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Rosalie Osmond has a PhD from Cambridge and teaches a variety of courses for adults at the University of London's department of continuing education. Her previous books include Mutual Accusations:Seventeenth-Century Body and Soul Dialogues and Changing Perspectives: Christian Culture and Morals in England Today.
Our bodies are beset by frailties, and are full of passions for things that are unhealthy for us. Then they die and that's it. Unless you believe in the soul. The concept of soul has been a comfort, and a goad, throughout time. Souls are our most valuable, even divine, assets, our best qualities, and they live long after the body is gone. Some say the souls get rewards or punishments, and some say they get to inhabit some other body, and some say that the idea of souls helps us get around our inevitable deaths but that souls haven't been shown to exist any more than any of our gods have. Souls are supposed to be eternal and constant, but our portrayals of them have changed drastically over the centuries. In _Imagining the Soul: A History_ (Sutton Publishing), Rosalie Osmond guides us through the ways we have depicted souls, from the ancient Egyptians through western history until now; it is a rewarding tour not only for the history involved but for what the images tell us about ourselves. The ancient Egyptians pictured a soul as a bird with a human head, combining the person with the capacity of flight. The ancient Greeks kept the visual image of the winged soul, but had the first ideas of souls that would separate from bodies at death and survive independently thereafter. Plato thought that thoughts were the best things that humans produced, and he insisted that souls were in charge of this function. Christian teachers borrowed many of the Greek ideas and modified them. Significantly, the church fathers imagined souls as having some sort of mystic bodies of their own; the Greeks could stand abstractions, but the early church stood by at least half-corporeal souls, like that of the Hell-tormented Dives who begs Lazarus for water.Read more ›
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