Inspired and Blessed by Bob Acebedo
Inspired & Blessed

What is ‘Undas’? Is There A Soul?

Oct 30, 2021, 12:20 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo

Columnist

Once again we’re marking Undas or All Souls Day observance and I have this queasy feeling about the etymological derivation of the Tagalog word “Undas”.

In Mexican, “Dia de los muertos” means “Day of the dead”, which in Tagalog is “Araw ng mga patay o namayapa”.

In Spanish, “honra” means “honor” or “respect”; hence, “to respect or honor the dead”. In Batangas, “Undas” is sometimes referred to as “Undras”.

In our Catholic parlance, November 1 is “Todos Los Santos” or “All Saints Day”. But in Tagalog, “Todas” means “dead”. Could it be hence that “Undas” etymologically means “Un Dia De Las Todas?”

Is there a soul?

Talking of our departed ones’ souls, let me posit the question: Does the soul really exist?” If it does, is it immortal or does it proceed to exist even after death?

While unflinching “physicalists” claim that “we are nothing more than our physical bodies, and everything about us – from consciousness to higher rationality – can be explained by biochemical processes”, I am a firm believer in the existence and immortality of the human soul.

Thus, let me put forward the following arguments postulating that the soul’s existence can be proven “a posteriori” or indirectly through its effect indicators.

Operative properties of the soul

In contrast to the “physical, corporeal, tangible, mortal, and material” attributes of the body (including the brain), we generally understand the soul as something “immaterial, intangible, immortal, and transcendent”. Now, according to experience or empirical evidence, we – human beings – have the operative capability to “know” (consciousness or awareness) and to “reflect, analyze, and decide” (free will). But the effects or products of these operative functions – which are “ideas, knowledge, love, beauty, goodness, truth, etc.” – are not in themselves material or physical. They are immaterial, intangible, and even immortal (such as idea, love, goodness, and truth, which cannot suffer corporeal or physical death). Therefore, these operative functions and their by-products must be coming from something immaterial and immortal, which is the soul.

Consciousness comes from the soul

Physicalists (those who hold that everything about us can be explained by biochemical processes) are quick to say that the “phenomenon of consciousness” does not emanate from the soul. They explain this view with the “mind-brain identity theory”, which argues that there is a correlation between “brain states” (neuron firing patterns) and “mental states” (conscious experiences) and that these two are one and the same thing – and therefore there is no need to put forward the idea of a soul to explain the conscious experience.

However, Melissa Cain Travis, author of “The Existence of the Soul: Philosophy, Not Neuroscience”, refutes the mind-brain theory by arguing thus:

“For one thing, mental events are self-presenting to the person having them, and cannot be accessed by an outside observer. Thus, the subject experiences the taste of an orange, but the scientist only sees neurons firing in a region of the brain, and must yet ask the subject to report the nature of the inner experience. In other words, we can draw correlations between the physical properties (brain states) and mental properties (first person experience) all day long, but the fact remains that they cannot be one and the same thing. Stimulation of a brain region may cause neurons to fire in a certain pattern, which in turn causes the orange-taste sensation. But there still must be a transcendent self (or soul) having the conscious experience.”

The ‘I’ or ‘Self’ with free will is the soul

Consciousness is not an illusory faculty created by our neuronal activity. Rabbi Adam Jacobs, author of “A Rational Argument for the Existence of the Human Soul”, argues this point:

“If our decision-making faculty was indeed an illusion of the brain, it should be impossible to physically affect the brain through our own willful decisions – and yet research has demonstrated that the ‘I’ or ‘Self’ can and does alter brain activity through the agency of the free will. Why then should we not consider the possibility that the ‘I’ that we all experience is the human soul? And that the reason that science has not discovered its whereabouts is not that it doesn’t exist, but rather that it is not part of physical reality as we know it, and as such is undetectable and unmeasurable by material means.”

In sum, yes, the soul may be undetectable, incomprehensible, or unmeasurable by material means, but its existence is plausible, tenable or reasonable.

“May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.” Blessed All Souls Day!

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