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LostInParadise's avatar

For those of you who believe in the soul, how do you explain the effects of psychotropic drugs?

Asked by LostInParadise (27919points) March 3rd, 2017

If the essence of who we are is a spiritual non-physical entity, how can a person’s behavior be affected by physical substances like alcohol, LSD, anti-depressants or Ritalin? Is our behavior not guided by our souls. Twelve step programs have a religious aspect, so there must be, for example, some spiritual explanation for how a normally docile person can become abusive under the influence of alcohol.

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18 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

“Is our behavior not guided by our souls. ”

No, our behavior is not guided by our souls. If that were true, there would be no violence, no dishonesty, no theft. The soul is the essence that seeks communion with the good in the world.

What you are asking about is the physical body, and the physical body may be (and often is) at odds with one’s spiritual component.

BTW, 12 step programs are not religious, they are spiritual. There is a huge difference.

LostInParadise's avatar

The question then is how does the soul connect to whatever it is that is causing our behavior? Can the activity of the soul be blocked by physical impediments?

I am not going to argue with you about whether 12 step programs are religious or spiritual. They talk about surrendering to a higher power.. A lot of people find this aspect to be objectionable.

Zaku's avatar

Clearly the physical body including the nervous system and brain and the state they are in, including chemical influence of alcohol, drugs, hormones, thirst, hunger, fatigue, physical damage, etc., all very much affect a person’s experiences and perceptions.

In no way is that incompatible with the idea of a soul or spirit being something more than just the body and its state. It’s just another aspect of who we are and what we do, but no one thing determines everything.

If you want a model of this, pretend you are the soul of the player character in a game that lets your character get intoxicated by drugs or alcohol or rotten meat or whatever and then interferes with your perceptions and your actions and has you do weird stuff either because you can’t tell what’s going on very well, or your controls get messed with, or whatver (e.g. Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto, Carmageddon – there are various games that do this).

Seek's avatar

puts on former Sunday School teacher cap

Darlin’, that stuff in the bottle’s called “spirits” for a reason

But nah. Brain chemistry and all.
::sips wine::

LostInParadise's avatar

I was under the impression that soul was the same as consciousness, but from what has been said by @Zaku and @zenvelo , it appears that the soul is a connection to the divine that gets us to behave correctly. Am I right about that? Is the behavior of the soul dependent on our perceptions? If our perceptions are distorted, does that prevent the soul from functioning properly?

Bill1939's avatar

Unfortunately, there are many different definitions given to the terms soul and spirit. I regard a soul as unchanging and its spirit changing. While alcohol and other drugs can alter behavior, it usually returns to a relatively normal state once the body has eliminated the substances. However, an individual’s pattern of behaviors alters the shape their spirit.

flutherother's avatar

You could ask how you can believe in the integrity of the self when who you are can be affected by the drugs you take. If you have an idea of self then the idea of a soul is not far away. Can the soul survive beyond death? I don’t think so but then I think the idea of time is as illusory as the idea of a soul.

cazzie's avatar

puts on her Sunday School hat that fits very poorly these days I’d say that our soul and spirit is at the mercy of our physical bodies while we are in them. I think that is why we are asked to be made ‘instruments’ of a higher power. Our physical bodies are capable of being instruments, if willing. Once we lose the instrument, we are just souls without the impediment of a body. My mom’s favourite prayer was ‘Lord, let me be an instrument of thy peace…....etc etc.. ’ It was drilled into my head.

Zaku's avatar

“I was under the impression that soul was the same as consciousness, but from what has been said by @Zaku and @zenvelo , it appears that the soul is a connection to the divine that gets us to behave correctly. Am I right about that?”
It depends on the spiritual cosmology of the tradition or theory you’re talking about. Some people might agree with you on some or all three parts of what you wrote there. I think many would quibble or disagree strongly with the “that gets us to behave correctly” part.

“Is the behavior of the soul dependent on our perceptions?”
I would think that were certainly the case. I don’t see how they could not be. If I fail to perceive something, how can I behave in a way that takes it into account. Especially if you include ESP, as many people check in with their gut, intuition, and/or spirit guides about what to do…

“If our perceptions are distorted, does that prevent the soul from functioning properly?”
Only if one defines proper behavior of the soul in a way like you did above, as being all about correct behavior.

