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What Is The Soul

(continued from the last ten weeks)

Q: Dr. Guterson, you talk a lot about the soul? Maybe you can help me understand what a soul is?

A: Our soul, which is an actual piece of Divinity, is sent to earth into our body. As a result, we have both a body, with all of its material and physical needs and cravings - as well as a soul, which yearns for just the opposite, for transcendence. Body and soul ideally should work in harmony, taking that which is physical and infusing it with spirituality.

According to Chassidic philosophy, the structure of the soul consists of three intellectual powers (which we discussed last week) and seven emotional powers. These are what make the human being tick. In a spiritually healthy person, intellect drives emotion. In other words, once we truly internalize the inspirational flash and development of a G-dly concept, then our emotions can come into the picture, step by step.

The first emotional power is unbridled kindness, also depicted as expansion. Let it flow! Let it go! Give and give! When we see the good in others and in every situation, then life is filled with a positive and generous attitude.

But - be careful: unbridled giving can reel out of control. This leads to the second emotional power which is awe, a contraction, having the might to hold back. It is the ability to say ‘no’ and knowing what to say ‘no’ to. Strength of character entails limits and boundaries.

The third of the soul’s emotional powers is a synthesis of the first two, and therefore is depicted as harmony and balance. As they say, “it’s all in the delivery” - to know when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’, when to give and when to hold back - and to do this in an empathic and balanced way.

Let me add that empathy - to truly put yourself in others’ shoes and thoughts and feelings as best as possible- is one of the most important skills to learn in life. Some people are able to do this intrinsically; others have to really work at it. But it is achievable.

(More on the soul’s emotional powers next week…)

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