The difference between spirit and soul

The terms “soul” and “spirit” are often interchanged with each other but they actually have technical differences.

As long as these two theological terms are not properly distinguished, human salvation becomes more imprecise and less understood. Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg offered the most valuable descriptions of these two important spiritual bio-structures. And, because they are real structures and recipient forms of life, they can be viewed from lawful principles.

Simply put, the “soul” is the primary gift of eternal life that God gives us all. But the “spirit” is what we make of our lives. Swedenborg claimed that the human soul was the first organic structure created by God and that its heavenly influence flowed down into the organic forms of the physical body and brain. The soul and its heavenly activities operate even above the consciousness of angels in the highest heaven.

The soul, being a heavenly form, is responsive to love. During human life, it fashions our minds (heart and intellect) according to our likes and dislikes. This process is fully organic and results in the creation of our spirit, or more precisely, our spiritual bodies. In other words, the spiritual organs of this rarefied body form in a way that is perfectly analogous to the ideas, affections and constituents of our belief systems. It is formed according to who we really are. That is why we can seek and digest information that favors our opinions as a real “food” to maintain our inner lives.

Now then, if we put our scientific hats on, we can easily see how different animals on earth have taken on specialized bodies that allow them to exist in different environments. Fish live in water, birds live in the air and other animals live on land. This organic pattern also holds true for life in the spiritual world, which the human race has special access to after death. The spiritual bodies we have created during our lives, and which are formed by our souls, have become suited to living in various spiritual environments outside of time and space, according to our ruling love and its derivative passions.

At the center of the Spiritual World resides the divine being that we call God and Lord. From this holy center, God’s Love and Wisdom emanates throughout creation. According to how we form our spiritual bodies, they will be more or less perfectly adapted to these divine influences. If God’s tenets have been embraced, we will have successfully formed our spiritual bodies to live closer to the Divine Being, and in a heavenly society. However, if we have rejected God’s tenets of mutual and neighborly love, our spiritual bodies can only exist in an environment far removed from these heavenly influences. We call this self-centered environment Hell.

Every decision you make (from inner freedom) on earth effects the formation of your spiritual body. The consequences are eternal!

About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at
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10 Responses to The difference between spirit and soul

  1. holinity says:

    Insightful. I would deeply appreciate it if you could help me find some support in the Scriptures. Thanks.

    • thegodguy says:

      I am an award-winning author and publisher – not a professional blogger. I use my blog posts to promote my business. Therefore, as the president of a company, I don’t usually take research requests from visiting readers. God’s Holy Word has three levels of meaning and the information you request comes from having these meanings revealed to you – as they were for Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg also had access to observing the spiritual world (heaven and hell) for almost three decades.


  2. holinity says:

    Clear and honest reply. Thanks.

  3. Seeker ... says:

    “the human soul was the first organic structure created by God and that its heavenly influence flowed down into the organic forms of the physical body and brain. The soul and its heavenly activities operate even above the consciousness of angels in the highest heaven.” This is taught in Kabbalah… the soul is Adam Harishon we are all a part of this original creaton we are all ONE just a piece of this original organic structure.

    • thegodguy says:

      Yes, many esoteric traditions share similar ideas. Some people have called Swedenborg’s theology “esoteric Christianity.” God’s Truth is universal if its principles are understood deeply enough.

      Spiritually yours,

  4. Vinay says:

    I believe everything should be simplified. Soul and spirit are different forms or identities of the same entity. The former upgrades into the later. There are two ways to understand the soul-spirit concept.

    First is the process of transformation. The soul transform into spirit, like the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Here, soul is impure in nature, while spirit is pure, like God. The spirit always remains inherent in the soul. Every soul has the potential to become a spirit.

    Second is the process of revelation. The soul, which essentially is spirit, reveals its true nature. When you stand before a glass sprayed with steam, you see your appearance as hazy. But when you clean the glass, you can see a clear picture of yourself. Nothing transformed, you just cleared the mist or removed the impurity.

    In both cases, it requires strong determination, commitment, persistence, longing, faith, and efforts to transform into spirit or reveal the spirit within. Thinking of soul and spirit as separate entities only create confusion.

    We all are part of the supreme spirit, God. We all are essentially and inherently God. There is nothing except spirit everywhere and in everything. This is the greatest illusion, and one who achieves this understanding crosses the thin line of demarcation.

    • thegodguy says:

      Dear Vinay,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights with my readers. However, the process of purification (and removing the illusion) is much more difficult than wiping the steam off a mirror. Most people are so identified with their illusions that if you challenge them they will see you as a deadly threat!

      Spiritually yours,

      • Vinay says:

        Even if people find it difficult to accept, we need to tell the truth. Good things don’t come easy. God certainly doesn’t. People have to choose – illusion or illumination, and they’ll, someday or the other.

        Be Blessed.

  5. thegodguy says:

    Dear Vinay,

    Yep! Everyone votes with the life-choices they make! Have a fruitful spiritual journey!

    Spiritually yours,

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