The Word Foundation


Harold W. Percival



What is the origin of the word soul, and what is “the soul” of man? What does the soul do during the life of man? Does the soul continue after the death of the body? If it does, what becomes of it? Can the soul cease to be; if so, how does it cease to be; if it cannot cease to be, what is the final destiny of the soul, and how is its destiny accomplished?

The origins of the word soul are too remote; the arguments about the word, or of the thing the word stands for, are endless; the history and destiny of the soul, which reaches into the past and concerns the present and the future, are too vast to be even attempted. Only the essentials which concern the fundamentals of democracy, can here be offered in the briefest possible manner.

The breath-form of the body is the life and the soul of man. The form part of the breath-form is the soul of the human body. The breath part of the breath-form is the life of the soul and of the physical body. The breath is the active side, and the form is the passive side of the breath-form. The form part of the breath-form is the design or model according to which the physical body is built during prenatal development and until birth. The breath part of the breath-form is the builder of the body after birth.

With the first gasp for breath, the breath part of the breath-form enters the lungs and heart of the new-born infant, makes connections with its form part in the heart, establishes the individual breath in the circulation of the blood by closing the septum between the auricles of the heart, and takes possession of the body for the entire period of life.

The breath is the life or spirit; the indestructible principle of form is the soul; and the structural matter is the body. These three,—body, form, and breath,—thus constitute, and are, what has been spoken of and called the “body, soul and spirit” of man.

From the moment the individual breath takes possession of the body, it operates the digestive system, the circulatory system, and the respiratory system; and, later, the generative system of the body, as the body develops. The breath, as the life of the body, causes digestion and circulation and respiration, and the generative power in the body. These four processes are carried on stage by stage through the organic structure of those systems.

The foods taken into the body as solids, liquids, airs, and lights, are materials used by the breath in building out the entire structure of the body, which is built strictly according to the specifications scribed on the form (the soul) of the breath-form. The form (the soul), or passive side of the breath-form, bears the specifications of how the structure is to be fashioned; but the breath (the life), as the active side of the breath-form, animates the form, and animates the structure which it builds into a living physical structure.

The breath is of four kinds: the physical breath, the form-breath, the life-breath, and the light-breath. And each kind of breath is for the building of a body of its kind. Each kind of breath has or is of four subsidiary breaths. So: the physical-solid, the physical-liquid, the physical-airy, and the physical-radiant breaths; the form-solid, the form-liquid, the form-airy, and the form-radiant breaths; the life-solid, the life-liquid, the life-airy, and the life-radiant breaths; and the light-solid, the light-liquid, the light-airy, and the light-radiant breaths.

The form (the soul) of the breath-form bears within it the scribing of four bodies, of each of which it is the form which the breath (the life) of the breath-form will build successively: the physical body, the form-body, the life-body, the light-body. And each of the four kinds of bodies is to be built by the four subsidiaries of the kind of its breath.

But during the human life, not even the four subsidiaries of the physical breath are breathed. Therefore it is impossible to have and maintain a human physical body in youth and health. (Full details of this subject are given in Thinking and Destiny.)

During the life of the physical body there is an approximate metabolism, or balance, in the constant building up of tissue from the foods taken in, and the constant destruction or elimination of the waste matter from the body. This is done by the breath (the life) of the breath-form through the generative and respiratory and circulatory and digestive systems.

The breath is the builder, the breath is the destroyer, the breath is the eliminator; and the breath is the metabolizer or balancer between building and destroying, in the maintenance of a living body. If the balance could be maintained, the body would continue to live. But the balance is not maintained; therefore the body dies.

The body dies because only a small amount of the solid-physical, a smaller portion of liquid-physical, a lesser quantity of the airy-physical, and the least quantity of the radiant physical breaths are breathed into the body. The entire physical structure cannot therefore be completed.

The waste obstructs and prevents constant metabolism; the breath-form leaves the body in the last outbreathing, and metabolism stops. Without the breath-form, the “living soul” (the “life and soul”), the body ceases to be an organized living body. Then the physical body is dead. Thus can be seen something of what the breath-form (the living soul) does during the life of the body.

The desire-and-feeling—that is, the conscious Doer—which, through the breath-form, has operated the physical structure, leaves with the breath-form. After the physical structure has been screened off and severed, the breath-form goes with the Doer through the after-death states. At the end of the after-death period, the four senses and the compositor units which composed the transitory nature units into the structure of the physical body, are dissociated and return to nature.

The form (the soul) of the breath-form is an indestructible unit; it cannot cease to be; it is reduced to a mere speck or point, and remains with or near the Doer until it must again manifest. At the proper time it is enlivened by the breath; then through the blending of the breaths of a man and a woman it enters the body of the woman and causes conception; it is the form according to which the new embryonic physical body is built, or woven, or molded.

