Soul and Spirit


at peace
Reaction score
Peace to All Here--

Is there a difference between "soul" and "spirit"?

I think I know what I believe, but it might help me to hear from others.

InLove said:
Peace to All Here--

Is there a difference between "soul" and "spirit"?

I think I know what I believe, but it might help me to hear from others.

this is what JW believe the spirit and soul is
The Hebrew word ru´ach and the Greek pneu´ma, which are often translated "spirit," have a number of meanings. All of them refer to that which is invisible to human sight and which gives evidence of force in motion. The Hebrew and Greek words are used with reference to (1) wind, (2) the active life-force in earthly creatures, (3) the impelling force that issues from a person’s figurative heart and that causes him to say and do things in a certain way, (4) inspired utterances originating with an invisible source, (5) spirit persons, and (6) God’s active force, or holy spirit

In the Bible, "soul" is translated from the Hebrew ne´phesh and the Greek psy·khe´. Bible usage shows the soul to be a person or an animal or the life that a person or an animal enjoys.

"And the Lord God formed man [adam] of the dust of the ground [adamah],
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [neshamah];
and man became a living [chay] soul [nephesh]." (Genesis 2:7)

nefesh (psyche [Greek] | anima [Latin])
The animal or sanguinary soul

In the Greek Septuagint nephesh is translated as 'living soul' in reference to man, and 'living creature' when referring to animals - the Hebrew makes no distinction, a living thing 'is' a soul, rather than something in the possession 'of' a soul - In this sense nefesh is at the level of biological activity: "for the life [nefesh] of every creature is the blood of it," (Lev 17:14) or "for the blood is the life [nefesh]" (Deut 122:23).

This animic soul is not an immortal soul however, for whereas 'chay nefesh' means living soul or creature, 'muwth nefesh' means a 'dead body' or a 'dead soul.'

Ruach (nous/pneuma | spiritus)
The mental soul
The term 'ruach' is used in many senses and can only be properly understood against in the total context of scripture. It means 'breath' (in the anthropological sense) or 'wind' (in the spiritual), and as such can express the principle of animal and all life, although it never designates an individual being, but rather the principle of life as such:

"In whose hand [is] the soul [nefesh] of every living thing [chay], and the breath [ruach] of all mankind," (Job 12:10)

Thus ruach can imply a transcendant, or a transpersonal, quality, and as such we have not necessarily risen above the cosmological. Ruach in reference to the Spirit of God is Divine, but ruach in reference to the spirit of man is not. Further 'ruach' in the human sense can encompass error, "They also that erred in spirit [ruach]" (Isaias 29:44) and this can signify disorder, passion, even madness, "Terrors are turned upon me: they pursue my soul as the wind [ruach]" (Job 30:15), or "Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind [ruach] and confusion," (Isaias 41:29).

Neshamah (pneuma/pnoe | spiritus/spiraculum/habitus)
The spiritualised soul

Neshamah is the breath, be it human or divine. In Genesis God made man and 'breathed' into him, but the breath of God must necessarily convey more than simple animation. The Divine Breath not only animated humanity but conferred upon it a sanctified state, a state of grace (the descent of the Holy Spirit as 'tongues of flame' continues this idea), our Adamic or Primordial state.

Here great care must be taken to differentiate between neshamah as a natural quality of the human spirit, and neshamah as a supernatural quality infused by the Divine Breath, a situation made more difficult by ther apparent interchangeability of ruach and neshamah:

"All the while my breath [neshamah] is in me, and the spirit [ruach] of God is in my nostrils;"
Job 27:3

Whilst neshamah sanctifies man, it remains in and of itself Divine and forms no part of his individual nature: "The Spirit breatheth where he will and thou hearest his voice: but thou knowest not whence he cometh and whither he goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)

It is through neshamah we receive our life from God, and it is through neshamah we must also return to Him, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," (John 3:6) upon the breath of prayer: "Let every thing that hath breath [neshamah] praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord."

There are in the kabbala two further determinations - but these are degrees or modes of neshamah:

The living soul
An awareness of the divine life force itself.

The one soul
In which one can achieve as full a union with God as is possible.

