AskDefine | Define soul

Dictionary Definition



1 the immaterial part of a person; the actuating cause of an individual life [syn: psyche]
2 a human being; "there was too much for one person to do" [syn: person, individual, someone, somebody, mortal, human]
3 deep feeling or emotion [syn: soulfulness]
4 the human embodiment of something; "the soul of honor"
5 a secular form of gospel that was a major Black musical genre in the 1960s and 1970s; "soul was politically significant during the Civil Rights movement"

User Contributed Dictionary

see Soul



sāwol. Cognate with Dutch ziel, German Seele (the Scandinavian forms are borrowings from the Old English).


  • (UK) , /səʊl/, /s@Ul/
  • (US) , /soʊl/, /soUl/
    Rhymes with: -oʊl
  • Homophones: Seoul, sole


  1. The spirit or essence of a person usually thought to consist of ones's thoughts and personality. Often believed to live on after the person’s death.
  2. The spirit or essense of anything.
  3. Life, energy, vigour.
    This place has no soul
  4. Soul music.
  5. A person, especially as one among many.

Related terms


the spirit or essence of a person that is believed to live on after the person’s death
Life, energy, vigour
  • Dutch: ziel
  • Esperanto: animo
  • Finnish: sielu, henki
  • French: âme
  • Greek: ψυχή (psiçí)
  • Hebrew: רוח חיים , נשמה
  • Japanese: (たましい, tamashii), 精神 (seishin)
  • Korean: (neok)
  • Latvian: dvēsele
  • Polish: życie
  • Romanian: spirit
  • Russian: душа
  • Swedish: själ
Soul music
A person, especially as one among many


Alternative spellings

Etymology 1

From satullus, diminutive of saturus.


  • /su/


  1. drunk
Derived terms

Etymology 2

From soul.





From soul.



Extensive Definition

The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is the self-aware essence unique to a particular living being. In these traditions the soul is thought to incorporate the inner essence of each living being, and to be the true basis for sapience, rather than the brain or any other material or natural part of the biological organism. Some religions and philosophies on the other hand believe in the soul having a material component, and some have even tried to establish the weight of the soul. Souls are usually considered to be immortal and to exist prior to incarnation.
The concept of the soul has strong links with notions of an afterlife, but opinions may vary wildly, even within a given religion, as to what may happen to the soul after the death of the body. It also shares as a Proto-Indo-European language root of spirit.


Modern English soul continues Old English sáwol, sáwel, first attested in the 8th century (in Beowulf v. 2820 and in the Vespasian Psalter 77.50), cognate to other Germanic terms for the same concept, including Gothic saiwala, Old High German sêula, sêla, Old Saxon sêola, Old Low Franconian sêla, sîla, Old Norse sála. The further etymology of the Germanic word is uncertain. A common suggestion is a connection with the word sea, and from this evidence alone, it has been speculated that the early Germanic peoples believed that the spirits of deceased rested at the bottom of the sea or similar. A more recent suggestion connects it with a root for "binding", Germanic *sailian (OE sēlian, OHG seilen), related to the notion of being "bound" in death, and the practice of ritually binding or restraining the corpse of the deceased in the grave to prevent his or her return as a ghost.
The word is in any case clearly an adaptation by early missionaries to the Germanic peoples, in particular Ulfila, apostle to the Goths (4th century) of a native Germanic concept, coined as a translation of Greek psychē "life, spirit, consciousness".
The Greek word is derived from a verb "to cool, to blow" and hence refers to the vital breath, the animating principle in man and animals, as opposed to "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 figured as a translation of since Terence. It occurs juxtaposed to e.g. in :
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, translates Hebrew 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 :
Vulgate ''
KJV "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth."
Paul of Tarsus used and specifically to distinguish between the Jewish notions of nephesh and ruah (also in LXX, e.g. = = = "the Spirit of God").

