Do You Have a Soul?

View upward inside Toghrul Tower, Ray, Iran. 12th century tomb of Seljuk ruler Toğrül. By Matthias Blume.

Twenty-two brave souls addressed this question at the Library’s monthly Socratic Conversation on November 7th, conducted by Ron Gross. They started by viewing an arresting short video of the renowned psychologist Carl Jung, author of Modern Man in Search of a Soul, talking to his own soul, illustrated by beautiful paintings from his famed Red Book. Jung’s colloquy began: “My Soul! Where are you? Do you hear me? I speak. I call you. Are you there? I have returned. I have shaken the dust of all the lands from my feet, and I have come to you. I am with you…”

This sparked a first round of discussion in which participants shared their personal beliefs about the Soul from their diverse cultures, heritages, and intellectual orientations. Among the perspectives represented around the circle were African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, Jewish, Atheist, Christian, Unitarian, Aristotlean/Platonic, Theosophical, and Neuro-biological.

Among the expressions of “What Soul Means to Me,” the conversants talked about key points on the flipchart: “My higher self”; “Spiritual Dimension”; “Heightened state of consciousness”; “Values”;  “What’s unique about me”; “What endures after death”; “The greatest joy”; “In NATURE too?!”’; and “I’m still searching” — to which another participant responded: “Of course — it takes Work to create your Soul!”

The group then explored the varied definitions of Soul, from psychological models of the mind, to its use as a model of self-development, as exemplified by one of the dozen exciting books assembled for display by the Library staff, The Five Stages of the Soul, by Harry Moody. It was noted, too, that “Soul” is widely used as a powerful metaphor for the essence, excellence, or generative force, as when we refer to the “Soul” of a University,  of a Nation, of a Corporation, of Outstanding Individuals (calling Gandhi or Martin Luther King “great souls”), or even a Computer (The Soul of a New Machine, by Tracy Kidder. Referenced was Steve Jobs’ assertion that the “Soul” of a computer is its Design.

Among other major themes of the Conversation were:

  • How we sense the souls of other people, and seek “soul-mates”.
  • How experiences that can’t be explained by our current scientific paradigm, suggests the possibility of other modes of communication (intuition, sensing of major changes in health of family members, etc.)
  • How we yearn to believe that the spirits of loved one’s who have passed away, are still with us in spirit.

The session concluded with expressions of how we shape our souls through the ways we live our lives — the things we choose to devote ourselves to, the ways we live and work and seek to serve. “Throughout our lives we are creating and re-creating our Soul,” one speaker declared, “for better or worse!” Another participant announced that he was committing himself to holding a session inspired by this one, for people in his community within the next two weeks.