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The soul, in some religions, spiritual traditions, and philosophies, is the immaterial or eternal part of a living being, commonly held to be separable in existence from the body—the metaphysical part as distinct from the physical part. The soul is generally conceived as existing within humans and sometimes within all living things, inanimate objects, and the universe as a whole. In some cultures, non-human living things, and sometimes other objects (such as rivers) are said to have souls; these cultures hold a belief known as animism.[1] The soul is often believed to live on after a person’s death, and some religions posit that God creates souls.

The soul has been deemed integral or essential to consciousness and personality, and may be synonymous with spirit, mind or self.[2] Although the terms soul and spirit are sometimes used interchangeably, soul may denote a more worldly and less transcendent aspect of a person.[3] According to psychologist James Hillman, soul has an affinity for negative thoughts and images, whereas spirit seeks to rise above the entanglements of life and death.[4] The words soul and psyche can also be treated synonymously, although psyche has more physical connotations, whereas soul is connected more closely to metaphysics and religion.[5]



The Modern English soul derived from Old English sáwol, sáwel (first attested to in the 8th century poem Beowulf v. 2820 and in the Vespasian Psalter 77.50), cognate to other Germanic terms for the same idea, including Gothic saiwala, Old High German sêula, sêla, Old Saxon sêola, Old Low Franconian sêla, sîla, Old Norse sála. 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[6] 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 Ulfilas, apostle to the Goths (4th century) of a native Germanic concept, coined as a translation of Greek 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 humans and other animals, as opposed to σῶμα (soma) meaning "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 anima figured as a translation of ψυχή since Terence. It occurs juxtaposed to σῶμα e.g. in Matthew 10:28:

καὶ μὴ φοβηθεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ θε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ.
Vulgate: 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.
Authorized King James Version (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 (LXX), 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 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 ψυχή and πνεῦμα specifically to distinguish between the Jewish notions of נפש nephesh and רוח ruah (spirit) (also in LXX, e.g. Genesis 1:2 וְר֣וּחַאֱלֹהִ֔ים = πνεῦμα θεοῦ = spiritus Dei = "the Spirit of God").

Life and death

In theological reference to the soul, the terms "life" and "death" are viewed as emphatically more definitive than the common concepts of "biological life" and "biological death". Because the soul is said to be transcendent of the material existence, and is said to have (potentially) eternal life, the death of the soul is likewise said to be an eternal death. Thus, in the concept of divine judgment, God is commonly said to have options with regard to the dispensation of souls, ranging from Heaven (i.e. angels) to hell (i.e. demons), with various concepts in between. Typically both Heaven and hell are said to be eternal, or at least far beyond a typical human concept of lifespan and time.

Religions which subscribe to non-monotheistic views, in particular Dharmic religions, may have differing concepts, such as reincarnation, nirvana, etc.

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 while the limbs are active, but when one is sleeping, the soul is active and reveals in many a dream "an award of joy or sorrow drawing near".[7]

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.[8]

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, or reason)
  2. the thymos (emotion, or spiritedness, or masculine)
  3. the eros (appetitive, or desire, or feminine)

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

In Plato's Republic, he describes the soul as having three parts that can be compared to society:

1. The Intellect of the soul is like the Philosopher Kings of society.

2. The Will of the soul is like the Guardians of society.

3. The Desire of the soul is like the Citizens of society.

The logos equates to the mind. 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, 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 eros equates to the appetite 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 or "essence" of a living being, but argued against its having a separate existence in its entirety. In Aristotle's view, a living thing's soul is its activity, that is, its "life"; for example, the soul of an eye, he wrote, if it were an independent lifeform itself, would be sight. Again, 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 in its entirety as a 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 body: its capacity simply for life itself, apart from the various faculties of the soul, such as sensation, nutrition and so forth, which when exercised constitute its "second" actuality, which we might call its "fulfillment." "The axe has an edge for cutting" was, for Aristotle, analogous to "humans have bodies for human activity." The rational activity of the soul's intellective part, along with that of the soul's two other parts—its vegetative and animal parts, which it has in common with other animals—thus in Aristotle's view constitute 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; Aristotle makes it clear, however, towards the end of his De Anima that he does believe that the intellective part of the soul is eternal and separable from the body. It is not clear, however, to what degree this soul is individual. For example, Aristotle writes that the soul after death "does not remember," a view compatible with Greek popular belief. It is perhaps worth noting that by Aquinas' interpretation of these remarks, Aristotle's account of the afterlife is more similar to the Christian than it appears at first glance.

Aristotle divided the intellectual faculty into two principal parts, the "deliberative" or "calculative" and the "scientific" or "theoretical." The first of these he then subdivided again, to yield a tripartite division of the intellectual soul as technical, prudential and theoretical. The first of these is art, which has its term in something outside man, the product of his activity. The second, prudence, has its term in activity itself; it is sometimes called the "art" of doing. Its highest expression is politics, to which, in the corpus of Aristotle's works, his treatise on ethics serves as an introduction. Prudence is concerned with what men ought to do, and thus with the future. The third part of the intellective faculty, scientific understanding, is the supreme activity of the faculty and accordingly of man himself, since it is the operation of his intellect that differentiates man from other animals. Theory is concerned with nature, and with what is rather than with what men ought to do. As these are parts of the rational faculty of man, their correct activity also constitutes the "excellences" or "virtues" of the rational part of man, of which there are five: art, prudence and science, corresponding in name to the faculties themselves, as well as "nous," often translated as "understanding" or "intelligence," and "sophia" or "wisdom. Nous is intuitive knowledge of first principles, which are indemonstrable; sophia is the combination of such "understanding" and science.

Avicenna and Ibn al-Nafis

Following Aristotle, the Persian Muslim philosopher-physicians, Avicenna and Ibn al-Nafis, further elaborated on the Aristotelian understanding of the soul and developed their own theories on the soul. They both made a distinction between the soul and the spirit, and in particular, the Avicennian doctrine on the nature of the soul was influential among the Scholastics. Some of Avicenna's views on the soul included the idea that the immortality of the soul is a consequence of its nature, and not a purpose for it to fulfill. In his theory of "The Ten Intellects", he viewed the human soul as the tenth and final intellect.

While he was imprisoned, Avicenna wrote his famous "Floating Man" thought experiment to demonstrate human self-awareness and the substantiality of the soul. He told his readers to imagine themselves suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations, which includes no sensory contact with even their own bodies. He argues that, in this scenario, one would still have self-consciousness. He thus concludes that the idea of the self is not logically dependent on any physical thing, and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms, but as a primary given, a substance. This argument was later refined and simplified by René Descartes in epistemic terms when he stated: "I can abstract from the supposition of all external things, but not from the supposition of my own consciousness."[9]

Avicenna generally supported Aristotle's idea of the soul originating from the heart, whereas Ibn al-Nafis on the other hand rejected this idea and instead argued that the soul "is related to the entirety and not to one or a few organs". He further criticized Aristotle's idea that every unique soul requires the existence of a unique source, in this case the heart. Ibn al-Nafis concluded that "the soul is related primarily neither to the spirit nor to any organ, but rather to the entire matter whose temperament is prepared to receive that soul" and he defined the soul as nothing other than "what a human indicates by saying 'I'".[10]

Thomas Aquinas

Following Aristotle and Avicenna, St. Thomas Aquinas understood the soul to be 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.

Immanuel Kant

In his discussions of rational psychology Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) identified the soul as the "I" in the strictest sense and that the existence of inner experience can neither be proved, or disproved. "We cannot prove a priori the immateriality of the soul, but rather only so much: that all properties and actions of the soul cannot be cognized from materiality." It is from the "I", or soul, that Kant proposes transcendental rationalization, but cautions that such rationalization can only determine the limits of knowledge if it is to remain practical.[11]

James Hillman

Contemporary psychology is defined as the study of mental processes and behavior. However, the word "psychology" literally means "study of the soul",[12] and psychologist James Hillman, the founder of archetypal psychology, has been credited with "restoring 'soul' to its psychological sense."[13] Although the words soul and spirit are often viewed as synonyms, Hillman argues that they can refer to antagonistic components of a person. Summarizing Hillman's views, author and psychotherapist Thomas Moore associates spirit with "afterlife, cosmic issues, idealistic values and hopes, and universal truths", while placing soul "in the thick of things: in the repressed, in the shadow, in the messes of life, in illness, and in the pain and confusion of love."[14] Hillman believes that religion—especially monotheism and monastic faiths—and humanistic psychology have tended to the spirit, often at the unfortunate expense of soul.[3] This happens, Moore says, because to transcend the "lowly conditions of the soul ... is to lose touch with the soul, and a split-off spirituality, with no influence from the soul, readily falls into extremes of literalism and destructive fanaticism."[15]

Hillman's archetypal psychology is in many ways an attempt to tend to the oft-neglected soul, which Hillman views as the "self-sustaining and imagining substrate" upon which consciousness rests, and "which makes meaning possible, [deepens] events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern" as well as "a special relation with death."[16] Departing from the Cartesian dualism "between outer tangible reality and inner states of mind," Hillman takes the Neoplatonic stance[17] that there is a "third, middle position" in which soul resides.[18] Archetypal psychology acknowledges this third position by attuning to, and often accepting, the archetypes, dreams, myths, and even psychopathologies through which soul, in Hillman's view, expresses itself.

