Multiple Personalities and the Gospel

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but shall have eternal life.” John 3:16

Suppose a person has been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (also known as “having multiple personalities”) and has numerous different personalities. None of the personalities have any knowledge or awareness of any of the others. Let’s look at two of these personalities. One is named “Robert”; the other is named “Jason.” Robert is an avowed atheist who despises organized religion. Jason, on the other hand, is not hostile toward religion, but is undecided regarding which one he follows.

One day, Robert changes his beliefs and trusts Christ as his Savior.

Several days later, our DID patient awakes as Jason. Jason has no memory of a religious conversion, nor does he possess any knowledge of Robert’s existence. While out for a jog, the patient is accidentally struck by a car and killed.

For a Christian, this scenario raises numerous questions. First of all, is it even possible for one personality to believe the Gospel and for the other not to? If not, then do all of the personalities believe? If they all believe (or if even one does), then do they recoalesce into a single personality?

If it is possible, then is only the believing personality saved, with the others being condemned? Are all of the personalities saved? Is each personality treated as a separate soul (incidentally, do multiple personalities indicate the existence of multiple souls?)? Or, is only one personality (the original) capable of believing the Gospel? If this is the case, then is this personality saved, with the others simply being discarded as artifacts of a mental illness? Furthermore, would Robert be responsible for Jason’s actions?

According to modern scientific understanding, DID can occur when an individual (a single personality) is subjected to a traumatic experience. The brain is unable to fully process it, so it develops multiple personalities in order to cope with it. In a sense, a single personality becomes many. In terms of the soul, does this mean that a single soul has now become multiple souls? Or, does the person still possess only one soul, and the DID is only an illness of the mind? Or, did the distinct multiple personalities exist when the original individual was conceived, but simply not become active until the traumatic experience?

Is each personality considered a person in his own right, or only a piece of a whole person? Does each personality have rights? Is silencing a personality through medical means (such as medication) an act of murder?

If a personality is like a mirror, and this pane is shattered into multiple shards, then is each shard a separate mirror, or simply a piece of a whole mirror? Suppose this mirror is pointed at an idyllic scene containing a lake, a sunrise, trees, and a clear sky. If this mirror is shattered, then each piece would reflect only the portion of the scene at which it was pointed. The shard reflecting the sun may be akin to a “sunny, bubbly, happy” personality, whereas the shard reflecting a tree may be more akin to a calm, reserved, or stoic person. With this in mind, could each personality be considered well-rounded, or would each one have a bias of its own, based upon its ideological and experiential filters? How would these filters be different for a whole personality?

One psychiatrist states that the cure for DID is simply to speak to the different personalities, getting them to come to terms with the traumatic experience, so that they re-integrate into the individual’s psyche. Perhaps this is akin to fitting the pieces of the mirror back together?

These questions have spun about in my mind for some time, and I would be most fascinated to hear discussion from those more learned in the topic than I am. Pastors, theologians, psychiatrists, researchers, what do you think? Readers of my blog with no training in these areas, what do you think? Have you thought of different questions?

Or does anyone, perhaps, have answers?


On Personality

I have often wondered about the nature of the self, and what makes us, us. Modern science would seem to have located the personality (if that is the self) within the brain. Therefore, a change to the brain may result in a change in personality. And this makes sense to me, for the brain is constantly altering its structure on a micro- and nanoscopic level and firing neurons based upon input from sensory organs. In a very real sense, we become what we perceive. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending upon the lessons one learns from his perceptions. And for the entire time mankind has existed, he has been held to a moral code. From a human perspective, we call certain people “good,” or “kind,” or “considerate.” We call others “twisted,” “manipulative,” or even “evil.” This is all based on observed actions, and these observed actions originate as patterns within the brain, which is ultimately where the personality is thought to be located.

I remember a story told to me, of a man named Phineas Gage. His personality is said to have been unremarkable and rather mild-mannered. One day, as he worked at his job of blasting railroad tunnels, a device detonated prematurely and sent a tamping iron into his brain. Surprisingly, it did not kill him, nor did he mention much pain. Rather, others mentioned a marked change in his personality. Before, he had been rather “normal.” Afterward the incident, he would “indulge in the grossest of profanity.” Modern neuroscientists say that the part of his brain that received the damage was responsible for judgment, and that its destruction inhibited his ability to put a stop to morally questionable or risky behavior before it started. If human nature is a river, then could this part of the brain be considered a dam?

Is he responsible for his actions after such an incident? Or, can this be put in the same category as any other physical injury? What does this say about human nature? Were the profanity and bad behaviors always “within him,” but simply suppressed before they could get out? Or, did something that was not previously within him come into being due to his brain’s “reconfiguration?”

What do you think? What is personality? If it changes due to a physical injury to the brain, is the person responsible for his actions? Is he truly “in control” of his actions? Is the mind the result of our perception of purely physical events within the brain, or is it something more?

