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 knew your inner-most self and truly cared 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 who I heard speak at the Temenos Academy before his death.
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, lover or 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.
Such friendships are what I would wish for a St James boy.