The Soul Of Man

The existence of the soul is of utmost importance for both philosophy and theology. It is the animating principle of our bodies by which we think, feel, imagine, and remember. Spirituality takes for granted the distinction between soul and body, and belief in an afterlife necessarily implies that the soul can exist outside of the body.

Almost every culture and religion on earth has some idea of the soul. We infer its existence from the inevitable facts of life: birth, death, dreams, ideas, and abstractions all suggest the reality of something beyond the visible and material organism. The soul is internal to us, but to some extent it is independent of us, hence the term “my mind was wandering.”

To my knowledge, science has not devised a way of quantifying or measuring the soul, which means unreflective men will dismiss the question of its existence out of hand. Consider this though: our host Roosh displayed considerable willpower and fortitude in the recent battle of Montreal. We cannot use a machine to declare that Jones has 34 units of willpower and Smith has 50, yet we still speak of willpower as an objective reality.

We will briefly examine the history of the soul in Western thought, for it offers important lessons for all men.

The Soul In Antiquity

The pre-Socratic Greek philosophers did not make distinctions between cosmology, psychology, or theology. The Hylozoists believed that all existing things were in some sense alive, with greater or lesser degrees of consciousness. The Milesian school tended toward material monism in their search for the animating principle of all things. For example, Thales, the father of philosophy, believed that water was the foundation of existence.

Thales (624-546 BC)

Thales (624-546 BC)

Anaximander attributed existence to a principle he called apeiron. He defined it as an infinite primordial mass from which all things are born and all things return when they die.

“Whence things have their origin,

Thence also their destruction happens,

According to necessity;

For they give to each other justice and recompense

For their injustice

In conformity with the ordinance of Time.”

Eventually the Greeks encountered the problem of knowledge, and with this discovery we see the beginnings of a psychological understanding of the soul. In the Timaeus, Plato combined psychology and epistemology. Relying on Pythagorean ideas, Plato theorized a world-soul derived from the realms of mathematical symmetry and musical harmony.

The world-soul is divided in two: sameness (tauton) where we find the intelligible order of eternal truths which we apprehend through reason and otherness (thateron), the realm of sensation and particular existence where human souls reside. Plato’s idea tended toward extreme transcendentalism where the body was considered the prison of the soul.

Aristotle defined the soul as “the first entelechy of a physical organized body potentially possessing life.” He emphasized the close union between body and soul, but he was never able to fully describe the degree of separation between the two or explain the relationship between mind and soul. Aristotle identified three hierarchies of souls: growth, sustenance, and reproduction were common to all living things; willed motion and sensory faculties, shared by animals and humans; and reason which humans alone possessed.

The Stoics believed that the soul was like the divine breath animating the body, but that it was still a corporeal thing made of ethereal matter. The Epicureans accepted the atomism of Democritus, believing the soul was made up of the finest ground atoms in the universe and held together by the body. If the body is destroyed, the atoms are dispersed and life is lost.

The Soul In The Middle Ages

Avicenna (980-1037) continued Aristotle’s line of thought, which in turn influenced Scholastic philosophy. Avicenna devised the “floating man” thought experiment as a way to demonstrate the immateriality of the soul. He asks us to imagine ourselves suspended in midair, isolated from all sensory input, severed from contact even with our own bodies.

Avicenna argues that even in this situation, we still retain our self-awareness. This implies that the soul is immaterial, separate from the body, and apprehended through the intellect.

Avicenna-Quotes-2

Before the Aristotelian revival in the West, Neo-Platonist thought and the work of St. Augustine of Hippo dominated psychology and spirituality. Plotinus believed the soul contained the body and was the first to assert that the soul was an undivided presence permeating the entire body, as opposed to being focused in one of the vital organs.

Augustine defined the soul as “a special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body.” Like the Greeks whose philosophy he knew so well, Augustine asserted the superiority the rational to the non-rational. Reason was the highest faculty of the human soul because it allowed us to grasp truths that transcend the ever-changing physical world.

