The Human Soul and Life after Death

Jeremiah Bartlett

Among the myriad creatures that inhabit the earth, human beings are, according to prevailing religious opinion, unique for one special reason: they have been endowed by their creator with a soul, an immanent part of human reality that cannot be seen—or, indeed, verified—in any way apart from those same doctrinal precepts that have ordained and assured its existence. As souls are spiritual, not material, they are implicitly above and beyond any measurable or verifiable proof, and their reality thus becomes a matter of faith and belief.

Taking seers and theologians at their word, reason dictates that if one human being has a soul, every human being must therefore have a soul. Further, if the soul is inseparably bound to the human essence from conception, it must exist not only in those who are born but in those waiting to be born; the alternative would be for the soul to somehow become a part of every human being’s anima at birth. In either case, those who believe in the existence of the soul would presumably agree that every human being who has ever been born, without exception, has a soul and that the soul is immortal, destined to live forever in a spiritual realm beyond the earthly plane that enfolds the sum and substance of corporeal life.

This leads to an interesting and inescapable premise: namely that if every human being has a soul, such a reality must encompass those humans who first evolved from lower life-forms and indeed their precursors as well, as the human species, we are assured by doctrinal precept, has always been unlike and apart from every other creature not similarly endowed. Humans, therefore, must have had souls long before they were able to stand erect and be perceived as human, and those souls continue to exist, as do the souls of the most learned and perceptive humans who have ever lived. To put it another way, as Einstein, Freud, Aristotle, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln had souls, so too did Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, Caligula, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy, and their souls continue to exist in some spiritual realm above and apart from material existence.

Whether those souls are being “rewarded” or “punished” for what they did or did not do while on earth is a matter for theological debate. But if one believes that human beings have souls, the logical conclusion must be that there are no exceptions. In an afterlife, every human soul would continue to exist, from even before three-million-year-old Lucy, who could do little more than stand erect, to the most enlightened beings who ever lived and everyone in between, whether or not they were blessed with more than a primordial intellect—or any intellect at all—while on earth.

In other words, every soul would be there, not only those of your friends, family, and acquaintances but of everyone who was ever born, and unless there is some universal language of the soul, individual souls would be able to interact (if even that were possible) with only a handful, namely those who spoke their language (or languages) and had lived in roughly the same time period as their own earthly existence. All other souls (in other words, the vast majority) would be beyond their intellectual and/or linguistic reach, and even if by some chance they weren’t, their respective life experiences would ensure your soul and theirs had almost nothing in common beyond your shared humanity.

Given those circumstances, the life of the soul could be a lonely one indeed. If, however, there were some way around that—a very big if—souls could conceivably evolve and flourish, as promised in the texts of most of the world’s contemporary religions. As many human souls—perhaps even most of them—would have little or no comprehension, let alone any awareness of religion as we know it, the possibility of any meaningful intercourse with them seems unlikely at best. If human beings do indeed have souls, a supposition that remains unproven, they would more than likely be forevermore disengaged, at least intellectually and emotionally, from most others, which leaves open to question the express purpose of an afterlife. Believers are counseled that it is to move the soul by some means closer to its creator, which for them is reason enough. All else is equivocal and beyond human comprehension.

Jeremiah Bartlett

Contributing writer


Among the myriad creatures that inhabit the earth, human beings are, according to prevailing religious opinion, unique for one special reason: they have been endowed by their creator with a soul, an immanent part of human reality that cannot be seen—or, indeed, verified—in any way apart from those same doctrinal precepts that have ordained and …

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