Difference between revisions of "Soul"

From Nordan Symposia
Jump to navigationJump to search
Line 7: Line 7:
Skeptics of the soul cite phenomena such as [[brain lesion]]s (as in the case of [[Broca's aphasia]]) and [[Alzheimer's disease]] as evidence that personality is material, and furthermore, exists in discrete components, contrary to the philosophy of an immortal, unified soul.
Skeptics of the soul cite phenomena such as [[brain lesion]]s (as in the case of [[Broca's aphasia]]) and [[Alzheimer's disease]] as evidence that personality is material, and furthermore, exists in discrete components, contrary to the philosophy of an immortal, unified soul.
<center>For lessons on the '''Soul''', [http://nordan.daynal.org/wiki/index.php?title=Category:Soul follow this link].</center>
<center>For lessons on the '''Soul''', [http://nordan.daynal.org/wiki/index.php?title=Category:Soul follow this link].</center>

Revision as of 13:36, 20 August 2009


The Soul-Waterhouse.jpg

The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is the self-aware essence unique to a particular living being. In these traditions the soul is thought to incorporate the inner essence of each living being, and to be the true basis for sapience. It is believed in many cultures and religions that the soul is the unification of one's sense of identity. Souls are usually (but not always as explained below) considered to be immortal and to exist before their incarnation in flesh.

The concept of the soul has strong links with notions of an afterlife, but opinions may vary wildly, even within a given religion, as to what may happen to the soul after the death of the body. Many within these religions and philosophies see the soul as immaterial, while others consider it to possibly have a material component, and some have even tried to establish the mass (or weight) of the soul.

Skeptics of the soul cite phenomena such as brain lesions (as in the case of Broca's aphasia) and Alzheimer's disease as evidence that personality is material, and furthermore, exists in discrete components, contrary to the philosophy of an immortal, unified soul.

For lessons on the Soul, follow this link.

The human personality is identified with mind and spirit held together in functional relationship by life in a material body. This functioning relationship of such mind and spirit does not result in some combination of the qualities or attributes of mind and spirit but rather in an entirely new, original, and unique universe value of potentially eternal endurance, the soul.[1]


Modern English soul continues Old English sáwol, sáwel, first attested in the 8th century (in Beowulf v. 2820 and in the Vespasian Psalter 77.50), cognate to other Germanic terms for the same concept, including Gothic saiwala, Old High German sêula, sêla, Old Saxon sêola, Old Low Franconian sêla, sîla, Old Norse sála. The further etymology of the Germanic word is uncertain. A common suggestion is a connection with the word sea, and from this evidence alone, it has been speculated that the early Germanic peoples believed that the spirits of deceased rested at the bottom of the sea or similar. A more recent suggestion Janda, M., Eleusis, das indogermanische Erbe der Mysterien (1998) connects it with a root for "binding", Germanic *sailian (OE sēlian, OHG seilen), related to the notion of being "bound" in death, and the practice of ritually binding or restraining the corpse of the deceased in the grave to prevent his or her return as a ghost.

The word is in any case clearly an adaptation by early missionaries to the Germanic peoples, in particular Ulfila, apostle to the Goths (4th century) of a native Germanic concept, coined as a translation of Greek grc|ψυχή psychē "life, spirit, consciousness".

The Greek word is derived from a verb "to cool, to blow" and hence refers to the vital breath, the animating principle in man and animals, as opposed to grc|σῶμα "body". It could refer to a ghost or spirit of the dead in Homer, and to a more philosophical notion of an immortal and immaterial essence left over at death since Pindar. Latin lang|la|anima figured as a translation of grc|ψυχή since Terence. It occurs juxtaposed to grc|σῶμα e.g. in Matthew|10:28: grc|καὶ μὴ φοβηθεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι· φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ.}}

Vulgate: lang|la|et nolite timere eos qui occidunt corpus animam autem non possunt occidere sed potius eum timete qui potest et animam et corpus perdere in gehennam.
KJV "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

In the Septuagint, grc|ψυχή translates Hebrew נפש nephesh, meaning "life, vital breath", in English variously translated as "soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion"; e.g. in Genesis|1:20}}: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יִשְׁרְצ֣וּ הַמַּ֔יִם שֶׁ֖רֶץ נֶ֣פֶשׁ חַיָּ֑ה

LXX καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ἐξαγαγέτω τὰ ὕδατα ἑρπετὰ ψυχῶν ζωσῶν.
Vulgate La. Creavitque Deus cete grandia, et omnem animam viventem atque motabilem.
KJV "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth."

Paul of Tarsus used grc|ψυχή and πνευμαspecifically to distinguish between the Jewish notions of he|נפש}} nephesh and רוח, ruah also in LXX, e.g. Genesis|1:2, וְר֣וּחַ[[אֱלֹהִ֔ים, πνευμα θεου spiritus Dei = "the Spirit of God").

Philosophical views

The Ancient Greeks used the same word for 'alive' as for 'ensouled'. So the earliest surviving Western philosophical view might suggest that the terms soul and aliveness, were synonymous - perhaps not that having life, universally presupposed the possession of a soul as in Buddhism, but that full "aliveness" and the soul were conceptually linked.

Francis M. Cornford quotes Pindar in saying that the soul sleeps whilst the limbs are active, but when man is sleeping, the soul is active and reveals in many a dream "an award of joy or sorrow drawing near". Francis M. Cornford, Greek Religious Thought, p.64, referring to Pindar, Fragment 131.

Erwin Rohde writes that the early pre-Pythagorean belief was that the soul had no life when it departed from the body, and retired into Hades with no hope of returning to a body. Erwin Rohde, Psyche, 1928.

