On Being Human

Generally speaking, most people agree on three of the components that comprise human beings:

MENTAL — Our capacity to think
EMOTIONAL — Our capacity to feel
PHYSICAL — The physical package we occupy during our lifetime


SPIRITUAL — this is the element where agreement can falter…

Some people believe we have a spirit — that which animates us
Some people believe we have a soul — the God spark or eternal component
Some people believe the spirit and soul are one and the same
Some people believe the spirit and soul are two separate aspects
Some people believe that we have neither spirit or soul.

What do you believe regarding the spiritual aspect of humanity?

© lauriebuchanan.com

68 thoughts on “On Being Human

  1. I’m honestly not sure what I believe, Laurie. I’m not a religious person, but I do believe it’s kind of arrogant to think humans know everything about life. I believe many forms of life might exist in the universe and even here on Earth that we do not see or know about. So perhaps we have spirits–but I would think then that animals do, too.

  2. I agree with Merril about not knowing everything about life on my own. That’s why I go to scripture for clues: “. . . and I pray God our whole spirit ad soul and body be preserved . . . ” (I Thess. 5:23.) From that I deduce that we are an integrated package of three parts. The challenge is to have balance, keeping harmony in the three aspects of our being.

    What a penetrating question, Laurie, full of mystery too. And by the way, that adorable little dumpling you picture here looks physically peaceful, with no worries to perturb her soul and spirit – yet!

    • Marian — I like your term “integrated package,” and I totally agree with the importance of balance and harmony. The precious little gem in the photo is one of my client’s children 🙂

  3. Laurie, I always love your questions. They give me lots to consider as I go about my days. In this case I believe, that the soul and the spirit are one and the same. I believe all living matter has spirit, including the earth and all that it is made up of.

  4. I fully believe that each of us is an eternal soul, living in a temporary body. It’s a very interesting topic of conversation today, Laurie. 🙂

  5. Laurie, you asked – “What do you believe regarding the spiritual aspect of humanity?”

    I believe I have a “core self” that is eternal and which played at least some role in my current incarnation. I have connected with this aspect of myself and invited It to live more immediately through this ego structure “Deb” (rather than its usual role as a witness or observer of this lifetime) that has been created of the elements of this lifetime.

    For me, Spirit is the All That Is, “God”, Source, the Life Force that animates and expresses itself through our bodily form. The “soul” is that core self that I have mentioned above. It is that thing which accumulates experience and insight in lifetime after lifetime.

    I do believe in the reincarnating nature of the soul.

    I don’t claim any truth or absolute knowledge regarding any of this. It may all be my imagination along with culturally programmed beliefs. So knowing that much rather fully and humbly, I still make a choice to continue to “believe” what feels “good” to me.

  6. That’s a great question. I’m also not sure although I’ve been thinking about it recently. Years back I thought they were one at the same. Now I’m not so sure.

    • Olga — It’s good to stir the thinking pot every so often; to closely examine what we believe, and equally important, to take a close look at WHY we embrace those beliefs. I’m glad to have been your “stirring spoon” today 🙂

  7. I believe in both spirit and soul, Laurie. They are mysteries, however, so I don’t fully understand them. Are they the same? I don’t know. I have felt both an external awareness of Spirit and the inner awareness of my own soul. Neither can be described in words. Both enlarge my small self and connect it to others and to what I call God. Love that you bravely ask the Big questions and that your readers trust you enough to reveal their thoughts.

    Want to hug that little girl in the picture!

    • Shirley — I love your observation, “Both enlarge my small self and connect it to others and to what I call God.” Amen siSTAR!

      The precious little girl in the photo is one of my client’s children. She’s as adorable as she looks! 🙂

  8. I don’t know, Laurie. As is so often the case with the questions you pose, this one requires more thought, although my initial reaction is that my spirit is that spark that soars, that allows me to shine, whereas my soul is buried deep inside my very core and contains all the bits that comprise this person.

  9. I suppose , in truth, we don’t know a lot of the the big stuff when all said and done . I reckon I have a soul because I am deep and soulful thinker . I am told I have more than my share of spirit too …I can’t think where they get that idea from Laurie .

  10. Great questions Laurie. These stimulate thinking ….
    I believe that there is a 4th dimension… and probably many more.
    I also believe that my thoughts are not the truth.

  11. Thank you for the adorable photo, Laurie.
    I believe we have both a spirit and a soul. My understanding beyond that has evolved and continues to evolve.
    Stimulating as always, Laurie. Thank you to everyone who has shared their thoughts.

  12. I love all of the answers. My favorite is we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. I see spirit and soul as the same meaning. It is the I AM we all have. It is like closing your eyes, and in your mind picture a cat, then point to it. Who’s pointing? We are all so incredibly valuable and sharing is what makes expansion.