Philosophy of mind

For a contemporary understanding of the soul/mind and the problem concerning its connection to the brain/body, consider the rejection of Descarte's mind-body dualism by Gilbert Ryle's ghost in the machine argument, the tenuous unassailability of Richard Swinburne's argument for the soul, and the advances made in neuroscience which are steadily uncovering the truth/falsity of the concept of an independent soul/mind. The philosophy of mind and the philosophy of personal identity also contribute to a contemporary understanding of the soul/mind.

Religious views


The Bahá'í Faith affirms 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."[19] Bahá'u'lláh stated that the soul not only continues to live after the physical death of the human body, but is, in fact, immortal.[20] 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.[21] Bahá'u'lláh taught that individuals have no existence previous to their life here on earth and the soul's evolution is always towards God and away from the material world.[21]


Buddhism teaches that all things are in a constant state of flux: all is changing, and no permanent state exists by itself.[22][23] This applies as much as to human beings as to anything else in the cosmos. Thus, a human being has no permanent self.[24][25] According to this doctrine of anatta (Pāli; Sanskrit: anātman), or "no-self", the words "I" or "me" do not refer to any fixed thing. They are simply convenient terms that allow us to refer to an ever-changing entity.[26]

The anatta doctrine is not a kind of materialism. Buddhism does not deny the existence of "immaterial" entities, and it (at least traditionally) distinguishes physical states from mental states.[27] Thus, the conventional translation of anatta as "no-soul"[28] can be confusing. If the word "soul" simply refers to an incorporeal component in living things that can continue after death, then Buddhism does not deny the existence of the soul.[29] Instead, Buddhism denies the existence of a permanent entity that remains constant behind the changing corporeal and incorporeal components of a living being. Just as the body changes from moment to moment, so thoughts come and go. And there is no permanent mental substance that experiences these thoughts, as in Cartesianism; rather, conscious mental states simply arise and perish with no "thinker" behind them.[30]. When the body dies, the incorporeal mental processes continue and are reborn in a new body.[29] Because the mental processes are constantly changing, the being that is reborn is neither entirely different than, nor exactly the same as, the being that died.[31] However, the new being is continuous with the being that died — in the same way that the "you" of this moment is continuous with the "you" of a moment before, despite the fact that you are constantly changing.[32]

Buddhist teaching holds that a notion of a permanent, abiding self is a delusion that is one of the root causes for human conflict on the emotional, social, and political levels.[33][34] They add that an understanding of anatta ("not-self" or "no soul") provides an accurate description of the human condition, and that this understanding allows us to pacify our mundane desires.

Various schools have differing ideas about what continues after death.[35] The Yogacara school in Mahayana Buddhism said there are Store consciousness continue to exist after death.[36] In some schools, particularly Tibetan Buddhism, the view is that there are three 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 rigpa (pure consciousness equal to Buddha-nature). The concept of a person as a tulku provides even more controversy[citation needed]. 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[citation needed], 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[citation needed]; 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.

Plants were said to be non-sentient (無情),[37] but Buddhist monks should avoid cutting or burning trees, because some sentient beings rely on them.[38] Some Mahayana monks said non-sentient beings such as plants and stones have buddha-nature.[39][40] Some buddhists said about plants or divisible consciousnesses.[41][42][43][44][45]

Certain modern Buddhists, particularly in Western countries, reject the concept of rebirth or reincarnation as incompatible with the concept of anatta, or at least take an agnostic stance toward the concept. Stephen Batchelor discusses this issue in his book Buddhism Without Beliefs. Others point to research done at the University of Virginia as proving that at least some people are reborn.[46]


Soul carried to Heaven by William Bouguereau

The Christian view of the soul is based upon the teaching of both the Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament contains the statements "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and "And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7). In the New Testament can be found a statement by Paul the Apostle, "And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:45).

The majority of Christians understand the soul as an ontological reality distinct from, yet integrally connected with, the body. Its characteristics are described in moral, spiritual, and philosophical terms. When people die their souls will be judged by God and determined to spend an eternity in heaven or in hell. Though all branches of ChristianityCatholics, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, Evangelical or mainline Protestants – teach that Jesus Christ plays a decisive role in the salvation process, the specifics of that role and the part played by individual persons or ecclesiastical rituals and relationships, is a matter of wide diversity in official church teaching, theological speculation and popular practice. Many Christians believe that if one has not repented of one's sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, he will go to hell and suffer eternal separation from God. Variations also exist on this theme, e.g. some which hold that the unrighteous soul will be destroyed instead of suffering eternally. Believers will inherit eternal life in heaven and enjoy eternal fellowship with God. There is also a belief that babies (including the unborn) and those with cognitive or mental impairments who have died will be received into heaven on the basis of God's grace through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Soul at inception of life

Among Christians, there is uncertainty regarding whether human embryos have souls, and at what point between conception and birth the fetus acquires a soul and consciousness.[47][48][49]

Various opinions

Some Christians regard the soul as the immortal essence of a human – the seat or locus of human will, understanding, and personality.

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 σωμα, which implies the whole person, not sarx σαρξ, the term for flesh or corpse). They consider the soul 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 western Christianity's most influential early Christian thinkers, described the soul as "a special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body". Some Christians espouse a trichotomic view of humans, which characterizes humans as consisting of a body (soma) , soul (psyche), and spirit (pneuma),[50] however the majority of modern Bible scholars point out how spirit and soul are used interchangeably in many biblical passages, and so hold to dichotomy: the view that each of us is body and soul. 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 soul 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 creationist would deny that they have whole souls). According to traducianism, the soul comes from the parents by natural generation. According to the preexistence 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 humans, that which is of greatest value in them, that by which they are most especially in God's image: 'soul' signifies the spiritual principle in humans."[51]
  • 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 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."[52]

Orthodox Christian beliefs:

  • Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox views are somewhat similar in essence to Roman Catholic views although different in specifics. Orthodox Christians believe that after death, the soul is judged individually by God, and then sent to either Abraham's Bosom (temporary paradise) or Hades/Hell (temporary torture). At the Last Judgment, God judges all people who have ever lived. Those deemed righteous go to Heaven (permanent paradise) whilst the damned experience the Lake of Fire (permanent torture). The Orthodox Church does not teach that Purgatory exists.

Protestant beliefs:

  • Protestants generally believe in the soul's existence.
  • A common belief is that the soul is renewed not at death, but at time of salvation through Christ Jesus, taking into account 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"[53] among other similar passages. The renewed soul or spirit is then received by God at time of death. Therefore, Protestants do not usually believe in the idea of Purgatory.
  • Seventh-day Adventists believe that the main definition of the term "Soul" is a combination of spirit (breath of life) and body, disagreeing with the view that the soul has a consciousness or sentient existence of its own. They affirm this through Genesis 2:7 "And (God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
  • 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. Some identify this belief as being the same as soul sleep as it does not account for what happens to the soul during the intervening time. Others consider this theory to be entirely invalid. This group would argue that the Apostle Paul was merely saying that he would rather be present with the Lord than living in his earthly body.
  • Some more traditional Protestants hold beliefs similar to Orthodox Christians whilst certain high Anglicans have even been known to hold Roman Catholic beliefs regarding the fate of the soul.

Other beliefs:

  • Christadelphians believe that we are all created out of the dust of the earth and became living souls once we received the breath of life based on the Genesis 2 account of humanity's creation. They believe that we are mortal and when we die our breath leaves our body, our bodies return to the soil. They believe that we are mortal until the resurrection from the dead when Christ returns to this earth and grants immortality to the faithful. In the meantime, the dead lie in the earth in the sleep of death until Jesus comes.[54]
  • Latter-day Saints believe that when the body and spirit are connected in mortality, this is the Soul of Man (Mankind). They 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 on earth.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses take the Hebrew word nephesh, which is commonly translated as "soul", to be a person, an animal, or the life that a person or an animal enjoys. A living person or breathing creature. They believe that the Hebrew word ruach (Greek pneuma), which is commonly translated as "spirit" but literally means "wind", refers to the life force or the power that animates living things. For them, a person is a breathing creature, a body animated by the "spirit of God", not an invisible being contained in a body and able to survive apart from that body after death. This is in line with their belief that Hell represents the grave and the possibility of eternal annihilation for the wicked rather than eternal torment.


In Hinduism, the Sanskrit words most closely corresponding to soul are "Jiva/Atma", meaning the individual Self. The term "soul" is misleading as it implies an object possessed, whereas Self signifies the subject which perceives all objects. All the three major schools of Hindu philosophy agree, on the basis of the Vedic revelation, that the Atman or jivatman (individual Self) is related to Brahman (lit. "the Immensity") or the Supreme Self of the Universe (Paramatman). But they differ in the nature of this relationship. In Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) the Individual Self (jivatman) and the Supreme Self (paramatman) are one and the same. Dvaita or dualistic rejects this concept of identity, instead identifying the Self as separate but similar part of supreme Self (God), but it never lose its individual identity. Visishtadvaita or Qualified Non-dualism takes a middle path and accepts the jivatman as a "mode" [prakara] or attribute of the Brahman.

