8. We have here to consider a question of vital importance: – Does the soul acquire ideas and knowledge after the death of the body? If the soul can acquire nothing when separated from the body, that of the child, the savage, the idiot, the ignorant, will remain forever just what it was at death; in which case it is condemned to nullity throughout eternity.
If, on the contrary, it acquires knowledge after the close of the earthly life, it is evident that it can progress when separated from the body. The denial of the possibility of the soul’s progress after death leads to absurd consequences; the admission of the soul’s progress after death is the negation of all the dogmas based on the assumption of its stationary condition, of irrevocable condemnation, of eternal punishment, etc. But, if the soul can progress at all after death, what limit is there to its possibilities of progress? If it can go forward a single step, there is no reason why it should not continue to progress until it reaches the degree of angels or Pure Spirits. If the human soul can thus attain to the rank of angelhood, there was no need to create special beings to fill that rank, beings distinguished by special privileges, exempted from all labor, and enjoying eternal happiness without having done anything to earn it, while other beings, less favored only obtain the supreme felicity through long and cruel sufferings, and as the result of heavy trials. God could, doubtless, have created such privileged beings had God chosen to do so; but if we admit the infinity of God’s perfections, without which God would not be God, we must also admit that God does nothing useless, nothing that would contradict God’s sovereign justice and God’s sovereign goodness.