is there a difference between your soul and your spirit?

Answer #1

Some people think so, Some don’t. Personally I think they are the same thing.

Answer #2

I believe not. From different books I’ve read, they’re basically the same. Although I guess that’s for the Christian religion more or less. It COULD be different for other religions …

Answer #3

Soul refers to that inmaterial, non physical part of a human being. It also refers to the ever-living part of a human being (if you believe in it). Spirit can be though of as the soul, it can also be thought of as a person’s will for achievement.

Answer #4

No. Soul and Spirit are the same when you are talking about a physical energy form. The words just differ between cultures and religions. Spirit as in Peppyness is different than Soul as in Jazz blues, but in a “life after death” term, they are the same.

Answer #5

I listen to my Soul on an .mp3 player, and drink my spirit from a hip-flask.

Answer #6

It depends! Religions which don’t use the word soul generally use spirit instead, but sometimes either can be simply a label applied by one culture observing another and it is not the label the originating culture uses itself. Other religions can use them interchangeably whilst using them to mean other things as well. Soul is an Old English word dating back to at least the 9th century, with obvious relatives across Northern European languages as you’d expect. Remember that the Bible scrolls were written in a mix of earlier languages for which ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ was merely the closest rendering on translation. Reviewing the Greek and Hebrew texts reveals dozens of different meanings to both soul and spirit which do not fit at all with their more recent usage of ‘immortal essence’. In Genesis alone, the word spirit has 6-7 meanings. Non-religious usage gets much more complex!

The further you go back in time, the more human vocabulary decreases in terms of number of words - so no surprise that the number of meanings applied to a single word rises. Even in modern languages, there are many words which have very different meanings and only context clues the intended meaning. Even then, the reader can infer something quite different but still think the book was a good read!

Using Young’s literal translation of the bible (which effectively strips out many of our modern nuances and added-value or updated meanings) the impression I gain is that ‘Spirit’ (NB capitalised) seems more often associated with the concept of true self-responsibility or knowing. I put ‘knowing’ in italics, to emphasise the much deeper sense of ‘becoming’ a body of knowledge rather than simply being aware of knowledge or data. It means to know your self, profoundly, with layers of inner sight – insight; to see connections previously unrealised. Thousands of years later, this is still a difficult mental state to achieve, but its attainment profoundly alters your outlook – how you ‘see out’ of your body into the surrounding environment. Many rituals seek to assist the attainment of such mental states as may connect with the inner self or ‘spirit’. ‘Knowing’ would better fit with the Buddhist concept of ‘spirit’, I think, and examples that many religions have common ideological roots whether or not a deity was involved in their inception.

‘spirit’ (uncapitalised) can often mean soul in some contexts and religions. In aboriginal tribes it can imply a ‘travelling entity/body’ which is voluntarily sent as an envoi to ‘other realms’ rather than being conceived as a fixed passenger held in a body until death. It is often used in more casual senses, sometimes embracing a group of related ideas as in ‘rugged human spirit’ but although the religious may use it passionately to emphasise their traditional ideas, aspirations, hopes and immortality concepts, some of these may be tangents to the intended meaning in their original texts. There can also be masculine, feminine or combined accents – ‘wartime spirit’, ‘pioneering spirit’, ‘spirit of Louisiana’ or ‘cowboy spirit’ for example, which vary according to period and culture. You have to be very careful to check you are comparing like with like, as two people can agree their apparent understanding of ‘spirit’ even though they have quite different meanings in their thoughts. You can see how varied our usage of the word has become!

Many religions, even extinct and pre-Old Testament ones, have very similar core ideas; it’s just the details that change. The most common ideas applying to soul or spirit (as a synonym for soul) interestingly enough, are (1) you have to die to become immortal; or (2) you are already in the middle of an extensive re-birth cycle; but (3) an invisible ‘self’ and invisible forces are involved; (4) restraint and hardship are rewarded in the next life or cycle; (5) lack of restraint is self-damaging (especially to the invisible self) and is punishable both now and after death; (6) specific talismans, charms, depictions and amulets have the power to protect the person and the invisible self, just as their equivalents did/do in pagan religions. Some now think of them as badges of affiliation, but others still firmly believe in the magical forces they are assumed to impugn.

Whilst today’s main religions get to spell god, or indeed goddess with a capital G, it is likely that most of the more ancient religions would have done likewise for their chief god/goddess also (had this concept – and writing - been available to them). Before writing was invented, it is likely that oral intonation would have implied a capital - as it still does in illiterate communities and in those who have never adopted writing technologies. The same might well be true for spirit and Spirit.