Augustine argued that much of what we know about the world relies on faith and trust in authority. We cannot hope to independently verify everything about the past, for even much of what we know about the present is a matter of trust. I haven’t personally worked out the mathematics of relativity, for example, but I accept it as true anyway. He distinguishes between belief and understanding: we believe many things we do not understand, but belief is the necessary prerequisite for understanding.

St. Thomas Aquinas largely accepted Aristotle’s description of the soul, in opposition to the dualistic tendencies of Platonism. A man cannot be a mind without a body

because it is one and the same man who is conscious both that he understands and that he senses. But one cannot sense without a body, and therefore the body must be some part of man. (Summa Theologiae)

For Thomas and Aristotle, the soul is the animating principle of the body. Without a body, a soul is an incomplete substance, unable to perform its natural activities. Without a soul, the body dies.

The Soul In The Modern Age

The connection between mind and body long plagued the early modern philosophers. Rene Descartes defined the soul as a thinking substance and the body as extended substance with only Divine intervention making coordination between the two possible.

Similarly, Gottfried Leibniz postulated a theory of pre-established harmony: the mind and the body are like two clocks perfectly synchronized but forever separate.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) thinks you have no soul

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) thinks you have no soul

Beginning with Thomas Hobbes and continuing through David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and Archbishop Richard Whately we see more philosophers and theologians questioning either the soul’s existence or our ability to prove that it exists.

Strengthening The Soul

Obviously there are many more understandings of the soul in other philosophical, religious, and mythological traditions that I have not summarized here. Whether we refer to it as the soul, the spirit, the mind, or the animating principle, man has always believed that he was more than his body. When Smith dies, we refer to his “remains” because the man whom we knew as Smith is no longer with us although his body is still present.

dead

Monotheistic religions all believe in the immortality of the soul, and that our essence will endure beyond our death whether it’s in heaven or hell. In the Gospels, Jesus Christ is most concerned with the spiritual state of man, urging his followers not to fear those who can only kill the body but he who kills both body and soul.

Belief in man’s spirit does not necessarily need to be based in religion however, as the ancient Greeks showed us. Think of a perfect triangle. Have you ever seen a perfect triangle in the world? You have not, but the mental image of the perfect triangle is the measure by which we judge the imperfections of existing triangles.

The soul animates the body and gives us our drive. Science can tell us that if we eat right and lift heavy, we will build muscle. Knowledge of these facts is of no use to us if we lack the willpower to act on them. What do we mean when we describe someone as having a strong spirit? Generally we mean that they show a high degree of perseverance in pursuit of their goals, or a dogged refusal to give up.

Strengthening our bodies is a worthy pursuit, but we cannot do that if we lack strength of spirit. We can build up our strength of soul by practicing virtue, reading and imitating the lives of great men, and denying ourselves short-term pleasures in pursuit of a greater good. If you expect to do any good at all in this world, you best start taking better care of your soul.

Read More: You Are What You Feed Your Soul

65 thoughts on “The Soul Of Man”

  1. Pretty good overview, Andrew. Perhaps a post on the existence of objective truth, soon? Or one on basic logical fallacies?
    What passes for an American education system has done a grave disservice to modern American young men, so an hors d’oeuvres tray full of the basics of Western Culture might whet the readers’ appetites for more of the good stuff. Lay it on ’em, chef!

  2. My favorite bad boy (anti)philosopher U G Krishnamutri has infamously said:
    There is no self, there is no I, there is no spirit, there is no soul, and there is no mind. That knocks off the whole list, and you have no way of finding out what you are left with.
    … and I tend to agree with him.
    It’s only the body – It’s a battery. The interplay of hormones creates your character. The so called spirit is simply the animation of the body, the life’s expression if you wish. It’s the energy. The spirit (energy) declines with age as the body can not produce enough of it, which is why old people tend to get cynical and lacking spirit to fight.
    Sleeping with young women signals to the body that your life is not ending yet, so it rejuvenates itself, it heals itself. Resistance training does the same. They both increase the energy within the body and so “the spirit” rejoices. The battery gets recharged.
    The “I” is a product of the culture one grows in. It is artificial. The body has its own intelligence but it’s without identity. It’s simply there. The body does not care if it lives or dies, it only cares to reproduce itself. If you don’t feed the body, it eats itself.
    The idea of a soul is feminine. It is simply a weak spirit i.e. less energy, weak body.
    So you see, all these things have nothing to do with the way this organism functions. They are simply ideas born out of thinking.