At birth, the breath (the life) enters the infant in the first intake of air, makes its connection with the form (the soul), and takes possession of the body by its breath; and by growth and development it prepares the infant body for the incoming of the Doer.

When the senses of the body are trained to see and hear and taste and smell, then the conscious Doer, as feeling-and-desire, again enters through the breath and takes residence in the voluntary nerves and the blood of the new body. This tells something of what the breath-form (the soul) does after the death of the physical body.

In the physical body, or after the death of the physical body, the shape or outline of the breath-form is of matter too fine to be seen by any instrument or invention of man. Neither can it be seen clairvoyantly; though by thinking it may be mentally perceived and understood, and even felt as a form in the body. It continues to “live” and to “die” until the four physical breaths of the physical body build a physical body of health, and until the four form-breaths build the form into a permanent form; then it will not die; then the permanent form will regenerate and immortalize the physical body. The final destiny of the breath-form, or “living soul” of the physical body, is: to be re-established in its perfect form, of which it is the undying unit-principle, in the perfect physical body in which it once was, and so be saved from deaths. This indicates what the destiny of the breath-form (the living soul) is to be.

The physical body cannot save itself; the breath-form (the soul) cannot save itself from death. It is the duty of the conscious Doer in every human body to save the breath-form from death and to re-establish it in an everlasting physical body; because the Doer changed and reduced it, from the perfect state in which it once was, to the states of change and its periodical states of life and death.

It is the inevitable destiny of the Doer to save the breath-form (the living soul) by the regeneration of the physical body, and thereby to bring about the resurrection of the breath-form to immortal life; because no other power than the Doer could have changed and reduced the breath-form to the states through which it passes; and, likewise, no other than the same Doer can restore its breath-form to the state of perfection in which it was.

The Doer in any human body may continue to dream on through life; and through death and back again to life, and so postpone the work. But its duty must be done—must be done by it, and by no other. Thus it is pointed out how and why the destiny of the breath-form is to be fulfilled.

But what has the individual “soul” and its destiny to do with the fundamentals of democracy? Let us see.

When one has satisfied the demands of his reason that the unchanging conscious “I” cannot die; when he understands that what has been formerly called “the soul” is in fact the form by which his physical body was built, and by which it is maintained through life, and persists through death to be the same form from which another physical body will be built for his “I” to again re-exist in the world; when he learns that the breath is the life of the form (soul), and is the builder and maintainer of the body according to the model (the form), then the only government in which the work may be undertaken is a true democracy, self-government, a civilization that will uninterruptedly endure.

That is why it is important for you to understand what you, as the conscious “I,” and the “soul,” have to do with the fundamentals of democracy. Therefore, this brief sketch has been given of what the “soul” is and does during life in the body and after the death of the body; how it “dies” and is re-animated; and how it prepares another physical body for you; how you, the Doer, and the breath-form re-exist in body after body, until you choose to raise and restore your breath-form (soul) in a perfect body, in which you, the Doer, will govern. Then eternal law will be vindicated on earth and justice will be satisfied.

Never will there be a democracy that can endure, until there is a reasonably accurate understanding: (1) that the conscious one’s identity, unchanging through the changing human body, can never die; (2) of what that thing is which has been called “the soul”; (3) of the relation between the conscious one’s identity and “the soul”; and, (4) of the purpose of their existence in the human physical body.

Fundamentals of democracy are: rightness as law, and reason as justice with freedom to express one’s opinion; the right to choose what one will do or will not do; independence with responsibility; and, one’s practice of self-control and self-government.

When the thoughts and acts of a people are concerned with these fundamentals, there is a democracy, because those whom the individuals elect to government are representatives of their own self-government as individuals. But, when the people’s representatives who are elected to government express their feelings and desires without regard to self-control, insist on their own independence without responsibility for their words and acts, deprive others of their rights by coercing them to do what they are told to do, and change the meaning of law and justice to be the accomplishing of what they will, then, whatever else the polity or form of that civil government may be, it is not democracy.

As there are 48 states, independent but organized into one union and government as the United States, so each human body is a permanent union of sovereign cells and organs and systems organized for common internal and external action as one government. The feelings and desires of the conscious Doer inhabiting each human body are comparable to the people inhabiting a country: they, the feelings and desires, determine the kind of government they will have in that human body.

