Here's a word, Metempsychosis. It means the passage of your soul when you die into someone else's body. When that occurs, it's still supposed to be you without your current body or your current life. This word scares me, traducianism. It explains the doctrine that new human souls are generated from the souls of their parents at birth. Oy Vey, many of you might say.
Wherever it is that an infant gets its soul, theirs are way more obvious then ours. "She looks like an old soul," everyone said describing my daughter Sarah when she was only hours old. Infants have no obstacles blocking the view of their souls. They have no agenda. They are present and observant. A baby hasn't picked the one true religion yet, joined a political party, equated success with money or diverted the real search for meaning into the acquisition of possessions.
I can only define my own experience of soul. I know I have one because since the day I was born my soul has been making demands on me. In the service of my soul I have painted pictures, written poetry, danced, fallen in love, had children, read books, tried to help, protested against injustice, wept at great music and written this column. So has your soul asked a lot from you too? Mostly our souls want us to pursue a meaningful life. So what happens?
Life happens. Practicalities overwhelm meaning; we bow down to the god of security and comfort. The poet becomes the provider. The musician can't make it on music. The lover settles for a "working relationship."
Once our soul, which is the deepest, most intuitive part of ourselves, abandons the search for meaning, we suffer a great anguish, soul-sickness. If you are still reading, it's probably your soul that is inspiring you to continue, since none of this sounds so far like reassuring good news.
According to Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist and influential thinker, soul can grow and be enlarged, especially in the second half of life. One can reclaim their soul and live a bigger, richer and more meaningful life. Here is his prescription.
"Anyone who wants to know the human soul will learn next to nothing from psychology. Be advised to put away your scholar's gown, bid farewell to study and wonder with human heart though the world. There, in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells in the salons of the elegant, the stock exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings, and ecstatic sects, though love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in your own body, you will reap richer stories of knowledge than textbooks a foot thick can give you, and you will know how to doctor the sick with real knowledge of the human soul."
His last sentence tells the truth. The purpose of development of soul is to minister to and connect soulfully with others. He implies that one must abandon book learning alone and walk through the world of paradox and dichotomy, eating life, to truly know the nature of humanity.
I had a soulful moment this morning watching YouTube after I received this e-mail. I would love to do this all over the world (http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=hN8CKwdosjE). This is so uplifting to the soul. I am not going to tell you what it is other than to say that if you are a bit glib, you might find this corny. I did not.
In this ballistic paced world of cut and pasting you will have to take a moment to copy the link. Viewing this will be soul food. Then send me an e-mail (email@example.com) with your response. I would like to try this, how about you?