December 13, 2008

The Human Soul: An Ancient Idea

Posted in Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Science & Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:21 am by randallbutisingh

The Human Soul: An Ancient Idea

Meredith F. Small
LiveScience’s Human Nature Columnist – Fri Nov 28, 2008.

A friend recently told me that he had finally, in middle age, found his soul mate. She was a woman he barely knew, but he was willing to give up everything to be in her sphere. With glassy eyes, he described how they were special, destined to find each other, and that in coming together they made each other whole.

It was hard to not laugh at my friend’s pronouncement of wandering souls crashing together, because most adults are long past that ephemeral kind of love and way into the hard reality of day-to-day living with someone, no matter the condition of their soul.

But my friend would be heartened by the discovery by archaeologists from the Neubauer Expedition of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago of a stone slab with an inscription that confirms that people like him have been into the idea of a soul for a very long time.

The slab, or stele, was recovered from an Iron Age city called Sam’al in Turkey. It dates to around the 8th century B.C. On the 800-pound, three-foot-tall piece of rock was an incised picture of a man, the deceased, who was presumably cremated, and words that explained that the soul of this man now resided within the stone slab.

What is it with humans and the idea of a soul? The ancient Greeks, who were around about the same time as the slab was cut, also loved the idea of a soul, and most cultures and religions today buy into it as well. Yet there’s no evidence that such a thing really exists. But still, even the most cynical of us is always trying to save our souls, damn other people’s souls, and searching for soul mates.

It’s hard to say exactly when the idea of a second self came into play. Presumably the recognition of a soul appeared hand-in-hand with human consciousness, and it was probably voiced when we had language to put the idea of a soul into words. That would place the time frame for a soul around 200,000 years ago, when humans experienced a cultural explosion which they expressed in art, clothing, and evidence of religion.

Clearly, at that point and beyond, humans had moved beyond solving how to find enough food, and they were using their excess brain power and leisure time to think of other things.

In that sense, the idea of a soul, or any kind of human spirituality, might simply be the product of too much brain and too much free time.

It might also be an evolutionary strategy that takes us away from the anxieties of self-consciousness. Once fully modern humans knew they could die, it probably made sense to pretend that no one really died but that some part of us lived on into the cosmos.

Given the vagaries of ancient life, it probably also made sense to invent souls that had the power to haunt and cause harm to explain all the bad stuff in life.

In fact, every culture, even today, has some concept that separates the spirit from the body, confirming that like my dreamy friend, humans seem compelled to think of themselves as something more than the sum of our biological parts, even if that belief makes us do foolish earthly things.

Comment by Randall Butisingh:

There are many erudite scientists who think like this, and nothing can change them.  They would  like to convince others of their brilliance and correct thinking .   Indeed, they can only think, but cannot feel.  Inspiration and intuition are not in their dictionary. These are the people who would not be able to write “poetry which is nearer to the truth than history”. They would be unable to taste the ecstasy like those with a consciousness that keeps expanding with wisdom. They lack imagination.  They are not like Einstein, perhaps the greatest of scientists, who was able to experience  God beyond limited science.  They have not heard of the yogis, the sufis and the mystics who have all had spiritual experiences.  So let them keep their mouths shut .  There are the people as Thomas Edison puts it, “We do not know one millionth of one percent of anything”.


Comment by Cyril Bryan:

This blog entry was selected by me and Mr Butisingh has commented on it. It was selected as its views are held by many and  the news item has received wide coverage recently. Its views are antithetical to the themes promoted by this blog. However, it has been included to invite comments. It promotes man as a “mechanistic being”, with no soul. Nietzsche said “God id dead!”; Marx said “Religion is the opiate of the people!”. We know the history of the Godless promoters of Fascism and Communism. The last century is replete with examples of Man’s Inhumanity to Man. We still have not learned as we continue on the path of self destruction.

The mechanistic man has no soul or afterlife, so how can he live this physical life in harmony with the Universe? With no soul he may seek unlimited power to destroy with no fear of retribution. So the promoters of “free will” and “scientific reality” see nothing but the physical man, ignoring the writings of the sages of yore and the obvious awakening of the world to a new awareness and connection to the “cosmic energy” that connects all living and inanimate things. Our experiences in technology have proven to us that not because you cannot see waves that electricity that wireless communications is not possible. The “discoveries” of the last century have shown us the connecting links of all science which is really man’s outward reflections of his being. What you do not see does not mean that it is not there in the Universe.

The ancient knowledge of the sages and the thinkers are being revealed every day as relevant in today’s world, even though we think we are more advanced with our electronic toys. Opening the “Doors of Perception” reveals man vibrating at various wavelengths and being aware of “realities” not accepted by the test-tube-types whose reality is limited to “seeing is believing”. Therefore this article, mocking the belief in the soul, and promoting a “scientific” approach to man’s existence is typical of the unbelievers… To them we are  just animate consumers that would eventually be “produced” on an assembly line like cars and other consumer goods.

The world does not need this Godless philosophy that promotes soulless zombies living lives of emptiness and consumerism.

— Cyril Bryan

****** Your comments for or against this article are welcome *******



  1. pochp said,

    Belief in soulmates might be laughable. Believing in ‘soul’ for me is not. It’s better to believe that when a man who resisted being evil in his lifetime die, he has a soul that will not die. We have nothing to lose if we believe that so why not?

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