moon on water


Soul sinks. Spirit soars.

Soul resides in the depths, spirit in the heights.

Different images of these words.

If we use the ordinary language of logic and law in trying to define what each means, we lose the essence of these image laden words. Let’s look at them metaphorically and imaginatively and hopefully get a better sense of why they initially need separation; and if they can both work together.

Soul does not attempt to escape the grittiness and hardships of life. Spirit seeks to transcend them and rise above them. Soul resides in the psyche in each individual though  there are times when call a person soul-less. ‘S/he has no soul’. Spirit is formless, impersonal, abstract, the breath (pneuma) of God given to each of us from the moment of birth yet is always above and overshadowing us.

Soul resides in the vales (valleys), in the deep ground of our being. It is the raw material, the experiences we have on a daily basis, both good and not so good. It is in the blood, sweat and tears of everyday life, the precious salt of life, the dark of life, the depths, the swamps – the cooking, crooked, circular complexities of our being in e.g. relationships or on our own. It says yes: it is this and it is that also and all belong. Transformation happens in soul work, the deeper we go.

People who seek spiritual enlightenment very often seek them in the highest altitudes, those peaks where the light is bright and piercing. Illuminating? Often it is a solitary journey, leaving the soul behind, in ascent of spirit. It is usually goal oriented, seeking inspiration, absolute truth, yearning to be inspirited in those distant, superior lofty heights. The linear approach to spirit says: it is this and not that.

Is there a middle position between the two?

Do we experience soul in the world, and is spirit a split off from the soul? Can they be reconciled? It is of immense value to have a spiritual vision, one of divine perfection. But this is an ideal, and is not necessarily ‘of the world’, this world in which we live. Can they be metaphorically, mystically married? Can the one animate the other? Can each feed into the other using our gift of imagination to bring these two closer together?

John Keats: (In letters to his sister Georgiana) “Call the world, if you please, the vale of soul-making. Then you will find out the use of the world”.

I am indebted to the work of Carl Jung, James Hillman and Thomas Moore for the elucidation of soul and spirit.
And – I am adding this 7 hours after posting it, that both north and south stars are lodestars that are guiding lights and show the ‘way’.










30 Comments on S: SOUL & SPIRIT

  1. Hi,
    Your theory is very interesting. I believe we are body, soul and spirit. The soul in my opinion resides in the mind. The breath of God is the spirit within us that awakens when we find God. We then become restless or agitated because we know that there is a purpose for us living, for our existence.

    However, moving and living with the Spirit of God is adventure at its highest. It sharpens your senses, and more than that it increases your value thinking towards mankind.

    Walking in the Spirit is a daily thing. You don’t have to go to any mountains or special places to find him. You do have to open yourself to the invisible and learn how to accept the impossible, because the impossible becomes possible when you walk with the Spirit.


    • Patricia, as always a well thought out response thank you! (I wish more people would read your response but I doubt there will be any more at this stage). I agree the spirit in its purest sense is extremely powerful and we/I would be lost without it.

      I am copying your powerful words below as this says so much!

      ‘However, moving and living with the Spirit of God is adventure at its highest. It sharpens your senses, and more than that it increases your value thinking towards mankind’.

      Thank you so much Patricia. I will be pondering on this for a long time.



  2. Sherrey, thank you so much!
    It took me a long time to separate them as I sort of perceived a difference between them which I think has value. Soul does however relate to the messiness of our every day lives and is found in both the sacred and mundane.

  3. Susan, you have taken so few words to tackle such a heady subject — the spirit and the soul and whether they can stand alone or must stand together. I will have to peruse this post time and again before I can even presume to offer an answer to your question at the end. As many have already said, I have never thought of this topic in these terms but you do challenge me to think and absorb and to ponder long after hitting “post comment.” 🙂

  4. I haven’t thought of Spirit and Soul in these ways before but your descriptions do seem to fit, to me anyway. I am reading your book of essays and find myself likening the first story in it of your Secret Garden here to Soul. It took you a long time to find what the secret garden was supposed to be and it was well entrenched into the earth. The solidness of it feels like your description of Soul to me, and yet, it replenishes the Spirit to be there, in that secret garden. I too, as Tracy above says, feel they are connected even if they are separate. We need them both.

  5. Thank you so much Tracy for your response! You hit the nail on the head when you say ‘needing one another to function at anything beyond a base level’ – this makes sense thank you.

  6. I have to add yet another wow here. I tend to see the spirit and soul as very separate things but at the same time needing one another to function at anything beyond a base level…if that makes any sense. Another fabulous post!

  7. I’m with the majority, had never given a thought to separating the two, interesting blog, I do enjoy it when I have to pause for thought 🙂

  8. Goodness, you did it again. Another very thought provoking post! I think I have somehow combined spirit and soul in my thinking. Yet, your presentation made me do a double-take. I have re-read your post to work at more thoroughly absorb your words. They make so much sense… but my soul and spirit seem to be land-locked… I think. Hmmm, I’m going to go read it again. Thank you!

    • Thanks so much dear Gwynn for your response! I am smiling – landlocked? Lovely image! Between the sky and the deep blue sea?
      Both are lovely and regenerating! Don’t think too much, feel it!

  9. All I can say apart from wow and I definitely need to re-read this, is that this piece of constricted writing (500 words letter S) is for me, a perfect example of when Spirit and Soul meet or work together 🙂

  10. Another brilliant post! I’ve never thought about the distinction between soul and spirit. I will have to contemplate on this and this is the “stuff” I love to think on. Thank you for this.

  11. I’m still hazy on the distinction between the two, but I kind of agree with the dark(heavy?)-light characterization of the soul/spirit dichotomy you mention here.

  12. Enjoyed this so much. My byline is art, books, spirit and soul and I give a lot of thought to each but haven’t quite given it what you have here. Can they meet is the middle without losing one or the other? I think so. Each are as valuable to humans as each other but if I had to pick one I would choose to have soul. I am a double earth sign can you tell? 🙂 Once again Susan I am enlightened by your words and presentation.

    • Lesley, thank you so much, that is so kind thank you. It’s a difficult matter – I am air, and more air, so I would think that spirit would have more of a hold on me, but soul wins out every time for me :). I sort of had to learn the value of soul, you know?
      Thank you again –
      Your friend in air calling to double earth:)

  13. I have re-read this post quite a few times (not because it was badly written but because you’ve packed so much into so few words!) so much food for thought, loved it.

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