The other day I received the following query via email:
“Do we get an intermediate body for our souls in heaven whilst we await the second coming?”
I suppose the answer will depend what one means by “body”. Historically, most Christians have believed that human beings have (or are) souls, and that these souls are simple substances without any spatial extension. This leads to the common view that in the intermediate state between death and resurrection souls exist in a disembodied state, i.e. without a body.
But there is another view. Consider the famous case where Saul contacts deceased Samuel by way of a medium:
13 The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”
The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.”
14 “What does he look like?” he asked.
“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.
Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.
15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” (1 Sam. 28)
Note that if Samuel were a disembodied soul, he would exist without any spatial extension in which case he would be, by definition, invisible. But the woman sees an enrobed ”ghostly figure”. This reflects the views of ancient Hebrews and Romans alike that deceased persons existed in a spectral form that could, under certain conditions, be visible to the naked eye. (My favorite account of ghosts in the ancient world is found in Pope Gregory’s Dialogues which stands at the head of a long tradition that narrates accounts of deceased persons (i.e. ghosts) contacting the world of the living in search of some aid for release from purgatory. Pope Gregory insists that the cases he relates happened within his own monastery to persons he personally knew.)
This suggests that the common idea that souls exist disembodied is not quite correct. It could be, instead, that souls exist in a spectral embodiment. This spectral body could come to exist when the physical body dies or it could be a second body that human beings have now along with their physical body. (If the latter is the case, one wonders if and how it might be possible to detect the presence of a spectral body. Perhaps it is impossible to do so with present technology, much like it might be impossible to detect a small asteroid passing in front of a large, distant star. But it would leave it open in principle that this additional spectral body might have its own measurable properties distinct from the physical body.)
Of course, to avoid violation of Ockham’s razor one would only posit the existence of spectral bodies with adequate evidence. Certain OBE accounts that involve bodily perception in continuity with current bodily perception (e.g. seeing oneself on a gurney from a particular point in the same room) would give credence to the existence of spectral bodies. So would evidence of ghostly apparitions. Evidentially, the most compelling cases here might be crisis apparitions, i.e. the spectral appearance of a loved one shortly after a violent or otherwise unanticipated quick death. These cases are particularly suggestive when the person who witnesses the appearance is otherwise unaware of the untimely demise of the loved one.