Hey, if you think that the word "soul" has no real objective meaning, skip this one!
Likewise, if you think the "soul" is just a credit card where they rack up your sins, and check your status when you die, and nothing more, please do skip. But if you think that "soul" is an unfortunately fuzzy word which is misleading simple shorthand for something more complicated... that's fine. That's real.
Many blog posts ago, I argued that cats "really have souls," in a way that rocks and ice do not,
in a way more like humans. In a way, this makes sense, since the brains of all mammals are based on the same plan, but my views here are based more on personal experience than anything else.
Usually, when I talk to folks about this, I mention something which happened with "our" cat Husky (now long gone) years ago. When Luda and Chris were away on a trip, I made a very big bowl of miso soul for breakfast one day. (Fresh Hikari brand brown miso with bonito in it, plus powdered bonito, plus dried kelp, hard tofu and a can of clams). Since Husky was interested, I put a small bowl down for him, and he went wild with delight. Every day he was full of excitement.
But then when Luda returned, we started the same routine, with her sitting quietly, poker-faced
in her chair in the kitchen. She can make a pretty good poker face, but she hates that miso soup.
Instantly, Husky turned around from looking at the soup to look at her. No words or sounds exchanged, and not much body language... but then Husky turned and made a mournful puzzled face at the soup... and quietly walked away, radiating puzzlement why he ever thought it tasted good. He totally assimilated HER image of what miso soup tastes like.
Well, that's not why I believe cats have souls. It's just one nice little cameo.
I am writing now because Luda and I just had a very similar experience, but much more graphic,
with a deer in our backyard. It was a nice deer, but Luda does get very upset what the deer do to our flowers and herbs, both in front yard and in back. I was at the computer (like now!), and she said, upstairs, "Paul come here! Look at what this creature is doing!"... It was just standing there looking right at us, boldly, standing in the open next to a mulched garden box. "I threw a stone at it, and it went away, but came right back, and doesn't care at all what I say or do." And it smiled back at me, too, knowing I am not the kind of person who would hurt it; links to the forest and all that.
So I turned to Luda and said: "Maybe we should think of contacting Charlie (a neighbor who hunts).
Maybe if it were looking at Charlie, it would not be bold." As soon as I said (and loudly thought) that, the deer turned its head and looked straight at Charlie's house, to the place where Charlie probably WAS at that moment. It looked ever more worried. I quietly said towards Luda: "Yes, I did promise I would tell Charlie if a deer showed up, so maybe I should." Instantly it panicked, and ran away, exactly in a direction opposite to the direction to Charlie's house. It seems that this thought, expressed quite gently, was a lot more potent than a combination of heavy stones and loud threats.
But no, this was just entertainment and confirmation of what I have known for years.
I suppose I learned about dogs having souls long before cats or deer.
Back in 1971-1972, when I was starting work for my PhD thesis, I lived for a year "at home," because it was comfortable and I figured I could do thinking work better at home. I commuted about 50-50 between my father's house on Haws Lane in Flourtown (NW Philadelphia suburbs) where I grew up, and my mother's at Marple-Newtown. My mother had a superfriendly and sensitive Irish setter, "Ginger." One night, when I was thinking very hard and writing ideas in my notebook, sitting alone in the living room.. at about 2:30AM I felt a bit hungry, and wondered what to do.
I tried to imagine... and then an image of a nice slice of cheese came to mind. The instant when I thought of cheese, Ginger, sleeping upstairs, suddenly bolted up, ran down the stairs towards me,
and wagged her tail and smiled a certain kind of enthusiastic smile with some saliva... Would the thought of cheese wake the dead? Well, not them, but Ginger sure picked it up.
Prior to 1967, I was in the "Amazing Randi" camp, firmly disbelieving in anything "paranormal"
or "soul" like... until a severe experience forced me to become 50-50 open-minded.
(Details in my paper "WhySpace?" posted at www.werbos.com/space.htm, reprinted from a book edited by Krone.) In 1969-1972 I then had a series of several experiences which made me more convinced, and which made me pursue more actively the question: "How could this be happening? How does it work?" In my last two years living in a very nice Harvard graduate dorm (mid-1973 to mid-1975), while working on my PhD thesis and a full-time job, I also had a bed-time ritual of
listening to new age music, trying to raise some kind of energy, and experimenting a little.
Every night, when the inner switch seemed to come on... at that instant, dogs would start howling
all around. And some poltergeist effects would turn on (once causing amusing confusion and giggling in the room next to mine, as in her saying "you touched me there"... "no I didn't...").
Bit by bit, my routines changed. I had MUCH less time for such things starting in December 1978 when I joined the US government. But through the years, I converged to the biggest part of my present spiritual life, three states experienced in bed: (1) "cosmic consciousness," a fully conscious state; (2) "astral dreams," which I see as something similar to internet chat rooms but in the noosphere rather than the internet; and (3) "assumption dreams," where I get to experience what life feels like for SOMEONE ELSE. In Neural Networks, 2012, I described a version of assumption dreams perfectly EXPECTED in a mundane model consistent with "Amazing Randi," but frankly, I intend that as a kind of Trojan Horse, encouraging the kind of openness and memory which can help people learn from their own experience that life is stranger than Randi. (Though PDE can do very strange things, and are not inconsistent with what we call souls or paranormal.)
In 1975-1976, I rented a townhouse in Laurel, Maryland, and agreed to take care of their two Siamese cats while they were away on sabbatical. I will never forget the assumption dream in which I experienced the life of a cat, or the moment when it projected an image of itself to me up in the bedroom when I had restricted it to the lower floor.
Of course, we have had lots and lots of other interactions with all manner of animals, but
these are the ones which strike me right now. I can see the back yard form where I am typing, and I don't see the deer coming back, despite the most edible of things back there.
Of course, at a certain stage of development the human fetus also has a soul, but I agree with medicine that it is not more special or advanced than any other mammal soul up to a very advanced age. (Also the process of a baby developing ITS OWN soul distinct from that of its mother is
a fuzzy process, for which the time of birth is a natural dividing line.) Thus legal restrictions on abortion could not possibly make spiritual sense (even if one were to tolerate legislation implementing one chosen religion!!!!)... unless they also came with laws mandating
no consumption of meat from any kind of mammal. For everyone. Is murder of cows by ANYONE to be tolerated in an enlightened country? Many think not.
Last week, I learned how a guy named Epictetus produced a popularized, watered down version of Aristotle's thinking, convenient to slaveowners, just as Zu Xi in China produced a version of Confucianism. It's sad how inability to understand the original led to the misunderstandings which opened the door to the many stages of nonsense now afflicting US politics, and threatening many very basic freedoms.
I still remember the small town in India where no people will eat the pigs, but the pigs do eat people.. many children who wander outside after dark.