Who is it that clasps and kneads my
naked feet, till they unfold,
till all is well, till all is utterly well? the
lotus-lilies of the feet!
I tell you it is no woman, it is no man,
for I am alone.
And I fall asleep with the gods, the gods
that are not, or that are
according to the soul’s desire,
like a pool into which we plunge, or do
—FROM “THERE ARE NO GODS”
The operative word in these lines from D. H. Lawrence, who wasn’t a conventionally religious person, is “soul.” It’s a word that has become almost embarrassing for many contemporary people unless it is completely stripped of its religious meaning. Perhaps that’s just what it needs sometimes: to be stripped of its “religious” meaning , in the sense that faith itself sometimes needs to be stripped of its social and historical encrustations and returned to its first, churchless incarnation in the human heart. That’s what the twentieth century was, a kind of windstorm-scouring of all we thought was knowledge, and truth, and ours— until it became too strong for us, or we too weak for it, and “the self replaced the soul as the fist of survival” (Fanny Howe). Anxiety comes from the self as ultimate concern, from the fact that the self cannot bear this ultimate concern: it buckles and wavers under the strain, and eventually, inevitably, it breaks.
Wiman, Christian (2013-04-02). My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (pp. 90-91). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.