And in coming to terms with the reality or nature of a largely unexplainable and mysterious psyche which is at the heart of present-day social science, in turn, one must define the word psyche, which basically translates from its Greek etymology and roots to the word “soul.” Hence, our engagement with the concept or idea of the psyche is essentially an engagement with the concept, idea, and reality of the soul.
Plato considered the soul to be the essence of the individual, and in turn, this essence was irreducible to anything else. In other words, this essence could not be broken down or fragmented into any other element or substance. Eastern intellectual and spiritual traditions also consider the individual soul to be part of a “universal soul” or Atma in Hindu terminology, and in Jewish and Islamic philosophy this ‘universal soul’ is known as Metatron.
Descartes argued that the “shortcomings” of the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome were most apparent when it came to what they left for their intellectual posterity in terms of the concept, idea, or reality of the soul. Nevertheless, Aristotle considered the soul to be “the first grade of actuality” in a body that has potential for life. Hence, it is the soul which is actual, whereas the body is mere potential. In turn, it is the essence as the basic building block of the soul which is actual, whereas the body is mere potential. As a result, Aristotle defined the soul as the “substance” which “corresponds to the definitive formula of a thing’s essence.”
J.M.E. McTaggart argued that as a result of the fact that the soul and spirit “can have parts within parts to infinity” which in a sense relates to ancient notions of a soul that is broader than the individual soul, it follows that “there is not the same ground for rejecting the existence of spirit that there is for rejecting the existence of matter and sensa” and in turn “no substances exist which are not spiritual.” While perceptions and senses can be “illusory” to borrow from McTaggart, there is nothing illusory about the concept or idea that something has to animate a body or matter that can essentially be without life.
And while the acknowledgement of the soul may seem like a trivial issue, it is actually far from trivial, and in fact, the issue of acknowledging the soul is central to all economic, political, and social affairs of our day and age. Nietzsche put it all into perspective when he wrote: “All the problems of politics, of social organization, and of education have been falsified through and through because one mistook the most harmful men for great men – because one learned to despise ‘little things’, which means the basic concerns of life itself.” Hence, the denial and neglect of the soul on the part of modern man, simply because it cannot be seen or touched, has led to the falsification and delegitimization of virtually everything regarding economic, political, and social life that we can imagine.
Arguably, the soul is divided into three parts based on the teachings of the Ancient Greeks. For one, there is desire. Second, there is reason and intellect, both of which can be reduced to experience and the phenomenological nature of man’s intellect. And third, there is “judgments of worth” or Thymos. As a result, society cannot function or operate properly unless the three basic components of the soul are recognized and understood by society as a whole. But the question is, why does the mainstream in our society not recognize the reality of the soul? The answer, it appears, is a senseless arrogance, or egocentricity and egoism.
As Frithjof Schuon wrote: “The ‘I’ is an ephemeral collection of sensations: hence the apparent denial of the ‘soul’ which results from the same outlook as does the apparent negation of ‘God.’” Schuon added: “Only when the abstract container, which is the ego, becomes in its turn an empirical content does the metaphysical outlook intervene, which excludes a fortiori all egocentricity.” And with the extinction of egocentricity comes the end of desire and suffering, given that the soul is fully comprehended, understood, and recognized by society and as a result, God is also recognized.