— by Michael Barrett —

I write as a doubting Anglican and a faltering Unitarian, but as a hoping seeker after truth. In this, one of the things I cling to is the phrase ‘Bless my soul’.

I use it as a mantra* when at meditation in this chapel, and other places – and I love it.

It is brief – consisting of just three words, or syllables, or elements; each one of which does useful work. And it is in my native language – so I relate to it with warmth.

From the outset it seems satisfying because its first word “Bless”, being addressed to God, though without name or gender, acknowledges that there is a God; a Creator or Deity; an Intelligence or Reality; a Cause or Purpose; a Supreme Mind or a listening Spirit. It asks benefit from a Power or Intellect vastly greater than even the best of our human minds – though of the same sort and therefore comprehensible in some degree.

Bless my Soul! The word “Soul” acknowledges without being specific, that there is something within me – in my brain or in my heart, somewhere in me (though, being spirit, it need not have a material location) which longs to be blessed. Also, that this something within me has such an affinity with the Power who is being addressed, that there can be understanding and gifting between us.

The word “my” also is significant, because it acknowledges the individual nature of my Soul. This relationship between the Deity which is One and INFINITE, and the innumerable individual human souls – one of which is me, and is immortal – is perplexing and is a great mystery. How can there be an apparently one-to-one relationship between us, such as we assume and long for? This is beyond our understanding but nevertheless draws us into contemplation.

A coming together of modern science and cosmology, with religion, seems promised by current discourse. Moreover, it seems closer to the somewhat ‘minimalist’ nature of Unitarianism, which is less encumbered than Trinitarian Christianity with doctrine and all the accumulated stuff of centuries; its art and architecture, its music and literature, its beauty and its errors; it seems weighed-down with treasure – with inertia. Unitarianism by contrast is lean, and may be better able to align its spirituality with new thinking in philosophy and science.

‘Bless my soul’.

* ‘mantra’ literally means that which ‘protects the mind’. It refers to a specially chosen word or phrase which is repeated over and over in meditation or prayer, to aid concentration or devotion.