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Pneuma...

The term spirit translates from Greek 'pneuma' and Hebrew 'ruach'. It is a translation that today we must consider, however, partly because 'pneuma' and 'ruach', both in antiquity meant, while spirit, literally air, the simple and common air of nature. From Greek 'pneuma' comes, for example, something so far from any form of spirituality as the wordpneumatic. Air and spirit are very different things for us, radically different we must say in our modern languages​​, but curiously were interchangeable in ancient Greek and Hebrew. What is now a marked double meaning was originally a complete identity of both concepts.

From 'pneuma' comes 'pneumatology', that studies literally phenomena of 'pneuma', or the influence of intangible and invisible aerial beings on people. In the religious context specifies naturally the part of theology that studies spiritual beings and phenomena, especially the actions of God in relation to humans, by the Holy Spirit.

Another term is Hebrew 'néfesch', which, in addition to the current soul sense, meant something as neck, throat, 'that which breathes' ​​... 'Néfesch' comes from a root meaning breath, and in a literal sense can be translated as 'the being who breathes'​​. In all living things (in all animals including humans) exists breath, life, soul ('néfesch'). Sometimes the word 'nefesch' was also used to express the desire of people, which leads and moves him to achieve his goals: what we don't call soul but animus or motivation.

The Greek word 'psyché', which translates as soul or mind, also originally meant air or breath. Shares this (double) meaning with the 'ruach', 'pneuma' and 'néfesch' we've seen. The Greek verb 'psychein', meant to blow. From this verb is the noun form 'psyché', which refers to blow, halite or breath or respiration, that exhales definitely dying man. When the 'psyché' finally escapes dead body, survives and leads a completely independent existence of body: the Greeks imagined it as a winged anthropomorphic figure, a double or 'eidolon' of the deceased, which usually would go to Hades, which still survives so grim and ghostly. As has often said Homer, the 'psyché' flies out of the mouth of one who dies like a butterfly (butterfly in Greek is also called 'psyché'). The 'psyché', then, is the air or breath, and has at the same time, of course, the sense of soul or mind that has remained until today and has given the words psychism, psychiatry, psychology...

The Latin 'spiritus', besides referring to what we mean by spirit, also meant air or 'air breathing' or breath, invariably as the Greek and Hebrew words we have seen. 'Spiritus' is the root of words related to both modern meanings as are spirituality, respiration, inspire and expire.
Neither escapes of the standard the Latin word for soul. 'Anemos', besides the sense of soul, means blow, breath, wind. Hence, for example, the word anemometer, which refers to the apparatus used to measure the intensity of the wind. The Latin 'anemos', as the spirit, is the breath of life, the basis of life, because breath is the proof that one is alive, common to animals and people.
The soul or 'anemos', unlike the spirit, however, would be delimited in some way to the individual, would be much more personalized than spirit. The soul comes to be a portion of the spirit, one that affects a particular individual and that generates, in particular, his personal passions and feelings. This is the meaning of the term we commonly grasp of soul. And, as in Hebrew, 'anemos' is also mood, animus, courage, motivation... The 'anemos' is that causing an 'internal movement' in the individual (emotion), while it moves and drives to behave in some concrete actions (motivation).
Needless to say that animal, obviously, shares root withanemos’. It is almost redundant to say that everything that moves is animated, that is, has an ‘anemos’ or a soul, in reference to people and animals. The mood is itself animated, such as motivation and also thought: continually "move", have "soul" (actually are literally soul), vary continually as air or wind (full psyche does). That is, mood, motivation, thought ... are 'anemos', 'psyché', 'ruach', 'néfesch', 'pneuma' in the classic and radical sense.

Other languages ​​and traditions also maintain the close relationship between the variables energies of air and ones of the soul: the air acts, in some way, as a fluctuating reservoir of energies that affect the behavior and the soul of people. The Arab 'ruh' well just have a sense of spirit or soul, while one of wind or air.
Similarly, the Hindu notion of 'prana', which means breath, in Sanskrit means 'primary and all round Life Energy'. 'Prana' is described in the Upanishads as a physical principle of air that permeates all forms of life, which is life maintainer of body and also, at the same time, is the origin of the variable thought. It occurs mainly through breath (although the blood and other fluids). In Ayurveda, tantra and Tibetan medicine ‘prana vayu’ is the basic ‘vayu’ (that is: wind, air) from which all the other vayus arise. “Prana vayu” is beating of the heart and breathing. Prana enters the body through the breath and is sent to every cell through the circulatory system.
The Hindu word for soul, 'atman' in Sanskrit means breath again. In Hindu thought, the 'atman' originally was the 'breath of life' or 'life principle' of living beings. Later, on one hand, takes the modern sense westernmost 'inner reality' or 'inner self', but on the other side, especially from the Upanishads, the 'atman' is increasingly identified with the 'brahman', the absolute that penetrates and surrounds all beings.

As the wind is invisible and humans are only sensitive but not active knowers of aerial manifestations, which are completely beyond of our control, it is downright easy to conceive the wind as a manifestation of something like a spirit or a soul, an entity or another of unearthly character, and even God. It should not be surprising, then, that the word soul, as well as to the divinity, also associates with something related to 'ghosts' (not to mention the word spirit). In the popular tradition of scary stories and horror films, souls or spirits or "ghosts" manifest as a wind that blows through the house, open windows, move the curtains, the protagonist feels a shiver ... movements all of which are beyond the control of the person, both external and from surrounding air, as the spiritual and interior mood ones.
Beyond fantasy, in any case, a sea of ​​precious spiritual energies surrounds us. Air contains such energies, a fact attested by the major spiritual traditions, as we have seen. The Hindu notion of 'prana' which means breath, refers to these energies carried by the air. The Hindu word for soul, 'atman', also means air in Sanskrit. The Latin 'spiritus' means both: air/breath and spirit/soul (like 'anemos') and forms the root of words related to both meanings as spirituality, respire, inspire and expire. Other cultures also claim the close relationship between the energies of air and soul: Arabic 'ruh', Hebrew 'néfesh' and 'ruach', Greek 'psyché' and 'pneuma', Chinese Taoist 'qi', Japanese 'ki'...

I want to thank Antoni Janer and Tomeu Prohens their valuable comments and etymological contributions.

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