Tractatus de Corpore et Mundo Naturali

I have been working on an ‘ecological’ version of Mormon theology. This is a doodle of what I think is important to include. My apologies to the ghost of Wittgenstein.

1.We are embodied.
1.1 Our embodiment is not incidental. It was not merely to take a particular shape.
1.2 Our bodies engage with other forms of mater. Our bodies structure our thoughts through physical processes—through neurology.
1.3 Our physicality is part of a divine process. A divining process.
1.31 We have a mother and a father.
1.32 They are divine and have been through this process.
1.4 Our bodies will be redeemed.

2. Our body is not a single thing. It is an ecology.
2.1 Our bodies are made with deep dependencies on multiple relationships.
2.2 These dependencies are best described as multiple and ecological. They include dependencies of scale that include multiple independent agents acting together to maintain and structure the body.
2.3 Our bodies are composed of at least three kinds of agents.
2.31 First, agents that grow and reproduce true to type, but are limited to a finite number of generations, which depend on the life of the body for life. Our cells are an example.
2.32 Second, agents which have the capacity to create generations that exist beyond the current life of the body, and can create further bodies. Gametes are an example.
2.33 Last, agents that the body depends on, but can either exist independent of the body like essential bacterial commensals, or are integrated completely into the body and form an essential part of the body, such as mitochondria agents.
2.34 These agents live at different scales of integration and include cellular organelles, cells, organs, commensal organisms, and those organisms upon which the body depends.
2.4 One of the ecological components of the current human body is a spiritual agent.
2.41 This spiritual agent, like a soil Mycelium, infuses the body, changing its nature, but in turn is changed by it.
2.42 Some of these spiritual agents can be termed the children of divine parents, call these S-agents.
2.5 The body is an emergent community, that is it is more than the sum of its parts. The parts can only be explained by reference to the whole and visa-versa.
2.4 The redemption of our bodies is an ecological redemption.

3. Evolution is an a priori principle for all objects having the following relationships: variation, inheritance, and selection.
3.1 Temporal objects having the quality, ‘life’ on this planet have these three properties and have evolved and continue to evolve.
3.12 Our bodies are evolved objects.
3.2 Our bodies have come out of the dust of this Earth.
3.21 The Earth is rightly called, “The Mother of Men*.”
3.3 The evolution of our bodies, and all earthly bodies took time.
3.4 The evolution of our bodies imposes many ad hoc structures. For example, the brain is built in layers, with primitive reptile-like components undergirding the more advanced structures.
3.5 Our bodies evolved in an ecological context that have deep roots in Earth’s physical and biological processes and have been structured by this long process.
3.51 Like an island ecosystem, which begins with the invasive seeds of grasses that prepare the soil in order for it to receive more complex biological communities after a long process of multiple ecological successional stages culminating in a climax community type, the human body is not ready to receive the S-agent “mycelium” until later successional stages.
3.6 The first bodies to receive S-agents where called Adam and Eve.
3.61 It should not be inferred that other sorts of possible spiritual agents cannot form ecological relationships with other types bodies or earlier stages in the evolution of our bodies.

4. Human agents form relationships with one another.
4.1 These relationships form societies.
4.2 These bodies, relationships, and societies form relationships with other agents in ecological relationships.
4.21 These ecological relationships are multiple, complex and form emergent larger-scale processes.
4.3 These societies can be redeemed.

5. Christ redeems us from the fall into this ecology.
5.1 The Fall of S-agents into this ecology, produces restraints and opportunities. It is fortunate in that it provides new emergences which god desires, but its effects come with consequences that forever change spirits.
5.2 Ecologies are always vulnerable. Processes can arise that will destroy the ecological integrity of ecologies, pushing them out of kilter.
5.21 A depauperate ecosystem is one in which essential ecosystem requirements are missing. They are unstable, chaotic, lack diversity, and ultimately collapse.
5.22 S-agents always form a depauperate ecology with earthly bodies. This is manifest as sin.
5.3 Christ atonement allows Him to heal and make whole all physical and spiritual ecologies.
5.31 Those willing to form a relationship with Christ form a stable embodied ecosystem.
5.32 This stability is only possible by choosing to form a relationship with Christ.
5.4 This is redemption.
5.5 Christ’s redemption extends to all agents. It will ultimately include all ecologies, agents, and the Earth itself.
5.51 Entering into a relationship with Christ imposes engagement and stewardship in these ecological relationships, with other children-agents, and with all agents in Christ’s ecosystem.
5.52 These take the form of caring for the poor, helping others enter into Christ’s ecology, caring for the Earth and its creatures.
5.53 Christ’s ecology is Zion.