Animals and Music

I got to wondering about something last evening.

Music is an integral part of us as human beings. The rhythm of our own walking is naturally even. Our speech uses complex rhythms, pitch modulations, accents, varied speeds, and other alterations. There is a natural rhythm to our sleep cycle, and there is a natural rhythm to the inner workings and sequences of our entire biological system. Additionally, melodies can stick in our heads in ways that other pieces of art can’t, sometimes to the point where we can’t get rid of them! Music is a critical component of our brain function at all levels.

So, I began to ask, “What about animals, like my cat? Doesn’t he also walk with an even rhythm? Doesn’t he also adjust his vocal pitch, accents, and speed? Doesn’t his biological system also follow set rhythms that can be varied? And, if this is the case for us as human beings, and we can enjoy and understand musical compositions, is the same true for animals?”

So, my most curious reader, what do you think? Do animals perceive music in the same manner as humans? If so, why? If not, then why, and how? What do they perceive? If I play Barber’s Adagio for Strings, a sonorous, rich, and beautiful composition that continues to melt hearts, do the hearts of animals also melt under its influence? And are the paces of their hearts quickened by the thundering ending of Beethoven’s Ninth? Are they excited by the swing rhythms of old-time jazz?

Or, in the cases of dogs and cats, with their superior hearing: what do they hear? Do they hear all of the overtones that we may miss? Do they hear it more richly? Or perhaps, do they hear, with all of the overtones, such a cacophony as to render as mere noise what we perceive as beauty?

And, if music can cure humans (which it has), can it cure animals?

As for me, I suppose I will ask these questions of God when I finally meet Him. I am eager to hear the answers.

What do you think? I would be delighted to hear your thoughts – which come, interestingly, from that musical brain of yours.

On Mind Uploading, Consciousness, and the Human Soul

Many science-fiction stories have involved characters who could upload their minds or consciousnesses into machines, or into other bodies. This seems to have become more popular today, and will likely grow in popularity as technology becomes more ubiquitous and easier to use.

I enjoy writing science-fiction myself, especially far-future space opera, and naturally I have encountered several such stories in my readings.

As a Christian, however, I believe in the supernatural. I believe there is a natural realm (which we can perceive with our senses) and a spiritual realm (which we cannot perceive with our senses unless it is revealed to us, or unless we die). As technology advances at an accelerating rate, and as I find my stories taking shape, I find myself returning to the inevitable questions of mind uploading and the nature of consciousness itself.

What is a soul?

What is consciousness?

Are we souls? Or do we contain souls?

Is the soul our consciousness? Or is our consciousness something else? Can it be freely moved about into a different body or device? What happens to the consciousness if the body is destroyed while the consciousness is elsewhere?

If it is moved, does the soul stay with the original body, or does it move with the consciousness?

If it can be moved, can it be copied?

If copied, changed?

If changed, what does this mean for the sin nature? Could it be edited (I believe not, at least not by us)?

These are questions for which I do not have the answers, and for which I do not believe any mere man has the answers. God has not revealed all of this to us in His Word. He has said that “Adam became a living soul.” Became a living soul. So, then, is the soul something within us, or are we ourselves souls? Is the soul simply the complete package that is called a person? In some translations, when Jesus talks of “losing one’s very soul,” it is also sometimes translated, “losing one’s very self.” What is the self?

James writes that “the body without the spirit is dead.” What is the spirit to which James refers? Is this a reference to a supernatural aspect of ourselves? Or is it simply a reference to our consciousness (in the same way one would be said to be “in good spirits” or know about “the spirit of the times”)? Or does this refer to the “breath of life” that God gave all of His creatures in the beginning?

If this is a reference to the supernatural (which I believe it is), is it possible for us to move this part of our being around as we wish while we are on this earth? Or is it something we cannot affect at all? Can it be separated from the body? What happens if it is? Can it be moved into a different body? Can it be moved to a device?

If our consciousness is not a spiritual thing, but purely a function of neural patterns, then is it possible to transfer (not simply copy, but move) these exact patterns into a different substrate (such as a sufficiently-powerful computer, or another living being with a brain capable of receiving such a sophisticated group of connections)? If yes, then does the spiritual part of ourselves move along with our consciousness, or does it remain in the original body?

Can any of these things be observed directly or quantified? Or is an aspect of them outside of our ability, in a finite universe, as non-divine, timebound creatures with limited perception, to understand?

These questions gnaw at me almost daily, and I always wonder, should I include such technologies in my stories? Or is this something that Christians should not be tampering with? Is it even a moral question at all? How do I create a futuristic society that is at once fanciful and interesting, yet still realistic to a more seasoned reader of science-fiction (one accustomed to such advanced technologies)? Moreover, how would I do this without such technologies?

As a reader, what do you think?

As for the more philosophical questions: perhaps these may be asked of God when I meet Him. I am deeply curious to hear the answers.

Present questions. Future answers. Always wondering.