Straining at Particles of Light: Premortal Life and the Mansions of Memory by Terryl Givens – Lecture Notes

I share these notes with permission of the author.

Click here for the full lecture.

These are my notes and do not represent a balanced summary of the author’s work. I’ve selected portions of the text which were relevant to me and placed them here in my own words, in an abbreviated fashion. Though this article introduces some main ideas from the text, it is bias toward what I felt were ideas of particular importance. This should not be considered a scholarly work, but rather an informal sharing of discovered ideas. I alone am responsible for this article.

This lecture focused on the history of Western philosophy and religion’s treatment of the doctrine of pre-mortality. It brings not only historical understanding, but deeper insights into pre-mortality, and evidences for the same.

When we live beneath our truest self, we are sharply aware that we have betrayed ourselves.

What prompts repentance is not thought of the future but thought of the past the idea that we are not living up to what we truly are that we are not manifesting what we are at our core what we once were. This is what inspires people to suddenly make major life altering decisions to change their lives for the better the sense of knowing that we betrayed our potential our nature ourselves.

John Knox speaks of the reference to the self as being evidence of a birth before birth that we are an entity which has existed before birth. We can easily refer to ourselves and contemplate ourselves this is evidence that the I goes deeper then the date of birth. The sentence I was born suggests that the I superseded the being born

We long for God because he exists on the same plane as all of our deepest loves and exists in the memory all of this suggests that we knew him once. Our inner yearnings can only be satiated with him.

Those who seek God and happiness must have been happy once. to remember that means it must have been imprinted on the memory at some point. this suggests that we once knew God and true happiness, that is why we are seeking it oh, both the happiness and God, it is why we associate the one with the other because we used to know them both simultaneously they only existed simultaneously.

Nature and art constantly remind you of something. Augustus said that these faint intimations suggest a life before Earth where we lived in God’s presence.

The removal of God from comprehensibility to in comprehensibility and from accessibility to inaccessibility as well as the doctrine of creation ex nihilo have contributed to the erasure of pre mortality from doctrines of churches today.

Immanuel Kant implied a premortal existence as a rational basis for the concept of human agency

Edward Beecher in the 19th century wrote almost a thousand pages on the topic of pre mortality as a rationale for the justice of God. it explains our immersion in a life of sin pain and suffering.

Someone said that perhaps reason is to skin deep and science does not go back far enough. In other words this suggests that there are things more profound than human reason.

Our ability to comprehend microscopic subatomic particles and macroscopic theories of the creation and of themselves are evidence but the human being is a much more powerful and complex and ancient creature then mere reason could suggest.

It is a truism to say that the most primitive man drew a picture of the monkey but the most intelligent monkey cannot draw a picture of a man the human is something different something special something deeper and farther beyond the rest of the animal kingdom

The human creature is truly unique and different from all other creatures

The emergence of the human mind cannot be explained in the same methods of the emergence of the minds of all other animals

What it means to be human is to take seriously the subjective the inner the personal experience of an individual human being

Our private hopes and private experience is what ultimately defines us.

Keats spoke of straining at particles of light spoke of being in the dark and straining at particles of light.

Even Freud acknowledged that everyone has a desire to connect to reconnect with something eternal and oceanic. This is why the doctrine of pre-existing has never fully died out.

There are things more fundamentally human than syllogistic argument.

Emperor’s priests and secularists have tried to expunge the idea of pre-existence from Western thought but yet it persists.

The oldest religion we know of is that of Mesopotamia they speak of the gods convening to create the humans; It speaks of a minor race of deities being on the earth doing the work of the supreme gods; They dig the land move around the Earth tends to those things what’s the labor become so great that they conspire against the seven supreme gods. They decide to make humans out of clay tabernacles and I take one of the gods and sacrifice that God and put his Spirit into the humans. The Mesopotamian legend says that our memory of our earlier existence remains but it’s very cloudy so that we don’t threaten the dominion of the gods.

