Below you will find the Table of Contents, Author’s Introduction, Editor’s Note and the text of the first two chapters:
Table of Contents
A Word from the Author 7
Editor’s Note 7
Soul in a Few Words 21
Soul and Religion 27
Soul and You 43
Individuality: The Essence of Being Human 47
The Birth of a Soul 55
The Growth of a Soul 59
Soul Sources 71
The Soul and Death 81
Soul Expressions 85
Soul in Music 89
Soul Music of the 1950s and ‘60s 97
Soul Brothers 101
Soul or Not? 105
Soulful Music Around the World 111
Coltrane and The Avant Garde 115
New Generations 119
Soul Without Notes 123
Soul to Soul 139
Soul on Earth 161
The Soul of Nations 165
High-Tech Soul 179
The Speed of Soul 185
Soul Repair 207
Holding on to Your Soul 227
The first time I heard the word soul, I was a kid in the sixties. Whether it was James Brown, The Temptations, Muddy Waters or my teacher, Buddy Guy, “soul” was a popular term to describe music played by black musicians. To me, this music expressed distinct human emotions without any facade.
Listening to soulful music, I didn’t feel like I was being conned or sold something I didn’t want. I was witnessing music that demonstrated deep humanity while revealing a full spectrum of feelings. The authenticity was palpable and, as a result, the effect on me was dramatic. I pretty much eliminated listening to most white purveyors of popular hits. I hadn’t figured out where soul would fit in my life, and I didn’t yet know that I would focus the rest of my days on a search for truth, authenticity, and passion: the elements of what I consider to be soul.
I started seeing soul all around me. Even before my introduction to black music, I remember going to Rodfei Zedek Synagogue in Chicago’s Hyde Park, where I listened to Rabbi Ralph Simon’s Saturday morning sermons, filled with wisdom, but more importantly, with what I would later realize was soul on steroids. What he communicated far surpassed the religion with its obligatory liturgy and spoke right to my heart. It seemed to me most members of the congregation didn’t believe in the rituals; they just wanted to maintain an attachment to the community. I felt no connection to the religion, other than the great reverence I had for the traditions of some Jewish writers, musicians, directors, rabbis and thinkers, who had qualities I now define as soulful. All of these geniuses transcended religion, as any original thinker must.
Because of what I have experienced with thousands of people, one of my main objectives in writing this book was to uncouple the word “soul” from its ties to blackness and religion. There are too many contexts for soul and soulfulness to be limited only by these two. Soul can be found anywhere and everywhere, not just in Jewish or African-American culture.
Soul permeates music, drama and art – even business and law. Soul seasons our food; we
savor our “soul food,” whatever its ethnic origin. Soul, of course, has religious connotations: the concept of The Soul. Do we exist before birth and after death? Are there spirits? Every individual has a soul. Souls interact when people get together, either one-on-one or in groups, communities or nations. In America, soul occupies a unique place, whether through its existence or nonexistence. But soul has its costs and can easily be lost. Soul can be found and developed, and its manifestations can change the world.
For the last forty-five years, teaching jazz improvisation to thousands of students, I have been doing my best to help people reveal their souls in what many believe is the language of the soul: music. Because it often lacks explicit words, music has to rely on its ability to communicate a more abstract, emotional message. That became clear to me growing up in the ‘60s, discovering black music where there was a larger commitment to expression, to living and not just surviving, that was absent elsewhere. For me, jazz was a holistic activity, involving heart, head and hands: emotions, intellect and body.
During the past fifteen years, I interviewed people from as many demographics as possible: most races and ages, from children to the elderly, chefs to CEOs, religious to secular, young students to PhDs, political to apolitical, unknown to celebrated. They provided a plethora of definitions, attitudes and life experiences. Some defined soul explicitly, others implicitly – through their stories.
My goal is for you to be stimulated by the stories and definitions and begin to appreciate the breadth of soul and soulfulness in yourself and others. I hope reading this book will elevate your life.
– David Bloom
Before I started editing this book, the raw transcripts inspired me to search out my own soul and see how I could make necessary improvements. David Bloom selected thirty-one soulful individuals to interview; even the children seemed particularly wise. However, because these interviews stretched over a fifteen-year period, some of the references may appear to be dated, and some of the participants have died. Not that that matters. The issue is truth, and truth ought to be eternal.