6. This Earth will be the final resting place of all earthly agent types, harboring a whole and complete ecosystem including spirits, physical components, hierarchies, and emergences. Our bodies having arisen from the earth, formed and structured here, both spiritually and physically, will form a lasting and eternal ecosystem, with the Earth and her creatures, our spiritual parents, and will through Christ form a thriving ecosystem which scales from the smallest agents to the Earth herself.


‘Treatise on the Body and the Natural World’ Title translated for me by BCC’s own Kevin Barney!

* Moses 7:48


  1. I like your synthesis of a historical Adam and Eve with evolution, and the description of them being the first to gain the “s-agent.”

    Your conception of the eternal spirit as a functional component of the body resonates well with DC 131:7 “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes”

    Also, DC 93:33-34. “For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;

    And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.”

  2. Mark Brown says:

    Amazing insights, SteveP.

    This made me think of things I had never thought of before, and it sheds new light on the idea of “the same sociality”.

  3. Thomas Parkin says:

    Needs more elitism; more hierarchy, to be truly Mormon.
    Truly groovy.

  4. Thomas Parkin says:

    I didn’t want to post that. Oh, well. :)

  5. Resonates with my own perspective, SteveP. I like the incorporation of the very Mormon empathetic atonement.

  6. Gilgamesh says:

    1.2 Our bodies engage with other forms of mater.

    Is this a secret plug for Cars 2?

  7. Gilgamesh says:

    Oh – I would add, at least in my opinion, that the reason we form societies is to gain empathy for others. Since we cannot have all experiences, but we are to understand all experiences, the only way to do so would be vicariously. Thus, if we can develop divine empathy, we would be able to draw on the experiences of our collective society to understand the experiences of our eternal progeny.

  8. Epic, Steve.

  9. Amazing! Thanks for this. Do you mind if I use it in a Philosophy of Adam and Eve class I am taking?

  10. Latter-day Guy says:

    Wow. This post is teh awesome.

  11. Absolutely epic, Steve. I’ll start my kids memorizing it forthwith.

  12. Awesome, Steve.

  13. Outstanding!

  14. Steve,

    I know it’s a working version, but how did you decide our your classification scheme? I’m interested as an info science person.

  15. Really good, Steve. I liked it.

  16. Tod, My classification of agents? For that I was drawing on the work of philosopher of science Peter Godfrey-Smith.

  17. Yeah. Beautiful stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  18. “It is fortunate in that it provides new emergences which god desires”

    I read this as “new emergencies” which I think works just as well.

    “5.22 S-agents always form a depauperate ecology with earthly bodies. This is manifest as sin.”

    I’m curious about this point. Don’t all ecologies eventually become depauperate? I’m assuming that they aren’t perpetual-motion machines. There seems to be an assumption here that the evolved body, without the S-agent, would keep on keeping on.

    That said, I agree (if I’m reading you correctly), that the effect of soul and body together (temporally) is sin that might not happen otherwise.

  19. New emergencies! Yes that too!

    “Don’t all ecologies eventually become depauperate?”

    No, that there have been ecologies that have lasted for hundreds of millions of years shows they do not become so. They are not perpetual motion machines, because they receive energy from the sun, therefore they can not only keep going, but they an increase in complexity and in ways that create new opportunities and emergences.

    However, it might seem like most today are depauperate because they are collapsing all around us, due to habitat destruction and climate change. But that’s because of us, acting in ways that reflect the ecological misalignment in our current embodied situation.

