Before the “how” let’s consider the “when”. Also, let me point out that I am aware that I am speaking predominantly about those of us who grew up in the western world of thought. (When I think of “Western” world I often contemplate the idea that the concept of “west” implies some other place that must be “east” and I then wonder where is the line of demarcation? When does east become west? Or when does west become east? This then makes me think of enantiodromia — when something becomes its opposite — but I digress!)
I recognize that there are societies and people’s who have not been so inflicted. I, however, can escape neither my birthplace and life in North America nor my long European ancestry. I am a product of the thought of the “western ” world. Therefore, this is the place from which I write while acknowledging that while this may reflect the experience of many, it is not necessarily hold a universal experience.
It is my thesis that we lost touch with soul through what we refer to as the Age of Enlightenment which overlaps with the Scientific Revolution. The time period spans roughly from the mid 1600’s through the 1700’s. It is marked by a turn toward rational thought and intellectualism and away from what Enlightened thinkers referred to as superstition. They professed that the only way that human knowledge could be attained was through the five senses and the rational thought of the human mind.
Now, do not get me wrong, I have nothing against science. Indeed, I taught high school science for several decades. Science has brought us many, many advances in the understanding of the world we live in. Whether these things are “good” or “bad” or somewhere in between lies with the way on which we use this knowledge. Science definitely has its place. However, I now take the stance that it is not the ONLY way that we gain knowledge. It is not the only way that we experience the world. And at times, it is not even the best way. Imagine the next time you go to express your love for someone near and dear to you and do so by explaining the shift in hormones, blood (and other fluids) flow, and electrical activity in your body. Let me know how that goes over!
As I see it, here is the basic problem with science – the proclamation that the only way to receive knowledge is through the five senses. This disallows for any other way of “knowing”. This, in my way of thinking, is one way we have lost touch with soul. Science does very well to help inform us about our bodies, the “matter” of which we are made up. But what about our “spirit”, defined as: an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms or the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spirit). Spirit, by definition, is immaterial and therefore is not observable or measurable by our five senses. Therefore, the spiritual aspect of our being is outside of the purview of science.
And here we are, in our fourth century after the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment and by far science rules the day as to what is right, true and knowable. Remember all of those TV ads that would say “9 out of 10 so-and-so’s (usually doctors of some sort) agree that ….”. And we bought it because it was a scientific, statistical truth. (Or was it? Most of us who have done any work with statistics know you can manipulate them to mean whatever you want them to mean.) Today, we talk in terms of “evidence-based” this or that. So what happened to our spiritual aspect of self? Well, before the age of enlightenment all query into the nature of things involved both the spiritual and physical aspects of our life and world. Many early “scientists” were actually monks, such as Gregor Mendel, considered the father of genetics. This removal of spirit from matter came about as matters of the spirit did not conform to the laws of science for being observable and measurable by our senses. The concept of spirit was left by science to the purview of religion. That, however, is fodder for another post.
If, as I contend, soul is the intersection of body and spirit, and you remove spirit, then you have lost soul.
There is also another way of losing soul that does not involve the removal of spirit. Quite the opposite. In the patriarchal Judeo-Christian religions the dualism between body and spirit has a long tradition of raising the spirit as supreme and body as demonic. I will address this in more detail as I move along in this blog, but for now I want to just acknowledge that soul is lost when we deny the spirit in favor of the body as well as when we deny the body in favor of the spirit.
Soul requires embodiment of the spirit. As in so many things, balance is required.