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13/04/2018 Spirit - Wikipedia

A spirit is a supernatural being, often but not exclusively a non-physical entity;
such as a ghost, fairy, or angel.[1] The concepts of a person's spirit and soul, often
also overlap, as both are either contrasted with or given ontological priority over the
body and both are believed to survive bodily death in some religions,[2] and "spirit"
can also have the sense of "ghost", i.e. a manifestation of the spirit of a deceased
person. In English Bibles, "the Spirit" (with a capital "S"), specifically denotes the
Holy Spirit.

Spirit is often used metaphysically to refer to the consciousness or personality.

Historically, it was also used to refer to a "subtle" as opposed to "gross" material

substance, as in the famous last paragraph of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia

Theodor von Holst,

Bertalda, Assailed by
Contents Spirits, c. 1830

Spiritual and metaphysical usage
Related concepts
See also
Further reading
External links

The English word "spirit" comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning "breath", but also "spirit, soul, courage, vigor",
ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European *(s)peis. It is distinguished from Latin anima, "soul" (which nonetheless also
derives from an Indo-European root meaning "to breathe", earliest form *h2enh1­).[4] In Greek, this distinction exists
between pneuma (πνεῦμα), "breath, motile air, spirit," and psykhē (ψυχή), "soul"[1] (even though the latter term, ψῡχή
= psykhē/psūkhē, is also from an Indo-European root meaning "to breathe": *bhes­, zero grade *bhs­ devoicing in
proto-Greek to *phs­, resulting in historical-period Greek ps­ in psūkhein, "to breathe", whence psūkhē, "spirit",

The word "spirit" came into Middle English via Old French. The distinction between soul and spirit also developed in
the Abrahamic religions: Arabic nafs ( ָ ְ‫ נ‬nəšâmâh) or nephesh ‫ ֶ֫נפֶשׁ‬nép̄eš
) opposite rūħ (‫ ;)روح‬Hebrew neshama (‫שׁמָה‬
(in Hebrew neshama comes from the root NŠM or "breath") opposite ruach (‫ רוּ ַח‬rúaħ). (Note, however, that in Semitic
just as in Indo-European, this dichotomy has not always been as neat historically as it has come to be taken over a long
period of development: Both ‫( ֶ֫נפֶשׁ‬root ‫ )נפשׁ‬and ‫( רוּ ַח‬root ‫)רוח‬, as well as cognate words in various Semitic languages,
including Arabic, also preserve meanings involving misc. air phenomena: "breath", "wind", and even "odour").[6][7][8]

Spiritual and metaphysical usage 1/4
13/04/2018 Spirit - Wikipedia

In spiritual and metaphysical terms, "spirit" has acquired a number of meanings:

An incorporeal but ubiquitous, non-quantifiable substance or energy present individually in all living things. Unlike
the concept of souls (often regarded as eternal and sometimes believed to pre-exist the body) a spirit develops
and grows as an integral aspect of a living being.[9]
A daemon, sprite, or ghost. People usually conceive of a ghost as a wandering spirit from a being no longer living,
having survived the death of the body yet maintaining at least vestiges of mind and consciousness.
In religion and spirituality, the respiration of a human has for obvious reasons become seen as strongly linked with
the very occurrence of life. Spirit, in this sense, means the thing that separates a living body from a corpse—and
usually implies intelligence, consciousness, and sentience.
Latter-day Saint prophet Joseph Smith Jr. taught that the concept of spirit as incorporeal or without substance was
incorrect: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only
be discerned by purer eyes."[10]
Various forms of animism, such as Japan's Shinto and African traditional religion, focus on invisible beings that
represent or connect with plants, animals, or landforms (kami): translators usually employ the English word "spirit"
when trying to express the idea of such entities.
Individual spirits envisaged as interconnected with all other spirits and with "The Spirit" at 300am (singular and
capitalized). This concept relates to theories of a unified spirituality, to universal consciousness and to some
concepts of Deity. In this scenario all separate "spirits", when connected, form a greater unity, the Spirit, which has
an identity separate from its elements plus a consciousness and intellect greater than its elements; an ultimate,
unified, non-dual awareness or force of life combining or transcending all individual units of consciousness. The
experience of such a connection can become a primary basis for spiritual belief. The term spirit occurs in this
sense in (to name but a few) Anthroposophy, Aurobindo, A Course In Miracles, Hegel, Ken Wilber, and Meher
Baba (though in his teachings, "spirits" are only apparently separate from each other and from "The Spirit.")[11] In
this use, the term seems conceptually identical to Plotinus's "The One" and Friedrich Schelling's "Absolute".
Similarly, according to the panentheistic/pantheistic view, Spirit equates to essence that can manifest itself as
mind/soul through any level in pantheistic hierarchy/holarchy, such as through a mind/soul of a single cell (with
very primitive, elemental consciousness), or through a human or animal mind/soul (with consciousness on a level
of organic synergy of an individual human/animal), or through a (superior) mind/soul with synergetically extremely
complex/sophisticated consciousness of whole galaxies involving all sub-levels, all emanating (since the superior
mind/soul operates non-dimensionally, or trans-dimensionally) from the one Spirit.
Christian spiritual theology can use the term "Spirit" to describe God, or aspects of God — as in the "Holy Spirit",
referring to a Triune God (Trinity) (cf Gospel of Matthew 28:19).
Pneumatology is the study of spiritual beings and phenomena, especially the spiritual aspect of human beings and
the interactions between humans and God.
Christian Science uses "Spirit" as one of the seven synonyms for God, as in: "Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life;
Truth; Love"[12]
According to C. G. Jung (in a lecture delivered to the literary Society of Augsburg, October 20, 1926, on the theme
of “Nature and Spirit”):

