X-Message-Number: 30455
From: David Stodolsky <>
Subject: Immortality of the Soul: A Danish history
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2008 09:58:25 +0100
References: <>

My previous posts to CryoNet argued that a different "packaging" was  
needed to accelerate the adoption of cryonics. The recent book by  
Kj ldgaard, L. H. (2007).  SJ LEN EFTER D DEN - guldalderens moderne  
gennembrud. Copenhagen:Gyldendal. ISBN 87-02-04817-5 (Nominated for  
The Readers' Book Prize 2008) gives historical support (some reviews,  
all in Danish):





Last week I attended a meeting of the Royal Danish Academy of  
Sciences. The presentation was the first in a series on current  
research into consciousness. Consciousness is the term that came into  
use to replace the term 'soul', once that term lost credibility. In  
fact, what happened was that the doctrine of the immortality of the  
soul was challenged.

The lecture was given by a Nordic Studies and Languages prof. at  
Copenhagen Univ., Lasse Horne Kjaeldgaard. It was titled "The souls  
immortality in the 1800s - Crisis in The Golden Age paves the way for  
the triumph of Modernity (my translation)." The material is covered in  
his book. The period 1800-1849 is called The Golden Age, because it  
was a period of tremendous creativity and progress in science, the  
arts, etc., and was thought to be a quiet and harmonious time.  
However, his analysis shows that just beneath the surface a violent  
transformation was occurring, which would have wide-ranging  
consequences. These included changes in understandings of the destiny  
of mankind, in the historical function and future of art, and in the  
relationships among art, philosophy, and religion. Finally, the  
question of immortality was transformed by the writings of S.  
Kirkegaard, a religious existentialist, from one of religion to one of  
personal identity. It was of great importance in esthetic  
existentialism, which became popular as a philosophy and life style  
after the First World War. The writings of the German philosopher  
G.W.F. Hegel were one of the most important sources for these  

In the beginning of the 1800's Denmark was ruled by an absolute  
monarch. Any public statement challenging the immortality of the soul  
was punishable by from 5 to 10 years exile. This is why the story is  
to be found in literature: Arguments could only be put forward as  
stories, comedies, etc. After the French revolution in 1830, a more  
relaxed attitude prevailed, however. So, deviations from the orthodoxy  
was tolerated, as long as people didn't directly break the Law.

The Triumph of Modernity refers to the replacement of religion and art  
by science, as authoritative. This led to a series of important  
changes in Danish society, which shows how important the concept of  
the immortality of the soul was (and I will argue continues to be).  
One of the most important changes was the replacement of one man rule  
by democracy in 1849. Another was the start of a new burial practice  
in 1881, cremation.

Recently, a tremendous uproar occurred when a Danish priest declared  
publicly that he didn't believe in God, resurrection, etc. There was  
an attempt to get him fired, but he was fully supported by his  
congregation. I think he is still working as a priest. So, even though  
Danes consider themselves very secular and hardly ever go to church,  
there remain unresolved conflicts along the same lines as a couple of  
hundred years ago. Similarly, even though the religious people in  
Badger's (1998) data set said they "agree" that "chances are zero if I  
am buried or cremated", they also state they wouldn't change their  
attitude about cryonics "under any circumstances". It appears that as  
long as there is any doubt about the immortality of the soul, people  
will resist even exposing themselves to information about cryonics.  
Therefore, a change in life philosophy seems to be a precondition for  
effective promotion of biostasis. A new institutional framework seems  
essential, if this is to be accomplished.


David Stodolsky, PhD                   Institute for Social Informatics
Tornskadestien 2, st. th., DK-2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark
                        Skype: davidstodolsky

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=30455