The jivatman becomes involved in the process of becoming and transmigrating through cycles of birth and death because of ignorance of its own true nature. The spiritual path consists of Self-realization — a process in which one acquires the knowledge of the Self (brahma-jñanam) and through this knowledge applied through meditation and realization one then returns to the Source which is Brahman.

The qualities which are common to both Brahmnan and jivatman are: being (sat), consciousness (chit), and bliss/love (ananda). Liberation or Moksha (final release) is liberation from all limiting adjuncts (upadhis) and the unification with Brahman.

The Mandukya Upanishad verse 7 describes the Atman in the following way:-

"Not inwardly cognitive, not outwardly cognitive, not both-wise cognitive, not a cognition-mass, not cognitive, not non-cognitive, unseen, with which there can be no dealing, ungraspable, having no distinctive mark, non-thinkable, that cannot be designated, the essence of the assurance of which is the state of being one with the Self, the cessation of development, tranquil, benign, without a second (a-dvaita)—[such] they think is the fourth. That is the Self. That should be discerned."

The existence of Atman does not need any proof as it is self-evident. Through a process of Self-enquiry (atma-vichara) one comes to understand its nature. This process is one of negating all objective concepts and to continually ask oneself "who am I?" Am I the body? The senses? The thoughts? etc, once all objectivity has ceased what remains is pure subjective Self — that is Atman.

Since the quality of Atman is primarily consciousness - all sentient and insentient beings are pervaded by Atman — including plants, animals, humans and gods. The difference between them is the contracted or expanded state of that consciousness. For example animals and humans share in common, desire to live, fear of death, desire to procreate and to protect their families and territory and the need for sleep. But animals consciousness is more contracted and has less possibility to expand than does human consciousness.

When the Atman becomes embodied it is called birth, when the Atman leaves a body it is called death. The Atman transmigrates from one body to another body based on karmic [performed deeds] reactions.


According to a few verses from the Qur'an the following information can be deduced: In part 15 verse 29,[55] the creation of humans involves God "breathing" souls into them. This intangible part of an individual's existence is "pure" at birth. It has the potential of growing and achieving nearness to God if the person leads a righteous life.

There is a hadith reported by Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud, in which it is stated that the soul is breathed in the embryo after 40 days after fertilization takes place.[citation needed] This version of hadith is supported by some other hadiths narrated by Muhammad al-Bukhari and Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj in which the period is said to be around 40 days.

At death, a person’s spririt or soul doesn’t perish, it is extracted from the body and enters an intermediate state known as Barzakh, a parallel universe for which humans in mortal world have no hardcoded visualization. This stage results in a cold sleep state where the soul will rest until the Judgment Day. The person is either rewarded in the next realm of existence by going to heaven if they have followed Allah's commands or punished if they have disobeyed Him (Qur'an 66:8, 39:20,[56][57]).

[For such is the state of the disbelievers], when death comes to one of them he says: "My Lord, send me back. That I may do righteousness in the things I neglected." Never, it is but a word he says. And beyond them is a Barzakh until the day when they (all) are raised up." Qur'an 23: 99-100.

The interrogation by the angels takes place with everyone who dies, no matter whether he is buried in the grave or cremated or his dead body is immersed in the river or eaten up by carnivorous birds and animals.

The human soul is split into three parts; the Qalb (Heart), Ruh (blood) and the Nafs (passion of the soul) although Ruh is the actual soul it is pumped from the Heart.

The Islamic prophet Muhammad said: "sleep is the brother of death"[citation needed] and also: "the grave is the first stage of the journey into eternity."[citation needed] During sleep angels take the soul but the connection with the body remains.[citation needed] The example of the dream is quite sufficient to understand the misgiving that, sometimes, a dead body remains lying unburied for three or four days and yet no sound of the questions and answers is heard by anyone. In the dream, too, all sorts of things happen to a man, he talks, eats and drinks but no evidence of it is noticed by those around him.


According to Jainism, Soul (Jiva) exists too, having a separate existence from the body that houses it. Every living being from a plant or a bacterium to human, has a soul. The soul (Jiva) is differentiated from non-soul or non-living reality (ajiva) that consists of: matter, time, space, medium of motion and medium of rest.

For Jains, Moksa- the 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 and interaction with other elements, and its salvation through the right views, right knowledge and right conduct. Following are the quotes on soul from Pancastikayasara, a 1st century CE Jaina text authored by 'Acarya 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 cetana 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 one state and appearing of another state 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

This is translated as follows:

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. Māhavīras responses to various questions recorded in Bhagvatisūtra demonstrates a recognition that there are complex and multiple aspects to truth and reality and a mutually exclusive approach cannot be taken to explain such reality:

Gautama : Lord! Is the soul permanent or impermanent?
Mahavira : The soul is permanent as well is impermanent. From the point of view of the substance it is eternal. From the point of view of its modes it undergoes birth, decay and destruction and hence impermanent.[58]

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 beginningless time and hence continuously undergoes the cycle of birth and death in these four states of existence until it attains liberation (Moksa).

The Jaina beliefs on the soul can be summarized under:

  • The souls are classified as – mundane which are non liberated souls and liberated souls who have achieved Godhood by combination of right views, right knowledge and right conduct.
  • 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 qualities of Soul.
  • There are quite large number of 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 removing the accumulated karmas.
  • 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 views of the soul begin with the book of Genesis, in which verse 2:7 states, "Hashem 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 for 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.

In Kabbalah the soul is understood to have three elements. The Zohar, a classic work of Jewish mysticism, describes the three elements as nephesh, ru'ah, and neshamah. They are differentiated thus:

  • Nephesh – The living mortal being; it feels hunger, hates, loves, loathes, weeps, and most importantly, can die (cease to breathe). The nephesh is simply an "air-breather". Animals also are a nephesh (they breathe air), but plants do not (although there are Jewish traditions that claim that plants do - such as Chabad). 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 (ruah) – 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 Yeteira – 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.


Sikhism considers Soul (atma) to be part of Universal Soul, which is God (Parmatma). Various hymns are cited from the holy book "Sri Guru Granth Sahib" (SGGS) that suggests this belief. "God is in the Soul and the Soul is in the God."[59] The same concept is repeated at various pages of the SGGS. For example: "The soul is divine; divine is the soul. Worship Him with love."[60] and "The soul is the Lord, and the Lord is the soul; contemplating the Shabad, the Lord is found."[61]


In Taoism a soul has "sanhunqipo" (三魂七魄). These are the sub-souls including three hun (魂 hún) or yang souls and the seven po (魄 pò) or yin souls.[62][63][64] The pò is linked to the dead body and the grave, whereas the hún is linked to the ancestral tablet. A living being that loses any of them is said to have mental illness or unconsciousness, while a dead soul may reincarnate to a disability, lower desire realms or may even be unable to reincarnate. Also, Journeys to the Under-World said there can be hundreds of divisible souls.[65]


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.[citation needed]

Kuttamuwa was an 8th century BC royal official from Sam'al who ordered an inscribed stele, that was to be erected upon his death. The inscription requested that his mourners commemorate his life and his afterlife with feasts "for my soul that is in this stele". It is one of the earliest references to a soul as a separate entity from the body. The 800-pound (360 kg) basalt stele is 3 ft (0.91 m) tall and 2 ft (0.61 m) wide. It was uncovered in the third season of excavations by the Neubauer Expedition of the Oriental Institute in Chicago, Illinois.[66]

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.[citation needed]

Crisscrossing specific religions, the concept of spiritual therianthropy and belief in the existence of otherkin also occur. Therianthropy involves the belief that a person or their 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.[citation needed]

In Theosophy the soul is the field of our psychological activity (thinking, emotions, memory, desires, will, and so on) as well as of the so-called paranormal or psychic phenomena (extrasensory perception, out-of-body experiences, etc.). However, the soul is not the highest, but a middle dimension of human beings. Higher than the soul is the spirit, which is considered to be the real self; the source of everything we call “good”—happiness, wisdom, love, compassion, harmony, peace, etc. While the spirit is eternal and incorruptible, the soul is not. The soul acts as a link between the material body and the spiritual self, and therefore shares some characteristics of both. The soul can be attracted either towards the spiritual or towards the material realm, being thus the “battlefield” of good and evil. It is only when the soul is attracted towards the spiritual and merges with the Self that it becomes eternal and divine.

Some people, who do not necessarily favor 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.[citation needed]

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 nobody is ever born with a soul. Rather, you must create a soul during the course of your life. Without a soul, Gurdjieff taught that you will "die like a dog".[citation needed]


Science and medicine seek naturalistic accounts of the observable natural world. This stance is known as methodological naturalism.[67] Much of the scientific study relating to the soul has involved investigating the soul as an object of human belief, or as a concept that shapes cognition and an understanding of the world, rather than as an entity in and of itself.

When modern scientists speak of the soul outside of this cultural and psychological context, they generally treat soul 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 held 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.