This book is structured in what I regard as a logical sequence, although other arrangements could have worked. First, a few short attempts at defining soul function as a prelude. Then, because the original context for the word “soul” belongs to the domain of religion, comes a chapter on The Soul, followed by one on the (small letter) souls of individual people. The next chapter concerns itself with how these individuals express their souls in various vocations and avocations.
Moving outward, the following chapter considers various ways in which souls interact, and the chapter after that discusses the souls of communities, ethnic groups, and nations as a whole. Since souls run the risk of deterioration and loss, a chapter on the cost of soul appears next, followed by a discussion on how damaged souls can be repaired, and finally, various methods to maintain them.
It is not necessary to read each chapter in successive order. You as a reader might want to consider some of the material slowly – and pause a bit while doing so.
– Barbara Kaplan
Soul in a Few Words
ELSA MORA: Soul, what is soul? Well, in Spanish it’s alma. Alma, that’s a beautiful word, so let’s say it’s the accumulation of human experience expressed through the individuality of every person.
JEWEL TANCY: My definition of ‘soul’ is pretty big. I think soul is the force that’s inside of all of us, the force that makes me breathe, the force that makes me feel, express. It makes me touch things; it makes me happy, sad. Soul makes me accountable. Soul is very personal. But it’s something that we all share.
WENDY CLINARD: Soul is a cool word, right? We use it out of context a lot. But soul is so
many things. I think that one of the more important parts of soul is an absolute openness. It is openness and complete abandonment of apology. There’s no litigating for things, it’s like boom! This is what I got in this very moment.
RICK KOGAN: You can define soul in many ways as knowing (and this may be the hardest thing) what’s real in yourself and the willingness to display it in a genuine fashion. It still amazes me that people think, “Well, we all have soul, and we can cash it in like a lottery ticket when we’re dead, to get to some place we don’t even know exists,” instead of experiencing it right here, where I think it should be experienced. If it exists at all!
DAVE LIEBMAN: In a way, we are talking about something that we can’t locate, we can’t
describe. We can’t say it’s three millimeters, it’s gray, it’s a mass, it’s a muscle, it’s bone, it looks like a glob or it looks like a flower. We don’t even know what the heck it is. One thing is for sure: You got it! If you see it, you recognize it.
RICK KOGAN: I’m not thinking of soul all the time. I don’t like to use that word, because it’s misused so often. It’s kind of like the way people think about art: “I don’t really know what art is, but I know it when I see it.” Well, that’s bullshit!
ERWIN DRECHSLER: I think that it’s extremely important to be aware of the concept of soul and spirit. It’s something that we can neglect, we can lose focus on. It’s believing. It’s faith. It’s sharing, it’s love.
ZACK GRAHAM: Soul is a combination of will. It’s a combination of faith. It’s a combination of knowing yourself. It’s a combination of truth. It’s a force, it’s very powerful, and it exists in every one of us.
BLANCHE MANNING: Soul is like spiritual empowerment. It’s something that brings out the humanity in people. It makes people who have soul understand that other people are human, and they’re entitled to consideration for whatever the situation might be.
ANNE SAWYER: Soul is the thing that enables everyone to feel emotion. I think you’re born with it, and you can change it. It’s not just a given thing.
ZACK GRAHAM: Soul is something that can either be nurtured and cared for and looked after, or it can be put on the back burner, put in the closet, and you can do whatever you need to do.
ELSA MORA: Soul is not in stone or in objects. To me it’s a place where I feel very comfortable. It’s something that I’ve been building over years and years and years. I think that’s the way soul is born into every person. It takes a long time.
DON MEADE: That soul thing – it’s about truth. It’s all we have, it’s the marrow of our bones, it’s the ultimate of us. Here I am! What you see is what you get. That’s it.
TED COHEN: Everybody has soul. It’s like that old spiritual, right? “Rockin’ My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.” Everybody has his soul rocked in the bosom of Abraham. But there’s another sense of the word in which it means the capacity for deep and almost immediate expression of feeling.
