Top 3… Theories of the Soul

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Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians believed that the soul was made up of five parts. The Ren was a person’s name, and it was believed that this part of the soul would live for as long as it was spoken. The Ba was everything that made a person unique – their personality. The Ka was the concept of vital essence, sustained through food and drink. The Sheut was a person’s shadow, a constant reminder of death. Finally, the Ib was the heart, the seat of emotion, thought, will and intention.

Plato/Socrates

Plato’s soul theory is fragmentary too. Basing his work on the teachings of Socrates, he believed in the logos, the thymos and the eros. The logos was located in the head and governed reason. This was the only immortal part of the soul according to Plato. The thymos was found in the heart, with anger, while the eros was located in the stomach and had to do with one’s desires. Plato compared this model of the soul to the caste system. Each part has to play its role so that the whole can function.

Buddhism

Buddhism teaches that everything is in a state of permanent transience, including humans. There is no such thing as the permanent self. I am not the person I was yesterday, though I am continuous with that person. Buddhists hold that the notion of the soul, an abiding self and an obsession with individuality is one of the primary causes of human conflict. Despite this, most Buddhist schools believe in some form of afterlife, with a kind of ‘dreaming mind’ living on once the body is gone.

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