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 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. 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 (although quantum computers in actuality cannot do any more than a regular Turing machine, including deciding the halting problem, they can in theory solve problems that would require billions of years for linear algorithms on the fastest computers in the world in minutes or seconds). Some have located the soul in this possible difference between the mind and a classical computer.


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.[68]

Popular culture

  • In a seventh season episode of The Simpsons, Bart Sells His Soul, Bart sells his soul (a piece of paper with the words "Bart Simpson's Soul" written on it) to Milhouse to prove to his friend that souls do not exist. He soon learns that he has lost an important part of himself and begs Milhouse to give it back to him only to find that Milhouse had traded Bart's soul for pogs at the local comic book store. He hurried to the store to find that Comic Book Guy had already sold Bart's soul to another buyer. Thinking all was lost, Bart finally resorts to prayer, asking God to return his soul. Lisa drops the piece of paper in front of him, revealing that she had purchased Bart's soul with the change in her piggy bank. She tells Bart that some philosophers believe that a person is not necessarily born with a soul, but earn it through suffering, thought and prayer, just as Bart had done. (Bart eats the piece of paper just to make sure he has his soul back)
  • In the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, a soul is often defined as the human moral conscience, which is lost when a human is "sired" and becomes a vampire. Souls play a particularly prominent role in the histories of the vampire characters Angel, Spike, and Darla; all three regain their souls at various points in the series, thus allowing them to feel guilt and grief over their past crimes and motivating them on a path to redemption.
  • In the universe of the Disney-Square Enix Kingdom Hearts video game series, the soul is one of three essential components (the other two being the body and the heart) for any living being to truly exist. While the heart gives the being light, darkness, and the capacity for emotions and the body serves as the vessel for both, the soul gives the body life.
  • Clank, one of the main protagonists of the Ratchet & Clank series, is a robot with a soul.
  • In the universe of the science fiction series Babylon 5, the soul exists as something that can be preserved beyond the life of the body. A race of sentient beings specializes in soul extraction and preservation, the Soul Hunters. Also, in the Babylon 5 universe, the Minbari believe that Minbari souls were reborn in humans for the last few thousand years. This is notable as this discovery was the deciding factor for stopping the annihilation of the human race. If they killed humans, they would be potentially killing Minbari souls. On the edge of their war victory over the humans, the Minbari instead surrendered to protect their own souls. Additionally, one human they captured had the (apparently) reincarnated soul of their ancient religious leader of their own species, Valen.
  • In Heroes, the main antagonist Sylar, according to Molly Walker, 'sees into your soul'.
  • In the film Bedazzled, the character of Stanley Moon sells his soul to the Devil for seven wishes. The Devil, out of pity, spares him from damnation after his wishes expire. This film was remade in 2000.
  • In the Harry Potter series, the main villain of the series, Lord Voldemort, manages to achieve a form of immortality by creating six horcruxes, fracturing his soul into seven pieces; even if his physical body is destroyed his soul is still present in the horcruxes, thus preventing him from moving on to the afterlife as long as the horcruxes exist.
  • In the TV series Supernatural many characters have "sold" their souls as part of deals; one of the most notable of these is main character Dean Winchester, who sells his soul to save his brother Sam's life, although he is later freed from Hell by an angel.
  • In the TV series Charmed, the half-demon Cole Turner possesses a soul as part of his human heritage, granting him the capacity to feel real human emotions, including falling in love with protagonist Phoebe Halliwell; one episode features the sisters going up against a demon who takes the souls of others in exchange for deals.
  • In the film The Chronicles of Riddick, the antagonist of the film, the Lord Marshall of the Necromongers, has the ability to remove the souls of his adversaries, apparently subsequently banishing them to some unknown location; only the film's hero, Riddick, is shown to be able to stop him from claiming his soul.
  • In the anime series Yu-Gi-Oh!, souls played an important role in several episodes, with many of the villains stealing the souls of others for their own ends; the protagonist, Yugi Mutou, also shares his body with the soul of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh that takes over for a decisive card duel (though both are in constant touch with each other).
  • Souls play a prominent part in various comic storylines; in DC Comics, for example, the hero Ragman draws his power from the corrupted souls that make up his cloak, tapping into their abilities and experiences in an attempt to redeem them, while the character Sebastian Faust seeks to regain his soul after his father sold it at birth in exchange for the ability to command magic (The gift in question was passed on to his son). The characters of Hawkman and Hawkgirl also have souls as a key part of their origin, with the two of them being the reincarnated souls of two Ancient Egyptians who discovered Thanagarian technology and formed an almost spiritual bond with the Nth metal wings that they discovered. The storyline Underworld Unleashed featured several villains selling their souls to the demon Neron in exchange for greater powers
  • In Marvel Comics, the demon Mephisto is also known to exchange souls for bargains, such as the deal he made with Johnny Blaze that resulted in Blaze becoming the first Ghost Rider, or his deal with Cynthia von Doom – the mother of Doctor Doom – that kept her soul imprisoned until Doom was able to free her with the aid of Doctor Strange. The Fantastic Four on one occasion recovered the soul of deceased member the Thing from Heaven after his death.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Enderverse, it said that every living thing has an aiua, or soul, which is called upon at birth from outside the universe. Once called upon, an aiua enters this universe giving life to the organism. It is also theorized that someone powerful enough (Jane in the Enderverse) could send something out of the universe to where aiuas are until called upon and then back into the universe.

See also


  1. ^ "Soul", The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-07. Retrieved November 12, 2008.
  2. ^ "Soul", Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Retrieved November 12, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York, NY, USA: HarperPerennial. pp. 112–129. 
  4. ^ Hillman J (1989). "The salt of soul, the sulfur of spirit". In J Hillman, A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman (T Moore, Ed.). New York: HarperPerennial, pp. 112–129.
  5. ^ Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York, NY, USA: HarperPerennial. pp. 20. 
  6. ^ Janda, M., Eleusis, das indogermanische Erbe der Mysterien (1998)
  7. ^ Francis M. Cornford, Greek Religious Thought, p.64, referring to Pindar, Fragment 131.
  8. ^ Erwin Rohde, Psyche, 1928.
  9. ^ Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Oliver Leaman (1996), History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 315, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-13159-6.
  10. ^ Nahyan A. G. Fancy (2006), "Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection: The Interaction of Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in the Works of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288)", p. 209-210, Electronic Theses and Dissertations, University of Notre Dame.[1]
  11. ^ Bishop, Paul (2000). Synchronicity and Intellectual Intuition in Kant, Swedenborg, and Jung. USA: The Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 262–267. ISBN 0773475931. 
  12. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary. (2001). "Psychology".
  13. ^ Utne Reader, cited in Hillman (1989), back cover.
  14. ^ Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York, NY, USA: HarperPerennial. pp. 112–113. 
  15. ^ Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York, NY, USA: HarperPerennial. pp. 113. 
  16. ^ Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York, NY, USA: HarperPerennial. pp. 21. 
  17. ^ Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York, NY, USA: HarperPerennial. pp. 112. 
  18. ^ Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York, NY, USA: HarperPerennial. pp. 121. 
  19. ^ Bahá'í Reference Library - Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Pages 158-163
  20. ^ Bahá'í Reference Library - Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Pages 155-158
  21. ^ a b Taherzadeh, Adib (1976). The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 1. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-270-8. 
  22. ^ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (NY: Grove, 1962), p. 25
  23. ^ Sources of Indian Tradition, vol. 1, ed. Theodore de Bary (NY: Columbia UP, 1958), p. 92-93
  24. ^ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (NY: Grove, 1962), p. 55-57
  25. ^ Sources of Indian Tradition, vol. 1, ed. Theodore de Bary (NY: Columbia UP, 1958), p. 93
  26. ^ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (NY: Grove, 1962), p. 55
  27. ^ Sources of Indian Tradition, vol. 1, ed. Theodore de Bary (NY: Columbia UP, 1958), p. 93-94
  28. ^ for example, in Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (NY: Grove, 1962), p. 51-66
  29. ^ a b Sources of Indian Tradition, vol. 1, ed. Theodore de Bary (NY: Columbia UP, 1958), p. 94
  30. ^ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (NY: Grove, 1962), p. 26
  31. ^ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (NY: Grove, 1962), p. 34
  32. ^ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (NY: Grove, 1962), p. 33
  33. ^ Conze, Edward (1993). A Short History of Buddhism. Oneworld. pp. 14. ISBN 1851680667. 
  34. ^ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (NY: Grove, 1962), p. 51
  35. ^ 六朝神滅不滅論與佛教輪迴主體之研究
  36. ^ 佛教心理論之發達觀
  37. ^ 植物、草木、山石是无情众生吗?有佛性吗?
  38. ^ 從律典探索佛教對動物的態度(中)
  39. ^ 無情眾生現今是不具有神識,但具有佛性!
  40. ^ 无情有佛性
  41. ^ [ 佛教文化系列演講(二) 從提婆達多談起 ──兼論佛教史研究與佛教信仰的衝突現象]
  42. ^ 佛根地上宣下化老和尚佛七開示‧1975年美國奧立崗州
  43. ^ 金剛棒喝宣公上人答問錄
  44. ^ 橡皮树的义举
  45. ^ 果卿居士《現代因果實錄》的不實之處
  46. ^ B. Alan Wallace, Contemplative Science. University of Columbia Press, 2007, page 13.
  47. ^ "Do Embryos Have Souls?", Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, PhD, Catholic Education Resource Center
  48. ^ "Embryos have souls? What nonsense", by Matthew Syed, May 12, 2008, The Times
  49. ^ "The Soul of the Embryo: An Enquiry into the Status of the Human Embryo in the Christian Tradition", by David Albert Jones, Continuum Press, 2005, ISBN-13 978-0826462961
  50. ^ Soul at
  51. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 363
  52. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 382
  53. ^;&version=31;
  54. ^ Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith. Available online
  55. ^ The Holy Qur'an ~ 15. Al-Hijr (Stoneland, Rock City) translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali
  56. ^ The Holy Qur'an ~ 66. At-Tahrim (Banning)
  57. ^ The Holy Qur'an ~ 39. Az-Zumar (The Troops, Throngs)
  58. ^ Bhagvatisūtra, (Ladnun: Jain Vishwa Bharti Institute):7/58,59
  59. ^ SGGS, M 1, p 1153.
  60. ^ SGGS, M 4, p 1325.
  61. ^ SGGS, M 1, p 1030.
  62. ^ 三魂七魄由來
  63. ^ 灵魂的构成——⑶、三魂、七魄、九灵
  64. ^ Encyclopedia of Death and Dying (2008).
  65. ^ Voyages to Hell
  66. ^ "Found: An Ancient Monument to the Soul". The New York Times. November 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-18. "In a mountainous kingdom in what is now southeastern Turkey, there lived in the eighth century B.C. a royal official, Kuttamuwa, who oversaw the completion of an inscribed stone monument, or stele, to be erected upon his death. The words instructed mourners to commemorate his life and afterlife with feasts "for my soul that is in this stele."" 
  67. ^ Methodological Naturalism vs Ontological or Philosophical Naturalism
  68. ^ Daniel Dennett. "The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity". Retrieved 2008-07-03. 

