A response inspired by a friend’s request for me to explain my reasoning for why I think that animals may not ave souls…
(This is my current thinking and may not represent the views, beliefs and thoughts of others here at spirit|shines)
Although I am open to further/continued evolution of my ‘philosophical and spiritual beliefs’ (and I won’t say I discount the possibility of animal spirituality, although it may or may not be the same as/or parallel to that of Humans, nor is it necessarily impossible that the nature of animal spirituality might itself be evolving) at this time I think that there is a critical difference between us, H. sapiens, and other Earthlings in that we are self-aware, conscious beings who live here in this mortal plane on the ‘cusp’ between the earthly and the next level of existence, challenged diurnally to move beyond the animal aspects of our nature and to choose deliberately to act and live in a more conscious, compassionate, loving and altruistic manner.
The concept of the ‘tempter’ is that aspect of our inherent nature (that is to say that just as God is within us all we also host what some may think of as ‘sinful’ potential, or perhaps the ‘Devil’ within) that goads us to choose the selfish, self interested path, pandering to our baser desires, indulging our whims and fancies, making moral compromises in the process of chasing hedonistic pleasures, failing to ‘live up to’ our own better standards and fulfilling the well known notion that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. Our Human challenge is to choose to transcend our baser self, to fully inhabit in every conscious act the higher aspect of our potential and hence evolve toward eventual transcendence. This process (I currently tend to prefer to believe) may not typically be fulfilled within one mortal lifetime, hence our ‘Divine spark’ may transit through several, even many mortal tenures on its journey back to the Source from whence it emanated… this is our purpose and what is sometimes referred to as our Spiritual path or Soul’s journey. When we fully accept that there is no such thing as ‘self’ and that we are all one, and that every act we undertake should be for the greatest good and not for selfish reasons, we may ascend to the next level of existence…
That all said, I feel that implicitly this human spiritual evolution is tied to our consciousness and that aspect of our dichotomous nature that sets us apart from other Earth dwelling beings. Any ‘wrongs’ we do are the results of conscious choices that we make, therefore we are the only being on this planet actually capable of ‘Sin’… So, after that long-winded preamble, and as a fortunate person that has experienced the great love and devotion of animals and who has great reverence, respect and love for them, I believe that animals in general do not have ‘self consciousness’ but live and act entirely under the influence of their instincts and according to their natural, biological and bio-chemical urges and motivators. Animals are therefore not capable of ‘sin’ and are absolved of blame for their actions whenever we, in our anthropocentric view, may consider them to be savage or ‘heartless’.
Yet, in animals, we see that Nature instills many qualities we laud and admire: maternal instincts, protectiveness, caring, devotion, forgiveness, and the oft-quoted ‘unconditional love’… hence why I believe they are important parts of this ‘metaphorical’ world we inhabit in that they are in so many ways exemplars and unwitting teachers for the only Earthling that can ‘consciously’ learn. But, arguably disappointingly for the sentimental BECAUSE animals do not have the same quality of self-consciousness as Humans, and are creatures essentially driven by instincts and not moral choices, and do not have our dichotomous ‘nature’, they also do not have a ‘spiritual self’ and hence do not have souls, per se. It may be that animal spirits do exist (and the Native Americans certainly seem to think so, as do many other ancient cultures) but my intuition tells me these are Earth bound entities, hence after the loss of a beloved pet we may still sense their presence… But ultimately animals are Earthlings whose journeys start and end on this planet, whereas ‘we’ have other realms to aspire to if we follow our true Spiritual path.