Do Animals Have Souls? (Part 1)

by Norman W Wilson, PhD

When you are with people who love animals, eventually the question arises whether non-human animals have souls.  I posed this question to metaphysical scholar, Dr. Norman Wilson.  His thoughtful answer held  us  spellbound.  He graciously agreed to commit his thoughts to writing so that I could include them in this blog.  He considered the question from three vantage points, one of which will be posted each month.  Dr. B

At a recent dinner-party,  Dr. Bloom asked me if  animals had souls. For a time, I didn’t answer. The question shot me back to my junior high school days. My science teacher was talking about various qualities of animals. He asked the class if animals had feelings. My fellow classmates indicated they believed animals had feelings. He scoffed at the idea. “Humans,” he insisted, “have feelings. Animals do not.” We had a canary in the classroom. I asked the teacher the following questions: “If I pulled a feather out of the canary’s tail won’t it feel it?”

Of course, the bird would squawk. It would feel pain. If something feels pain, it must be alive and if one believes all things  were created by a divine being there must be something of the divine in that creation. At the very least, the implications are fascinating.

A slight clearing of the throat brought me back to the question at hand: Do animals have souls? The concept of soul has long intrigued me and over the years I have collected a couple of large loose-leaf binders filled with articles and notes about SOUL. And, if I talk about soul, I have to talk about Spirit and the potential relationship between the two.

Most human beings that have pets or have owned pets have viewed them as part of the family and consciously or subconsciously believe they will be united with them again in an afterlife. And there’s a hot topic for another day—an afterlife.

Because of the advances in science, ample evidence has demonstrated that certain species of animals possess intelligence— that is, there is a reasoning process taking place. Dolphins, whales, and gorillas serve as prime examples. Among the birds, crows and parrots have shown a high level of problem solving. News stories hit the airwaves almost daily of dogs rescuing people, saving lives, or protecting their humans. However, does the fact that animals indicate intelligence also suggest they have a soul? Here comes the kicker. Frequently, the debaters add the following modifier to the word soul: immortal. That adjective changes the equation.

A second aspect of the soul question is the survival of the soul after death of the body, a belief held by many people around the world. At this point, the basic parameters of the discussion have been stated. In my next article, I will present the theologians’ point of view. For now, however, I ask you, do you believe animals have a soul? Sign in, and leave a comment.

Norman Wilson, Ph.D.

Norman W Wilson has earned four college degrees and holds an honorary degree of Professor Emeritus at Polk State College, Winter Haven, Florida. He is the author of college textbooks in the humanities, three non-fiction books and three novels. With over 250 articles published on the internet, he has garnered a reasonable presence. His nonfiction books include Shamanism What It’s All About, DUH! The American Educational Disaster, and So You THINK You Want To Be A Buddhist. His novels include The Shaman’s Quest, The Shaman’s Transformation. The third novel in his shamanic mysteries series, The Shaman’s War will be available late fall or early winter of 2013.



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5 Responses to Do Animals Have Souls? (Part 1)

  1. Fran June 6, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    This is quite the subject that I am sure has been analyzed millions of times by theologians – the meaning of ‘Soul’. What carries it on, in my belief system, is the remembrance of the person, or animal. As I love animals as much as my mind is capable of loving, ‘yes’ animals have souls.
    Great, great article with lots of food for thought.
    Thanks for the mental stimulation.

  2. Cindy Wilson June 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    Of course animals have souls. Have you not been in a situation where a dear, beloved animal that has passed has come to you? You have felt their loving presence. How do you explain these experiences if in fact they do not have soul? Some would like to describe this as a figment of the imagination. I, in fact, know the experiences to be real and true. Animals due in fact have souls. How arrogant of the human race to believe that humans are the only species to possess souls. Are humans the only species to be a part of the Divine Love? This is a question to be debated for centuries to come with most likely no final end.

  3. Bill Thorn June 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    I don’t think there is any question whether animals have souls. They do. The passing of Freddie last year, my feline friend and companion of the previous eighteen years, removed any doubt for me. For months after his passing I could feel his presence in the house. Was that just my personal conditioning from such a long relationship? I don’t think so although I have no way to prove it. Soul, according to the American Heritage Dictionary is “The animating and vital principle in man credited with the faculties of thought, action and emotion and conceived as forming an immaterial entity distinguished from but temporarily coexistent with his body”. That was Fred. He expressed thought and learning ability in many ways, took action based on that thought and freely expressed his emotional state whether it was pleasure, anger, indifference or empathy. Many other animal behavior stories support this.

  4. Judith Laik June 8, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    I know people who’ve had experiences that suggest they’ve lived other lives as animals. That would seem to argue for a soul, if you can accept their experiences as real.

    Probably the definitive answer will have to wait until the questioner passes over to the other side. But demonstrably, animals experience love, loyalty, altruism, and extrasensory perception that puts them on a par with humans (often, above humans!) Why wouldn’t they have souls?

    I just know that when I look into an animals eyes, I see a soul in there.

  5. Marie Grime June 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    I choose to believe that the soul leaves the body upon death and hovers thereafter around those people and pets the soul’s owner loved — loving them, looking out for them, mentally guiding them through their life.

    I got this from a book Dr. Bloom once recommended to me. Don’t recall the name, although I think it had the word “Celestial” in the title. I recall the author’s name as something like Redfern. It was about a young man’s quest through South America to try to find out why a whole tribe of natives just vanished into thin air. He found out about souls in general on the way.

    I am not a religious person for all that my mother had been a nun, but I guess I am spiritual.

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