Answer #7

First, consider the soul. You may remember that the Bible was originally written mainly in Hebrew and Greek. When writing about the soul, the Bible writers used the Hebrew word ne′phesh or the Greek word psy·khe′. These two words occur well over 800 times in the Scriptures, and the New World Translation consistently renders them “soul.” When you examine the way “soul” or “souls” is used in the Bible, it becomes evident that this word basically refers to (1) people, (2) animals, or (3) the life that a person or an animal enjoys.

First, let us review the key elements in the account of the creation of the first man. Regarding Adam, the Bible says: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)

Bible writers used the Hebrew word ru′ach or the Greek word pneu′ma when writing about the “spirit.” The Scriptures themselves indicate the meaning of those words. For instance, Psalm 104:29 states: “If you [Jehovah] take away their spirit [ru′ach], they expire, and back to their dust they go.” And James 2:26 notes that “the body without spirit [pneu′ma] is dead.” In these verses, then, “spirit” refers to that which gives life to a body. Without spirit, the body is dead. Therefore, in the Bible the word ru′ach is translated not only as “spirit” but also as “force,” or life-force. For example, concerning the Flood in Noah’s day, God said: “I am bringing the deluge of waters upon the earth to bring to ruin all flesh in which the force [ru′ach] of life is active from under the heavens.” (Genesis 6:17; 7:15, 22) “Spirit” thus refers to an invisible force (the spark of life) that animates all living creatures.

Answer #8

Interesting isn’t it. I dislike more modern bibles because they generalise meanings and add implied meanings that weren’t in the original. Sure, it makes the story more readable, plausible and relevant to our current outlook, but that plainly isn’t the way the stories were told to the people of the times when the historical documents were written. With any historical document from any period, it is vital to consider the intended audience for the document and their relationship to the author. Whilst we can assume these particular documents are relevant to us today, they were actually written with a vocabulary which matched the vocabulary and world-view of the people for whom they were first written and communicated. The outlook of those people was considerably different, even though many of the interpersonal issues are often the same as we face today. In this context, if you read the first few chapters of Genesis in Young’s translation (online) and adopt the contemporary mind-set of someone watching or listening to the events described, you’ll get a quite different impression.

If you consider the ancient Greek and Hebrew, well Pickles reckons Nepesh has 475 OT instances where the word translates as soul and 117 where it means ‘life’. 29 = ‘person’. 15 = ‘heart’. 1 = ‘hearty’. 15 = ‘mind’. 4 = ‘desire’. 2 = ‘lust’. 3 =’pleasure’. 6 = ‘yourselves’. 3 = ‘themselves’. 8 = ‘himself’. 1 = ‘thyself’. 1 = ‘myself’. 2 = ‘herself’. 2 = ‘thing’. 3 = ‘man’. 1 = ‘own’ 2 = ‘appetite. 4 = ‘dead body’. 9 = ‘creature’. 1 = ‘fish’. etc etc. Ruach means Spirit or spirit in 240 cases, ‘breath’ in 27, ‘mind’ in 6, ‘wind’ in 94, not to mention ‘side’, ‘quarters’, ‘cool’, ‘courage’, ‘blast’, ‘side’, ‘anger’, ‘air’ and ‘vain’. Neshamah and pneuma have similar variants. Psuche has 58 instances where it translates as ‘soul’ and 40 for ‘life’, plus a further five meanings. That doesn’t sound like 800 instances of ‘soul’ to my mind.

The things that the scrolls don’t say can be equally interesting. The Hittites are mentioned a lot in the early scrolls. The presumption in Genesis 15:18-21 is that Jehovah’s covenant includes them as a group that Abraham’s seed can live with peaceably forever. The Hittites seem an ordinary tribe of no particular note until they get a bit frightening in 2 Kings 7:5-7. Whilst a great many things are said to be foretold by the scrolls, the future empire-building aggression of the Hittites was not foreseen, nor was their subsequent annihilation (along with much of Abraham’s seed, presumably) by the Sea Peoples in 1176BC - along with most of the contemporary Mediterranean powers apart from Egypt (who stalemated). That would have seemed pretty apocalyptic to the people of that time. There were no media reports to follow, so rumour ruled – you would not have known where to run for refuge.

