Aspects of the Soul - the Soul itself
Soul - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
This is a summary of the various religions view point of the nature of the Soul
The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is the self-aware essence unique to a particular living being. In these traditions the soul is thought to incorporate the inner essence of each living being, and to be the true basis for sapience. It is believed in many cultures and religions that the soul is the unification of one's sense of identity. Souls are usually (but not always as explained below) considered to be immortal and to exist before their incarnation in flesh.
The concept of the soul has strong links with notions of an afterlife, but opinions may vary wildly, even within a given religion, as to what may happen to the soul after the death of the body.
Many within these religions and philosophies see the soul as immaterial, while others consider it to possibly have a material component, and some have even tried to establish the mass (or weight) of the soul.
+++++ Philosophical views
The Ancient Greeks used the same word for 'alive' as for 'ensouled'. So the earliest surviving Western philosophical view might suggest that the terms soul and aliveness, were synonymous - perhaps not that having life, universally presupposed the possession of a soul as in Buddhism, but that full "aliveness" and the soul were conceptually linked.
Francis M. Cornford quotes Pindar in saying that the soul sleeps whilst the limbs are active, but when man is sleeping, the soul is active and reveals in many a dream "an award of joy or sorrow drawing near".
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:
* the logos (mind, nous, or reason)
* the thymos (emotion, or spiritedness)
* 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, parts understood as powers, of the soul. The four sections are calculative part, the scientific part on the rational side used for making decisions and the desiderative part and the vegetative part on the irrational side responsible for identifying our needs.
+++++ Thomas Aquinas
Following Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas understands the soul as the first principle, or act, of the body. However, his epistemological theory required that, since the intellectual soul is capable of knowing all material things, and since in order to know a material thing there must be no material thing within it, the soul was definitely not corporeal. Therefore, the soul had an operation separate from the body and therefore could subsist without the body. Furthermore, since the rational soul of human beings was subsistent and was not made up of matter and form, it could not be destroyed in any natural process. The full argument for the immortality of the soul and Thomas's elaboration of Aristotelian theory is found in Question 75 of the Summa Theologica.
+++++ Buddhist beliefs
In Buddhism, it is acknowledged that there is a Self (true identity), however this Self is clouded over by mind-dellusions/experiences. These mind-dellusions (anatta). are mistaken for one's true nature the Atman, or unmoved mover.
Buddhism teaches that all things are impermanent, in a constant state of flux; all is transient, and no abiding state exists by itself. This applies to humanity, as much as to anything else in the cosmos; thus, there is no unchanging and abiding self. Our sense of "I" or "me" is simply a sense, belonging to the ever-changing entity, that (conventionally speaking) is us, our body, and mind. This expresses in essence the Buddhist principle of anatta (Pâli; Sanskrit: anâtman).
+++++ Christian beliefs
Christians believe that when people die their souls will be judged by God, who sees all the wrong and right that they have done during their lives. If they have repented of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, they will inherit eternal life in Heaven and enjoy eternal fellowship with God. Most Christians believe that if one has not repented of his sins and not accepted Jesus Christ, he will go to Hell, and suffer eternal torment and separation from God. This is the teaching of most evangelical, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, which constitute the majority of Christianity, though there are some Christians that believe the soul will be destroyed in hell, instead of suffering eternally. There are many Christians who also recognise the righteous as those who will equally inherit eternal life in Heaven and enjoy eternal fellowship with God. These include babies and righteous deaf and blind (who had no opportunity to hear the gospel) as well as all the righteous saints who lived before Jesus came and since but have yet to hear.
+++++ 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 Super 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 super soul (GOD), but it never lose it's identity. That is where we as an individual get an identity. This identity exists eternally. Soul never dies. According to scriptures, it is eternal. 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
The Qur'an doesn't explain much about the concept of the soul and instead says:" The Spirit (cometh) by command of my Lord: of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you, (O men!)". So little information is available in that regard from Islam.
According to few verses from Qur'an though the following information can be deduced: In part 15 verse 29, the creation of man involves Allah or an Angel of Allah "breathing" a soul into him. This intangible part of an individual's existence is "pure" at birth and has the potential of growing and achieving nearness to God if the person leads a righteous life. At death the person's soul transitions to an eternal afterlife of bliss, peace and unending spiritual growth (Qur'an 66:8, 39:20). This transition can be pleasant (Heaven) or unpleasant (Hell) depending on the degree to which a person has developed or destroyed his or her soul during life (Qur'an 91:7-10).
From the Hadith we understand the Allah assigns an Angel to "breathe" soul into an embryo after 40 days of pregnancy. The soul is responsible for the good deeds of a person and can be interrupted by devils which results in committing sins.
Generally, it is believed that all living beings are compromised of two aspects during their existence: The physical (being the body) and the non-physical (being the soul). The non-physical aspect, namely the soul, is one's soul-related activities like his/her feelings and emotions, thoughts, conscious and sub-conscious desires and objectives. While the body and its physical actions serve as a "reflection" of one's soul, whether it was good or evil, and thus "confirms" the extent of such intentions . For further clarification, another example can be found in the Qur'an where Allah says that Prophet Muhammad's (SAW) followers have their noble personalities and characteristics "written" and shown on their faces
+++++ Jewish beliefs
Jewish views of the soul begin with the book of Genesis, in which verse 2:7 states, "the LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being." (New JPS)
The Torah offers no systematic definition of a soul; various descriptions of the soul exist in classical rabbinic literature.
+++++ Atheist/humanist beliefs
Atheists and humanists do not necessarily accept the existence of a soul. In fact, the majority of self-proclaimed atheists do not believe in a soul, more of simply human consciousness.
+++++ Agnostic beliefs
Agnostics believe humans cannot come to know whether God(s) or soul(s) exist
+++++ 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 behavioural 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 behavioural 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.
For a more detailed description see the full text, as there is often in the various religions different interpretations of the nature of the Soul
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