The Difference Between Spirit and Soul

Art by Elena Ray

Art by Elena Ray

We use the terms Spirit and Soul interchangeably in our spiritual language, often without a clear understanding of what we mean when we speak each word.

And yet, Soul and Spirit are pretty darn important to this whole journey through consciousness.

They deserve their own distinctions, as they are each portals into the deepest aspects of our experience of duality.

I have derived my personal definitions from hundreds of Ayahuasca journeys, years of reading masters like Carl Jung and James Hillman, lots of retreats with folks like Tim Freke and Richard Moss, and my own personal musings. I don’t purport that these views are Truth, just my educated reflections.

The Definition of Spirit

Let’s start with the more playful, unifying, ethereal, delicious aspect of Spirit.

Webster’s definition of Spirit looks like this:


 1. the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.

"we seek a harmony between body and spirit"


soulpsyche, (inner) self, inner being, inner man/woman, mindegoid

2. those qualities regarded as forming the definitive or typical elements in the character of a person, nation, or group or in the thought and attitudes of a particular period.

"the university is a symbol of the nation's egalitarian spirit"


ethos, prevailing tendency, motivating force, essencequintessence; More


3 convey rapidly and secretly.

"stolen cows were spirited away some distance to prevent detection"

How fascinating that even the dictionary says that soul and spirit are synonyms. In my heart and mind, they are dance partners, but they are very much like the masculine and the feminine – that is, similar, but Not The Same.

What resonates with the definition above is #2, where spirit is used in connection to the essence of a character or group. It’s intangible but has quintessential qualities of speed, excitement, force, mystery, and as #3 expresses, a secretive nature.

To me, spirit is the essence within us that connects directly to source. When we are connected to spirit, we are in the experience of oneness. Spirit comes rushing out through the crown chakra and straight into the cosmos. It holds deep wisdom of where we come from.

Our spirits are our connection to creation. When we are deep inside spirit, we do not feel disconnected, separate, or individual. I think of spirit as the chariot to the non-dual space. When I surrender into the movement, “I” fall away, and it all feels like We. One. Delicious unity.

It’s rare in our language that we personify spirit. We don’t normally say “My spirit.” We often drop the pronoun all together and say “spirit”. That is the hidden sign that spirit provides direct access to oneness.

And now for something completely different….

The Definition of Soul

Here is Webster’s take:

1.    the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.

2. the essence or embodiment of a specified quality.

"he was the soul of discretion"


embodimentpersonificationincarnationepitomequintessenceessence; More

Like spirit, soul has synonyms like essence and epitome. What works for me above is defining soul as immortal, and the embodiment of incarnation.

For me, soul is the opposite of spirit in many ways. Soul is like our energetic snowflake. It’s the part of us that is unique in all of creation.

When we say something is soulful, we normally mean that it’s deep. Intense. Full of feeling. Intangible. And we often refer to it in a creative context.

Inside the seat of the soul is the full experience of separateness. That’s why we don’t call the intense moments “Dark nights of the spirit.” They are aptly named “Dark nights of the sou.” While spirit shoots out into the cosmos, soul goes down into the core. Soul dares to deep dive into the darkness. We actualize the truth of our souls by having the courage the know our shadow.

Carl Jung put it this way:

” By soul…I understand a clearly demarcated functional complex that can best be described as a “personality.”

I love this description, because it’s been my experience that the more we get to know the true essence of our souls, the more we know who we are as authentic individuals.

James Hillman talked about the soul as an acorn; within the soul is the entire spectrum of our individual potential. The soul holds the oak tree of our human expression. The more we go in, learn, ask, feel, and integrate, the more we able to live in the truth of who we are, and what we came to do.

Soul emerges into our beingness through the root chakra; the opposite of spirit. It moves up into our awareness only after we go to greet it in the darkness. As we make soul conscious, we become aligned with who we real are.

The Romance Between Spirit and Soul

To me, spirit is the masculine force, similar to Prana in Hindu tradition; that is, the life force that, like a lightning bolt, comes down from the heavens and animates, electrifies, and illuminates our conscious experience.

In contrast, soul is the feminine force, the Akasha; it dwells in the core of darkness, awaiting our union, which happens through awareness and love.

Spirit gives us the energy and motivation to find our way to soul. We have to courageously journey through our shadow to fully meet our souls, which is why the darkest events of our lives teach us the most about who we are.

They are one hell of a dynamic duo.

What Happens to Spirit and Soul When we Die?

So here’s where two become one….

It is my experience through a lifelong study of death, and through my own NDE journeys, that spirit and soul are only separate while we live in duality. Because everything here has contrast, we can consciously experience both as separate energies.

When we die, we simply remove our consciousness from the confinements of a body. We step out of the density of duality, and back into the freedom of unity.

Through that, spirit and soul merge once the body is dropped. This is why we use the terms interchangeably – when we’re talking about interacting with beings that have passed on, they are both souls and spirits, as those are the immortal parts of who we are.

And this explains why they do work as synonyms for each other, when speaking from the non-dual perspective.

But here, while we are blessed (and challenged) with the dualistic journey of living in a body, spirit and soul have vastly different roles. They provide the ultimate in the experience of contrast.

How ridiculously blessed we are to get to know both the unified and separated essences of our unique swirl of consciousness. That right there is spirited soulfulness :) 

About the author, Tina Kat Courtney

Tina “Kat” Courtney, The Afterlife Coach, has worked with Ayahuasca for 11 years, with a decade as a shamanic apprentice. She works as an Ayahuasca Coach, guiding others through the integration and preparation process with all sacred plants and master plant dietas. Additionally, Kat works with people confronting issues around death and shadow. Ever the Gemini, Kat is also the co-founder of RedRoar, a cause-oriented and conscious marketing agency. She’s a transformational junkie with a major love of polarities, and she adores helping others love their darkness too.