DON MEADE: Soul is charisma. Itgoes with you. Somepeople are charismatic,others are not. Those who have charisma continue to spread the message. They are messengers; their mere presence is a magnetic force that demands attention, and they get that attention by virtue of what they’re saying.
PATTI VASQUEZ: Soulfulness is having something to say. It’s what speaks to you, the way you express yourself. It’s not just being a body. It’s what drives you in the world.
STUDS TERKEL: Soul is something separated from the body, from the corporeal being. But in my case, I don’t separate the two; it’s one. It’s either there or it’s not. I don’t think you can pin down soul: “This is it.” I think each person interprets it in his or her own way.
ZACK GRAHAM: Soul is something that comes out in the stuff you love to do. It comes out
whether you love to play music, you love to do sports, you love to make money. That’s where soul really shines.
CHARLES JAFFE: Soul comes outthrough the stories people tell. In the right kind of atmosphere, it’s very humbling the way people can really express the things that are so central to their motivations, their fears, their hopes, their dreads, their highest level of aspirations, and their most shame-filled kinds of dark-side moments. I think that, taken together, that’s what feels like soul and soulful, and it’s uniquely human.
ANDREA COSNOWSKY: I believe soul is that we are all parts of God, little vessels, if you will. I think we have a choice at different parts of our lives when we can feel that still small voice inside of us that it talks about in the Bible. Listen to that voice. That voice is really our soul speaking to us.
TED COHEN: If you want to talk more about soul, you should go to divinity school.
Soul and Religion
The soul is not a physical entity, but instead refers to everything about us that is not physical – our values, memories, identity, sense of humor. Since the soul represents the parts of the human being that are not physical, it cannot get sick, it cannot die, it cannot disappear. In short, the soul is immortal.Harold Kushner
In Biblical times and in ancient Greece, the word “soul” referred to The Soul, that eternal
essence of a person that is said to persist before birth and after death. This concept belongs in the realm of theology. Religions often provide people with the means to express their soulfulness; they offer believers a feeling of hope. Souls can be saved – but they also can be sold to the Devil.
In this chapter, people talk about death and how they wonder – particularly as children –
whether a soul is snuffed out or continues after its body expires. They discuss the meaning of life; their experiences in church, synagogue, or nature; their visions of God or their inability to conceive of a divine being at all. Ultimately, they question whether a soulful religion can have any impact on their temporal behavior.
DAVID BLOOM: In most people’s minds the context for soul is religion. When did you first think of soul or The Soul?
BILL HORBERG: I remember it vividly as a public school student at the Nettelhorst School on Broadway in Chicago. I was in fourth grade or fifth grade. There was a lot of gang activity, gang fights, gang warfare. There was a kid from my sister’s school that got beaten to death with a baseball bat in the schoolyard, a boy named Hipolito Vega. The name I can still remember, forty years later, even though I probably only saw him maybe once or twice. But I remember the disruption on the community and the deep tragic sense that hung over us really young, formative kids. The funeral service for this young boy who was killed, and the sense of his soul being snuffed up, that was probably the first time something registered with me deeply in terms of what is in the skin and in the shell of our bodies. What’s really the spirit and the spark that’s contained within? Having seen it snuffed out in such a vivid way probably formed some deep impression in my mind.
ANDREA COSNOWSKY: I went to my father when I was five, and I asked him about God. I said, “What happens when we die?” My father gave the party line which was “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” I found that to be a very frightening concept as a five-year-old. I wish on some level my dad might have maybe lied to me a little bit, and it sent me on my own spiritual quest which was: Could that be all there is? When we’re gone from this life, that’s it?
RICK KOGAN: I’m not a big believer in moving on after this life. This is it, this is it for me and I’ve got to make it the best, most interesting trip. You know, I am who I am, through genetics, DNA, and the environment. That’s it! It’s the rarest thing imaginable that I’m not a tiger or a ladybug. That I can function, and enjoy things, and taste things, and drink things and do things. And I’m not in a cage. And my lifespan should be many decades. I don’t want to die thinking that I didn’t take advantage of my one shot.
