The Word Foundation


Harold W. Percival



Just what the soul is, actually, nobody has known. The hereditary teaching is that the soul is immortal; and also, that the soul that sins shall die. It would seem that one of these teachings must be untrue, because the soul that is immortal cannot really die.

The teaching has been that man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. Another teaching is that the duty of man is to “save” his own soul. That is apparently inconsistent and absurd, because man is thus made to be distinct from and responsible for soul, and soul is made to be dependent on man. Does man make the soul, or does soul make the man?

Without that indefinite something which is alleged to be soul, man would be an inarticulate and ignorant brute, or else a fool. It would seem that if soul is immortal, and conscious, it should be the responsible one and “save” the man; if the soul is not immortal and is worth saving, it should “save” itself. But if it is not conscious, it is not responsible, and therefore it cannot save itself.

On the other hand, it might appear that if man is made to be the intelligent one, soul is made to be an indefinite, helpless, and irresponsible ghost or shadow—a care, a burden, a handicap, imposed on man. Yet, in every human body there is that which, in every sense, is superior to anything that soul was ever supposed to be.

Soul is an illusive, indeterminate, and ambiguous term having numerous insinuations. But nobody knows just what the word means. Therefore, that word will not be used here, to mean that conscious something in the human which speaks of itself as “I.” Doer is the word used here to mean the distinctly conscious and immortal one which enters the little animal body a few years after birth and makes the animal human.

The Doer is the intelligent one in the body which operates the bodily mechanism and makes the body do things; it brings about changes in the world. And when its sojourn in the body is at an end, the Doer leaves the body with the last outbreathing. Then the body is dead.

Soul may be used to mean anything in general, but nothing in particular. The word Doer is here given definite meaning. Here Doer means the desire-feeling in the man-body, and the feeling-desire in the woman-body, with the power to think and to speak which humanizes the animal body. Desire and feeling are the inseparable active and passive sides of the Doer-in-the-body. Desire uses the blood as its field of operation. Feeling occupies the voluntary nervous system. Wherever in the living human the blood and nerves are, there is desire-and-feeling—the Doer.

Feeling is not sensation. Sensations are the impressions which are made on the feeling in the human body, by events or objects of nature. Feeling does not touch or contact; it feels the touch or the contact made on it by the nature units; the nature units are called impressions. Nature units, the very smallest of particles of matter, radiate from all objects. Through the senses of sight, hearing, taste and smell, these nature units enter the body and impress feeling in the body as sensations of pleasure or pain, and the moods of joy or sorrow. Desire in the blood reacts as mild or violent emotions of power to the pleasant or disagreeable impressions received by feeling. Thus, by impacts from nature, desire-and-feeling, the Doer, is made to respond to nature, and be the blind servant of nature, although it is distinct from nature.

Feeling has been misrepresented by the ancients to the modern world, as a fifth sense. The misrepresentation of feeling as a fifth sense, or as any sense, has been an imposture, a moral wrong, because it causes the feeling of the conscious Doer-in-the-body to link itself as a fifth link to the senses of sight, hearing, taste and smell, all of which belong to nature, and which, therefore, are not conscious that they are such senses.

Feeling is that conscious thing in the body which feels, and which feels the impressions made on it by the senses of sight, hearing, taste and smell. Without feeling there are not nor can there be the sensations of sight, hearing, taste and smell. This is proven by the fact that when feeling retires from the nervous system into deep sleep, or when feeling is kept out of the nervous system by anaesthetics, there is no sight, no hearing, no taste, no smell.

Each of the four senses has its special nerve to connect it with the voluntary nervous system, in which feeling is. If feeling were a sense it would have a special organ of sense, and a special nerve for feeling. On the contrary, feeling distributes itself throughout the voluntary nervous system, so that the reports coming in from nature through the involuntary nervous system can transmit the material impressions that are made on feeling, which therefore are sensations, and so that desire with feeling may respond by words or bodily acts to the nature impressions.

Hereditary teaching has been one of the causes which have deceived and led the feeling of the conscious Doer and operator in the body to be identified with the body and the body-senses. These are evidences that feeling is not a sense. Feeling is that which feels; it feels the identity of itself, yet has let itself become the slave of the physical body, and so of nature.

But what of the mysterious “soul,” about which so much has been thought and said and written and read for about two thousand years? A few strokes of the pen cannot do away with the term soul which has stirred civilization to its depths and caused changes in all departments of human life.

Yet there is a definite thing for which the indefinite word “soul” stands. Without that thing there could be no human body, no relation between the conscious Doer and nature through the human body; there could be no progress in nature and no redemption by the Doer of itself and of that thing and of the human body from periodical deaths.