It is very easy to select quotes which fit a chosen point of view, but the fact remains that other instances reflect quite different meanings. It reminds me of the Cleopatra story as told by Hollywood. The 1934 version has Cleo as a ditsy teen siren; she has no children because the depiction of the products of adultery were forbidden by the Catholic Code of that period. In the 1963 version, the story is broadly similar, but Cleo’s child can now be shown; Cleo is now more emancipated, calculating, a stateswoman with a vision of world unity (the UN was newly formed). During both films, Cleo does not age a day. According to the historical documents, the events shown in both films span 18 years - she met Caesar at age 21 and died aged 39. We accept traditional interpretations of historical documents far too readily, and build on previous generations’ outlooks rather than original detail, I would suggest.

The original scrolls contain a richness of diverse detail that has been increasingly glossed and spun in each of the 36-40 versions of ‘The Bible’ now available; whole books are included or omitted according to each group’s views of their relevance, yet those books are all supposed to be God’s true word. How is it that we can subsequently pick and choose which bits of truth are valid? Even when we read these books, we read them with a modern outlook and worldview in mind. I understand why we do so, but much as it is possible to do so, that is not necessarily the way it read or sounded to the people for whom these words were originally written. Remember that these words were spoken from memory up until writing was invented. Selected stories would have been orated by specialists of the oral tradition. The loss of the oral tradition - which died out once writing ceased to be a preserve of the elite - has created interpretational issues for the Bible, Qu’ran and Talmud.

What we are left with is a best guess and a lot of prayer in the hope we got it right - which many diverse faiths all claim as ‘truth’ despite having quite different interpretations of what that ‘truth’ might mean. Those groups with radically different opinions of ‘truth’ typically try to kill one another, and this has been the case since the earliest scrolls were written. New groups of Christian faiths have come and gone over the centuries. New ones now appear annually. There would not be so many different views if there was one agreed interpretation. They cannot all be right, and that will become a weakness even though it fits the modern marketing, branding and image-conscious peoples that humans have become.

Once upon a time, there was only butter… now every variant of butter, margarine and spread are multi-billion dollar brands with followings in proportion to perceived tastiness and value. That’s a lot of vested interest. So it is with religions. It does not matter whether an individual brand has a following of 50 or a billion, the brand owner is obliged to say whatever is necessary to protect and grow the brand. Money is said to be the root of all evil, yet the Christian world has driven the monetisation of every aspect of life right down to body parts, individual genes and faith – even souls appear as currency to some eyes. This contrasts starkly with many other faiths – e.g. the Native American religion is particularly striking. It is therefore wise to look at the bigger picture with the same detailed eye as is used to discern the beauty and fascination of any one set of ancient word-pictures.

What we are taught as truth (in faith, politics or any other dimension you care to choose) generally depends on the location and circumstances of our birth and young years. Whenever someone asserts that a majority agree, therefore this must be truth, I think of ‘100 million smokers can’t be wrong’. The ‘truth’ may be consistent within a single township or even a state, but it certainly isn’t internationally. ‘Biblical Truth’ to a Dalit, a Catholic Dalit and a non-Dalit Catholic are self-evidently radically different things even within the same city and the same church building.

Rituals, emotional architecture, anticipation and emotional singing and music are powerful psychological tools. A degree of dispassionate objectivity can only be a healthy thing, but this takes a great deal more effort and it is easy to see why most people find it easier to go along with the views of particular groups of others rather than perform their own analysis of our planet and its apparent truths.

Answer #9

I agree with heidi but would like to add… Biblicaly, the Bible considers a living person to be a soul. Genesis 2:7 (King James Version)

7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

therefor Breath + body= soul… I have found nowhere in teh bible that talks baout a dead soul.

So what is teh Spirit? It is simply what keeps us alive… This breath that God blew into Adam that no one can live with out.., Job 27:3 All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;

Answer #10

Soul is the same as the spirit. It has different meanings, look it up in the dictionary. This is the parts of man. The spirit has a mind (not the brain), and both are in the body. When one exteriorizes (leaving the body) the individual (spirit) and his mind go together. That is why one can remember what the spirit does outside of the body. The spirit and the mind are not part of the body and therefore can’t die. Only the body turns to dust.

Have you ever wondered why some religions cremate the body at death. The reason is so the spirit and mind won’t stay in the body until it turns to dust. Cremation is an immediate release of the spirit and mind.

You see some people feel they have to stay with the body until the day of Judgement and cremation is that immediate release from the body. Go to a cemetery and see how many people are actually waiting. Plenty. Have you heard of cemeteries having ghosts, well, plenty of them are still there waiting.