Philosophical views

The Ancient Greeks used the same word for 'alive' as for 'ensouled'. So the earliest surviving western philosophical view might suggest that the terms soul and aliveness, were synonymous - perhaps not that having life, universally presupposed the possession of a soul as in Buddhism, but that full "aliveness" and the soul were conceptually linked.
Francis M. Cornford quotes Pindar in saying that the soul sleeps while the limbs are active, but when man is sleeping, the soul is active and reveals in many a dream "an award of joy or sorrow drawing near".
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.

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)
  3. the eros (appetitive, or desire)
Each of these has a function in a balanced and peaceful soul.
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 essence of a being, but argued against its having a separate existence. For instance, if a knife had a soul, the act of cutting would be that soul, because 'cutting' is the essence of what it is to be a knife. Unlike Plato and the religious traditions, Aristotle did not consider the soul as some kind of separate, ghostly occupant of the body (just as we cannot separate the activity of cutting from the knife). As the soul, in Aristotle's view, is an actuality of a living body, it cannot be immortal (when a knife is destroyed, the cutting stops). More precisely, the soul is the "first actuality" of a naturally organized body. This is a state, or a potential for actual, or 'second', activity. "The axe has an edge for cutting" was, for Aristotle, analogous to "humans have bodies for rational activity," and the potential for rational activity thus constituted the essence of a human soul. Aristotle used his concept of the soul in many of his works; the De Anima (On the Soul) provides a good place to start to gain more understanding of his views.
There is on-going debate about Aristotle's views regarding the immortality of the human soul; however, Aristotle makes it clear towards the end of his De Anima that he does believe that the intellect, which he considers to be a part of the soul, is eternal and separable from the body.
Aristotle also believed that there were four parts (understood as powers) of the soul. The four sections are the calculative part and the scientific part on the rational side; these are used for making decisions. The desiderative part and the vegetative part on the irrational side, responsible for identifying our needs.

Avicenna and Ibn al-Nafis

Following Aristotle, the 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."
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’."

Thomas Aquinas

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

Religious views

Bahá'í beliefs

The Bahá'í Faith affirm that "the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel." Concerning the soul or spirit of human beings and its relationship to the physical body, Bahá'u'lláh explained: "Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments. ... When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal ... consider the sun which hath been obscured by the clouds. Observe how its splendor appeareth to have diminished, when in reality the source of that light hath remained unchanged. The soul of man should be likened unto this sun, and all things on earth should be regarded as his body. So long as no external impediment interveneth between them, the body will, in its entirety, continue to reflect the light of the soul, and to be sustained by its power. As soon as, however, a veil interposeth itself between them, the brightness of the light seemeth to lessen.... The soul of man is the sun by which his body is illumined, and from which it draweth its sustenance, and should be so regarded."
The soul not only continues to live after the physical death of the human body, but is, in fact, immortal. Bahá'u'lláh wrote: "Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure."
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.
Bahá'u'lláh taught that individuals have no existence previous to their life here on earth. The soul's evolution is always towards God and away from the material world. A human being spends nine months in the womb in preparation for entry into this physical life. During that nine-month period, the fetus acquires the physical tools (e.g., eyes, limbs, and so forth) necessary for existence in this world. Similarly, this physical world is like a womb for entry into the spiritual world.
  • At the moment of death, the soul goes either to Purgatory, Heaven, or Hell. Purgatory is a place of atonement for sins that one goes through to pay the temporal punishment for post-baptismal sins that have not been atoned for by sufferings during one's earthly life. This is distinct from the atonement for the eternal punishment due to sin which was affected by Christ's suffering and death.
  • The Catholic Church teaches the creationist view of the origin of the soul: "The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God."
See also Limbo
Other Christian beliefs:
  • Eastern Orthodox views are very similar to Catholic views, though the Orthodox do not believe in Purgatory.
  • Protestants generally believe in the soul's existence but do not generally believe in Purgatory. Protestant views on other issues are more varied.
  • The soul sleep theory states that the soul goes to "sleep" at the time of death, and stays in this quiescent state until the Last Judgment.
  • The "absent from the body, present with the Lord" theory states that the soul at the point of death, immediately becomes present at the end of time, without experiencing any time passing between. There are some, however, who believe this theory to be invalid. This group would argue that the Apostle Paul was merely saying that he would rather be present with the Lord versus living in his earthly body.
  • The Christadelphians believe that man is created out of the dust of the earth and became a living soul once he received the breath of life based on the Genesis 2 account of man's creation. They believe that man is mortal and when man dies our breath leaves our body, our bodies return to the soil. They believe that man is 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.
  • 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 (see soul sleep). They affirm this through Genesis 2:7 "And (God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
  • Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that the soul is the union of a spirit, which was previously created by God, and a body, which is formed by physical conception later.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses view the Hebrew word NePHeSH in its literal concrete meaning of ‘breath,’ making a person who is animated by the ‘spirit of God’ into a living Breather, rather than a body containing an invisible entity such as in the popularized concept of Soul. Spirit is seen to be anything powerful and invisible symbolized by the Hebrew word RUaCH which has the literal meaning of wind. Thus, Soul is used by them to mean a person rather than an invisible core entity associated with a spirit or a force which leaves the body at or after death. (Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 18:4, KJV). When a person dies, his Soul "leaves" him [and returns to God] meaning that he has stopped breathing and his fate for any future existence rests solely with God, who they believe has the power to re-create (resurrect) the whole person and restore their existence. This is in line with their belief that Hell represents the grave and the possibility of eternal death for unbelievers rather than eternal torment. See Strong's Concordance under "soul", with the Biblical meaning that animals and people are souls, that souls are not immortal, but die; soul means the person; life as a person...

