Friday, January 6, 2012

Spirit Defined

There is an ongoing debate/discussion as to the difference between soul and spirit.  I am not going to attempt to cover that here.

Since this is a blog on achieving a healthy spirit, I will give you MY definition of spirit for the purpose of this blog.  I must say, I have found it difficult to express it in words, to convey a concrete meaning.  To assist me in finding the words I was looking for, I do what most of us in the 21st century do. I Googled it.  No satisfactory results.  I referred to a Bible dictionary.  Nothing helpful. I did what many girls do: I asked Dad (mine happens to be a minister).  I found he and I share the same definition without being able to produce a concrete definition.  Finally, I sought out the wisdom of Noah Webster.  No, not the contemporary dictionary.  Noah’s original 1828 dictionary.  Mr. Webster put into words what I struggled with for a ridiculously long amount of time.  As can be expected, there are several definitions  depending upon context (for example, I will not be using the definition that refers to alcohol obviously).  Here are my favorites courtesy of Noah Webster:

6An immaterial intelligent substance. Spirit is a substance in which thinking, knowing, doubting, and a power of moving do subsist. Hence,
7. An immaterial intelligent being. By which he went and preached to the spirit in prison. I Pet. 3. God is a spirit. John 4.

8. Turn of mind; temper; occasions; state of the mind.

2. Animal excitement, or the effect of it; life; ardor; fire; courage; elevation or vehemence of mind.

4. Temper; disposition of mind, habitual or temporary; as a man of a generous spirit, or of a revengeful spirit; the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. Let us go to the house of God in the spirit of prayer.

Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary

My dad suggested it is the “essence” of a person.  So, again, I refer to Mr. Webster:     


1. That which constitutes the particular nature of a being or substance, or of a genus, and which distinguishes it from all others.

He also refers to “7. The predominant qualities or virtues of any plant or drug, extracted, refined or rectified from grosser matter”.

While the last definition of essence refers to plants (think essential oils), I think we can apply it to the spirit of a person as well: his/her “predominant qualities or virtues”.

Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

So finally we reach the definition pertinent to this blog:


the immaterial intelligence, temperament, qualities, disposition, inclinations  and inherent virtues of an individual that is unique to that individual and which drives the individual to act and/or perform.

While unique to each individual, it does not suggest inflexibility.  The spirit can be strengthened, weakened, uplifted and even broken.

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