Soul Survivor

Originally presented on Wed, 2006/08/09

What is life but a journey along an unmapped route toward a certain and inevitable destination? What would you do to tread a different path than the one you have walked so far?

Soul Survivor

by Dr. Richard K. Phillips

At sixty-two one ought to know what one's goals in life are and what chance one has of achieving them. I think I finally have my goals in reach.

I've lived a long and fairly fruitful life; though I have never found a life-partner, I have mentored several young people starting out their careers and they serve very well as surrogate children. And one of them will be instrumental in helping me reach my long-delayed goal.

My degrees are in biochemistry and psychology with an M.D. tacked on to enable me to do the research that most interested me. I considered it to be an investigation into the reality of the human soul but others have labeled my field neuropsychochemistry.

At some cost to my net worth, I have avoided the pitfalls of commercial drug development and have concentrated on the realm of pure research which has made it neccessary to publish findings through the universities that have funded my work. A Google search for my field or my name will turn up numerous papers on various aspects of brain chemistry and the dependence of behavior and intellect on the chemical functions of the brain.

This will be my last research paper, though it is not in the proper form for publication in professional journals. Perhaps it can be published somewhere. It will probably be taken for fiction in any case.

I've left a lot of my most important conclusions out of my published research. Psyche of Greek legends, whose name meant "soul," also names most scientific fields concerned with human consciousness. Is consciousness the same as soul? I believe that I've found evidence that consciousness is only the perceived emanation of a brain/soul interaction and that the real soul is a deeper identity. I have not published these intimations because the established neuropsychiatric consensus is that consciousness plus brain equals self-identity.

The soul remains elusive but I believe I have found her footprints.

Directly across the university courtyard from my office, a two-year-old girl lies in a profound and persistent coma. Brain scans show no continuing activity in the regions of her brain associated with consciousness but contrariwise also show no corresponding physical impairment of the brain.

She breathes, she opens her eyes and if food and drink are put to her lips, she will imbibe. She responds to the touch of her parents' hands and the sound of their voices with wordless murmurs and aimless movements. However long she lives, her chances of awakening are slim to the point of invisibility.

She came to this state by one of those tragedies of life, the accidental drowning. The details are unimportant but she was technically dead for some eight minutes before being resurrected by well-intentioned medical personnel. Through my research, I have arranged to have her kept in the university hospital and not consigned to one of those warehouses for empty human bodies.

I believe that while she was dead, her soul fled her body and without it, her brain, though functional, cannot maintain consciousness. I propose to cure her by supplying her with a new soul.


In my research, I've discovered a drug I call psychognostithane. It has several street names including "Sky Blue", "Noggin" and "Phane." Young and reckless individuals use this drug to achieve various sorts of high, depending on dosage. A mild dose produces results similar to traditional psychedelics like LSD and mescaline. A larger dose results in what experimenters have labeled "an out of body experience." Massive doses can produce neural impairments, psychosis, coma or death.

I believe that psychognostithane loosens the connection of the soul from the brain, attenuating the consciousness. I believe it does this by chemically opening certain channels in the brain, interfering with the process called consciousness. Even while sleeping, the brain maintains a form of consciousness; indeed, even under most sedative drugs and during most coma states, the brain maintains a thread of consciousness. This thread is what anchors the soul to the body.

In the case of the little girl in Room 413, death, however temporary, has severed that connection. Her soul cannot return to her body and has gone on to wherever souls go when they are through with bodies. This I believe but do not know for a fact.

I do have anecdotal evidence supporting an hypothesis that free souls exist and can enter otherwise vacant bodies, especially if those bodies have open brain channels because of near-death experiences or moderate doses of psychognostithane.

I have previously achieved cures of persistent coma states with this drug. In one case, the patient's previous personality appeared to be restored. In two cases, the patient recovered consciousness but had to be re-educated completely, perhaps due to brain damage. Or to habitation by a new soul.

The fourth case proved most interesting because the patient awoke with a complete and functioning consciousness but with a personality totally unlike the one that had previously dwelled in the body. As if a soul that had lived in some other body had moved in and established a new personality. This new person had difficulty accessing the memories of the original person but had phantom-like impressions of what might have been a previous life. I believe that this unconventional explanation is in fact the correct one.

I propose to perform an experiment to test my theories. My student, one of my mentored young people who is now a staff psychiatrist at the university hospital, will administer a moderate dose of psychognostithane to my young patient in the next building--directly across from my office window not more than sixty feet away at precisely 10 a.m.

At the same time, I shall take a massive dose of the same drug, enough to certainly cause my death. To insure the proper outcome, I have also arranged an intravenous feed of potassium salt in a concentration sufficient to stop my heart seconds after I begin to feel the effects of the first drug. The parents have consented to an experimental treatment involving psychoactive drugs but they do not know of my personal stake in this risk.

Needless to say, I will be unable to repeat this experiment if it turns out to be unsuccessful.

I don't really owe anyone an explanation for why I am taking such an extreme course of action--committing a very complicated and bizarre suicide some would say. As I said in my first paragraph, I am of an age to feel the need to have my life goals within my reach if not in my certain grasp.

All of my life, I have felt myself to be a misplaced soul. My secret self has always been female, though I have lived 62 years in a male body. I originally took up the studies that resulted in my life's work and led ultimately to this moment in an effort to understand myself and my feelings. I've never crossdressed nor seriously considered the half-measure of surgical solutions.

Perhaps I am deluding myself and I shall simply die. No matter. My other accomplishments, the dozens of students I have mentored, the good I have done in this world will live on. I am content.

Even if my plan succeeds optimally, I shall probably never remember this life--a life, even with its joys, bereft of that feeling of proper self that I crave. Even if I do not remember, I will know that I am me and not someone other than myself.

I have not decided whether I will hit save after typing these notes. I have made them more for myself than for anyone else. Perhaps no one will read this record even if I leave it behind. I will never know.

One of the child's names means "soul" in a European language. Unscientifically, I consider this a good omen.

At precisely 10 a.m. begins my last minute on this earth as a man.



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