  20. Steve,

    This was an immensely enjoyable read for me. I feel a quite joy and anticipation of a future bright with addressing complexity in ways more nuanced than that of the past. And I think ecology, the sometime derided science, is uniquely poised to speak compellingly in behalf of complexity; whereas the modern past has been dominated by reductionist efforts to distill everything to binaries.

  21. Steve,
    Are you making a Dr. Manhatten-type argument? That the difference between living and dead people is minimal on an atomic (or, in this case, ecological) level? I’m thinking of bodies as being separate from S-agents for the purposes of this question.

  22. On the contrary, I’m making the opposite argument that its relationships that stricture things from the bottom up. Living means to be in many and varied relationships. Relationships from the bottom to the top and back again. Emergent systems are whole, dynamic and complexly interrelated. Dr. Manhatten is the epitome of reductionist thinking–I’m trying to escape that completely. The difference between living and dead in this view make them massively different and important from the atomic to ecosystem to society scales. Life is changes everything, up and down, top to bottom.

  23. mellifera says:

    So with no background in theology, but plenty in ecology… cool!

    We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about ecology vis-a-vis the human economy & social structure, our eventual career goal is to run a organic training farm and focus on employing some people who could use a second lease on life outside of the normal societal structure (veterans with PTSD, capable people trying to make their way out of the ghetto, etc). People bag on organic farming because it’s “too labor-intensive,” but seeing that we have plenty of food in this country and not enough jobs, I’m not sure why that’s supposed to be a drawback.

    White-collar market economies really only have use for one kind of person– a suckup with lots of higher executive function– and people who don’t fit that mold get thrown out. That’s not terribly Zion-esque. There’s a lot to be said for diversifying the niches within our human society, helping ensure that there’s at least the opportunity for dignified & financially sufficient work for all kinds of people.

  24. mellifera, as in theology ecology is one of the most ignored realities in economic considerations. When you start training people in organic farming let me know–I want to come to your workshop!

  25. Stephanie says:

    Wow. If this is the “doodle”, I’d love to see the finished product.

  26. Steve, love this post! Your taxonomy is rich and clear.

    It is, however, missing a key ingredient: some ontology from which a discrete and uniquely-valuable agency of humans emerges naturally from the continuum of life as a theorem, not injected as an axiom.

    Biologically, the “breath of life” maps most logically to the innovation of genetic storage and replication (RNA). After that, there seems to be a (scale-invariant) power-law increase in complexity and decrease of population: nature does not have a “characteristic complexity scale”.  Even higher-brain activity seems to evolve smoothly up to humans.

    It is only the onset of apperception (not sentience: dogs evidently “sense” their existence, but only we seem to question why) that sets humans apart.

    Biology and theology cohabitate comfortably (if disjointly) in the Jesuit mind. It is the extra obligation of a Mormon ontology to motivate the special ghost-in-the-machine fusion of mortality that can survive intact after the machine fails. For instance, I presume that LDS theology holds that senility is a failing of the mortal body, not diminution of the eternal spirit, but how does this follow from your hierarchical model of existence. There is ample medical evidence that retardation can arise from genetic anomalies, yet (literally machina-ex-deo) the pre- and post-mortal spirit is not so defective. We know this “spontaneous symmetry breaking” only from revelation: it does not follow from a quasi-continuous hierarchical Theory of Types.

    It says in the BOM that the BOM is true. This statement is logically true whether or not the BOM is true. You do not increase believability by saying “believe me”. There must always be a leap of faith. Moreover, that leap lies essentially on this side of the mortal veil. As such, rational models of existence cannot contain a mechanism of mind-body duality that survives death any more than the Standard Model can explain the laws of physics pre-Big-Bang or post-black-hole.

    But I love that we humans love to try!

  27. mellifera says:


    Can do! Though fair warning, we’ll not be settling in the Intermountain West due to lack of land, water, and customers. Be prepared to travel. : D

  28. prometheus says:

    Marvellous – succinct, clear, and eminently logical.

