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The souls of animals

Do animals have souls?

This has been a controversial subject for as long as I can remember, and though I personally believe they do, I’ve never found proof.

Then, in December 1994, my friend Holly VanMeter gave me a book, “The Souls of Animals.”

In this little gem of a book, I found all the proof I needed.

Let’s talk about this.

First of all, what is a soul?

The word, “animal,” comes from a Latin root that means, “soul.”

The soul is the channel through which we become conscious of the essence — the inward beauty — that dwells within all living beings.

To me, animals have all of the traits indicative of souls. We can’t see souls, but we surely can see outward manifestations like when they are sad, happy, show courage and generosity and certainly forgiveness.

If we humans open our hearts to other creatures and allow ourselves to feel their joy and struggles, you will find they have the power to touch us, even transform us.

If we let ourselves listen closely, we can learn from animals. In fact, “Ask the beast’s and they will teach you,” counsels the book of Job.

Animals have lived on earth much longer than humans. Their instincts about how to live are often smarter and more proven to work than ours.

One aspect of the presence of souls is being aware of death. The consciousness of our own mortality is part of what makes us human and a spiritual creature. There is much evidence among animal species that they both understand and honor death — their own and the death of their group members.

“The Souls of Animals,” goes into detail about elephants, the gorilla and some species of birds and their consciousness of death. It tells of documented true stories of how they grieve, bury and deal with the deep depression involved with losing another.

My daughter, Phoebe, and her husband, Steve, a number of years ago had two wonderful horses, Sunny and Dandy. They were best of friends, playing together constantly and always staying close.

But two days before Christmas, with no warning of illness, Sunny just dropped dead in the field. It was -20 degrees at the time, but for the next three days his beloved friend never left his side. He wouldn’t leave. Wouldn’t eat or drink.

Until the man came to remove the frozen body, he never moved. It’s a wonder it didn’t kill Dandy as well.

Don’t tell me animals don’t love and mourn at the loss of a loved one — animal or human.

Here’s what I want you to do after you read this. I want you to look deeply into the eyes of an animal. As you become aware this cat, dog, elephant, etc., is not like you but, not wholly unlike you either, it will be easier, realizing this creature is 100 percent unique and a work of art just as we are.

Do you see in its eyes all of the days of living within those eyes through memory?

They remember good and bad, scary, abandonment, just like us.

As you look deeper, pay attention to what you can’t see — the inwardness of this being. Now, what you are seeing is living spirit.

Greet and respect that spirit. Appreciate it.

Ask yourself what does it feel like to be this creature?

What does the world look like through those eyes?

Realize the creature is alive and has needs and desires and walks the same ground as you and breaths the same air.

It feels pain and enjoys senses the warmth of the sun, cooling shades and refreshing tastes of pure water, just like you do.

In all of this, we are kin.

I believe animals are our spiritual soul guides and emotional companions. We can have truly mutual relationships with them.

First, though, humans must stop feeling superior to animals. Humans too often relate to an animal as a thing or an object to own even, instead of as a friend. This cannot work because we are not.

If you feel superior, it may be easier to take out your anger and frustration on the animal. However, if you view each animal as a child of God with a soul, it should be much harder to be cruel. I earnestly pray so.

To be made in the image of God is to be somebody, not something. Animals, like us, are living spirits. The God who made each of us is inside each of us.

If you believe that, and believe we are of Him, then how could animals not have souls?

The view from the mountain is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.