STUDS TERKEL: Soul’s often associated with theology and religion, as it should be. Jerry Falwell has one impression of soul. The Archbishop of Canterbury has a wholly different impression of soul. I’m sure that a gay bishop has one impression of soul and someone like Pat Robertson a wholly different impression of soul. Whatever that is, it’s what makes each of us unique, no matter how successful we might be, or whatever work we do. The word soul is so broad and all-encompassing in its interpretation, you can go any way you want with it, see. Basically, I would say something that has a depth of feeling to it. Tom Paine, the visionary of the American Revolution, the most eloquent visionary, spoke of
some kind of deity – a deist, he called himself. He didn’t believe in an anthropomorphic god, but he was not an atheist or an agnostic, he was a deist because he believed in some sort of life force that could be called godlike. I suppose you’d say, in that sense, there’s a god in each person. You want to say soul is God, too. One word, one term equals the other. And how God works his wonders to perform or blunders to perform, it’s within that person.
CHRISSY DELACOTTA: I think that you’re born with a soul that’s eternal and even though your body’s gone, your soul lives on, and it goes to Heaven or Hell, depending on how your life turns out or what decisions you make. You can make decisions that don’t have to do with your soul. Someone can be soulful without being religious. I think they’re two different entities, but they cross paths constantly.
DON MEADE: Religion and soulfulness… Well, it depends on what you believe, okay? If you
believe religiously, then everything you have comes out. Time is the same way. There’s only one thing you can do with time: that’s spend it. It’s how you spend it. And this is all about that soul. Knowing the component parts, what you can do, what’s available to you in this celestial environment of yours, because we all come here alone and we’ll leave the same way. Soul is life. It is life. The only game we don’t know is “Where does it go when life no longer exists?” Maybe someday we’ll find out.
RICK KOGAN: It’s funny, but when everybody dies, even if they have a million bucks, twenty million bucks, the thing they want (I would hazard to say, most of all) is to think that they have a soul, because that means they’re going to move on. That means that life is not over.
DAVID BLOOM: “I’m a believer…”
RICK KOGAN: Right, “I’m a believer, oh yeah, I believe, but I’ve never said hello to anybody. I hate black people. I hate Jews. I hate Asians. I hate people of color. But, if I die, my soul will take me right up there.”
DAVID BLOOM: “Because I go to church every Sunday.”
RICK KOGAN: Hypocrites! Well, they don’t go to church every Sunday! The people who are
religious and talk soul all the time, “Oh, I have a soul,” are the people who have that soul lottery ticket stuck in their wallet. If there is such a thing as soul, why wouldn’t you exercise it while you’re alive? Man, it’s not like some annuity you get to cash in the day you die, after fucking people over your whole life.
PHILLIP VERNA: If everyone has a soul then we can become more religious. Religion is a
place where people go to express their soul. If they are deeply religious, let’s say they are really Orthodox Jews or something like that, then maybe the synagogue is a place for them to express their soul.
ZACK GRAHAM: I’m not any religion, I’m really not. But what I believe is that people use
religion as a device. People use religion to find their soul. People use religion to find who
they are and what they’re about. They can do that through the wisdoms the Bible brings out in people. The Bible brings a lot of stuff out in people, and it’s a great tool. (I’m not saying it’s not holy or anything.) It’s a great tool that people use to find their religion even if they don’t realize it.
Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see.William Newton Clarke
CHRISSY DELACOTTA: It’s been hard for me to figure out my religion and how I feel about
religion, because the more people I meet and the more people I talk to, I have to think about it more and more. When you’re young, you’re just told what to think, and you’re like okay, Jesus is the Son of God. Whatever. As you talk to more and more people, you start to think well, maybe that’s not true. You start to question. I think that religion – just having it in my life as a young person – has impacted my soul, because I think it gives you something to believe in. When you have something to believe in, you search for answers. You search for questions. You want to liveout your life to the best of your abilities, because you feel there’s something on the other side. That your life isn’t meaningless.
JON SWANK: Religion was basically created because a lot of people just lacked hope. And
then we probably would have ended thousands of years ago because religion makes people continue to go. Maybe for some people, their soul gives them hope instead of their religion, or maybe it is both. I think they are kind of connected there.
