In 1907, Dr. Duncan MacDougall set out to find out how much the human soul weighs. He placed 6 terminally ill patients on specially designed beds with a scale and weighed them as they took their final breaths. He claimed each body lost 21 grams – the weight of 5 nickels or a hummingbird – when the heart stopped beating. 21 grams: the weight of the soul. His theory has since been debunked. You can read more about his experiment here at A Soul’s Weight.
MacDougall’s experiment is just one of the countless ways in which people have tried to answer the questions we have about what a soul is (and whether we have one at all), how our souls shape who we are, our life purpose and the way we live our lives.
The dictionary defines a soul as the immaterial part of a person; the cause of an individual life. In some religions and spiritual philosophies, the soul is thought to be separable from the body. Others believe there is no soul at all.
C.S. Lewis once said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
I’m no C.S. Lewis, but I believe the soul exists long before and after our physical bodies we’re living in. So our soul is just as much –more – of a part of who we are as a person as our physical bodies. It is in our souls that we carry our inner sense of knowing, share our connectedness with every other living being. It is the place within us where we are all-knowing, intuitive, loving and kind.
Hindus believe that the soul is immortal and only the body is subject to birth and death. Hinduism teaches that the soul goes on repeatedly being born and dying; that we are reborn in many physical bodies to embark on a soul journey in order to enjoy worldly pleasures and learn karmic lessons.
Whether we realize it or not, each of us is on a soul journey. I was looking at pictures of a good friend’s newborn baby girl – born just 3 days ago – and was marveling over the journey this little soul has gone on in order to even get here. She’s a brand new baby but has wise, knowing eyes. We don’t just start off as blank slates but…
Who are we? Random creations of the unpredictable workings of quantum physics? Or are we miraculous creations born with meaning and purpose? Is there some mysterious, living intelligence that pervades the entire universe? Or is consciousness just the byproduct of activity in our brains? What do you think?
Stay tuned for parts 2-5 of the Soul Series over the next couple of weeks.
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