Mind and Soul

Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich

Prayer unites the soul to God. Although the soul is like God in nature, it is often different from Him in condition because of a person’s sin. Prayer then acts as a witness that the soul wills as God wills. It eases the conscience and prepares us for grace. That is why God teaches us to pray — to trust without doubting that we will have grace, for the Lord looks on us in love. God wants nothing more than to make us partners in His good will and work.

Julian of Norwich, Revelations

Julian’s concept that it is our soul which is made in the image of God is a very attractive proposition. It frees us from the problematic concept of God as an old man which directly contrasts with Biblical teaching that God is undefinable, that no man was capable to telling you what God looks like.  Hence, the ten commandments forbids making idols of anything in the heavens, under the earth or in the water under the earth (ie. in God’s exclusive domain).

Julian’s quote makes me think about the relationship between the mind and soul.  The linkage between the mind and soul is complicated but they are, to my mind, clearly distinct. The mind is a product of the brain and a function of the body. It goes through a life cycle of development, growth, and eventual decline. It is subject to disease and damage; the soul is free of such disability. If a person suffers a mind-destroying stroke, we don’t consider their soul to be damaged in any way.

What then is the relationship between the mind and soul? I think that the mind can make an impression on the soul like a stamp on hot wax. The mind does not alter the nature of the soul, but molds its shape. To apply this separation to Julian’s quote then, sins distort the proper shape of the soul. Prayer trains the soul to want what God wants and prepares the soul to experience God’s grace. Prayer molds the soul into a form oriented towards God.

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Julian quote from: Carmen Acevedo Butcher. (2008). A Little Daily Wisdom: Christian Women Mystics. Paraclete Press.