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Author Topic:   What is a soul?
dogrelata
Member (Idle past 3475 days)
Posts: 201
From: Scotland
Joined: 08-04-2006


Message 1 of 191 (367138)
11-30-2006 2:15 PM


Given the nature of these forums, I guess it’s no surprise to see frequent references to the human soul. As someone who doesn’t have a spiritual bone in his body, it’s tough to get a real feel for what’s being discussed. Which is not a problem in the sense that my natural sceptic’s instincts tell me this is an area where reality might best be described as blurred. But it’s also one of the reasons for my fascination. What is it that draws people to their beliefs in this area?

In all that follows I will play the role of devil’s advocate, assuming solely for the sake of argument that the human soul does exist. This avoids the need to continually qualify my beliefs on the subject, which may be wrong in any case!

As a starting point I’m curious about whether the soul should be considered as inextricably linked to material existence, i.e. does a person’s soul come into existence only with their corporeal being? If so, does it occur at the moment of conception, or some time later?

Or is the soul something that already exists, waiting to be united with a human body when it eventually arrives on this earth? Or am I completely mistaken in the notion that souls are individual essences, each unique to a single person? Is there any sense in which the soul might be considered a ‘global’ essence, with human existence acting as a portal through which to access it?

My next question concerns the idea of ‘shaping’. Is it the soul that shapes the corporeal being of an individual, or vice versa? Or neither? And in instances where individuals are unaware of their soul, are their souls aware of them?

There are numerous other questions I’d like to ask, but I think it’s worth waiting to see if this post gets promoted to the status of thread, and gets any responses thereafter.

Before signing off, I think it’s appropriate to remove my devil’s advocate’s hat lest I find it becomes too comfortable.


Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by AdminBuzsaw, posted 11-30-2006 8:03 PM dogrelata has not yet responded
 Message 6 by Hyroglyphx, posted 11-30-2006 11:10 PM dogrelata has responded
 Message 7 by Sour, posted 12-01-2006 4:30 AM dogrelata has responded
 Message 8 by Larni, posted 12-01-2006 4:30 AM dogrelata has responded
 Message 21 by Buzsaw, posted 12-01-2006 10:18 PM dogrelata has responded
 Message 76 by NOT JULIUS, posted 12-12-2006 2:37 PM dogrelata has responded

  
AdminBuzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 2 of 191 (367192)
11-30-2006 8:03 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by dogrelata
11-30-2006 2:15 PM


Hi dogrelata. Welcome to EvC. I believe your OP looks good for promotion to Miscellaneous Topics in Creation/Evolution. Is that good with you? I'll hold off promoting for a spell in case another admin has any suggestions.

In case you're not familiar, if you need info on how to implement quotes et al, find someone else's usage of what you want to do and hit the Peek button on the lower right of the window. Also I advise that you check out the Forum Guidelines if you're not familiar with them. Enjoy!


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by dogrelata, posted 11-30-2006 2:15 PM dogrelata has not yet responded

  
AdminNem
Inactive Member


Message 3 of 191 (367199)
11-30-2006 8:36 PM


Ready for promotion
It looks good to me, Buz, but I don't see anything related to science in the thread. Perhaps a spiritual thread would be more appropriate, such as, Faith and Belief.
Replies to this message:
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AdminBuzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 191 (367216)
11-30-2006 10:36 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by AdminNem
11-30-2006 8:36 PM


Re: Ready for promotion
Good. Thanks AdminNem.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by AdminNem, posted 11-30-2006 8:36 PM AdminNem has not yet responded

  
AdminBuzsaw
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 191 (367217)
11-30-2006 10:38 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5655
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006


Message 6 of 191 (367222)
11-30-2006 11:10 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by dogrelata
11-30-2006 2:15 PM


The soul undaunted
Given the nature of these forums, I guess it’s no surprise to see frequent references to the human soul. As someone who doesn’t have a spiritual bone in his body, it’s tough to get a real feel for what’s being discussed. Which is not a problem in the sense that my natural sceptic’s instincts tell me this is an area where reality might best be described as blurred. But it’s also one of the reasons for my fascination. What is it that draws people to their beliefs in this area?

