Atheist ponderings on the soul
What is a soul?
psyche (n.) 1640s, “animating spirit,” from Latin psyche, from Greek psykhe “the soul, mind, spirit; breath; life, one’s life, the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body; understanding” (personified as Psykhe, the beloved of Eros), akin to psykhein “to blow, cool,” from PIE root *bhes- “to blow, to breathe” (source also of Sanskrit bhas-), “Probably imitative” [Watkins].
Also in ancient Greek, “departed soul, spirit, ghost,” and often represented symbolically as a butterfly or moth. The word had extensive sense development in Platonic philosophy and Jewish-influenced theological writing of St. Paul (compare spirit (n.)). Meaning “human soul” is from 1650s. In English, psychological sense “mind,” is attested by 1910. From here: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=psyche
The butterfly has long been a symbol to represent transformation.
Some have taken this in a physical form literally as we see the butterfly do.
Some transform their physical selves. (think Bruce Jenner).
In ancient Greek, and in religion since I believe the transformation was thought to mean from one life to the next. An after life, the spirit separate from the body.
But, I am here to give an explanation of the term soul to a lowly atheist.
An afterlife is not believed IN as it is not known, or believed to be knowable at this point. So, what could soul mean?
I like the symbol of butterfly connected with soul. Because it is hard to explain.
Some like to accuse atheist of being materialists, and seeing only the physical.
And while some may be, that certainly does not describe every atheist.
I like to think of soul as our rare ability to think, reason, feel, reflect, and transform. Not physically, not into another life, but in this very life.
We have discovered that self transformation IS possible. In fact it is one of the unique attributes of being human. The soul is the part of us that is capable of self transformation, in the here and now. Discovery of who we are, who we want to be, and becoming. Less or more.
Sometimes our transformation can be dark, less instead of more.
To quote The Mad Hatter: “You’re not the same as you were before. You were much more… “muchier.” You’ve lost your “muchness.”
Finding our soul, and our desire is being human.