Spirit

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For other uses, see Spirit (disambiguation).
Theodor von Holst, Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits, c.1830

The English word spirit (from Latin spiritus "breath") has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body. The word spirit is often used metaphysically to refer to the consciousness or personality. The notions of a person's spirit and soul often also overlap, as both contrast with body and both are understood as surviving the bodily death in religion and occultism,[1] and "spirit" can also have the sense of "ghost", i.e. a manifestation of the spirit of a deceased person.

The term may also refer to any incorporeal or immaterial being, such as demons or deities. In the Bible "the Spirit" (with a capital "S") specifically denotes the Holy Spirit.

Etymology[edit]

The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning "breath", but also "spirit, soul, courage, vigor", ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European *(s)peis. It is distinguished from Latin anima, "soul" (which nonetheless also derives from an Indo-European root meaning "to breathe", earliest form *h2enh1- [2]). In Greek, this distinction exists between pneuma (πνεῦμα), "breath, motile air, spirit," and psykhē (ψυχή), "soul"[3] (even though the latter term, ψῡχή = psykhē/psūkhē, is also from an Indo-European root meaning "to breathe": *bhes-, zero grade *bhs- devoicing in proto-Greek to *phs-, resulting in historical-period Greek ps- in psūkhein, "to breathe", whence psūkhē, "spirit", "soul"[4]).

The word "spirit" came into Middle English via Old French. The distinction between soul and spirit also developed in the Abrahamic religions: Arabic nafs (نفس) opposite rúħ (روح); Hebrew neshama (נְשָׁמָה nəšâmâh) or nephesh (in Hebrew neshama comes from the root NŠM or "breath") opposite ruach (רוּחַ rûaħ). (Note, however, that in Semitic just as in Indo-European, this dichotomy has not always been as neat historically as it has come to be taken over a long period of development: Both נֶ֫פֶשׁ (root נפשׁ) and רוּחַ (root רוח), as well as cognate words in various Semitic languages, including Arabic, also preserve meanings involving misc. air phenomena: "breath", "wind", and even "odour".[5][6][7])

Metaphysical and metaphorical uses[edit]

English-speakers use the word "spirit" in two related contexts, one metaphysical and the other metaphorical.

Metaphysical contexts[edit]

In metaphysical terms, "spirit" has acquired a number of meanings:

  • An incorporeal but ubiquitous, non-quantifiable substance or energy present individually in all living things. Unlike the concept of souls (often regarded as eternal and sometimes believed to pre-exist the body) a spirit develops and grows as an integral aspect of a living being.[8] This concept of the individual spirit occurs commonly in animism. Note the distinction between this concept of spirit and that of the pre-existing or eternal soul: belief in souls occurs specifically and far less commonly, particularly in traditional societies. One might more properly term this type/aspect of spirit "life" (bios in Greek) or "aether" rather than "spirit" (pneuma in Greek).
  • A daemon sprite, or a ghost. People usually conceive of a ghost as a wandering spirit from a being no longer living, having survived the death of the body yet maintaining at least vestiges of mind and consciousness.
  • In religion and spirituality, the respiration of a human has for obvious reasons become seen as strongly linked with the very occurrence of life. A similar significance has become attached to human blood. Spirit, in this sense, means the thing that separates a living body from a corpse—and usually implies intelligence, consciousness, and sentience.
  • Latter-day Saint prophet Joseph Smith Jr. taught that the concept of spirit as incorporeal or without substance was incorrect: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes."[9]
  • In some Native American spiritual traditions the Great Spirit or Wakan Tanka is a term for the Supreme Being.
  • Various forms of animism, such as Japan's Shinto and African traditional religion, focus on invisible beings that represent or connect with plants, animals (sometimes called "Animal Fathers"), or landforms (kami)[citation needed]: translators usually employ the English word "spirit" when trying to express the idea of such entities.
  • Individual spirits envisaged as interconnected with all other spirits and with "The Spirit" (singular and capitalized). This concept relates to theories of a unified spirituality, to universal consciousness and to some concepts of Deity. In this scenario all separate "spirits", when connected, form a greater unity, the Spirit, which has an identity separate from its elements plus a consciousness and intellect greater than its elements; an ultimate, unified, non-dual awareness or force of life combining or transcending all individual units of consciousness. The experience of such a connection can become a primary basis for spiritual belief. The term spirit occurs in this sense in (to name but a few) Anthroposophy, Aurobindo, A Course In Miracles, Hegel, Ken Wilber, and Meher Baba (though in his teachings, "spirits" are only apparently separate from each other and from "The Spirit.")[10] In this use, the term seems conceptually identical to Plotinus's "The One" and Friedrich Schelling's "Absolute". Similarly, according to the panentheistic/pantheistic view, Spirit equates to essence that can manifest itself as mind/soul through any level in pantheistic hierarchy/holarchy, such as through a mind/soul of a single cell (with very primitive, elemental consciousness), or through a human or animal mind/soul (with consciousness on a level of organic synergy of an individual human/animal), or through a (superior) mind/soul with synergetically extremely complex/sophisticated consciousness of whole galaxies involving all sub-levels, all emanating (since the superior mind/soul operates non-dimensionally, or trans-dimensionally) from the one Spirit.
  • Christian theology can use the term "Spirit" to describe God, or aspects of God — as in the "Holy Spirit", referring to a Triune God (Trinity) (cf Gospel of Matthew 28:19).
  • "Spirit" forms a central concept in pneumatology (note that pneumatology studies "pneuma" (Greek for "spirit") not "psyche" (Greek for "soul") — as studied in psychology).
  • Christian Science uses "Spirit" as one of the seven synonyms for God, as in: "Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love"[11]
  • Harmonism reserves the term "spirit" for those that collectively control and influence an individual from the realm of the mind.