    1. I don’t know that much about Krishnamurti but wasn’t he a product of the theosophical movement, who wanted to prepare him as some kind of messianic figure?

      1. That is true but but by the time he reached 49 he went though a “calamity” which put an end these plans. It was his own moment of personal enlightenment. I highly recommend his books but one has to proceed with caution as they are quite hard to digest.
        Mind you, there are two famous Krishnamurti. The other one Jiddu Krishnamurti was a standard Indian guru charlatan.

        1. I think you have your Krishnamurti’s mixed up. Jiddu was the real deal, and U G was the pretender.

        2. I don’t know what you mean by real one. The two men had a number of meetings but after U.G.’s calamity their paths parted forever.

        3. I meant that Jiddu was the one who was formerly associated with The Theosophical Society, not U. G. That’s all.

        4. U.G. was also a member of the Theosophical Society.
          His mother, who died seven days after he was born, said that he was special and his grandfather made sure he went through special spiritual education.
          But that’s irrelevant to what he talked about after his “calamity”.

        5. Thanks, I didn’t know that, but Jiddu is the best known of the two. It is he who comes up first when you google Krishnamurti.

        6. The other one UG did not claim to be a guru at all so I don’t know what you’ve heard or misheard.

    2. Interesting will check out this philosopher.
      My reference to this topic is through western philosophy of mind which discusses the “hard problem” of why we have mental states at all if the body is the entire causal force. Why is the mind “along for the ride” when it’s all just materialism?

    3. Strong input sir. And to add to your comment, outside our
      Coping Defence Mechanisms (wich is pretty much all we are), there is nothing. Nada. The human soul is (more or less) just a bundle of CDFs + energy.

    1. No and that’s their strongest point and the reason why they rule most of the time.

        1. Weininger wrote:
          From the side of empirical observation, no stronger proof of the soullessness of woman could be drawn than that she demands a soul in man, that she who is not good in herself demands goodness from him. The soul is a masculine character, pleasing to women in the same way and for the same purpose as a masculine body or a well-trimmed moustache.
          I may be accused of stating the case coarsely, but it is none the less true. It is the man’s will that in the last resort influences a woman most powerfully, and she has a strong faculty for perceiving whether a man’s “I will” means mere bombast or actual decision. In the latter case the effect on her is prodigious.

  3. Soul gives us willpower.It helps us to distinguish between right and wrong.It helps us to cross barriers.Some of the most powerful civilizations in the world have been built because of willpower and a desire to achieve the unknown.Today laws of the land were made only because the soul helped us to decide what is evil and what is not.Megastructures,technology,communication and what not were developed because the human soul yearned to improve,know and connect.Mutual trust,welfare, and relationships flourished because of the human soul.
    “Augustine argued that much of what we know about the world relies on faith and trust in authority. We cannot hope to independently verify everything about the past, for even much of what we know about the present is a matter of trust.”
    That’s true.Nobody questioned.
    Today,people have eroded because of the lack of respect for human soul.They do not question their thinking themselves but rather question traditional beliefs,laws and the result:endless hamster rationalization,rise of sexual deviants,unhealthy people,drugs,violence,absurd and gross demands,exchange of traditional sex roles,endless reliance on welfare state and gross body mutilations.Science and kool-aid thinking may help people to support their erroneous thinking but these people forget one thing:they never question their soul.No sane human soul would allow a distorted woman to seek attention during a marathon,to her menstruation.Yet these women get mainstream acceptance.Why?No respect for soul.No one focuses on the nature and contribution of a human soul…they focus on their sexual orientation.Cis….start a witch hunt…trans…embrace even if that person is a criminal.
    Soulless men are now filling the world.If allowed,their thinking will ruin the world.
    However thanks to concepts like the manosphere,red pill and self improvement that men can still survive and live inspite of all difficulties.

