A basic concept in the Western religious traditions, in which
it is often contrasted to the material aspect of existence. The
Hebrew word ruah (spirit) originally meant breath or wind,
and the association of spirit with breath and wind is also found
in the Greek word pneuma. In the Christian tradition, biblical
interpreters generally argue for one of two views of the spirit.
Some see the spirit as synonymous with the soul and as the
principle of all life, including the intellectual, moral, and religious,
and believe that when the body dies the soul returns to
God, who made it. Others tend to see a distinction between the
spirit and the soul. They believe the soul (psyche) is the principle
of animal life and is possessed by humans and animals alike.
The spirit, in contrast, is that which humans possess which is
not shared with other animalsa moral and an immortal life,
a conscious relationship to God. In this view, the soul and body
die, but the spirit survives and goes into Gods presence. This
latter view has tended to dominate within Spiritualism.
The Spirit in Spiritualism
In Spiritualism spirit is variously defined as the inmost principle,
the divine particle, the vital essence, and the inherent actuating
element in life. It is seen as manifesting through its association
with protoplasm and dwells in the astral body, which
Spiritualists identify with the soul, the connecting link between
the spirit and the physical body.
At death the connection between the spirit and the physical
body is severed, and the spirit finds no ordinary means of manifestation.
Spirits appear to be cognizant of space, although not
conditioned by it. The same applies to time. Past, present, and
future cease to exist for the spirit in the earthly sense.
Spiritualists do not see spirits in the role of Peeping Toms,
keeping watch on the most private actions of the living, but
have concluded that they are partly conscious of the thoughts
and emotions directed toward them from the Earth.
They also maintain that spirits cannot hold communion with
the living if the mental attitude of the latter is not receptive to
spirit communication. In the mid-nineteenth century chemistry
professor Robert Hare was told by alleged spirits that there
were peculiar elementary principles out of which spiritual bodies
were constructed that were analogous to material elements;
that spirits have bodies, with a circulation and respiratory
apparatus; and that they breathe a gaseous or ethereal
matter that is also inhaled by men, beasts, and fish.
William Denton a geology professor noted for his research
in psychometry, wrote The vision that can see through brick
walls and distinguish objects miles away, does not belong to the
body; it must belong to the spirit. Hundreds of times have I had
the evidence that the spirit can smell, hear and see, and has
powers of locomotion. As the fin in the unhatched fish indicates
the water in which he may one day swim, so these powers in
man indicate that mighty realm which the spirit is fitted eternally
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