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The English word "spirit" comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning breath. In religion and spirituality, the respiration of the human being has for obvious reasons been strongly linked with the very occurrence of life. A similar significance has been attributed to human blood. Spirit has thus evolved to denote that which separates a living body from a corpse. The term is also used metaphorically with several related meanings: school spirit, for example, meaning the social history of the institution and its collective essence or esprit de corps , as a synonym for 'vivacity' as in "She performed the piece with spirit or she put up a spirited defence", and as a term for alcoholic beverages stemming from medieval superstitions that explained the effects of alcholol as demonic activity.

Its metaphysical context has attained a number of meanings:

  1. A non-corpreal but ubiquitous substance or energy present in all living things. Unlike the concept of human souls, which is believed to be eternal and preexisting, a spirit develops and grows as an integral aspect of the living being.
  2. A daemon sprite, or especially ghost. A ghost is usually concieved as a wandering spirit from a being no longer living, having survived the death of the body yet maintaining the mind and consciousness.
  3. Spirits are often visualized as being interconnected to all others and the experience of such a connection can be a primary basis for spiritual belief. The Spirit (singular capitalized) refers to the theories of universal conciousness and some concepts of Deity. All "spirits" connected, form a greater unity, the Spirit, which has both an identity separate from its elements plus a consciousness and intellect greater than its elements; an ultimate, unified, non-dual awareness or force of life combining or transcending all individual units of consciousness. The term spirit has been used in this sense by at least Anthroposophy, Aurobindo, A Course In Miracles, Hegel, and Ken Wilber. In this use, the term is conceptually identical to Plotinus's "One" and Friedrich Schelling's "Absolute." Similar to Greek pneuma and Sanskrit akasha.
  4. In Christian theology, the Spirit is also used to describe God, or aspects therof as in Holy Spirit, referring to a Triune God (Trinity): "The result of God reaching to man by the Father as the source, the Son as the course ("the Way"), and through the Spirit as the transmission."
  5. Also in theological terms, the individual human "spirit" (singular lowercase) is a deeply situated aspect of the soul subject to "spiritual" growth and change; the very seat of emotion and desire, and the transmitting organ by which human beings can contact God.

See soul for a related discussion.


In the Bible, the word "ruach" (רוח; "wind") is most commonly translated as the spirit, whose essence is divine (see Holy Spirit. Alternately the word nephesh is commonly used. Nephesh, as referred to by Kabbalists, is one of the three parts of the human soul, where "nephesh" (animal) refers to the physical being and its animal instincts. Similarly, both the Danish and the Chinese language uses the term "breath" to refer to the spirit.

See also

  • Angel
  • Atman
  • Deva (deity)
  • Brahman
  • Cryptid
  • Daemon (mythology)
  • Soul
  • Ghost
  • Legendary creature
  • Cryptozoology
  • Monster
  • List of fictional species
  • List of legendary creatures
  • Legendary creatures of the Argentine Northwest region
  • Book of Imaginary Beings

External links

es:Espíritu pt:Espírito nl:Geest de:Geist ru:Дух simple:Spirit zh:靈

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