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The Soul

What is the Soul

Most religions recognize the existence of the soul. But what is the soul? Although this is examined widely in the literature, one of my favorite resource on this question is the book entitled 50 Big Ideas, by Ben Dupre. What makes this book especially intriguing is that the author captures discussions on this question from great thinkers across the past 2,400 years. Some of these extracts from Dupre’s book are synthesized below, with each of them prevalent today in various spiritual and religious discussions around the world:

  • Plato argued that souls are immortal and transcendent. “The soul is immortal and capable of enduring all extremes of good and evil.” In sharp contrast, Aristotle maintained that the notion of a soul separate from a physical body is simply nonsense. (2,400 B.C.E)
  • Plato also argued that the immortal soul exists in a ‘realm of being’ populated by perfect and immutable entities (Forms) that could be discerned only by the soul. This picture of a divinely inspired soul temporarily imprisoned in an earthbound body impressed itself on early Christian theologians. More recently, the picture of the immaterial soul somehow living within and pulling the levers of the material body was famously parodied as the ‘Ghost in the Machine’ by English philosopher Gilbert Ryle in his book The Concept Of Mind (1949).
  • As translated into English, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states: “The Soul/Self is not this, it is not that. It is unseizable, for it cannot be seized; it is indestructible, for it cannot be destroyed; unattached, for it does not attach itself; it is unbound, it does not tremble, it is not injured.” (2,400-2,500 B.C.E.) [Note: The The UpanishadsUpanishads Books) are very old philosophical texts and are considered to be an early source of the Hindu religion. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is one of the oldest of these ‘little lessons’.]
  • Among recent philosophers, the great majority have generally insisted that, since the subject matter of science is exclusively physical, so too the mind and consciousness must be amenable to scientific explanation, in physical terms. Dupre points out correctly that this leaves little room for souls in the scientific debate.

It is the belief in the soul and life after physical life that serves as the foundation for most religions, regardless of whether that religion includes a belief in any transcendent God or Universal Creator. It is generally accepted by such religions that the soul is able to survive physical death and continue spiritual existence in a realm beyond the physical dimension or earth plane. Although this suggests that the immortal soul could be subject to various kinds of divine reward and punishment, there will always remain a debate among spiritualists as to whether an all-loving highest divinity imposes punishment upon the souls He created.

Interestingly, Dupre concludes in his book that “there is little agreement about what they [souls] are, what kind of relationship they have with bodies, and what might count as evidence for their existence.” That leaves the door open for other perspectives and answers to this timeless question, which will be relevant to The Soul Channel web site and its various articles:

  • The soul or spirit is that which sustains and gives meaning to physical life in a way that separates humans from other animal species. The soul existed before physical life, it will survive physical death, and it will continue to exist beyond physical life. In other words, the soul is the root of our existence; that which has the opportunity to continue into eternity. Thus, from the perspective of physical life, each person is a spiritual being having a short-term physical life experience; we are not physical beings having occasional spiritual experiences. (J. Kelly)

Roles of the Soul

Consider the following additional roles of the soul in the pursuit of the experiential lessons of physical life:

  • The purpose and direction of all existence is evolution. Static existence is meaningless. Existence has value only through its inherent opportunity for growth through change. (J. Kelly)
  • We evolve only through change; without change, existence is static. Learning is demonstrated only by change, which is the transition from one perspective and direction to another. Experience is the path to learning, the path to change, the path into evolution. (J. Kelly)
  • The root purpose of life is to experience that which we cannot understand from our current experiential perspective. The purpose of physical life is to experience that which we cannot experience from the soul plane and the higher spiritual dimensions. To the degree that souls act independently of God to exercise free will, the purpose of soul life is for God to experience that which He could not experience to the same degree when we function only as One. (J. Kelly)

[Readers may wish to suggest additional roles of the soul by submitting comments.]
[For related books and media, visit our Soul Shop page.]

 

One Response to The Soul

  1. Ken.a

    John,
    If the soul is eternal and the physical body is finite, then it seems that the soul joins a body and goes along for the ride during a physical life. In this respect, the soul could be seen as a parasite on, or within, the physical body. If this is remotely correct, then it leads to a troubling question: Can a physical body exist without a soul and, if so, how would it behave or live differently than a body with a soul?

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