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Magis CenterSeptember 13, 20232 min read

When Does the Soul Leave the Body?

In the video below, a Fr. Spitzer's Universe viewer writes the following email:

"Dear Fr. Spitzer, Our daughter died last year in a car accident. She was pronounced dead in the emergency room, and afterwards a priest performed last rites on her. We asked if it did any good, and he replied that we don't know for sure when the soul leaves the body, so he will always perform last rites if given the chance. Does not our soul leave immediately when we die?" —Caroline

What makes a soul leave the body? 

Many cultures, religions, and philosophies speak of the soul in varying degrees. Most often, a soul is understood to be a force within living beings that animates life. Christian doctrine describes the soul as the substantial form of a human. Meaning there is a union between our material bodies and an immaterial soul. This union implies that when we die, our soul is no longer in a union with our bodies. Thus, the human soul can be understood to leave the body upon death. 

Preview of Evidence for the Soul fact sheet.

Do Animals Have Souls and Do They Leave Their Bodies?

The soul is an animating force within all living beings, which means that there are souls in all animals. However, the souls of animals are different from the souls of humans. Humans have a rational soul, meaning we have an intellect capable of multi-variable thought. We use this intellect to make complex decisions and form theories. We also have a will, which is what causes us to desire things and pursue those desires. 

Christian doctrine holds that animals possess a sensitive soul. Meaning animals can feel sensations like pain and excitement. However, animals are incapable of rational thought and are driven by their instincts alone. 

So, When Does the Soul Leave the Body? 

In the video, Fr. Spitzer states that although the human soul leaves the body upon death, it does not necessarily always go immediately to a heavenly domain. In some accounts of near-death experiences, a person’s soul will hover over the operating table in a hospital and eventually return to the body. Sometimes, this will last for three to four minutes, according to Fr. Spitzer. Although there is no definitive way to determine when the soul travels onto a heavenly realm, Fr. Spitzer is certain that the soul leaves the body upon death.

Watch Fr. Spitzer's response in this clip from Fr. Spitzer's Universe:


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