Hindu beliefs

In Hinduism, the Sanskrit words most closely corresponding to soul are "Jiva/Atma", meaning the individual soul or personality, and "Atman", which can also mean soul. The Atman is seen as the portion of Brahman. GOD is described as Supreme soul. Hinduism contains many variant beliefs on the origin, purpose, and fate of the soul. For example, advaita or non-dualistic conception of the soul accords it union with Brahman, the absolute uncreated (roughly, the Godhead), in eventuality or in pre-existing fact. Dvaita or dualistic concepts reject this, instead identifying the soul as part and parcel of Supreme soul (GOD), but it never lose its identity. That is where we as an individual get an identity. According to scriptures, this identity exists eternally; the soul never dies. It only transmigrates from one body to other body.
The Bhagavad Gita, one of the most significant puranic scriptures, refers to the spiritual body or soul as Purusha (see also Sankhya philosophy). The Purusha is part and parcel of God, is unchanging (is never born and never dies), is indestructible, and, though essentially indivisible. It is made up of three components:
(i) Sat (truth or existence)
(ii) Chit (consciousness or knowledge)
(iii) Ananda (bliss) It has form "Vigrha".
Presence of soul is perceived by its consciousness. According to Bhagavad Gita, all living entities are soul proper. When soul leaves the body, then it is called death. That means, DEATH is transmigration of soul from one body to another body [Bhagavad Gita]. Soul transmigrates from one body to another body based on their Karmic[performed deeds] reactions.

Islamic beliefs

see Nafs see also Sufi psychology According to few verses from Qur'an though the following information can be deduced: In part 15 verse 29, the creation of man involves Allah "breathing" a soul into him. This intangible part of an individual's existence is "pure" at birth - according to mystical beliefs which a majorty opinion amongst Muslim - and has the potential of growing and achieving nearness to God if the person leads a righteous life(to be noted: this is a sufi perspective of the soul which is also held by a large majority of Sunni and Shia layman Muslims but which cannot be directly supported by the Quranic texts or Mutawatir Ahadith except with extremely free interpretations and influence of other religions and philosophies). At death, the person's soul transitions to an eternal afterlife of bliss, peace and unending spiritual growth until the day of judgement where both the body and soul are re-united for judgement at which point the person is either rewarded by going to heaven if he has followed God's commands or punished if he has disobeyed Him (Qur’an 66:8, 39:20).
From the Hadith we understand that Allah assigns an Angel to "breathe" soul into an embryo after 40 days of pregnancy.
Generally, it is believed that all living beings are comprised of two aspects during their existence: The physical (being the body) and the non-physical (being the soul). The non-physical aspect, namely the soul, is one's soul-related activities like his/her feelings and emotions, thoughts, conscious and sub-conscious desires and objectives. While the body and its physical actions serve as a “reflection” of one’s soul, whether it was good or evil, and thus "confirms" the extent of such intentions.


