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What is a ”soul” anyway?

PostPosted: 28 Nov 2018
by Pink Panther
I came across this on Quora. Someone asked
"Do you believe humans have souls?”

This answer, from a biblical scholarly perspective, reminded me of the fact that when we deal with ”intangible” abstractions and things ideological and conceptual, they can mean almost anything!

We mostly get our preconceptions (by which we understand our conceptions) of such ”ideas" from our culture, backgrounds and education. And from our shared language do we understand the world. So, to free ourselves from ”conditioned responses” to suggestions, we need to understand the origin of things.

This answer also reminded me of the similarities between certain aspects of (early) Judaism, Taoism and Buddhism, especially the view of the ”whole person” and that the ”spiritual” is integral to the human being, the physical being is the spiritual being. It also explains how dualism came into the picture and perverted the original meanings.

Most BKs, even those in India, are informed by Christianity and Islam directly or indirectly. These were ”informed” (shaped, or rather reshaped) by the neo-platonist dualist philosophy in which the founding fathers of Christianity - St Paul, Augustine and others were shaped by, that part of society being culturally hellenic even if Jewish or Roman by ethnicity etc.
The word “soul” in the Bible is a translation of the Hebrew word neʹphesh and the Greek word psy·kheʹ. The Hebrew word literally means “a creature that breathes,” and the Greek word means “a living being” in the sense of "breath", formed from the verb ψύχω (psycho, "to blow").

The soul, then, is the entire creature, not something inside that survives the death of the body. Consider how the Bible shows that the human soul is the whole person:
    When Jehovah God created the first man, Adam, the Bible says that “man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7, King James Version) Adam was not given a soul​—he became a living soul, or person.

    The Bible says that the soul can work, crave food, eat, obey laws, and touch a dead body. (Leviticus 5:2; 7:​20; 23:30; Deuteronomy 12:20; Romans 13:1) Those activities involve the entire person.
    No, the soul can die. Dozens of Bible verses refer to the soul as being mortal. Here are some examples:

    “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”​—Ezekiel 18:​4, 20, King James Version.

    In ancient Israel, the punishment for the most serious offenses was that the “soul shall be cut off.” (Exodus 12:15, 19; Leviticus 7:​20, 21, 27; 19:8, King James Version) The person would “be put to death.”​—Exodus 31:14, King James Version.

    After a person dies, the literal term “dead soul” is used for the corpse in some Bible verses. (Leviticus 21:11, footnote; Numbers 6:6, footnote) Although many Bible translations use the terms “dead body” or “dead person” in those verses, the original Hebrew uses the word neʹphesh, or “soul.”
    The Bible also uses “soul” as a synonym for “life.” For example, Job 33:22 uses the Hebrew word for “soul” (neʹphesh) as a parallel for “life.” Similarly, the Bible shows that a person’s soul, or life, can be risked or lost.​—Exodus 4:​19; Judges 9:​17; Philippians 2:​30.

    This use of the word for “soul” helps us to understand verses in which the soul is said to be “going out” or “departing.” (Genesis 35:18; King James Version) This figure of speech indicates that the person’s life is ending. Some translations render this expression at Genesis 35:18 as “she breathed her last.”​—Good News Translation; New Jerusalem Bible.
    Christian denominations that believe in an immortal soul get this teaching not from the Bible but from ancient Greek philosophy*. The Encyclopædia Britannica says: “Biblical references to the soul are related to the concept of breath and establish no distinction between the ethereal soul and the corporeal body. Christian concepts of a body-soul dichotomy originated with the ancient Greeks*.”
God does not condone merging his teachings with human philosophies, such as belief in an immortal soul. Instead, the Bible warns: “Look out that no one takes you captive by means of the philosophy and empty deception according to human tradition.”​—Colossians 2:8.

* Plato and neo-Platonism in particular. Greek philosophy is not a single philosophy. Many ancient greek philosphers held views very different to Plato’s.

Re: What is a ”soul” anyway?

PostPosted: 28 Nov 2018
by ex-l
When I was a BK, I had more than a few encounters with Hindus and Sikhs etc, where we - as BKs - would mention the atmas and oceans of light - other pre-existing terms or concepts the BKs purloined, reinterpreted, conflated with "soul" and remarketed - and they would go (approx), "yes, yes, yes ... atma, like a glass of water from the ocean (paramatma), destined to return to the ocean ... we agree" etc.

Even as a BK, it was clear to me, we were saying one thing, they were hearing another ... and then, here's the kicker, we were trained just to sit there smiling benignly at them. Not resisting but, perhaps. attempting to nudge them in the "right" (BK) direction. Believing to ourselves, "everyone is numberwise in their understanding and how much 'fortune' they are going to claim for the next Kalpa". The most fortune being reserved for those who submit and adopt BKism without questioning.

No wonder the Hindu are so confused, dismissive or irate at BKism conflating soul with atma, without any knowledge whatsover of all the prior discussion of what atma may or may not be.

But, let's face it, it's not the words or concepts that matter, they are just hook to hang people on. What matters are the additional products and services you sell to them while they are hooked.

Yes, both Christianity's and Islam's influences upon Lekhraj Kirpalani and other original Om Mandlites are worth divining to truly understanding. If we knew more about the Sufi Pirs in Sind, I am sure we could divine other influences even further, eg the idea of submission or the relationship with "the beloved". (I wonder how many of their old BK songs were Sufi inspired?).

What is the concept of soul in the local form of Islam?
In the book linked to, Dr Sarah Ansari examines the system of political control constructed by the British in Sind between 1843 and 1947. In particular, she looks at the part of the local Muslim religious elite, the pirs or hereditary sufi saints, whose participation in the system ensured its success.