Christian Scholars' Understanding of the Soul and Spirit
European Journal of Mental Health
SIMON-SZÉKELY, A., ed. (2015), Lélekenciklopédia: A lélek szerepe az emberiség szellemi fejlődésében, Vol. 1: Világvallások lélekképzetei (Budapest: Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary & L'Harmattan) 23 cm, 540 pp., ISBN 978 963 414 001 6, 5990 Ft. The first volume of Lélekenciklopédia ('Encyclopaedia of the Soul') is the opening piece of an ambitious enterprise. The project was supported by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) with the expectation that a decade of
... hat a decade of creative work would result in a unique knowledge about the soul and the spirit. The subtitle, in English translation, is 'The role of the soul in the intellectual evolution of humanity', and the series is designed to describe the most important notions of the soul in a multi-disciplinary manner. The undertaking enriches the encyclopaedic literature while allowing insight into the great religions of the world, and exploring myths, philosophies and scholarship concerning concepts of the soul. The aim of the series is to explain not only concepts of the soul but also closely related notions such as spirit, breath, psyche, consciousness, self-awareness, unconsciousness, subconscious mind, body, heart, life, death, rebirth, immortality, ghost, demon, devil, afterlife, heavenly world, and underworld. These are described from the perspectives of ethnography, anthropology, psychiatry, psychology, theology and philosophy. Emőke Bagdy offers a laurel wreath to the editor-in-chief in her preface, and Attila Simon-Székely himself, not so modestly, considers the work an unparalleled and unique achievement. At the same time, although there are many studies in the volume, its reading may be difficult because of some editing problems I will mention in detail below. The first volume discusses ideas about the soul and the spirit in five world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism). Each study follows the same editorial principles, namely, the first part explains the history and key beliefs of the given religion, and then comes a discussion of the concept of the soul. However, this uniform structure upsets the internal balance of the papers. Too much emphasis is put on the introduction of religious traditions, and although attention is later given to theories of the soul, their proportions do not correspond to the title of the volume and its stated goal. Moreover, the reader initially gets a balanced picture of the history and fundamental beliefs of each religion, yet the issues that arise concerning the soul are not always mainstream. Thus the studies do not so much represent the orthodox view of the given religion about the soul and the spirit as they reflect the difficulty of the soul-spirit concept by incorporating 1 The authors use the terms pentecostal and charismatic interchangeably.