What’s a “Soul”?

A reader asks: “Dr. Hurd, could you please give a thorough definition of ‘soul.’ When l tell people that it is a mixture of mind, emotion, will, dream, l get these looks like l don’t know what l am talking about. It seems that to most people soul is just some vague, floating abstraction.”

Reply: Your soul is your consciousness. It’s your mind. It contains your thoughts, ideas, beliefs, feelings, memories, premises (faulty and true). Everything pertaining to consciousness is your soul.

Your soul cannot operate without the simultaneous functioning of your body. If your body ceases to function — if you die — then your consciousness, as you know it, ceases to exist as well.

I recognize that religious people believe that your soul goes somewhere else after your body dies. Some will say your consciousness goes to heaven or hell. Others will say your soul reincarnates. Those are faith-based positions. All I’m talking about here is the objective reality of your soul, which requires your body to function.

Whether you have faith in a particular religious viewpoint or not — and regardless of what the faith is, if you have it — the soul does objectively exist, in the sense that everyone has a consciousness. The existence of consciousness is indisputable.

With mental illness or breakdown, the person still has a consciousness. With dementia or Alzheimer’s, the person still has a consciousness. In both cases, the consciousness is severely impaired and distorted, whether because of the brain’s malfunctioning or other factors (such as faulty thinking culminating in mental/behavioral disorder).

One of the reasons dementia and mental breakdown are tragic is because the mind — the consciousness — is so important. Without the mind’s proper functioning, the whole system — even an otherwise healthy body — cannot operate. That’s a tragedy, because the mind or soul, while not the only essential part of the human being is — arguably — the human being’s defining characteristic.


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