Soul is a word about which there has been as much confusion as any word in the English language.
Some people equate it with another word that is also conducive to confusion — conscience. The definition I found with Google is: noun
1.the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.
emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance.“their interpretation lacked soul”
I gather the meaning boils down to a person’s essence. It is our “spiritual or immaterial” self. That is quite a metaphysical mouthful. What is “reality” in essence? Is it spirit or matter? You pay your money and you place your bets. If you are a complete metaphysical “materialist,” I suppose there is no soul as far as you’re concerned. However, there is another “meaning” that might allow materialists to jump aboard: emotion. Soul can mean “emotional or intellectual energy or intensity.” Another definition, perhaps the best, says, “the essence or embodiment of a specified quality.” As in “getting to the soul of the matter.” If other people are like me, they have an instinctive sense of what the soul is. It is them or me. What I am aside from all external bullshit. I have had the experience of dealing with pain by seeing it as external to the little kernal that is the Self that perceives and knows. (In Thelemic metaphysics, it is the Shiva or Had point—infinite contraction while Nuit is infinite expansion.) It is useful to be able to withdraw to a point that is infinitely small, that, in fact, takes up no space at all. It is only pure knowledge or experience or whatever. In El Topo, the protagonist is injured and his son cries, “Your pain must be unbearable!” He replied, “My body feels the pain. Not I!” This seems like the best definition of the soul.
Most people believe that, whatever it is, most people have a soul. It is the part of us that survives anything that can be done to the physical self. The soul is immortal. It is our very Self. The one thing we cannot afford to lose.
In Christian mythology, the soul is vulnerable to destruction or even loss. The devil covets our souls. People can sell their souls to the devil. If he gets them, we can be tortured forever. Buddhists deny the existence of a soul. But they believe in reincarnation. That one stumps me. What is it that reincarnates?
In Harry Potter, there are creatures called dementors, who can suck out peoples’ souls. The person who has lost his soul this way seems like someone with advanced dementia. He forgets his name, his loved ones, everything. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, vampires have no soul. The person who had a soul before he becomes a vampire loses it and a demon takes over. I discussed this at length in Passion. In another episode of Buffy, an evil goddess rapes people’s brains. She is like a junkie who must feed on brains (not physically) to keep from falling into this tormented space that victims of her brain-rape fall into. This state resembles that of the victims of the dementor’s kiss in Harry Potter. Brings up the question of whether people with dementia are as soulless as these fictitious unfortunates.
I have seen dead people and animals. There is an unmistakable difference between a live being and a dead body. The absence of what makes that person or animal alive is palpable. Of course, this is a subjective perception but it has objective support in the fact that bodies lose weight at the moment of death. Something has left. Then there are “near death experiences” which are surprisingly similar to one another. When there is religious symbolism in the experience, it is always the religion the person believes in. But they all experience going through a tunnel. They all encounter some benevolent being(s) and they all see a bridge and know that, if they cross the bridge, there is no returning. They have the choice of going back to their body, not having crossed the bridge, and they return (otherwise, it wouldn’t be a near death experience). After the experience, they don’t fear death. Dyed in the wool materialists will pooh pooh these stories and try to find a physiological explanation. But their number and similarity are convincing, at least to me. So I believe in life after death but not in “God.” There is a spiritual reality but I have to discover for myself what that is.
I have experimented with religion, including a Catholic baptism and an initiation into Divine Light Mission, the vehicle of Guru Maharaj Ji (whom most people will recognize as “the fat 14-year-old”). I was driven to Maharaj Ji by a series of acid trips in which I “knew” that nothing mattered. But it still “mattered” that nothing mattered. If that makes any sense. Maharaj Ji promised to give the Knowledge of God to anyone who asked with a guileless heart. So I received the Knowledge. I was disappointed and appalled at what a small and narrow experience it was. Yet it changed me on a very deep level. I didn’t keep up with the meditation but I had another acid trip that blasted way past the impasse I had experienced with the previous trips. I won’t go into this in much detail. Other people’s acid trips are way boring. But it left me “knowing” that all is one and that I am god. (This is not grandiose. It is humbling.) I use quotation marks because this kind of knowing is only for the person having the experience. I don’t expect anyone else to believe in it’s validity. Only those who have had a similar experience will recognize mine for what it is. So I guess I got what Maharaj Ji promised.
I believe in the existence of the soul. It is what makes me me. It is a spiritual entity so it should take up no space and transcend time. Still, I don’t understand why science has proven that the something that leaves a body upon death has weight. Maybe it’s something else. An astral body?
Sheesh! I sound like a New Ager. Better leave it at that.
- Do Psychopaths Have Souls? by Thomas Sheridan. Surprisingly, he doesn’t reject that idea out of hand.
- The Inner Landscape of the Psychopath, by Hervey Cleckley. Philosophical and literary pondering about sanctity and negation.
- Alien Origins of Sociopathy. Strange article claiming some psychopaths have souls and some don’t.
- Suffering Souls, The search for the roots of psychopathy
- Soul Mates and Psychopaths, by Adelyn Birch
- I believe they have no soul. Discussion by haters