  4. “Plato’s idea tended toward extreme transcendentalism where the body was considered the prison of the soul.” In fact, the ancient Greeks had a pun, “soma/sema,” which played on the phonic similarity between the words “body” and “prison” in Greek.
    However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve become less convinced of the existence of a soul; I’m leaning more towards personality being a combination of physical factors, which are DNA and environment that interact like wind and water sculpting stone. I’ve known too many people who are just like their parents (or other relatives) in terms of temperament, despite the fact that they’ve spent no time with their predecessors. Willpower (or, stubbornness) is simply a genetic trait granted by the whimsical DNA lottery.

    1. The soul cannot exist in a world that one assumes is a collection of random occurrences. That conception is nihilism, rendering the world meaningless.
      A world (cosmos) can only have meaning if it has a purpose, i.e. telos, as Aristotle describes it — an end/ which all beings strive for, a standard of perfection against which all existent things measure themselves against. It must be the case, then, that the soul can only exist in a cosmos with purpose, and that soul must be immortal, as argued by Plato. Finally, the souls of men must be something which is perfectible, as suggested by Jean Jacques Rousseau and Hegel, which requires that each soul outlive not only a single lifetime, but many, i.e. it must be able to reincarnate, and retain all that it has learned in its previous lives. This process would be assisted by genetic inheritance, suggesting that a single soul would tend to reincarnate within a single family line.
      None of this, of course, can be proved; it can at best only be shown to be necessary, and would be falsifiable only by a better cosmic narrative.

      1. Most atheists will assert on the one hand that there is no spiritual and that the physical world is all that exists; on the other hand, they will assert that they have free will, have purpose and meaning in their life, and are moral persons who can discern between justice and injustice. The kicker is that they won’t admit that they must delude themselves about the latter if the former is true, or at least simply make shit up.

  5. Men are not equal, and neither are their souls.
    Some greater, some lesser, and some botched.
    Our bodies are vessels, and they reflect the inhabiting soul.
    I have long wondered if it is possible for a great soul to inhabit a morbid vessel;
    for example: Stephen Hawking. I somehow don’t think so.
    Were I stuck in Stephen Hawking’s body, I would beg for euthanasia;
    but he does not. Why not? I can think of only one reason,
    that Dr. Hawking does not believe in God or the soul.
    If he had that faith, he could shuffle of that morbid coil,
    but without that faith, he clings to it in fear.
    In my life, I have known a lot of polio cripples, including family, now all dead.
    There’s no doubt that polio cripples and twists the soul as well as the body.
    Much of the neo-communist evil currently afflicting America today,
    began with the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a slack limbed cripple in a wheelchair who could not stand on his own two feet.
    A strong nation needs strong leaders; physically, mentally, and morally.
    Weak leaders weaken their nations by example, witness Obama.
    But it was FDR who crippled America, and put her in a wheelchair for life.

    1. Real talk ^^. I want to add that the body is a reflection of the soul, and the soul is a reflection of the body. The condition, whether it is good (=strong) or evil (=weak) of one affects the other. It’s a closed feedback loop.

      1. Nonsense and bullshit; it’s not a closed feedback loop, but a straight line forward to destruction. If you believe that crap, you’re a sucknoid communist dupe primed for cultural suicide, who deserves to die. Toodles.

    2. ”Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.” – (Hawking)
      ”My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” – (Hawking)
      Hawking isn’t ‘mind over matter’. That would be Lance Armstrong. I think Hawking is just being very positive. He has no choice. That’s about all he can be. His life seems very pure in the sense that he’s about as close to ‘the brain in the glass case with tubes connected’ as one can get. Did he do this to himself? Not completely. He’ll continue theorizing and delivering his message from his damaged vessel because it’s all he’s got to work with. It’s the best he can do. No he doesn’t have the option to unwind on the weekends and become a hairy monkey in the clubs dancing with chicks, but he’s probably already done that in his mind.