Distrust and incredulity is, by far, the prevailing disposition of man. And so, he is always at ends with God. He has a disjointed relationship with the Father, insomuch, that man is the one seeks asylum, not God. He is the one who has set up partitions that might block out any semblance of the hallowed. When we get right down to it this is the crux of the matter. This is what separates mankind from the animal kingdom. Man is not a moral monkey; he is a moral being who constantly finds him self in this chasm between good and evil.

There is no materialistic or metaphysical force that can explain morality, or how it might somehow develop through elapsed time. Mankind is in enmity with God. Why? Well, interestingly enough, those who seem to hate God, in a roundabout way, tells me that everyone has a latent desire for Him. It seems that everyone, deep down, is just fine with an omni-benevolent Being. But, given the nature of this world and all it’s climactic chaos, mankind just cannot perceive that there can be an all-knowing, all-loving deity. It’s as if they are saying, “I want so badly to believe in this benevolence you speak of, but I am afraid to let down my guard. This is a world full of malevolence and hypocrisy. I might open myself up to disappointment. I have become accustomed with disbelief and it has actually served to benefit at times. If I let my guard down, I might be opening myself up to disappointment. What if God doesn’t meet my expectations? What if I don’t meet God’s expectations?”

You know what? That is the most honesty anyone could ever ask for. This question has been asked not only by the staunchest atheist, but also of the most God-fearing man. Do you not think that everyone that believes in God, and moreover, His benevolence has overlooked this? God knows that we are mortal and remembers that we are but dust. Perhaps there are times in all of our lives when we shake our fists at the sky, and ask God... “Where are you?! How could you let this happen?!” I think this is a question that has been asked by every human being that has ever graced the earth, even if on a subconscious level, including myself.

God has made provisions for man that he is given the choice to love or reject. This is truly a profound thing, because after all, what IS love without the choice to love or reject? It does not even exist, as they are analogous. God could have made us automatons that worship Him in vain, however, in His infinite knowledge, we are given the wonderful gift of choice. Love, requires faith. For instance, what does it take me to know that my wife loves me and not my insurance policy? What is the mechanism of my understanding in relation to this? How is it that I can every truly know if she loves me or not? Now, she may manifest her love outwardly to me through various forms of giving and sharing, but ultimately, it is up to me to believe, by faith, that she loves me. How could I ever really know what love even is, apart from faith? I could not, any other way; and neither could you. What then, makes this faith real?

To answer this question, we must first understand the ultimate reality of the self. Let me say, that God is immortal. That, which does not suffer from entropic forces is unchanged. That which is unchanged does not decay. And what does not decay is immortal. With this concept fresh in your mind, know that you too are immortal. Before you make the libelous statement of calling me insane, listen to what that great poet and apologist, C.S. Lewis once stated: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul.” An interesting concept he posits. If what he says is true, then what makes you, you?

Is it the symmetry of your facial features that people recognize? If this constitutes the reality of the self, then what should we consider about the blind? Do you cease to exist if we cannot see you? Is it, perhaps, your scent being recognized by the receptors in what comprises our olfactory system that makes you real? Is it the way the way air reverberates off of your vocal cords that resonate in our ears to identify your voice inflections and intonations? What about the deaf? Do you cease to exist if we cannot hear you? If this is the case, then nothing was real to Helen Keller. Perhaps, it is your fingerprint design, in it’s unique pattern that make you who you are. Maybe, you are just a barcode or a Social Security number, shuffled along through the system. Maybe, in some grandiose conspiracy theory, Big Brother is the maker and keeper of your reality. And maybe you don’t exist at all!

In all seriousness, do the functions of the human body encapsulate who you are? I hope this is not the measure of your life. If it is, I would neglect to impute any value to your reality simply because you recognize the obvious. Your lack of astute observation merely recognizes a system of thought that does not transcend the physical. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this trite concept of the self is lacking depth and meaning. What saddens me most about this logic, or lack thereof, stems from my ability to sympathize with it. I remember quite well the hopelessness that manifests itself due to the separation from the Creator. So then, what shall we say equates to true life? What makes us who we are? Answer: The soul.

