The idea of the soul fascinates me. It intrigues me. It mystifies me. So much so, that in 8th grade English class, when assigned a research project, I chose the soul as my topic. And now, 16 years later, I am still thinking about it.
The soul is intangible, unexplainable, and mysterious. But what is it? How can we have a word, a name, for something that is undefinable? And, we hear it so often in our daily lives. A person who is wrestling with their conscience is said to be “soul searching.” A tormented person is a “poor soul.” The Beatles have a classic album called “Rubber Soul.” There’s even a best-selling booked called “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” I was raised in a Catholic household, where the term “soul” is used very frequently. Used, but never really defined.
They say that energy can not be created nor destroyed. But isn’t it true that we are energy? Or more accurately, perhaps, that there is energy inside of us? Is this energy the soul? By this theory, after we die, the energy inside us continues to live. So where does it go? What does it do? Can it live on after our bodies have died?
Fourteen-year-old me attempted to answer some of these questions in my research paper by interviewing several figures in my community — a Catholic priest, a rabbi, and an atheist.
According to the priest, Father Cairns, the soul is the “inner part of our body which we can’t see or touch or feel. It’s like the spirit that is within us.” He believed as Christianity teaches, that the soul comes into existence at the moment of creation, that it is immortal, and that it lives on after our bodies have died.
The rabbi I spoke with had views largely similar to those of the priest, with the main difference being that to her, the soul only comes into existence after a child is born (rather than at the moment of creation). “The soul is the means by which we are able to connect to God,” said Rabbi Leibovitz. “The soul rises above the physical needs of the body, and it is always so pure that daily existence does not touch it.”
The athiest I spoke to told me that to him, a soul is synonymous with person. He said he believes that every human is unique and has an inner being that is distinctly his or hers, but it is not separate from the person in any way.
So, 14-year-old me was given a few explanations, but now, at 30, I’ve come to the conclusion that I may never come to a conculsion. Some of my own life experiences have led me to fully believe in the existence of a soul in some form, but it is still undefinable to me.
A few years ago, I dreamt one night that I had a text from my dad telling me that a close family friend had passed away. This friend was elderly, but was in good health, as far as I was aware. I woke abruptly from the dream and checked my phone. No text. Phew. The next day, however, I did receive that text. In my mind, this has less to do with my psychic abilities (which I do not claim to have in any way), and more to do with the energy, the Soul, sending me a warning.
A year and a half ago, I lost my beloved grandmother. The night before she passed, I visited her in her home. She was mostly present with me and my sisters, but occasionally made strange comments, including asking me, “What is he going to do with the ring?” I had no idea what she was talking about, and dismissed the question. Not long after, I overheard my boyfriend at the time asking my dad for his blessing to propose. I did not want to marry him and we broke up shortly after. This exchange with my grandma haunts me to this day.
So, what do these things mean? Is this evidence of the Soul’s existence? Was the Soul of our friend sending me a warning? Did the Soul of my grandma know things that no human on Earth could have possibly known? I will probably never know.
I think the meaning of the Soul is different for different people. It’s what we need it to be. So tell me — what is the Soul to you? What experiences have you had that’ve led you to believe in the Soul, or to define it for you?