I have heard many times among students of Christian Science that Soul is the synonym for God that is the most difficult one for them to understand.
Isn’t this belief simply the carnal mind, the enemy of God (see Romans 8:7), trying to hide from our understanding one of the most important things for us to understand? There is really nothing vague or mysterious about Soul. Soul is, in fact, quite understandable and quite lovable.
Soul is the name for God that is tied most closely to spiritual identity, which we each have eternally. Individual spiritual identity is how God, Soul, pours light and truth on all creation. In human experience, spiritual identity is how divine light and truth flood the human scene. Our spiritual identity is the reflection of Soul; it is like a golden orifice for God’s goodness to be seen and felt, so we must keep that orifice unclogged.
One way to understand Soul is to see its healing action and what it heals. From my own experience, Soul’s mastery includes victories over depression and mental illness, as well as negative emotions such as habitual anger, self-pity, irritation, and self-righteousness.
A builder I know had a complete healing of joint pain in his fingers by relying on Soul to master him as he worked. And it healed a tendency of his to lose his temper when either the tools or materials seemed not to cooperate with him.
We need to be very clear about Soul, since in Christian Science we have been so graciously gifted with a clear explanation of what Soul is.
An understanding of Soul can also dissolve feelings of shyness, low self-esteem, habits of criticism, and condemnation of others or of one’s self. Soul’s presence, too, brings with it the glow of grace in our relationships with others. And all the various forms of addiction can be healed through an understanding of Soul.
So, we can see that if such difficulties are what Soul heals, then its mastery of each of us as individuals must be a precious and powerful healing force.
Perhaps you have, like me, thought of Soul instead as having to do primarily with beauty and artistic expression. This is not necessarily wrong, but we must see that Soul includes so much more than that.
It is important to understand the vital metaphysical point that there is one undivided Soul, which is God. Soul is such a precious reality that God would not break it up into little packages that are then handed out individually to each of us, His children. Soul is God and cannot be divided into little souls, which are then installed within each of us. Soul, remaining always the whole of God, is reflected by you and me, and it is through this reflection that we have spiritual identity and individuality.
The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, states succinctly, “Soul or Spirit means only one Mind, and cannot be rendered in the plural” (p. 466). And the author adds: “Science reveals Spirit, Soul, as not in the body, and God as not in man but as reflected by man. The greater cannot be in the lesser. The belief that the greater can be in the lesser is an error that works ill. This is a leading point in the Science of Soul, that Principle is not in its idea. Spirit, Soul, is not confined in man, and is never in matter” (p. 467).
Conventional thought sees the word soul very differently, doesn’t it? To such thought, the soul is a very mysterious subject—amorphous, vague, difficult to define. So, we need to be very clear about Soul, since in Christian Science we have been so graciously gifted with a clear explanation of what Soul is.
The common thought is that each of us has a soul somewhere deep inside us that is eternal and journeys on when human experience ends. Christian Science offers a completely different view. Soul is one because there is one God. We reflect Soul, and so even the tiniest detail of what goes on in our hearts, feelings, affections, and emotions should not depart from the nature of God as Soul.
This last statement is especially important as it concerns human emotions. A member of the medical profession once observed that our emotions do not pass merely through our intellects; instead, they pass through every organ in the physical body. His point was that emotions of anger, self-pity, resentment, hate, and fear can hurt all over the body, rather than just slip out through the intellect and tongue.
The physician ended his observation with a plea to his audience: “Guard your emotions!” This has reminded me of the New Testament statement in James, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (3:11). You can think of “sweet water” as good, healthy, right thinking drawn from God, and “bitter water” as harmful thoughts and negative emotions.
We reflect Soul, and so even the tiniest detail of what goes on in our hearts, feelings, affections, and emotions should not depart from the nature of God as Soul.
Christian Science, in naming and clearly defining Soul as God, brings divine power and spiritual understanding to bear on human emotions. Rightfully understood, emotional feeling would pass through the protective “strainer” of Soul, if you will, to keep emotions good and upward trending. The constant mastery of Soul within each of us can protect rightful, constructive emotions such as love, joy, and bliss, while straining out or purifying negative ones.
Soul is always at work, dividing the real from the unreal within us. But this is only practical in our lives as we give ourselves totally over to the divine control of Soul.
How can we give ourselves over to this mastery of Soul? Perhaps one answer lies in realizing the simple truth that Soul’s mastery is already here; it is an established fact, as sure as the sun shining on the earth, even though from our vantage point there may be clouds blocking the sun (though, if we were to go up in the sky a mile or so, this would not be the case). So, to see more of Soul shining in our lives and firmly governing our innermost being, we can intelligently see through the clouds. We can yield to God, to the sunshine of Soul. This yielding is all we have to do.
One key to this yielding is love. We readily yield to things we love. Do we love God? Each one of us can find within ourselves a natural love of God as Soul. This is and must be more than a tepid love. It is in the spirit of the Psalmist’s words, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalms 119:97). As we foster within ourselves this kind of great, deep love for God, Soul, mastering our innermost desires, affections, and feelings, then we have accepted Soul’s mastery.
In this way, each one of us can begin to understand and love Soul. It is not a matter of some being able to get it and others not. Knowing God is never a privileged ability or possession. As reflections of God, every one of us can draw closer to God in our affections and actions, and so possess a more perfect understanding of God and God’s fullness as All-in-all.
I must say that I still have much to learn about Soul. I remain in need of yielding to its mastery. But what I do know has brought me a deep sense of peace in my life. Soul opens to each of us an entirely new, spiritual concept of selfhood. This divine sense of selfhood silences the small, squeaky human ego that tends to see itself in the place of Soul. And this universal, impartially given understanding enables us to enter into the mastery of Soul.
Joseph Eller is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher who lives near Ithaca, New York.
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