Socrates and Plato

Plato, drawing on the words of his teacher Socrates, considered the soul as the essence of a person, being, that which decides how we behave. He considered this essence as an incorporeal, eternal occupant of our being. As bodies die the soul is continually reborn in subsequent bodies. The Platonic soul comprises three parts:

  1. the logos (mind, nous, superego, or reason)
  2. the thymos (emotion, ego, or spiritedness)
  3. the pathos (appetitive, id, or carnal)

Each of these has a function in a balanced and peaceful soul.

The logos equates to the mind (superego). It corresponds to the charioteer, directing the balanced horses of appetite and spirit. It allows for logic to prevail, and for the optimisation of balance.

The thymos comprises our emotional motive (ego), that which drives us to acts of bravery and glory. If left unchecked, it leads to hubris -- the most fatal of all flaws in the Greek view.

The pathos equates to the appetite (id) that drives humankind to seek out its basic bodily needs. When the passion controls us, it drives us to hedonism in all forms. In the Ancient Greek view, this is the basal and most feral state.


Aristotle, following Plato, defined the soul as the core essence of a being, but argued against its having a separate existence. For instance, if a knife had a soul, the act of cutting would be that soul, because 'cutting' is the essence of what it is to be a knife. Unlike Plato and the religious traditions, Aristotle did not consider the soul as some kind of separate, ghostly occupant of the body (just as we cannot separate the activity of cutting from the knife). As the soul, in Aristotle's view, is an actuality of a living body, it cannot be immortal (when a knife is destroyed, the cutting stops). More precisely, the soul is the "first actuality" of a naturally organized body. This is a state, or a potential for actual, or 'second', activity. "The axe has an edge for cutting" was, for Aristotle, analogous to "humans have bodies for rational activity," and the potential for rational activity thus constituted the essence of a human soul. Aristotle used his concept of the soul in many of his works; the De Anima (On the Soul) provides a good place to start to gain more understanding of his views.

There is on-going debate about Aristotle's views regarding the immortality of the human soul; however, Aristotle makes it clear towards the end of his De Anima that he does believe that the intellect, which he considers to be a part of the soul, is eternal and separable from the body.

Aristotle also believed that there were four parts, parts understood as powers, of the soul. The four sections are calculative part, the scientific part on the rational side used for making decisions and the desiderative part and the vegetative part on the irrational side responsible for identifying our needs.-

Thomas Aquinas

Following Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas understands the soul as the first principle, or act, of the body. However, his epistemological theory required that, since the intellectual soul is capable of knowing all material things, and since in order to know a material thing there must be no material thing within it, the soul was definitely not corporeal. Therefore, the soul had an operation separate from the body and therefore could subsist without the body. Furthermore, since the rational soul of human beings was subsistent and was not made up of matter and form, it could not be destroyed in any natural process. The full argument for the immortality of the soul and Thomas's elaboration of Aristotelian theory is found in Question 75 of the Summa Theologica.

Religious views

Bahá'í beliefs

The Bahá'í Faith affirm that "the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel. " [2] Concerning the soul or spirit of human beings and its relationship to the physical body, Bahá'u'lláh explained: "Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments. ... When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal ... consider the sun which hath been obscured by the clouds. Observe how its splendor appeareth to have diminished, when in reality the source of that light hath remained unchanged. The soul of man should be likened unto this sun, and all things on earth should be regarded as his body. So long as no external impediment interveneth between them, the body will, in its entirety, continue to reflect the light of the soul, and to be sustained by its power. As soon as, however, a veil interposeth itself between them, the brightness of the light seemeth to lessen.... The soul of man is the sun by which his body is illumined, and from which it draweth its sustenance, and should be so regarded."[3]

The soul not only continues to live after the physical death of the human body, but is, in fact, immortal. Bahá'u'lláh wrote: "Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure."[4]

Heaven can be seen partly as the soul's state of nearness to God; and hell as a state of remoteness from God. Each state follows as a natural consequence of individual efforts, or the lack thereof, to develop spiritually. (see: The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 1 ISBN 0-85398-270-8

Bahá'u'lláh taught that individuals have no existence previous to their life here on earth. The soul's evolution is always towards God and away from the material world. A human being spends nine months in the womb in preparation for entry into this physical life. During that nine-month period, the fetus acquires the physical tools (e.g., eyes, limbs, and so forth) necessary for existence in this world. Similarly, this physical world is like a womb for entry into the spiritual world. Our time here is thus a period of preparation during which we are to acquire the spiritual and intellectual tools necessary for life in the next world. The crucial difference is that, whereas physical development in the mother's womb is involuntary, spiritual and intellectual development in this world depends strictly on conscious individual effort.

Buddhist beliefs

In Buddhism, it is acknowledged that there is a self (identity), however only a temporary one illustrated by experiences, therefore not the true nature (anatta).

Buddhism teaches that all things are impermanent, in a constant state of flux; all is transient, and no abiding state exists by itself. This applies to humanity, as much as to anything else in the cosmos; thus, there is no unchanging and abiding self. Our sense of "I" or "me" is simply a sense, belonging to the ever-changing entity, that (conventionally speaking) is us, our body, and mind. This expresses in essence the Buddhist principle of anatta (Pāli; Sanskrit: anātman).

Buddhist teaching holds that the delusion of a permanent, abiding self is one of the main root causes for human conflict on the emotional, social and political levels. They add that understanding of anatta (or "not-self or no soul") provides an accurate description of the human condition, and that this understanding allows "us" to go beyond "our" mundane desires. Buddhists can speak in conventional terms of the "self" as a matter of convenience, but only under the conviction that ultimately "we" are changing "entities". In death, the body and mind disintegrate; if the disintegrating mind is still in the grip of delusion, it will cause the continuity of the consciousness to bounce back an arising mind to an awaiting being, that is, a fetus developing the ability to harbor consciousness. Thus, in some Buddhist sects, a being that is born is neither entirely different, nor exactly the same, as it was prior to rebirth.

