Entrusting the Soul

A person stands out as both “self” and “soul.” A self may be subjugated while a soul escapes. This is the sense of Socrates’ teaching that a good person cannot be harmed. A good person is a good soul, and the soul can survive — can spin free of — harm to the self’s autonomy.

Self has become associated, through the Enlightenment, with self-assertion, individuation, and autonomy.

Soul, in contrast, has been too easily associated with strictly theological posits that forbid or curtail the powers and prerogatives of the self. But apart from theology, soul can be openness to value and to imaginative renderings of its world and itself — renderings that bypass what can be the greedy, self-important, entitled powers of self. It can set to one side the prominence of self-assertion, individuation, and autonomy.

The soul responds to, without being subjected to, greater powers. It can be freely responsive to overarching radiance — not unlike a conductor-and-orchestra’s imaginative and interpretative responsiveness to the radiant presence of a score.

In this sort of responsiveness to radiance  there’s little room for “self-assertion, individuation, and autonomy.”  It can culminate in a selflessness, where self yields to radiance not its own.

Socrates is entrusted with care of the soul. A fine writer like Thoreau is entrusted with care of our souls.


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