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Conversation on Immortality
D. This is now decidedly wishful thinking. What is more, you are surreptitiously weighting what you call the reproductive pole of your Self in identity. If a thing is made up of two parts, as you hold, then the two parts make the identity, not one.
B. I did not say that the Self persists. I said that its reproductive pole persists. The problem of identity is not answered with this. It only begins here. All I have said so far amounts only to giving a better setting for an attempt to answered the question of what identity may mean.
L. You cannot count the common pool, the ground or origin of all human souls, as part of the Self of anyone in particular. Self means particularity. I would say that particularity only appears where the general partnership ceases to exist and begins to differentiate into separate individuals.
B. Again, I did not say that the Self persists. I said that its regenerative mechanism persists. This mechanism - or rather dynamism - contains the possibilities of all possible Selves and they are not things but constellations. It contains them as the series of all integers contains all integers. Imagine a mechanism, a faultless, automatic dice thrower performing an indefinite series of throws of three dice. Would you not say that such a mechanism must contain the constellation of three sixes, of two sixes and a five, indeed every other possible constellation? I suggest taking this particular relation of the individual to its collectivity as the constellation on which I propose to set the mark of identity. The relation can subsist, possibly re-emerge, even if the individual is eliminated.
L. If you change the terms of a relation, you are changing the relation!
B. In a rigid sense, yes. But a rigid identity could not persist in life for one moment. A rigid identity is dead, by definition. Living identity is maintained, as everyone knows, by continuously exchanging the material, by metabolism. If you declare a particular body, and nothing but this body, the Self- then that Self must disappear on account of its definition and there is nothing more to be said. But consider the following:
If you accept those three points, you may well accept that the I is much more Protean than is generally assumed when I merely indicates a living organism, in the way we say 'sugar' and mean a piece of sugar. You might say that a living organism is, as it were, 'not identical with itself, except as an abstract fixation of something that is really a continuous flow and change and has an identity that is far wider than that of an arbitrary section named organism. Of course, while in 'body' the particular character is stressed, in 'consciousness' it is the field-character that is expressed. Objectively, both are inseparable and one.
Even if you abstract from your particular organism, you may, therefore, not think it inconceivable that some trace of your I remains, a trace that you may liken to the 'potentiality of your Ego' when you are asleep, deeply self-forgotten. Its material complement must surely be projected onto the collective creativity of the life of your kind or of a particular branch of your kind. For this to be the potentiality of your Ego depends on two things: that it can wake up at some time, for only the awakening is proof that you Self persisted in the sleep, secondly, that there is an identity of form 'on a higher level', one which connects and comprises equal or similar relations between an organism and the collectivity in order to form an ordinary, empirical Self. You would expect very similar organisms.
K. When you say, as you did just now, that a trace of the I remains, even if you abstract from a particular organism, would you endorse the following interpretation of that statement: When I say I, one has to distinguish between the subject I and the object I. What is normally called 'I', the Ego that everyone understands when saying I, that is the object, I, the end of the process of individualization. The subject I is the process, the action of saying I. It is the unconscious and living phase of the process and it is this happening that you are connecting with and attributing to unconscious life, to the collectivity.