nothing; in some such manner as a charioteer is assumed to have himself failed, when his horses, through fatigue, withdraw from him their energies. But this assumption applies only to the circumstances of the despoiled person, not to any real condition of suffering. Likewise the body’s charioteer, the animal spirit, fails on account of the failure of its vehicle, not of itself—abandoning its work, but not its vigour—languishing in operation, but not in essential condition—bankrupt in solvency, not in substance—because ceasing to put in an appearance, but not ceasing to exist. Thus every rapid death—such as a decapitation, or a breaking of the neck,1794