In last week's post, "Accessing the Wisdom of the Soul," one reader posed the question: "Shouldn't we prove that the soul exists?" Others wondered if the soul has a religious connotation. All this talk about soul, but do we know what is it exactly?
My own idea of what the soul is and how it operates has been deeply imprinted by my study of archetypal psychology and the work of Dr. James Hillman, the father and founder of archetypal psychology, an approach to working with the psyche that addresses the primacy of the soul and its process in shaping our human experience.
From an interview with Dr. Hillman in the New Kabbalah on the soul:
The classical problems of "... what it is to be truly human, how to love, why to live, and what is emotion, value, justice, change, body, God, soul and madness in our lives," as well as the more immediate problems of sex, money, power, family, health, etc. are all insoluble. Their eternal purpose is simply "to provide the base of soul-making."
From Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul:
"The 'soul' is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart and personal substance."
So whether or not you agree or can even remotely align with the idea or concept of a human soul, there are thinkers throughout human history who, while not necessarily agreeing on the word, have given the subject of that part of human existence that transcends body and mind, that is more than the sum of its parts, a great deal of thought and consideration. In this discussion this is what we are calling "soul."
One reader last week suggested that the soul is equivalent to an "animating life force." I can align with this idea. Within every human being, at the moment of birth when the very first breath is drawn, this life force enters the body. It remains with us until we take our very last breath. With the final expiration, this force which has animated our life our entire lifetime, leaves the body and the body dies.
Whether or not the soul lives on into eternity is a subject of much speculation and little agreement. However, the eternality of the soul has been celebrated throughout human history. From the ancient drawings of the cave dwellers in southern France, to the temples built to guard and ferry the souls of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt, to man's earliest creation mythologies in Sumeria, the human story has always included the story of its soul.
According to Dr. Hillman, this animating force, embedded in us at birth, comes with a "calling." He states "we enter the world called." He borrows this idea from Plato's Republic. In a nutshell, Plato's idea is that the soul of each individual is given an image before it's born. He calls it a "soul companion" or a daimon. The daimon carries the pattern for our lives and guides us over the course of our lives in its unfolding. It is the carrier of our destiny and our life's guardian.
Whether this is factually true or simply a myth cannot be proven. But imagine for a moment that it were true. If you begin to "inquire within," to consult your own soul for what is its calling, it might just set you on a wondrous adventure of discovery.
One way to discern the soul's calling is to take a look around. Look closely and you will see that it's all over your life. Seen through the filter of the soul's calling, look at your environment. It will tell you the story.
Is your environment orderly or chaotic? Are you drawn to vivid colors or quieter serene ones? Is beauty in your space important to you or is your living space a place to hang your hat only? What about gardening and flowers? Art? Music? The soul thrives in many different kinds of environments. There is no one way for the soul. What is your way?
Look at your relationships. What state are they in? Are they smooth and functioning well? Are they bumpy and rocky? Do you pay a lot of attention to relationships in your life? Do you tend to seek solitude and avoid relationships altogether?
Look at your work life. How does it feel? Are you happy and satisfied, pleased with your accomplishments? Have you quit or lost jobs, started but never finished things? What are the patterns you see? Are you where you want to be in this domain?
Your soul is expressing its calling and its stamp is all over your life. There are many ways to tap into the psyche of the soul. Last week, many readers offered up poetry in their comments. A response no doubt inspired by the soul for poetry is one of the soul's favorite means of expression. Writing, poetry, art, music... all call upon the creative realm where the soul dwells.
The soul is a poet by nature. So here's an invitation to let your inner poet out and see what emerges. You needn't try to figure anything out or make it rhyme. The soul follows its own rules for expression. If you feel so inspired, create some poetry, right here on the spot and leave it as a comment. What does your soul want to express?
Your poem can be as short as six words, six lines, six stanzas or more. The only limitation is the number of words a comment can hold, but you can spill over and continue on if need be. OK, I'll go first, but please jump in. Let's have fun with this.
Here is poem I wrote about the soul's calling for an earlier post. I think of the call as coming from the realm of the unconscious, so I called it:
The Unconscious Invitation
My subjective mind, soul's mortal home and seat of imagination,
Is brewing up a perfect storm, an "unconscious" invitation.
But what's the invitation, my conscious mind wants to know?
Where is this all leading? Where am I to go?
My soul spoke up and calmly replied, "You'll know soon enough.
With faith and trust I'll get you there, though the ride ahead may be rough."
Then my will aroused and threatened, asked, "Just who do you think you are?"
To think that you know better than I, no, I'm the one driving this car."
And there arose between these two a storm of epic proportions,
My will pitted against my Soul, but my soul knew no distortions.
For my will, a common story, a story of fear and avoidance,
For my soul, a holy story, a story of returning to wholeness.
The perfect storm raged, the winds blew, my life tossed back and forth,
But my soul kept its compass pointed in the direction of my true North.
Though the seas were rough and threatened to flood the shores of my private nation,
I trusted and followed and obeyed the call of my unconscious invitation.
For I knew that my soul would always be true to its purpose for this incarnation,
And I knew that my life would be better for having accepted this invitation.
And just as my soul had promised, I arrived at the harbor of grace,
After my long and treacherous journey I finally found peace.
I found within the gleaming shores of my soul's imagination,
The secret hidden deep inside its unconscious invitation.
Though my will means well, it can only see the reflection of its fear,
While my soul will always move me in the direction of what is clear.
The unconscious invitation comes to bring us back to wholeness.
It comes to show us who we are, to have us know our oneness.
Fear not, my friend, when your turn comes, for this you can be certain
The invitation comes to all, before our final curtain.
Judith Rich -- 2011
OK, your turn. Give it a go! You get points for any and all entries. And if your soul today just isn't in the mood for poetry, that's OK too. We'd still love to hear from you so drop on by the comment section below and weigh in and/or come visit my personal blog and web site at Rx For The Soul.
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Blessings on the path.
For more by Dr. Judith Rich, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.
Flickr photo by Osvaldo Gon