Spirit

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For other uses, see Spirit (disambiguation).
Theodor von Holst, Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits, c.1830

The English word spirit (from Latin spiritus "breath") has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body. The word spirit is often used metaphysically to refer to the consciousness or personality. The notions of a person's spirit and soul often also overlap, as both contrast with body and both are understood as surviving the bodily death in religion and occultism,[1] and "spirit" can also have the sense of "ghost", i.e. a manifestation of the spirit of a deceased person.

The term may also refer to any incorporeal or immaterial being, such as demons or deities. In the Bible "the Spirit" (with a capital "S") specifically denotes the Holy Spirit.

Etymology[edit]

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- [2]). In Greek, this distinction exists between pneuma (πνεῦμα), "breath, motile air, spirit," and psykhē (ψυχή), "soul"[3] (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", "soul"[4]).

The word "spirit" came into Middle English via Old French. The distinction between soul and spirit also developed in the Abrahamic religions: Arabic nafs (نفس) opposite rúħ (روح); Hebrew neshama (נְשָׁמָה nəšâmâh) or nephesh (in Hebrew neshama comes from the root NŠM or "breath") opposite ruach (רוּחַ rûaħ). (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 נֶ֫פֶשׁ (root נפשׁ) and רוּחַ (root רוח), as well as cognate words in various Semitic languages, including Arabic, also preserve meanings involving misc. air phenomena: "breath", "wind", and even "odour".[5][6][7])

Metaphysical and metaphorical uses[edit]

English-speakers use the word "spirit" in two related contexts, one metaphysical and the other metaphorical.

Metaphysical contexts[edit]

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

Metaphorical usage[edit]

Metaphorical use of the term "spirit" likewise groups several related meanings:

See soul and ghost and spiritual for related discussions.

Related concepts in other languages[edit]

Similar concepts in other languages include Greek pneuma and Sanskrit akasha/atman[3] (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" (רוח; "wind") as "the spirit", whose essence is divine[12] (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 languages, Baltic languages, Slavic languages and the Chinese language (qi) use the words for "breath" to express concepts similar to "the spirit".[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ OED "spirit 2.a.: The soul of a person, as commended to God, or passing out of the body, in the moment of death."
  2. ^ 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. (NB: Watkins uses ə1, ə2, ə3 as fully equivalent variants for h1, h2, h3, respectively, for the notation of Proto-Indo-European laryngeal segments.)
  3. ^ a b c François 2008, p.187-197.
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.)
  7. ^ 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 editions.)
  8. ^ http://www.patheos.com/Library/Mormonism/Beliefs/Human-Nature-and-the-Purpose-of-Existence.html
  9. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 131:7
  10. ^ Kalchuri, Bhau: Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, Volume Eighteen, Manifestation, Inc., 1986, p. 5937.
  11. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker (1875). "Glossary" (TXT). Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. 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".
  12. ^ RUACH: Spirit or Wind or ??? at BiblicalHeritage.org

Further reading[edit]