The breath-form of each human body is the living soul; but it is only an automaton which occupies the nervous system in the body. It responds to nature; and by nature is made to perform all the involuntary functions of the body; and, by the conscious feelings and desires of the Doer acting from the voluntary nervous system and the blood, it is made to perform all the voluntary acts of the body, such as speaking, walking, and all other muscular acts. The breath-form readily responds to and obeys nature impulses; but it must be instructed by thinking, and disciplined in the practice of all voluntary acts, so that it may become as though skilled in the trades and arts and sciences. It becomes practiced in its technique by the thinking of the feelings and desires. The repeated thinking of the feelings and desires are inscribed as statutes on the form (the soul) of the body,—statutes which are the laws of the human’s habits of thoughts and bodily acts. The habits of thoughts and acts may be annulled, and new laws may be enacted by their thinking when the feelings and desires change their purpose or the subjects. Then the new thinking is inscribed on the form (the soul) of the body, as the habits of thoughts and acts of the human.

To change the form of one’s bodily government from an autocracy, or despotism, or confusions in government to democracy, requires heroic measures. It requires heroes and heroines to be self-controlled and self-governed men and women; and self-control and self-government make heroes and heroines of individuals. There are men and women in the United States who will become such heroes and heroines as soon as they realize that by being self-controlled and self-governed they will take the surest way (without any political parties) of inaugurating a true democracy. That is, by demanding the nomination of honest and truthful characters, and by electing to government men or women of independence with responsibility.

Intelligence, coupled with their destiny, allowed a few great men to provide for the American people the Constitution of the United States,—the greatest blessing ever bestowed on a people who desire freedom. The Constitution puts the supreme power of government in the hands of the people. As much as that has never been done for any people; more than that can never be done, for any people. The Constitution does not, and cannot, give the people health or wealth or happiness; but it gives them the right and the opportunity to have or to get these things for themselves.

The Constitution gives to each citizen a clear right to be, to will, to do, or to have, anything which he or she is able to be, to will, to do, or to have; but it cannot give anyone ability or independence; he himself must do what he should do to make himself independent; to grow out of the child-state of dependence—to develop self-reliance by doing for himself what he knows he should do to make him responsible. There cannot be independence without responsibility.

If the individuals of the people are not vitally interested in having and in holding the power of self-government which is entrusted to them by the Constitution, then both the power and the Constitution will be taken away from them, by whatever means. Then, instead of the government being by the people and dependent on the people, the people will be made subject to the government and dependent on the government.

In the United States we have become so accustomed to liberty that we do not appreciate it; it may be that we will not appreciate our liberty until we lose it. Then it will be too late to regain it without a revolution. But a people who will surrender their liberty, through negligence or for whatever consideration, are not likely to regain it by revolution. Revolution or loss of liberty can be prevented by practicing self-government and by electing to office only those who are reasonably self-governed and are therefore independent of parties, and are responsible.

No one man, no few men, can save the people and the country. If the people are to be saved they must save their liberty and the country for themselves. Men who are great and who are imbued with their responsibility of leadership are desired and are necessary in establishing true democracy. But the obvious fact is that however great a few men may be as champions of the people’s rights, they cannot succeed unless democracy as self-government is earnestly desired by the people and unless the people are determined to do what is necessary for them to do with themselves as individuals to inaugurate and maintain a true democracy.

If the people will allow corruption in party politics to continue; if the people will allow the buying or the trading of votes by astute party politicians, and if at the end of an election the people will tolerate the claim of the incoming party that “To the victors belong the spoils,” then the people will continue to be “the spoils,” and later they will lose the liberty they have.

Then the government is changed, and democracy and civilization will have been a failure.

No! People can never have a democracy made for them by a few men; not even by a benevolent paternalism, for that would surely end in the government’s downfall. The people must make the democracy, by each individual making a democracy of himself and his body, and of herself and her body. Every man or woman, without realizing the fact, is an individual government, in his own or in her own body. If the government of an individual is a democracy, well and good. If it is not a democracy, that individual can change his or her government to be a democracy.

The individual body is the country. The feelings and desires in the body are as the citizens in the country: the individual women and the individual men. Those individuals whose feelings and desires are so coordinated, controlled and self-governed that they feel and desire and work for the individual welfare of themselves and their bodies, and the welfare of those with whom they are concerned, are so many individual democracies.

Those individuals whose feelings and desires are grouped into many “parties,” each “party” trying to overcome the others to secure its own interest, or if one’s desire tries to dominate and wreck and ruin others to attain its own aims, then those individuals are not democracies. They are other forms of government, or are ungoverned and disordered bodies, self-doomed to wreck and to ruin.

To have a true democracy in the United States of America, people can refuse to give power to party politicians. They can let it be known that they will vote only for those men whose interest will be in working for all the people as one people, and for men who are independent and responsible. If the people refuse to be hoodwinked by parties and party politicians; if the people ask and demand that government posts be given to those only who are independent and responsible, such men and women will be forthcoming. And they will serve the people when the people really want independence with responsibility. But the people should make it definitely known that they will have no other government than true democracy, self-government—without balk or quibble or compromise.