Thursday, April 9, 2015



In many religions, spiritual traditions, and philosophies, ‘soul’ is the spiritual and eternal part of a living being, commonly held to be separable in existence from the body or as distinct from the physical part. The soul is believed to live on after the person’s physical death, and some religions cite that God creates souls. In some cultures, non-human living things, and sometimes other objects are said to have souls. God is commonly said to have options with regard to the dispensation of souls, ranging from Heaven (i.e. angels) to hell (i.e. demons), with various concepts in between. Typically both Heaven and hell are considered to be eternal, beyond a typical human concept of lifespan and time.
It is typically thought to consist of one’s consciousness and personality and can be synonymous with the spirit, mind, or self. Language processing is simply one of the aspects of the general functioning of the mind (Caron, 1992: 10). We, as human beings, have minds and in our minds we have means for producing and comprehending speech (Steinberg, Nagata, and Aline, 2001:3).
Accordingly, the present paper mainly addresses the following problems:
1.      Does the soul exist? If so, then where is it exactly?
2.      What is the nature of soul on the basis of some different views, such as philosophical, religious, and scientific views?
3.      How does the soul relate itself to Psycholinguistics?


1.     The existence of soul

Does soul exist? If so, then where is it exactly? Prior to discussing the existence of the soul, these simple examples found in our everyday lives will best illustrate that. One example is a flying kite. The flying kite does not stand by itself. There must be something that runs the kite, though we are not able to see what it exactly is. Another example is the feeling of love. When we are in love, we feel differently when we are out of love. We feel the pain but we do not see any injury or wounds on our physical body. We cannot see the love. However, we can feel its existence within us.
Those illustrations vividly depict that besides our physical body, something invisible but “alive” lies within the body. It even drives anything we do or behave from within. They portray, accordingly, soul-like matters. Thus they reflect that soul, as a matter of fact, exists. The soul is one of the three essential components (the other two beings are the body and the heart) for any living being to truly exist. While the heart gives the being light, darkness, and the capacity for emotions, the body serves as the vessel for both, the soul gives the body life.

2.     The nature of soul

The terms ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ are often used interchangeably, although the latter may be viewed as a more worldly and less transcendent aspect of a person than the former. The words ‘soul’ and ‘psyche’ can also be treated synonymously, although ‘psyche’ has relatively more physical connotations, whereas ‘soul’ is connected more closely to metaphysics and religion. The following section posits how we approach the soul from some different points of views: (a) philosophical, (b) religious, and (c) scientific (Wikipedia, 2009: 3-17).
a.       Philosophical views
According to the philosophical views, soul is a relative term and can apply to almost any compound object that is formed up from smaller independent objects. A persons soul is, therefore, the collective influence of their memories, age, logical perception and all other physical and mental aspects that make them a whole person.
Socrates and Plato considered the soul as the essence of a person, being, that which decides how we behave and it is an eternal occupant of our being. The soul comprises three parts: the logos (mind or reason), the thymos (emotion or spiritness or masculine), and the eros (appetitive or desire or feminine).
Whereas Aristotle did not consider the soul as a separate, ghostly occupant of the body but it is the core or essence of a living being. A living thing’s soul is its activity or its “life”. If a knife, for instance, had a soul, the act of cutting is the essence of what it is to be a knife. Since the soul is an actuality of a living body, it cannot be immortal. When a knife is destroyed, the cutting stops.
Following Aristotle, the Persia Muslim philosopher-physicians, Avicenna and Ibn al-Nafs, further elaborated on the Aristotelian understanding of the soul and developed their own theories on the soul. They both made a distinction between the soul and the spirit. They cited that the immortality of the soul is a consequence of its nature and not a purpose for it to fulfill. Avicenna generally supported Aristotle’s idea of the soul originating from the heart, whereas Ibn al-Nafs rejected this idea and instead argued that the soul is related to the entirety and not to one or a few organs.
Following Aristotle and Avicenna, St. Thomas Aquinas has posited that the soul is capable of knowing all material things, and since in order to know a material thing there must be no material thing within it and therefore can subsist without the body. As the soul is not made of matter and form, it cannot be destroyed in any natural process.
While James Hillman has stated that although the words ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ are often viewed synonyms, they can refer to antagonistic components of a person. He associated ‘spirit’ with ‘afterlife, cosmic issues, idealistic values and hopes, and universal truths’, while ‘soul’ with ‘in the thick of things: in the repressed, in the shadow, in the messes of life, in illness, and the pain and confusion of love’.
b.      Religious views
As stated earlier, the soul has been known in many religious beliefs. The following discusses how the soul is viewed from some different beliefs: (1) Buddhism, (2) Christianity, (3) Hinduism, and (4) Islam:
1)      Buddhist beliefs
Buddhism teaches that all things are changing and no permanent state exists by itself. Thus, a human being has no permanent self. Buddhism does not deny the existence of immaterial entities and it distinguishes physical states from mental states. It, therefore, does not deny the existence of the soul. The souls can continue after death. When the body dies, the soul continues and is reborn in a new body. The new being is continuous with the being that died and the being is neither entirely different than nor exactly the same as the being that died. However, many modern Buddhists, notably in Western countries, reject the concept of rebirth or reincarnation. Some research, however, has been carried out at the University of Virginia proving that at least some people are reborn.
2)      Christian beliefs
The Christian view of the soul is based upon the teaching of both the Old Testament and New Testament including Genesis 2:7 (“And the Lord God formed a man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”) and 1 Corinthians 15:45 (And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”)
All branches of Christianity-Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox, Evangelical or mainline Protestants, understand that the soul as a reality distinct yet integrally connected with the body. When people die their souls will be judged by God and sentenced to an eternity in heaven or in hell. Christians believe that if one has not repented of his sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he will go to hell and suffer eternal separation from God, some even believe that the unrighteous soul will be destroyed instead of suffering eternally; whereas believers will inherit eternal life in heaven and enjoy eternal fellowship with God.
3)      Hindu beliefs
In Hinduism, the Sanskrit words most closely corresponding to soul are Jiva/Atma, meaning the Individual Self. The jivatman (individual Self) becomes involved in the process of becoming and transmigrating through cycles of birth and death because of ignorance of its own nature. The spiritual path consists of Self-realization- a process in which one acquires the knowledge of the Self and through this knowledge applied through meditation and realization one then returns to the Source which is Brahman. When the Atman becomes embodied it is called birth, when the Atman leaves a body it is called death. The Atman transmigrates from one body to another body based on carmic (performed deeds) reactions.
4)      Islamic beliefs
The Islamic view of the soul is based on some verses from the Qur’an and hadiths. In part or Sura 15 verse 29, it states: “Remember when thy Lord said to the Angels, ‘I create man of dried clay, of dark loam moulded: and When I shall have fashioned him and breathed of my spirit to him, then fall ye down and worship him.”(The Everyman Library: The Koran, 1997: 168). It means that the creation of humans involves God “breathing” souls into them. This is “pure” at birth and has the potential of growing and achieving nearness to God if the person leads a righteous life.
There is a hadith reported by Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, in which stated that the soul is breathed in the embryo after 40 days after fertilization takes place. This version of hadith is supported by some other hadiths narrated by Muhammad Al-Bukhari and Muslim ibn Al-Hajjaj in which the period is said to be around 40 days.
According to the Islamic view, at death, a person’s spirit or soul does not perish. It is extracted from the body and enters an immediate source known as Barzakh, a parallel universe for which humans in mortal world have no visualization. This stage results in a cold sleep state where the soul will rest until the Judgement Day. The person is either rewarded in the next realm of existence by going to heaven if they have followed Allah’s commands or punished if they have disobeyed Him. The interrogation by the angle takes place with everyone who dies, no matter whether he is buried in the grave or cremated or his dead body is immersed in the river or eaten up by carnivorous birds and other animals.
c.       Scientific views
Much of the scientific study relating to soul has been involved in investigating the soul as a human belief or as concept that shapes cognition and understanding of world, rather than as an entity in and of itself. Most of modern scientists speak of the soul as a poetic synonym for ‘mind’. They have suggested that the mind or consciousness is the operation of brain. They often fuse the terms mind and brain together as “mind/brain” or bodymind. They have hold the position that one can learn everything knowable about the human soul by studying the workings of the human brain.


