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1. the force or principle of life that animates the body of living things
a. an incorporeal being, esp the soul of a dead person
b. (as modifier): spirit world


1. any distilled alcoholic liquor such as brandy, rum, whisky, or gin
2. Chem
a. an aqueous solution of ethanol, esp one obtained by distillation
b. the active principle or essence of a substance, extracted as a liquid, esp by distillation
3. Pharmacol
a. a solution of a volatile substance, esp a volatile oil, in alcohol
b. (as modifier): a spirit burner
4. Alchemy any of the four substances sulphur, mercury, sal ammoniac, or arsenic
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


See Mars Exploration Rovers.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The term "spirit" is used in many contexts: the soul of a dead person; the divine essence, or animating principle, within a living being; a magical entity of some sort; or a demon, angel, or deity. The word comes from the Latin spirare, meaning to breathe. This idea may apply not only to humans but also to all animals, birds, and other living things. To the Wiccan even the trees and plants have spirits, with many Witches also believing in spirits of such inanimate objects as earth and rocks.

In Ceremonial Magic, various spirits and entities may be conjured and enjoined to appear to and obey the magician. In spiritualism the spirits of the dead are invited to return to speak to the living relatives and friends. In Witchcraft, spirits are communed with for a variety of reasons, none of them negative.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The majority of books on Spiritualism speak of spirit world, spirit guides, spirit photography, spirit contact, and similar, but gloss over any kind of definition of spirit itself. It seems to be taken for granted that everyone knows what is meant by the word “spirit.” In the Declaration of Principles adopted by the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, Principle 2 states, “We believe that the phenomena of nature, both physical and spiritual, are the expression of infinite Intelligence.” The NSAC Spiritualist Manual interprets this to mean, “In this manner we express our belief in the immanence of Spirit and that all forms of life are manifestations of Spirit or Infinite Intelligence, and thus that all men are children of God.” This is the closest that the NSAC Spiritualist Manual comes to actually defining Spirit. Its “Definitions” (adopted October 9, 1914; October 24, 1919; and October 24, 1951) do not include an actual definition of spirit, although they do speak of the “spirit world.”

The word “spirit” implies indestructible life. Nandor Fodor describes it as “the inmost principle, the divine particle, the vital essence, the inherent actuating element in life” (Encyclopedia of Psychic Science, 1933). He says that spirit dwells in the astral body or the soul. In many religious philosophies the terms “spirit” and “soul” are used interchangeably. Thomas Grimshaw, in his General Course of the History, Science, Philosophy and Religion of Spiritualism (1973) said, “Spirits are real people, human beings—men, women and children stripped of their outer garment of flesh, but still possessed of a real, substantial body that we know as the spiritual body.”

Andrew Jackson Davis said, “… the term spirit is used to signify the centermost principle of man’s existence, the divine energy or life of the soul of Nature. In yet other language, soul is the life of the outer body and the spirit is the life of the soul. After physical death, the soul or life of the material body becomes the form or body of the eternal spirit” (The Harmonical Philosophy, 1917).

According to Spiritualism, the body constitutes of three principles: physical body, soul, and spirit. All three—referred to as Spiritualism’s “triune being"—are animated by Universal Spirit … Infinite Intelligence. The Morris Pratt Institute’s Educational Course on Modern Spiritualism teaches that:

  • Spirit is the highest or innermost principle.
  • Soul is the spiritual body and the intermediate principle.
  • (Physical) body is the material or outermost principle and the clothing and vehicle for the first two.

As the innermost core of a deceased personality, “spirit” is the term used for the intelligence contacted by a medium at a séance. Children with mediumistic abilities often claim spirit children as their invisible playmates. In her book There Is No Death (1920), Florence Marryat wrote about the little girl Mabel Williams, daughter of English clairvoyant and healing medium Bessie Williams, saying, “I have watched her playing at ball with an invisible child, and have seen the ball thrown, arrested half way in the air, and then tossed back again as if a living child had been Mab’s opponent.” Spirit can, therefore, manifest in various forms. It can actually appear through materializations, making use of a medium’s ectoplasm, and it can make its presence felt through such tools as automatic writing, psychokinesis, apports, and the like. However it is defined, spirit is the proof of ongoing life.

There are also spirits in the sense of entities that inhabit trees, plants, rocks, lakes, springs, etc. Such Nature Spirits were encountered by Peter Caddy and his associates in Findhorn, Scotland, and contributed to their survival in a previously desolate area. The focus of the Caddy’s work was love, and it was always acknowledged that what was achieved came about with the help of the spirits of the land: the fairies and elves. There is plenty of evidence for such spirits, including evidence that others have also successfully called on them for help when needed. Many gardeners will claim that they have seen such nature spirits among the flowers and vegetables.

Native Americans of most tribes believed in a wide variety of spirits, including spirits of the sun, moon, mountains, rain, lightning and thunder. In general they make no distinction between nature spirits and human spirits or ghosts.


