The Soul Journey – What Is All This Soul Stuff Anyway?

“Soul – The Summons to Something Larger”

James Hollis

I have been fortunate to encounter a group of people that I met at Hollyhock this year who are giving me the opportunity to practice Spiritual Guidance on a regular basis. After our first introductory evening four of us met one evening this week on the topic: “The Soul Journey – what is all this soul stuff anyway?”

Each session begins with the creating a sense of sacred space with a guided meditation and a poem – this particular evening I shared a poem by Donna Crouch:

There are no prison bars within the Soul

Nothing can contain the wildness of God

Given freely to every beating heart

Stop and listen, open your arms to the spacious silence and receive

Nothing, no one can take away that freedom

Created to fan the divine spark

Burning invisibly, deep and clean

Within the unlocked and open doors of unfettered liberty.

After our check-in I asked them to share their current perspectives on the idea of the Soul. Each of them seemed clear that this was a current and powerful inner force in their lives. This of course made my role much easier. I discarded the research I had one on concepts of Soul although it may be of interested to refer to them here.

I found a helpful web site BeliefNet that had asked teachers from different faiths their perspectives. In the Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions there is a general consensus that the Soul represents the divine spark that animates the body with its connection to God. The Hindus have two words for Soul: Atman – the true self identified with universal Brahman and disidentified from the human experience. Suksma Sarira or the subtle body – the personal Soul migrates from one life to another. Buddhism does not embrace the notion of a Soul connected to God but do believe in reincarnation. I grew up in an Evangelical Baptist environment that was all about the soul needing to be saved or it and I went to hell.

Most recently my personal exploration has involved a new sense of Soul reflected more in terms of depth psychology and the great poets both Sufi and others throughout the ages. Sufi poet Hafiz beautifully interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky wrote,  “What is this present love and laughter budding in our hearts? It is the glorious sound of a Soul waking up.”

In depth psychology eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis refers to Psyche the Greek word for Soul as well the Self vs. the self. These are inner energies related more to the unconscious than the conscious. They show up in dreams and synchronicity and are perhaps what Emily Dickenson was referring to when she wrote, ‘the sailor does not see the north but knows the needle can.”

Hollis suggests five questions in his book What Matters Most: Do I have a Soul? What does it mean to me? What does it ask of me? What does it mean to show up? Am I willing to engage with it and serve it?

In some ways addressing these questions has become the passion of my life. I have realized that this is a journey of shifting sand, that the goal posts move and I can only see what I see and this will change. As the great poet Tukaram said, “Everything in your life will change especially all your ideas about God”.

I shared with the group my personal journey to date from Christian to Atheist then a slow emergence after the great trauma of my life to curiosity followed by an inexplicable act of grace when I had a psychic love affair that forever changed my worldview and I understood for the first time that I was a spiritual being having a human experience rather that a human being having a spiritual one. (I recorded the details of this story at “psychic love affair”)

At this juncture my concept of Soul truly began to evolve to my current credo: I have a Soul; it is the essence of my divine self; it provides the guiding threads for my life, I choose to serve its direction and allow my ego to be its servant.

I suggested to the group a practice that involved an introductory meditation and poem then a drawing of the image that may emerge from the deeper self. This is a practice that requires no skill at drawing and the purpose is to separate from the thinking self and allow the inner wisdom to come forward.

The poem I shared was the Meadow by Kate Knapp-Johnson and went like this.

Half a day lost staring out of this window.

I wanted to know just one true thing about the Soul

But I left thinking for thought and two inches of snow have fallen over the meadow.

Where did I go? How long was I out looking for you who would never leave me?

My witness, my here.

I repeated the line, “Show me one true thing about my Soul” The response was immediate and everyone seemed to have a clear image that emerged. The results as always were amazing. Each image so different and yet so specifically relevant to the drawer.

I asked a few questions: What does this image say? What feelings does it represent? Does it have a name? The responses suggested amazing insight. One was a powerful, fountain whose energy could not be resisted, loving yet demanding. Another was a playful, energetic, light-hearted joyous and supportive image – there to give loving guidance. The third was simple yet complex – it presented more than one dimension. It featured a deep, rich red rose. There was love, beauty with a sense it could defy the laws of the world.

I sat in awe at this powerful affirmation of the Soul. The words of the poem have always resonated with me – I believe we here to search, explore discover; there is no one answer. Each of us must find our own way and our own path.

We concluded as usual with a gratitude meditation. It was a moment to reflect on our many gifts and send some positive, loving, healing energy out into the world.


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