The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is the ethereal substance or the spirit particular to a unique living being. Such traditions often consider the soul both immortal and innately aware of its immortal nature, as well as the true basis for sentience in each living being.
The concept of the soul has strong links with notions of an afterlife, but opinions may vary wildly, even within a given religion, as to what happens to the soul after death. Many within these religions and philosophies see the soul as immaterial, while others consider it possibly material.
The term soul is used in two senses: it indicates the ego and the spirit-body. In ancient writings man is described as a triune being: body, soul and spirit. According to this the soul is just as much an envelope, animated by the spirit, as the physical body is an envelope for the soul. At death the soul withdraws and continues to function in the spiritual world. Astral body and soul are almost equivalent terms. Occult teachings, however, speak of five bodies of differing degrees of refinement which will be cast away in time just as the physical body is left behind.
Soul is derived from the Greek word "psuche" -- breath. This word has a variety of meanings, including: the seat of personality, the individual or person themselves, the immaterial component of a human, etc. Among Christians, dichotomists believe that a person is composed of a body and soul; trichotomists believe that a person consists of a body, soul, and spirit. Both argue their cases from biblical passages.
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