Question: Do animals have souls, and where do they go when they pass away?
Sarah Bender - Buddhist
Sarah Bender is a Roshi (senior teacher) in the Koan Zen Buddhist tradition. She is a resident teacher for Springs Mountain Sangha, a Zen community in Colorado Springs (smszen.org).
If a soul is a shard of the great light that animates the body it inhabits during a lifetime, clearly it shines through animals as through humans. What happens after death? I don’t know. Time and physical space don’t seem to be obstacles to this light. It seems to live on in everyone and everything a being has touched, spreading like ripples, wider and wider. At someone’s death, I am always struck by the dual nature of it. It seems ordinary. Here’s a live person (or animal), here’s a person in transition, beyond life. Not breathing. And yet... an impenetrable mystery. Where is she? Where did he go? How is it that I can, almost physically, feel that I am now carrying some of him/her?
Benn Mac Stiofan - Druid
Benn Mac Stiofan is a practicing Druid who speaks Irish and has deep respect for the spiritual, ethical, and mystical teachings rife in Celtic myth and legend.
In indigenous Irish tradition, animals and people are not separate beings. A spiritual tradition that believes in the transmigration of the soul from lifetime to lifetime, and body to body, means we all come from one source and return to that source. We return to the world in the body we need, to see and understand with more breadth. I’ve always found it bizarre that some think animals don’t have a soul. Life is life. Always. When I kill a deer, or cut down a tree, I’m aware that I’m taking a life. Possibly the life of an ancestor who’s returned to provide me with what I need. And someday I may be called upon to do the same in return.
Nori Rost - Unitarian Universalist
Rev. Dr. Nori Rost is the minister at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church downtown and has been a community activist in Colorado Springs for 20 years.
As the Disney movie asserts: All Dogs Go to Heaven! Cats? Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing they have nine lives! Seriously, I’ve always found it interesting that people who say animals have souls, or can experience emotions, are accused of anthropomorphizing animals, as if emotions are only human qualities. Frankly, I think many animals are much more adept at being empathetic and compassionate than many of my human counterparts. I believe all living things have “souls” — an animating force that enlivens them and reveals their own unique beingness. As for what happens when they die, I believe it’s the same thing that happens to humans: We’re all made of energy, and energy never dies. The possibilities for reforming and renewing are endless.
Bruce Coriell - Earth-based Christian
Bruce Coriell served as an interfaith chaplain in colleges and universities for over 35 years. These days you are most likely to find him off wandering rivers and mountains.
The Latin word for soul is anima, so it’s natural to imagine that animals have a soul. They certainly have consciousness. Jains and Buddhists have long described animals as sentient. On a more personal level, I have known several pets that embodied a deep sense of wisdom or compassion. Not necessarily all pets, but some seemed to me to be even more than companions — perhaps guides or guardians. Additionally, I have had numerous “wild” animals come up very close to me and remain still throughout long outdoor ceremonies. I have no idea where animals go when they die — or humans for that matter. However, with most of the religious traditions across our globe, I believe that there is presence and persistence after death.
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