Traditions on the soul vary around the world and through time. I find this interesting – that we most of us agree upon the existence of some animating force, some spark…and yet at the most fundamental level we disagree as to what exactly it is. Ask almost anyone what they think the soul is (of those who believe in the existence of a soul) and you will most likely immediately hear us/them begin to speak from the perspective of some conditioned and recognisable belief system….But have we/they experienced the soul?
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.[nepesh]
you worry too much.
You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.”
“For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever – existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bhagavad Gita)
”Soul” – derived from sawol, saiwalo, sala, sele, siele, ziel, seule, possibly originally meaning ”coming from the sea”
…the incorporeal, immortal essence…the animating presence….the spiritual principle embodied…the moral nature or spiritual force….the seat of vitality…the hidden harmony….the vital breath….eternal, transcendent essence….the ”driver”..the non-material spark….
”Four thousand volumes of metaphysics will not teach us what the soul is.”
”With all your science can you tell me how it is, and when it is, that light comes into the soul?”
”You don’t have a Soul. You are a Soul. You have a body”
Examples of beliefs about the soul from around the world….……..
Druids believed in the indestructability of the soul – that when a fixed period of time had elapsed after death, the soul would reincarnate in another body. This body might not necessarily be human, or even animate – perhaps the soul would incarnate in a rock, or animal. Druidic funerals approach death as being a birth of the soul in the Otherworld.
The Song of Amergin.
I am the wind on the sea
I am the stormy wave
I am the sound of the ocean
I am the bull with seven horns
I am the hawk on the cliff face
I am the sun’s tear
I am the beautiful flower
I am the boar on the rampage
I am the salmon in the pool
I am the lake on the plain
I am the defiant word
I am the spear charging into battle
I am the god who put fire in your head
Who made the trails through stone mountains
Who knows the age of the moon
Who knows where the setting sun rests
Who took the cattle from the house of the warcrow
Who pleases the warcrow’s cattle
What bull, what god created the mountain skyline
The cutting word, the cold word.
Originally in the Bible the soul was not immortal. In the ancient Hebrew view the soul returned to God, or entered an intermediate state until Judgment Day, or in the case of the wicked – the ”second death” which finally demolished all traces of body and soul. Later Greek thought influenced interpretations of the Bible, and gradually the immortality and Divinity of the soul became the recognised teaching. This concept of an immortal soul is not the generally held one among modern Christian theologians, however. ”The Bible never contemplates the disembodied existence of the soul in bliss” (Myers). The Greek view (Plato, Origen) was similar to that from Hinduism, and the modern interpretation and even the earliest Hebrew view is actually similar to that of Buddhism, which does not hold with an immortal, transcendent soul. I have seen some discussion re Matthew 10:28, suggesting that Jesus held with the immortality of the soul. Anyway..it is all rather confusing. I would be interested in perspectives and interpretations. It is interesting to note that emotionally many practising Christians do believe in the enduring, immortal quality of the soul, while the modern theologians say there is no basis for such a belief in the original sense of the Scripture.
”(Gurdjieff’s) Fourth Way teaches that humans are not born with a soul, and are not really Conscious, but only believe they are Conscious because of the socialization process. A person must create/develop a soul through the course of his life by following a teaching which can lead to this aim, or he will “die like a dog,” and that men are born asleep, live in sleep and die in sleep, only imagining that they are awake.The system also teaches that the ordinary waking “consciousness” of human beings is not consciousness at all but merely a form of sleep, and that actual higher Consciousness is possible.”
ATMAN – ”The body and soul are two different things in the same way as this house and I are two different things. I live in this house, but am I the house? No, we are different. The body is called deha and the one who lives in it is called dehi, atman. And there are some whose atman, soul, is luminous and great. Some souls are dark, some demonic, some divine, some saintly. Atman is a quality……the soul relates through bhakti and shraddha, devotion and faith…..