Psychology (ancient Greek: psyche = "soul" or "mind", logos/-ology = "study of") is an academic and applied field involving the study of mind and behavior. "Psychology" also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity, including problems of individuals' daily lives and the treatment of mental illness. Psychology is an extremely broad field, encompassing many different approaches to the study of mental processes and behavior of individuals. The sort of mental processes described as cognitive or cognitive processes tends to apply to processes such as memory, attention, perception, action, problem solving and mental imagery.
Linguistics, on the other hand, is the scientific study of human language. A human language is a system of remarkable complexity (Chomsky, 1975: 4). The learning is a complex neurological and psychological feat. It involves the psychological mechanism such as memory, recall, acquisition, reinforcement, perception, cognitive organization, and learning style. Language teaching should be synchronized with the psychological conditions or taken into account those psychological mechanism involved in language learning (Titone and Danesi, 1985: ix, 33). 
Psycholinguistics can be defined simply as the study of the relationship between human language and the brain. Language is, in fact, at the root of cognitive organization. To acquire a language, one should take into account a comprehensive and thorough-going analysis of the psychological process of language learning. In addition, Psycholinguistics provides new theoretical and methodological instruments in understanding the relationship between people’s thoughts and the language they use (Evola, 2008). Human communication employs the human cognition to help interpret utterances.


As previously discussed, we can conclude that the soul exists as something that can be preserved beyond the life of the body. The distinctive nature of the soul has offered a multidimensional view of soul itself. It can be approached from the philosophical, religious, and scientific perspectives. Such comprehensive views will undoubtedly increase our understanding of the soul and of what makes us uniquely human. As a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, language is shaped a host of neurological and cognitive processes taking place in the human mind in which modern scientists consider as the soul. The cognition is the essential functional feature of a living organism. The cognitive processes include perception, language acquisition and processing, planning, problem solving, reasoning, learning, representation, and the use of knowledge. All of these are what Psycholinguistics deals with.


Caron, Jean. 1992. An Introduction to Psycholinguistics. Hertfordshire: Simon & Schuster International Group.

Chomsky, Noam. 1975. Reflections on Language. New York: Pantheon.

Evola, Vito. 2008. How Body and Soul Interact with the Spiritual Mind: Multimodal Cognitive Semiotics of Religious Discourse. Paper presented in the 9th Conference on Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language at the Case Western Reserve University ( Retrieved on October 18, 2009, at 10:00 a.m.

Steinberg, David D., Nagata, Hiroshi, and Aline, David D. 2001. Psycholinguistics: Language, Mind, and World. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

The Everyman Library. 1997. The Koran. London: J.M. Dent.

Titone, Renzo and Danesi, Marcel. 1985. Applied Psycholinguistics: An Introduction to the Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching.

Wikipedia. 2009. Soul. ( Retrieved on October 8, 2009, at 16:19 p.m.

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