However, there are scholars, such as Shirō Matsumoto, who have noted a curious development in Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, stemming from the Cittamatra and Vijnanavada schools in India: although this school of thought denies the permanent personal selfhood, it affirms concepts such as Buddha-nature, Tathagatagarbha, Rigpa, or "original nature". Matsumoto argues that these concepts constitute a non- or trans-personal self, and almost equate in meaning to the Hindu concept of Atman, although they differ in that Buddha-nature does not incarnate.

In some Mahayana Buddhist schools, particularly Tibetan Buddhism, the view is that there are 3 minds: Very-Subtle-Mind, which isn't disintegrated in incarnation-death; Subtle-Mind, which is disintegrated in death, and is "dreaming-mind" or "unconscious-mind"; and Gross-Mind. Gross-Mind doesn't exist when one is sleeping, so it is more impermanent even than Subtle-Mind, which doesn't exist in death. Very-Subtle-Mind, however, does continue, and when it "catches on" or coincides with phenomena again, a new Subtle-Mind emerges, with its own personality/assumptions/habits and that someone/entity experiences the karma on that continuum that is ripening then.

One should note the polarity in Tibetan Buddhism between shes-pa (the principle of consciousness) and rig-pa (pure consciousness equal to Buddha-nature). The concept of a person as a tulku provides even more controversy. A tulku has, due to heroic austerities and esoteric training (or due to innate talent combined with great subtle-mind commitment in the moment of death), achieved the goal of transferring personal "identity" (or nature/commitment) from one rebirth to the next (for instance, Tibetans consider the Dalai Lama a tulku). The mechanics behind this work as follows: although Buddha-nature does not incarnate, the individual self comprises skandhas, or components, that undergo rebirth. For an ordinary person, skandhas cohere in a way that dissolves upon the person's death. So, elements of the transformed personality re-incarnate, but they lose the unity that constitutes personal selfhood for a specific person. In the case of tulkus, however, they supposedly achieve sufficient "crystallization" of skandhas in such a manner that the skandhas do not entirely "disentangle" upon the tulku's death; rather, a directed reincarnation occurs. In this new birth, the tulku possesses a continuity of personal identity/commitment, rooted in the fact that the consciousness or shes-pa (which equates to a type of skandha called vijnana) has not dissolved after death, but has sufficient durability to survive in repeated births. Since, however, subtle-mind emerges in incarnation, and gross-mind emerges in periods of sufficient awareness within some incarnations, there isn't really any contradiction: very-subtle-mind's original nature, that is irreducible mind / clarity whose function is knowing, doesn't have any "body", and the coarser minds that emerge "on" it while it drifts/wanders/dreams aren't continuous. Any continuity of awareness achieved by tulku is simply a greater continuity than is achieved by/in a normal incarnation, as it continues across several, is only a difference of degree.

Many modern Buddhists, particularly in Western countries, reject the concept of rebirth or reincarnation as incompatible with the concept of anatta, and typically take an agnostic stance toward the concept. Stephen Batchelor, notably, discusses this issue in his book Buddhism Without Beliefs. However, the question arises: if a self does not exist, who thinks/lives now? Some Buddhist sects hold the view that thought itself thinks: if you remove the thought, there's no thinker (self) to be found. A detailed introduction to this, and to other basic Buddhist teachings, appears in What the Buddha taught by the Buddhist monk Walpola Rahula.

Others see the Buddha's warning that those who believe that a permanent self does not exist are just as gravely mistaken as those who believe that one does, and understand that He taught that both views were erroneous and could not capture the actual truth of the matter, speculations along those lines would only cause suffering rather than its removal. (See: neti neti).

Some say that the self endures after death, some say it perishes. In the Theravada Buddhist view, both are wrong and their error is most grievous. Theravadins believe that if one says the self is perishable, the fruit they strive for will perish too, and at some time there will be no hereafter. Good and evil would be indifferent. This salvation from selfishness is without merit. Theravada Buddhism's stance on many beliefs of soul after Death are explained in the Brahmajala Sutta.

Christian beliefs

Christians believe that when people die their souls will be judged by God, who sees all the wrong and right that they have done during their lives. If they have repented of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they will inherit eternal life in Heaven and enjoy eternal fellowship with God. Most Christians believe that if one has not repented of his sins and not accepted Jesus Christ, he will go to Hell, and suffer eternal torment and separation from God. This is the teaching of most evangelical, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, which constitute the majority of Christianity, though there are some Christians that believe the soul will be destroyed in hell, instead of suffering eternally.

Various opinions

Some Christians regard the soul as the immortal essence of a human - the seat or locus of human will, understanding, and personality - and that after death, God either rewards or punishes the soul. Different groups dispute whether this reward/punishment depends upon doing good deeds, or merely upon believing in God and in Jesus.

Other Christians reject the idea of the immortality of the soul, citing the Apostles Creed's reference to the "resurrection of the body" (the Greek word for body is soma, which implies the whole person, not sarx, the term for flesh or corpse). They consider the soul (Greek pnema - air, wind, breath) to be the life force, which ends in death and is restored in the resurrection. Theologian Frederick Buechner sums up this position in his 1973 book Whistling in the Dark: "...we go to our graves as dead as a doornail and are given our lives back again by God (i.e., resurrected) just as we were given them by God in the first place."

Augustine, one of the most influential early Christian thinkers, described the soul as "a special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body". The apostle Paul said that the "body wars against" the soul, and that "I buffet my body", to keep it under control. Philosopher Anthony Quinton said the soul is a "series of mental states connected by continuity of character and memory, [and] is the essential constituent of personality. The soul, therefore, is not only logically distinct from any particular human body with which it is associated; it is also what a person is". Richard Swinburne, a Christian philosopher of religion at Oxford University, wrote that "it is a frequent criticism of substance dualism that dualists cannot say what souls are.... Souls are immaterial subjects of mental properties. They have sensations and thoughts, desires and beliefs, and perform intentional actions. Souls are essential parts of human beings..."

The origin of the soul has provided a sometimes vexing question in Christianity; the major theories put forward include creationism, traducianism and pre-existence. According to creationism, each individual soul is created directly by God, either at the moment of conception, or some later time (identical twins arise several cell divisions after conception, but no one would deny that they have whole souls). According to traducianism, the soul comes from the parents by natural generation. According to the pre-existence theory the soul exists before the moment of conception.

Roman Catholic beliefs:

  • The present Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the soul as "the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God's image: 'soul' signifies the spiritual principle in man."
  • The soul is the center of the human will, intellect (or mind), and imagination (or memory), and the source of all free human acts, although good acts are aided by God's grace.
  • Every human being receives a soul at the moment of conception, and has rights and dignity equal to persons of further development, including the right to life.
  • At the moment of death, the soul goes either to Purgatory, Heaven, or Hell. Purgatory is a place of atonement for sins that one goes through to pay the temporal punishment for post-baptismal sins that have not been atoned for by sufferings during one's earthly life. This is distinct from the atonement for the eternal punishment due to sin which was affected by Christ's suffering and death.
  • The Catholic Church teaches the creationist view of the origin of the soul: "The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God." -Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 382.

Other Christian beliefs:

  • Eastern Orthodox views are very similar to Catholic views.
  • Protestants generally believe both in the soul's existence but do not generally believe in Purgatory. Protestant views on other issues are more varied.
  • A few Christian groups do not believe in the soul, and hold that people cease to exist, both mind and body, at death; they claim however, that God will recreate the minds and bodies of believers in Jesus at some future time, the "end of the world."[5]
  • Another minority of Christians believe in the soul, but don't regard it as inherently immortal. This minority also believes the life of Christ brings immortality, but only to believers.
  • The soul sleep theory states that the soul goes to "sleep" at the time of death, and stays in this quiescent state until the last judgment.
  • The "absent from the body, present with the Lord" theory states that the soul at the point of death, immediately becomes present at the end of time, without experiencing any time passing between.
  • Swedenborgianism teaches that each person's soul is created by the Lord at the same time as the physical body is developed, that the soul is the person himself or herself, and that the soul is eternal, and has an eternal spiritual body, that is substantial without being material. After the death of the body, the person becomes immediately conscious in the spiritual world.
  • Some minorities believe that a soul is what keeps the spirit alive (thinking and feeling) and when the soul is destroyed on death leaving the spirit dormant.
  • Seventh-Day Adventists believe that the main definition of the term "Soul" is a combination of Spirit (breath of life) and body, defying the view that the soul has a consciousness or sentient existence of its own, (see soul sleep). They affirm this through Genesis 2:7 "And (God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
  • Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that the soul is the union of a spirit, which was previously created by God, and a body, which is formed by physical conception later.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses view the Hebrew word NePHeSH in its literal concrete meaning of breath, making a person who is animated by the spirit of God into a living BREATHER, rather than a body containing an invisible entity such as the majority concept of Soul. Spirit is seen to be anything powerful and invisible symbolized by the Hebrew word RuaCH which has the literal meaning of wind. Thus Soul is used by them to mean a person rather than an invisible core entity associated with a spirit or a force, which leaves the body at or after death. (Gen.2:7; Ezek.18:4, KJV). When a person dies his Soul leaves him meaning that he has stopped breathing and his fate for any future existence rests solely with God who they believe has the power to re-create the whole person and restore their existence. This is in line with their belief that Hell represents the grave and the possibility of eternal death for unbelievers rather than eternal torment. See Strong's Concordance under "soul", with Biblical meaning that animals and people are souls, that souls are not immortal, but die; soul means the person; life as a person, etc.

In favor of a conscious non-material entity ("soul") that survives bodily death

Some traditional Christians argue that the Bible teaches the survival of a conscious self after death. They interpret this as an intermediate state, before the deceased unite with their Resurrection bodies and restore the psychosomatic unity that existed from conception, and which death disrupts. Amongst others these Christians point out:

  • Rachel's death in Genesis 35:18 equates with her soul (Hebrew nephesh) departing. And when Elijah prays in 1 Kings 17:21 for the return of a widow's boy to life, he entreats, "O LORD my God, I pray you, let this child's nephesh come into him again". So death meant that something called nephesh (or "soul") became separated from the body, and life could return when this soul returned.
  • Psalm 31:9

"Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief." The soul and body are noted as separate. Psalm 63:1 "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." Here the body and soul are noted as separate again. Micah 6:7 "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Once again, the soul and body are noted separate.

  • Jesus told the repentant thief on the cross, "I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Interpretation: that very day, the thief will in a conscious way have fellowship with Christ in Paradise, despite the apparent destruction of his body. According to the apostle Peter, Jesus descended (upon His death) into Hades, which could not hold Him, and led the souls of the righteous dead (including the thief on the cross) which were imprisoned in Paradise (a compartment of Hades, which was reserved for those righteous dead) out of captivity, and "led captivity captive" (thus emptying Paradise, according to the apostle Paul), who also claimed that Jesus was King not only by birth, but "by nature of an indestructible life" (in the letter to the Hebrews, if it was written by Paul). Afterwards, in John's vision of Revelation, Jesus appeared to John and claimed that He had "the keys of Hades".
  • Jesus' account of the rich man and Lazarus, who were both still conscious at the same time as the rich man's brothers, who lived on. This scenario preceded Jesus taking the souls of Paradise with Him to heaven, therefore Lazarus remains in Paradise. The rich man stood in another compartment of Sheol where he could see Lazarus, but could never cross over. The patriarch Abraham comforted Lazarus, whereas the rich man remained in torment. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, how difficult it is for a rich man to enter into Heaven," (although Lazarus was not there yet).
  • In Matthew 10:28 "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Body and Soul are separate.
  • In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Body and Soul are separate as well.
  • In Matthew 22:31b-32 Jesus says, "...have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is God not of the dead, but of the living." (NRSV), suggesting the patriarchs are still "living" in some form.
  • In Luke 20:38 Jesus said, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." To God everyone is alive, therefore confirming an afterlife.
  • In Luke 9:27, Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God." Therefore confirming that the apostles did not perish but lived an afterlife.
  • In John 8:51 Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death." Therefore confirming an afterlife.
  • In Ecclesiastes 12:7 it says, "Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it."

Christian Gnosticism: Valentinus

In early years of Christianity, the Gnostic Christian Valentinus of Valentinius (circa 100 - circa 153) proposed a version of spiritual psychology that accorded with numerous other "perennial wisdom" doctrines. He conceived the human being as a triple entity, consisting of body (soma, hyle), soul (psyche) and spirit (pneuma). This equates exactly to the division one finds in St. Paul’s Epistle to Thessalonians I, but enriched: Valentinus considered that all humans possess semi-dormant "spiritual seed" (sperma pneumatikon) which, in spiritually developed Christians, can unite with spirit, equated with Angel Christ. Evidently his spiritual seed corresponds precisely to shes-pa in Tibetan Buddhism, jiva in Vedanta, ruh in Hermetic Sufism or soul-spark in other traditions, and Angel Christ to Higher Self in modern transpersonal psychologies, Atman in Vedanta or Buddha nature in Mahayana Buddhism. In Valentinus’ opinion, spiritual seed, the ray from Angel Christ, returns to its source. This is true resurrection (as Valentinus himself wrote in The Gospel of Truth: "People who say they will first die and then arise are mistaken. If they do not receive resurrection while they are alive, once they have died they will receive nothing."). In Valentinus’ vision of life human bodies go to dust, soul-sparks or spiritual seeds unite (in realised Gnostics) with their Higher Selves/Angel Christ and the soul proper, carrier of psychological functions and personalities (emotions, memory, rational faculties, imagination,...) will survive - but will not go to Pleroma or Fullness (the source of all where resurrected seeds that have realised their beings as Angels Christ return to). The souls stay in "the places that are in the middle", the worlds of Psyche. In time, after numerous purifications, the souls receive "spiritual flesh", i.e. a resurrection body. This division appears rather puzzling, but not dissimilar to Kabbalah, where neshamah goes to the source and ruach is, undestructed and indestructible, but unredeemed, relegated to a lower world. Similarly, according to Valentinus, complete resurrection occurs only after the end of Time (in the Christian worldview), when transfigured souls who have acquired spiritual flesh finally re-unite with the perfect, individual Angel Christ, residing in the Pleroma. Valentinus sees this as final salvation.

Many non-denominational Christians, and indeed many people who ostensibly subscribe to denominations having clear-cut dogma on the concept of soul, take an "à la carte" approach to the belief, that is, they judge each issue on what they see as its merits and juxtapose different beliefs from different branches of Christianity, from other religions, and from their understanding of science.

Hindu beliefs

In Hinduism, the Sanskrit words most closely corresponding to soul are "Jiva", meaning the individual soul or personality, and "Atman", which can also mean soul or even God. The Atman is seen as the portion of Brahman within us. Hinduism contains many variant beliefs on the origin, purpose, and fate of the soul. For example, advaita or non-dualistic conception of the soul accords it union with Brahman, the absolute uncreated (roughly, the Godhead), in eventuality or in pre-existing fact. Dvaita or dualistic concepts reject this, instead identifying the soul as a different and incompatible substance.

The Bhagavad Gita, one of the most significant puranic scriptures, refers to the spiritual body or soul as Purusha (see also Sankhya philosophy). The Purusha is part and parcel of God, is unchanging (is never born and never dies), is indestructible, and, though essentially indivisible, can be described as having three characteristics:

(i) Sat (truth or existence)

(ii) Chit (consciousness or knowledge)

(iii) Ananda (bliss)

Islamic beliefs

The Qur'an doesn't explain much about the concept of the soul and instead says:” The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)"[6]. So little information is available in that regard from Islam.

According to few verses from Qur'an though the following information can be deduced: In part 15 verse 29, the creation of man involves Allah or an Angel of Allah "breathing" a soul into him. This intangible part of an individual's existence is "pure" at birth and has the potential of growing and achieving nearness to God if the person leads a righteous life. At death the person's soul transitions to an eternal afterlife of bliss, peace and unending spiritual growth (Qur’an 66:8, 39:20). This transition can be pleasant (Heaven) or unpleasant (Hell) depending on the degree to which a person has developed or destroyed his or her soul during life (Qur’an 91:7-10).

From the Hadith we understand the Allah assigns an Angel to "breathe" soul into an embryo after 40 days of pregnancy. The soul is responsible for the good deeds of a person and can be interrupted by devils which results in committing sins.

Generally, it is believed that all living beings are compromised of two aspects during their existence: The physical (being the body) and the non-physical (being the soul). The non-physical aspect, namely the soul, is one's soul-related activities like his/her feelings and emotions, thoughts, conscious and sub-conscious desires and objectives. While the body and its physical actions serve as a “reflection” of one’s soul, whether it was good or evil, and thus "confirms" the extent of such intentions [7]. For further clarification, another example can be found in the Qur'an where Allah says that Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) followers have their noble personalities and characteristics “written” and shown on their faces [8].

See also:Sufi psychology

Jainist beliefs

According to Jainism, Soul (jiva) exists as a reality, having a separate existence from the body that houses it. Every living being – be it a human or a plant or a bacterium – has a soul and has a capacity to experience pain and pleasure. The soul (Jiva) is differentiated from non-soul or non-living reality (ajiva) that includes matter, time, space, principle of motion and principle of rest.

As realization of the soul and its salvation are the highest objective to be attained, most of the Jaina texts deal with various aspects of the soul i.e. its qualities, attributes, bondage, interaction with other elements, salvation etc. Following are the quotes on soul from Panchastikayasara, a first century CE jaina text authored by Acharya Kundakunda :-

  1. The qualities of soul and its states of existence are described in Verse 16 - The Jiva (Soul) and other Dravyas (substances) are real. The qualities of jiva are chetana i.e. consciousness and upoyoga i.e. knowledge and perception, which are manifold. The soul manifests in the following form as a deva i.e. demi-god, as a human, as a hellish being or as a plant or animal.
  2. The permanency and the modes of soul are described in Verse 18 – Though the soul experiences both birth and death, it is neither really destroyed nor created. Decay and origin refer respectively to the disappearing of the deva state and appearing of the human state or vice versa and these are merely the modes of the soul.
  3. The cycle of transmigration of the soul until it attains Nirvana or liberation is described in Verse 21 – Thus Jiva with its attributes and modes, roaming in samsara (universe), may lose its particular form and assume a new one. Again this form may be lost and the original acquired.

In another text, BHAVAPAHUDA, gatha 64, Acharya Kundakunda describes soul as thus :

arasamaruvamagandham avvattam cedanagunasamaddam
janamalingaggahanam jivamanidditthasanthanam

Translation : The soul is without taste, colour and cannot be perceived by the five senses. Consciousness is its chief attribute. Know the soul to be free of any gender and not bound by any dimensions of shape and size.

Hence the soul according to Jainism is indestructible and permanent from the point of view of substance. It is temporary and ever changing from the point of view of its modes. The soul continuously undergoes modifications as per the karma it attracts and hence reincarnates in the following four states of existence - 1) as a Demi-God in Heaven, or 2) as a tormented soul in Hell, or 3) as a Human being on Continents , or 4) as an Animal, or a Plant, or as a Micro-organism.

The soul is always found to be in bondage (with its karmas) since the beginingless time and hence continuously undergoes the cycle of birth and death in these four states of existence until it attains liberation (Moksha).

The Jaina beliefs on the soul can be summarized as under :-

  • The souls are classified as – mundane which are non liberated souls and liberated souls who have achieved Godhood by burning their karmas.
  • Mundane souls are further classified on the basis of evolution of senses and faculties that it possesses. E.g., humans are classified as five sense souls and Plants and Microbes are classified as single-sensed souls.
  • Consciousness characterized by Perception and Knowledge is the intrinsic quality of a Soul.
  • In all there are 8.4 million species of life forms in four states of existence in which a soul transmigrates an a continuous cycle until it achieves salvation.
  • A Supreme Being as a creator and operator of this universe does not exist. A soul is the master of its own destiny. It is its own lord. The suffering and liberation of the soul are not dependent on any divine grace. It attains salvation by its own efforts.
  • Every soul has the capacity to achieve Godhood in its human birth. This is achieved by burning the accumulated Karmas by following complete non-violence and non-attachment.
  • Liberation is permanent and irreversible. The liberated soul which is formless and incorporeal in nature experiences infinite knowledge, omniscience, infinite power and infinite bliss after liberation.
  • Even after liberation and attainment of Godhood, the soul does not merge into any entity (as in other philosophies), but maintains its individuality.

Jewish beliefs

Jewish views of the soul begin with the book of Genesis, in which verse 2:7 states, "the LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being." (New JPS)

The Torah offers no systematic definition of a soul; various descriptions of the soul exist in classical rabbinic literature.

Saadia Gaon, in his Emunoth ve-Deoth 6:3, explained classical rabbinic teaching about the soul. He held that the soul comprises that part of a person's mind which constitutes physical desire, emotion, and thought.

Maimonides, in his The Guide to the Perplexed, explained classical rabbinic teaching about the soul through the lens of neo-Aristotelian philosophy, and viewed the soul as a person's developed intellect, which has no substance.

Kabbalah (esoteric Jewish mysticism) saw the soul as having three elements. The Zohar, a classic work of Jewish mysticism, posits that the human soul has three elements, the nephesh, ru'ah, and neshamah. A common way of explaining these three parts follows:

  • Nephesh - The part that is alive and signifies that which is vital in man: it feels hunger, hates, loves, loathes, weeps, and most importantly, can die (can depart from the body, but can sometimes come back in again). The nephesh is in all humans and enters the body at birth when the body first takes a breath. Animals also have a nephesh (they breathe), but plants do not. It is the source of one's physical and psychological nature. (derived from Old Testament Theology, by Gerhard von Rad)

The next two parts of the soul are not implanted at birth, but are slowly created over time; their development depends on the actions and beliefs of the individual. They are said to only fully exist in people awakened spiritually:

  • Ruach - the middle soul, or spirit. It contains the moral virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil. In modern parlance, it equates to psyche or ego-personality.
  • Neshamah - the higher soul, Higher Self or super-soul. This distinguishes man from all other life forms. It relates to the intellect, and allows man to enjoy and benefit from the afterlife. This part of the soul is provided both to Jew and non-Jew alike at birth. It allows one to have some awareness of the existence and presence of God. In the Zohar, after death Nefesh disintegrates, Ruach is sent to a sort of intermediate zone where it is submitted to purification and enters in "temporary paradise", while Neshamah returns to the source, the world of Platonic ideas, where it enjoys "the kiss of the beloved". Supposedly after resurrection, Ruach and Neshamah, soul and spirit re-unite in a permanently transmuted state of being.

The Raaya Meheimna, a Kabbalistic tractate always published with the Zohar, posits two more parts of the human soul, the chayyah and yehidah. Gershom Scholem wrote that these "were considered to represent the sublimest levels of intuitive cognition, and to be within the grasp of only a few chosen individuals":

  • Chayyah - The part of the soul that allows one to have an awareness of the divine life force itself.
  • Yehidah - the highest plane of the soul, in which one can achieve as full a union with God as is possible.

Extra soul states

Both Rabbinic and kabbalistic works also posit a few additional, non-permanent states to the soul that people can develop on certain occasions. These extra souls, or extra states of the soul, play no part in any afterlife scheme, but are mentioned for completeness.

  • Ruach HaKodesh - a state of the soul that makes prophecy possible. Since the age of classical prophecy passed, no one receives the soul of prophecy any longer.
  • Neshamah Yeseira - The supplemental soul that a Jew experiences on Shabbat. It makes possible an enhanced spiritual enjoyment of the day. This exists only while one observes Shabbat; it can be lost and gained depending on one's observance.
  • Neshamah Kedosha - Provided to Jews at the age of majority (13 for boys, 12 for girls), and related to the study and fulfillment of the Torah commandments. It exists only when one studies and follows Torah; it can be lost and gained depending on one's study and observance.

For more detail on Jewish beliefs about the soul see Jewish eschatology.

Sikh Belief

Sikhism considers SOUL (atma) to be part of Universal Soul, which is GOD (Parmatma). Various hymns are cited from the holy book "Aad Guru Granth Sahib" (AGGS) that suggests this belief. "God is in the Soul and the Soul is in the God." AGGS, M 1, p 1153. The same concept is repeated at various pages of the AGGS. For example: "The soul is divine; divine is the soul. Worship Him with love." AGGS, M 4, p 1325. and "The soul is the Lord, and the Lord is the soul; contemplating the Shabad, the Lord is found." AGGS, M 1, p 1030.

Taoist View

Most Taoist schools believe that every individual has more than one soul (or the soul can be separated into different parts) and the souls are constantly transforming themselves. Some believe there are at least three souls for every person: one soul coming from one's father, one from one's mother, and one primordial soul. An important part of spiritual practice for some Taoist schools is to harmonize/integrate those three souls.

Some other schools believe there are ten souls for each person: three from heaven, seven from earth.

Other religious beliefs and views

In Egyptian Mythology, an individual was believed to be made up of various elements, some physical and some spiritual. See the article Egyptian soul for more details.

These are the two parts which the ancient Chinese believed constitute every person's soul. The p‘o is the visible personality indissolubly attached to the body, while the hun is its more ethereal complement also interpenetrating the body, but not of necessity always tied to it. The hun in its wanderings may be either visible or invisible; if the former, it appears in the guise of its original body, which actually may be far away lying in a trance-like state tenanted by the p‘o. And not only is the body duplicated under these conditions, but also the garments that clothe it. Should the hun stay away permanently, death results.

Some transhumanists believe that it will become possible to perform mind transfer, either from one human body to another, or from a human body to a computer. Operations of this type (along with teleportation), raise philosophical questions related to the concept of the Soul.

Crisscrossing specific religions, the phenomenon of therianthropy and belief in the existence of otherkin also occur. One can perhaps better describe these as phenomena rather than as beliefs, since people of varying religion, ethnicity, or nationality may believe in them. Therianthropy involves the belief that a person or his soul has a spiritual, emotional, or mental connection with an animal. Such a belief may manifest itself in many forms, and many explanations for it often draw on a person's religious beliefs. Otherkin hold similar beliefs: they see their souls as partially or entirely non-human, and not necessarily of this world.

Another fairly large segment of the population, not necessarily favoring organized religion, simply label themselves as "spiritual" and hold that both humans and all other living creatures have souls. Some further believe the entire universe has a cosmic soul as a spirit or unified consciousness. Such a conception of the soul may link with the idea of an existence before and after the present one, and one could consider such a soul as the spark, or the self, the "I" in existence that feels and lives life.

Some believe souls in some way "echo" to the edges of this universe, or even to multiple universes with compiled multiple possibilities, each presented with a slightly different energy version of itself. The science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, for example, has explored such ideas.

In Surat Shabda Yoga, the soul is considered to be an exact replica and spark of the Divine. The purpose of Surat Shabd Yoga is to realize one’s True Self as soul (Self-Realisation), True Essence (Spirit-Realisation) and True Divinity (God-Realisation) while living in the physical body.

G.I. Gurdjieff taught that no man is ever born with a soul. Rather, a man must create a soul during the course of his life. Without a soul, Gurdjieff taught that a man will "die like a dog."

Non-religious views

Atheist/humanist beliefs

Atheists and humanists do not necessarily accept the existence of a soul. In fact, the majority of self-proclaimed atheists do not believe in a soul, more of simply human consciousness."SPIRIT, SOUL, AND MIND", Frank R. Zindler, The Probing Mind, February 1985

Agnostic beliefs

Agnostics believe humans cannot come to know whether God(s) or soul(s) exist.

Science and the soul

Science and medicine seek naturalistic accounts of the observable natural world. This stance is known as methodological naturalism[9] From the perspective of materialism, for the soul to exist it would have to manifest as a form of energy mediated by a force. Only four forces have been experimentally confirmed to exist (strong interaction, weak interaction, electromagnetism and gravitation). The only force which operates relevantly at the human scale is electromagnetism. This force is fully understood and described by Quantum Electrodynamics and Special Relativity. Any additional force acting upon humans or emanating from the mind would have long ago been detected in laboratories as an aberration of the predictable behaviour of electromagnetism - and this has never been detected. Much of scientific study relating to the soul has been involved in investigating the soul as a human belief or as concept that shapes cognition and understanding of the world (see Memetics), rather than as an entity in and of itself.

When modern scientists speak of the soul outside of this cultural and psychological context, it is generally as a poetic synonym for mind. Francis Crick's book The Astonishing Hypothesis, for example, has the subtitle, "The scientific search for the soul". Crick holds the position that one can learn everything knowable about the human soul by studying the workings of the human brain. Depending on one's belief regarding the relationship between the soul and the mind, then, the findings of neuroscience may be relevant to one's understanding of the soul.

