It is more than disconcerting for one whose blog is titled SoulClarity and who writes regularly under the banner the Soul’s Journey to find their current concept of soul has abandoned them.
Twenty-five years ago I had a “eureka” moment about the soul. It resulted from a powerful psychic encounter when the words of Theillard de Jardin “You are a spiritual being having a human experience not a human being having a spiritual one.” not only helped explain my experience but also became my new reality. Accompanying this belief was a sense that my soul was where the divine and the human intersect.
This held as my truth for twenty-five years and was supplemented by a series of incremental beliefs regarding: feeding the soul, polishing the soul like a diamond, opening the soul like a rose. It became the source of the inner voice – my primary guidance. It was a wellspring of love, compassion, beauty and joy. I found it in music, poetry and the language of symbols, signs and synchronicities I encountered on my journey. It created life force and positive energy; it provided the call to a larger life; it was a focus for meaning and growth in my life.
During the past quarter of a century although my concept of the divine or transcendent wavered, my sense of soul never did. It remained the eternal soul that gave me my connection to immortality. It was the part of me that could carry past lives (until I had to shed that belief too.) It felt comfortable and supportive; it was like an anchor to my belief system. I related to the language of the great poets and many of the inspiring writers that have guided my journey like Thomas More and James Hollis who refers to soul to as “our essence, our deepest being, our deepest longing, our deepest possibilities.” His words inspired me.
In 2018 I attended a workshop on Transitions. Around this time I read two different books: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It was a synchronicity that I read them in the same year. Sapiens had been recommended by a dear friend and I had waited three years before my hold at the library became available and the other by a young Mexican server at a tea shop I frequent.
I read with great dismay a litany of horrors about our species as it spread out and dominated using cruel, barbarous tactics lacking all human decency. I heard a quiet voice repeat itself over and over. “Where is the spiritual being in all this?” Is this your spiritual heritage?
The concept of a “spiritual being” evaporated like a mist over the bay. It no longer resonated or rang true. I felt shocked. The words of eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis sprang to mind, “There are only answers that makes sense to you at this moment in your life, and they will fail you later in your journey. What is seemingly true today will be outgrown tomorrow, when life or our own soul brings us a larger frame through which to view them.”
After 25 years I was being asked to question something that had sustained me on my spiritual journey for so many years. The soul as the eternal aspect of my being had allowed me the gift of feeling immortal, and contributed so much to my spiritual journey. It was as though the proverbial rug had been yanked from under my feet. Yet I did not feel bereft of hope. The words Irish poet and priest John O’Donahue sprang to mind, “The path you took to get here was washed out; The way forward is still concealed from you. The old is not old enough to have died away; The new is still too young to be born.”
I went for a long walk and asked myself what was left of my shattered concept of soul. I still believed in the inner compass or inner guiding voice; I still recognized the psychological concept of the unconscious; I still felt like a meaning seeking part of creation. Although it felt so much less certain, I decided It would have to do for now. However my writing about Soul diminished significantly
Three long years have passed including eighteen months of Covid restrictions. I justified my inertia on the grounds of Covid. I laughed at the billboard stating, “Doing nothing is not the same as having nothing to do.” Still I did nothing. It took a powerful dream and the intervention of a friend to realize I was well and truly mired by this loss.
I began to study different teachers and their concepts of soul (James Hollis, Thomas Moore, Frances Vaughan to name a few) and realized quickly that everyone seemed to believe in soul but what they believed in was somewhat different. It became hard to differentiate in who believed in the soul as a separate thing, and who saw it as part of the unconscious. The lines were blurred yet everyone seems to write about it with great authority. Some concepts of soul are much darker and earthy while others seem positively ethereal and there was everything in between.
I came across a wonderful insight by American psychiatrist Gerald May. “The unique reality of mystery is that mystery can be known without being solved. Mystery can be experienced, appreciated, even lived without being understood.”
Then I had a breakthrough coming from two different sources. Psychologist and ex monk Thomas Moore suggests the soul belongs in the imaginal world rather than the real one and John O’Donahue suggesting that if we allow time for soul we will come to a sense of its dark and luminous depth. If we fail to acquaint ourselves with soul we will remain strangers in our own lives. This helped me comprehend why at times there seemed a complete absence of soul or its qualities on our planet.
Perhaps it is time for me stop seeing the soul as a thing but as wonderful metaphor to support meaning and development on life’s journey. Soul becomes assumed based on the principles of depth psychology but requires attention to flourish. I found something I wrote regarding the soul back in 2013 “as you feed me so shall I blossom.” It now has a new sense of mystery attached to it. So with a renewed sense of confidence I can begin to write again.