According to Jainism, Soul (Jiva) exists as a reality, 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 first 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?
Māhavīra : 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.
The soul continuously undergoes modifications as per the karma it attracts and hence reincarnates in the following four states of existence -
  1. as a Demi-God in Heaven, or
  2. as a tormented soul in Hell, or
  3. as a Human being on Continents, or
  4. as an Animal, or a Plant, or as a Micro-organism.
The soul is always found to be in bondage (with its karmas) since the beginingless time and hence continuously undergoes the cycle of birth and death in these four states of existence until it attains liberation (Moksa).
The Jaina beliefs on the soul can be summarized as under:
  • The souls are classified as – mundane which are non liberated souls and liberated souls who have achieved Godhood by 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 beliefs

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 to the Perplexed, explained classical rabbinic teaching about the soul through the lens of neo-Aristotelian philosophy, and viewed the soul as a person's developed intellect, which has no substance.
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 thusly:
  • 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. It is the source of one's physical and psychological nature. (derived from Old Testament Theology, by Gerhard von Rad)
The next two parts of the soul are not implanted at birth, but are slowly created over time; their development depends on the actions and beliefs of the individual. They are said to only fully exist in people awakened spiritually:
  • Ruach - the middle soul, or spirit. It contains the moral virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil. In modern parlance, it equates to psyche or ego-personality.
  • Neshamah - the higher soul, Higher Self or super-soul. This distinguishes man from all other life forms. It relates to the intellect, and allows man to enjoy and benefit from the afterlife. This part of the soul is provided both to Jew and non-Jew alike at birth. It allows one to have some awareness of the existence and presence of God. In the Zohar, after death Nefesh disintegrates, Ruach is sent to a sort of intermediate zone where it is submitted to purification and enters in "temporary paradise", while Neshamah returns to the source, the world of Platonic ideas, where it enjoys "the kiss of the beloved". Supposedly after resurrection, Ruach and Neshamah, soul and spirit re-unite in a permanently transmuted state of being.
The Raaya Meheimna, a Kabbalistic tractate always published with the Zohar, posits two more parts of the human soul, the chayyah and yehidah. Gershom Scholem wrote that these "were considered to represent the sublimest levels of intuitive cognition, and to be within the grasp of only a few chosen individuals":
  • Chayyah - The part of the soul that allows one to have an awareness of the divine life force itself.
  • Yehidah - the highest plane of the soul, in which one can achieve as full a union with God as is possible.

Extra soul states

Both Rabbinic and kabbalistic works also posit a few additional, non-permanent states to the soul that people can develop on certain occasions. These extra souls, or extra states of the soul, play no part in any afterlife scheme, but are mentioned for completeness.
  • Ruach HaKodesh - a state of the soul that makes prophecy possible. Since the age of classical prophecy passed, no one receives the soul of prophecy any longer.
  • Neshamah Yeseira - The supplemental soul that a Jew experiences on Shabbat. It makes possible an enhanced spiritual enjoyment of the day. This exists only while one observes Shabbat; it can be lost and gained depending on one's observance.
  • Neshamah Kedosha - Provided to Jews at the age of majority (13 for boys, 12 for girls), and related to the study and fulfillment of the Torah commandments. It exists only when one studies and follows Torah; it can be lost and gained depending on one's study and observance.
For more detail on Jewish beliefs about the soul see Jewish eschatology.

Sikh Belief

Sikhism considers SOUL (atma) to be part of Universal Soul, which is GOD (Parmatma). Various hymns are cited from the holy book "Sri Guru Granth Sahib" (SGGS) that suggests this belief. "God is in the Soul and the Soul is in the God." 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." and "The soul is the Lord, and the Lord is the soul; contemplating the Shabad, the Lord is found."

