The soul in Western and Eastern philosophy has diverse connotations in terms of its relationship with our conscious mind, mind-body and body-mind intelligence.
For the philosopher Socrates the précis of reason emerged from the soul. The soul, he believed, is more than a dynamic, ethereal field of the body, not just the psyche. Socrates also thought that the soul mirrored our true self, endowed as it is with instinctual awareness to make certain distinctions, for example, between good and evil and vice versa. The purpose of life, therefore, as he asserted, was to shape our intangible, yet distinctive, soul through knowledge, understanding and self-knowledge, including receptiveness for and of oneself and others around.
For Plato, the physical, yet mindful body echoed our frontiers with the inhabitant soul. He believed that the attainment of knowledge was conveyed to the psyche through the process of our perceptive, sentient soul. Plato suggested that it was the reasoning power of our soul that propelled us, including our essential understanding of our true purpose of life and the world as one integrated whole.
Plato also argued that it’s our body and our senses that provide us with our appearance. They are, however, not just mirror images of our “bespoke” or individualised persona, but also a part of our small, yet fully interconnected world.
This translates to our soul being a distinct entity, bequeathed with inherent wisdom and not just knowledge — a natural endowment providing us with the key to unlock and recover anything through the power of reason.
The whole idea also underlines the fact that our soul is a distinct, yet not fully palpable, form of being, blessed with the natural ability to make our body move and act, or vice versa. You’d call the soul “the fount of conscious awareness” and understanding too — primarily because Plato believed our body intelligence drives our soul, while shaping our thoughts, beliefs and convictions through our sensory and nervous processes. In Indian philosophy, the soul is, in like manner, a discrete entity. It is called “jiva” or “atma.” It endures from life to life; in other words, through reincarnation. It is found in all living beings and governed by “karma”, or the totality of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence. This is viewed as deciding their fate in future lives too. Yet, the interesting part is our old philosophies challenge us as to how our conscious mindful soul interacts with our brain. This bids fair to the essential principles of mind-body medicine that relate dexterously to our brain as a conscious system. It is this reality that establishes the pristine role of our conscious awareness in the working of our mind, body and soul.