    3. Well said! A strong nation needs a leader who is physically, mentally and spiritually strong. These three elements make man into the unitary being that he is. Obama is weak in this tripartite division; Putin, on the other hand, is strong. The spiritual, moral and physical decline being experienced in America is clearly reflected in her president. The Limp-wristed Liberalism exhibited by both parties is leading the country into Nihilism! Nihilism is the beginning of the decline and the prelude to final collapse.

  6. I often wonder if the soul and the mind is one of the same. Are thoughts a product of the brain or the soul? This is an age old debate, thanks for the article.
    I watch quite a few videos by Echart Tolle, he is a little new agey but he presents his thoughts and insights very logically and clearly. Worth checking out if you are interested in the study of human consciousness.

        1. Hard to say. I’d lean towards the negative. It doesn’t make sense to me that damage to a visible organ would have a real negative effect on something of the invisible world. A broken instrument however, cannot be played well.

  7. The body and soul by orthodox Salafi scholar Ibn Qayim al-Jawziyyah
    The body of the son of Adam was created from the earth and his soul from the government of Heaven and then they were joined. If he is hungry, stays awake, and keeps his body busy in serving Allah, his soul will find itself lighter and more peaceful so that it would long for the place from which it was created and miss its heavenly world. But if he secures food, blessings, sleep, and rest, the body will incline to remain at the place from which it was created and the soul would be pulled along with it and be in a prison. If it was not for the fact that it would get used to that prison, it would ask for help, as a tortured person does, to find relief from the pain resulting from the separation and departure from its own world from which it was created.
    In general, the more the body is light, the more the soul will be light and seek its heavenly world, and the more the body is heavy and seeks desires and relief, the heavier the soul will be and it will come down from its heavenly world and become lower and more earthly. You may see the soul of a man in Heaven while his body is on the earth. Another person serves Allah with his body and his soul is low and wandering about in lowly matters. When the soul separates from the body, it would either catch up with its high or low place. With the high, it would find every blessing, happiness, beauty, pleasure, and good living while with the low it would find every distress, grief, suffering, sadness, and bad and difficult thing.
    Allah says, which means,
    “But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Qur’an nor acts on its orders, etc.) verily, for him is a life of hardship.”(Taha, 20:124)
    “My Reminder” is His words, which He revealed to His Messenger, and “turns away” is by neglecting and abandoning working according to these words, and the majority of explanations saw that “life of hardship” is torture in the grave. Ibn Mas’ud, Abu Hurairah, Abu Sa’eed AI-Khudry, and Ibn ‘Abbas agreed on that and it has a traceable hadith.
    This life of hardship is in return for relieving the body and soul with pleasures, desires and relief. The more you enrich the soul, it will restrain the heart until you live a life of hardship, and the more you restrain the soul, it will enrich the heart until that heart will be delighted and relieved. Hardship in this worldly life, following piety will find its relief in partition and the Hereafter, and relief in this worldly life following desires will find its hardship in the partition and the Hereafter.
    You should choose one of the two: the better, more pleasant, and more lasting.You may distress the body in order to relieve the soul but do not distress the soul to relieve the body; relief and distress of the soul is greater and more lasting while relief and distress of the body is shorter and easier.
    Source: AL-FAWA’ID: A Collection of Wise Sayings, Imam Ibn al Qayyim

  8. Interesting piece and very good points made ; things to consider in this vapid world. The only thing I would like to know whether or not there is a continued existance for me after I die; then I could tolerate all the bullshit in this life.

  9. Hey Andrew!
    Nice article ! The way you linked your ideas of soul and gave them concrete meaning was exemplary . I also enjoyed the use of philosophy as well.
    I was explaining the concept of the soul to my friends last week and the whole idea seemed abstract and unmeaningful to them until I tried a similar approach to how you wrote your article. Infact I used the same concept of will power that you yourself had desribed.
    What do you think of the current generation of young adults and their lack of soul and spirituality and its possible impact on society?
    This article only reinforces what I was saying to them and I am going to share it with them now as we speak.
    Cheers

  10. Of course there is no ‘soul’. Typical blue pill thinking that should really not be found here.
    We are PHYSICAL beings that live in a PHYSICAL world. Every single that we do is based on the physical world hence there is no justification for a non-physical soul. The soul simply does not manifest itself anywhere and is not required to explain anything.
    Just consider that a persons entire persona can be affected by physical changes such as an illness or trauma. In this case what exactly does the soul represent?
    But, nice story bro!

