Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take
A fetus does not have a soul.
“soul” is a word (a noun) that refers to an intangible, invisible, immaterial, ethereal, yet immortal essence; the prime mover of the living human body. The primary evidence for the existence of the soul is the dead body. The body is no longer self-motivated. Arguably, and in mathematical terms, a living human being minus the soul equals a dead body. Conversely, a dead human body plus a soul equals a living human being.
a living human being – soul = a dead human body
a dead human body + soul = a living human being
But the ego is not a soul. All living things have an ego, but not all living things can acquire a soul.
a living ape (Homo sapiens) – ego = a dead ape’s body
a dead ape’s body + ego = a living ape (Homo sapiens)
Opponents of abortion often argue that “human life begins at conception”; conception being that moment in time when the male gamete (Spermatozoon, or sperm) enters and joins the female gamete (Oocyte or egg) to form the single-cell zygote ( or fertilized egg). However, since both the sperm and the egg, even in their viral, gamete stage of development evince signs of life, i.e., motile ego and libido, seeking each other out; their life, such as it is, actually begins prior to conception.
An acorn is not an oak tree, but it is potentially an oak tree. The sperm and the egg are viruses, and taken in isolation, neither the sperm nor the egg is potentially an ape nor are they potentially human.
While the host-dependent zygote is potentially an animal, a great ape or homo sapiens, it is still not yet human.
A fetus does not have a soul.
Human life is a dichotomy of the physical and the spiritual. We are all born animals, only potentially human. We grow physically and evolve socially, acquiring as we go, new motives, complex skills, knowledge of relationships, and status symbols indicative of those relationships. But without the soul we are still motivated only by our basic animal instincts and ego/libido.
When the neonate draws its first breath it is a fully formed yet immature and dependent animal whose behavior is ruled strictly by its animal instincts; still not as yet human. Over the course of several years during its early stages of development this ape, this animal, this Homo sapiens, learns to use and respond to symbols; it learns symbolic vocalizations, gestures, signs, etc.; and may even learn the alphabet and how to count; but the understanding and manipulation of myriad symbols are used strictly in the cause and service of the basic animal’s ego and libido. They become a symbolic animal. Still not yet human.
Hidden beneath, encrusted in all the social status symbols and verbiage you are still just another ape.
At some point in their young lives some Homo sapiens receive the word. The word is soul. Prior to receiving the word their behavior, however complex and symbolic, is egocentric and still fully in the service of the animal.
The soul is divine. That which is divine pertains to God. Picture in your mind’s eye a vine dangling from a cloud in the sky down to the earth. The soul connects Heaven and Earth – it connects you and God.
Soul is a word comprised of the sound symbols S, O, U, and L. It is an idea; a concept; a noun and a label for something intangible, invisible and immaterial. One cannot capture a soul in a jar like a firefly (or Tinkerbell) or place it under a microscope to view it or place it on a scale to weigh it, although it’s been tried. Not to be confused with the ego that all plants and animals have, nor is it the will – an offshoot of personal taste and judgement; but something said to be immortal and divine.
The word, once received, modifies, motivates, ameliorates, and alters the behavior of what once was a purely symbolic animal. The word transforms an animal into a human.
One can condition an animal, a dog or a monkey, to do various tricks; but all within the parameters of its stimulus/response instincts. Animal behavior is highly predictable and manageable but the symbolic ape, once infected with the word, becomes, as it is now motivated by something intangible – unpredictable in its behavior.
A rough and ready definition of a boss as applied to mechanics is a fixed, static or stationary part or protuberance of a complex machine that limits, directs or redirects the motion of moving parts or objects around it. At some point in some people’s lives the soul, even the immortal soul, becomes a boss.
However immaterial, the word, the very concept, may become a propellant force. In consideration of the status of one’s immortal soul one is moved to take action of some sort or other. On the other hand, again in consideration of one’s soul, one is prevented from taking certain actions. If the soul sets one in motion it is a force. If the soul obstructs the direction or intent of the ape’s ego/libido it is an object.
A word that names or describes an otherwise immaterial concept enters the realm of Newtonian physics and acts either as a propellant force or barrier to the ape’s ego/libido motives; thus transforming it into a spiritual rather than purely symbolic animal. The ape becomes divine.
The word becomes real. The soul may well belong on the Periodic Table of The Elements as it sometimes acts as a material thing – a barrier. At other times the soul acts as a propellant force – interacting with the material world. The soul may well possess magnetic properties – attracted by good and repelled by evil. When the soul modifies or ameliorates the actions of a member of our species it is a material thing.
We are born one of the great apes; great in the denotation of large; not in the connotation of superior. We are the only species able to acquire a soul. We are born animals and only some of us acquire a soul and become human. Looking out upon a throng; let us say, a stadium filled with people; how many would you guess have souls and how many of them do not?
Driving a school bus, doing a weekend charter, I picked up a group of elderly Jews and drove them to to their synagogue. Having ears, I listened to their conversations. Having the usual aches and pains of the elderly, they went on and on about their latest illnesses, praising certain doctors, giving detailed accounts of their latest surgeries, and generally kvetching about this and that. On arrival at their destination, while the group vacated the bus, an old man put the frosting on the cake with an old Jewish adage:
“When you’ve got your health – You’ve got everything.”
I thought to myself: “That is essentially wrong. Health is a temporary thing.” You can be sickly; you can be (like my other clients) severely handicapped; you can be on your Death Bed – yet still have your immortal soul. While you may gather to yourself property and riches and all manner of material things, those are all eventually taken away. You may be one of those lucky few who enjoy good health and vitality throughout the whole of your life, but eventually even your health goes away and you die. Of dust thou art and to dust thou shall return. Everything in this material world is taken from you – even your body. So, what then is left?
I argue that your immortal soul is a real and material thing. It is as solid as a stone wall and has the attributes of a propellant and repellent force and magnetic, and when you lose your wealth – when you lose your health – when you lose your body – you still have your soul. Your soul is the only real and lasting thing you’ve ever really had.
Jews in general are materialists and this old man in particular gives no consideration, as a Christian or Muslim would, to the spiritually divine and immortal soul. The only thing a man has of any real and lasting value. Mortal life without an immortal soul is zero sum.
We all start out as animals. If we acquire a soul we become human. We all start out as materialists. Some of us acquire a soul and become spiritual beings.
A fetus does not have a soul.