ZACK GRAHAM: Some criminals, they completely convert and start worshiping God because that’s the only way they can feel. Then they find who they really are. It’s not the hardened person on the outside, but it’s really the real person on the inside.
DEREK CHIAMPAS: I think that soul is the currency for dealing with the Devil. You sell your soul and you get something great in return – except then you are going to have to serve an eternity of damnation.
VAN SANDWICK: Soul is a muscle and some people, instead of expressing their soul, they go to church and they pray to God and they believe in God and this is how they feel that they are expressing their soul, and they are trying to feel happy. But then there are some people who go to church and still feel miserable.
ANN SAWYER: There are people who go to church because they go to church to say they go to church. But I visited some churches with my youth group, and if you ever go to one of those extremely active, predominantly African-American gospel churches, they are really getting into it, and it really seems like they are expressing themselves. There are literally people breakdancing in the aisle while they are singing. Who knows? At that point they might not even be thinking about being at church. They might just be thinking about what color the sky is and loving it.
NATHAN WORCESTER: Sometimes in a church or a religious building of some sort, it doesn’t matter how visible the soulfulness is. For example, I go to a church that is predominantly old white people and they are quiet and not breakdancing. But they reach out in much more quiet but still soulful ways.
CHRISSY DELACOTTA: A few years ago, I was in Maine at this absolutely beautiful church for Easter mass. There was a choir, and they were singing this amazing hymn. I don’t even know what happened, but I felt touched by the whole religious experience. I don’t even know if I believe in it yet, but something in that moment made me want to believe in everything again. I think that was pretty soulful.
OSCAR BROWN, JR.: I started hearing about soul in church, of course. It was an aspect of
the Holy Ghost, which was a part of the trilogy of our Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Soul was a spiritual component of life that everybody had. It was always sort of a mystical thing, I think intentionally so, because it was something you couldn’t put your finger on. It was that part of you that continued after the rest of you was gone. That was the part that went to Heaven and had an existence that was extraterrestrial and extraordinary. That was the first time I started hearing about soul.
TOM BURRELL: Soul had been a term that I was familiar with in a religious context. Just that your soul was going someplace after your body was no longer functioning, alive, and I guess I bought into that for a minute, but that was basically it.
DAVID BLOOM: So you wouldn’t consider yourself growing up with a strong sense of religion?
TOM BURRELL: I actually grew up with a strong sense of religion at certain points in my life. I went through a lot of different changes as relates to religion. For some reason I, along with a couple of other people in the neighborhood, we each just kind of took it upon ourselves to do a comparative study of religion by going to different kinds of churches and other institutions. I have no idea where we got that from. It didn’t come from reading. We spent a little while over at Prairie Avenue Baptist Church and then we’d go over to Greater Tabernacle Church of Christ, which was the Sanctified church. Then we would head out to Winnetka, to the Bahai Temple, and we would go to Catholic church. I have no idea what the hell we were doing.
DAVID BLOOM: How old were you when you were touring different churches?
TOM BURRELL: About eight or nine years old.
DAVID BLOOM: Really? Who was taking you to them?
TOM BURRELL: Nobody was. We were taking ourselves. Mostly Sunday schools. We were taking ourselves. Every Sunday we put on our wing-tipped, scotch-grained, double-knit outer soles, offset heels, with our argyle socks, and our three-way suits. You know what three-way suits were? You had the vest and the coat and two pair of pants, and you could switch the pair of pants and you could flip the vest, the vest was reversible. And we had our Mr. B. collars for our hair and our knit ties, like this, and our stingy brim hats, and of course it was stingy brim because the brim was about an inch, and we’d head out. We’d head out to various schools. There were no parents. No parents involved at all. They just sent us off and that’s what we did. I don’t know if we were searching for religion. I don’t know what the hell we were doing. I know it gave us a chance to dress up, but we weren’t looking for girls because we were too young for that; I don’t think we were thinking about that. I don’t remember any girls from Sunday school. I don’t know what we were doing. But anyway, I just know that I didn’t stay.
CHRISTIAN STEINBARTH: You can have a soul but not believe in God. It does not really have to be associated with any religion.
