Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Soul. What is the Soul?

The Glorified Body in the Resurrection--->
<---The Stations of the Cross

The person who plays a pivotal role in the family is often called 'Soul of the family'. Nothing can happen without the permission of the 'head of the family'. So is the case with the soul in our body.
When the 'head' of the family departs the family mourns and feels the extreme vacuum. Similarly, when the soul leaves the body, it cannot think, speak, see, move, eat, digest, grow.... or live.

The soul governs and directs our being. The concept of soul can be easily understood with a simple definition. In a room there is a fan, an electric heater, a refrigerator and a bulb, all fitted and connected to the switchboard.
However, without electricity these gadgets cannot work Similarly, without the soul, the body is a corpse. Moreover, the electricity cannot be seen except through the lit bulbs or through moving fans etc.

The difference between the animate and inanimate is the consciousness.
The five sense organs are the soul's agents or windows to obtain knowledge and to gauge the subtle aspect of any given thing.
For example, to see, we have eyes but who sees is the soul. For hearing, we have ears but it is the soul that hears.

This journey from gross to subtle with consciousness is the play of the soul. If this consciousness departs from the body it becomes a corpse. This is the relation between the soul and the body. The soul is the pivotal hinge whereupon the body functions with consciousness.

The man who does not care about the existence of God, or the spiritual life perhaps is not interested in doing the following question “What is the soul?”.
But how can those live to the see the abundant testimony to God in his creation and not care about the answer to a question that touches the most elemental aspect of their lives?. What is the soul? Has the human being a soul?.

Nearly everyone acknowledges that death is a reality, and that the physical body which carries us through this life also perishes. But the Scriptures speak of souls; and man has taught that the soul is something which lives on forever —indestructible— God who cannot destroy that which he has created.


Men have struggled over this question for centuries because they have tried to prove, using the Scriptures, an biblical idea.
As a result their definitions of what the “soul” is have been undefined, vague, and elusive.
It has been taught that the soul is “something” in us, but no one seems able to explain either where or what it is.

a theologian described the soul: “It is without interior or exterior without body, shape or parts, and you could put a million of souls into a nutshell.” This well meant attempt to describe the soul seems to us rather a good definition of nothing! But our question remains unanswered. Merely scoffing at false answers is no help because there remain aspects of humanity which do defy description.

The body is not the soul, as some affirm. This is proven by our Lord's statement that “God is able to destroy both soul and body throwing them into hell.”
And now, in view of the foregoing, if our minds are freed from prejudice, we ought to be able to learn more about this subject by turning to the inspired record of man's creation.
We read from Genesis: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed [Hebrew: “blew”] into his nostrils the breath [Hebrew: “wind”] of life [Hebrew: “lives”—plural, that is such as was common to all living animals]; and man became a living soul [a sentient being]” (Genesis 2:7).

We see why it is that the Scriptures speak of “souls” in connection with the animal creation. They, as well as man, are sentient beings or creatures of intelligence, only of a lower order. They can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell just as does man—up to the standard of his own organism. This difference is not because man has a different kind of life from that of the lower animals; all have similar vital forces flowing from the same fountain or source, the same Creator.

All creatures sustain life by the same process of consumption, digestion, elimination. They all produce blood, tissue, bones, and muscle, according to their own nature. All propagate themselves similarly, bestowing the life which originated with God upon the next generation. As species they differ in shape and mental capacity, but they are all alive.

The soul, in many religious, philosophical and mythological traditions, is the incorporeal and, in many conceptions, immortal essence of a living thing. According to most of the Abrahamic religions, immortal souls belong only to human beings.
For example, the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas attributed "soul" (anima in latin) to all organisms but argued that only human souls are immortal.

Other religions (most notably Jainism and Hinduism) teach that all biological organisms have souls, and others teach that even non-biological entities (such as rivers and mountains) possess souls. This latter belief is called animism.

Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle understood the psyche (ψυχή) to be crowned with the logical faculty, the exercise of which was the most divine of human actions. At his defense trial, Socrates even summarized his teachings as nothing other than an exhortation for his fellow Athenians to excel in matters of the psyche since all bodily goods are dependent on such excellence (The Apology 30a–b).

Anima mundi is the concept of a "world soul" connecting all living organisms on the planet.

The Ancient Greeks used the word for "alive" to also apply to the concept of being "ensouled", indicating that the earliest surviving western philosophical view believed that the soul was that which gave the body life. The soul was considered the incorporeal or spiritual "breath" that animates (from the Latin, anima, cf. "animal") the living organism.

