Whenever I speak to people about soul I always try and acknowledge the fact that this is one of those words has to be held very lightly because it points towards a mystery. It is a mystery which nobody has the true name or the real story.
Every tradition has a different name of it. The Hasidic Jews call it the “spark the divine in every human being”. Buddhist call it “Big Self”. Or self with a capital “S”. Thomas Merton called it “True Self”. Quaker’s, I am a Quaker, we tend to call it “Inner Light” or “Inner Teacher”. All of these are synonyms for the same thing. What that thing is no one really knows. The best I can say it is the “Being” in “Human Being”.
What a person calls it does not matter to me. That we call it something matters a lot.
Since the Soul itself is a mystery which nobody has a name for. I think the closest you can come is a image or a metaphor. The metaphor I landed on some time ago which is this the soul which I experience is very much like “a wild animal”.
On the one hand the wild animal has the capacity to survive in the deep dark woods. In very difficult places. Where there is hardly anything to each. A wild animal has strength and resilience and has a kind of wildly-ness. A kind of knowing about survival. That the human soul has. On which we depend. Anybody who has been in a really tough situation has said “Something inside of me allowed me to keep going. Something inside of me allowed me to keep carrying me forward. ”
But at the same time, just like a wild animal, the soul is very shy. And just like a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to crash into the woods, yelling and screaming to come out.
What we need to do is walk into the woods quietly. Sit at the base of a tree. Breath with the Earth for a while. And eventually the thing we seek may put in an appearance. If it does we may only catch it out of the corner of our eye.
To see something so original. So wild. So natural. So elemental. I think for most of us is to never to forget it.