* Before reading this, please note that everything in this article is based on my own conclusions and beliefs, drawn from various Biblical studies, debates with my peers, and personal experiences.
When people talk about therianthropy, one common theme that seems to carry between many individuals is the theory of reincarnation and beliefs in an astral plane. For some researching therianthropy for the first time it may seem that these elements are a sort of prerequisite to being therian and I’m writing this now to say that this is not the case. As well as to share my findings on how one of the religions that seems to conflict with typical ideas of therianthropy the most, Christianity, can coexist with it as well as any other. To do this I’ll be delving into other theories for therianthropy, and exploring some key Biblical texts and beliefs that people often use to try and debunk the idea of spiritual therianthropy for a Christian.
I’d like to start with one theory for the origins of one’s therianthropy that seems to be on the rise in the last 5-10 years. The idea that therianthropy is something psychological. That either the mind someone is born with is somehow inclined to identify as an animal (either through hormones, or atypical genetics), or that at a very young age they imprinted on a nonhuman identity because they saw, and could relate more to, certain animals than they could humans. Obviously it is this theory for therianthropy that coexists with the Christian faith the easiest. It is when one feels that their therianthropy has a spiritual aspect that a lot of things get fuzzy and appear to go against some Christian doctrines.
In this section I’ll go over one of the most controversial issues that people have with spiritual therianthropy. The idea that humans are the only creatures with souls. Before I go any further I’d like to make a note that I have not studied Hebrew, and have drawn the conclusions I have by studying The Word and referencing Strong’s concordance for each verse’s original Hebrew and each word’s meaning. Now, the idea that humans are the only living things with souls is not a new one. It’s very much a staple of traditional Catholicism and many branches of Protestant Christianity. However if one were to actually look at two passages in particular, you’d see that this belief is not true. Gen. 1:21-25 where God creates the creatures of the sea, sky, and land. In those verses you will see the phrase “God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves,” (NASB Translation). The part of this verse I want to emphasize is the phrase, “living creature”. The Hebrew words for this section are “chay nephesh”. The word “chay” translates to living, life or revival/renewal, depending on the context it’s used. The word “nephesh” however had a long list of meanings to it. One being creature, but a few others being soul, self, life, person, mind, emotion, and passion.
In Gen. 2:7, when God creates man, the Bible says, “And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (NASB) In this passage I want to first focus on the last bit. That man “became a living being”. Here again the words “chay nephesh” are used, indicating to me that in this way humans and animals both have a soul. To this day science does not know what jumpstarts a person’s brain, or how one’s heart continues to beat, despite the fact that it receives no signals from the brain. I propose that this is caused by the soul. That every breathing thing, with a beating heart, has a soul that starts and sustains this autonomous feature. Like an on switch for life if you will.
But why, you may wonder, if humans and animals both have souls, were humans given dominion over the Earth. Earlier today I sat down with my husband, whose knowledge and insight into Christianity I greatly respect and admire, and discussed this very topic, and together we discovered a Hebrew word in Gen. 2:7 that we believe answers this question. In the passage mentioned above it says that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;” and it is this I want to focus on. In Hebrew the “breath of life” is neshama chay”. We already know that “chay” is the word for life, but neshama is a special word that is used very sparingly in the Bible. The word itself means spirit of man, or breath (of God, or of man based on context). In Gen 2:7 I believe that the “breath of life” is really referring to God bestowing man with his breath, the breath of God. According to Gesenius’ Lexicon, the breath of God is essentially the spirit of God, and imparts life and wisdom into a being. Being made in His image, and given His breath, it’s little wonder that God quite literally gave Earth to humanity. In fact I believe that before the fall he intended man to be almost like a child, or successor that would govern the newly made world, and would act as a liaison between Earth and God.
Because of this, I don’t necessarily believe, from a Christian standpoint, that therians have the souls of the animal they identify as, but rather that our souls are instead influenced by said animals. I believe that when God spoke everything into existence his words gave a sort of resonance to each creature’s soul, and so that humans could better relate and communicate with the creatures they’re supposed to be caring for, he gives some a soul that resonates similarly with certain creature(s). This would give an individual a feeling as though they are supposed to be said creature. Technically the soul itself is still human since it possesses the breath of God, but God also made it so that it strongly relates to, or resembles in frequency, one or more creatures, causing a form of spiritual therianthropy, but one that’s compatible with Christian beliefs.
So you can see that while therianthropy and Christianity need not conflict with each other, it does take some study and creative thinking to find the middle ground where what one feels is true, and what’s Biblically true do not contradict each other.