- At the Desert Retreat House -
As I sat in our local Starbucks yesterday, I overheard someone compliment her friend by telling her that she had a good soul. For some reason that phrase stuck with me and got me thinking about what it might actually mean to have a good soul. As a matter of fact, I wonder what it might mean to “have” a soul at all?
As I sat there in Starbucks I recalled what I was taught about my “soul” as a young boy attending our local parish “Catholic” school. I clearly remember seeing a picture of what my “soul” actually looked like depicted in my catechism book: a glowing, little, clean white “heart” residing someplace within the center of my body. I was taught that I would have a “good soul” if I kept my inner heart clean by not committing sins and that I would have a dirty soul if I did bad things. I was also taught that when I died my good soul would be released to go back up to God or my bad soul would be sent down in the opposite direction.
Since my own childhood days I have come to think of “soul” very differently.
As I see it, the soul is not some separated substance we possess within us. Soul is the “spark of transcendence” shared by each and every person, connecting together everything and everyone else in the universe. My soul is the dynamic web of relationship with everything and everyone that is.
I am reminded of a line from C.S. Lewis:
You don’t have a soul.
You are a soul.
You have a body.
Author and teacher, Eckhart Tolle, says something very similar:
You are the universe expressing itself as a human for a little while.
As I see it, we don’t possess good souls nor do any of us posses bad souls; instead, we are either aware of our “soul” or we ignore it. In other words we are aware that we are relationships or we hide within the illusion of an isolated, protected ego.
I don’t hear a lot of people talk about “soul” nowadays, maybe the word sounds too religious and carries too much baggage for some people. But as I see it, we all would do well to talk about our “soul” much more often. In fact, maybe we all need to rediscover our soul, rediscover the truth that we are more than bodies, that we are more than our tiny little egos with all our petty desires. The universe is in us and we all belong to one another and so whatever we do to others we do to our self and whatever we do to the world of nature we our self – this is what it means to rediscover the soul.
A recent New York Times article describes the human person in this way:
The human body is sacred.
It’s not just a piece of meat or a bunch of neurons and cells.
Human beings don’t just live and pass on genes.
They paint, make ethical judgments, savor the beauty of a sunset
and experience the transcendent.
The body is material but surpasses the material
It is spiritualized matter.
When we rediscover our “soul” we realize that we all are spiritualized matter and you don’t have to be a Christian or a religious believer of any kind in order to come to this awareness.