Theories of Soul Since Ancient Times

Soul
Soul | Source

Theories of Soul ~

This article, Theories of Soul Since Ancient Times, is in response to a question asked by Paula (fpherj48) of HubPages. Paula's question is: "The SOUL``Spirit. What is your understanding? Do you believe Human beings HAVE a SOUL OR~Do you... believe we ARE A SOUL/Spirit at our basic core/nature, within a physical bodily form?"

Since ancient times the existence of Soul has not been just an abstract idea, nor is it purely a religious belief. Long before organized religions converted indigenous peoples around the world, there was belief in the afterlife. Native Americans still believe that when a person dies they "Walk On" and spend eternity in the land of their ancestors. The ancient Hopi belief is that the Milky Way is the "path of the ancestors" on their journey to the afterlife and that belief is still strong. The Australian Aboriginals believe that the afterlife is but another side of life, that death is a transition of the soul from physical body to the Land of the Dead, a new phase of existence where they await rebirth. Many cultures, like the Australian Aboriginals and Native Americans, believe that every natural thing on Earth has a spirit - plants, birds, insects, animals, mountains, bodies of water, and rocks are thought to have a spirit.

It is obvious that in ancient Egypt a belief in existence of Soul was inherent. The elaborate funerary ceremonies and burials included all the material items the Soul would need in their afterlife. The belief included the judgement process where Anubis, god of mummification and the afterlife, weighed the heart. Called the "weighing of the heart" or the "weighing of the soul", Anubis weighed the heart of the deceased against the Feather of Maat, goddess of truth. If the heart weighed more than the feather, the soul was damned. If the heart weighed the same or less than the feather, the soul was worthy to exist in the Afterlife.

In the image below from the book of the dead of Hunefer, we see the jackal-headed Anubis bringing the deceased to the judgement. The next scene is Anubis weighing the heart as Ammut the monster awaits for the decision that Thoth, scribe of the gods, records. If the determination is the soul is wicked, Ammut eats the heart. If the soul is worthy it is escorted on to Osiris in the Afterlife.

Weighing of the heart ~

Egyptian depiction of weighing of the heart at The Judgement to determine what the afterlife will be.
Egyptian depiction of weighing of the heart at The Judgement to determine what the afterlife will be. | Source

Does Soul Exist?

The ages old question and debate is "Do human beings have a soul?"

I have a firm hope that there is something in store for those who have died, and, as we have been told for many years, something much better for the good than for the wicked.

— Socrates in Phaedo

Socrates ~

Socrates was the classical Greek philosopher (470 - 399 BC) known mainly through the writings of his student Plato. The ideology of Socrates has been a solid foundation for Western philosophy, of which he has been credited as one of the founders.

As Socrates was waiting for his inevitable death, he and the friends who had gathered round him pondered on the nature of the soul.

"I think Socrates", said Cebes, "that even the dullest person would agree, from this line of reasoning, that the soul is in every possible way more like the invariable than the variable."

"And the body?"

"To the other."

"Look at it in this way too. When soul and body are both in the same place, nature teaches the one to serve and be subject, the other to rule and govern. In this relation which do you think resembles the divine and which the mortal part? Don't you think that it is the nature of the divine to rule and direct, and that of the mortal to be subject and serve?"

"I do."

"Then which does the soul resemble?"

"Obviously, Socrates, soul resembles the divine, and body the mortal...."

Socrates firmly believed that the physical body needs a ruler, an invisible self, to guide it. He believed the invisible ruler of the body is the soul.

Socrates awaiting his death ~

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David, 1787
The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David, 1787 | Source
Soul has weight thinks physician.
Soul has weight thinks physician. | Source

Studies in an attempt to prove soul exists ~

A weighing of the soul study in more than one study was carried out by different scientists to try and solve the ages old debate on the existence of a Soul. The debate on whether there is or is not a Soul has raged on for thousands of years.

Is there any proof that a human being, or even animals have a soul? Some scientists have said they do have proof.

Dr. R. A. Watters, physicist and director of the William Bernard Johnston Foundation for Biophysical Research in Reno, Nevada, conducted a study in the 1930s on animals and insects. Watters had developed an atomic hypothesis which he claimed proved existence of soul. According to his hypothesis the soul existed in a limbonic state in a space between atoms of cells.

Watters used a cloud chamber which could detect ionizing radiation.

The following study was conducted in 1901 by Dr. Duncan MacDougall (c. 1866 - 1920) of Haverill, Massachusetts.

MacDougall chose six tuberculosis patients he knew were just a few hours away from death. Now, there have been some who said, "How cruel to put a dying person on a scale to weigh them then weigh their body after they die!" No, that is not quite the way it was done.

The patient was in a bed which sat on an industrial size scale. The scale was very accurate. The weight of the bed with pillows and sheets was earlier recorded. The weight of the bed and patient was recorded when death was near. A few minutes after the patient died another weight was taken and recorded. The weight of the bed and body fluids or mass lost after death were accounted for. The resulting difference was determined to be the weight of the soul, which MacDougal and his associates said was 21 grams.

In 1988 a similar study to the one MacDougal conducted was carried out in Dresden, Germany. Researchers weighed over 200 terminally ill patients just before and immediately after death occurred. The researchers claim that the result in each case was exactly the same. They determined that the soul weighs 1/3,000 of an ounce.

The inescapable conclusion is that we have now confirmed the existence of the human soul and determined its weight.

— Dr. Becker Mertens, Dresden Germany

Are the studies proof of Soul?

Do the above studies really prove that soul exists? People who believe in 'life after death' say the studies are valid proof. People who do not believe there is a soul will find a rationale to disprove the results of the studies.

