ANIMAL SOULS/ ANIMAL SPIRITS/ HUMAN SOULS
by Norman W Wilson, PhD
Many people who have pets, without a doubt, believe them to be an integral part of the family circle and grieve for them when they die. Furthermore, many believe their beloved pets have souls. The question is not new. Mankind has wondered about animal souls throughout the ages.
Omnipresent as they are, animals have served mankind for eons. Horses have helped the farmer plow his fields, herd cattle, and provide transportation. Dogs have helped man hunt for food, protect, and guard the family. They have helped blind people cross the street and in today’s world, they function as ‘service’ animals for many people inflicted with various illnesses. I can’t imagine anyone ever denying the value animal life has rendered to humankind.
Do these animals have souls? The question nags. Many believe they do. If animals do have souls, do those souls differ from those of mankind? Will they join their humans in an afterlife? Theologians, on the other hand, take a different stance. They give a resounding and unequivocal no to the question of animals having a soul—an immortal soul. However, few would deny animals have nephesh, the breath of life.
The word soul comes to us from many different words. For example, it is derived from the Old English sáwol, sáwel. From the Greek we get psyche meaning life, spirit, or consciousness. In the Old and New Testaments, we find the word soul is used in several different ways. Frequently, soul is used as a synonym for a living human being. Moses tells us that “All the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls.” Then in Genesis 49.6, Jacob says, “Oh my soul” which simply meant the word “me” as he referred to himself.
The word soul is used to describe the physical form of life, that life force which ceases to exist upon death and is referenced to both human beings as well as other animals. Native Americans as well as others believe all things are alive and possess a spirit. Soul is also used to identify that which is immortal and thus never dies.
If one accepts the definition of soul to mean life force, can one say animals have a soul. Then again, there are those who would argue that man has not proven he, himself, has a soul.
Norman W. Wilson holds four earned college degrees. His doctorate is in the humanities. He is Professor Emeritus at Polk State College, Winter Haven, Florida. His professional writings include numerous articles and several textbooks in the fields of education, literature, and the humanities, and currently has over 250 articles published on the internet. Dr. Wilson is a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books.
Among his fiction works are The Shaman’s Quest, The Shaman’s Transformation, and The Shaman’s War (not yet released). His non-fiction books include: Shamanism What It’s All About, DUH! The American Educational Disaster, and So You THINK You Want To Be A Buddhist.
He is listed on Face Book, My Space, Twitter, Google+, and maintains his own website and domain at http://www.shamanicmysteries.com
References of Interest:
Gershom, Yonassan, Do Animals Have Souls? Part I & II, 2011
Gregory Koukl, “Do Animals Have Souls?” Stand To Reason, 1994
Dr. Bert Thompson, “Do Animals Have Souls?” Apologetics Press, 1999
Jack Zavada, “Will We See Our Pets in Heaven?” About.Com, (date unknown)