Both rabbinic and kabbalistic works posit that there are also additional non-permanent states (infused or inspired) of the soul that people can develop on certain occasions. These spiritual qualities play no part in any eschatalogical scheme, but are mentioned for completeness:

Ruach HaKodesh
The spirit of holiness
A state of the soul that makes prophecy possible. Since the age of classical prophecy passed, no one receives the soul of prophesy any longer.

Note: as healing is considered among the Divine Gifts of the Spirit, then I would posit, in accord with Rabbinic, Kabbalistic and Christian doctrine, that the 'realm' of healing is that of the ruach, which locates its function in the greater scheme of things.

Neshamah Yeseira
The supplemental soul that a Jew experience on Shabbat. It makes possible an enhanced spiritual enjoyment of the day. This exists only when one is observing Shabbat; it can be lost and gained depending on one's observance.

Neshamah Kedosha
A spiritual quality 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.

These two give a view of neshamah - whilst this spiritual quality is enhanced with regard to ruach, it is still within the human domain, but can aspire or attain to higher qualities when engaged corectly in 'higher' things. The former, 'Neshamah Yeseira' is liturgical (the proper observation of the sabbath) and again 'Neshamah Kedosha' is a state in contremplation of the Divine Mysteries - which again are most present and profound in the liturgy of the tradition in question.

Something to be going on with ...

That's terrific, Thomas. It helps me understand something that's been puzzling me. Paul talks about "psychic" (or "soulful") believers versus "spiritual" believers - and "soulful" is bad! But it makes sense in your translation: "psychic" refers to the material or bodily soul, and "spiritual" refers to the ethereal or immortal soul. Thanks for clearing that up!
This might explain the "dual nature of man"? Spiritual vs. Natural man?


Hi, and Peace--

Wow--thanks, mee, Thomas, "Rob" and "Q". I wish I had not started this thread at a time when I am so busy. I can't wait to read back over this thread when I can--hopefully later tonight or tomorrow.

I already have my eye on my humble shelf of reference books! When the project I am working on right now is done, I am taking the "deadlines" quote off my signature.:)

I like this discussion.


Well, here it is later tonight, and I am reading over all this again. I still think this is an excellent conversation. But I think it is going to take me a while to understand what has actually been said. I have a feeling that when I finally figure it out, it will be what I have always known. But I could be wrong about that.

I cannot even tell, at this point, if there have been opposing viewpoints offered:). Maybe I am just tired...or a bit slow. God help me;).

Love you all--
(And thanks)

Wow Thomas. That's HOT!!!!

What school of thought do you get this information from? I am interested in studying....
Hi Truthseeker -

The structure of the soul is founded on Hebraic Tradition.

The breakdown is drawn mainly from the Kabbala, although I came upon a 'spiritual anthropology' in 'The Secret of the Christian Way' by Jean Borella. Probably not worth reading, unless you're Catholic.

My own disposition is Platonist, and particularly symbolist, but I do find the symbolism of the Kabbala somewhat 'over-wrought' for my own taste, to me the proliferation of symbolism - in language and structure - tends to obscure its object - I can't see the wood for the symbolic trees as it were.

Platonism, Hermeticism and the Kabbala are three strands of the Western Metaphysical tradition, although of the three I would give Platonism priority - of the three it is the most rigorous - but it's very dry and technical reading.

Hermeticism - I would recommend "Meditations on the Tarot." 'Unknown Author'

Kaballa - "The Universal Symbolism of the Kaballa" Leo Schaya

Having a basic structure I then research it as much as I can, so there are multiple sources on the web if you search for the terms.

Regarding the opposition of soul and spirit -

The soul, in its natural aspect, is governed by Fate, which governs the natural world as an expression of the Law of Cause and Effect, whereas a soul that turns it's eye towards God is drawn under the Sheltering Wing of Divine Providence.

"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid! Know you not that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey, whether it be of sin unto death or of obedience unto justice."
Romans 6:14-16

I noticed these verses - and having briefly looked over this Epistle (very briefly) I am beginning to realise how brilliant it is! The law of which St Paul speaks is Cause and Effect or Action and Reaction (in the East called Karma).

This text is a Platonist delight!