Taoist View

There is a constant 9.6 billion souls or primordial beings called yuanling according to two books on Taoist beliefs, which would reside in the realms of heaven, earth or hell depending on the state of purity. Souls which are pure, in tune with tao or ways of tao elevate to heaven while the opposite to hell. All men have souls, borne in a state corresponding to his or her previous incarnate, and will either clense or clutter its purity as they live out their lives. Although unsupported by any academic or scientific research, the practice of Xiuzhen in the prescribed manner is a karthasis process that will rid the body of worldly dirt. Within the human body, Jing Qi Shen correspond to the Three Jewels or the Three Treasures and are reigned by the Three Pure Ones. This is also the Taoist quest for immortality.
The soul has two manifestations, the po (魄 pò) or yin soul and the hun (魂 hún) or yang soul. The pò is linked to the dead body and the grave, whereas the hún is linked to the ancestral tablet. There could be multiple pò and hún for each person.
According to two guidance books, the mechanism of Judgment Day is called Souyuan and the world is currently in the third Souyuan. The first reclaimed some 200 million beings as did the second Souyuan, making the population in heaven some 400 million strong.

Other religious beliefs and views

In Egyptian Mythology, an individual was believed to be made up of various elements, some physical and some spiritual. See the article Egyptian soul for more details.
These are the two parts which the ancient Chinese believed constitute every person's soul. The p‘o is the visible personality indissolubly attached to the body, while the hun is its more ethereal complement also interpenetrating the body, but not of necessity always tied to it. The hun in its wanderings may be either visible or invisible; if the former, it appears in the guise of its original body, which actually may be far away lying in a trance-like state tenanted by the p‘o. And not only is the body duplicated under these conditions, but also the garments that clothe it. Should the hun stay away permanently, death results.
Some transhumanists believe that it will become possible to perform mind transfer, either from one human body to another, or from a human body to a computer. Operations of this type (along with teleportation), raise philosophical questions related to the concept of the Soul.
Crisscrossing specific religions, the phenomenon of therianthropy and belief in the existence of otherkin also occur. One can perhaps better describe these as phenomena rather than as beliefs, since people of varying religion, ethnicity, or nationality may believe in them. Therianthropy involves the belief that a person or his soul has a spiritual, emotional, or mental connection with an animal. Such a belief may manifest itself in many forms, and many explanations for it often draw on a person's religious beliefs. Otherkin hold similar beliefs: they see their souls as partially or entirely non-human, and not necessarily of this world.
Another fairly large segment of the population, not necessarily favoring organized religion, simply label themselves as "spiritual" and hold that both humans and all other living creatures have souls. Some further believe the entire universe has a cosmic soul as a spirit or unified consciousness. Such a conception of the soul may link with the idea of an existence before and after the present one, and one could consider such a soul as the spark, or the self, the "I" in existence that feels and lives life.
In Surat Shabda Yoga, the soul is considered to be an exact replica and spark of the Divine. The purpose of Surat Shabd Yoga is to realize one’s True Self as soul (Self-Realisation), True Essence (Spirit-Realisation) and True Divinity (God-Realisation) while living in the physical body.
G.I. Gurdjieff taught that no man is ever born with a soul. Rather, a man must create a soul during the course of his life. Without a soul, Gurdjieff taught that a man will "die like a dog."

