The Soul reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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The soul is said to be the essential, immortal essence of a being (compare to spirit). In most religions, a soul is strongly connected to the afterlife, but opinions vary wildly even within a given religion as to what happens to the soul after death. Many feel that the soul is immaterial, while some feel that it may indeed be material.

Table of contents
1 The soul in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, Old Testament)
2 Jewish beliefs
3 Christian beliefs
4 Buddhist teaching
5 Hindu beliefs
6 Jainism
7 Other beliefs and views
8 Still more beliefs and ideas
9 See also
10 External links

The soul in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, Old Testament)

In Genesis 2:7,it is stated "the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground,and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;and the man became a living being (or living soul)."

Jewish beliefs

Jewish beliefs about the soul are discussed in some detail in the entry on Jewish eschatology.

The soul in the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism)

The Zohar posits that the human soul has three elements, the nefesh, ru'ah, and neshamah. The nefesh is found in all humans, and enters the physical body at birth. It is the source of one's physical and psychological nature. 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. A common way of explaining the three parts of the soul is as follows:

The Raaya Meheimna, a later addition to the Zohar by an unknown author, posits that there are two more parts of the human soul, the chayyah and yehidah.  Gersom Scholem writes that these "were considered to represent the sublimest levels of intuitive cognition, and to be within the grasp of only a few chosen individuals".

Both Rabbinic and kabbalistic works posit that there are also 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.

Christian beliefs

Most Christians believe the soul to be the immortal essence of a human, and that after death, the soul is either rewarded or punished. Whether this reward or punishment is contingent upon doing good deeds, or merely upon believing in God and Jesus, is a heated dispute among different Christian groups.

[Many Christian scholars hold what Aristotle did that the "To attain any assured knowledge of the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world." Augustine, considered one of the most respected Christians wrote that the soul is Óa special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body." Anthony Quinton, philosopher says the soul is a Óseries of mental states connected by continuity of character and memory, 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.Ô Richard Swinburne, Christian philosopher of religion at Oxford University, writes that, ÓIt 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 . . . " See Swinburne, The Evolution of the Soul (Oxford University Press, 1997) (Khaldoun Sweis,]

A sometimes vexing question in Christianity has been the origin of the soul; the major theories put forward are creationism, traducianism and pre-existence.

Other Christian beliefs differ:

Many non denominational Christians and indeed many that oestensibly subscribe to denominations that have clear cut dogma on the concept of soul take an 'a la carte' approach to belief, that is they judge each issue on what they see as it's merits and juxtapose different beliefs from different branches of Christianity, other religions and their understanding of science.

See the discussion on Christian eschatology for more information.

Buddhist teaching

According to Buddhist teaching all things are impermanent, in a constant state of flux, all is transient, there is no abiding state. This applies to humanity as much as anything else in the Cosmos, thus there is no unchanging and abiding self. Our sense of 'I' or 'me' is simply a sense that the ever changing entity that is us, our body and mind has. This in essence is the Buddhist principle of (anatta) (Pāli; Sanskrit: anātman).

Buddhists hold that the delusion of a permanent, abiding self is one of the main root causes for the wars and conflicts in human history, and that by undesrtanding that the anatta or not-self model is an accurate description of the human condition allows 'us' to go beyond 'our' mundane desires. The ineffable state of Nirvana is solely recognized as being distinct. Conventionally speaking though, the soul or self for Buddhists is spoken of socially as a matter of convenience and convention but under the conviction that 'we' are changing entities. At death the body & mind disintegrates, but if the disintegrating mind contains any remaining traces of karma, it will cause the continuity of the consciousness to bounce back an arising mind to an awaiting being (i.e. a fetus developing the ability to harbor consciousness). Thus Buddhists teach that a reborn being is neither entirely different nor exactly the same.

Many modern followers of Buddhist teaching, particularly in developed countries reject the concept of rebirth or re-incarnation as being contadictory with the concept of anatta. They take the view that if there is no abiding self and no soul then there is nothing to be reborn. Such a line is taken in the book Buddhism Without Belief [1] by Stephen Batchelor.

Hindu beliefs

The Sanskrit word most closely corresponding to soul is "Atman", which can mean soul or even God. It is seen as the portion of Brahman within us. There are many variant beliefs on the origin, purpose, and fate of the soul in Hinduism. For example, advaita (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 (dualistic) concepts reject this, identifying the soul as a different and incompatible substance.


See: jiva

Other beliefs and views

In Egyptian Mythology, a person possessed six souls, three of the body and three of the mind. They were called Chet, Ren, Schut, Ka, Ba and Ach.

Some Transhumanistss 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 and transcending any specific religion, the phenomena of therianthropy and the existence of otherkin might also be briefly mentioned. These can best be described as phenomena, and not beliefs, since people of all walks of life, religions, ethnicity, backgrounds and countries of origin find therianthropy to be a reality for them.

Therianthropy is the belief that a person has a spiritual, emotional, or mental connection with an animal. This manifests itself in many forms. The reasons for this occurrence (or existence), and purpose are often explained in terms of the person's own religion/religious beliefs. A similar belief is that held by Otherkin, who generally believe their souls are entirely non-human, and usually not of this world.

Many atheists reject the concept of a soul, often viewing it as an ill-defined idea for which they do not find the evidence compelling. Some consider the idea to be borne of wishful thinking.

Still more beliefs and ideas

Another fairly large segment of the population, not necessarily favoring organized religion, labels themselves spiritual and hold that not only do humans have souls, but also all other living creatures as well. Furthermore, still some believe the entire existence of the universe has a cosmic soul, a spirit or unified consciousness.

The soul spirit might be linked with the idea of an existence before and after this present one. The soul could be considered as the spark, the self. It is the 'I' in existence that feels and lives life.

Some people think 'souls' in part echo to the edges of this universe. Even, multiple universes, with compiled multiple possibilities, (see science fiction author Robert Heinlein), each presented with a slightly different energy version of yourself.

Scientists have tried to measure the soul, for example by attempting to measure the weight of a person before and after death in the hopes of determining the weight of the soul.

In popular usage, experiences that evoke deep emotions are often described as "touching the soul".

See also

External links