Spirit vs. Soul.

Copyrighted photo by D. Bridge

I have already referenced that moment back in 2012 when I realized that there was a real difference between spirit and soul. I had this sense that there was something circular about the two … or maybe cyclical. The works of Hillman, Corbin, and Casey were informative in those early considerations of the difference between spirit and soul and the intervening time since that moment in 2012 and the present time have only helped to solidify the nature of the relationship, at least for my understanding. Spirit and soul together create a tension of opposites as is evidenced in the title of Hillman’s essay “Peaks and Vales” (2000). Hillman likens spirit to the peaks with their upward motion moving toward the sun. In this formulation, spirit is an upward movement looking to escape the limits of the earth. It moves towards brightness, ascendancy and the transcendent. Hillman than uses the image of vales to invoke soul. Vales (or valleys) are the inverse of peaks. Rather than heights they invoke depths and a downward motion into those depths. Soul embraces that which is of the earth. Soul does not eschew the dark for light.

Spiritual pursuit is often an individual endeavor as often embodied in the
myth of the Hero’s journey. Soul work is often a response to a communal call.  Spirit is individual, soul is communal.

In terms of energy, spirit is considered to be a masculine energy while soul
is considered feminine. This does not mean that men are spiritual and women are soulful. It is not correct to equate these energies with biology. Each individual holds both feminine and masculine energy and it is our task to find a balance of the two. We here in the western world, however, live in societies that eschew the spiritual aspects of both our inner and outer lives. This becomes particularly evident in the way that we practice medicine. There is little need to set forth much of an argument about the amount of money we, as a society, invest in to the care of our physical bodies. We invest heavily in our bodies. Now, I ask, how much do we as a society invest on the spirit aspect of our lives? Those who profess a specific faith or belong to a particular sect of a religion may personally invest in those organizations to varying degrees. I, however, am hard pressed to name any way in which we, as a society, invest in even improving our spiritual lives. And then there is soul, that intersection between body and spirit. Where are the first cuts in education costs? I can draw on my experience as a public school educator and administrator to state
that the first place we look to cut costs are in the arts. And yet, the arts
are one of the areas in which we, as a society, tend to our individual and
collective souls.

It is not my intent to say that whether spirit or soul is better or worse or
one is more important than the other. It is my considered opinion that we need both. We need to be well versed in spirituality in order to understand how it impacts our lived being in this world. We need to better understand what it is to be an embodied spirit.

Suggested reading:

Casey, E. S. (2004). Spirit and Soul: Essays in Philosophical Psychology, Second Expanded Edition (2 edition). Putnam, Conn: Spring Publications.

Corbin, H. (1972). Mundus Imaginalis. Spring Journal, 1–19.

Hillman, James (2000). Peaks and vales.  In E. Sells (Ed.), Working with images: Theoretical base of archetypal psychology.  Woodstock, CT: Spring.