Additional references

  • Batchelor, Stephen. Buddhism Without Belief - aha.
  • Cornford, Francis, M., Greek Religious Thought, 1950.
  • Rohde, Erwin, Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality Among the Greeks, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1925; reprinted by Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0-415-22563-9.
  • 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.).
  • Rosemary Altea, Soul Signs, Rodale, 2004 ISBN 1-57954-948-9

Further reading

  • Bremmer, Jan (1983) (PDF). The Early Greek Concept of the Soul. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03131-2. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  • 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
  • Sailen Debnath, 'The Meanings of Hindu Gods, Goddesses and Myths', Chapters: The Meaning of Kalpavriksha- As you Think so You Become; The White Lotus and its Meaning; The Meaning of Chitragupta- The God-Witness for Justice; Akashgarbha and Chetanagarbha- The Depth of the Sky and the Ocean of Consciousness; ISBN 9788129114815, Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2009.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is a self aware ethereal substance particular to a unique living being.


  • A blow to the head will confuse a man, whereas a blow to the foot has no such effect: this cannot be the result of an immaterial soul. - Heraclitus c. 500 BCE
  • "Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul." ~ Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar, Following the Equator (1897), Mark Twain
  • "Confession is good for the conscience, but it usually bypasses the soul." ~ The Neurotic's Notebook (1960), Mignon McLaughlin
  • "For of the soule the bodie forme doth take; For the soule is forme, and doth the bodie make." ~ An Hymne in Honour of Beautie, Edmund Spenser
  • "Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other." ~ Henry David Thoreau
  • "How strange a thing this is! The Priest telleth me that the Soul is worth all the gold in the world, and the merchants say that it is not worth a clipped piece of silver." ~ Oscar Wilde
  • "I believe that the soul consists of its sufferings. For the soul that cures its own sufferings dies." ~ Voces (1943), Antonio Porchia
  • "I simply believe that some part of the human Self or Soul is not subject to the laws of space and time." ~ Carl Jung
  • "I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam: I looked into the soul of another boy." ~ Annie Hall," Woody Allen
  • "Learning how to operate a soul figures to take time." ~ Timothy Leary
  • "Living is being born slowly. It would be a little too easy if we could borrow ready-made souls." ~ Flight to Arras (1942), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • "One certainly has a soul; but how it came to allow itself to be enclosed in a body is more than I can imagine. I only know if once mine gets out, I'll have a bit of a tussle before I let it get in again to that of any other." ~ Lord Byron
  • "One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever come to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on the way." ~ Vincent Van Gogh
  • "One of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed it? They also believed the world was flat." ~ Mark Twain
  • "Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth." Say not, "I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path." For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals." ~ The Prophet (1923), Kahlil Gibran
  • "Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning." ~ Albert Einstein
  • "The happiest people I have known have been those who gave themselves no concern about their souls, but did their uttermost to mitigate the miseries of others." ~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • "The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire." ~ Ferdinand Foch
  • "The soul may sleep and the body still be happy, but only in youth." ~ The Neurotic's Notebook (1960), Mignon McLaughlin
  • "Until you know that life is interesting - and find it so - you haven't found your soul." ~ Geoffrey Fisher
  • "When one tears away the veils and shows them naked, people's souls give off such a pungent smell of decay." ~ Octave Mirbeau
  • "When you do things from your soul you feel a river moving in you, a joy. When action come from another section, the feeling disappears." ~ Jalal ad-Din Rumi
  • "Why do you hasten to remove anything which hurts your eye, while if something affects your soul you postpone the cure until next year?" ~ Horace
  • "You see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out." ~ Martha Graham
  • "I have a soul. I see patterns" ~ Leoben (Battlestar Galactica, "Reimagining")
  • "A man can be compelled to do anything, but his soul cannot be forced." ~ "Parenting for Everyone" (1989), Simon Soloveychik
  • "'You,' your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." ~ The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (1994), Francis Crick
  • "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" ~ Jesus Christ in the Bible, Mark 8:36
  • "The soul that walks in love neither tires others nor grows tired" ~ Sayings of Light and Love (1581), # 97, John of the Cross (translation by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodríguez, 1991)

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • The human soul is like a bird that is born in a cage. Nothing can deprive it of its natural longings, or obliterate the mysterious remembrance of its heritage.
  • The universe, vast, beautiful, magnificent, as it is, cannot content the soul, but rouses it to more majestic thoughts. The wider view it takes of what is material, the more impatient it becomes of all material bonds. The sublimer the prospects which are opened by the universe, the more the spirit is impelled to ascend to a still sublimer being. Forever it aspires towards an infinite and immutable One as the ground of all finite and mutable existences. It can rest in His Omnipotence alone as the source, centre, sustainer, determiner of all forces.
  • There is a remedy for every wrong and a satisfaction for every soul.
  • The strongest love which the human heart has ever felt has been that for its Heavenly Parent. Was it not then constituted for this love?
  • As the flowers follow the sun, and silently hold up their petals to be tinted and enlarged by its shining, so must we, if we would know the joy of God, hold our souls, wills, hearts, and minds, still before Him, whose voice commands, whose love warns, whose truth makes fair our whole being.' God speaks for the most part in such silence only. If the soul be full of tumult and jangling voices, His voice is little likely to be heard.
  • Oh! how seldom the soul is silent, in order that God may speak.
  • Christ bounds and terminates the vast desires of the soul; He is the very Sabbath of the soul.
  • Every thing here, but the soul of man, is a passing shadow. The only enduring substance is within. When shall we awake to the sublime greatness, the perils, the accountableness, and the glorious destinies of the immortal soul?
  • It is only when we see in human souls, taken as germs of power, a future magnitude and majesty transcending all present measures, that we come into any fit conception at all of Christ's mission to the world.
    • Author unidentified, p. 559.
  • Go and try to save a soul, and you will see how well it is worth saving, how capable it is of the most complete salvation. Not by pondering about it, nor by talking of it, but by saving it, you learn its preciousness.
  • You can throw yourselves away. You can become of no use in the universe except for a warning. You can lose your souls. Oh, what a loss is that! The perversion and degradation of every high and immortal power for an eternity! And shall this be true of any one of you? Will you be lost when One has come from heaven, traveling in the greatness of His strength, and with garments dyed in blood, on purpose to guide you home—.home to a Father's house — to an eternal home?
    • Mark Hopkins, p. 560.
  • Two things a master commits to his servant's care — the child and the child's clothes. It will be a poor excuse for the servant to say, at his master's return, " Sir, here are all the child's clothes, neat and clean, but the child is lost." Much so of the account that many will give to God of their souls and bodies at the great day. " Lord, here is my body; I am very grateful for it; I neglected nothing that belonged to its contents and welfare; but as for my soul, that is lost and cast away forever. I took and thought about it."
  • We all dread a bodily paralysis, and would make use of every contrivance to avoid it; but none of us is troubled about a paralysis of the soul.
  • The saddest of all failures is that of a soul, with its capabilities and possibilities, failing of life everlasting, and entering upon that night of death upon which morning never dawns.
  • As ravens rejoice over carrion, so infernal spirits exult over the soul that is dead in sin.

