The difference between the soul and the spirit has a lot to do with “whose” soul and “what” spirit we are actually talking about.
Most people refer to the soul and the spirit as being connected to specific people and each of us is often said to have a “soul” or a “spirit” which will live on after our physical body dies.
This is usually enough to satisfy those of us with a passing interest in the subject and little more is ever required on the topic after that.
Soul and spirit is often used interchangeable but the two are not the same. It is important to understand one central fact in the human condition:
- We are all IN this world but we are not FROM this world.
- We are all spiritual beings having a human experience.
- We are not human being having the occasional spiritual experience.
- Death is not some terrible event to fear. Death is simply a returning to spirit; a returning to where we came from. Where else can you go?
The Difference Between a Person’s Soul and Spirit
If we are talking about a particular person’s “soul” or their “spirit”, we can say that there is a difference between these two things.
Still, if we found ourselves at the ‘gates of heaven’ and the question was posed to us “Choose your soul or your spirit”, which would we choose?
In a case similar to this one, we can begin to make sense out of the difference between a person’s soul and their spirit. The essential difference which gives meaning to these terms can also help us to understand ourselves more readily.
Typically, the idea of a soul is something which is more closely associated with a person’s physical body. This is the main essence of what sets these two terms apart.
Although the spirit is also associated with the body, the association is not a “necessary” association as it is with the soul.
The “soul” of the Buddha, for example, can be said to be associated with the physical man Siddhartha Gautama Buddha who was born in Nepal several centuries before Jesus and who was raised by his father and his mother’s sister.
He lived and breathed and ate a lot of food and he was a great teacher for many decades.
If the “soul” of the Buddha were not associated with that physical body that we know from history, then we would not be able to say it was the “Buddha’s soul” at all.
We would need to connect it to that physical body in order to be appropriately talking about his “soul”. If we weren’t speaking of his body, then we might say it was someone else’s soul or we might say that it was the Buddha’s “spirit”.
Now we can see where the difference between “soul” and “spirit” starts to become apparent. There are many things about the “Buddha” which really have nothing to do with the physical body of the man who lived in Nepal.
What is meant when we talk about these other attributes is that they are part of the Buddha’s “spirit” which lives on today even after all the qualities of his body and discussions about his physical history have ended.
You don’t have a soul.
You are a soul.
You have a mind.
You have a body.
But that is not what you are.
If the discussion isn’t associated with a physical body, then we can’t really say that it is a “soul” discussion.
Instead, we can say it is someone’s “spirit” we are discussing because we begin to discuss the term in ways that are no longer associated with the physical body.
In typical discussions about the soul, people often talk about individual lives and the emotions which that person struggled with or is struggling with in their own spiritual quest for happiness.
The soul is said to live on after physical death but it may continue to struggle even after the physical body is gone.
The spirit, however, does not usually find itself in the discussion of “emotional struggle” so much as it does in the discussion of “intentions” and “activations” and “influencing” of people and things.
The spirit can be discussed in terms which go beyond the body even more so than the soul.
The soul is that eternal part which you are. It remains unchanged throughout eternity.
Spirit is that non-physical part of yourself that connect you to your soul.
Although the spirit of a person is with them when they are physically alive and the soul is also there, it is the spirit which activates both of these and which goes beyond the soul in many instances.
Everything which has a soul also has a spirit, but everything that has a spirit does not always have a soul. This is the essential difference between these two terms.
In summary, we can now say what our answer would be at metaphorical ‘heaven’s gate’ when we were asked to choose between our soul and our spirit?
First we might ask a little question of our own; “Who’s asking me this?”
Then if we found that the person who was asking us was a trusted guide such as Jesus or Buddha or St. Peter, we could confidently choose the “spirit” because it is the spirit which gives life to the soul and which gives life to all things even after their physical form has changed.
It is in the “spirit” of Heaven that this question would have been posed and giving up our “soul” in order to get into Heaven would surely be the best choice if such a question were ever asked.
Goodbye to the soul and hello to the spirit as we move into a new phase of our spiritual growth! Amen.