Answer #11

Hi Kent,

Ghosts in UK cemeteries aren’t that common these days, sadly, with or without bodies present. Both the Native Americans and the Ancient Egyptians go back several thousand years in agreement with your first para however, but Judgement concepts vary rather widely across the religious spectrum of course.

The ancient Egyptian Ba spirit body was held to operate much as you describe, and the spirit body also had to pass the judgement of the two Maats (=Truth) and be proven free of the 42 sins (which included the familiar ones plus crimes that might cause famine, etc, as you would expect). Each sin had a separate assessor. Your spirit had to appear as it might for an earthly court appearance in clean clothes and sandals, and be able to declare ‘I have not’ to each assessor. In some cases it was perceived that a minor sinner might be redeemed by immersion in the Lake of Fire, which would also consume those who were more evil than they were admitting.

Their chief god Ra, perpetually warred with Apep, the great serpent, and their underworld was full of torturing demons. The Ba were judged at death, and the spells (selected from a choice of 191) written on their tombs, shabti and coffins needed to be memorised so that the Ba could pass through the trials and enter heaven.

The mummification process was deemed to give the spirit new life. Their spirit hearts were weighed in the Judgment Hall. If they had sinned in any serious way the Devourer ate the spirit body and their eternal existence was terminated immediately. The spells were designed to prepare them for the judgement process and to safely pass the gateway guardians afterwards. If they were worthy and made it through, then they were reunited with their parents and relatives in heaven central - the Reed Sea – and Ra would take them on his boat both there and through the sky. Heaven was like Egypt, but with servants that were unquestioning, and no bad people, disease or suffering. The spirits were even happy to undertake manual tasks they would not have contemplated in life. There was endless food and drink and the spirit would be content to do these things for all eternity.

The most striking feature of this religion was that only the elite could afford the mummification process and spells - and could read them. Only the rich went to heaven (rich in both resources and knowledge).

The elite were also the most likely to survive the diseases of those times and die aged c.30 – even the kings were lucky to make 40. No surprise that the contemporary poor and enslaved felt aggrieved – no access to heaven and lucky to survive to 30 (actually worse than the Dalits today!) Faced with such a short life, no surprise that young teen marriage and childbirth was normal practice and 30yo grandparents were commonplace. If you knew you were going to die so soon, you’d have to hope there was something better to come or just not bother. 3000 years and tens of thousands of young priests made sure there was something better to come for those ‘that mattered’ – religion was the state industry after all, and the priests were part of the elite. Today, we would be unlikely to think of 30 year-olds as particularly wise though, even as a group.

The Native American religion survives intact as they have never been ‘conquered’, whereas the ancient Egyptians’ gods and beliefs were vanquished by radical changes of government. Same thing happened to the Hittites ‘thousand gods’, funnily enough, and rather a lot of other eradicated peoples who believed just as strongly in their afterlives as many millions still do today.

[Ancient Egyptian data sourced from John Taylor’s new review of the Book of the Dead, accompanying the current British Museum exhibition.]

Answer #12

I believe there is a difference although a little difficult to distinguish the two. My thought is that the soul is the life force that stays with the body as long as it is alive; whether in a coma, sleeping or totally knocked out for major surgery. The spirit is the intellect and is more fragile and is not functioning in comas, while sleeping or knocked out.

Answer #13

Sounds like a lot of that went into the Christian Religion. I wonder why Moses didn’t carry it over to the Jewish Religion. Maybe he didn’t believe in the after life. Too painful. Maybe he was bad for abandoning the Egyptian Religion he was brought up with.

Answer #14

When I get into questions like this I wonder why all or most answers are centered around Christianity. It makes me think that few have ever spent time in studding other religions of the Middle East, the cradle of Western Religion. If one goes back to Mesopotamia, the Caldian and Babylonian Religions, one will see how that religion developed from one religion to the next.

Take the word of “Israel”. It is taken from three Gods. The Egyptian God Isis, the Egyptian God Ra and the Phoenician God El. Hence, Israel. The Hebrews gave it the name of their country, hence, the center of the three Gods. Have you ever wondered why Arch Angeles have the ending of the names in el, like Micha-el, Gabri-el, and so forth.

If one wants to study Christianity one really should study Christian history, not Biblical history. One would have a different viewpoint. Really.

Answer #15

Right on.

Answer #16

Are all ghost in the UK wising up? We have the same thing here in the US, diminishing spirits.

Answer #17

A good book to read about Christian history is “The great controversy”. u should check it out.

Answer #18


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