"Soul Love" can be listened to as a song on its own or as part of the Ziggy Stardust mythos.
On its own, the song is a compassionate yet nihilistic view of the damaging aspects of love and of general human existence. Each verse deals with a different form of love.
In the beginning there's a mother kneeling at the grave of a son that's been killed in war to "save the slogan," which is a pessimistic take on patriotism and one that harks back to a "Quicksand
" (from the Hunky Dory
album in 1971) line that mentions the "living proof of Churchill's lies."
The second verse has two teenagers so madly in love that they believe no other love has existed like it before. They have "new love" and "new words" that are utterly unique to them. Mature people know this story of youthful pretension and know equally that it's doomed for pain and heartbreak.
The final verse has a priest praying to a God that never answers and only coming away lonelier. This, too, reminds of "Quicksand," calling to mind the line, "Can't take my eyes from the great salvation of bulls--t faith." In both cases, we see Bowie angrily critical of Christianity.
The three stories may seem disconnected, but taken together they represent the grand sweep of human love. First there's maternal love, the most biologically hardwired of all loves. Second there's romantic and sexual love, driven by biological instincts yet also mixed with some level (depending on the pairing) of consciousness and free will. Finally, there is spiritual love, least biologically driven and most nebulous, a love that relies strongly on psychological abstraction and imagination.
All three of them, Bowie tells us are, are forms of "idiot love" that wind up wounding us more than they heal. It's a pessimistic view, but Bowie seems driven more than anything by a deep empathy for the doomed position humanity finds itself in.