What is the soul?

Hope I've welcomed you too, and glad to see you invited!

As to the issues raised - I personally wonder if the differing perceptions mentioned in the earlier post by AerylonBlackwolf are nothing more than linguistic illusions. I do not believe that every cultural on earth experiences a different reality - merely the same reality expressed through different tools of culture and society, or which language is but one. In which case, the acceptance that some part of the human being exists beyond life seems to be a general tenet. As to the technical peculiarities of that mysterious part of being - that some would call "soul" - there lies the disagreement.
Dang. Still can't figure out how to pick up a quote! ???

Regardng Brian's statement: "I do not believe that every cultural on earth experiences a different reality - merely the same reality expressed through different tools of culture and society, or which language is but one. In which case, the acceptance that some part of the human being exists beyond life seems to be a general tenet."

As a matter of fact, in MY view we DO each create our own reality, a posit shared by modern physics and the so-called "observer effect," and by modern witches. What we experience in the world around us is a kind of shared concensus of reality.

That's not to say that the !kung (Kalahari Bushmen) occupy a completly different reality from ours, but it goes a long way to explaining how, if they believe that magic works, then, for them, that magic is empirically and objectively real.
[quote author=brian link=board=3;threadid=26;start=msg1120#msg1120 date=1057399358]
I do not believe that every cultural on earth experiences a different reality - merely the same reality expressed through different tools of culture and society, or which language is but one.

Ah-HA! Now I get it! ;D
I think you make sense, Bill as isn't that how Voodoo works? But I see Brian's point that so much of what we see if culturally defined. I guess that's a reason why the Eastern craze swept through the 60's, as an alternative to the rejected status quo, searching for new ways to explore concepts of the world. But defining my own reality? I guess I'm not too sure how much of me is actually in there. How much is predefined by culture, experience, enviromental upbringing, and things like that?
Namaste all,

very interesting topic... one that can probably not have a definitive answer.

*i still don't know how to do the quote thing*

AerylonBlackwolf you write:

If you were to ask a Buddhist what a sould [sic] is, he would tell you the soul is the man himself, his heart, his mind, his spirit, and in some cases his honor.

to which i respond:

this is not correct :) but that's ok :) a Buddhist does not hold their to be a soul of any type (spirit either for that matter). a soul tends to imply that there is an "I" that has a soul. a basic tenent of Buddhism is that there is no "I" and therefore, there can be no soul. there is quite a bit more that i can say regarding this, however, i think that it would muddy the water more than clearing it up.

there are three main schools of Buddhism... Hinyana (Theraveda), Mahayana and Vajrayana which each represent a Turning of the Wheel of Dharma. though some debate can be had about this, it's not really germane to the conversation.

AerylonBlackwolf you write:

If you ask a Taoist, he/she would say something to you about karma and the afterlife.

to which i respond:

this is also incorrect :) not picking on you mind you, just pointing out some flaws in your statements. Prior to the arrival of Buddhism in China there was no concept of "Karma", though there is some agreement between Ch'an and Taosim it should be kept in mind that Taosim as a religious practice was pre-existent to Buddhism in China.

there are two main flavors of Taoism, religious Taoism and philosophical Taoism. Religious Taoism is pretty much non-exsitent these days and only the philosophical traditions are left.

when religious Taoism was still being practiced, there was indeed a concept of a "spirit" that inhabited a body and so forth. the philosophical tradition used some of the same terminology but with a different meaning in mind. ah.. there is much more that i could post about this as well :) but i shall not for fear of using up all the free electrons on this site ;)
[quote author=foundationist link=board=3;threadid=26;start=msg68#msg68 date=1048260938]
Hmm, the entire issue does seem a little complicated when both "soul" and "spirit" are invoked. Is it not that they are the same thing with difference names? Different aspects of one thing? Or indeed two separate entities in their own right? Hmm...


No, I think the difference between the soul and spirit is like the difference between your "physical body" and the "physical world" or, at least it can be looked at in that sense anyway. ;)
Foundationalist wrote: "Hmm, the entire issue does seem a little complicated when both "soul" and "spirit" are invoked."

I am not sure I like the word "invoke." Especially used in reference to the word soul or spirit. For the simple fact that it the word implies something that has no real bearing on the "soul/spirit."

The only major difference between the two are that humans have been endowed with a soul. Spirits are outside entities that exist. The word "spirit" is used to describe God, and/or angels, Satanic Entities. Soul is a direct word that has human connatation. The other word is in direct reference to the world beyond the physical one, i.e. The Spiritual World. Our souls do not exist in that world while our physical bodies breathe with life. When our bodies expire, then our soul either ascends or descends, depending. That is when the soul would reside with the spirit.

