The Soul

Joshua Hutchinson Soul Ascending

Few ideations are more abstruse than the notion of “soul”. Within mainline Buddhism it is considered to be anathema—anatman. In other circles its essential meaning designates some form of entity that is in direct contrast to the body. Etymologically, it’s denoted as a principle from which life emanates—the very source of psychical activities of a person. In seminary, we were taught that soul connotes “self”, the essential principle that defines all facets of an individual’s existence. This notion coincides with the Hebrew word “nephesh”, which refers to the authentic self or real person. Paul S. MacDonald, in his monumental study of Soul and Mind in two volumes, History of the Concept of Mind, perhaps gives the best delineation:

The history of the concepts of mind and soul is a complex and twisted network of many paths, each path strewn with obstacles, dead ends, false or hidden beginnings, relapses into old ways of thinking and forward leaps of imaginative projection. One of the principal problems is to sort out exactly which issue is being addressed when one holds up for scrutiny any one of the numerous terms involved in the ancestry of the modern concept of mind or soul. (ibid, pg 1)

He continues to frame a more precise distinction:

The English word ‘mind’ is from the Latin root mens, itself an evolved form of the Greek word menos, ‘life-force’, whose verbal form is menomai, ‘to desire or crave’; the word mens served the earliest Latin translators of Homer, Plato and Aristotle for the Greek word nous…

The English word ‘spirit’ is from the Latin root spiritus, ‘breath’, whose original connotations survive in words like respiration, inspiration, perspiration, and so forth…

The English word ‘soul’ does not have a Latin or Greek root, but instead derives from an Old English and Old High German root (for example, sawol, seel, seol); ‘soul’ was used in the Geneva Bible (1560-1650) and the King James Version (1611 onward) to translate the Latin anima and the Greek psyche. In the LXX the Greek psyche is used in almost 90 per cent of the cases to translate the Hebrew nepesh, which means either ‘desire’ or ‘vitality’ or ‘life-force’. In addition, each word has undergone an evolution, or at least an attenuation in its total reference field. (ibid, pg. 2)

This series will present a vast compendium on the nature of the soul. It stretches from early Greek notions to modern day Quantum associations. After all the evidence is weighed, we will present a singular definition in light of the teachings of Unborn Mind Zen. The outline is as follows:

1. Intro
2. Breakdown of psyche, pneuma
3. Homeric formulations
4. Plato
5. Aristotle
6. St. Paul
7. Gnostic Notions
8. Plotinus
9. St. Augustine
10. Byzantine Notions
11. Christian Mystics
12. North American Indians
13. Advaita Vedanta
14. Chinese-Taoist
15. Buddhist
16. Quantum Soul
17. Unborn Mind
18. Conclusion

The main purport of this series is to alleviate the modern-day prejudices that attempt to relegate the linkage of soul, spirit, and mind to the wastebasket of history. Even more so to hopefully put an end to those mainline Buddhist notions that simply shrug it all off as puerile and insignificant. The ancients knew better, and we are here to uphold and honor their visions in high esteem.

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4 Responses to The Soul

  1. emaho says:

    Kind Friend

    This subject is very intriguing and invigorating. Am earnestly looking forward to each upcoming module. Thank you so much for so generously giving this vitally fundamental and foundational teaching.

    Profound gratitude offered to the teacher again and again.

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