Rachel Berghash


An Excerpt from Psyche, Soul, and Spirit


The soul has a religious dimension and a spiritual dimension; distinctions between these two are made by McLean. One's religion is what one believes and what one does with the purpose of securing and promoting results, home, future, repose, and rest. (A person's religion may or may not have the view and practice of a particular organized religion.) When the word religion is used in this broad sense, we can see religion in the doctor's or the homemaker's daily work. The religious doctor makes rounds in the hospital and keeps records of her or his patients. She or he relies on records and regular examinations of the patient for the purpose of curing the patient. The religious homemaker cleans the house, does the shopping and the cooking. He or she aims to nurture and to please the family. Both are bent on results. These activities involve being tied or bound to something (the Latin word for bind is the root word of religion). The homemaker may discover, however, that he or she is unconsciously interested in curing people; the doctor, in homemaking. The soul, insofar as its interest is religion, concerns itself with concepts of virtues and sins that promote goodness and eradicate or neutralize evil.

In contrast to the religious aspect of the soul, the spiritual aspect—the spirit—wanders and is at home wherever it is, reposes and rests in whatever it is contemplating, and is result free and future free. The spirit is complete; it does not possess, hold, or grab; it is open to love, embracing the alien, the unattractive, the "adulterous woman," the sinner, the sick, and the dying. The spirit transcends time; it is not concerned with temporal time, but with eternal time, which intervenes in temporal time; an example is the beauty expressed in music, dance, and art.

The spiritual self benefits the environment but without the motivation to do so, which is the motivation of the religious self. For example, the spiritual psychotherapist, when in a session with a patient, is detached from the desire that the patient make progress; he or she attends, listens, and speaks the patient's language.

The spirit is not entangled with the world, and the world is hostile to the spirit. Santayana points out that the spirit submits to the limitations imposed by the world, but it does experience them as limitations. The territory of the spirit is an eternal world stirred by inwardness.

Jesus, though he came to save the world, would have continued with his mission as a fisher of men even if he had saved not one soul. Milarepa sometimes sang to people in order to convert them, but he often sang to himself songs of self-realization and renunciation alone in his cave, not being concerned with proving himself. It is interesting that the root of the word prove is probare, to test a thing for its goodness, to try, to approve, to make good, and acts of these great religious personalities came out of concern, and not to be proved or be approved by the world.

When Socrates is sentenced to death and his friends suggest that he flee Athens, he refuses on the grounds that he has no right to break the law—his "agreements and covenants" with the state. His adherence to the laws is spiritual; violating "the most sacred laws" would be for the sake of "the miserable desire of a little more life."
Practicing justice overrides security and life itself. Socrates puts himself in the hands of the law, and by doing this he frees his spirit to pursue the truth about life and death, free of want, free to die.