…… I will try and answer the points you raise in a “general” way first - talking about whether "one" should do or not do this or that (free the soul from the body - commit suicide in this case); and then see if we can reach some kind of general (not personal) opinion and agreement on the matter. This general opinion would then by deduction also apply to you if indeed it is suicide you are really talking about in your letter.
I know that in your letter you say that you are not just wanting to conform to any religious doctrine in this matter; but to some extent you do use "religious" words and phrases throughout your letter to explain your ideas, and the ideas you discuss do crop up in many - or indeed most - religious theologies. As we know, some one billion Hindus think that their theology is the correct or best one, some hundreds of millions of Jews think theirs is; the Christian fundamentalists of course think that there is only one way to God - being through the the Christian church - or rather their small branch of it. On this point I must refer you to one of my face book favourite quotes by General Xenophon (a friend and contemporary of Socrates) who said:
'Concerning the gods and whatever I say about anything, no one has any certainty, nor ever will; and if someone should happen to utter the absolute truth, how would he know it? Seeming is present in everything.' (Xenophon)'
Now I mention this quote of Xenophon because if my answer below also quotes a little Socrates and Plato - it is in no way to suggest to you that following the Olympic Gods is best or anything like that; it is just that these Greek philosophers did speak about some of the points you raised about the soul in your letter to me last week - and therefore their views are relevant whether we choose to agree or disagree with them. So if – for example - you believe in one male God and Plato refers to "the Gods don't like it if" - then do not reject what Plato suggests just because there is an "s" on the end of the word God. It does not matter for the point of this argument on the morality of suicide. However, it is also interesting to note that Plato did believe in one supra natural creator force above the Gods as it were - and so demonstrates a certain monotheism in his outlook during what was a pagan polytheist era in Greece and many other parts of the known world. (My own view is that "if" there is a creator of the universe - then it is certainly above merely human considerations like one or many, male or female, Jewish or Christian or Hindu, colour etc - and such discussions reflect a true lack of understanding and perspective on these matters...)
So, Socrates tells us in Phaedo that he does not fear death at all - since either the soul does not go on when we die and there is "nothing" after death and nothing to worry about; or; the soul does go on in some way - and for people who "try" at least to live a good and decent life there should also have nothing to fear if the soul does go on after death. So clearly when discussing your letter we are assuming the second consideration – that the soul does go on in some way after the death of our physical bodies.
Now, your letter to me if I am correct asks the essential point that if the body can in some way effect badly a good and pure soul - then is it not better to try and separate soul and body as soon as practically possible - and preferably with great anguish and pain and distress, in order to protect and purify somehow the soul ? Now if this is NOT what you are asking then let me know as soon as possible so we can follow a different line of thought.
Well, let’s mention what some well established thinkers say on this question before I tell you my own personal opinion below ....
... The traditional Christian outlook as you know is 110% against what they would view as a form of suicide – and they (rightly or wrongly) would certainly view the course of action you are proposing as a form of suicide. The Christians would view it "traditionally" as a cardinal sin - and were you a Catholic - they would excommunicate you from God and the Church and refuse to bury you in one of their Christian Catholic cemeteries. The Anglican Church while still sharing this traditional view because of the bible text – might show a more sympathetic side - but I am not sure whether they would bury you in an Anglican cemetery – I think not. What the Greek Orthodox view would be I am not sure. Knowing the Greeks I would expect they would take a very sympathetic view to something like the suicide of a young person.
Now when I say the bible above - I mean the Old Testament - and this suggests to me that the traditional Jewish view on suicide will be similar. Sorry - I cannot tell you which chapter and verse it’s in - but it is there for sure. You can ask any local clergyman and they will tell you where. So in the Jewish and Christian faiths (which you draw threads and ideas from in your letter to me) - they would advise you very strongly and very clearly against the course of action you are suggesting – even if to you your way of thinking it is not about suicide – but in some way a sensible course of action to protect your soul from defilement by the body.
Let's tell you now what Socrates might say; and then I will conclude by telling you what my own views on the matter are. I am sorry that I have not studied Hinduism or Buddhism - you can ask people experienced here what their traditional view is. However, I do remind you what Xenophon said above; and that implies who knows who is correct on these matters - whether James knows best or not, or The Hindus or Christians or whatever. It is very hard indeed to be certain on these things for obvious reasons. However, we need to be cautious of thinking that say because we like the nice guy down at the local Buddhist cafe and he talks well about his faith - that he is necessarily correct – or correct all the time - rather than say the inarticulate Christian, philosopher, Aborigine or Kalasha - who we might like less on a personal basis - but might be more correct than the person we like.....
Well I wanted to tell you what Socrates says on Suicide and wrote on your behalf to ask a friend of mine, Tim Addey of the Prometheus Trust, who is a respected writer of books and speaker on all things Socratic and Platonic. He kindly replied to me as follows: