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What’s The Difference Between Soul And Spirit?


Soul and Spirit: A Journey from Grief to Understanding

Introduction: A Soul’s Genesis

My spiritual journey often began with the simple lessons of childhood. I remember learning in Sunday school that we “have a soul.” It was much later in life, after navigating the seas of grief and loss, that I realized we are souls. This recognition marked a profound shift in my understanding and became the bedrock of my belief in our eternal essence. I also used the terms spirit and soul interchangeably. This article was prompted by my friend Claudia, who asked me to explain the difference between spirit and soul. While the terms can be used interchangeably, understanding the difference takes my view of life to a different level.

The Everlasting Soul and the Evolving Spirit

The Oceanic Soul: Unveiling Atman

In Hinduism, Atman refers to the innermost essence, the real self beyond ego or false self. It is like an ocean – vast, deep, and eternal. This soul, or Atman, remains unchanged, regardless of the tumultuous events we encounter on the surface of life.

The Indestructible Soul

The soul, in its oceanic metaphor, is the sum of our being. It is not something we possess, but rather, what we are at our core. There aren’t many hymns that still move me. But this one does. After writing this article, I came across it again on shuffle in my Apple Music library and reached another level of understanding of this amazing song. The song is, “It Is Well With My Soul,” written by Horatio Spafford . After the tragic loss of his children at sea, Spafford composed these words as a testament to the peace found within the soul despite life’s most tremendous storms.

Like Job in the Old Testament of the Bible, tragedy followed Horatio. When he wasfour years old, their son, Horatio Jr., died suddenly of scarlet fever. A year later, in October 1871, a massive fire swept through downtown Chicago, destroying many of Horatios’ properties.

Two years later, in 1873, Spafford decided his family should take a holiday in England. Horatio was delayed because of business. He sent his family ahead: his wife and their four remaining children, all daughters, 11-year-old Anna, 9-year-old Margaret Lee, 5-year-old Elizabeth, and 2-year-old Tanetta. There was a shipwreck. All four girls died in the wreck. Only his wife was left of his family.

Then Horatio wrote this:

The Spirited Wave: Embracing Prana

Prana, in Vedic texts, stands for the life force or vital energy that permeates the universe. This energy manifests as our spirit, the dynamic, animate expression of our existence. Our spirit changes. Prana incarnates. Spirit experiences and reports back to the Soul.

The Spirit as the Wave of Existence

The spirit is like a wave, born from the depths of the soul. It is vivacious and responsive to the winds of life. It is the essence of our earthly experiences, the animated breath that animates our physical being, yet it is distinct from the soul’s unfathomable depth.

The Dance of Atman and Prana

The Soul’s Constancy and the Spirit’s Flux

Recognizing the soul as our eternal core and the spirit as our temporary expression provides a comforting perspective on the nature of existence. The soul endures as the bedrock of our identity, while the spirit engages with the living world, evolving and experiencing the human condition.

Soul And Spirit And Reincarnation

Reincarnation is a controversial subject. A majority of humans believe in reincarnation. Some think their scriptures rule it out. Is this understanding of spirit and soul a way of reconciling that we are born only once, and we get to do it all again?

This understanding paints reincarnation in a new light: the spirit, like a wave of Prana, embarks on various physical journeys, while the soul, the Atman, observes its countless lives. It’s a comforting reassurance of continuity amidst the impermanence of our earthly experiences. Perhaps the spirit only incarnates once, returning to the soul, who emanates another spirit to have a different experience that we share.

Conclusion: Embracing Our Truest Nature

This exploration of the soul and spirit isn’t merely philosophical; it is deeply personal to me. It emerges from a lifetime of learning, a path from a childhood belief to an enlightened understanding of our spiritual reality. It’s a path that has brought immense peace to my heart, particularly in moments of sorrow and loss.

Through this lens, the story of “It Is Well With My Soul” takes on a profound significance. It reminds me that, despite the vicissitudes of life, my soul remains untouched, a constant sanctuary of peace. We are not just humans searching for a spiritual awakening; we are spiritual beings—timeless, expansive souls—navigating the human experience. This, too, shall pass. And, yet I remain.

As we witness the waves of our spirit rise and fall, we can find solace in the steadfast nature of our Atman, the infinite ocean of our being, knowing that, indeed, it is well with our souls.

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One Comment

  1. Beautiful clear explanations of soul and spirit Brian. I agree this is very important and definitely needs clarification as we move forward into greater spiritual awareness. Whether we’re on a grief journey or seeking to understand life’s seemingly endless questions, we can all benefit from clarity.