I hope that is easy to understand for you all, because I am not too sure if I understand it.
Yes, my bad on the use of the word "invoke" - evoke should have been used, and within a much clearer sentence.

Just FYI - the other two admin accounts - foundationist and foundationist.org were used as aliases to test out some new board features, and provide an emergency access in the event that my usual alias became unavailable for whatever reason. I no longer use them. I explained about using them on another thread


As to the general issue of "soul" vs "spirit" - I often find the two terms used interchangeably. The "spirit" of life that animates the flesh, which is specifically referenced as the "soul"...
Namaste, Vajradhara!

You know, folks, this is one of the brilliantly splendid aspects of this board--the chance to rub electrons with followers of other spiritual traditions and beliefs. No matter what your own belief-set might be, it is my opinion that bumping up against others can ONLY widen your own world and experience.

Unless you just hunker down and refuse to admit any ideas different from your own. I used to be like that, but I'm feeling MUCH better now! :bounce:

Elizabeth, there are two sets of belief as to how voodoo actually works--and I assume here that you're referring to the voodoo doll bit, which, of course, is not what the religion of Voudoun is all about. One is that the victim knows that a Voudoun spell-worker has a doll with a bit of his hair or fingernail clippings worked into it, knows the doll is being harmed, and--because he believes in the power of sympathetic magic--he dies or gets sick. The other is that there is actually some magical influence at work, because there are MANY instances of the spell working where the victim did not believe at all . . . or even where he had no idea the spell was being worked.

The first instance has a psychological explanation, of course. The second is harder to explain by the standards of western science. However, I must say that the doll-and-pins idea, or something like it, is quite widespread throughout magical communities worldwide, is not exclusively part of Voudoun, and does seem to work in ways that traditional psychololgy cannot explain.

One way of explaining sympathetic magic apart from the target's belief or knowledge is to assume that people who believe in sympathetic magic do create a reality for themselves somewhat different from the reality the rest of us hold. Voodoo dolls work in Haiti (and in places elsewhere with a large Haitian population) because the shared, consensual reality of those places allows for sympathetic magic to work. And, of course, those beliefs are, in large part, culturally defined.

As a witch (who, please believe me, has absolutely no truck with Voodoo magic, black magic or spells designed to harm others!) I am much aware that the more witches we have focusing on a given goal or manifestation--and believing in that manifestation--the more likely and spectacular that manifestation is going to be.

As someone with a scientific background and a long-time fascination with modern physics, I know that the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests that human observation--and by extension, human *belief*--is actually necessary to collapse the sea of particles/waves/probabilities we exist within into hard, knock-on-wood solid reality. By one view of the Copenhagen Interpretation, the entire world is a kind of on-going illusion sustained by human interaction in a shared belief system. Sounds a little like the Buddhist notion of "maya," or illusion.

Einstein questioned the idea by asking if that meant the Moon didn't exist if nobody looked at it. Quantum physics appears to say--backed by experimental evidence--that the moon exists in a "real" way (whatever THAT word means!), but that through our observation we create the context within which the moon--or an electron--exists, and thereby determine what kind of information we receive from reality around us. In part, this is dependent on our social, scientific, cultural, and religious beliefs, since those factors are what lead us to ask the questions--or make the observations--we do.

All of which, I suddenly realize, has very little to do with the topic of this thread. :cwm4: Sorry, everybody!

The short version, then: Yes, social and cultural factors have a tremendous impact on what we believe. In turn, what we believe has a tremendous effect on the physical world around us. Science is still divided on how large that effect actually is; does it literally create reality? Or is it confined to small-scale experiements with sub-atomic particles in the laboratory?

Speaking again as a witch--and as a former miracle-believing Christian--I have to say that my experience suggests that what we believe, who we are, how we interact with the world around us--and that, of course, includes the cultural context in which we find ourselves--all have FAR more to do with reality--from the hardness of this desktop in front of me to the existence of the moon in the sky to whether or not I have a soul--than we realize.

How's THAT for a brain-exploding paradox? My head hurts. Can I leave now?
First, I have to say that your opening line really through me. As I have no idea what it means:"Namaste, Vajradhara"...

But on to more important things.

Your whole line of thought here I find rather....interesting. I cannot see how a Christian can go from that belief to being Wiccan. Wiccans and Christians are like oil and water as far as their beliefs go. I have had my shar of confrontations with users of witchcraft, and I can say from experience that the whole line about white magic verses black magic is a ruse. Magic is magic. Whether it is cast to help or hurt. Magic is still magic.