External links

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Look up soul in Wiktionary, the free dictionary


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also soul, Söul, and Sŏul



Proper noun

Soul m.

  1. Seoul


Proper noun


  1. Seoul.



Soul m

  1. (music) Soul music, soul

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

(Greek psyche; Latin anima; French ame; German Seele).



The question of the reality of the soul and its distinction from the body is among the most important problems of philosophy, for with it is bound up the doctrine of a future life. Various theories as to the nature of the soul have claimed to be reconcilable with the tenet of immortality, but it is a sure instinct that leads us to suspect every attack on the substantiality or spirituality of the soul as an assault on the belief in existence after death. The soul may be defined as the ultimate internal principle by which we think, feel, and will, and by which our bodies are animated. The term "mind" usually denotes this principle as the subject of our conscious states, while "soul" denotes the source of our vegetative activities as well. That our vital activities proceed from a principle capable of subsisting in itself, is the thesis of the substantiality of the soul: that this principle is not itself composite, extended, corporeal, or essentially and intrinsically dependent on the body, is the doctrine of spirituality. If there be a life after death, clearly the agent or subject of our vital activities must be capable of an existence separate from the body. The belief in an animating principle in some sense distinct from the body is an almost inevitable inference from the observed facts of life. Even uncivilized peoples arrive at the concept of the soul almost without reflection, certainly without any severe mental effort. The mysteries of birth and death, the lapse of conscious life during sleep and in swooning, even the commonest operations of imagination and memory, which abstract a man from his bodily presence even while awake-all such facts invincibly suggest the existence of something besides the visible organism, internal to it, but to a large extent independent of it, and leading a life of its own. In the rude psychology of the primitive nations, the soul is often represented as actually migrating to and fro during dreams and trances, and after death haunting the neighbourhood of its body. Nearly always it is figured as something extremely volatile, a perfume or a breath. Often, as among the Fijians, it is represented as a miniature replica of the body, so small as to be invisible. The Samoans have a name for the soul which means "that which comes and goes". Many peoples, such as the Dyaks and Sumatrans, bind various parts of the body with cords during sickness to prevent the escape of the soul. In short, all the evidence goes to show that Dualism, however uncritical and inconsistent, is the instinctive creed of "primitive man" (see Animism).


Early literature bears the same stamp of Dualism. In the "Rig-Veda" and other liturgical books of India, we find frequent references to the coming and going of manas (mind or soul). Indian philosophy, whether Brahminic or Buddhistic, with its various systems of metempsychosis, accentuated the distinction of soul and body, making the bodily life a mere transitory episode in the existence of the soul. They all taught the doctrine of limited immortality, ending either with the periodic world-destruction (Brahminism) or with attainment of Nirvana (Buddhism). The doctrine of a world-soul in a highly abstract form is met with as early as the eighth century before Christ, when we find it described as "the unseen seer, the unheard hearer, the unthought thinker, the unknown knower, the Eternal in which space is woven and which is woven in it."

In Greece, on the other hand, the first essays of philosophy took a positive and somewhat materialistic direction, inherited from the pre-philosophic age, from Homer and the early Greek religion. In Homer, while the distinction of soul and body is recognized, the soul is hardly conceived as possessing a substantial existence of its own. Severed from the body, it is a mere shadow, incapable of energetic life. The philosophers did something to correct such views. The earliest school was that of the Hylozoists; these conceived the soul as a kind of cosmic force, and attributed animation to the whole of nature. Any natural force might be designated psyche: thus Thales uses this term for the attractive force of the magnet, and similar language is quoted even from Anaxagoras and Democritus. With this we may compare the "mind-stuff" theory and Pan-psychism of certain modern scientists. Other philosophers again described the soul's nature in terms of substance. Anaximander gives it an aeriform constitution, Heraclitus describes it as a fire. The fundamental thought is the same. The cosmic ether or fire is the subtlest of the elements, the nourishing flame which imparts heat, life, sense, and intelligence to all things in their several degrees and kinds. The Pythagoreans taught that the soul is a harmony, its essence consisting in those perfect mathematical ratios which are the law of the universe and the music of the heavenly spheres. With this doctrine was combined, according to Cicero, the belief in a universal world-spirit, from which all particular souls are derived.

All these early theories were cosmological rather than psychological in character. Theology, physics, and mental science were not as yet distinguished. It is only with the rise of dialectic and the growing recognition of the problem of knowledge that a genuinely psychological theory became possible. In Plato the two standpoints, the cosmological and the epistemological, are found combined. Thus in the "Timaeus" (p. 30) we find an account derived from Pythagorean sources of the origin of the soul. First the world-soul is created according to the laws of mathematical symmetry and musical concord. It is composed of two elements, one an element of "sameness" (tauton), corresponding to the universal and intelligible order of truth, and the other an element of distinction or "otherness" (thateron), corresponding to the world of sensible and particular existences. The individual human soul is constructed on the same plan. Sometimes, as in the "Phaedrus", Plato teaches the doctrine of plurality of souls (cf. the well-known allegory of the charioteer and the two steeds in that dialogue). The rational soul was located in the head, the passionate or spirited soul in the breast, the appetitive soul in the abdomen. In the "Republic", instead of the triple soul, we find the doctrine of three elements within the complex unity of the single soul. The question of immortality was a principal subject of Plato's speculations. His account of the origin of the soul in the "Timaeus" leads him to deny the intrinsic immortality even of the world-soul, and to admit only an immortality conditional on the good pleasure of God. In the "Phaedo" the chief argument for the immortality of the soul is based on the nature of intellectual knowledge interpreted on the theory of reminiscence; this of course implies the pre-existence of the soul, and perhaps in strict logic its eternal pre-existence. There is also an argument from the soul's necessary participation in the idea of life, which, it is argued, makes the idea of its extinction impossible. These various lines of argument are nowhere harmonized in Plato (see IMMORTALITY). The Platonic doctrine tended to an extreme Transcendentalism. Soul and body are distinct orders of reality, and bodily existence involves a kind of violence to the higher part of our composite nature. The body is the "prison", the "tomb", or even, as some later Platonists expressed it, the "hell" of the soul. In Aristotle this error is avoided. His definition of the soul as "the first entelechy of a physical organized body potentially possessing life" emphasizes the closeness of the union of soul and body. The difficulty in his theory is to determine what degree of distinctness or separateness from the matter of the body is to be conceded to the human soul. He fully recognizes the spiritual element in thought and describes the "active intellect" (nous poetikos) as "separate and impassible", but the precise relation of this active intellect to the individual mind is a hopelessly obscure question in Aristotle's psychology. (See INTELLECT; MIND.)

The Stoics taught that all existence is material, and described the soul as a breath pervading the body. They also called it Divine, a particle of God (apospasma tou theu) -- it was composed of the most refined and ethereal matter. Eight distinct parts of the soul were recognized by them:

  • the ruling reason (to hegemonikon)
  • the five senses;
  • the procreative powers. Absolute immortality they denied; relative immortality, terminating with the universal conflagration and destruction of all things, some of them (e. g. Cleanthes and Chrysippus) admitted in the case of the wise man; others, such as Panaetius and Posidonius, denied even this, arguing that, as the soul began with the body, so it must end with it.

Epicureanism accepted the Atomist theory of Leucippus and Democritus. Soul consists of the finest grained atoms in the universe, finer even than those of wind and heat which they resemble: hence the exquisite fluency of the soul's movements in thought and sensation. The soul-atoms themselves, however, could not exercise their functions if they were not kept together by the body. It is this which gives shape and consistency to the group. If this is destroyed, the atoms escape and life is dissolved; if it is injured, part of the soul is lost, but enough may be left to maintain life. The Lucretian version of Epicureanism distinguishes between animus and anima: the latter only is soul in the biological sense, the former is the higher, directing principle (to hegemonikon) in the Stoic terminology, whose seat is the heart, the centre of the cognitive and emotional life.


Graeco-Roman philosophy made no further progress in the doctrine of the soul in the age immediately preceding the Christian era. None of the existing theories had found general acceptance, and in the literature of the period an eclectic spirit nearly akin to Scepticism predominated. Of the strife and fusion of systems at this time the works of Cicero are the best example. On the question of the soul he is by turns Platonic and Pythagorean, while he confesses that the Stoic and Epicurean systems have each an attraction for him. Such was the state of the question in the West at the dawn of Christianity. In Jewish circles a like uncertainty prevailed. The Sadducees were Materialists, denying immortality and all spiritual existence. The Pharisees maintained these doctrines, adding belief in pre-existence and transmigration. The psychology of the Rabbins is founded on the Sacred Books, particularly the account of the creation of man in Genesis. Three terms are used for the soul: nephesh, nuah, and neshamah; the first was taken to refer to the animal and vegetative nature, the second to the ethical principle, the third to the purely spiritual intelligence. At all events, it is evident that the Old Testament throughout either asserts or implies the distinct reality of the soul. An important contribution to later Jewish thought was the infusion of Platonism into it by Philo of Alexandria. He taught the immediately Divine origin of the soul, its pre-existence and transmigration; he contrasts the pneuma, or spiritual essence, with the soul proper, the source of vital phenomena, whose seat is the blood; finally he revived the old Platonic Dualism, attributing the origin of sin and evil to the union of spirit with matter.