Science and the soul

The consensus among neuroscientists and biologists is that the mind, or consciousness, is the operation of the brain. They often fuse the terms mind and brain together as "mind/brain". or bodymind. Science and medicine seek naturalistic accounts of the observable natural world. This stance is known as methodological naturalism Much of the scientific study relating to the soul has been involved in investigating the soul as a human belief or as concept that shapes cognition and understanding of the world (see Memetics), rather than as an entity in and of itself.
When modern scientists speak of the soul outside of this cultural and psychological context, it is generally as a poetic synonym for mind. Francis Crick's book The Astonishing Hypothesis, for example, has the subtitle, "The scientific search for the soul". Crick 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.
A search of the PubMed research literature database shows the following numbers of articles with the indicated term in the title:
  1. brain – 167,244
  2. consciousness – 2,918 (842 or 29% of these articles also include “brain” in the database entry)
  3. soul - 552 (40, 7%, of these articles also include “brain” in the database entry. Many of these articles deal with medical ethics issue such as the implications of religious beliefs on decisions about life support for people in persistent vegetative states)
An oft-encountered analogy is that the brain is to the mind as computer hardware is to computer software. The idea of the mind as software has led some scientists to use the word "soul" to emphasize their belief that the human mind has powers beyond or at least qualitatively different from what artificial software can do. Roger Penrose expounds this position in The Emperor's New Mind 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). Some have located the soul in this possible difference between the mind and a classical computer.

Research on the concept of the soul

In his book Consilience, E. O. Wilson took note that sociology has identified belief in a soul as one of the universal human cultural elements. Wilson suggested that biologists need to investigate how human genes predispose people to believe in a soul.
Daniel Dennett has championed the idea that the human survival strategy depends heavily on adoption of the intentional stance, a behavioral strategy that predicts the actions of others based on the expectation that they have a mind like one's own (see theory of mind). Mirror neurons in brain regions such as Broca's area may facilitate this behavioral strategy. The intentional stance, Dennett suggests, has proven so successful that people tend to apply it to all aspects of human experience, thus leading to animism and to other conceptualizations of soul.

Popular Culture

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, souls play a particularly prominent role in the history of the characters Angel and Spike; both Vampires, the two of them had their souls restored to them by a gypsy curse and a demonic shaman, respectively. Normally vampires lack their souls, the soul being replaced by a demon at the moment a person is turned into a vampire, but with Angel and Spike having reacquired their souls, they also regain their human emotions and consciences, thus allowing them to feel grief and guilt for their actions and driving them on their quest for redemption for the sins they committed while they were evil. In Heroes, the main antagonist Sylar, according to Molly Walker, 'sees into your soul'. It is indicated that the heroes abilities reside in the soul, which according to Chandra Suresh 'scientifically speaking, exists in the brain'.
In the Harry Potter series, the main villain of the series, Lord Voldemort, manages to achieve a form of immortality by creating six horcruxes, which take advantage of the damage done to a soul whenever it commits murder by placing a piece of the killer's soul into another object. This is an unnatural and evil abuse of the soul, damaging it to such a level that he is barely even human any more. Lord Voldemort does not understand the value of a whole and untarnished soul as Harry Potter and many other of the main characters do. As a result, Voldemort is is unable to die so long as his horcruxes exist; even if his physical body is killed, his horcruxes anchor the part of his soul that lives in his body to Earth until he can find a way to regain his physical form. To defeat him, Harry is forced to track down and destroy all of Voldemort's horcruxes, thus leaving Voldemort mortal once again.
In the TV series Supernatural many characters have "sold" their souls as part of deals. John Winchester sold his soul to Azazel in order to save his son, Dean's life. Dean has also sold his soul in order bring his brother, Sam back from the dead. The Crossroads demon (or Red-Eyed Demon) is usually in charge of making the deals; however, the contract holder is the Demon, Lilith. Bela Talbot established this, when she had Lilith kill her parents, and as a result was condemned to an eternity in hell. Deals don't have to involve the giving, or taking, of life in excahnge for a soul, instead deals can be made in order to make one famous, and/or rich, or have anything they desire, as seen in the episode Crossroad Blues. Due to the death of the Crossroads Demon it is unknown who, if anyone, will make the deals now.


