“The unique despair of a creature without a soul eventually leads to desperation…” – Deucalion, Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein book one: Prodigal Son (p422)
Doubtless many reams have been written by way of attempting to answer the question, What is a soul? So for a supposedly ancient and wise being like Deucalion to make such implicit presumptions on the nature of the soul does somewhat baffle me. I am a fan of Koontz, I find his works greatly entertaining, and although the above quote may be indicative of Koontz’s intention to suggest flaws in Deucalion’s perception (in this case of theological existentialism), it seems to relate more to a part of Koontz’s writing which I often find frustrating/irritating – his overt moralising! It doesn’t help that just a few lines later, Deucalion asserts that psychiatrists and psychologists are “the most useless gods of all.” What a sweeping, excessively judgemental statement! I will, however, for now, give Koontz the benefit of the doubt that this is more Deucalion’s opinion than Koontz’s, although I may return to this point later… but… for now… back to the soul…
The soul is ephemeral and cannot be pinned down.
Most theologists and religious folk seem to agree with this. It can be likened to ‘spirit’ or ‘essence,’ and can perhaps be said to be what remains when the material and psychological aspects of a being are stripped away or disregarded. A pure materialist would say that nothing remains, even that as the psyche is inextricably intertwined with the material, nothing actually exists in a being but the material. Funnily enough, it is the intention of Victor Helios aka Frankenstein, in Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein, to imbue in his self-created ‘New Race’ a materialist philosophy, but irrespective of the success or otherwise of this endeavor, I would say that their philosophy (where it relates to the existence/nature of the soul) has no (necessary) bearing on their own nature/being, in the same way that whether or not one believes in God has no bearing on whether or not He exists (some may disagree with this latter statement, but I will herewith leave it to ‘some’ to battle out the finer points of subjective deification elsewhere).
So proceeding from the presumption that the soul does exist, and that it has something to do with the existence of the divine within, for example, a human being, that it is, perhaps, our divine essence, what can be said to be the criteria for any living creature possessing a soul? A creationist may say that only humans possess souls, since only humans were made ‘in God’s image’ or some such. A Christian evolutionist, however, may concede that since all creatures, and indeed all living things, are creations of God, indirectly through the process of evolution by natural selection, then all living things may possess a soul. Does this mean that bacteria, trees and sea slugs have souls, and if not, where do we draw the line? Is there something unique about humans, in their present evolutionary state, that imbues them with soul-possessing status? If so, what of neanderthals, homo erectus and so on? And going to the other extreme, if God is the source of all existence/creation, what of rocks and soil and clouds?
Deucalion presumes that Victor Helios’ New Race, on account of being products of Victor Helios, rather than ‘nature,’ are not in possession of souls. But is not Victor Helios a product of nature (albeit a morally questionable one), therefore in possession of a soul, therefore imbuing all of his creations with a divine essence?
One could argue the finer points of this question till one is cardinal purple in the face. The problem here is that we are talking about something which is essentially indefinable. Can anyone really assert that they have an irrefutable definition of the soul? So for the supposedly ancient and wise Deucalion to presume that any section of humanity, albeit a Frankenstein-created section, is void of souls, is hugely… well, presumptious. In order to enjoy the rest of the story, however, I will allow Koontz this bit of artistic licence.
Hmm… in retrospect, upon re-reading the initial quote, I am thinking that maybe Deucalion does not necessarily believe that the people of the New Race do not have souls, but his insight is rather based upon the premise that the people of the New Race believe that they do not have souls. People act and base their personal philosophies on what they believe they are, rather than what they necessarily are. Maybe Deucalion is wise enough to know that he does not know – are not the truly wise also imbued with great humility? I have to remind myself here that Deucalion is a fictional character, and so I should presume that Koontz intended this readers’ perception of (the wisdom of) Deucalion. Maybe.