"If the world is, as the poet said, a 'vale of soul-making,' then perhaps the soul is a vale of world-making. Soul: the blue fire: the fire-roots: the roots of the gods: the gods of the hidden forces: the forces behind the world: the world of soul.
"And so the mystery turns. Something strange comes our way, a shadow from the depths, a hint of another dimension, the pulse of the unfathomable. Once nudged, we know we will not sleep until we have found a name for it, a place where we can hear an echo of it, an image for that infernal part of us that is immortal.
"Some call it sacred; some, the holy. There, where we wonder with wild hearts, the temple is built, the temple in which we con-template (literally, 'make a temple with') the depths. For some, the soul's plunge into the silent hours is deep inside the temple of the earth: for others, an oak grove grown from a scattering of acorns or a stone poem of cathedral where the spirit can rise like incense. And there, where the inner and outer forces meet, is the soul of the world.
"No one really knows what the soul is, but tremble forth it does, and, just as mysteriously, shudders away again. To paraphrase Gandhi, nothing that we say about it matters, but it's very important that we say it. The question of the soul is precisely this: a questing, a critical movement to research, reimagine, rediscover what it means to live in the depths; to respond to the godless hours, the soulless days, the spiritless years; to recover the sacred. . . .
"The soul is the name for the unifying principle, power, or energy that is at the center of our being. To be in touch with soul means going back to the sacred source, the site of life-releasing energy, the activating force of life, the god-grounds; to venture forth and confront the world in all its marvelous and terrifying forces, to make sacred our hours here; to learn to pay such supreme attention to the world that eternity blazes into time with our holy longing. Soul-making, this."
— The Soul of the World: A Modern Book of Hours
The Mysteries of the Soul
"If we're not bewildered by the mysteries of the soul, we're not thinking clearly, to paraphrase the scrawling on subway walls. For the soul's mysteries compress the most profound mythic questions that have always intrigued human beings: Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die?
"But there is some consolation built into consternation, as the Sufi mystic Mevlana Rumi knew when he wrote seven centuries ago that 'Bewilderment is intuition.' From pharaonic Egypt to Delta blues clubs, from the marble-marveled agora of classical Athens to the vast white tundra of Artic hunters, belief is an uncanny force at the heart of things that have been intuited, a sleep-strange feeling rooted in a presence of tremendous impact that circulates through and animates all of nature.
"Uncanny, strange, unsettling, but not ineffable. Every known culture has taken upon itself the naming of this force, usually after the words for wind, shadow, movement, smoke, strength."
— Soul: An Archaeology, Readings from Socrates to Ray Charles
Love Is the Spark
"Love is the elusive spark in the tinderbox of the soul that sets the soul aflame. Love for our families, our work, our community. Love of the body's treasures, as Mirabai declares here; the work we devote ourselves to, as Van Gogh confesses; the arrival of our beloved, as we hear from Christina Rossetti; the moment when 'of a sudden' our bodies blaze with happiness, as we read in Yeats.
"Every time we feel that slow combustion inside ourselves, we discover fire as if for the first time. The fire glows there in the way we live and love and learn. Slowly, the world becomes more real each time we discover the flame at the heart of our every hour of the day. If we make the conscious choice to squeeze the bellows of our imagination, the flame lives.
"The soul is flame, wrote Nikos Kazantzakis, 'a bird of fire that leaps from bough to bough, from head to head, and that shouts: "I cannot stand still, I cannot be consumed, no one can quench me." '
"What we feel most deeply leads us to the lost kingdom of the imagination. That is where we will find the genius of love, the stirred heart, the spark of joy, the flare of the charged imagination, the incandescence of the creative life, the heat from the soul aflame."
— The Soul Aflame: A Modern Book of Hours
Cultivate a Sense of Gratitude
"At Troy, I felt the need to honor the gods of the site. Those divinities who have blessed us with a journey await our offerings at every sacred destination, whether in the form of a prayer, a bow, a kneeling to the ground, or a recitation from a sacred text. In Bali, food is left at the temples; in Ireland, strips of cloth are left hanging on nearby trees and money is donated to priests; in Tibet, pilgrims might leave behind a gift of yak butter to the monastery they are visiting. Always an offering, a sanctifying.
"There are a multitude of ways you can cultivate a sense of gratitude. Your journey is the result of your effort in conjunction with countless others. In Bali, the ritual gift is an offering of flowers or fruit. To walk down the streets of Denpasar, or any small village, is to witness an endless parade of people walking to and from temples with gifts for the gods. Leaving a small donation is another common ritual. A few coins in a poorbox is a way not only of helping, but of saying thank you for the gift you've been given by having arrived safely. I think of the white flowers at the home of Mary in Ephesus, Turkey; the wine bottles and candles in front of the John Lennon shrine in Prague; white ribbons in the holly bushes around the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England."
— The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred
Time - the Soul of Myth
" 'It's a question of balance,' as the Moody Blues sang back in the time warp of the 1960s. It's also a question of myth.
" 'Where did the time go?' we say with rapscallion laughter after a great conversation, good party, gentle lovemaking. We also ask where it went at the end of our days, and with raking pathos if we really don't know.
" 'So little done, so much to do,' bemoaned Cecil Rhodes on his deathbed.
"'Bring back my youth,' cried John Walcott in his final hours.
"'But I have so little time,' said composer Alban Berg.
"Time is the soul of myth, as myth is the heart of time."
— Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Modern Times
Magic and Mystery
"Our fondest hope that there is still magic and mystery at work in the world can be reconfirmed by a story about a man who paints the face of the woman he will marry years before meeting her; or that the book we have been searching for for years mysteriously arrives the day we need it; or that the shuddering appearance of black birds over a house can presage a death in the family. But they also confirm an ancient belief that stories from the deep recesses of the soul will always defy our cleverest attempts at explanation.
"From each of these stories there is something to learn and ruminate on. Some are marvels, some subtle and elusive. Others appear almost ordinary in their revelations of seemingly everyday coincidences."
— Coincidence or Destiny? Stories of Synchronicity That Illuminate our Lives
The Olympic Games
"It is in fact the miraculous force that animates all great art as well as great athletes. Call it spirit, the divine spark, the breath of life — it is the transcendent element that lifts us up when we're down and out, the source of courage, and the soul of inspiration. Strangely, we're not quite sure where it comes from, where it goes when it's crushed, or how to revive it. We just know we need to be in touch with it, which is one reason we turn to art, drama, poetry and sports, especially the Olympic Games, the most watched television event on earth. As the Games unfold every four years, we may be impressed by the skills of the world's greatest young athletes; but what moves us is what novelist and soccer fan Nick Hornsby calls 'the thrilling flash of their spirit.' That mysterious movement of spirit — from an athlete's aspiration for a great performance to our inspiration from witnessing it — is at the heart of the age-old fascination with all great games."
— The Olympic Odyssey: Rekindling the True Spirit of the Great Games