The Greek philosopher (Aristotle?) laments how he has fallen from greatness to come to Earth how things used to be better but now there’s toil; he wrote that human love is an echo I’ve been earlier love of perfect beauty; he said beauty can only be experienced by someone who has seen as much in heaven; he speaks of how when one finds their soulmate they want to be together but how every person even who has found this soul mate yet longs for something greater.

Tertullian thought that the doctrine of pre-existence was dangerous because it made us too much like God.

Tertullian said ‘how could we forget all of that premortal stuff? There must not be premortality.’ The Cambridge platonists responded to Tertullian’s doubt of pre mortality, ‘why is it surprising that we would forget premortality when even during this life we forget so much?’

Henry Moore was certain of the pre mortality that the mind could remember God

He spoke of this memory being natural and essential to the soul of man and that this memory cannot be washed away. He wrote that pre mortality is the most logical explanation

Benjamin Whichcoat(?) and Nathaniel Coverwell(?): They speak of seeds of light scattered in The souls of man which brings forth a numerous and sparkling posterity.

`           Descartes also speaks of these things.

Kant says there are only two things was really astound him the starry skies above and the moral law inside him he ponders on wear that moral law inside him could have come from. It was not a simple social or cultural acquisition.

He speaks of an intuitive sense of self this is not a logical button intuitive thing.

He says that a being with infinite nature infinite potential could not have just come into being by happenstance, a being so great whose Life begin in such trivial circumstance.

He says that we lived in a world of spiritual nature’s which didn’t begin at birth and will not end at death.

Babylonians say that the veil between us and God was for the gods to keep us away from them but Christians say that that veil is an act of Mercy on behalf of God.

The English poet Abel Evans conceived of the entire human race being the fallen Angels. He says that God cast us all out but lets us expiate our crimes with time served on Earth.

Reason and memory feed but cannot satisfy our articulate longing for home

he speaks of how if we had retained our memory of the prior existence we would have been all the more miserable on this Earth due to the contrast of how great it is there and how difficult it is here.

Goethe said that there were stages of pre-existence on the way to a glorious future. He spoke of his memories of the pre-existence being so strong that it is the greatest evidence for God. he said if there is not a god perhaps there will yet be one.

In the romantic era we hear Wordsworth who writes of trailing clouds Of Glory to come to this earth how being born on this Earth was not the beginning. Latter-day saints celebrate this poetry, but generations of scholars have been embarrassed by it. He speaks of how despite the beauty of this earth and the joy of the laughter of children there is yet in this life a sense of nagging loss. He speaks of how certain things have passed away. He speaks of how our birth is a loss of a greater Eden that we once knew. Some pressured Wordsworth to let go of this view of pre-existence and he was embarrassed about it sometimes but he still argued that there was nothing in Scripture to contradict it. He says that if we remembered the pre-existence everyone would bear testimony of it.

The idea of pre mortality starts from inner reflection an event such as watching a sleeping child. This and not logical deduction is the starting point of faith in pre mortality.

Wilhelm Benefit (?) (about 35 min in to hear again how to spell that name) was a businessman stricken by a tragedy lost his wife and child and could not understand why life involve so much suffering then a mysterious mentor appeared and taught him that this life is a short time between pre mortality and immortality. He spoke of this man having an apostolic countenance.

Original sin and human suffering can really only be explained by the doctrine of pre mortality this is what 1 renowned philosopher argued named Benica(?)

Because this is a fallen world and the otherworld is an eternal one there is to be Revelation if there is to be any communication between the realms.

Our powers of reason and sensation are insufficient to penetrate the eternal world.

Religions of the western world are so inhospitable to the doctrine of pre mortality that people reject the idea without a good reason.

John chapter 9 is one of the many scriptural allusions to pre mortality

the apostles clearly assumed that there was a pre-existing life when they asked who sinned this man or his parents. Some say that this simplistic explanation pre mortality for this chapter is too simple but those who value spirituality simplicity has never been a barrier to beauty.

Kant said that one of the proofs that we have human agency is that when he does something wrong he feels guilt that guilt suggests that he could have done something different.


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