"Soul" Vs. "Spirit"


What, really, is the difference?

Is it true that the Church teaches all things (or at least all living things) posess a spirit (anima, or an animating principle) while only humans posess a soul made in the image and likeness of the Divine?


As I understand it, a soul animates a body, making it a living body. Plants have plant souls. Animals have animal souls. Human beings have human souls.

A spirit possesses an intellect and will; it is capable of knowing and loving. God is a spirit. Angels are spirits. The human soul is a spirit.


Hi Al,

The Church does not teach anything about animals and plants.

As for the human soul, it teaches that it is spiritual, survives us after our death and will be reunited to a glorified body at the end of the world.

Anything else is philosophical speculation that you may or may not agree with. Scholastic philosophy holds that animals and plants have a material “soul”, a unifying principle that enables the plant or animal to function as one being. It dissolves with the death of the individual.



You might want to check out *Theology For Beginners *by Frank Sheed for an explanation of soul and spirit..

Mr Sheed was a Thomist and so I guess that his explanation was a simplification of what the Angelic Doctor had to say about this matter.


All creatures have “breath” or life.

In Man, whom was created in God’s image, soul and spirit are very closely related, in fact I think one is likely part of the other.


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