Many people do not believe in the soul because it is not tangible. It has no weight, no height, no depth-- no space, whatsoever, which is terribly difficult to conceptualize. However, given the instances I just provided, what more could we deduce about the self? Those that do believe in the soul often use the term loosely. They have no concept of the power that is the soul. That power surely emanates from somewhere. More importantly, what is it that grants us the soul? It is the very thing that granted us dominion over the animals. It is God. I guess the basic concept of the soul is elementary. Most assuredly, however, it proves elusive beyond our complete comprehension. Our mental capacity simply cannot account for it, in the same way that we mentally cannot comprehend the awesomeness of God.

Consider the soul, then, to be the very [b]‘essence’[/i] of being. It IS the existence. Everything else is an illusory. And it is undoubtedly the single greatest possession to God. Because to give your soul to Him is to give all of you to Him. Jesus affirms this, by saying, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or, what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” –Matthew 16:26

Jesus is saying, in essentially saying, “if you give up your soul, you are giving up your very life. Not the life here on earth in this shell, we call, ‘the body.’ You will be dead, in the truest sense of the word.” To help aggrandize the importance of the soul, perhaps, we should distinguish terms. Is the soul the life force of a creature? No. The spirit is the lifeforce in any given creature. The soul, therefore, is even greater than this. Paul corroborates this, by saying,

“For the Word of God is active and living, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit; joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” –Hebrews 5:12-13

But how do we forfeit our own soul? Forfeiture of the soul is a deliberate act out of rebellion. Make no mistake, however, that no one can truly forfeit his or her soul in the sense that we might throw out the garbage. Jesus speaks this of in the sense that we would spend eternity away from Him. What a tragic end to be separated from the Father. When we die in this physical shell, it is the first death. The one to follow, spiritual death, is far worse a fate to undergo. Death in the flesh pales in comparison to that of spiritual death. What then, brings about death? In one word: SIN-- willful, deliberate sin.

    -fin-


Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but robust, vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. You cannot see Him just now, you cannot fully understand what He's doing, but you know that you know Him." -Oswald Chambers
This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by dogrelata, posted 11-30-2006 2:15 PM dogrelata has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 9 by Sour, posted 12-01-2006 9:47 AM Hyroglyphx has responded
 Message 12 by dogrelata, posted 12-01-2006 1:49 PM Hyroglyphx has responded
 Message 20 by DominionSeraph, posted 12-01-2006 9:20 PM Hyroglyphx has not yet responded

    
Sour
Member (Idle past 410 days)
Posts: 63
From: I don't know but when I find out there will be trouble. (Portsmouth UK)
Joined: 07-27-2005


Message 7 of 191 (367224)
12-01-2006 4:30 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by dogrelata
11-30-2006 2:15 PM


Good questions, I can't answer any of them as I think the concept of a soul is redundant unless required by some other belief.

does a person’s soul come into existence only with their corporeal being? If so, does it occur at the moment of conception, or some time later?

I'd like to know the answer to this as well.

Is it the soul that shapes the corporeal being of an individual, or vice versa? Or neither? And in instances where individuals are unaware of their soul, are their souls aware of them?

The soul is a distinct entity that has awareness independant of my own? Am I interpreting your meaning correctly?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by dogrelata, posted 11-30-2006 2:15 PM dogrelata has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 13 by dogrelata, posted 12-01-2006 2:03 PM Sour has responded

  
Larni
Member
Posts: 3976
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 8 of 191 (367225)
12-01-2006 4:30 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by dogrelata
11-30-2006 2:15 PM


Nothing but language.
As far back as Enki filling the first mans lungs with with air (latin = spiritus) we can see some concept of the hidden 'vital spark' of being alive.

People used to call mercury 'quicksilver' because of the way it would move like it was 'vital'. We attribute a certain special 'something' to being alive.

I contend that we have to have a word that describes the expression of being alive with a seat of consciousness in words that we all share.

Put a halo of spirituality with it's nebulous parameters form and 'purpose' around it and you have the xian 'soul'.