A search of the PubMed research literature database shows the following numbers of articles with the indicated term in the title:

  1. brain – 167,244
  2. consciousness – 2,918 (842 or 29% of these articles also include “brain” in the database entry)
  3. soul - 552 (40, 7%, of these articles also include “brain” in the database entry. Many of these articles deal with medical ethics issue such as the implications of religious beliefs on decisions about life support for people in persistent vegetative states)

An oft-encountered analogy is that the brain is to the mind as computer hardware is to computer software. The idea of the mind as software has led some scientists to use the word "soul" to emphasize their belief that the human mind has powers beyond or at least qualitatively different from what artificial software can do. Roger Penrose expounds this position in The Emperor's New Mind[10]. He posits that the mind is in fact not like a computer as generally understood, but rather a quantum computer, that can do things impossible on a classical computer, such as decide the halting problem. Some have located the soul in this possible difference between the mind and a classical computer.

Attempted demonstrations of the soul as distinct from the mind

During the late 19th and first half 20th century, researchers attempted to weigh people who were known to be dying, and record their weight accurately at the time of death. As an example, Dr. Duncan MacDougall, in the early 1900s, sought to measure the weight purportedly lost by a human body when the soul departed the body upon death. MacDougall weighed dying patients in an attempt to prove that the soul was material and measurable. These experiments are widely considered to have had little if any scientific merit, and although MacDougall's results varied considerably from 21 grams, for some people this figure has become synonymous with the measure of a soul's weight. Experiments such as MacDougall's have not been repeated with current precision equipment and research tools, and snopes.com concludes of one researcher that:

"MacDougall's results were flawed because the methodology used to harvest them was suspect, the sample size far too small, and the ability to measure changes in weight imprecise. For this reason, credence should not be given to the idea his experiments proved something, let alone that they measured the weight of the soul as 21 grams. His postulations on this topic are a curiosity, but nothing more."
Source and details: http://www.snopes.com/religion/soulweight.asp

Researchers, most notably Ian Stevenson and Brian Weiss have studied reports of children talking about past-life experiences. Any evidence that these experiences were in fact real would require a change in scientific understanding of the mind or would support some notions of the soul.

In recent decades, much research has been done in near-death experiences, which are held by many as evidence for the existence of a soul and afterlife.

Research on the concept of the soul

In his book Consilience, E. O. Wilson took note that sociology has identified belief in a soul as one of the universal human cultural elements. Wilson suggested that biologists need to investigate how human genes predispose people to believe in a soul.

Daniel Dennett has championed the idea that the human survival strategy depends heavily on adoption of the intentional stance, a behavioral strategy that predicts the actions of others based on the expectation that they have a mind like one's own (see theory of mind). Mirror neurons in brain regions such as Broca's area may facilitate this behavioral strategy. The intentional stance, Dennett suggests, has proven so successful that people tend to apply it to all aspects of human experience, thus leading to animism and to other conceptualizations of soul.

A counterargument (from Keith Sutherland, among others) points out that just because the brain has regions that deal with colour and other aspects of vision, one does not argue that the genes produce an area to promote the illusion of a blue sky. By analogy, if there is a 'God sense' just as there is a sense of vision, it seems to argue for the objective existence of an extra-mundane reality.

Other uses of the term

  • Popular usage often describes experiences that evoke deep emotions as "touching the soul".
  • Soulmates are people who one believes are destined to be found and become close to in this lifetime.
  • Soul is a kind of modern music
  • "Soul nurtured and was nurtured by the Black Man in America." (Mississippi John Hurt)
  • Stealing souls and using their energy to fuel some sort of doomsday weapon or other "great machine" is a common plot device in some types of fiction (particularly fantasy).
  • See psyche for Carl Jung's unique definition of what he meant by soul versus psyche.

See also

Usage in movies

  • Ghost (USA, 1990) with Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore.
  • White Noise (USA, 2005) with Michael Keaton.
  • 21 Grams: Regards the urban legend that the body loses twenty-one grams of weight at death, this weight surmised to be the soul.

Usage in art

  • Soul Sale (1998): Art group monochrom created a "spirituo-capitalist" booth in Vienna where project members tried to buy the souls of passers-by for $5 per soul. A total of fifteen were purchased and registered. These souls are still being offered for sale to third parties with power of disposal. The group sees the project - beyond all philosophical discourses and argumentation seeking to prove the existence of god - in the classical sense of a market driven by supply and demand. The soul is a tradable commodity, a form of virtual capital.

Additional references

  • Batchelor, Stephen. Buddhism Without Belief - aha.
  • Cornford, Francis, M., Greek Religious Thought, 1950.
  • Rohde, Erwin, Psyche, 1928.
  • Swinburne (1997). The Evolution of the Soul. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Stevenson (1975). Cases of the Reincarnation Type, Volume I: Ten Cases in India. University Press of Virginia
  • Stevenson (1974). Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia
  • Stevenson (1983). Cases of the Reincarnation Type, Volume IV: Twelve Cases in Thailand and Burma. University Press of Virginia
  • Stevenson (1997). Reincarnation and Biology : A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects. Praeger Publishers
  • Wilson (1996). The State of Man: Day Star, Wake Up Seminars. 1996.
  • Aad Guru Granth Sahib. 1983 (reprint). Publishers: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar. (M = Mahala, i.e., succession number of Sikh Gurus to the House of Guru Nanak, P = page number of the AGGS.).

Further reading

  • The Early Greek Concept of the Soul [11] , Princeton University Press , 0-691-03131-2
  • Christopher, Milbourne, Search for the Soul , Thomas Y. Crowell Publishers, 1979
  • McGraw, John J., Brain & Belief: An Exploration of the Human Soul , Aegis Press, 2004

External links