Language is a funny thing. Try thinking outside the bounds of language and one can find that thought, as well as communication, is limited by language. At the boundary of precise language there comes into play a new set of words that are blurry conglomerations of the even blurrier concepts on the other side of this boundary. These blurry concepts aren’t much more than feelings or hunches; one can feel pretty sure there is an “other” side of the boundary between the materialistic and the purely conceptual, but the things on this other side cannot be put to a form – at least not very easily.
The concept of a soul or a spirit is one such word that exists on the blurry conceptual side of this language boundary. Culture is perhaps the largest producer of these ambiguous words and the greatest influence on our individual conceptions around them. Our culture – itself a pretty conglomerated word – could consist of lots of factors from our personal tastes and the personal tastes of those around us to religious and social traditions. The culture of religion and religious teaching that has been ever-present in our history colors much of our language and the concepts behind ambiguous words.
The idea of a soul, especially, has its roots in religion. To a believer in these general religious concepts, the idea of a soul is akin to having an avatar for a person in the unseen spirit world where God, angels and demons dwell. This avatar is lifted to such great importance that the actual physical life of the holder of the avatar is held in less esteem. This avatar then becomes the ante in a high-stakes game of karmic poker. Behave poorly or outside the desired doctrine of a particular religion and that ante is lost forever.
Having rejected the common religious mythology of the soul, I am left with the phrase in the language, but now without an anchor. Read the rest of this entry »