Q. Where does the soul reside? Is it an actual ‘thing’ inside a person or is it more like a spiritual analogy but not actually anything?
A. There is no doubt that of all things which exist, the soul of natural beings is the most real of all. To answer this question, we must delve into a bit of philosophy. The best way to understand the soul in living things is by looking at the sorts of things that living beings create. There are four components or ’causes’ to all objects: matter, intention, efficiency and form. Using a chair as an example: matter = wood; intention = something to be sat upon; efficiency = the builder who fashioned it for the sake of being sat upon; form = ‘chairness’ – that concept which was applied to the wood by the builder in order to make it suitable for sitting. With this example, what formal cause is shown to be for the chair, a soul is for any living body – it’s what makes that body distinct.
The soul is the essence of a living being – that which makes something essentially what it is. The form of a chair is easy for us to conceive in our mind, in that, if someone were to ask us to describe or draw a chair, we could. However, if that same person asked us to point out in the chair what made that possible, it would be impossible. In the same way, the body manifests what the soul is making possible. Therefore, a soul is not like an organ or chemical composition in our bodies that we could show on an x-ray or remove with surgery; it is that element which sustains a body’s existence, making it what it is perceived to be. In that sense, the soul is certainly ‘within’, just not within in the same way that any object inside of our bodies is within. Rather, the soul is immaterial.