- Aristotle uses his familiar matter/form distinction to answer the question “What is soul?” At the beginning of De Anima II.1, he says that there are three sorts of substance:
- Matter (potentiality)
- Form (actuality)
- The compound of matter and form
- Aristotle is interested in compounds that are alive. These - plants and animals - are the things that have souls. Their souls are what make them living things.
- Since form is what makes matter a “this,” the soul is the form of a living thing. (Not its shape, but its actuality, that in virtue of which it is the kind of living thing that it is.)
According to Aristotle's theory, a soul is a particular kind of nature, a principle that accounts for change and rest in the particular case of living bodies, i.e. plants, nonhuman animals and human beings. The relation between soul and body, on Aristotle's view, is also an instance of the more general relation between form and matter: thus an ensouled, living body is a particular kind of in-formed matter.
A living thing’s soul is its capacity to engage in the activities that are characteristic of living things of its natural kind. What are those activities? Some are listed in DA II.1; others in DA II.2:
- Movement and rest (in respect of place)
- So anything that nourishes itself, that grows, decays, moves about (on its own, not just when moved by something else), perceives, or thinks is alive. And the capacities of a thing in virtue of which it does these things constitute its soul. The soul is what is causally responsible for the animate behavior (the life activities) of a living thing.
Degrees of soul
- There is a nested hierarchy of soul functions or activities (413a23).
- Growth, nutrition, (reproduction)
- Locomotion, perception
- Intellect (= thought)
- This gives us three corresponding degrees of soul:
- Nutritive soul (plants)
- Sensitive soul (all animals)
- Rational soul (human beings)
- These are nested in the sense that anything that has a higher degree of soul also has all of the lower degrees. All living things grow, nourish themselves, and reproduce. Animals not only do that, but move and perceive. Humans do all of the above and reason, as well. (There are further subdivisions within the various levels, which we will ignore.)
Soul and Body
- A key question for the ancient Greeks (as it still is for many people today) is whether the soul can exist independently of the body. (Anyone who believes in personal immortality is committed to the independent existence of the soul.) Plato (as we know from the Phaedo) certainly thought that the soul could exist separately. Here is what Aristotle has to say on this topic:
. . . the soul does not exist without a body and yet is not itself a kind of body. For it is not a body, but something which belongs to a body, and for this reason exists in a body, and in a body of such-and-such a kind (414a20ff).
So on Aristotle’s account, although the soul is not a material object, it is not separable from the body. (When it comes to the intellect, however, Aristotle waffles. See DA III.4)
- Aristotle’s picture is not Cartesian:
- There is no inner/outer contrast. The soul is not an inner spectator, in direct contact only with its own perceptions and other psychic states, having to infer the existence of a body and an “external” world.There is thus no notion of the privacy of experience, the incorrigibility of the mental, etc., in Aristotle’s picture.
- The soul is not an independently existing substance. It is linked to the body more directly: it is the form of the body, not a separate substance inside another substance (a body) of a different kind. It is a capacity, not the thing that has the capacity.It is thus not a separable soul. (It is, at most, pure thought, devoid of personality, that is separable from the body on Aristotle’s account.)
- Soul has little to do with personal identity and individuality. There is no reason to think that one (human) soul is in any important respect different from any other (human) soul. The form of one human being is the same as the form of any other.There is, in this sense, only soul, and not souls. You and I have different souls because we are different people. But we are different human beings because we are different compounds of form and matter. That is, different bodies both animated by the same set of capacities, by the same (kind of) soul.
- There is a nested hierarchy of soul functions or activities (413a23).
Edgar Cayce (pronounced "Kay-see") was a simple Sunday School teacher who, over the span of his lifetime (1877-1945), had more near-death experiences than anyone ever documented. Cayce learned at a young age that when he was hypnotized, he could leave his body and journey into the afterlife realms. His self-induced out-of-body experiences were identical to near-death experiences. Cayce made over 14,000 otherworldly journeys in his life and the information he gained from these journeys has astounded people all over the world. Cayce's descriptions of the Essenes of Mount Carmel reveal the religious sect to be an ideal for others who would prepare the way for the Second Coming of Christ.
According to the Cayce material, Jesus and Adam were different incarnations of the same Christ soul. Eve and the Virgin Mary (Jesus' twin soul) were also different incarnations of the same soul. This karmic connection between Adam and Jesus explains why Jesus was able to pay the "karmic debt" by atoning for the "sin of Adam." According to Cayce, many other personalities from the Old Testament and history were also incarnations of Jesus. The Cayce material describes the entire Christian Bible as part of the story of Jesus' long struggle to attain "Christhood" and provide humanity a pattern to do the same. See this article for all the incarnations http://www.near-death.com/experiences/jesus09.html
The Zohar & Kabalah
"All souls are subject to the trials of transmigration (reincarnation); and men do not know the designs of the Most High with regard to them; they know not how they are being at all times judged, both before coming into this world and when they leave it. They do not know how many transmigrations and mysterious trials they must undergo." (3)
"Souls must reenter the absolute substance whence they have emerged. But to accomplish this end they must develop all the perfections, the germ of which is planted in them; and if they have not fulfilled this condition during one life, they must commence another, a third, and so forth, until they have acquired the condition which fits them for reunion with God."
What the bible says about your soul
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.
Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. ...
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” ...
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