Service as the Masterpiece of the Soul


Beauteous art, brought with us from heaven,

will conquer nature; so divine a power
belongs to him who strives with every nerve.
If I was made for art, from childhood given
a prey for burning beauty to devour,
I blame the mistress I was born to serve.

~ Michelangelo ~

In the writing of Born to Serve: The Evolution of the Soul Through Service, I was taken into the inner processes of bringing marble masterpieces into form by the great master sculptor, himself. Michelangelo, in a realm beyond time and space, allowed me into his inner sanctum to experience his artistry and the inner workings of his soul through his eyes. The following is an excerpt from the prologue where I write of this experience.

Born to Serve: Prologue

As certainly as he revealed the soul of the marble he sculpted, Michelangelo’s own soul was revealed through his partnership with the stone; this was how he served art and, through art, humanity. Like him, we reveal our souls through our service. We are always in partnership with that which we serve and are served by, whether people, animals, nature, or task. Serving with the intention of being both the master sculptor and the masterpiece of our lives opens the door for the Absolute to create the highest good in any given set of circumstances.

 As a sculptor, Michelangelo saw in his mind’s eye the figure within each massive piece of marble. His heart resonated with the potential sculpture that lived within the stone. The reciprocity between Michelangelo and the figure within was pure, vibrant, and certain. A sculptor cannot force a design on marble that does not agree with its nature. Rather, as he chiseled, burnished, and polished its surface, Michelangelo and the marble spoke and co-operated with one another until together they released the statue that revealed both the sculptor’s and the marble’s perfected potential. Michelangelo and the marble were one.

Michelangelo pounded and chiseled with force, concentration, and purposefulness until his vision, the “soul” of the marble, emerged from the stone. The marble yielded to Michelangelo’s blows, not out of sacrifice but out of desire for the figure within to reveal itself. Through this mutual give and take, Michelangelo removed all obstacles to the marble’s complete expression of itself, simultaneously becoming the complete expression of himself in that moment.

We are sculptors of our lives and can use each life experience to remove the superfluous in our inner and outer lives and thereby free the soul’s knowledge, its already perfected potential. The emergence of spiritual knowledge is the destiny of the soul.

The outside forces of painful experiences serve as catalysts for inner change and transformation. As our personality tendencies and limited perceptions of life experience fall away, all our soul powers are called forth into full expression on the physical plane. In this process, we discover both our human psychology and our divine spirituality. The once hidden qualities and features of the soul emerge, and with increasing consciousness, we manifest them in the world through service.

To recognize and relate to another’s fullest potential is to honor another’s soul. Through service, we become equal partners joined in a common purpose rather than separated individuals doing something to one another. Sometimes we are the sculptor and sometimes the marble; sometimes we are the student, sometimes we are the teacher. Joined in this way, we release something far greater than is otherwise possible: a holy relationship in which we support the emergence of each other’s highest potential into a joint masterpiece.

 To release the soul to full expression requires skills for working with the physical, psychological, and spiritual nature of ourselves and others. This is a lifelong process; this is the reason we are here. When our “striving with every nerve” joins with divine grace, the extraordinary happens. Our wills become one with Divine Will. We know what to say or do to sculpt our soul’s unique masterpiece of service. Only by accepting the rigorous discipline of this partnership can the knowledge of the soul emerge and our fullest potential be attained.

The goal of all work, of all service, is simply to bring out what is already there, to unveil the soul.

Resource: © Susan S. Trout. Born to Serve: The Evolution of the Soul Through Service. Alexandria, VA: Three Roses Press, 1997.  

Image attributions: 
1. The St. Matthew (San Matteo) by Michelangelo Buonarroti in The Galleria dell'Accademia di Firenze, Florence, Italy; photo by silverfox999.
2. The Awakening Slave by Michelangelo Buonarroti in The Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence, Italy; photo by Attapola.

3. Pieta Ronanini, 1564, by Michelangelo Buonarroti, at Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy; photo by BTWImages.


Explore the unique practice of

The Michelangelo Metaphor ~ Leadership as Service

The nature of the leader-group partnership is uniquely expressed in the metaphor of the master sculptor (the leader) and the marble (the group) as they together
reveal each's perfected potential.


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