We have noted that all religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions recognize the body, the spirit and the soul. We also generally know much about the functions of the body and the mind; the heart and the brain, as parts of the body. In theological terms, there is a lot of information about the flesh and the spirit, especially in the New Testament and in Christianity. Yet, we have been taught very little about the soul.
In the Hebrew Bible, soul is rendered as nefesh, and appears 755 times. English translations refer to it as “soul” 428 times and “life” 117 times. There are as many as 42 different English terms for nefesh.
There is no dichotomy in the Hebrew Bible that depicts nefesh, the soul, as the “immortal component” of the living being. Instead, it is the totality of the living being. In Genesis 2:7 it is the term used for the creation of humankind as a living being. In short, a mortal is a nefesh, a living soul, rather than a living being having a soul.
Clearly, there is need, not only to know and understand the functions of the soul, but to connect closely with it. In other words, we need to realize that it exists, know what exactly it is, and how it functions. Furthermore, we need to have the willingness and the courage to respond to it.
Let’s briefly look at our traditional worldview of how we see ourselves – especially in the west: The mind is our logical and analytical self. There is plenty of chattering that goes on in the mind all the time. It is our loudest “part” full of worries and concerns of what might not simply work or go wrong. On the other hand, the heart represents love and passion. It may, indeed, be illogical at times, contradicting the mind. Often though, the pursuits of the heart prove to be most rewarding in the long run. Then, there is of course the body with sensations and emotions from the past and the present.
We have learned to listen to, and attend to the body, with medical, hygiene and nutrition care. Similarly, we learn to reign on the mind and the heart, to not confuse the two, to control the chatter and momentary emotions
What about the soul?
We hardly listen to it or nourish it. At worst, it is not even acknowledged. When it is acknowledged, as in the New Age Movement, it becomes suspect and even undermined. If it is the principle living being of the individual, we do well to seriously and consciously connect with it.