What is spirit and what is soul?

Mandala 3 by Jennie Wiley

This question became the topic of Sunday breakfast conversation between my wife and me. After some discussion, it became clear that we both distinguish the two, seeing them as different aspects with their own recognizable, if not somewhat difficult to universally define, traits. I found myself feeling into each term, using affect as a guide into the sense of each state. Spirit, which Corbett (1996) calls the “underlying design principle” (p.112) of psyche strikes me as having the quality of agency in some way, the lifting up and out and creating or providing direction. It is the essence of Jung’s principle of logos. Soul was defined, by Corbett (1996) as a “sense of fullness, interiority, meaning” (p. 115) and has the feeling of communion in all its permutations. Jung’s eros principle fits for this aspect. While I find his gendering of logos and eros highly troubling and limiting for his theories, I do think these two aspects of psyche, agency and communion, fit with the felt sense of spirit and soul. Agency, like spirit, can be felt as an other-than-I, while communion, like soul, can be felt as a none-other-than-I, or the deepest personal reality.
In our conversation, we played with the idea of introverted and extroverted experiences of spirit and soul. Spirit for some can feel like a leading, or guide, into the action of life and for others a leading into the action of ideas or thought. For soul, we have the terms old-soul and young-soul to give a sense of the potential difference. Perhaps the old-soul feels into the interconnectedness of all things and therefore the relativity of the personal and the young-soul feels into the interconnectedness of all things and the necessity of the personal.

Corbett, L. (1996). The religious function of the psyche. Routledge.

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