Bletzer, June G.: The Encyclopedia Psychic Dictionary. Lithia Springs: New Leaf, 1998
Boddington, Harry: The University of Spiritualism. London: Spiritualist Press, 1947
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933

Grimshaw, Thomas: General Course of the History, Science, Philosophy and Religion of Spiritualism. Milwaukee: Morris Pratt Institute, 1973

The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a philosophical concept, signifying an immaterial principle, as distinct from a natural, material principle. The question of the interrelationship between matter and spirit is the basic question of philosophy. The philosophy that asserts the primacy of matter over spirit is materialism: according to F. Engels, spirit is the “highest creation” of matter (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 20, p. 363). The belief that spirit is prior to matter is spiritualism or idealism. The idea of spirit, which plays the central role in idealist philosophies, emerges in panlogism as concept, in pantheism as substance, and in theism and other personalistic conceptions as personality. In rationalistic philosophical systems, spirit is in essence equated with thought and consciousness. In irrationalism the noncognitive aspects of spirit—will, feeling, imagination, and intuition—are seen as the moments forming the essence of spirit.

Originally in ancient Greece, spirit (nous, logos, pneuma) was conceived of as a fine substratum with some of the properties of matter. Thus, pneuma signifies “wind” (for Thales and Empedocles) or “air” (for Anaximenes). With Aristotle and Plato, nous (mind) becomes the most important concept: it is the primary motive power of the universe and the form-giving principle that fills dark and shapeless matter with its energies. The concept of spirit was systematically developed in neo-Platonic philosophy, particularly by Plotinus. As distinguished from the cosmological, intellectualistic, impersonal interpretation of spirit in antiquity, the biblical Christian tradition envisions spirit as a personal absolute and divine personal will (god) that creates the world and man out of nothing. Modern philosophy has seen the development of the rationalist concept of spirit as reason or thought (the French philosopher R. Descartes, the Dutch philosopher B. Spinoza, and the French materialists of the 18th century). German classical philosophy especially developed the intellectualist aspect of spirit. F. Schelling considered all of nature as only a moment of absolute spirit; G. Hegel developed a philosophy of world spirit, which manifests itself in a system of developing logical categories. The interpretation of spirit as totality (romanticism) or in an irrationalistic way (F. Nietzsche, A. Schopenhauer, and E. Hartmann) was then developed into intuitivist interpretations (H. Bergson and N. Losskii) and existentialist interpretations. Thus, in existentialism, spirit is opposed to the false principle of reason, which is destructive to the individual personality; spirit is, foremost, will originating in authentic existence. The positivist tendency (neopositivism) generally does away with the problem of spirit, considering it to be metaphysical and outside the realm of scientific investigation.

Marxist philosophy uses the concept of “spirit” as a synonym for consciousness.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(food engineering)
A flammable liquid mixture of water and ethyl alcohol that is separated from an alcoholic liquid or mash by distillation during the manufacture of whiskey.
(organic chemistry)
A solution of alcohol and a volatile substance, such as an essential oil.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in classic literature ?
By this time it was getting dark, and snowing pretty heavily; and as Scrooge and the Spirit went along the streets, the brightness of the roaring fires in kitchens, parlours, and all sorts of rooms, was wonderful.
The very lamplighter, who ran on before, dotting the dusky street with specks of light, and who was dressed to spend the evening somewhere, laughed out loudly as the Spirit passed, though little kenned the lamplighter that he had any company but Christmas.
`A place where Miners live, who labour in the bowels of the earth,' returned the Spirit. `But they know me.
The Spirit did not tarry here, but bade Scrooge hold his robe, and passing on above the moor, sped -- whither.
And now go forth, and begin your task; my Spirits shall not harm you, and I will wait till it is done before I blight another flower."
"My task is done, and, thanks to the Spirits of earth and air, I have made as fair a home as Elfin hands can form.
"Send forth your Spirits to carry sorrow and desolation over the happy earth, and win for yourself the fear and hatred of those who would so gladly love and reverence you.
His own, so cold and dark and dreary, his empty gardens where no flowers could bloom, no green trees dwell, or gay birds sing, all desolate and dim;--and while he gazed, his own Spirits, casting off their dark mantles, knelt before him and besought him not to send them forth to blight the things the gentle Fairies loved so much.
In general style and spirit, it should be added, Spenser has been one of the most powerful influences on all succeeding English romantic poetry.
The distinguishing general characteristic of Donne's poetry is the remarkable combination of an aggressive intellectuality with the lyric form and spirit. Whether true poetry or mere intellectual cleverness is the predominant element may reasonably be questioned; but on many readers Donne's verse exercises a unique attraction.
Thus he speaks of one spirit overtaking another at death as one bullet shot out of a gun may overtake another which has lesser velocity but was earlier discharged.
In spirit Donne belongs much less to Elizabethan poetry than to the following period, in which nearly half his life fell.