Generally it seems to me that even religious cosmologies with heavy moral aspects tend to have the soul be more than just a moral report card. The moral code would have more to say about the judgements laid upon the drunk and stoned doing bad things. From a legal point of view, in the USA we condemn the drunk driver, while in Japan IIRC the drunk can “enjoy” a form of legal immunity for things done while on a bender (not sure it extends to damage done driving).

LostInParadise's avatar

Now I am really confused. What is it that the soul does?

zenvelo's avatar

@LostInParadise The soul doesn’t do anything!

It just is.

LostInParadise's avatar

For the soul to be of any consequence it has to interact with something else. If it just sits there like some metaphorical rock then it is not worthy of consideration.

zenvelo's avatar

@LostInParadise That is your belief system, not mine. It does interact, though, but not with your physical form. It is a conduit to the divine.

As is said by some enlightened people, namaste. The divine in me honors the divine in you.

kritiper's avatar

I think you mistake “soul” for just plain old “fate” or “chance.”
@zenvelo Summed up what the soul is. I always assumed that it was the force within you that moves on to heaven when you die. It’s like a diary, a record, a notebook of your life. What would be used to judge you and your actions through life. A biographical movie about yourself, sort of. Look up the word “soul” in the dictionary.

cazzie's avatar

@kritiper wow… you hope.

LostInParadise's avatar

@zenvelo says that the soul interacts with the divine, but says nothing about whether the soul interacts with its human host.

@kritiper says that the soul is a recording device.

I recall seeing the soul described as the still, small voice within us, which would roughly equate to one’s conscience.

I am still confused.

kritiper's avatar

@cazzie I guess I should have specified when I assumed that. It was back when I was a child, being raised in the Catholic church. No one really explained what it was or what it was suppose to be.
@LostInParadise Get a copy of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and look it up. Otherwise you’ll always be confused.

Zaku's avatar

My best understanding is the soul is your sort of inner essence, who you are inside, what you experience life with, and it can be what chooses what you do. But it’s not a simple and clearly understood or agreed-upon relationship to your physical body. A priest, a lama, a dervish and a materialist will give you different answers, and perhaps others with the same titles would give you another set of answers.

What I have experienced for myself is:

* When I’m not depressed, distracted, behaving habitually, fatigued or otherwise dissociated, I have a clear sense of my consciousness and inner self as distinct from my identity in the physical body I live in. I dream from this consciousness, and often forget some or all of my physical identity. Meditation and other techniques have made the layers of my experiences and thoughts more distinct. I think it is (or is closely related to) what’s called “being present” in a meditation or psychology context. I think of this consciousness as my experience of my soul.

* I can spend hours at a time running more or less on auto-pilot, making decisions and using skills, not being very present at all. Sometimes it’s a bit like my soul took a nap for a while while I drove to work or something. Being present isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.

* A soul seems to also have “soul parts” (a shamanic term), and sometimes different ones may be present or not. People, particularly those who’ve had a lot of trauma, often have some soul parts that hide some or all of the time. I have seen shamanic work have a massive effect on people’s experience of life by working on healing this.

* I have experienced mediumistic events where I have allowed other spirits to use my voice, with no training or coaching and with no conscious knowledge of how to do that or what I might say or who might be saying it until the words came out of my mouth. Not like free association. Not like improv.

* I have had full anesthesia and experienced an hour or more as a few moments in a fluffy warm cloud. I’ve also been very tired and slept for quite a while that seemed like just a moment. These things seem to show me that the physical/chemical condition of my brain & body can cause me to be entirely disconnected from my usual experience of consciousness.

* I have also been really tired and had parts of my brain essentially pass out, showing that how I think can be affected by the physical state of my brain and body.

* I have studied and practiced recording my dreams, and found that I can dream elaborate physical scenes that would take hours to diagram when awake, and experience elaborate stories, and have very little time elapse on the physical clock. This mainly shows me that my brain is very capable at something, but also that there’s a time perception disconnect possible in the other direction too, between my consciousness and my physical body – I can’t do those things while awake (or when not in a hypnogogic state).

* I’ve also read many accounts of (and talked to and know people who’ve had and who’ve induced) past-life hypnotic regressions, which for the most part seem quite credible and interesting, and suggest that our consciousness (or soul, I assume) can tune into sources in this way that are not from our physical body. They seem to very strongly suggest that the soul exists independently of the physical body. These regressions often have great therapeutic effects on people, too.

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