Nothing special, just a shared concept arising from a need to explain and describe the phenomena of consciousness in language.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by dogrelata, posted 11-30-2006 2:15 PM dogrelata has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by dogrelata, posted 12-01-2006 2:30 PM Larni has responded

    
Sour
Member (Idle past 410 days)
Posts: 63
From: I don't know but when I find out there will be trouble. (Portsmouth UK)
Joined: 07-27-2005


Message 9 of 191 (367226)
12-01-2006 9:47 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Hyroglyphx
11-30-2006 11:10 PM


Re: The soul undaunted
Hi Nemesis, a couple of questions about your position,

There is no materialistic or metaphysical force that can explain morality, or how it might somehow develop through elapsed time.

Do you regard altruistic behaviour by chimps as a different sort of morality? Is morality unique to humans because we are the only animals who think about it? If so, what is the altruistic behaviour that we share with chimps?

Before you make the libelous statement of calling me insane, listen to what that great poet and apologist, C.S. Lewis once stated: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul.”
...
Is it the symmetry of your facial features that people recognize? If this constitutes the reality of the self, then what should we consider about the blind? Do you cease to exist if we cannot see you?
...
Do you cease to exist if we cannot hear you? If this is the case, then nothing was real to Helen Keller. Perhaps, it is your fingerprint design, in it’s unique pattern that make you who you are.

In all seriousness, do the functions of the human body encapsulate who you are? I hope this is not the measure of your life.
...
So then, what shall we say equates to true life? What makes us who we are? Answer: The soul.

This sounds like you are defining the soul as the sum of our parts, my gestalt self. It is just a label for a thing that has no existence outside of me. This is not to say that I don't accept your position that I transcend my physical substance. The matter that makes up my body is replaced throughout my life, I am materially not the same person that was present at my fifth birthday, yet I remember it. That memory is a property of me that does transcend the matter I am made of. I could label as 'soul' the property which enables me to remember those events which I (the current 'I') was not physically present at. That doesn't make it holy or divine.

Many people do not believe in the soul because it is not tangible. It has no weight, no height, no depth-- no space, whatsoever, which is terribly difficult to conceptualize.

I think many people do not believe in a soul because the concept is redundant.

I'm interested in dogrelata's question about from when the soul originates, from a dogmatic perspective obviously.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Hyroglyphx, posted 11-30-2006 11:10 PM Hyroglyphx has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Hyroglyphx, posted 12-01-2006 11:52 AM Sour has responded

  
Hyroglyphx
Member
Posts: 5655
From: Austin, TX
Joined: 05-03-2006


Message 10 of 191 (367250)
12-01-2006 11:52 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Sour
12-01-2006 9:47 AM


Re: The soul undaunted
Do you regard altruistic behaviour by chimps as a different sort of morality? Is morality unique to humans because we are the only animals who think about it? If so, what is the altruistic behaviour that we share with chimps?

Define altruistic behavior or give me examples of what chimps do in the wild that might qualify as true altruism. You know, I have three cats, and occasionally they display affection for one another by cleaning (licking) each other. This is very similar to what chimps do in the wild, which is, to preen each other and check for parasites. Does this qualify as altruism to you?

This sounds like you are defining the soul as the sum of our parts, my gestalt self.

Actually, I said the exact opposite. I thought I was explicit about that. I was asking the public if they thought the sum of our parts equal the human. I certainly don't.

It is just a label for a thing that has no existence outside of me. This is not to say that I don't accept your position that I transcend my physical substance. The matter that makes up my body is replaced throughout my life, I am materially not the same person that was present at my fifth birthday, yet I remember it. That memory is a property of me that does transcend the matter I am made of. I could label as 'soul' the property which enables me to remember those events which I (the current 'I') was not physically present at. That doesn't make it holy or divine.

So, to summarize, would you consider yourself to be firing synapses in the brain? Essentially, upon brain death, does your 'soul' die? Note: {When I say 'soul' I'm not using my definition, I'm trying to ascertain yours}.

I'm interested in dogrelata's question about from when the soul originates, from a dogmatic perspective obviously.

I am too. And now that you mention it, what are your thoughts on when a human becomes a human, as it relates to the soul, either orthodoxical or paradoxical.


Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but robust, vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. You cannot see Him just now, you cannot fully understand what He's doing, but you know that you know Him." -Oswald Chambers
This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 12414
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 11 of 191 (367261)
12-01-2006 12:56 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Hyroglyphx
12-01-2006 11:52 AM


Re: The soul undaunted
NJ writes:

Essentially, upon brain death, does your 'soul' die? Note: {When I say 'soul' I'm not using my definition, I'm trying to ascertain yours}.

