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With the New Testament written in Greek, the term psyche has been used to describe the soul, being rather ambiguous and complex, over the various translations the descriptions have altered, influenced also by development of language.
In Revelations we find souls of people that were slaughtered, calling out (Rev 6), so it can be assumed that during the outline of the New Testament there existed an idea that souls are capable of acting and possess cognitive ability even after their bodies have been destroyed.
During the age of the founding fathers of the church (approx. 2nd century AD) philosophers were very much at odds, some in favour of Plato, others arguing that the soul holds the exact same form as its body, agreeing however that it was incorporeal.
The Bible uses, mostly, the Hebrew description of nephesh (or ruach, meaning wind) and the Greek psyche.
Genesis 2:7 says â€˜and the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.â€™ This theme is also taken up in the New Testament, for instance in the Apostle Paulâ€™s first letter to the Corinthians â€˜the first man Adam was made a living soulâ€™.
Characteristics of a soul breathed into a being are, among others, various emotions such as distress, yearning, affection, love, grief, delight.
Today, the majority of Christians believe that the soul is distinct, albeit connected, from the body. Its nature is described in terms of morality, philosophy, spirituality. It is taught that Jesus Christ secured salvation for all souls by his sacrifice (though the rituals within various branches of Christianity may differ).
Some Christians believe that the non-penitent person (and his soul) who does not trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour and Lord will go to hell and suffer everlasting separation from God â€“ that being considered as the most unbearable agony (the punishment Lucifer himself suffered). Believers are allowed eternal life in heaven and companionship with God. The judgement of that will take place at the day of the last judgement.
Protestant beliefs tend to state that the soul at the moment of death becomes present with the Lord, without spending any time in between.
Early Arabic poetry describes the self as naf. The Koran also uses this word to denote a person (also God), but describes with it the human soul, too, including any mental functions, in particular unwelcome desires emanating from the soul that have to be tamed.
We also find the word ruh, meaning originally breath or wind, in religious context the breath of life given to Adam by God. The soul can also leave the body during sleep and return. It is written that angels take the soul during sleep (though not described exactly where), but not disconnecting it from the body.
The naf is supposed to consist of three stages: the inciting naf (the lower self, base instincts) (the primitive stage in which the naf provokes us to commit evil with â€˜seven headsâ€™ that need to be defeated: greed, false pride, envy, lust, backbiting, stinginess, malice), the self-accusing naf (the stage in which the conscience is awakened and makes one ask for forgiveness), the naf at peace (the ideal stage, the soul in tranquillity).
Theosophy is a religious philosophical and mysticism movement established in the late nineteenth century and regards the soul as the field of our psychological activity â€“ emotions, memory, desires, thinking, etc. It is not understood as the highest dimension but rather a middle one.
Higher than the soul is the spirit which is considered to be the real self, the source of everything we call good â€“ happiness, wisdom, love, harmony, compassion.
According to theosophical ideas the spirit is eternal and incorruptible, while the soul is not. Because it is caught in between the spiritual and material realms it is the battleground where the battle of good and evil is fought.
The Fate of Sam?
According to what I found with Plato and Islamic teachings Iâ€™d say that Sam brought the part of him back to this life that is responsible for action.
Without his soul, Sam would not have been able to learn during his year of being back which he obviously has. He also still possesses the ability to remember knowledge and events before his stint in hell â€“ one more indication (in accordance with Plato) that Sam is not entirely soulless.
What he brought with him is the logistikÃ³n that part of the soul that corresponds with intellect and reason while the other two parts, denoting passion/love and courage are left in the pit. There is no love for his closest family (in that case: Dean) in him, no empathy, no care, only the intellectual idea of it not filled with the compassion usually found in him, and he lacks the courage (but not fear) to be honest or to look closer for answers â€“ or deal with the time in hell (and my hypothesis here is: he remembers everything. It drives me sick, alas, imagining, that the compassionate part of Sam is still in Luciferâ€™s cage, having been in agony for a year now).