Although I found very interesting how you find that Quantum Mechanics can explain the belief and/or uses of wiccanism. Personally, I think you are mistaken. I shall tell you why.

As you said anyone who researches an electron then because we really do not know what happens there, we "make it up according to our beliefs of what they should do.." To quote a Science Professor of mine at CALSTATE.

Quantum Mechanics can be used to explain anything and everything. I have even found a website where Quantum Physicists have used QM to show proof in the book of Revelations.

"Within each of us lies the capacity to do good and evil. Whether we are casting magic or praying to Christ. What we do with it determines how we end up in the afterlife."

Another quote ..but that one is famous. I believe the bible refers to witchcraft as Satanic. I do not recall the actual scripture though.

As a person who knows a bit about being a Wiccan, I can tell you from my own experience that the light far outdoes and outshines the darkness.

A true Christian cannot believe in something other than God, even if they have backslid. Why? Because once the truth lives in you, you cannot go back.

This is just my opinion, for whatever it is worth.

Bigmacscanlan said:
Who knows! :- Here's a few possibilities though. ;)

(a)Your astral body. If the soul exists, then it could possibly be descibed as an astral representation of the pysical self, in a quite traditional classic art sense. The essense of what makes us alive. This description of the soul is one in which the soul can wander away from the body in the form of either astral projection, an OOBE or an NDE. You can actually exist as 2 people, but only experience things as your astral self. People who have had NDE's often claim to have hovered above their bodies, and seen a silver thread of energy connecting the solar plexus of their astral self, to the solar plexus of their physical body. In this concept of the soul, the body is simply a shell, all that is you is your soul. This is the type of soul related to described by those who believe in the afterlife, reincarnation, auras, or the astral body.

(b) Your individuality. A much more philosophical way of looking at the soul is that it is not in any way material. The soul is the part of you that stops you from simply being a mindless automaton. This type of soul is the part of you that makes all those rash illogical descisions, the part of you that analyses everything differently to everyone else, the part of you that makes you ... ... ... well you. In this concept of the soul, it cannot leave your body, as it is not at all physical. The soul is fully integrated with the body, once it leaves you, you die, what happens after is a much debated topic.

(c) Your empathy. The part of you that can feel other peoples emotion. Some believe that the soul is your emotional center, the part of us that makes us perceptive of each others pains, desires, etc. A psychic energy that is part of you, and linked spiritually to all other souls.

(d) Human arrogance! It is entirely possible of course that there is no soul, and that the arrogant human desire to see beyond the realms of the world around us has led our species to concoct the concept of the soul as an assurance that we have more than 80 years to live. The notion that we are simply born and die through a chemical process is quite a bleak one, the possibility that the soul does not exist should therefore be considered. It is in our nature as a species to try to deny the inevitable, therefore the possibility that the soul is simply an imaginary form of pyschological security that once we die we are not gone for good, should not be overlooked. After all very few people are truly prepared to simply not exist any more, the concept of an afterlife also helps grieving, the possibility that we just die and that's it, is too hard for some people to accept.

(e) A psychic shadow. As demonstrated be anyone who has ever taken and/or seen any Kirlian photography. A warm healing energy surrounding and engulfing the physical body.

From Louis...
I suspect ( d ) is closest to the truth - but here's
another spin on it...
A permanet file on God's "hard drive" -
If there really is an eternal being out there, his MEMORY
would also be eternal - all his ideas would exist forever.
And since ALL things begin as ideas, so do WE - each of
us may exist forever in God's memory - to be re-activated
(or erased) any time God might wish to do so.
Its that little tab of skin between the scrotum and the anus.

But seriously, its life. Its the spark of the divine that gives everything breath. You die, it returns to God where it originated, and your body returns to earth, where it originated. Regardless of whether you were a good little boy or girl, a Catholic Saint or Lenin, thus is your fate.
I believe that the spiritual part of a person has many pieces -- soul, spirit, fetch -- whatever you want to call them. I think they're all integral parts of human existance. I believe that we have dreaming spirits, the soul that deals with rational mind and daylight reality, soul parts that walk outside our body dealing with soul business while our bodies deal with more mundane things. I believe that there are souls and spirits that gather around us according to our perceptions and abilities, helping us and guiding us through difficult situations. Some might call these "guardian angels" while others might refer to them as "spirit guides" or "totems" or by other names.

In shamanic belief (it's one of the types of belief I ascribe to), one can lose parts of one's soul through shock or trauma, by violating certain kinds of geasa or taboos, or by being attacked by non-corporeal entities or other humans on a spiritual level.

