On Selling Your Soul for Immortality

 Topic: Selling Your Soul for Immortality

This sermon’s topic is the concept of exchanging your soul, or an equivalent, to attain immortality. We will be discussing two examples from literature and even one from American history. This is not quite the same thing as a Faustian bargain, as Faust sold his soul in exchange for knowledge and power, but it is similar. The books we are discussing are My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due and The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge. The example from history is Robert Leroy Johnson, who is rumored to have sold his soul to become a famous musician, which is itself a kind of immortality. (As people are still listening to his music to this day, I would say he succeeded.)

In My Soul to Keep, Due introduces us to a character who attained immortality by way of a ritual and an infusion of some rather remarkable blood. The catch is that the blood is said to come from the wounds of Christ, collected and used without his permission, so the acceptance of the blood and the resulting immortality condemn one’s soul. Dawit, the immortal character, professes atheism, but his Catholic wife Jessica, who is the true protagonist of the series, expresses her concern for his soul when he tells her about the origins of his unnatural longevity. When he performs the ritual on her, making her an immortal against her will, it triggers profound changes in her and she goes on a personal crusade to use her special blood to help others.

Joan D. Vinge writes of a queen who rules the planet of Tiamat. She is kept perpetually youthful by using an extract called the Water of Life, which is harvested from the blood of marine mammals that are sacred to the majority of the population of the planet. This, too, is a kind of bargain against Death by sacrificing your basic humanity: knowing its profane origins but wanting it anyway. The Snow Queen never finds out that the creatures providing the blood are actually intelligent, which just makes the whole thing worse.

Path doctrine teaches us that we are souls inhabiting bodies, not bodies hosting souls. So it is not really possible to “sell your soul,” although it is possible to corrupt or taint your soul with your choices and actions. You can warp your Ka and lose your sense of what is right and wrong by sacrificing your humanity. In My Soul to Keep, Jessica strives to redeem herself and maintain her humanity by helping others. In The Snow Queen, the titular queen is a cold, heartless monster in a beautiful shell because of her love for power and her use of the Water of Life. She suffers, and causes others to suffer as a result. Interestingly enough, Robert Leroy Johnson did not appear to experience any psychic or moral harm from his bargain with the Devil. By all accounts, he was a decent enough guy, just making people happy by playing his music. He did die young, at the age of 27, of unknown causes, but his work carries on. He has become a legend, named the first rock star, among other things, so it could be said that he also attained a kind of immortality.

Personally, I believe that it is what we do with the blessings the Universe bestows upon us that defines who we are and what path our Ka will take. You can address your own suffering and choose to impose no harm upon others, or you can make others suffer because you do not recognize your own humanity. You can make decisions that corrupt your Self and warp your Ka, and it usually starts with thinking of yourself as a thing to be sold.

A question to ponder: Is subjugating yourself or “selling your soul” to a self-professed benevolent entity any better than selling it to a malevolent entity? Are you still treating yourself like a thing, as the 8th Core Tenet advises us not to do?


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