The connection between spirit and life is one of those problems involving factors of such complexity that
we have to be on our guard lest we ourselves get caught in the net of words in which we seek to ensnare
these great enigmas. For how can we bring into the orbit of our thought those limitless complexities of
life which we call "Spirit" or "Life" unless we clothe them in verbal concepts, themselves mere counters of
the intellect? The mistrust of verbal concepts, inconvenient as it is, nevertheless seems to me to be very
much in place in speaking of fundamentals. "Spirit" and "Life" are familiar enough words to us, very old
acquaintances in fact, pawns that for thousands of years have been pushed back and forth on the
thinker's chessboard. The problem must have begun in the grey dawn of time, when someone made the
bewildering discovery that the living breath which left the body of the dying man in the last death-rattle
meant more than just air in motion. It can scarcely be an accident onomatopoeic words like ruach, ruch,
roho (Hebrew, Arabic, Swahili) mean ‘spirit’ no less clearly than the Greek πνεύμα and the Latin

Psychical research, "In all the publications of the Society for Psychical Research the term 'spirit' stands for the
personal stream of consciousness whatever else it may ultimately be proved to imply or require," wrote James H.
Hyslop, secretary-treasurer of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1919.[14]
In mysticism: existence in unity with Godhead. Soul may also equate with spirit, but the soul involves a certain
individual human consciousness, while spirit comes from beyond that. Compare the psychological teaching of Al-
Ghazali. 2/4
13/04/2018 Spirit - Wikipedia

Related concepts
Similar concepts in other languages include Greek pneuma and Sanskrit akasha/atman[1] (see also prana). Some
languages use a word for "spirit" often closely related (if not synonymous) to "mind". Examples include the German
Geist (related to the English word "ghost") or the French 'l'esprit'. English versions of the Bible most commonly
translate the Hebrew word "ruach" (‫" ;רוח‬wind") as "the spirit", whose essence is divine[15] (see Holy Spirit and ruach
hakodesh). Alternatively, Hebrew texts commonly use the word nephesh. Kabbalists regard nephesh as one of the five
parts of the Jewish soul, where nephesh (animal) refers to the physical being and its animal instincts. Similarly,
Scandinavian, Baltic, and Slavic languages, as well as Chinese (气 qi), use the words for "breath" to express concepts
similar to "the spirit".[1]

See also
Great Spirit or Wakan Tanka is a term for the Supreme Being.
Philosophy of religion
Soul dualism
Spirit world

1. François 2009, p.187-197.
2. OED "spirit 2.a.: The soul of a person, as commended to God, or passing out of the body, in the moment of
3. Burtt, Edwin A. (2003). Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science. Mineola, New York: Dover
Publications, Inc. p. 275.
4. anə-, from *ə2enə1-. Watkins, Calvert. 2000. The American Heritage® Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, second
edition. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., p.4. Also available online (
p:// (NB: Watkins uses ə1, ə2, ə3 as fully equivalent variants for h1, h2, h3,
respectively, for the notation of Proto-Indo-European laryngeal segments.)
5. bhes-2. Watkins, Calvert. 2000. The American Heritage® Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, second edition.
Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 2000, p.11. Also available online (
6. Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1999). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of
the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (711). Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill.
7. Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (2000). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon
(electronic ed.) (659). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems. (N.B. Corresponds closely to printed editions.)
8. Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (2000). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon
(electronic ed.) (924ff.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems. (N.B. Corresponds closely to printed
9. "Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence" (
10. Doctrine and Covenants 131:7 (
11. Kalchuri, Bhau: Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher (, Volume Eighteen, Manifestation, Inc.,
1986, p. 5937. 3/4
13/04/2018 Spirit - Wikipedia

12. Eddy, Mary Baker (1875). "Glossary" ( Science and Health With
Key to the Scriptures (TXT). p. 587. Retrieved 2009-03-11. "GOD. The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-
acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence."
— "Glossary" entry for "GOD".
13. Hull, R. F. C. (1960). The Collected Works of C. G. Jung Vol 8 Chapter "Spirit and Life". New York, New York:
Pantheon Books for Bollinger Series XX. pp. 319, 320.
14. Hyslop, James Hervey (1919). Contact With The Other World (First ed.). New York: The Century Co. p. 11.
15. Ruach: Spirit or Wind or ??? (
20Studies/ruach.htm) at

Further reading
François, Alexandre (2008), "Semantic maps and the typology of colexification: Intertwining polysemous networks
across languages", in Vanhove, Martine, From Polysemy to Semantic change: Towards a Typology of Lexical
Semantic Associations (
_typology_of_colexification_Intertwining_polysemous_networks_across_languages), Studies in Language
Companion Series, 106, Amsterdam, New York: Benjamins, pp. 163–215
Baba, Meher (1967). Discourses ( San Francisco: Sufism Reoriented.
ISBN 1-880619-09-1.

External links
The dictionary definition of spirit at Wiktionary
Quotations related to Spirit at Wikiquote

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