Monday, September 5, 2011


Resomation machine

"Resomation was developed in response to the public's increasing environmental concerns," company founder Sandy Sullivan told BBC News. "It gives them that working third choice, which allows them to express those concerns in a very positive and I think personal way."

The system works by submerging the body in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide which is pressurised to 10 atmospheres and heated to 180C for between two-and-a-half and three hours. Body tissue is dissolved and the liquid poured into the municipal water system. 

Mr Sullivan, a biochemist by training, says tests have proven the effluent is sterile and contains no DNA, and poses no environmental risk. The bones are then removed from the unit and processed in a "cremulator", the same machine that is used to crush bone fragments following cremation into ash. Metals including mercury and artificial joints and implants are safely recovered. 

The machine is patented in Europe with patents pending in other countries."
BBC Science/Technology article by Neil Bowdler.  Read the article here.

The Glasgow built Resomator is thus basically a big pressure cooker that within few hours literally liquifies human body into clean water so that only the bones are left. The funeral urn contains only the whitish powder left from the skull and bones and not even ashes.
Since men are about 60% water and women about 70% the resomator performs very efficiently a disappearance act - the body is no more. So one day Alexander passed away. His body was liquefied in a resomator and the water poured back to nature where it came from. The urn containing bone powder was buried in a cemetery.

Where is Alexander now?

Well, the obvious modern answer is "Alexander is no more. He has ceased to exist." What could symbolize this non-existence better than the Glasgow Resomator?

For ancient Egyptians, the dead body continued to be the dwelling of the soul and was preserved for this purpose. This very ancient belief led to elaborate and expensive cult of the dead that has made Egyptology such a fascinating field of study. Their tombs are so full of life! One only has to think the little king Tutankhamen and the national treasures wasted into his royal tomb in order to get an idea of how central role dead body and its tomb home played in that civilization. Pity those men and horses that were drowned in the Reef Sea.

Ancient Greeks gave a very different answer to the question "where is Alexander now". Greeks and Romans practiced cremation since there was no need for the body anymore. Body was considered a material prison of the soul of Alexander. After death his soul is free and hopefully resides in the Elysian fields.

The sharp distinction Greeks made between body and soul is very powerful idea. It is not unique to their brilliant culture. Many other religions believe in the existence of Alexander as a personal soul after death. Also today there are probably millions of people who adhere to such a fundamental view of humans as made of  the watery physical body and an invisible eternal soul. Philosophers sometimes call this configuration "Ghost in a machine."

Sam and Molly in the movie Ghost

Modern popular ideas of separate body and soul are exemplified by the powerful romantic movie Ghost (1990). After his violent murder Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) protects Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) from evil.  Sixth Sense (1999) is another unforgettable movie about the ghostly realm before the soul separated from the body has fulfilled the job and is allowed to reach Light.

Where is Alexander now?
Hellenistic and Roman period Jews answered this question very differently from the Greeks and Romans. For them human body and soul cannot be separated and at the end of the world the body will rise from death and be united with the soul.

In the time of Jesus, the people of  Israel had often heated arguments about the new teaching about resurrection of the body. The idea may have reached Palestine during or after Exile from Persia where Zarahustra was teaching similar things. It was strictly rejected by conservative Sadducee party while  Pharisee party wholeheartedly accepted it.

Jews did punish some criminals by burning as the Bible commands. But in order not to destroy the body, the home of the soul, molten metal was poured into the victims mouth. The crematories of Auschwitz thus represent also in this sense the ultimate evil against the people of God.

Bible does not give a clear map of things beyond the grave. The most central message of the New Testament is that there is one human who has died and who was buried in a tomb carved into rock. And who is alive today.

Of all humans, this particular person is the only one who has walked out of the tomb alive and in a body.

Not exactly like the body of a person living in this world and that can be buried, cremated, drowned, hacked into pieces, liquified in a resomator.

But something Saint Paul calls in First Corinthians 15 a "spiritual body".

Word of God
After Jesus of Nazareth had died on the cross his body disappeared. Saul of Tarsos met Him on the road to Damascus and the rest is history.  Sometimes between 50-60 AD he wrote to the Greek Christians living in the sinful harbor city of Corinth: 

But some one will say, How are the dead raised? and with what manner of body do they come?
Thou foolish one, that which thou thyself sowest is not quickened except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be, but a bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other kind; 38 but God giveth it a body even as it pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own.

All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fishes. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory.

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. Howbeit that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; then that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is of heaven
1 Corinthians 15:35-47

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