Metaphorical usage[edit]

Metaphorical use of the term "spirit" likewise groups several related meanings:

  • The loyalty and feeling of inclusion in the social history or collective essence of an institution or group, as in "school spirit" or in esprit de corps.
  • A closely related meaning refers to the worldview of a person, place, or time, as in "The Declaration of Independence was written in the spirit of John Locke and his notions of liberty", or to the concept of zeitgeist, meaning "spirit of the age".
  • As a synonym for "vivacity", as in "She performed the piece with spirit" or "She put up a spirited defense" or "that breed of horse shows spirit".
  • The underlying intention of a text as distinguished from its literal meaning, especially in law; see letter and spirit of the law
  • As a term for alcoholic beverages - often in the plural, as in "ardent spirits".
  • In mysticism: existence in unity with Godhead. Soul may also equate with spirit, but the soul involves a certain individual human consciousness, while spirit comes from beyond that. Compare the psychological teaching of Al-Ghazali.

See soul and ghost and spiritual for related discussions.

Related concepts in other languages[edit]

Similar concepts in other languages include Greek pneuma and Sanskrit akasha/atman[3] (see also prana). Some languages use a word for "spirit" often closely related (if not synonymous) to "mind". Examples include the German Geist (related to the English word "ghost") or the French 'l'esprit'. English versions of the Bible most commonly translate the Hebrew word "ruach" (רוח; "wind") as "the spirit", whose essence is divine[12] (see Holy Spirit and ruach hakodesh). Alternatively, Hebrew texts commonly use the word nephesh. Kabbalists regard nephesh as one of the five parts of the Jewish soul, where nephesh (animal) refers to the physical being and its animal instincts. Similarly, Scandinavian languages, Baltic languages, Slavic languages and the Chinese language (qi) use the words for "breath" to express concepts similar to "the spirit".[3]

Speculation[edit]

Recently it has been noted that in at least one way or another all supernatural beings share similarities despite the difference in world cultures for example - (spirits, fairies, demons, angels, ghosts, Ancient Egyptian deities, Norse Mythology, Celtic deities, Greek Mythology, Ancient Mesopotamian religion, Roman deities, Sumerian Religion, Hindu deities.) Originally come from one source, the things we like to call spirits or ghosts used to be considered as gods or angels in ancient civilizations, it was said that the gods controlled or could influence the world and everything in it including the people and animals. Over many centuries human belief in the supernatural has changed but one thing remains the same and that is the fact that we believe that unseen forces can influence our world or surroundings. Regardless of what you believe in when comparing (spirits, fairies, demons, angels, ghosts and gods), the similarities are uncanny and the explanation for this may be a little hard to comprehend but it is not to be dismissed until you've personally done the research. It's a theory that there are unseen forces in our world and as unbelievable as it may sound there are many reported cases of people communicating, being helped or hindered with by either spirits, gods, ghosts, angels or demons.

In many cases they could even be considered to be classed as the same being, but due to people's lack of understanding on the subject they describe these unseen forces to be many different forms of being rather then realizing that they are all the same thing. For example because of the difference in how people perceive and explain things there has many different explanations of spirits, But the only real difference between demons, angels, gods, fairies, ghosts and spirits is the explanation people gave and how they first described them. Each person has described the same form of beings just in many different ways, So in actuality all supernatural beings should and will share certain similarities with each other due to the fact that they all come from and are considered to be the same source. Also it is noted that in most reported or claimed cases of magic that is was performed or aided by some type of spirits and that humans do not inherently have the ability to be able to use magic.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ OED "spirit 2.a.: The soul of a person, as commended to God, or passing out of the body, in the moment of death."
  2. ^ anə-, from *ə2enə1-. Watkins, Calvert. 2000. The American Heritage® Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, second edition. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., p.4. Also available online. (NB: Watkins uses ə1, ə2, ə3 as fully equivalent variants for h1, h2, h3, respectively, for the notation of Proto-Indo-European laryngeal segments.)
  3. ^ a b c François 2008, p.187-197.
  4. ^ bhes-2. Watkins, Calvert. 2000. The American Heritage® Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, second edition. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 2000, p.11. Also available online
  5. ^ Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1999). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (711). Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill.
  6. ^ Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (2000). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (electronic ed.) (659). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems. (N.B. Corresponds closely to printed editions.)
  7. ^ Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (2000). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (electronic ed.) (924ff.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems. (N.B. Corresponds closely to printed editions.)
  8. ^ http://www.patheos.com/Library/Mormonism/Beliefs/Human-Nature-and-the-Purpose-of-Existence.html
  9. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 131:7
  10. ^ Kalchuri, Bhau: Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, Volume Eighteen, Manifestation, Inc., 1986, p. 5937.
  11. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1875). "Glossary" (TXT). Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. p. 587. Retrieved 2009-03-11. "GOD. The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence."  — "Glossary" entry for "GOD".
  12. ^ RUACH: Spirit or Wind or ??? at BiblicalHeritage.org

Further reading[edit]