You could also say, the vital soul is still active, here.
Or, according to Islamic teaching, Samâ€™s soul might have been thrown back to the stage of the inciting Naf, the primitive stage with the ugly heads of greed, false pride, envy, lust, backbiting, stinginess, malice.
Now, I havenâ€™t detected backbiting or false pride in Sam so far, but he has been lustful (having a hooker over at least once (that we know of)), he has been malicious with allowing Dean to get turned into a vampire for secret intelligence reasons, and, well, he has been proud of being such a good hunter which seemed to have given him some kind of peace of mind.
Sticking to what he felt he was good at - hunting, deceiving, relying on his skills learned in more logical times â€“ helped him survive.
He might not have the instincts Dean hoped would still be there, but his drive to survive is very much developed. And, if we look at theosophical theories, we might also assume that there is a battle going on in Samâ€™s soul at the moment, a battle between good and evil, endangering him of becoming corrupted.
By the end of last season, Sam fought a terrible battle within himself (eventually coming to the decision to sacrifice himself for the greater good) and was imprisoned in Luciferâ€™s cage.
The fact of being ridden by Lucifer alone must have been traumatic for him. And at this point I dread what we might learn of Samâ€™s time in hell. If we look at Homerâ€™s idea of the soul and his postulation of the thymos being enhanced or worn-out by life events, we can assume that Samâ€™s soul entered the netherworld already wounded, if not washed-out to the point of destruction.
Plato developed this even further and claimed that deeds working against a personâ€™s character, yet based on nescience would harm the soul. One of such actions Sam fell victim to was his pact with Ruby. He â€“ ignorantly â€“ believed to be doing the right thing and therefore was working with her, deceiving the people closest to him, against his nature.
So, Iâ€™d say, Sam went to hell with a soul not intact anymore. Perhaps it fell apart (if that is possible), was misguided down there, or torn into its various elements. And the Sam who returned to life is not a shell utterly vacant.
He feels that he is empty (as the Alpha Vamp confirmed, too). He feels various emotions but is detached from the deep and warm ones, which makes perfect sense if we keep in mind that Lucifer once stated that he was cold â€“ the intimate contact with the ultimately flawed, cold angel might leave every soul in a state of ice.
This is also a protection against the unquestionably horrific memories that might haunt him. He explained that he doesnâ€™t sleep. At all.
Well, perhaps he will have found a way to dream in an awake state (though I canâ€™t imagine how, actually), as any human being deprived of the ability to dream would become insane sooner or later. It is a means of torture within some regimes on this planet â€“ not allowing prisoners to dream (not to be mistaken for the Charcot-Wilbrand-Syndrome which is a neurological disorder and characterized by the brainâ€™s inability to make sense of visual stimuli and thereby loss of the ability to revisualize images).
That he doesnâ€™t need any sleep at all makes me presume that he, indeed, isnâ€™t entirely human.
A human being not sleeping would show significant effects very soon: for instance the carbohydrate metabolism would derail thereby cause the blood glucose level to rise, the production of thyroid hormones would be disturbed, along with rising concentration of stress hormone cortisol. The person would be highly irritable, nauseous, not able to concentrate, later hallucinating. Eventually, a person would die.
No one, no human being, that is, would survive a year (!) without sleep. And he would certainly not be able to focus in a manner Sam does.
I do hope the producers and writers will keep the story on a logical path according to what science teaches today. They have been quite free in their interpretations of biblical images, and I agree with that kind of creative license.
But I am highly critical when it comes to scientific topics or, well, storylines completely outside of logic.
Well, sadly, at this moment I still hold on to my protest I voiced in the beginning here. To my mind, the way the story is told does not add up to the supposed idea of Sam being utterly bereft of emotions. I wonder what kind of explanation we will be given. And I am curious.
SOON TO FOLLOW: AN ESSAY ON HELL