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 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.