Although the most common connotation of the word friend might now be “a contact made through social networking,” the older and deeper sense of friend referred to someone who knows your inner-most self and truly cares for your soul. In that sense, a true friend is not simply someone who is “like-minded,” but rather someone who sees something genuine and meaningful in us. More than a peer or even a “close friend,” a friend of the soul is an intimate companion of one’s inner life.
This deeper kind of friendship creates a shared sense of recognition as well as a deep sense of mutual belonging. In all things meaningful, a sense of depth is required. The lack of depth in modern friending can leave people more isolated even if digitally connected and can leave the world with less human warmth and genuine presence.
Ancient traditions around the world include the idea that each soul has an inner spark of life that grows by being seen, by being truly acknowledged and supported by others. “Anam cara” was an old Celtic term for a deep and abiding friendship, made widely known in modern times by the Irish poet John O’Dononhue.
Anam is a Gaelic word for soul and cara means friend; taken together they describe a “soul friend,” a genuine ally and intimate confidant of a person’s true self and soul. Such a friend can be a confidant or companion, a mentor, teacher, or lover, anyone who can truly “read a person’s heart” and help awaken the inner light of their soul. Soul friends befriend the uniqueness of each other’s soul and know how to support the radiance trying to grow from within.
An ancient Hasidic tradition preserves the idea that when two people meet and become genuine friends, the unique sparks set within their souls become conjoined. This union of two soul lights begets, not a human embryo, but an Angel of Friendship. Seen this way, the essence of genuine friendship is both creative and generative.
Through the joining of the inner lights of their souls the light of creation in the world intensifies and this gives greater living presence to both the individual friends and to the collective life of humanity.
Angels of Friendship help bring something to life at the level of a person’s soul and this coming to life nourishes the true inner nature and genuine life purpose of each friend. A similar idea can be found in Hinduism and Buddhism, where the devas represent the angelic and benevolent presence of celestial beings. Devas can appear as dharma-palas or guardian angels that protect a person’s dharma or core purpose and way of serving life.
In the Mayan tradition this sense of a precise inner nature would be a person’s “day-sign soul” or nagual. As spiritual essence and archetypal imprint, the nagaul is the part of each person’s soul that dreams, the part that keeps trying to dream up the genuine purpose and meaning our life.
There may be no time when the sense of friends of the soul is more needed than these dark and troubling times in which the world can become an increasingly unfriendly place. In the midst of the current crises that divide people against each other and in the face of the dangers of climate change that threaten the entire planet, people can feel ever more isolated and afraid. Yet, what ultimately stands against the growing sense of isolation and despair is the awakened soul and what helps the awakened individual stay awake is the presence of genuine friends of the soul.
Despite and because of all the tragedy and suffering around us, it becomes more important than ever that friends of the soul help nourish the inner spirit and true aim of each other’s lives. It is our sacred duty and ancient calling to serve the sparks of holiness we find in each other and in the things of the world. For, those who become friends of the soul can awaken in creative ways that also make them “friends of the world.” If there is to be a meaningful transformation of life that helps humans become allies of nature and friends of the world again, the efforts to truly change will have to be reinforced and mutually supported at the deepest levels of the human soul.
Thank you for being a Friend of Mosaic and of the World. Wishing you warm and peaceful holidays,
Michael Meade and the Mosaic staff
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