Science and the Resurrected Body
Fatima Perspectives #1297
In the midst of the terminal disorder of civil society, succumbing to “the poison of our epoch” which has seeped “even into the Church itself,” to allude to Dietrich von Hildebrand’s famous observation in The Devastated Vineyard, it is easy to forget the eternal perspective on worldly events.
No matter what the course of human history, each of us will face his own individual apocalypse, passing through the portal of death into the eternal realm beyond. And for the blessed departed, as Saint Teresa of Avila famously observed, “In light of Heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”
How ironic it is that modern science, the credo of post-Christian man, probing ever more deeply into the realm of material quantity, has discerned in the teeming potentia of the quantum realm physically inexplicable signs of the presence of the God Who is everywhere conserving the world. Experimental confirmations of Bell’s theorem involving distant entangled photons — far too technical to be rehearsed here — have pointed to the conclusion suggested by the physicist Nick Herbert: that “deep reality is truly non-local” and that “the world is in truth bound together everywhere by faster-than-light connections…” (Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics at 4095 [Kindle])
Being a good physicist, Herbert imagines that this non-local interconnectedness of the universe involves some sort of signaling that might someday be uncovered and harnessed as a means of faster-than-light communication. But scientists dismiss as “mere philosophy” (Herbert at 3879) the idea that “deep reality” is the gateway to a metaphysical realm, the world beyond this one.
Consider, however, what the Church has traditionally taught about the qualities of the resurrected body: “impassibility”, “brightness” or “glory”, “agility” and “subtility”. Consider the last two as explained by the Catholic Encyclopedia: agility is that quality by which “the body shall be freed from its slowness of motion, and endowed with the capability of moving with the utmost facility and quickness wherever the soul pleases.” Subtility, which enables agility, is that quality “by which the body becomes subject to the absolute dominion of the soul.”
Endowed with subtility, “The body participates in the soul’s more perfect and spiritual life to such an extent that it becomes itself like a spirit. We see this quality exemplified in the fact that Christ passed through material objects.” We see this also in His ability to walk on water, which Peter, in an act of faith and assisted by divine grace, was able to do for a few moments in imitation of Our Lord until he lost his courage.
In other words, this more perfect operation of the soul in the resurrected body will harness the body’s matter in ways not possible in this life and will enable the blessed in Heaven to transcend the mere locality of matter. Despite the strict impossibility of a thing literally being in two places at once, Catholic philosophers traditionally “maintain that there is no absolute impossibility in the same body being at once circumscriptively in one place and definitively elsewhere (mixed mode of location). The basis of this opinion is that local extension is not essential to material substance. …. Should, therefore, God choose to deprive a body of its extensional relation to its place and thus, so to speak, delocalize the material substance, the latter would be quasi spiritualized and would thus, besides its natural circumscriptive location, be capable of receiving definitive and consequently multiple location; for in this case the obstacle to bilocation, viz., actual local extension, would have been removed.”
In other words, God enables bilocation not in the sense of a literal replication of the body but rather in the sense that its confinement to purely local extension (i.e., its visible physical dimensions as seen in a particular place) is surpassed even if the body remains one. So when physicists wonder at the discovery of an element of non-locality of objects in the material universe it would appear that what elicits their wonder is a glimpse at the very threshold of the beyond, wherein the boundaries that now confine us will be transcended in that realm in which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)