The Body Has Many Souls
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
The Body Has Many SoulsThe metaphor of a broken heart.
The soul is the body. The body is the soul. The body is not a slice of meat. It is not a collection of organs, bones, and vessels. The brain is not a computer, and the heart is not just a pump. The body and all its parts are the soul, part of the life of emotion, relationship, and meaning common to us all while we are alive. I’m not able to know what the body and the soul are after death.
Almost 20 years ago, when Care of the Soul was first published and I traveled often to speak about it, people would say to me, “Your batteries must be wearing down.” I would say, “I have no batteries. The metaphor doesn’t sit well with me.”
I didn’t appreciate the mechanical images for life in a body. Today people talk about the brain as a computer and the whole of the body as wonderful machine. I prefer Aristotle’s statement that there are many souls throughout the body. Each organ, each body part, and each cell has a soul, giving it meaning and poetical resonance.
A few years ago I was on a book tour in San Francisco, walking the steep hills as I always do when visiting that beautiful city, when I felt unfamiliar pains in my back. I thought I might have pneumonia, an illness that I have had before on demanding book tours. But when I got home and had put off seeing my doctor for a few weeks, I did a stress test that indicated I could have blockage in an artery.
The cardiologist scheduled an angiogram. At one point he invited my wife and daughter into the cath lab to look at the X-rays of my heart and notice the place of the blockage, the left anterior descending artery, sometimes known as the “widow-maker.” My daughter was not happy when some blood shot up out of my femoral artery, where they had inserted the probe, but my wife was more aware of the doctor’s words. He pointed to the desiccated vessel and said, “His heart is broken.” I have since learned that doctors sometime use the expression for a blocked artery, but of course my wife heard the phrase as describing my emotional state.
I don’t think my blocked artery represented a “broken heart” at that moment. I was happy in marriage, my home, and my work, and with my children. But I have had many wounds to the heart over the years, beginning with the day I was forced to go to school in first grade when I was five. That was the day I left the Eden of my blissful early childhood, the unbroken company of my adored mother, and the comfort of being at home all day long.
Later, at age 13, I felt a strong urge to go away from home to study for the Catholic priesthood, and I remember another day of parting. I got up at 5 A.M. on a dark September morning. My luggage was packed and a new, long footlocker was ready to be loaded on the train that would take me to Chicago from my home in Detroit. I felt so surreally in shock, in spite of my desire to explore my future that I thought I might faint. The parting at the train station, where my beloved grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins had gathered, was exciting but exquisitely painful. And then, for the next 13 years, continuously I felt a wound in my heart from the loss of my family. At the end of every Christmas holiday and summer vacation, I had to make another parting.
All of this may sound melodramatic and childish. These experiences were more complicated than I have described. But from the point of view of my heart, they were intense. I was so homesick at the seminary that I felt physical soreness in my chest.
If I were writing a full biography of my heart, I could describe wounds that stemmed from relationships lost and betrayed. I could tell of careers interrupted, of misunderstandings at work and at home, and of criticisms of my work that cut deeply.
We all have heartaches, some far more upsetting than the ones I have described, and we don’t all have heart attacks. I am simply following the signs of my symptoms and noting how they seem to summarize the life of a perhaps overly sensitive person.
I offer these reflections on a broken heart as an example of what any patient might do in response to any physical illness or disease. You aren’t out to prove conclusively what caused the illness but to explore how the body is the soul showing itself in its sad and painful moments. You don’t consider the body as an object disconnected from life but rather as the soul impressing itself on your senses.