Wikipedia Zapping: Soul

The word is probably an adaptation by early missionaries—particularly Ulfilas, apostle to the Goths during the 3rd century—of a native Germanic concept, which was a translation of Greek ψυχή psychē “life, spirit, consciousness”.

According to some religions (including the Abrahamic religions in most of their forms), souls—or at least immortal souls capable of union with the divine[2]—belong only to human beings. For example, the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas attributed “soul” (anima) to all organisms but taught that only human souls are immortal.[3] Other religions (most notably Jainism) teach that all biological organisms have souls, and others further still that non-biological entities (such as rivers and mountains) possess souls. This latter belief is called animism.[4] Anima mundi and the Dharmic Ātman are concepts of a “world soul.”

Whereas E.B. Tylor had considered animism to be the earliest form of human religion, Marett was convinced that primitive man had not developed the intellectual ability to form the conceptual structures Tylor proposed, and this led Marett to criticize Tylor’s theories of animism, suggesting that early religion was more emotional and intuitional in origin. Marett therefore argued that animism was preceded by an earlier form of belief, a magical “pre-animism” characterized by an impersonal force which Marett identified with the Melanesian concept of mana.

Melanesian mana is thought to be a sacred impersonal force existing in the universe. Mana can be in people, animals, plants and objects. Similar to the idea of efficacy, or luck, the Melanesians thought all success traced back to mana. Magic is a typical way to acquire or manipulate this luck. Objects that have mana can change a person’s luck. Examples of such objects are charms or amulets. For instance if a prosperous hunter gave a charm that had mana to another person the prosperous hunter’s luck would go with it.

The basic meaning of the Greek word [psyche] ψυχή (psūkhē) was “life” in the sense of “breath”, formed from the verb ψύχω (psukhō, “to blow”). Derived meanings included “spirit”, “soul”, “ghost”, and ultimately “self” in the sense of “conscious personality” or “psyche”.[2]

The notion of soul used by Aristotle is only distantly related to the usual modern conception. Some commentators have suggested that Aristotle’s term soul is better translated as lifeforce.

Like Plato, Aristotle saw the nous or intellect of an individual as an intuitive understanding, distinguished from sense perception and linked nous to logos (reason) as uniquely human, but he also distinguished nous from logos, thereby distinguishing the faculty for setting definitions from the faculty which uses them to reason with.[20]

Nous is the most critical component of idealism, Neoplatonism being a pure form of idealism.[10][11] The demiurge (the nous) is the energy, or ergon (does the work), that manifests or organizes the material world into perceivability. The original Being initially emanates, or throws out, the nous, which is a perfect image of the One and the archetype of all existing things. It is simultaneously both being and thought, idea and ideal world. As image, the nous corresponds perfectly to the One, but as derivative, it is entirely different. What Plotinus understands by the nous is the highest sphere accessible to the human mind, while also being pure intellect itself.  Later Islamic philosophy and European philosophy which built on the Islamic texts were based on this Neoplatonic synthesis.

A side-note: Aristotle argues that the mind is immaterial. He says that if the mind is material it would be like the senses and the mind can be wrong while the senses can’t, therefore the mind can’t be material. However, the senses can be wrong, so that argument doesn’t work.

Jung focused more on the male’s anima and wrote less about the female’s animus. Jung believed that every woman has an analogous animus within her psyche, this being a set of unconscious masculine attributes and potentials. He viewed the animus as being more complex than the anima, postulating that women have a host of animus images while the male anima consists only of one dominant image.

Another side-note: Animus and anima develop in four stages. First as a bodily desire towards the opposite sex, then as an understanding of the other’s physical capabilities, thirdly as an understanding of the inner qualities of the other. In the final stage the unconscious and the conscious meet and the complexity of the real world are critically examined in comparison with the ideal world; this is the “deeper” or spiritual stage.

In many Gnostic systems, the various emanations of God are called Aeons. The source of all being is an Aeon in which an inner being dwells, known as Ennoea (“thought, intent”, Greek ἔννοια), Charis (“grace”, Greek χάρις), or Sige (“silence”, Greek σιγή). The split perfect being conceives the second Aeon, Nous (“mind”, Greek Νους), within itself. Along with the male Nous comes the female Aeon Aletheia (“truth”, Greek Αληθεια). These are the primary roots of the Aeons. Complex hierarchies of Aeons are thus produced, sometimes to the number of thirty. These Aeons belong to the purely ideal, noumenal, intelligible, or supersensible world; they are immaterial, they are hypostatic ideas. Together with the source from which they emanate they form the Pleroma (“region of light”, Greek πλήρωμα). The lowest regions of the Pleroma are closest to the darkness—that is, the physical world.

