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Differences Between Soul and Spirit By Mark Dotson There is much confusion concerning Soul and Spirit.

They are commonly thought of as indistinguishable. The best way I know to relate the difference is the idea, prevalent in Meister Eckhart, and other theologies, of the God beyond God. This notion asserts there is a God who is totally transcendent to human ratiocination, totally beyond anything we are able to conceive of using the human mind. This is the God of apophatic theology, where the only thing one can say is what God is not. This idea is rather meta-macrocosmic, since it is really above what we conceive of as the macrocosmic God. The God beyond God is Pure Spirit and can never be understood by rational means. The macrocosmic God, on the other hand, can be discussed cataphatically, or in a positive sense. One can say that this God is some way or another. This God is accessible to the human mind and can be spoken of, to a certain extent, using rational terminology. This God possesses attributes that can be spoken and thought of. The God beyond this God has no attributes that we can speak or think of. The relationship between the transcendent God and the immanent God is similar to the relationship between what we call Spirit and Soul. Spirit is really not within the purview of the human mind. It is not earth-bound. It wants nothing to do with the tangled web of earthly activity. All is transcendence. Spirit desires union with God, to the exclusion of everything else in life. An overemphasis on Spirit produces a person who, as the old saying goes, is so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. The human Ego aspires to be like Spirit. It is Ego that builds skyscrapers to the heavens in an attempt to commune with Spirit. It is Ego that travels to the highest mountain peaks, thinking that Spirit can be contacted there. Ego is that element of Soul that most desires union with Spirit. In this way, Ego is a bridge between Spirit and Soul. An overemphasis on Spirit, however, produces an overinflated Ego, which, as we know, is big trouble. The story of Icarus is a good example of someone who flew too close to Spirit and perished. Soul is within the purview of the human mind, even though the depths of Soul are unlimited. Heraclitus said, You could not discover the limits of Soul even if you traveled by every path in order to do so; such is the depth of its meaning (qtd. In Wheelwright, p. 72). Soul loves the tangled web of life on earth. It would rather trudge through the boggy swamps, dark caves, and deep oceans than to soar through the heavens. In Soul is mystery, all the mysteries of the earth and under the earth. Soul is innate in all things, interconnected with all matter. Distinctions between the two are illusory, even though we can speak cataphatically concerning Soul. We can only speak apophatically concerning Spirit.

I do not possess Soul as I would a coat or tie, I am Soul. I cannot experience the world apart from Soul. Positivism or Behaviorism cannot tell me why my breath is taken away by Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique; or when I read Poe, Keats, or Goethe; or when I walk in the forest and relish the green earth. They might try and tell me these are merely chemical reactions in my brain, but anyone who has experienced these things will know of a certainty how ridiculous this is. The depth of the experience tells the story. All that I do and feel is because I am Soul. If I am Soul, what about my body? What role does it play, besides enabling me to operate in the material world? I see material things (including the human body) as images and metaphors. To me, this world is filled with images of Soul. Through these images, I am able to learn more about reality. Through living in this body, I am better able learn about Soul. For untold generations, the material universe has been viewed as an image of the inner workings of the human being. The ancient saying, As above, so below, speaks to this fact. Such a view makes the world incredibly fascinating and alive, for there is always something nearby to pique ones interest and to shed light on the True. Our yearning for a so-called spiritual life is actually due to our yearning for a connection to Soul, for we can have no concourse with Spirit in this imperfect life. But, even though this life is imperfect, Soul holds treasures far beyond our wildest dreams!