An unexpected etymological delight cropped up in my reading of Jung. The soul, wouldn’t you want to know whence it came? For once I did not have to trawl through a dictionary myself, but could enjoy a clear, informative, and measured exposition (no puns, no detours, no dry details).
What is the origin of the world Seele? Like the English word soul, it comes from the Gothic saiwala and the Old German saiu’alô, and these can be connected with the Greek aiolos, mobile, coloured, iridescent. The Greek word psyche also means butterfly. Saiwalô is related on the other side the old slavonic word sila, meaning strength. From these connections light is thrown on the original meaning of the word Seele: it is moving force, that is life-force.
The Latin words animus, spirit, and anima, soul, are the same as the Greek anemos, wind. The other Greek word for wind, pneuma, means also spirit. In Gothic we find the same word in us-anan, to breathe out, and in Latin an-helare, to pant. In Old High German, spiritus sanctus was rendered by atun, breath. In Arabic, wind is rīh, and rūh is soul, spirit. Thre is a quite similar connection with the Greek psyche, which is related to psycho, to breathe, psychos, cool, psychros, cold, and physa, bellows. These affinities show clearly how in Latin, Greek and Arabic the names given to the soul are related to the notion of moving air, the “cold breath of the spirit.” And this is also why the primitive point of view endows the soul with an invisible breath-body.
—C. G. Jung in Modern Man in Search of a Soul (translated by W. S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes)
Jung goes on to talk about other metaphors used to described the soul. Except air, there is fire, because warmth is associated with life, there is the name of an individual, and there is their shadow.
I wonder which name the modern soul prefers.
2 thoughts on “For the Word-Lovers: Soul”
Which one do I prefer? What a question! The soul is the focus for all the stories, myths, legend and faerie stories that have ever been written. It is Christianity, Islam etc etc et….. cetera. It is what we write for and read for and talk for and make films for and write poems for. It is all of what you have put on the page.And you “wonder which name the modern soul prefers”? It is all.
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So you think all? I’m inclined to agree.
Each name describes a feature. What’s more, each of the “motivations” (or should it be “manifestations”?) that you mention—stories, religions, arts, interactions between people—are just explorations of the soul that show us tiny fragments which we’re able to comprehend.
Show us more than those tiny fragments of soul and we might be blinded. At the very least, we probably wouldn’t understand what we were seeing (though, of course, we all posses soul and are part of it).
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