    1. There is nothing blue pill about believing in a soul. Asserting that we are solely physical being goes way beyond being red pill and into a denial of free will, meaning, purpose, morality, justice and any number of other topics of human import. Hard core atheists tend to assert their own level of rationality and logic until you point out the implications of their beliefs and show that many of their other beliefs are just as irrational and unsupported by empirical evidence as the beliefs of the highly religious.

        1. Precisely. So if you are an atheist then you must believe that people – including yourself – have no free will and are merely automatons who are preprogramed to carry out all their thoughts and actions, or perhaps the result of probabilistic decision making rooted at the quantum level. There is no such thing as agency or responsibility. . . you might as well be a feminist.

        2. Well, I sort of believe in fate and predetermination but that doesnt mean I dont believe in responsibility. They are not mutually exclusive in my book.
          Take for example punishment by the law or even personal revenge. By your misguided perspective you probably think predetermination or a lack of free will excludes this type punishment hence your mentioning of justice. However, such pumishments act as deterrents, putting someone in prison wont undo the crime, but will act as a deterrent to would-be criminals and this works whether we believe in determinism or free will.

        3. Kant’s notion of free will equated to that greater feeling of freedom you get when you don’t action on your immediate impulses, namely real freedom. You become an enslaved zombie once you are programmed by the mere desires of biology and nothing more. The soul is that state of true freedom you experience when your mind can see through all the sensory- action- reaction- system of this world.

        4. There is no moral basis for responsibility or punishment because people do not actually choose to be responsible or not. Systems of responsibility and punishment are simply more things are predetermined or come about in a probabilistic fashion and therefore just as meaningless in the atheist scheme.

        5. I dont care if its not in some book you’ve read on introductory philosophy. Or the bible.
          As you believe in the soul it will simply mean to you that someone has a good soul.

        6. Not neccessarily. Is not really unpredictable you would say that and really quite consistent with your earlier messages. This shows that your choice of words is determined by certain things.
          Look at it this way. Having already discussed with you a bit, I confidently asserted that you would
          1) Reply to my challenge
          2) Give an example that you think demonstrates free will.
          I was correct on both. That I was able to predict your actions to a certain degree just proves that you actions are not entirely ‘free’. Now, If i had perfect information maybe I coud have also predicted what you said exactly.

        7. Not acting on immediate impulse is known as delayed gratification and is shown to be signifier of success. It may show self control, intelligence, patience etc but I dont see what it has to do with having a ‘soul’

        8. Predictable does not mean less free, necessarily. People are free to do rather stupid or inappropriate things, but most will stick with the program. Without free will, all art, poetry, music and such is predetermined. There would be nothing truly original except as a matter of chance.

        9. I think classes of beings without the sensuous appetites that make us human could be called soulless. In humans these appetites can be transformed through virtue, delay and detachment into the basis of our culture. However, you must have a soul in the first place in order to do this- you prove its existence through experiencing its often irrational desires, sexual or otherwise. Intelligence has traditionally being always associated with the spirit and not the soul.

  11. I believe in a ‘soul’ of sorts but think it is inseparable from the body. Clearly when people become brain damaged or take mind altering substances this affects what would traditionally be considered the soul. On the other hand the notion of a soul helps explain the first person experience of life we have. Despite pain and pleasurs having physical causes they exist in a realm outside the purely physical – a mental realm of qualia. The language of the physical cannot capture human experience as lived. I think the soul is best understood as a kind of model (perhaps in fact an erroneous or deceptive one) created by our brains to help us make sense of existence and sensory input, which, however defies explanation by the very tools it provides us. I tend to think that Sartre was a bit of a bullshitter but a phrase of his – ‘existence prior to essence’ – encapsulates the soul for me.

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