The body experiences distance, not the soul. This is the truth, but understanding it and experiencing it are two different things. To get the experience, you must contemplate ceaselessly: who am I, what is the soul? Are you a woman? No, your body is that of a woman. You are someone’s wife –that is a physical relationship. But the soul within you is not that of a woman or man, it is not Hindu or Muslim, Marwari or Bihari. It is just the soul. The soul does not have any race, religion or country, because its form is luminosity. The form of atman is light. It is called satyam-shivam- sundaram (truth-auspiciousness-beauty) or sat-chit-ananda (truth-consciousness-bliss)”
ANATTA – No-Soul – Buddhism – ”Buddhism denies the existence of an unchanging or eternal soul created by a God or emanating from a Divine Essence…….
If there is no soul, what is it that is reborn, one might ask.
Well, there is nothing to be reborn.
When life ceases the karmic energy re-materializes itself in another form. As Bhikkhu Silacara says: “Unseen it passes whithersoever the conditions appropriate to its visible manifestation are present. Here showing itself as a tiny gnat or worm, there making its presence known in the dazzling magnificence of a Deva or an Archangel’s existence. When one mode of its manifestation ceases it merely passes on, and where suitable circumstances offer, reveals itself afresh in another name or form……This uninterrupted flux or continuity of psycho-physical phenomenon, which is conditioned by kamma, and not limited only to the present life, but having its source in the beginningless past and its continuation in the future — is the Buddhist substitute for the permanent ego or the immortal soul of other religions.”
With respect to the Islamic view of the soul, it is again said that the Greek mode of thought was very influential.
They ask you [O Muhammad concerning the Ruh (Soul). Say: ‘It is one of the things, the knowledge of which is only with my Lord. And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given very little.” (Koran)
“ Ruh is an entity which differs totally from the physical body. It is a subtle, ecclesiastical, enlightened living and moving body which penetrates into the depths of the organs and flows into them like the water in the rose or the oil in the olive or the fire in the coal. As long as these organs remain able to accept the impressions of this subtle body, the ‘Ruh’ remains attached to these organs and provides them with feeling and movement. But when these organs are spoiled because of the dominance of diseased elements upon it, and they are no longer able to accept the impressions of the soul, it leaves the body and heads towards the world of the souls. ”
(from Kitab Al Ruh by Ibn Al-Qayyim)
”The blessed soul is taken to the heavens where it is changed into a bird and eats freely from the fruits in paradise. It rests in a state of peaceful sleep while the cool breezes of paradise flow gently over it. In contrast is the sinner’s soul, which is thrown with contempt into the lowest earth to feel the savage heat and stench of hell. Both kinds of soul reside in the same places as their Records of deeds.”
Among Shamans it is the soul that travels to find healing and prophecy. For this the shaman is chosen at birth and gets an extra soul or udha. This is extra to the 3, 4 or 5 souls that Siberians and Mongolians believe all humans have.
”The strength of the souls is proportional to the amount of hiimori (windhorse) a person possesses. Human awareness (setgel) is centered around the chest area, and the size of the setgel depends on the amount of windhorse a person has. The brain is recognized as being important to bodily function, but the ultimate seat of consciousness is in the chest.
The suld soul is the most individualized of the three human souls. It lives in a physical body only once, then takes residence in nature. It is located in the crown of the head and is necessary for the body to live. After death it remains around the body for a while, and some groups create ongon spirit houses for these souls in order to keep them near and have their aid and protection. After eight or so generations the suld will become a nature spirit. The suld carries no past-life experiences, so it develops the characteristics that distinguish a person from other people. Charisma and dignity are evidence of a strong suld soul; for that reason suld is also used to describe the majesty of mountains or trees.”
More possible definitions of what the soul is………
Eckhart Tolle: The soul is your innermost being. The presence that you are beyond form. The consciousness that you are beyond form, that is the soul. That is who you are in essence.
Wayne Dyer: The soul is the birthless, deathless, changeless part of us. The part of us that looks out from behind our eyes and has no form. The soul is infinite so there is no in or out of it. It is everywhere. There’s no place that it is not.
Gary Zukav: The soul is that part of you that existed before you were born and that will exist after you die. It’s the highest, most noble part of yourself that you can reach for.