  13. Hi Laurie

    I don’t believe in anything.
    There are some things about which I am more confident than other things, some things I am sufficiently confident of to bet my life on, and all things are up for review in the light of sufficiently strong evidence.

    It seems that it is the notion of belief, rather than the structure of understanding that separates most people.

    It seems that most people have core beliefs, mostly accepted uncritically from culture at some level, that they would rather die than challenge (as the challenging of those beliefs would be too uncomfortable at some level). It has been really interesting since I started meeting a lot of people who have cancer and claim they want to survive it, yet when push comes to shove, would rather die than challenge beliefs they hold about themselves or the nature of the reality in which we all find ourselves.

    It seems clear that all distinctions are approximations at some level.
    No map is ever the thing it maps.
    Most maps are very simplistic sketches.
    As children we all come into the world devoid of maps, and have to collect them as we go along.
    Most of our “maps” of this thing we call reality or life we inherit from culture at some level, and some of them we get to sketch out ourselves.
    And all childish drawings are simplistic, yet most of us hold onto many of our childish sketches with a passion – like the sketches of “right and wrong” and “true and false” and “good and evil” and hundreds of other simplistic “beliefs” that we build our understanding upon.

    The evidence from science is that we are really complex systems of matter and pattern at many different and interrelated levels of organisation.

    It seems that our genetics gives us many levels of organisation, in the structure of our cells, and our bodies and our organs and our brains.

    It seems that our cultures give us many more levels of organisation and structure, with sets of distinctions and abstractions that are often given the title of truths, but are more accurately characterised as useful approximations.

    It seems that each of us as individuals is capable of exploring the realms of the real and the possible beyond the limits of the known (or approximated). The further we take such explorations from the cultural norms of our existence, the more difficult communication becomes.

    It seems that the genetic and cultural constructs give most people a strong impulse towards social agreement. I was born tongue tied. Very few people could understand me anyway, so I sortsa missed out on the whole social agreement thing. I have been free to explore this thing we call life, reality, existence, etc in whatever way seemed most appropriate to me since I was about 3 years old (57 years). Those explorations have taken me into the depths of many different disciplines, physical, mental, intellectual. The understandings I have are intensely personal, and very difficult to communicate, as very few people share anything even vaguely like my experience.

    So it seems to me that as human beings, we do not experience reality directly.
    What we get to experience as reality is a software model of reality that our brains assemble based upon that individual brain’s experience of the world (which includes the actual physical experience of that body, the experience of the cultural elements it is existing in, and any abstractions and intuitions that mind has made from that experience).

    It seems clear to me that the notions of spirit and soul are very simple approximations for the extremely complex, highly parallel and multi-levelled sets of hardware (brain) and software (spirit & soul) systems that actually are what we are. It seems that the experience of being, that which philosophers tend to call “qualia”, are the result of the interaction of two very complex sets of software systems – our model of reality and our perception of self.

    And within the human brain it is very difficult to draw any sort of clear boundary between hardware and software. What we “think” actually causes physical changes in our brains, altering the probabilities of how those neurons will behave next time.
    There are extremely complex interactions between our chemically mediated emotional systems and how certain subsystems within our brains actually work.

    We are beginning to understand the major modalities of the major systems that make us who we are, and the numerical complexity of what it is to be a human being is so big, that should we as a species live for the rest of eternity, and should we continue to exponentially expand our knowledge, we will likely still be learning new and interesting things about the subtleties of how we get to be what we are in a billion or ten billion years time.

    It seems that the reality of being human is so much more than anything any of the older cultural systems came up with, that the ideas of spirit and soul are just very simple approximations to something far more complex, far more profound, far more beautiful; than most have even the vaguest hint of.

    As human beings, it seems that we are limited only by the limits we are prepared to accept.

    Unfortunately most cultures put very tight limits on individuals, turning them into “trained fleas” in many essential aspects.

    It seems that two of the most profound limits are put there by the commonly accepted ideas of money and markets, and the idea the evolution is all about competition.

    Both ideas contain partial truths (are accurate within limited domains) but have been turned into lies by being applied outside of their applicable domains.

    Money and markets are very useful tools for allocating scarce resources, but they fail when abundance is present. Most of the laws in most countries seem to be about creating artificial scarcity to prop up a system which people are familiar with, but which is no longer appropriate to our circumstances. We now have the technical capability to deliver an abundance of all of the necessities of life to every person on the planet, but our addition to money and markets prevents us from doing so.

    Certainly competition is a major aspect of the filtering function of evolution by natural selection, but it only tells less than half the story.
    When one takes a big picture view of the evolution of life, it is clear that all major developments in the complexity of living systems are characterised by the emergence of new levels of cooperation. Certainly raw cooperation is vulnerable to cheating, so all new levels of cooperation require new levels of strategies which can effectively mitigate against cheats (at all levels).
    Arguably we stand on the threshold of the emergence of such a new level of cooperation and resulting abundance – and the greatest barrier to that emergence is the scarcity based thinking engendered by our cultural concepts of markets, finance, politics and economics.

