By definition, the soul is the body’s principle mode of animation, an element of being that is essential to the whole—arguably, the whole. We can’t see it, but we have faith that it is there. And not surprisingly, research of that definition almost always includes the word “human.” It’s time to expand that definition!
There are a number of books written about the premise of animals’ spiritual nature, and prominent among them is Rev. Gary Kowalski’s The Souls of Animals. Rev. Kowalski has stated that he believes animals are aware of death, sense their own mortality, and grieve the loss of companions. He further believes that they exhibit a sense of right and wrong and are capable of fidelity, altruism, and even self-sacrifice. “Animals,” he feels, “are living souls. They are not things. They are not objects. Neither are they human. Yet they mourn. They love. They dance. They suffer. They know the peaks and chasms of being.”
It is in one of the most notable books, however, that we hear the highest vision of that same message. In the Bible’s book of Job, Chapter 12, verse 10 reads, “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing.” And “nephesh,” the Hebrew equivalent for the word “soul,” is woven throughout scripture, referencing both animals and humans. Even Pope John Paul II, in a 1990 public audience, reinforced this philosophy when he said, “also the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren.” The Qur’an also shares a perspective of compassion: “There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you.”
You may have seen the picture of a cute little kitten and a correspondingly adorable piglet pictured side by side. The caption below the two says, “Why do you call one “pet” and the other “dinner?” If we assume that most who share their lives with animal companions believe they have souls, what of the animals who are used to satisfy the human palate? As we more deeply contemplate the possibility that our dinner has a soul, it becomes our own dinner plates that begin to spin in harmony with those in Ottawa. Have we desensitized ourselves to such an extent that we deny the animals we call “dinner” the same spiritual acknowledgment and identity as we give those with whom we share our homes and hearts? If so, why?
What can we do to more fully honor the divine nature of animals we don’t know? We can boycott the puppy-mill trade and breeders by adopting from animal shelters and always spaying and neutering. Avoid clothing and products produced through animal suffering, and don’t forget your entertainment dollar—don’t support cruelty by going to the circus, the zoo, or any other venue that uses and confines animals. But the single most important thing that you can do to honor the souls of animals is to go vegetarian! Each vegetarian or vegan saves the lives of more than 100 animals a year!
We really can’t scientifically prove that animals have souls any more than we can prove that we do—but we can believe! What do you think? Won’t you be their soul support? Become an angel for animals and strap on those wings—we’ve got a lot of work to do!
Make your time with your friends and family—including your animal companions—even more meaningful.