Additional references

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

Further reading

  • The Early Greek Concept of the Soul
  • 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
soul in Arabic: روح
soul in Persian: روح
soul in Min Nan: Lêng-hûn
soul in Bulgarian: Душа
soul in Catalan: Ànima
soul in Czech: Duše
soul in Welsh: Enaid
soul in Danish: Sjæl
soul in German: Seele
soul in Modern Greek (1453-): Ψυχή
soul in Spanish: Alma
soul in Esperanto: Animo
soul in French: Âme
soul in Western Frisian: Siel (geast)
soul in Irish: Anam
soul in Scottish Gaelic: Anam
soul in Korean: 영혼
soul in Armenian: Հոգի
soul in Croatian: Duša
soul in Ido: Anmo
soul in Indonesian: Jiwa
soul in Icelandic: Sál
soul in Italian: Anima
soul in Hebrew: נשמה
soul in Georgian: სული
soul in Latin: Anima
soul in Latvian: Dvēsele
soul in Lithuanian: Siela
soul in Hungarian: Lélek
soul in Marathi: आत्मा
soul in Dutch: Ziel
soul in Japanese: 霊魂
soul in Norwegian: Sjel
soul in Norwegian Nynorsk: Sjel
soul in Polish: Dusza
soul in Portuguese: Alma
soul in Quechua: Nuna
soul in Russian: Душа
soul in Sicilian: Arma
soul in Simple English: Soul
soul in Slovak: Duša
soul in Slovenian: Duša
soul in Serbian: Душа
soul in Finnish: Sielu
soul in Swedish: Själ
soul in Vietnamese: Linh hồn
soul in Turkish: Ruh
soul in Ukrainian: Душа
soul in Yiddish: נשמה
soul in Chinese: 灵魂

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Adamite, Geist, Muse, afflatus, an existence, anima, anima humana, animating force, animus, ardency, ardor, article, astral body, atman, axiom, ba, bathmism, beating heart, being, biological clock, biorhythm, blood, body, bones, bosom, breast, breath, breath of life, buddhi, cat, center, center of life, chap, character, conscience, core, creative thought, creativity, creature, critter, customer, daemon, daimonion, deepest recesses, demon, differentiation, differentness, distillate, distillation, distinctiveness, divine afflatus, divine breath, divine spark, duck, dynamism, earthling, ecstasy, ego, egohood, elan vital, elixir, embodiment, emotion, energy, entelechy, entity, esoteric reality, esprit, essence, essence of life, essential, excitement, fabric, feeling, fellow, fervency, fervidness, fervor, fire, fire of genius, flower, focus, force, force of life, fundamental, furor, fury, genius, gist, gravamen, gross body, groundling, growth force, gusto, guts, guy, hand, head, heart, heart of hearts, heartbeat, heartblood, heartiness, heartstrings, heat, homo, human, human being, human factor, hypostasis, identity, impassionedness, impulse of life, incarnation, individual, individualism, individuality, inmost heart, inmost soul, inner, inner essence, inner landscape, inner life, inner man, inner nature, inner recess, inner self, innermost being, inside, inspiration, inspiriting force, integer, integrity, intellect, interior, interior man, intern, internal, intrados, inward, item, jiva, jivatma, joker, kama, kernel, khu, life, life breath, life cycle, life essence, life force, life principle, life process, lifeblood, linga sharira, liveliness, living force, living soul, man, manas, manes, marrow, material, matter, meat, medium, mind, module, monad, mortal, nephesh, nerve center, nominalism, nonconformity, nose, noumenon, nub, nucleus, nuts and bolts, object, one, oneness, organism, particularism, particularity, party, passion, passionateness, penetralia, person, persona, personage, personal equation, personal identity, personality, personification, personship, physical body, pith, pneuma, point, postulate, prana, principle, principle of desire, psyche, purusha, quick, quid, quiddity, quintessence, reason, recesses, relish, ruach, sap, savor, seat of life, secret heart, secret place, secret places, self-identity, selfhood, selfness, sentiment, shade, shadow, sincerity, single, singleton, singularity, somebody, someone, something, spark of life, spirit, spiritual being, spiritus, sthula sharira, stuff, substance, sum and substance, talent, tellurian, terran, the nitty-gritty, the self, thing, true being, true inwardness, typification, uniqueness, unit, vehemence, verve, vis vitae, vis vitalis, viscera, vital center, vital energy, vital flame, vital fluid, vital force, vital principle, vital spark, vital spirit, vitality, vitals, vivacity, warmth, warmth of feeling, woman, worldling, zeal
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