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Theories of Soul Since Ancient Times
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
Does Soul Exist?
The question and debate of ages 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 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?"
"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
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
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?
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.
Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul.— Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead
© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns