In an attempt to bring my whole self to my work, I have written that I intend to bring “my whole heart, my whole soul, and my whole mind” to my life’s work. I’ve lifted the phrase “whole heart, whole soul and whole mind” from the bible.–specifically, the many passages where it states that the “greatest commandment” is to love God with “your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole body.”
This, of course, begs the question: What is the soul and, thus, what is the “whole soul.” My short and honest answer is that I don’t know. This has not, however, kept me from attempting to answer the question.
My quest started about 15 years ago when I began concentrating on the importance of “unlearning.” While researching the topic of unlearning, I stumbled upon the works of many sages, mystics, prophets, and wisdom teachers.
The first I remember coming across was Lao Tzu and I was taken with a quote that is often attributed to him: “To obtain knowledge, add things; to obtain wisdom subtract things.” Later, I came upon a quote attributed to Meister Eckhart, a 13th Century German mystic. He wrote, “God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtracting.”
But what was I supposed to subtract? Again, I can’t claim to have found or even know the answer but, over time, I have steadily tried to subtract my ideas of self, ego, worldly and material success, and latching on to false ideas about “certainty.” This approach, in turn, has helped me to embrace humility–admittedly quite imperfectly.
To me, the concept of humility is neatly captured in this popular saying: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” It is here that I believe we begin to get a little closer to the notion of the soul. The soul is part of ourselves but it is also connected to something beyond ourselves.
To better understand this idea it has helped me to think of the soul as something that is not within me, but instead my physical being is within my soul. (Apparently, this concept of the body being in the soul is common in some Eastern religions as well as Celtic Christianity). In other words, our souls are far bigger than our tiny, humble individual selves.
Thomas Merton, a more contemporary Christian mystic once said something along these lines: “I don’t know much about Heaven but I do know when I get there that there won’t be much of “me” there.”
Where all of this has led me is to this idea: My” whole soul” isn’t about me. It’s about you, my neighbors, my community, the world and future generations. I am not sure if this is right or even close to the truth but it is where I am at this point in time.
I love to hear your ideas about the soul, the “whole soul” or any other soul-related matters.
Jack Uldrich is a futurist and author and can be reached through his website.