The Human Soul and The Floating Man

February 10, 2011 § 8 Comments

By: Tai Carmen

“For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” ~ Bhagavad Gita (2.20)

From the dawn of time people have speculated about the existence of the soul. In ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the soul was demonstrated by a bird with a human head, the Ba; the essence of the individual, post-corporeal form.

The word soul is derived from the Old English sáwol, the etymology of which is suspected to relate with the sea… Scholars speculate that the crossover from sea to soul comes from the early Germanic people’s belief that the souls of the dead existed at the bottom of the sea…a kind of mermaid afterlife.

Drawing on the works of his teacher Socrates, Plato considered the human soul to be the eternal essence of our temporary form. Plato believed that after each body died, the soul returned to subsequent bodies.

The 11th century Persian philosopher Avicenna devised The Floating Man thought experiment to demonstrate human self-awareness and the substantiality of the soul: he directed readers to imagine themselves suspended in mid air, isolated from all sensation. One would still have self-awareness in this scenario, he argues, and thus concludes that the idea of the soul is not logically dependent on any physical thing.

In 1907, the ambitious Dr. Duncan Macdougall undertook an experiment designed to prove the existence of the soul, weighing patients before and after death. His results (though never replicated, and held in debate due to their anecdotal nature,) indicated that moments after death the patient lost a relatively consistent amount of weight. From his research Dr. Macdougall concluded that generally the human soul weighs around 21 grams.

We are all in a way floating, suspended between belief and non-belief. Some of us may be further towards one end of the spectrum, but in the end, both uncertainty and hope are universal. Certainly there is more to us than meets the eye, each person, like a geode rock with a unique and unexpected inner world.

Existence is a thrilling mystery.

If the cosmos is any indicator, we should remain open minded: worlds beyond our imagination surely exist. And we are only able to see so much with the naked eye.

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§ 8 Responses to The Human Soul and The Floating Man

  • What is the differene between soul and spirit, I know they are different, but why do some people inter-connect them. Do we all have a spirit, as we do a soul? Do you think there are many spirit worlds? When our soul departs us, aren’t we still who we were?

    • taicarmen says:

      It’s a matter of language and subjective personal definition, but from what I’ve observed the trend seems to be to see the soul as the more personal essence of the person, while spirit implies a broader connection (the Holy Spirit of the Bible, The Great Spirit of tribal lure…) So it may be that soul is the substance and spirit, more the force which connects the soul to a greater source.

  • ali says:

    I think it have been always a mistake humans made to compare such things like brain and computer or god and creator together . They are not similiar . They have different natures . the way humans thinking is like this : because every affect needs a cause so there must be a god or because computer needs operator we need operator too !

  • Pat Holl says:

    Hello Tai, I’m looking for the artist who drew the floating man- can you please contact me? I have an author who would like to use it in his book- thanks!

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Hi Pat!

      The artist is Cameron Bennett. Most of the image credits not listed will appear if one hovers one’s mouse over the image. In this case, I do not have the original link, as I usually do, so I’m sorry that I can only provide you with the artist’s name, but I hope it can aid you in your quest!

      On on,

  • dannypb32 says:

    Great post and article thanks for sharing Tai.

    • Tai Woodville says:

      So glad you enjoyed it, DannyP! 🙂

      Thanks for letting me know. It’s always great to hear from readers.

      This was a fun article to research! I’d like to post a part two….! Consider subscribing (upper right hand corner of main page) to stay abreast with new articles on subjects like this.

      On on!


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