The noumenon /ˈnmɨnɒn/ is a posited object or event that is known (if at all) without the use of the senses.[1] The term is generally used in contrast with, or in relation to “phenomenon“, which refers to anything that appears to, or is an object of, the senses. In Ancient philosophy, the noumenal realm was equated with the world of ideas known to the philosophical mind, in contrast to the phenomenal realm, which was equated with the world of sensory reality, known to the uneducated mind.[2] Much of modern philosophy has generally been skeptical of the possibility of knowledge independent of the senses, and Immanuel Kant gave this point of view its classical version, saying that the noumenal world may exist, but it is completely unknowable to humans. In Kantian philosophy the unknowable noumenon is often linked to the unknowable “thing per se” (Ding an sich), although how to characterize the nature of the relationship is a question yet open to some controversy.

Descartes in his Passions of the Soul and The Description of the Human Body suggested that the body works like a machine, that it has material properties. The mind (or soul), on the other hand, was described as a nonmaterial and does not follow the laws of nature. Descartes argued that the mind interacts with the body at the pineal gland.

The pineal gland (or the “third eye“) is a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. It produces the serotonin derivative melatonin, a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions.[1][2]  Nearly all vertebrate species possess a pineal gland. The most important exception is the hagfish, which is often thought of as the most primitive type of vertebrate.[3] Even in the hagfish, though, there may be a “pineal equivalent” structure in the dorsal diencephalon.[4] The lancelet amphioxus, the nearest existing relative to vertebrates, also lacks a recognizable pineal gland.[3] The lamprey, however (considered almost as primitive as the hagfish), does possess one.[3] A few “higher” types of vertebrates, including the alligator, lack pineal glands because they have been lost over the course of evolution.[5]

Baruch de Spinoza criticized Descartes’ viewpoint for neither following from self-evident premises nor being “clearly and distinctly perceived” (Descartes having previously asserted that he could not draw conclusions of this sort), and questioned what Descartes meant by talking of “the union of the mind and the body.”[35]

Spinoza also held that everything must necessarily happen the way that it does. Therefore, humans have no free will. They believe, however, that their will is free. This illusionary perception of freedom stems from our human consciousness, experience and our indifference to prior natural causes. Humans think they are free but they ″dream with their eyes open″. For Spinoza, our actions are guided entirely by natural impulses. In his letter to G. H. Schuller (Letter 58), he wrote: “men are conscious of their desire and unaware of the causes by which [their desires] are determined.”[75]

The plane of immanence thus is often called a plane of consistency accordingly. As a geometric plane, it is in no way bound to a mental design but rather an abstract or virtual design; which for Deleuze, is the metaphysical or ontological itself: a formless, univocal, self-organizing process which always qualitatively differentiates from itself. So in A Thousand Plateaus (with Félix Guattari), a plane of immanence will eliminate problems of preeminent forms, transcendental subjects, original genesis and real structures: “Here, there are no longer any forms or developments of forms; nor are there subjects or the formation of subjects. There is no structure, any more than there is genesis.”[2] In this sense, Hegel’s Spirit (Geist) which experiences a self-alienation and eventual reconciliation with itself via its own linear dialectic through a material history becomes irreconcilable with pure immanence as it depends precisely on a pre-established form or order, namely Spirit itself. Rather on the plane of immanence there are only complex networks of forces, particles, connections, relations, affects and becomings.

Finally, Deleuze offers that pure immanence and life will suppose one another unconditionally: “We will say of pure immanence that it is A LIFE, and nothing else. […] A life is the immanence of immanence, absolute immanence: it is complete power, complete bliss.”[1] This is not some abstract, mystical notion of life but a life, a specific yet impersonal, indefinite life discovered in the real singularity of events and virtuality of moments. A life is subjectless, neutral, and preceding all individuation and stratification, is present in all things, and thus always immanent to itself. “A life is everywhere […]: an immanent life carrying with it the events and singularities that are merely actualized in subjects and objects.”[5]

Last side-note: I’ve yet to read A Thousand Plateaus, but this seems similar to the development of Deism. Just as Deism is a retreat for theists who can’t point to any interaction between God and reality, this seems to be a retreat for Deists who can’t point to any moral or consciousness of God.


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