  29. SteveP,
    I’m still unclear. You seem to be arguing that sin and deterioration occur exclusively when objects/states have an S-agent. That implies that objects/states without an S-agent are not subject to deterioration. This is the inverse of the typical body/soul distinction (wherein the weak flesh corrupts the eternal soul), but it still strikes me as inadequate.

    Are you arguing that there can be ecosystems without S-agents? If so, are you arguing that they would not be subject to deterioration over time?

  30. John, I see where I’m confusing you (as I said this is a work in progress). I’m thinking the deterioration is in the divine of 1.3 not in physical ecology. The suggestion that S-agents form an unstable ecology means that this divine ecosystem is compromised, not earthly ecologies. S-agents, are children of divine, and ecosystems can exist fine without them, just as any ecosystem, can generally exist without a particular constituant. But, a particular member of an ecology can provide completely new emergences. And the embodiment of S-agent, (children of God getting bodies) is an important, and desired, ecosystem by God. Think an agroecosysem. You need good soil, mycelium, bacterial commensals, all to bring about your desired tomatoes. I’m not positing that this is just a natural ecosystem that emerges willy-nilly, but it is an ecosystem and that needs to be taken into account to understand the system.

    Dan, I am assuming a dualism, but not a naive one in which all effects are one-directional. So with this view, the earthly ecosystem in which we are embedded also affects, shapes, and influences the other in an ecosystem give and take. Of course, I have no information on this part of the equation, what it was, how it will be preserved after, but I think resurrection will mean restoration of the whole ecosystem, not just a hand put in a better-and-fancier-glove-type metaphor.

    “But I love that we humans love to try!” Me too!

  31. raedyohed says:

    Love this. For a doodle it is nicely refined. I am troubled by certain implications of 3.6, and it may just be because I don’t understand your 3.61. Do you assume that s-agents are not in existence prior to a certain point in the *historia* de mundo naturali? Are s-agents unique to Adam and Eve upon their inclusion in their bodily ecosystems as described in 3.6? A notion throughout is that the union of s-agents with biological ecosystems is problematic (5.1, 5.22), but does this include other “spiritual agents” mentioned in 3.61? What is unique about S-agents that causes the problems that arise and are resolved in section 5? This is a very precise, condensed, useful exercise, and I hope you continue to refine and elaborate on it!

  32. raedyohed, good questions! That’s why I call this is a doodle and don’t want to defend it too rigorously, but want to draw out how an ecological theology can be explored. But you are right S-agents are different in that they have potential for a different kind of emergence in the sense that they are of divine parentage and so are an aim for this ecosystem’s existence. I believe that the kind of ’emergence’ God is nurturing is very special in that it is the kind He lives in (noting I have no idea what this really means), albeit perhaps in much more ‘rich’ ecosystem. By 3.61 I’m trying to acknowledge that we don’t know what sort of spiritual/natural conditions existed prior to Adam and Eve.

  33. Ben Pratt says:


    I really like the primacy of relationships all throughout, on every scale imaginable. I’ve long thought that this is something essential about mortality, and to see that notion so fleshed out is refreshing.

  34. John Mansfield says:

    Thanks for drawing this together, SteveP. Wonderful collection of thoughts.

  35. raedyohed says:

    SteveP, if I have already shamelessly plugged the book “The Mermaid’s Tale” by Weiss and Buchannan, forgive me for doing so again. I think you would find it enjoyable, as it attempts to 1) identify fundamental biological principles which are scalable at developmental, ecological, and evolutionary dimensions, and 2) synthesize eco-evo-devo into a holistic view of life as layers of evolving cooperative systems. A lot of what I see in your post jibes with what I’ve read there, except of course, the spiritual dimensions.

  36. raedyohed, I will look at it, it looks interesting! Stanford population biologist Joan Roughgarden, is also trying to develop a formal theory of cooperative evolution. Her book, The Genial Gene: Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness, is worth looking at.

  37. Steve, this is just great. Thanks for bringing these ideas together.

  38. Great Post! Do you think robots will eventually have s-agent?

  39. This is the future of Mormon theology.

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