Either way, each person has a right to their opinion and belief system. To put one down, criticize them for their belief, is not the best thing to do, for most critics are only verbally expressing their own inner doubts.

All truth passes through three stages: first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; and third, it is accepted as self-evident.

— Arthur Schopenhauer, 19th Century philosopher

Common beliefs ~

There is a myriad of theories on what a soul is, where it comes from, where it resides in relation to the physical body, and where it goes when the physical life is ended.

Some people believe that a fertilized egg in the womb has a soul. If there is a belief in reincarnation (metaphysics) this makes sense to the believer. The metaphysical belief is that a soul lives many lifetimes till it has learned all it needs to know, is released from all karma and the birth/death cycle then resides in a spiritual paradise for eternity.

Others believe that a fetus does not have a soul until it is born. Many people believe there is more to a person than just body and mind. Still others do not believe there is a soul at all.

Do animals have a soul? There are many people who believe the spirit of an animal will visit a person who loved and cared for it in life, or return to familiar places where it once roamed.

Do animals have a spirit?

Spirit of horse.
Spirit of horse. | Source

My answer to Paula's question ~

I believe we have a Soul within our physical body. The Soul was sent to the University of Planet Earth to continue learning and developing our Spiritual path. The body houses the Soul. Our Spirit is that which always is - eternal. My analogy / theory is like the grape.

A human being is like a grape, growing and receiving energy from the Sun till it is ripe. When the grape is ready the skin (physical shell) is removed and dies during transformation. The pulp (Soul) is processed into new wine (Spirit).

We are children of the Universe, part of All That Is. Like the Sacred Lotus we should strive to rise above the muck and mire below to achieve our Highest Truths.

I believe there is a spirit of the land, mountains, forests, bodies of water, the deserts,plants, all living things, which are all part of the Spirit of Mother Earth.

Mountain spirit ~

Thomas Moran painting.
Thomas Moran painting. | Source

Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul.

— Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead

Note from author ~

Thank you for reading my article. Your opinions are important to me and let me know your interests. This helps me to offer more of your favorite subjects to read about. Your time and interest are very much appreciated. I hope to hear from you in the comments section below.

I write on several different subjects, all evergreen articles. You can read more about me and see more articles I wrote by clicking on my name by the small picture of me at the top right of this page.

Blessings and may you always walk in Peace and Harmony, softly upon Mother Earth.

Phyllis Doyle Burns - Lantern Carrier, Spiritual Mentor

~ ~ ~ ~

© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns

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Comments 13 comments

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 8 months ago

This is a work for making people think. Yes I do believe that we humans have a soul/spirit that leaves the earthly vehicle when it dies, our spirit is set free to be what we are intended to be.

I love your answer to Paula.

Blessings my dear friend


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 8 months ago

P.S. I love the picture also.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 8 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Shyron. Thank you so much. I love your way of wording the soul/spirit..."spirit is set free to be what we are intended to be." Thank you for sharing that, reading and commenting.

Hugs to you dear friend. Blessings to you, too.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 8 months ago from Queensland Australia

Phyllis, a very intelligent answer to Paula's question. Your analogy of a grape is a good one and the weighing of bodies before and after death provides much food for thought. Almost very native and ancient culture believed in souls/spirit forms or an afterlife, and I believe all creatures have a soul and like Socrates that the soul represents the divine. Very well written as always.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 8 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Jodah. Thank you so much for such a wonderful comment. I so appreciate your reading, commenting and your faithful support.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 8 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Phyllis....Hey there girlfriend....I am pleased you wrote this fabulous work based upon one of my questions! I enjoyed this enough to read it thoroughly more than once!

This hub gives us all so much to examine and embrace......very enlightening. Peace, Paula


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 8 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hey Paula. So glad you like it. Thank you for such a great comment. There is a plethora of thoughts and theories on existence of the soul. Thanks for asking the question and inspiring me.


Rachel L Alba profile image

Rachel L Alba 8 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

Hi Phyllis, We are made up in 3 different aspects, body, soul and spirit. In the book of Job there is a verse that says, "there is a spirit in man that makes him understand." The soul is our personalities, what we like, how we think and so on. The spirit is that part of us that can relate to God and goes on to live even after the body dies. I don't have verses memorized, but there are verses to verify that. I don't tell anyone what to believe, obviously everyone can believe however they wish. This has always been an interesting subject to me. Thanks for bringing it up.

Easter Blessings to you.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 8 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi Rachel. Looks like you and I have the same beliefs. It is always nice to hear from you. Have a Blessed Easter. I bet your kitchen will be full of goodies for this special holiday. Thanks for reading and commenting, Rachel. I appreciate it.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 8 months ago

Phyllis, I think you've set out a simple, yet complex subject in a very understandable way. Of course, with the exception of the open-minded few, people are going to believe whatever they've been taught. Your explanation goes right along with my belief system except for the location of soul, but that's not important.

What is important is to acknowledge that everything on Earth is a living being and was put here for a purpose. Gaia is a living being just as you and I are, and we are all part of her. When she hurts, we hurt, and vice versa. While men may not like the idea, the Earth is a living female soul. People of ancient times knew this. It was through outside interference that humans got sidetracked into the duality that we are now having to work through on our way back to what religionists would call "holiness."


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 8 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Hi MizB. Remarkable ! I love it when I read comments like yours - makes me feel "at home". Thank you so much for reading and contributing.


alastar 8 months ago

Your the perfect person to write on this topic and have done so concisely and perfectly. Although words and talk cannot convey the personal experience we all must face, as I once read, "Have no fear, there is an ocean of love over here".


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 8 months ago from High desert of Nevada. Author

Thank you so much for that lovely comment, Alastar. "Have no fear, there is an ocean of love over here". I love that quote.

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