Human spirit

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The human spirit is a component of human philosophy, psychology, art, and knowledge; it is the spiritual, or mental, part of humanity. While the term can be used with the same meaning as "human soul", the human spirit is sometimes used to refer to the impersonal, universal, or higher component of human nature in contrast to soul or psyche which can refer to the ego or lower element. The human spirit includes our intellect, emotions, fears, passions, and creativity.

In the models of Daniel A. Helminiak and Bernard Lonergan, human spirit is considered to be the mental functions of awareness, insight, understanding, judgement and other reasoning powers. It is distinguished from the separate component of psyche which comprises the entities of emotion, images, memory and personality.[1]

Olaf Stapledon defined the human spirit as consisting of love, intelligence and creative action. [2]

John Teske views human spirit as a social construct representing the qualities of purpose and meaning which transcend the individual human.[3]

Distinction from the soul[edit]

According to historian Oswald Spengler, a distinction between spirit and soul has been made by the West and earlier civilizations which influenced its development.[4] The human spirit can be seen as the heavenly component of human's non material makeup - the part that is impersonal or universal. Whereas souls are the personal element unique to each individual. As Spengler writes in The Decline of the West:

... more important than all this is the opposition of Spirit and Soul (Hebrew: ruach and nephesh, Persian: ahu and urvan, Mandasan: monuhmed and gyan, Greek: pneuma and psyche) which first comes out in the basic feeling of the prophetic religions, then pervades the whole of Apocalyptic, and finally forms and guides the world-contemplations of the awakened Culture - as seen with Philo, Paul and Plotinus, Gnostics and Mandeans, Augustine and the Avesta, Islam and the Kabbalah. Ruach means originally "wind" and nephesh "breath." The nephesh is always in one way or another related to the bodily and earthly, to the below, the evil, the darkness. Its effort is the "upward." The ruach belongs to the divine, to the above, to the light. Its effects in man when it descends are the heroism of a Samson, the holy wrath of an Elijah, the enlightenment of the judge (e.g. Solomon passing judgment), and all kinds of divination and ecstasy. It is poured out. As in Isaiah xi, x, the Messiah becomes the incarnation of the ruach.[4]

Some Christians believe that the Bible identifies humanity's three basic elements: spirit, soul, and body. They emphasise that the human spirit is the 'real person', the very core of a person's being, the essential seat of their existence. They believe that, when a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Saviour, it is their human spirit that is transformed as they become 'new creatures' in Jesus Christ. The soul which is the seat of the will, mind, and emotions does not get converted but needs to be renewed on a daily basis through the recommended Christian disciplines such as prayer and reading the Bible.[5] In Islam, Muslims are viewed as having their own spirits, but one that in a sense is one with God's spirit. For Spengler, the perception of unity this idea led to was important for the emergence of the "consensus" that maintained harmony in Islamic culture, especially during the Golden Age of Islam.[4]


  • Perry McAdow Rogers (2004), The human spirit: sources in the Western humanities, Prentice Hall, ISBN 978-0-13-048053-8


  1. ^ Daniel A. Helminiak (1996), The human core of spirituality: mind as psyche and spirit, ISBN 978-0-7914-2950-1
  2. ^ Olaf Stapledon (1944), What Are "Spiritual" Values?, archived from the original on 2013-04-22
  3. ^ John Teske (2000), "The Social Construction of the Human Spirit", The human person in science and theology, ISBN 978-0-567-08692-1
  4. ^ a b c Spengler, Oswald (1922). "vol2, chpt: 3 & 8". The Decline of the west (An abridged ed.). Vintage Books, 2006. ISBN 1-4000-9700-2.
  5. ^ Wommack, Andrew. "Understanding Spirit, Soul, And Body". Andrew Wommack Ministires. Retrieved 2010-01-21.