Soulmates

Union is only possible to those who are units.
-Margaret Fuller

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The way to find a soul mate is to be a person with soul.

Many people are desperate to find a soul mate, someone who responds to their deep image of love and intimacy.  They go to great lengths to meet people, and they spend considerable time feeling achingly deprived of the joys of intimacy they imagine.  Their attitude is summed up in the frequent lament:  When am I going to find the person who is right for me?

This approach to love seems to reflect the narcissism of the times.  When am I going to get what I need for my growth and my satisfaction?  An alternative would be to give all that attention either to one's own life--developing one's talents, educating oneself in culture, and simply becoming an interesting person--or to a needy society.  This crafting of a life is a positive way of preparing oneself for intimacy.

Margaret Fuller's essay "Woman in the Nineteenth Century," written in 1844, is a rare example of profound feminist reflection linked to ancient Neo-platonic teachings about the soul.  Her observations apply to men as well as women, to society as well as individuals, and to our current situation as well as hers.  She was sharply aware of the tendency to find the soul's vitality exclusively in relationship with another, at the cost of one's own individuality.  In the same essay she wrote, "If any individual lives too much in relations, so that he becomes a stranger to the resources of his own nature, he falls, after a while, into a distraction or imbecility, from which he can only be cured by a time of isolation, which gives the renovating fountains time to rise up."

At the same time, Margaret Fuller was capable of intense and fruitful intimacy, as in her sometimes stormy yet always creative connection with Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Frequently I have occasion to visit the town of Groton, Massachusetts, and each time I think about its precious citizen Margaret Fuller and recall how in many ways she reconciled opposites in her rich and tragic life.  She devoted herself to her own education, to involvement in world politics, and to deep reflection on the soul.  She was capable of extraordinary friendship because she was so fervently an individual moved by her passions.  She was a woman of extreme imagination and courage.

Having deep friendships and soulful relationships is the result of living one's own life seriously and devotedly.  Fuller added a more demanding condition:  to be able to live in isolation, in celibacy.  "To be fit for relations in time, souls, whether of man or woman, must be able to do without them in the spirit."  A moment alone, the experience of being solitary, the spirit of celibacy--these, too, can be delicious to the person seeking a vital life, and they may be important elements in the establishing of a marriage or a friendship.  They are part of the quest for a soul mate because first of all one must have a soul.

The capacity for solitude is a prerequisite for intimacy with another.  Otherwise, it may well be that the desperate search for a partner is merely the expression of personal emptiness, and if that is the case, any relationship will be founded on weak grounds and will not satisfy the yearning for connection.  The expression soul mate can mean a partnership in which the soul is engaged, in which one's own soul connects with another's.  This is no small thing, and it reaches far deeper than the resolution of any superficial search for romance.  Part of what we long for in our wish for a soul mate is intimacy with and the expression of our own soul.

an essay in Original Self, by Thomas Moore

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