“Do you think animals have souls?” asked Jack.
I said “What do you mean?”
“Simply this,” said Jack, “when animals die, is there some part of them that keeps going on?”
“I don’t have a definitive answer,” I said. “But it seems to me that if by soul we mean an activating principle, animals, and who knows, even plants, may have some kind of soul, not all that different from the ones we have. And if intelligence of some kind is an aspect of a soul, then surely there is a range of intelligence, with whales and apes being closest to man, and descending all the way down to the lowest animals. Who knows, even bacteria may have tiny souls.”
“The question is: are their souls immortal?” asked Jack. “According to some religions there’ll be a resurrection at the end of time. Does that mean all these animals, plants and bacteria will assume their old form. If viruses get resuscitated, will they act according to their nature and give us humans a hard time?”
I said “When you put it that way, it does seem a little ridiculous. Still, let’s restrict this discussion to dogs and cats, two of mankind’s favourite animals – although sometimes not as pets.”
“Yes,” said Jack, “I’ve had both, and they’re pretty tasty.
I said “I mean these two animals – and maybe horses – have given mankind a lot of companionship. Why wouldn’t heaven accommodate them, not only on their own merit but also as boon companions.to people who managed to find their way into heaven? Some people shower more affection on dogs and cats than they do on members of their own species. Spend more money on veterinarians than on charity.”
“That takes us back to this point: Is there just one heaven, or are there heavens for each species? – separate but equal?” asked Jack.
“I don’t know, and part of me wants to say, it’s only people who get to heaven – but that is very likely a species-oriented bias, based on a strict Biblical interpretation. On the other hand, I can’t think of a reason why some of the higher apes and cetecians – whales, dolphins to you, Jack – couldn’t wind up in human heaven. And once you allow these animals in, you’d have a hard time arguing against admitting some of the less intelligent ones.”
“That seems kind of racist. I mean, why not let everything in? It’s not as if you’d be running out of space,” said Jack.
“Yes,” I said, “we do think of ourselves as special bits of creation, with little thought about the other occupants of this globe.”
“I guess we’ll have to wait to find out whether Fido and Tigger have made it upstairs,” said Jack.
“Yup,” said Jack, “and only one way to find out for sure. But I can wait.”
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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