STUDS TERKEL: You’re talking to an agnostic. An agnostic, as you know, is a cowardly atheist. However, do I believe in a certain kind of god? Yes, I suppose I do. Depends how you interpret God. Anthropomorphic being, no. He, she, it – a force of some sort, you know. If you want to be anthropomorphic about it, God is described as a white male, right? Or there is, of course, the African interpretation too, the black male. Has anyone thought of God as a woman? And suppose God was gay, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about Jesus Christ. Now, who was he? What was his color? Was he white? He, I said. Could it be a she? Now a big question that would come up today, especially with the subject of gay and lesbian life, I suppose – this all concerns soul by the way, indirectly – suppose Jesus Christ were a gay person? Would that alter the Sermon on the Mount, what he said? Would that alter love thine enemy, love thy neighbor? Would that alter the parable of the seven little fishes and five loaves of bread?
BOB WILLEMS: I grew up in a very Catholic family. I was an altar boy and I went to church on Sundays, the whole works. I was raised at a time when the Catholic church had just come to grips with embracing the New Testament rather than the Old Testament. I think even today people into Catholicism are much more attached to the Ten Commandments, and we have laws, and here’s the way things are, and it’s cut and dried. The New Testament presents this other view, which is you can screw up everything else in the
world, you can do whatever you want, and just love. Love. The whole thing is about love. I grew up in that church, and the priests that were influential in my upbringing and the people who I knew through my church were about that, and they got that. That was the important thing to me.
ANDREA COSNOWSKY: When I thought about becoming a rabbi in high school, it was very
different than when I thought about becoming a rabbi later on. First of all, I grew up Conservative. To be a Conservative rabbi, it just looked like I’d be doing endless amounts of services. As a high school student, my perception was all I did was go to services, and it was long hours. When I was in my twenties, I was looking through mature eyes at what it meant to really be a rabbi. Services are important, but that’s just one small facet. I really saw becoming a rabbi as service to the Jewish people but also to all mankind – or humankind to be more politically correct.
DAVID BLOOM: Has anything changed regarding your soul after you became a rabbi?
ANDREA COSNOWSKY: Now that I am a rabbi and in a real position, I understand that it’s really about touching people one person at a time. Where I thought I’d be touching huge amounts of people as a rabbi in front of a big congregation, I find that my sermons don’t change people as much as my touch does at the hospital bed, or my presence in a house of mourning, or just sitting next to a bat/bar mitzvah child on their big day. And they’re nervous, and I say to them, “You’re going to be great.” Those are the moments where lives are touched more so than on Yom Kippur when everybody’s here that wouldn’t normally be here, and they’re listening to a sermon. I think I had this idea that I would be touching people on a big scale where it’s really a one to one process. It’s more of I am the vessel, and I will let God work through me to bring people closer to God. It’s really not about me anymore. It’s really about I’m here to be of service. I’m here as the vessel of God.
STUDS TERKEL: In the civil liberties movement in the African-American community, almost all of the leaders are ministers: Rev. Martin Luther King, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Young – Andrew Young, Rev. James Bevel, Rev. Jesse Jackson, you see, Rev. C. T. Vivian. So when we come to soul, the church in African American life played a bigger role than for any other people – because the church was also the center, not only of religion, but the social center, the political center. The hope was there.
DAVID BLOOM: On your radio program you introduced the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to the white world. Obviously, she had a strong religiosity in her whole being. Do you think her emotions and soulfulness were inextricably connected to her religiosity?
STUDS TERKEL: Well, Mahalia happened to be gifted with a remarkable voice and a way of
expressing herself. So we had a very funny relationship because she knew I was a skeptic and I was an agnostic, and so sometimes she would act this out for me. When she’d sing a song, she’d imitate me and say, “Baby, you got me going, you got me going.” And she’d say, “If I could save his soul, oh that’d be good.” I’d say, “Mahalia, I’m beyond salvation, but if anybody can, you can.”
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.Karl Marx
BILL HORBERG: I don’t think of the soul in religious terms because I think of religion as the institutionalization of a certain way that communities form to discuss the phenomenology of the world and how they can try to find some shared way of describing the mysterious.
Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.George Carlin
OSCAR BROWN, JR.: I remember by the time I got into college, I went to DePaul. It was a
Catholic school, and they had courses in logic. One of the things they said was animals didn’t have souls. “How do you know?” was my question. They never could answer that. You have to take that on faith that only human beings have souls. It’s convenient to say that for yourself, but how do you know? You can’t show me mine. If you can’t define it beyond my just accepting an explanation by faith, then why must I have faith that you know what another creature’s spiritual life might be? That was one of my arguments there, and I was becoming leftist and atheist in my thought. I really didn’t have too much to do with soul at that point. What actually brought me back into that concept was my sincere determination to prove to the world that God was a hoax and there could not be such a thing. As I set out to accomplish that, I had to first of all create a concept of God that I was going to destroy. If I was going to be honest about it, it had to be a pretty comprehensive concept. It had to cover all the corners. There could be no gaps. I would build the concept to destroy – but no, that wasn’t enough. There had to be more. I had to build it beyond that. Finally, it got to the point where the concept grew so large that questioning it became ridiculous. Who am I and what am I doing here? Obviously,
the thing that I am seeking is so powerful that if there wasn’t such a thing, there ought to be. Since there ought to be, there is. You just have to accept that. My whole concept of that has changed through the years. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that gravity is God in disguise. Everything we do is predicated on the restrictions and freedoms that gravity gives us. We have to have strength to deal with that. We have to have balance in order to deal with that. We have to worship it. We have to give up six or eight hours every day just to replenish that, or it takes us down. We don’t fall apart or go to pieces or fly away. We just go down. So my whole concept of how the Almighty expresses and appears manifest has changed. It’s not an anthropomorphic concept of God in which I think of man made in God’s image. Of course, man is made in God’s image. If I think you up, I made the image. You are my creation.
ANDREA COSNOWSKY: My concept of God has changed over the years. First of all, I’ve grown up and I’ve seen more, so I have a different understanding of God and God’s role in my life. I think I went through a period of time where I thought God was an interventionist God, where God could reach into my life and rearrange things if I prayed hard enough or if I was good enough. Today I don’t perceive God on that level. I believe that the laws of nature are in place – perhaps put there by God, perhaps by evolution. I don’t want to get into that controversy. More important is this idea that God is loving, and no matter what happens in my life, God’s presence is accessible to me.
BILL KURTIS: Among many Indian cultures, soul and religion probably are the same thing, because they lived on the land and had a food source. They worshiped the buffalo. They worshiped the spirit inside the buffalo: the spirit inside every living thing. They would take it to survive and sustain themselves and their family, but they would pray and give thanks to that spirit for helping them. And they used everything. They were nomadic so they couldn’t acquire a lot of material goods. And they would move across the land following the buffalo. They were very warlike, which we forget about. We think about the wonderful Indian out there looking at the sky and developing his religion. But they fought each other an awful lot and that’s why they resisted the United States when we were trying to move west. And it was a violent resistance. But they had time to develop a religion. They had creation theories, they had myths and legends which contributed to the belief in a Great Spirit. Theirs just happens to be very useful to us today because they saw the spirit and had respect for the world in which they lived: grass, water, the elements of wind, sun and the living things that existed within it. I tend to gravitate back toward that religion more than any others. Some people choose Buddhism, Catholicism, statues. I like the natural world. It’s not pagan in my mind; it’s very wise.
ANDREA COSNOWSKY: Religion is man-made and spirituality is God-made. For people
who can’t access the divine within themselves, they hedge their bets, if you will. For those
who believe that it’s not about going to synagogue and getting your card punched to say,
“Look, I’ve done what I’m supposed to do,” and they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,
it means trying to be the best person they can be. Not stealing, not hurting each other, and not getting in the way as much as we can. We’re human beings, so we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to cause chaos. We’re going to step on each other’s toes, but it’s our ability to try to do the best we can. That’s where the spirit is. So soul is what dictates my behavior, and religion is when I try to dictate other people’s behavior. I think we as individuals, in whatever country we’re in, might be better off tending to our own souls than to our neighbors’.