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?