It was Christianity that, after many centuries of struggle, applied the final criticisms to the various psychologies of antiquity, and brought their scattered elements of truth to full focus. The tendency of Christ's teaching was to centre all interest in the spiritual side of man's nature; the salvation or loss of the soul is the great issue of existence. The Gospel language is popular, not technical. Psyche and pneuma are used indifferently either for the principle of natural life or for spirit in the strict sense. Body and soul are recognized as a dualism and their values contrasted: "Fear ye not them that kill the body . . . but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell."

In St. Paul we find a more technical phraseology employed with great consistency. Psyche is now appropriated to the purely natural life; pneuma to the life of supernatural religion, the principle of which is the Holy Spirit, dwelling and operating in the heart. The opposition of flesh and spirit is accentuated afresh (Romans 1:18, etc.). This Pauline system, presented to a world already prepossessed in favour of a quasi-Platonic Dualism, occasioned one of the earliest widespread forms of error among Christian writers -- the doctrine of the Trichotomy. According to this, man, perfect man (teleios) consists of three parts: body, soul, spirit (soma, psyche, pneuma). Body and soul come by natural generation; spirit is given to the regenerate Christian alone. Thus, the "newness of life", of which St. Paul speaks, was conceived by some as a superadded entity, a kind of oversoul sublimating the "natural man" into a higher species. This doctrine was variously distorted in the different Gnostic systems. The Gnostics divided man into three classes:

  • pneumatici or spiritual,
  • psychici or animal,
  • choici or earthy. To each class they ascribed a different origin and destiny. The spiritual were of the seed of Achemoth, and were destined to return in time whence they had sprung -- namely, into the pleroma. Even in this life they are exempted from the possibility of a fall from their high calling; they therefore stand in no need of good works, and have nothing to fear from the contaminations of the world and the flesh. This class consists of course of the Gnostics themselves. The psychici are in a lower position: they have capacities for spiritual life which they must cultivate by good works. They stand in a middle place, and may either rise to the spiritual or sink to the hylic level. In this category stands the Christian Church at large. Lastly, the earthy souls are a mere material emanation, destined to perish: the matter of which they are composed being incapable of salvation (me gar einai ten hylen dektiken soterias). This class contains the multitudes of the merely natural man.

Two features claim attention in this the earliest essay towards a complete anthropology within the Christian Church:

  • an extreme spirituality is attributed to "the perfect";
  • immortality is conditional for the second class of souls, not an intrinsic attribute of all souls. It is probable that originally the terms pneumatici, psychici, and choici denoted at first elements which were observed to exist in all souls, and that it was only by an afterthought that they were employed, according to the respective predominance of these elements in different cases, to represent supposed real classes of men. The doctrine of the four temperaments and the Stoic ideal of the Wise Man afford a parallel for the personification of abstract qualities. The true genius of Christianity, expressed by the Fathers of the early centuries, rejected Gnosticism. The ascription to a creature of an absolutely spiritual nature, and the claim to endless existence asserted as a strictly de jure privilege in the case of the "perfect", seemed to them an encroachment on the incommunicable attributes of God. The theory of Emanation too was seen to be a derogation from the dignity of the Divine nature For this reason, St. Justin, supposing that the doctrine of natural immortality logically implies eternal existence, rejects it, making this attribute (like Plato in the "Timaeus") dependent on the free will of God; at the same time he plainly asserts the de facto immortality of every human soul. The doctrine of conservation, as the necessary complement of creation, was not yet elaborated. Even in Scholastic philosophy, which asserts natural immortality, the abstract possibility of annihilation through an act of God's absolute power is also admitted. Similarly, Tatian denies the simplicity of the soul, claiming that absolute simplicity belongs to God alone. All other beings, he held, are composed of matter and spirit. Here again it would be rash to urge a charge of Materialism. Many of these writers failed to distinguish between corporeity in strict essence and corporeity as a necessary or natural concomitant. Thus the soul may itself be incorporeal and yet require a body as a condition of its existence. In this sense St. Irenaeus attributes a certain "corporeal character" to the soul; he represents it as possessing the form of its body, as water possesses the form of its containing vessel. At the same time, he teaches fairly explicitly the incorporeal nature of the soul. He also sometimes uses what seems to be the language of the Trichotomists, as when he says that in the Resurrection men shall have each their own body, soul, and spirit. But such an interpretation is impossible in view of his whole position in regard to the Gnostic controversy.

The dubious language of these writers can only be understood in relation to the system they were opposing. By assigning a literal divinity to a certain small aristocracy of souls, Gnosticism set aside the doctrine of Creation and the whole Christian idea of God's relation to man. On the other side, by its extreme dualism of matter and spirit, and its denial to matter (i.e. the flesh) of all capacity for spiritual influences, it involved the rejection of cardinal doctrines like the Resurrection of the Body and even of the Incarnation itself in any proper sense. The orthodox teacher had to emphasize:

  • the soul's distinction from God and subjection to Him;
  • its affinities with matter. The two converse truths -- those of the soul's affinity with the Divine nature and its radical distinction from matter, were apt to be obscured in comparison. It was only afterwards and very gradually, with the development of the doctrine of grace, with the fuller recognition of the supernatural order as such, and the realization of the Person and Office of the Holy Spirit, that the various errors connected with the pneuma ceased to be a stumbling-block to Christian psychology. Indeed, similar errors have accompanied almost every subsequent form of heterodox Illuminism and Mysticism.

Tertullian's treatise "De Anima" has been called the first Christian classic on psychology proper. The author aims to show the failure of all philosophies to elucidate the nature of the soul, and argues eloquently that Christ alone can teach mankind the truth on such subjects. His own doctrine, however, is simply the refined Materialism of the Stoics, supported by arguments from medicine and physiology and by ingenious interpretations of Scripture, in which the unavoidable materialism of language is made to establish a metaphysical Materialism. Tertullian is the founder of the theory of Traducianism, which derives the rational soul ex traduce, i.e. by procreation from the soul of the parent. For Tertullian this was a necessary consequence of Materialism. Later writers found in the doctrine a convenient explanation of the transmission of original sin. St. Jerome says that in his day it was the common theory in the West. Theologians have long abandoned it, however, in favour of Creationism, as it seems to compromise the spirituality of the soul. Origen taught the pre-existence of the soul. Terrestrial life is a punishment and a remedy for prenatal sin. "Soul" is properly degraded spirit: flesh is a condition of alienation and bondage (cf. Comment. ad Rom., i, 18). Spirit, however, finite spirit, can exist only in a body, albeit of a glorious and ethereal nature.

Neo-Platonism, which through St. Augustine contributed so much to spiritual philosophy, belongs to this period. Like Gnosticism, it uses emanations. The primeval and eternal One begets by emanation nous (intelligence); and from nous in turn springs psyche (soul), which is the image of nous, but distinct from it. Matter is a still later emanation. Soul has relations to both ends of the scale of reality, and its perfection lies in turning towards the Divine Unity from which it came. In everything, the neo-Platonist recognized the absolute primacy of the soul with respect to the body. Thus, the mind is always active, even in sense -- perception -- it is only the body that is passively affected by external stimuli. Similarly Plotinus prefers to say that the body is in the soul rather than vice versa: and he seems to have been the first to conceive the peculiar manner of the soul's location as an undivided and universal presence pervading the organism (tota in toto et tota in singulis partibus). It is impossible to give more than a very brief notice of the psychology of St. Augustine. His contributions to every branch of the science were immense; the senses, the emotions, imagination, memory, the will, and the intellect -- he explored them all, and there is scarcely any subsequent development of importance that he did not forestall. He is the founder of the introspective method. Noverim Te, noverim me was an intellectual no less than a devotional aspiration with him. The following are perhaps the chief points for our present purpose:

  • he opposes body and soul on the ground of the irreducible distinction of thought and extension (cf. DESCARTES). St. Augustine, however, lays more stress on the volitional activities than did the French Idealists.
  • As against the Manichaeans he always asserts the worth and dignity of the body. Like Aristotle he makes the soul the final cause of the body. As God is the Good or Summum Bonum of the soul, so is the soul the good of the body.
  • The origin of the soul is perhaps beyond our ken. He never definitely decided between Traducianism and Creationism.
  • As regards spirituality, he is everywhere most explicit, but it is interesting as an indication of the futile subtleties current at the time to find him warning a friend against the controversy on the corporeality of the soul, seeing that the term "corpus" was used in so many different senses. "Corpus, non caro" is his own description of the angelic body.