Francis M. Cornford quotes Pindar by saying that the soul sleeps while the limbs are active, but when one is sleeping, the soul is active and reveals "an award of joy or sorrow drawing near"in dreams.

Erwin Rohde writes that an early pre-Pythagorean belief presented the soul as lifeless when it departed the body, and that it retired into Hades with no hope of returning to a body.


The Modern English word "soul", derived from Old English sáwol, sáwel, was first attested to in the 8th-century poem Beowulf v. 2820 and in the Vespasian Psalter 77.50—it is cognate with other Germanic and Baltic terms for the same idea.

Further etymology of the Germanic word is uncertain. A more recent suggestion connects the word 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 their return as a ghost.


Although the terms "soul" and "spirit" are sometimes used interchangeably, "soul" can denote a more worldly and less transcendent aspect of a person.According to James Hillman, a psychologist, the soul displays an affinity for negative thoughts and images, whereas the spirit seeks to rise above the entanglements of life and death.

The words "soul" and "psyche" can also be used in a synonymous manner; although, "psyche" has more psychological connotations, whereas "soul" is more closely connected to spirituality and religion.


Following Aristotle and Avicenna, Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) understood the soul to be the first actuality of the living body. Consequent to this, he distinguished three orders of life: plants, which feed and grow; animals, which add sensation to the operations of plants; and humans, which add intellect to the operations of animals.

Concerning the human soul, his epistemological theory required that, since the knower becomes what he knows, the soul is definitely not corporeal—if it is corporeal when it knows what some corporeal thing is, that thing would come to be within it. Therefore, the soul has an operation which does not rely on a bodily organ, and therefore the soul could subsist without a body.

Furthermore, since the rational soul of human beings is a subsistence form and not something made of matter and form, it cannot be destroyed in any natural process. The full argument for the immortality of the soul and Aquinas' elaboration of Aristotelian theory is found in Question 75 of the Summa Theologica.


Most 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. Richard Swinburne, a Christian philosopher of religion at Oxford University, wrote that "it is a frequent criticism of substance dualism that dualism 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". According to a common Christian eschatology, when people die, their souls will be judged by God and determined to go to Heaven or to Hell.

Though all branches of Christianity – Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Evangelical and mainline Protestants – teach that Jesus Christ plays a decisive role in the Christian 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.

Some Christians believe that if one has not repented of one's sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, one will go to Hell and suffer eternal damnation or eternal separation from God.
Some hold 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.

Other Christians as the protestants understand the soul as the life and believe that the dead sleep (Christian conditionalism). This belief is traditionally accompanied by the belief that the unrighteous soul will cease to exist instead of suffering eternally (annihilationism).
Believers will inherit eternal life either in Heaven, or in a Kingdom of God on earth, and enjoy eternal fellowship with God.


Saint 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).

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.
Saint Paul said that the "body wars against" the soul, and that "I buffet my body", to keep it under control. Trichotomy was changed to dichotomy as tenet of Christian faith at the 8th Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in year 869.


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 man".

All souls living and dead will be judged by Jesus Christ when he comes back to earth. The Catholic Church teaches that the existence of each individual soul is dependent wholly upon God: "The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God."

Protestants generally believe in the soul's existence, but fall into two major camps about what this means in terms of an afterlife. Some, following Calvin, believe in the immortality of the soul and conscious existence after death, while others, following Luther, believe in the mortality of the soul and unconscious "sleep" until the resurrection of the dead.

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."
When God united His breath, or spirit, with man, man became a living soul.

A living soul is composed of body and spirit. Adventists believe at death the body returns to dust and life returns to the God who bestowed it. This belief is expressed in the following quotation from their fundamental beliefs, "The wages of sin is death.

But God, who alone is immortal, will grant eternal life to His redeemed. Until that day death is an unconscious state for all people..." (Rom. 6:23; 1 Tim. 6:15, 16; Eccl. 9:5, 6; Ps. 146:3, 4; John 11:11–14; Col. 3:4; 1 Cor. 15:51–54; 1 Thess. 4:13–17; John 5:28, 29; Rev. 20:1–10).

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.
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. 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.

Jesus spoke of himself, having life, as having a soul. When he surrendered his life, he surrendered his soul. John 10:15 reads "just as the Father knows me and I know the father, and I surrender my soul in behalf of the sheep".

