The term soul is used in two senses—it indicates the ego and
the spirit-body. In ancient writings, an individual was described
as a triune being body, soul, and spirit. According to this concept,
the soul is just as much an envelope, animated by the spirit,
as the physical body is an envelope for the soul. At death the
soul withdraws and continues to function in the spiritual world.
Astral body and soul are almost equivalent terms.
Some occult and Eastern teachings, however, speak of five
bodies of differing degrees of refinement that will be cast away
in time just as the physical body is left behind.
In his book Man and the Universe (1908), Sir Oliver Lodge
defined the soul and ego as,
‘‘ . . . that controlling and guiding principle which is responsible
for our personal expression and for the construction of
the body, under the restrictions of physical condition and ancestry.
In its higher development it includes also feeling and intelligence
and will, and is the storehouse of mental experience.
The body is its instrument or organ, enabling it to receive and
convey physical impressions, and to effect and be effected by
matter and energy.’’
Because such concepts as ‘‘soul’’ and ‘‘spirit’’ (as its animating
essence) are not available for scientific scrutiny like the
body or the world of matter generally, many scientists have either
denied their existence as real entities or as a reality not
subject to scientific scrutiny, although retaining as useful the
concept of consciousness, with which the ego is associated.
Spiritualists claim that there is evidence for survival of consciousness
after death, and that there is sufficient individuality
in the surviving consciousness to justify the use of the term soul.
A good deal of psychical research tends to confirm this position,
without necessarily accepting the religious implications of
such survival.
Christianity has generally taught the resurrection of the
body, although, in light of Paul’s mention of a spiritual resurrection
body, there has been some disagreement on the exact
nature of that revived body. The doctrine of the soul has always
vied for attention with the Greek notion of the immortality of
the soul.
In Eastern religious philosophy, there are clear distinctions
between the gross ego of name and form (with individual experience)
and the subtle ego that is claimed as a universal substratum
of all individual souls. The gross ego, by reason of its limitations
of experience and consciousness, is tied to the world of
matter, which is transient. This ego is an obstruction to fuller
awareness of reality and must be transcended by selfless service
and refinement of consciousness. In this process, the individual
soul loses its attachment to the transient desires and fears of
material life and is eventually subsumed in a divine consciousness.
In this progress, the world of matter becomes like an illusion
that ceases to have validity when divine reality supervenes.
As long as an attachment to the world of matter and sense experience
remains, the soul must go through a process of reincarnation.
The concept of the soul remains unverifiable by experimental
method that is based on the limitations of material existence
itself. But it is a useful concept insofar as it relates to individual
subjective experience, which is often more relevant to ethical
goals than laboratory experiments.
For many individuals, the conviction that there is a soul that
is independent of (although shaped by) the physical body occurs
as they experience out-of-the-body travel or astral projection.
Such an experience is an overwhelming one to most who
have it and has become a profound religious experience to
many individuals.
Bernard, Theos. The Philosophical Foundations of India. London
Rider, 1945.
Broad, C. D. The Mind and Its Place in Nature. London
Kegan Paul, 1925.
Carrington, Hereward. Psychic Science and Survival. Manchester,
England Two Worlds Publishing; New York American
Psychical Institute, 1939.
Carus, Paul. The Soul of Man. Chicago Open Court, 1900.
Crookall, Robert. Out-of-the-Body Experiences and Survival.
UK World Fellowship Press, 1970.
———. The Supreme Adventure. London James Clarke,
Ducasse, C. J. A Critical Examination of the Belief in a Life After
Death. Springfield, Ill. Charles C. Thomas, 1961.
Head, Joseph, and S. L. Cranston. Reincarnation The Phoenix
Fire Mystery. New York Julian Press; Crown Publishers,
James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience. London
Longmans, Green, 1903.
Myers, F. W. H. Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily
Death. 2 vols. London Longmans, Green, 1903.
Purohit, Swami Shri. The Geeta The Gospel of the Lord Shri
Krishna. London Faber & Faber, 1935.

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