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The Soul Cluster: Reconsideration of a Millennia Old Concept (cont.)
By Ede Frecska, Levente Móró and Hank Wesselman

The soul in Archaic Greece

The Judeo-Christian-Islamic worldview is monistic with all three of these Abrahamic religions allowing for only one soul per human body. The Trinity applies only to God, but not to man. However, centuries before there were many discussions of the pluralistic concept of the human soul. In the early Greco-Roman period, the mind-body problem was complex: On the one hand, there was the psyche (Greek), or anima or genius (both Latin), an unencumbered soul that survives death. The Greek concept of the psyche is confusing to Western investigators. While on the one hand, it can closely correspond with Arbman’s free soul, some regard the psyche as passive while the body is alive. Its presence is the precondition for the continuation of life, yes, but – following the Greek tradition – Western scholars hold that it has no connections with the physical or psychological characteristics of the individual. In other words, it doesn’t carry over one’s personal identity or memories after death but instead enters the Underworld as a shadow of the living person.

On the other hand, there was the Greek concept of the thymos, or animus or fumus (both Latin), which is the seat of personal identity and personal memories, but which dies with the physical body. It is this soul part that is the seat of emotions. Unlike psyche, thymos was believed to be active only when the body is awake. Thirdly, noos was a soul form representing the intellect, and generating the willful actions of the person. There also was a soul component called menos, which can be described as a momentary impulse of combined mental and physical agencies directed toward a specific act. It was said to be able to manifest itself in a berserk-like fury. After the Archaic Age (800–500 BCE), there was a gradual incorporation of thymos and the noos into the psyche, which made the latter the center of the self—the organ of both thought and emotion. Accordingly, Plato goes as far as to include all intellectual functions (originally belonging to the noos) into the psyche.

The resemblance of the Archaic Greek soul belief to that of most indigenous peoples (to be discussed) strongly suggests that it belongs to a type of tribal society consciousness in which the individual is not yet in the center of focus (Bremmer, 1983). It may also reflect the effect of a tradition based less on philosophical speculation but rather more on the direct experience of which shamans and tribal healers were masters. Hultkrantz (1953) cites Edward Tylor, the 19th century scholar of comparative religion who observed that the belief in a personal supernatural aspect or soul formed the original foundation for religious awareness: “The material shows that the greatest importance should be ascribed to such experiences and observations for the development of the ideas of the soul.” Apparently, this direct-intuitive approach, “the second foundation of knowledge” (Strassman, Wojtowicz-Praga, Luna, & Frecska, 2007) is the source that was suppressed with the unfolding of Western civilization, dominated by Judeo-Christian overlay.

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