A psychologist named Bill Plotkin wrote a lovely book called Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche that I think expresses his view of the difference between soul and spirit very nicely. It's a well written, very useful book, and for those with an inclination to nature reverence or mysticism of any sort, I'd highly recommend reading it through and considering trying some of the exercises he suggests.

He says:

"By soul I mean the vital, mysterious, and wild core of our individual selves, an essence unique to each person, qualities found in layers of the self much deeper than our personalities. By spirit I mean the single, great, and eternal mystery that permeates and animates everything in the universe and yet transcends all. Ultimately, each soul exists as an agent for spirit."

This said, I believe in many kinds of spirits -- ancestor spirits, animal spirits, tree spirits, stone spirits, river and mountain and cloud spirits. My belief is fairly animist at root. It is my belief that everything natural that exists, and some things created by humans, are animated by spirit -- that everything has spirit, is spirit. I believe, in essence that all things in nature have a soul of some sort. I don't believe that any of it is inherently evil, though I do believe that the desires and goals of much of the universe are not those of humans, and that when we and these other spirits act at cross-purposes, humans may perceive a lot of it as "evil" because it runs counter to our own natures and our potential for survival. But if a bear attacks and kills a human, it's not "evil". Most of the time it's because a human is disturbing bear territory, is too close to cubs, or has somehow otherwise provoked the bear.

Most forms of Paganism don't accept the existence of "Satan" -- a specific deity devoted to evildoing. To me, saying that non-human/angelic spirits are "satanic" seems quite absurd. In a polytheist reality like mine, the idea that there is one great maker of Evil makes no sense, as there is no one great maker of Good. Within the realm of my own belief, derived from early Irish and Scottish forms of Paganism, there was no one original creation, for instance. The creation of different places and features of landscape occurred at different times and were caused by different spirits or deities, in the same way that the Adirondaks of the east coast of the US are far more ancient mountains than the Himalayas. To me, creation is an ongoing process, not a static, one-time event that requires one Great Maker.

I know this is straying somewhat from the topic, but I did want to address that point, as it was brought up in another post.

A note to Aerylon -- a lot of people convert from Christianity to Wicca or other forms of Paganism. I did it myself. In fact, the majority of modern Pagans in the west are converts from Christianity and Judaeism. I was raised in a fairly fundamentalist family, though my own parents are more or less Christian agnostic and a lapsed Catholic atheist. I was taken to church every Sunday "because it's good for you." I went to a fundamentalist Christian private school in 5th and 6th grades. What all that exposure taught me was that Christianity as it was presented in these environments made no sense to me. What I read of Paganism, however, did make sense. It took a while to let go of all the Christian programming, and I will admit that a certain amount still lurks under the surface, but for the most part the kind of Christianity I was raised in is very alien to me now. I had a hard time justifying those beliefs when I had them, and now they feel like they come from some different planet. Blessings to those for whom Christianity expresses a soul-truth, but religion, like socks, is not one size fits all. Or, as Robert Heinlein might have put it, being in the wrong religion for your heart is like socks on a rooster -- it looks funny and annoys the rooster.
Deep thoughts by Jack handy,

I believe there is a difference between a "dead body" and a "living body" for me that difference is "Soul".Is it in my mind,in my fingers while i type,or in my mouth when i talk? The aliveness i say is soul.So we have body, soul (aliveness,energy) where does thoughts fit in? "As a man thinkith so shall he be","in the begining there was "word", maybe thoughts are the last third of our existance?
sjr said:
I believe there is a difference between a "dead body" and a "living body" for me that difference is "Soul".Is it in my mind,in my fingers while i type,or in my mouth when i talk? The aliveness i say is soul.So we have body, soul (aliveness,energy) where does thoughts fit in? "As a man thinkith so shall he be","in the begining there was "word", maybe thoughts are the last third of our existance?

The mind-body-soul triad does have a long history in many religions and spiritualities. I see it as a reasonable division, and one that makes a good deal of sense.
A soul?

Perhaps a soul is a living memory of you within the eternal mind of God. It is the permanent and eternal mark that is left by us within God.

Just a thought...

21 gr?

The soul is a staple of virtually every known religion, and religion itself would actually be pretty pointless without it.
In early religions, the soul was a basic and largely unstated assumption, since your body would obviously just sit around on its ass unless a soul was giving it directions. In fact, that was pretty much the definition of the soul -- that thing which told your body how to act. It was simple.
Life was good...

[/quote = T.S. Eliot]

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. [/coyote]

There is not a 21 gram difference in weight between a living body and a dead one. That's just an urban legend. Sorry )