This belief that man is a soul, rather than having a soul, is also in line with the knowledge that Hell (Sheol in Hebrew and Hades in Greek) represents the common grave with the hope of resurrection rather than eternal torment in hellfire.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the spirit and body together constitute the Soul of Man (Mankind). "The spirit and the body are the soul of man." Latter-Day Saints believe that the soul is the union of a pre-existing, God-made spirit and a temporal body, which is formed by physical conception on earth.

After death, the spirit continues to live and progress in the Spirit world until the resurrection, when it is reunited with the body that once housed it. This reuniting of body and spirit results in a perfect soul that is immortal and eternally young and healthy and capable of receiving a fullness of joy.


The origin of the soul has provided a 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.

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.
There have been differing thoughts regarding whether human embryos have souls from conception, or there is a point between conception and birth where the fetus acquires a soul, consciousness, and/or personhood.

Stances in this question might more or less influence judgements on the immorality of abortion, the christians know that abortion is a murder, a dreadful sin, is to kill a helpless being that has a soul created by God, although some says all the contrary.


The traditional concept of an immaterial and immortal soul distinct from the body was not found in Judaism before the Babylonian Exile, but developed as a result of interaction with Persian and Hellenistic philosophies.

Accordingly, the Hebrew word nephesh, although translated as "soul" in some older English Bibles, actually has a meaning closer to "living being". Nephesh was rendered in the Septuagint as ψυχή (psūchê), the Greek word for soul.
The New Testament also uses the word ψυχή, but with the Hebrew meaning and not the Greek.

In Patristic thought, towards the end of the 2nd century, Psūchê had begun to be understood in a more Greek than a Hebrew way, contrasted with the body. By the 3rd century, with the influence of Origen, there was the establishing of the Roman Catholic tradition of the inherent immortality of the soul and its divine nature.

Inherent immortality of the soul was accepted among western and eastern theologians throughout the middle ages, and after the Reformation, as evidenced by the Westminster Confession.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Matthew 22:37

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:26

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. Revelation 6:9


Aristotle uses his familiar matter/form distinction to answer the question “What is soul?” At the beginning of De Anima II.1, he says that there are three sorts of substance:

Matter (potentiality)
Form (actuality)
The compound of matter and form

Aristotle is interested in compounds that are alive. These - plants and animals - are the things that have souls. Their souls are what make them living things.

Since form is what makes matter a “this,” the soul is the form of a living thing. (Not its shape, but its actuality, that in virtue of which it is the kind of living thing that it is.)

The soul is the first actuality of a natural body that is potentially alive.

Remember that first actuality is a kind of potentiality -a capacity to engage in the activity which is the corresponding second actuality.
So soul is a capacity - but a capacity to do what?

A living thing’s soul is its capacity to engage in the activities that are characteristic of living things of its natural kind. What are those activities? Some are listed below,

Movement and rest (in respect of place)

So anything that nourishes itself, that grows, decays, moves about (on its own, not just when moved by something else), perceives, or thinks is alive. And the capacities of a thing in virtue of which it does these things constitute its soul. The soul is what is causally responsible for the animate behavior (the life activities) of a living thing.


There is a nested hierarchy of soul functions or activities.
Growth, nutrition, (reproduction)
Locomotion, perception
Intellect (= thought)

This gives us three corresponding degrees of soul:

Nutritive soul (plants)
Sensitive soul (all animals)
Rational soul (human beings)

These are sorted in the sense that anything that has a higher degree of soul also has all of the lower degrees.
All living things grow, nourish themselves, and reproduce. Animals not only do that, but move and perceive.
Humans do all of the above and reason, as well. (There are further subdivisions within the various levels, which we will ignore.)


A key question for the ancient Greeks (as it still is for many people today) is whether the soul can exist independently of the body. (Anyone who believes in personal immortality is committed to the independent existence of the soul.) Plato (as we know from the Phaedo) certainly thought that the soul could exist separately. Here is what Aristotle has to say on this topic:

. . . the soul does not exist without a body and yet is not itself a kind of body. For it is not a body, but something which belongs to a body, and for this reason exists in a body, and in a body of such-and-such a kind.

So on Aristotle’s account, although the soul is not a material object, it is not separable from the body. (When it comes to the intellect, however, Aristotle waffles.

The soul is not an independently existing substance. It is linked to the body more directly: it is the form of the body, not a separate substance inside another substance (a body) of a different kind. It is a capacity, not the thing that has the capacity.

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