Medieval psychology prior to the Aristotelean revival was affected by neo-Platonism, Augustinianism, and mystical influences derived from the works of pseudo-Dionysius. This fusion produced sometimes, notably in Scotus Eriugena, a pantheistic theory of the soul. All individual existence is but the development of the Divine life, in which all things are destined to be resumed. The Arabian commentators, Averroes and Avicenna, had interpreted Aristotle's psychology in a pantheistic sense. St. Thomas, with the rest of the Schoolmen, amends this portion of the Aristotelean tradition, accepting the rest with no important modifications. St. Thomas's doctrine is briefly as follows:

  • the rational soul, which is one with the sensitive and vegetative principle, is the form of the body. This was defined as of faith by the Council of Vienne of 1311;
  • the soul is a substance, but an incomplete substance, i. e. it has a natural aptitude and exigency for existence in the body, in conjunction with which it makes up the substantial unity of human nature;
  • though connaturally related to the body, it is itself absolutely simple, i.e. of an unextended and spiritual nature. It is not wholly immersed in matter, its higher operations being intrinsically independent of the organism;
  • the rational soul is produced by special creation at the moment when the organism is sufficiently developed to receive it. In the first stage of embryonic development, the vital principle has merely vegetative powers; then a sensitive soul comes into being, educed from the evolving potencies of the organism -- later yet, this is replaced by the perfect rational soul, which is essentially immaterial and so postulates a special creative act. Many modern theologians have abandoned this last point of St. Thomas's teaching, and maintain that a fully rational soul is infused into the embryo at the first moment of its existence.


Modern speculations respecting the soul have taken two main directions, Idealism and Materialism. Agnosticism need not be reckoned as a third and distinct answer to the problem, since, as a matter of fact, all actual agnosticisms have an easily recognized bias towards one or other of the two solutions aforesaid. Both Idealism and Materialism in present-day philosophy merge into Monism, which is probably the most influential system outside the Catholic Church.


Descartes conceived the soul as essentially thinking (i.e. conscious) substance, and body as essentially extended substance. The two are thus simply disparate realities, with no vital connection between them. This is significantly marked by his theory of the soul's location in the body. Unlike the Scholastics he confines it to a single point -- the pineal gland -- from which it is supposed to control the various organs and muscles through the medium of the "animal spirits", a kind of fluid circulating through the body. Thus, to say the least, the soul's biological functions are made very remote and indirect, and were in fact later on reduced almost to a nullity: the lower life was violently severed from the higher, and regarded as a simple mechanism. In the Cartesian theory animals are mere automata. It is only by the Divine assistance that action between soul and body is possible. The Occasionalists went further, denying all interaction whatever, and making the correspondence of the two sets of facts a pure result of the action of God. The Leibnizian theory of Pre-established Harmony similarly refuses to admit any inter-causal relation. The superior monad (soul) and the aggregate of inferior monads which go to make up the body are like two clocks constructed with perfect art so as always to agree. They register alike, but independently: they are still two clocks, not one. This awkward Dualism was entirely got rid of by Spinoza. For him there is but one, infinite substance, of which thought and extension are only attributes. Thought comprehends extension, and by that very fact shows that it is at root one with that which it comprehends. The alleged irreducible distinction is transcended: soul and body are neither of them substances, but each is a property of the one substance. Each in its sphere is the counterpart of the other. This is the meaning of the definition, "Soul is the Idea of Body". Soul is the counterpart within the sphere of the attribute of thought of that particular mode of the attribute of extension which we call the body. Such was the fate of Cartesianism.

English Idealism had a different course. Berkeley had begun by denying the existence of material substance, which he reduced merely to a series of impressions in the sentient mind. Mind is the only substance. Hume finished the argument by dissolving mind itself into its phenomena, a loose collection of "impressions and ideas". The Sensist school (Condillac etc.) and the Associationists (Hartley, the Mills, and Bain) continued in similar fashion to regard the mind as constituted by its phenomena or "states", and the growth of modern positive psychology has tended to encourage this attitude. But to rest in Phenomenalism as a theory is impossible, as its ablest advocates themselves have seen. Thus J.S. Mill, while describing the mind as merely "a series [i.e. of conscious phenomena] aware of itself as a series", is forced to admit that such a conception involves an unresolved paradox. Again, W. James's assertion that "the passing thought is itself the Thinker", which "appropriates" all past thoughts in the "stream of consciousness", simply blinks the question. For surely there is something which in its turn "appropriates" the passing thought itself and the entire stream of past and future thoughts as well, viz. the self-conscious, self-asserting "I" the substantial ultimate of our mental life. To be in this sense "monarch of all it surveys" in introspective observation and reflective self-consciousness, to appropriate without itself being appropriated by anything else, to be the genuine owner of a certain limited section of reality (the stream of consciousness), this is to be a free and sovereign (though finite) personality, a self-conscious, spiritual substance in the language of Catholic metaphysics.


The foregoing discussion partly anticipates our criticism of Materialism (q. v.). The father of modern Materialism is Hobbes, who accepted the theory of Epicurus, and reduced all spirits either to phantoms of the imagination or to matter in a highly rarefied state. This theory need not detain us here. Later Materialism has three main sources:

  • Newtonian physics, which taught men to regard matter, not as inert and passive, but as instinct with force. Why should not life and consciousness be among its unexplored potencies? (Priestley, Tyndall, etc.) Tyndall himself provides the answer admitting that the chasm that separates psychical facts from material phenomena is "intellectually impassable". Writers, therefore, who make thought a mere "secretion of the brain" or a "phosphorescence" of its substance (Vogt, Moleschott) may be simply ignored. In reply to the more serious Materialism, spiritualist philosophers need only re-assert the admissions of the Materialists themselves, that there is an impassable chasm between the two classes of facts.
  • Psychophysics, it is alleged, shows the most minute dependence of mind-functions upon brain-states. The two orders of facts are therefore perfectly continuous, and, though they may be superficially different yet they must be after all radically one. Mental phenomena may be styled an epiphenomenon or byproduct of material force (Huxley). The answer is the same as before. There is no analogy for an epiphenomenon being separated by an "impassable chasm" from the causal series to which it belongs. The term is, in fact, a mere verbal subterfuge. The only sound principle in such arguments is the principle that essential or "impassable" distinctions in the effect can be explained only by similar distinctions in the cause. This is the principle on which Dualism as we have explained it, rests. Merely to find relations, however close, between mental and physiological facts does not advance us an inch towards transcending this Dualism. It only enriches and fills out our concept of it. The mutual compenetration of soul and body in their activities is just what Catholic philosophy (anticipating positive science) had taught for centuries. Man is two and one, a divisible but a vital unity.
  • Evolutionism endeavours to explain the origin of the soul from merely material forces. Spirit is not the basis and principle; rather it is the ultimate efflorescence of the Cosmos. If we ask then "what was the original basis out of which spirit and all things arose?" we are told it was the Unknowable (Spencer). This system must be treated as Materialistic Monism. The answer to it is that, as the outcome of the Unknowable has a spiritual character, the Unknowable itself (assuming its reality) must be spiritual.

As regards monistic systems generally, it belongs rather to cosmology to discuss them. We take our stand on the consciousness of individual personality, which consciousness is a distinct deliverance of our very highest faculties, growing more and more explicit with the strengthening of our moral and intellectual being. This consciousness is emphatic, as against the figments of a fallaciously abstract reason, in asserting the self-subsistence (and at the same time the finitude) of our being, i.e. it declares that we are independent inasmuch as we are truly persons or selves, not mere attributes or adjectives, while at the same time, by exhibiting our manifold limitations, it directs us to a higher Cause on which our being depends.

Such is the Catholic doctrine on the nature, unity, substantiality, spirituality, and origin of the soul. It is the only system consistent with Christian faith, and, we may add, morals, for both Materialism and Monism logically cut away the foundations of these. The foregoing historical sketch will have served also to show another advantage it possesses -- namely, that it is by far the most comprehensive, and at the same time discriminating, syntheseis of whatever is best in rival systems. It recognizes the physical conditions of the soul's activity with the Materialist, and its spiritual aspect with the Idealist, while with the Monist it insists on the vital unity of human life. It enshrines the principles of ancient speculation, and is ready to receive and assimilate the fruits of modern research.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
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Simple English

Many philosophies and religions say that a soul is the part of a living human being which is supernatural and lives after death. It cannot be discovered by science, because it cannot be tested in any controlled way. Many different opinions exist as to what happens to personal experience after death. Most atheists say that there is no such thing as a soul, and that the body is the only part of a person.


Popular culture

In popular culture, soul usually means deep feeling and commitment. It is in this sense that the word appears in the term soul music. However that music was also influenced by gospel music which was religious.

One common idea C. S. Lewis had about souls that is easy to express, is that a person is a soul, and has a body.[1] The soul is the "I" in "I exist" that feels and lives life. What people call the mind could be part of the soul: one soul started this article, other souls have edited it, and another soul is reading it. This view, however, implies that the human body is a possession, and seems to devalue bodies that do not have souls as defined or understood by the speaker (some people say that animals, heretics, and people of another religion do not have souls). Like most uses of the verb to be, there is an ideology in these simple words.


One distinction often made is between soul, which is distinct from other souls, and spirit which may be combined with that of other beings. The idea of the Holy Spirit in Christianity, for example, is a universal and shared spirit many souls are part of, and which is expressed on Earth in that faith by "the Church" meaning "the body of Christ" meaning "all bodies that follow Jesus." This could be more inclusive than the is/has view of souls and bodies.


Reincarnation is a belief that says that after the body dies, the soul will be born again in another body.


  1. Lewis CS (1952). Mere Christianity.

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