PNEUMA is ‘spirit’. Other meanings of this ancient Greek word are ‘soul’, ‘air’, ‘breath’, ‘vitality’, ‘animation’. In some contexts the translation might be ‘soul’, although the latter is rendered more by the term <psyche>.

Epiktetos (Epictetus) imagines the spirit in which things exist like the movements of a spinning bowl of water. On a general level, one way to actualize the concept of <pneuma> is to consider it akin to energy. Such a comparison applies either on a physiological/psychic level and on a physical/cosmological one.

Sokratiko Logo

In Stoic cosmology, everything that is an element of our universe depends on two basic principles which can be neither created nor destroyed. Firstly, matter, which is passive and static. Secondly, <logos>, or divine reason, which is active and moving.

According to Stoics, when talking about human spirituality, desires and aversions might negatively affect a precise part of the soul. And that part of the soul is the <pneuma>. Therefore <pneuma> is the inferior part of the soul, separated from the <nous> (mind).

<Pneuma> is ‘spirit’. For some Stoic philosophers, <pneuma> expresses the idea of the “breath of life”. Hence, it would be a mixture of two elements: air (in motion) and fire (as warmth). For these Stoics, <pneuma> is the active, generative principle that organizes the individual and the cosmos. In its highest form, <pneuma> represents the human soul (<psyche>). Then, the human soul is a fragment of the <pneuma> intended as the soul of God (Zeus). As a force that structures matter, it exists even in inanimate objects.