I am looking for a word (or expression/phrase), existing if possible or coined-for-the-purpose neologism if not, that represents the all-inclusive superset of a variety of related concepts and pursuits pertaining to the mind, heart, spirit, intentions, etc. Broadly, this is essentially anything that arises out of the functioning of your mind, choices, nervous system, and some things that relate closely but some people believe are metaphysical (like spiritual experiences, religious inspiration, contemplative practices).

Example usage sentence:

In his explorations of ____________________, he explored the best ways to control the mind heart and spirit, and to develop himself using all of the tools available including meditative practices, spiritual guidance, cognitive training, emotional clarity, motivational training, and perseverance.

It is odd to me that such a superset word does not present itself to bind these related ideas together and create a broader field of endeavor/thought.

In particular, looking for a word/expression that brings together concepts that are related but are typically held at odds in English usage: mind, heart/feeling, spirit.

There are a large variety of words that correspond to various more-limited aspects of what we feel, think, do, choose, and metaphysical/spiritual manifestations. The existing words all appear to be too limited.

If one was studying or participating in any of the following loosely-related things, they would all fall under this superset category/expression/word.

The correct category of endeavor/study, and the word naming it, should include the following loosely-related ideas/disciplines/pursuits/words:
















heart (in the romantic/emotional/poetic sense)





somewhat-related spiritual-or-religious-based concepts believed to control or interact with or control the above, such as:





divine intervention



There is, it seems to me, a coherent sense to the idea that people have related interests that span this breadth of topics. These topics can easily flow from one to the next and are often thought to have causal relationships that span them.

Here is a sentence meant to show that many of these concepts/words are often used together within a shared category / within shared thoughts and ideas, and are therefore related within a superset category:

"Your karma causes you to make choices based on your experiences using free will that will determine your destiny, but while your eternal spirit knows all, contains all and is interconnected with all, your mind and psychology only perceive your limited sensory experiences and actions..."

Also, one could make the argument (and others would argue against you) that all of these arise from the functioning of the brain/nervous system so that they are all "brain-derived".

Looking for a single word / phrase / expression / single category which contains all of this. Some of the expressions above sort-of accomplish the goal of expressing a superset idea, but the don't do it comfortably or elegantly. For example, one might suggest that psychology, interpreted broadly, includes all of these concepts, but one would be fairly unlikely to find a psychology book talking about the soul, and perhaps not about "the heart" or free will.

Litmus test for finding or coining the right word: would the study, practice, development or pursuit of all (or most) of the words above be included within the superset category named by this word, and fall logically under its name?

Litmus test #2: this word should not contain "everything". It should be more or less limited to the related concepts above, excluding other concepts. Words that are too broad, because they include many things beyond the intended set (particularly, they contain all of matter and physical existence and laws, and they are therefore too general to point to the idea/category that is being sought/identified): universe, Brahman, nature, god, science, Source, One, Spirit, life.

Per StackExchange, here are some detailed answers to their recommended questions:

Does the question describe exactly in what context you want to use a single word? The context here would be broad. See example usage sentence above.

Does the question specify the criteria by which the suggested word will be accepted? (How will you choose the best word? What is "best"?) The "best" word/expression will be the one that most naturally connotes/includes the various ideas above. If it fits well into the above example usage/sentence, it's probably a winner.

Does the question list which words you didn't like, and why they aren't suitable? I include a long list of candidate words above. I didn't find them suitable as they are all, individually, too narrow and not inclusive of the whole (see discussion of the word psychology above).

Does the question show that you searched for a suitable word before asking the question? Sure how so...

Thank you for your help with this interesting challenge.

  • 1
    In English thought (and perhaps going back to the Greeks), mind and spirit are considered to be quite separate. But if you accept that the concepts you reference are all related to the mind, consider the word mental. In addition to your litmus tests and negative test (I congratulate you for including them and hope that others follow your example), consider including a fill-in-the-blank sentence as well to make it easy for would-be answerers to test candidate words.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 8:31
  • Thank you Lawrence, very helpful suggestions. Edited original question to include your suggestions. Want to take a shot at an answer??? I personally find he word mental (which I added above) to be too limited, as people usually associate it with mind, but not with spirit, and perhaps not even with "heart" or feeling. Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 8:45
  • Great, that helps! Contemplation comes close, or maybe self-reflection. I feel that those words don’t go quite far enough, though. All the best with your question, and welcome to EL&U!
    – Lawrence
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 8:59
  • 1
    Thx again. I agree that those are close, and I will add them, and also agree that they are too limited. Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 9:20

6 Answers 6


Consider the psyche. 

Litmus #1:  The psyche is the object of the study called psychology.  Your psyche is the thing that has your mental and emotional states.  The pysche is also at the heart of everything psychic and mystical.  When extra-sensory perception, divination or communication with the spirit world are regarded as real, the pysche is involved.  The word is commonly defined as mind or heart or spirit, but in practical usage it is all those things rolled into one convenient package. 

