The Frozen Man
The image of the hypothetical “William James McPhee,” who in the song by James Taylor, “Frozen Man,” went overboard with shipmates amidst the tangle of rigging and ice froze to death. Taylor’s story resurrects McPhee to a modern world of bionic limb and organ replacement. A shock to live again after 100 years of the silent dark. Or so it is assumed. Taylor said that the discovery by the National Geographic Society was the seminal material for the song. And it is little wonder that the visage of an open-eyed dead man who had his chin tied up nevertheless, seems to have had no one who cared enough to close his eyes.
But that is what is so haunting about the image. The eye’s being partly open seem to suggest a latent form or consciousness as if “McPhee” can still peer into our world. It’s the eyes. Thy eyes are the window of the soul , or as Jesus said, “The light of the body is the eye…”
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:22-24 KJV)
But it is clear that Jesus is using the subordinate effect of seeing or not based on the eye being opened or closed to represent the dispostion of the heart of a man. That is, the chosen purpose of life made by the will. If the dispostion of the heart, or the will, is evil the whole body is full of darkness. But if the eye is “healthy”, i.e. the will is voluntarily disposed to benevolence the whole body if full of light.
Looking on the death visage of “Mr. McPhee” also suggests that those eyes may have peered into the invisible world of the spirit during the last few seconds of moral life in this world. The world where the spirits of light and darkness are in contest to protect or harm the sons of men. But that world did not exist in Taylor’s story. Only darkness and the cessation of consciousness.
But that is not a revelation of the Bible. First of all we know this from Jesus’s own rebuke to the Sadducee’s who, we are told did not believe in the resurrection. An affirmation that presumes the cessation of consciousness at death.
“And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err. (Mk. 12:26-27 KJV)
You’d think that would end the discussion, but some have postulated that in death what ever it is that characterized our consciousness in life, is in stasis in death in “sleep” until God brings “it” back into the exercise of incipiency of the will. But without a body they say, your conscious mind ceases and is stored by God until the resurrection. The problem with that notion is that it assumes that that can be called living that has no exercise of incipient willing. That is not what Jesus said about God being the God of the living.
They say, that death is the consequence of the first sin, as if death in scripture only referred to “dust returning to dust.” Further it seems to be implied that since consciousness is associated with the body, death ends conscious experience. But, that is not what Scripture say’s about death.
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (Cor. 4:6)
“But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 5:13 NAS)
It should be obvious that those two passages alone constitute exceptions to the postive assertion that there is no incipient willing after death. The spirit of man in seperation from God by sin is “dead” spiritually. And spiritual death is to be alive in the body, capable of incipient action which is still separated from the Life of God. That’s why Jesus could refer to those who put off the call of God to tend to subordinate activity as “dead”, as in, “let the dead, bury their dead” but for the called “follow him. Matt 8:21,22.
The irony of the “Frozen Man” as representative of man in physical death, is that it is just as fitting an image of traditional undersranding of man who is under the thrall the deterministic causal force called a sin nature.