What is the soul? Humans have devoted thousands of years seeking to understand it. Is it a collection of particles? An immortal, spiritual entity distinct from our corporeal form? Or perhaps a complex mechanism originating in the left brain, a function of neurons and circuits? Can these two epistemological approaches to understanding the soul ever speak to one another, or are they so diametric that an interface is futile? If one narrative triumphs, what might be the consequences? Whether mechanistic and/or metaphysical, what is the soul’s purpose, its role in our human existence? Varun Soni, Dean of the Office of Religious Life, will explore the meaning of the soul in our scientific age.
Varun Soni, dean of Religious Life, has truly led a polymathic life, earning degrees from Harvard Divinity School, a J.D. from UCLA School of Law, and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Cape Town. His research has taken him throughout South Asia where he even spent time living in a Buddhist monastery. Dean Soni is currently a University Fellow at USC Annenberg's Center on Public Diplomacy and is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. He is a member of the State Bar of California, the American Academy of Religion, and the Association for College and University Religious Affairs. Displaying a truly polymathic interest in music, he also produced and hosted his own radio show on Pacifica / KPFK, showcasing music from South Asia and its Diaspora. Born in India and raised in Southern California, he has family on five continents and they collectively represent every major religious tradition in the world.