"Two souls, alas! Cohabit in my breast
A contract one of them desires to sever
The one like a rough lover clings
To the world with the tentacles of its senses
The other lifts itself to Elysian Fields
Out of the mist on powerful wings.”
(Goethe, Faust I, Sc.2, Louis MacNeice translation)

The soul typically is conceived of as the aspect of the Human Being that transcends temporality. Many religions teach that in death the soul and the body separate, and the soul lives forever. (Spirit often is used synonymously with soul.) Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, ego ("I" in Latin) came to connote the self, the individual being. But ego obscures the sense that we are spiritual beings with a place in the proverbial Elysian Fields, connoting only that part of us that "clings to the world with the tentacles of its senses." Losing awareness of body, soul, and spirit, we’re limited to our conscious senses, our bodily self-awareness. We all should explore our sense of self, emphasizing the dangers of becoming stuck in the ego. Goethe would be a good person to follow with his great wisdom.

Author's Bio: 

Andrew Flaxman, founder and director of Classic Insights, B.A., Princeton (cum laude); M.A., Business, Rutgers; author of Learning from History, (Gifted Education Press of Virginia, 1990), “The Open I" (Humanities Education, University of Minnesota, 1991), “The Extra Senses in Our Perception” (Thresholds Quarterly, May 1999), “The Bhagavad Gita and Self Education” (Thresholds Quarterly, Winter 2000-2001), and “The Open I” (revised, Chrysalis Reader, 2001).