To me, a soul is basically ivolved with mind, will, emotions--and, basically, ideas. When I die, I know that my ideas...my beliefs..my feelings...will no longer be expressed through my body. What I don't know is if these characteristics unique to me will cease to exist or not.

My Belief is that they will continue....either in communion with a universal Spirit (Holy seems appropriate) or otherwise...(also undefined)


This message is a reply to:
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dogrelata
Member (Idle past 3475 days)
Posts: 201
From: Scotland
Joined: 08-04-2006


Message 12 of 191 (367275)
12-01-2006 1:49 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Hyroglyphx
11-30-2006 11:10 PM


Re: The soul undaunted
nemesis juggernaut writes:

Distrust and incredulity is, by far, the prevailing disposition of man.

Perhaps that is the case where you come from, which may go some way to explaining why you believe what you believe. However, in my part of the world, this is most definitely not so, although I suspect we may be observing different aspects of human behaviour.

But I’d like to return to the debate if I may, and put my devil’s advocate hat back on. To this end, I’m going to concentrate solely on areas where we might be able to have some worthwhile debate, rather than get bogged down in the dogma.

nemesis juggernaut writes:

Man is not a moral monkey; he is a moral being

Am I to take this to mean that you believe that animals do not possess souls? If so, I guess I need to ask if you consider a belief in the soul to be incompatible with a belief in the theory of evolution? Or are you suggesting that the soul evolved with man?

nemesis juggernaut writes:

Those that do believe in the soul often use the term loosely. They have no concept of the power that is the soul.

Most assuredly, however, it proves elusive beyond our complete comprehension.

So how should I assess anything that anybody has to say on the subject?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Hyroglyphx, posted 11-30-2006 11:10 PM Hyroglyphx has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 16 by Hyroglyphx, posted 12-01-2006 3:00 PM dogrelata has responded

  
dogrelata
Member (Idle past 3475 days)
Posts: 201
From: Scotland
Joined: 08-04-2006


Message 13 of 191 (367279)
12-01-2006 2:03 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Sour
12-01-2006 4:30 AM


Sour writes:

The soul is a distinct entity that has awareness independant of my own? Am I interpreting your meaning correctly?

More or less.

Remember I’m simply trying to get a feel for what it is people actually believe in this area. When I talk to others about it, or read about it, it’s very unclear to me what they’re trying to say. I tend to get answers like, ‘if you were to experience it, you’d know what I was talking about’.

I’m basically just throwing ideas about to see how things develop.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Sour, posted 12-01-2006 4:30 AM Sour has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 19 by Sour, posted 12-01-2006 5:33 PM dogrelata has not yet responded

  
dogrelata
Member (Idle past 3475 days)
Posts: 201
From: Scotland
Joined: 08-04-2006


Message 14 of 191 (367281)
12-01-2006 2:16 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Hyroglyphx
12-01-2006 11:52 AM


Re: The soul undaunted
nemesis juggernaut writes:

Define altruistic behavior or give me examples of what chimps do in the wild that might qualify as true altruism. You know, I have three cats, and occasionally they display affection for one another by cleaning (licking) each other. This is very similar to what chimps do in the wild, which is, to preen each other and check for parasites. Does this qualify as altruism to you?

If you’re interested, there’s a fascinating book that deals with altruism in nature, including forced altruism. It’s called The Handicap Principle by Zahavi and Zahavi.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Hyroglyphx, posted 12-01-2006 11:52 AM Hyroglyphx has not yet responded

  
dogrelata
Member (Idle past 3475 days)
Posts: 201
From: Scotland
Joined: 08-04-2006


Message 15 of 191 (367286)
12-01-2006 2:30 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Larni
12-01-2006 4:30 AM


Re: Nothing but language.
Cheers Larni.

I’m not ignoring your reply. It’s just that I suspect we may have broadly similar views on the subject, so I don’t really have anything to take issue with (or expand upon).


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by Larni, posted 12-01-2006 4:30 AM Larni has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 24 by Larni, posted 12-02-2006 7:18 AM dogrelata has not yet responded

  
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