    It is hard to accept abundance without effort when one has been taught that one must work for everything, that one must earn everything.

    And certainly, there will always remain many levels of attainment that one must strive for.

    The neural networks of our brain require training, and the only way to train them is be repeated experience. And that doesn’t mean that we have to work for our basic existence every day – we can use the culturally accumulated knowledge embodied in automated systems of production to supply us with all the material needs of existence, freeing every one of us to explore whatever aspects of our “spiritual” or “physical” development we care to responsibly choose (where responsibility in this sense means to have consideration of the needs of all others for life and liberty, and the needs of the ecosystems and automated systems that support us all).

    So yes, we are thinking feeling entities, and it seems clear to me that we are each individually capable of transcending the emotional and cultural conditions of our birth and our development. And it also seems, based upon my own explorations, that there is no potential limit to levels of such transcendence, each new level opening the possibility of yet more levels.

    It seems that there is plenty of possibility to avoid boredom, even should we manage to live a few billion or trillion years.

    • Ted — Picture me barely hanging onto your coattails in a gale force wind. That’s how my understanding of your deep thoughts often feel. However… I fully understood:

      “It seems that the reality of being human is so much more than anything any of the older cultural systems came up with, that the ideas of spirit and soul are just very simple approximations to something far more complex, far more profound, far more beautiful; than most have even the vaguest hint of.”

      As to your statement, “I don’t believe in anything.” I can tell you one thing with absolutely certainty: If my life depended on you to get me off a deserted island, I’d believe in YOU. Your preparedness and resourcefulness would definitely shift things to the “survival” side of the scale 🙂

  14. I believe we have a spirit sent from God and our soul is influenced by how we respond to the Holy Spirit. Some days my soul is at peace, other days it is troubled. It really depends on how much time I’ve speny in prayer and self reflection. Lovely post.

  15. Laurie, I do believe in the Holy Spirit sent by God as a Comforter, and I also believe that animals have spirits that give them the ability to feel emotion, I have seen sad cats and happy dogs. I do believe that we all have souls, humans, that is. I have seen some pretty fancy hair-splitting in my time, even angry debates over the question of Spirit and Soul. As a Christian I know that I can at times be filled with the Holy Spirit and my Soul is enlightened. Even Christian theologians don’t always agree on this question, and I am no authority on it. Usually I would not touch this question with a 10′ pole but took a chance on this knowing that no shouting will erupt. Very good question!

  16. Laurie, I believe in both spirit and soul. Whether they are same or separate I am having a little trouble with wrapping my head around. This is a great thing to ponder and let saturate in my brain a bit so that the truth of what I believe can be captured.

  17. Like the meaning of life, the universe and everything, I don’t really know. I just go about this life trying to enjoy it and make it a happy experience. Mostly there seems no sense to it. Maybe Douglas Adams was right and the answer is 42.

  18. You sure do manage to ask some rather complicated questions by employing very few words. I think it’s become your new super power. (*wink*) I don’t dare read the comments section yet, lest I completely lose my train of thought or be unduly influenced, especially since this one can move in so many differing directions at once.

    Yes, I believe we have a soul, and I believe we have a spirit, and I also believe they are separate, yet that they work in harmony with one another. For me, the spirit is more about our energy life force, whereas the soul is more about the deepest part of our essence that holds our moral compass and our deepest desires. The most confusing part to me is how either one relates to God, assuming that God exists, and whether or not an external God is more likely, or if God is simply that common thread that is woven through every living person, that nurtures and protects those around them in whatever way possible. To be spiritually connected to someone, you have to be willing to allow them to see your soul, and you have to share a spirit of acceptance. In my opinion. Sort of. Unless you ask me again tomorrow, because my answer is constantly evolving.

  19. Hi Laurie, Hmmm…good question. I am a preacher’s child. I have believed with all my heart in God since I can remember having thought. Believing was not following though, and regardless of my upbringing during my teens, as have so many, I followed my own way. Then, through a simple song, the Spirit of God moved me in such a way that I committed to Him and have never looked back. What do I believe…well…simply…I believe in Him, and in His Son, and in the Precious Spirit. I am not positive about the difference of the soul/spirit in all of us, but perhaps what I think along these lines is that the soul is what makes us eternal, the spirit is who we are and how we touch others and commune with him.

    For those who say in their comments here that they don’t believe in God, I challenge them to set aside about three weeks and sing a song of praise to God every day, maybe even many times a day. I feel the Spirit of God within me the most when I sing to Him. It is actually a physical sensation for me at times. There is nothing I desire more than to continue being His friend. He truly is my all in all, and if I did not have Him, I would rather not take another breath, to live without Him would be futile.

  20. the only real eternal thing is energy for those who always think about god i think it could be better they think to human beings humanity cos the world probably would not be such a shame

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