Litmus #2:  It doesn't contain everything.  It's not a synonym for universe or existence or natural law.  It has an individual scale.  Even if they are connected, your psyche and mine are distinct and countable.  Your psyche is everything about you that isn't tangible, that isn't obviously and directly physical.  Just like your body, your psyche is an aspect of you. 

In his examination of the psyche, he explored the best ways to control the mind, heart and spirit.

  • This looks promising. +1
    – Lawrence
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 14:33
  • Thank you for this suggestion. I agree, I think that this is a promising word. Wish it were a bit more of a 'natural' looking/sounding word in English. It's kind of an odd-ball in that it feels for some reason like it's still struggling to be within the English language, having only half-way made it over from Greek/Latin. This also suggests another promising and related term: anima. Thanks again. Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 3:37

In his explorations of being, he explored the best ways to control the mind heart and spirit.

Being is a concept encompassing objective and subjective features of reality and existence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being

Other relevant words are Dasein and ontology.

Dasein (German pronunciation: [ˈdaːzaɪn]) is a German word that means "being there" or "presence" (German: da "there"; sein "being"), and is often translated into English with the word "existence". It is a fundamental concept in the existential philosophy of Martin Heidegger https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dasein

Ontology is the branch of metaphysics which examines the nature and categories of existence. https://philosophynow.org/issues/16/Ontology_for_Beginners

  • 1
    Another related German word that sometimes makes its way into English discussion is Geist, literally meaning "ghost" but also "spirit", "mind", "intellect". It's part of words like Zeitgeist, Weltgeist, etc.
    – dain
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 12:09
  • Being typically includes the physical ("objective") as well as the mental.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 15, 2021 at 23:47

Mind does seem like the best word for this.

  1. (in a human or other conscious being) the element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc.


  1. psychic or spiritual being, as opposed to matter.


I don't think the "somewhat-related" concepts constitute a natural category with the mind-related concepts above, and thus I don't think there's a word that encompasses both groups (without encompassing way too much).


This doesn't match exactly what you're looking for, but qualia seems to capture many of your requirements. From Wikipedia:

In philosophy and certain models of psychology, qualia (/ˈkwɑːliə/ or /ˈkweɪliə/; singular form: quale) are defined to be individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. The term qualia derives from the Latin neuter plural form (qualia) of the Latin adjective quālis (Latin pronunciation: [ˈkʷaːlɪs]) meaning "of what sort" or "of what kind" in a specific instance like "what it is like to taste a specific apple, this particular apple now".

Examples of qualia include the perceived sensation of pain of a headache, the taste of wine, as well as the redness of an evening sky. As qualitative characters of sensation, qualia stand in contrast to "propositional attitudes",1 where the focus is on beliefs about experience rather than what it is directly like to be experiencing.

Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett once suggested that qualia was "an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us".[2]

Much of the debate over their importance hinges on the definition of the term, and various philosophers emphasize or deny the existence of certain features of qualia. Consequently, the nature and existence of various definitions of qualia remains controversial due to qualia not being a pragmatically verifiable matter.

This gets at most of the words in your list relating to subjective mental experience, but I don't think it applies to things like salvation and divine intervention.

In your example sentence, the word philosophy could plausibly fit:

In his explorations of philosophy, he explored the best ways to control the mind heart and spirit, and to develop himself using all of the tools available including meditative practices, spiritual guidance, cognitive training, emotional clarity, motivational training, and perseverance.

But this may be too broad for what you are looking for.

  • Thanks for your thoughts Dain. From my perspective, qualia is a narrower concept than what is sought, usually representing a single, often very narrow aspect of a single sensation, as described in your quote. Similarly, as you note, philosophy is also relevant but I believe is too broad for the intended usage. Other ideas welcome. Thanks again. Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 12:05

I believe simply self would be the right word.

In his explorations of self, ...

OED definition:

Chiefly Philosophy. The ego (often identified with the soul or mind as distinct from the body); the subject of all that one does and experiences during one's existence; a true or enduring personal identity. Also: a person as the object of introspection; that to which a person refers by singular first-person pronouns (as opposed to other persons or things).

  • Thanks for your input. I think that 'self' has some ways in which it is less of a good fit. First, it has negative connotations for many people, like ego. For example, in the Buddhist tradition the very existence of self is denied and a major goal is to see through this deluded concept and transcend it. Also, 'self' often connotes or include the physical being of a person... their body. Your fingernails are part of your self, but probably not part of the expression sought. Thanks, and more thoughts welcome. Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 23:32
  • @user2330237 Thanks for the reply. I believe it depends on the definitions and the context. Self doesn't have any negative connotation in this context and definition. Ego can have a negative connotation meaning "an inflated feeling of pride". Also, this definition/usage of "self" doesn't include the physical aspects. I believe this usage covers what you are asking.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 18:41

The standard German term for soul -- die Seele -- is very well fitting to the meaning here sought. Unlike the English word for soul, the German one includes the mind and psyche:

The expression Seele has many meanings, from various mythical, religious, philosophical, and psychological traditions and texts. In modern usage, Seele includes the totality of human feelings and thought processes. In this sense, Seele is very much synonymous with Psyche, the Greek word for soul.

-- my rough excerpt translation from the linked Wikipedia article.

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