The shift of consciousness we’ve been seeing sweep around the world has renewed our interest in the concept of a “soul”. What does being human mean in a world that turns, more and more, toward technology? With the surge in popularity of everything from Yoga to Astrology, it’s important to remember fascination with the soul goes back millennia, as do attempts to confirm its existence.
Here are just three historical examples of the human quest for soul:
Ka, and its confines:
It’s no secret the Ancient Egyptians turned fascination with the soul and life after death into an art form. Ancient Egyptians believed death divided beings into three different parts: Ka, Ba, and Akh. The Ba was mobile, and appeared in the form of a bird, the Akh was probably most similar to modern concepts of the soul, and moved freely in the afterworld. Perhaps most intriguing, though, the Ka was believed to be required to stay near the body, specifically contained within an image of the deceased (either a statue or a painting). Such objects have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back more than 4,000 years.
Percipients and Apparents:
Mentions of this phenomena go back ages in mythology and folklore, but there seem to be a particular rash of these spooky occurrences recorded during the Victorian era (no great shock, given the fad for seances and spiritualism). Sometimes referred to as “crisis apparitions”, these happened when someone (the percipient) saw a vision of a loved one (the apparent) in dire straits, even while the loved one was, in fact, far away. Sometimes apparents appeared at the moment of the loved one’s death, and sometimes they provided enough info to save the apparent from an illness or accident. Either way, the accounts are at once spine-tingling, and strangely life-affirming: it’s comforting to think our souls can reach out to those we love, even in our darkest moments.
The 21 Grams Experiment:
A controversial study published in 1907, Doctor Duncan MacDougall hypothesized that the human soul had a measurable weight, and set out to prove it. Experimenting on six patients on the verge of death, MacDougall weighed both bed and patient before and after the patient’s last breath. The doctor concluded that bodies lost weight after their passing, with one particular subject’s loss being the most obvious: 21.3 grams. Not very science-y, maybe, but a fascinating thought!
The attempts to define and measure the soul seem endless. It may be that our very preoccupation with quantifying soul proves there’s a part of us beyond physical or scientific definition, hungering for respect and recognition. What about you? Have you experienced any phenomena that proved the existence of the soul?