No idea is so absurd, difficult to accept, and even scary as that of the ‘human soul’. Despite that few ideas are as well-known and as deeply rooted in human minds as those of a soul. Surprisingly, there is a shortage of universally acclaimed research on every religion’s near-universal subject, the soul.
Souls have multiple descriptions. Souls are considered to live inside human bodies and are universally defined as being without a physical form. Immortality is its another feature. Another universal view is that soul travels from one body to another after death but often during sleep.
The Jewish doctrine maintains a silence on its existence . The philosopher Moses Maimonides says, ‘There is no way on earth,’ ‘that we can understand or know it.’. But Christianity and Islam are quite specific when explaining the soul, imagining it as bodyless, immaterial, and immortal. Although Islam holds multitudinous views when it comes to the soul, views are diversified within Christianity – between Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox conceptions – and also within Protestantism.
The Hindu soul bears a resemblance with its Abrahamic counterpart about immateriality and immortality but with two major dissimilarities. For one, the Hindu soul has to undergo regular rebirths post the death of its body, including excursions into a variety of animals, depending on its past karmaas. The final desired destination of this cycle of recurring birth and rebirth – oversimplified as nirvana which is imagined more as a relief from the cycle of birth and rebirth.
Second, the soul (atman, or ‘self’) is imagined as a personalized part of a greater world¬ soul (brahman, closer to the Western ‘God’).
There is no reason to negate the existence of the soul simply because there is no universally approved theory of what it is. Just as one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, one person’s conception of the soul as divine supernatural light may be another ‘s conscience, mind, will, etc.
Whatever else the soul is considered to be, it is immaterial. That doesn’t necessarily imply that it doesn’t exist, because other ‘things’ sans structural reality are as real as immaterial concepts: love, apprehension, optimism, and so forth.
We are deeply flattered to be told that we are an integral part of the supreme soul called God. Satan is believed to be hell-bent on snatching our soul from us, while religion – acting as God’s representative – is equally zealous to rescue it from Satan’s clutch. How empowering to be revealed that we have been gifted with immensely powerful soul and that is of a great significance, no matter one’s position in life. Having said that, souls are paradoxically weak and must be protected lest it should be lost and ruined.
The faith in souls is bound to persist. The soul-skeptics will hold contrary views, but this concept is so embedded in the psyche of the masses that it is impossible to dislodge their views.