moltmann :: bodies and death

“…ideas about ‘the self’ have undergone a remarkable transmigration. As long as the living character of the human being was seen in the inhaling and exhaling of air, the self was localized in the diaphragm. The person is alive in the rhythm of his breathing, and his life ends when ‘he breathes his last.’ Later on, people viewed the living character of the human being in his powerful emotions, in the trust of the heart and in ‘cordial’ love. So the centre of life was localized in the human heart. When the heart stops beating the person is dead. But then the human being came to be viewed as the suject of reason and will; and the self migrated once again, in the world of the imagination, and came to be lodged in the human brain, generally behind the eyes. Today ‘brain death’ counts as real symbol for the death of the human being.”

Moltmann, God in Creation trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993), 255.

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