Snapshot (or excerpt) from: Care of the Soul, A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, Harper Collins, New York. 1992.
From "Introduction", pp. xi-xx.
The great malady of the twentieth century, implicated in all our troubles and affecting us individually and socially, is "loss of soul".
When soul is neglected, it doesn't just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning.
Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or to try to eradicate them one by one; but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, even our interest in it.
It is impossible to define precisely what the soul is.
Definition is an intellectual enterprise anyway; the soul prefers to imagine.
We know intuitively that soul has to do with genuineness and depth, as when we say certain music has soul or a remarkable person is soulful.
When you look closely at the image of soulfulness, you see that it is tied to life in all its particulars - good food, satisfying conversation, genuine friends, and experiences that stay in the memory and touch the heart.
Soul is revealed in attachment, love, and community, as well as in retreat on behalf of inner communing and intimacy.
Therefore, this book, my own imagination of what a self-help manual could be, is a guide offering a philosophy of soulful living and techniques for dealing with everyday problems without striving for perfection or salvation.
During the fifteen years I have been practicing psychotherapy, I have been surprised how much my studies in Renaissance psychology, philosophy, and medicine have contributed to the work.
That influence will be evident in this book, as I follow the Renaissance penchant for turning to mythology for insight and cite authors of that time, such as Marsilio Ficino and Paracelsus.
These were lovers of wisdom who saw patients regularly, applying their highly imagistic philosophies to the most ordinary matters.
This book contains both psychological advice and spiritual guidance.
A spiritual life of some kind is absolutely necessary to psychological "health"; at the same time, excessive or ungrounded spirituality can also be dangerous, leading to all kinds of compulsive and even violent behavior. Therefore, I include a section on the interplay of spirituality and soul.
In his studies alchemy, Jung says that work begins and ends with Mercury. I think his recommendation applies to this book as well.
Mercury is the god of fictions and fabrications, of trickery, thievery, and sleight-of-hand.
The self-help idea lend itself to excessive sincerity. I often tell my clients that they should not strive for sincerity so earnestly; a dose of Mercury is necessary to keep our work honest.
Therefore, too some extent I see this book also as a fiction of self-help. No one can tell you how to live your life.
No one knows the secrets of the heart sufficiently to tell others about them authoritatively.
All this leads to the heart of the book - care of the soul.
Tradition teaches that the soul lies midway between understanding and unconsciousness, and that its instrument is neither the mind nor the body, but imagination.
Fulfilling work, rewarding relationships, personal power, and relief from symptoms are all gifts of the soul.
They are particularly elusive in our time because we don't believe in the soul and therefore give it no place in our hierarchy of values.
It is a commonplace for writers to point out that we live in a time of deep division, in which mind is separated from body and spirituality is at odds with materialism.
But how do we get out of this split? We can't just "think" ourselves through it, because thinking itself is part of the problem.
What we need is a way out of dualistic attitudes. We need a third possibility, and that third is soul.
In the fifteenth century, Marsilio Ficino put it as simply as possible. The mind, he said, tends to go off on its own so that if seems to have no relevance to the physical world.
At the same time, the materialistic life can be so absorbing that we get caught in it and forget about spirituality.
What we need, he said, is soul, in the middle, holding together mind and body, ideas and life, spirituality and the world.
What I am going to present in this book, then, is a program for bringing soul back into life.
This is not a new idea. I am simply developing a very old idea in a way I hope will be intelligible and applicable to us in this particular crucial period in history.
The idea of a soul-centered world goes back to the earliest days of our culture.
This book will focus not just on the idea of soul, but on concrete ways we can foster soulfulness in our ordinary everyday lives.
Cura animarum , the cure of souls. Cure meant "charge" as well as care.
If we take this image and apply it to ourselves, we can imagine the responsibility we each have to our own soul.
Just as the parish priest was available at life's crucial moments, not as a doctor or healer but simply to accompany and tend the soul in times of birth, illness, marriage, crisis and death, we can respond to our own soul as it winds its through the maze of our life's unfolding.
We can be the curates or curators of our own souls, an idea that implies an inner priesthood and a personal religion.
To undertake this restoration of soul means we have to make spirituality a more serious part of everyday life.
You can see already that car of the soul is quite different in scope from most modern notions of psychology and psychotherapy.
It isn't about curing, fixing, changing, adjusting or making healthy, and it isn't about some idea of perfection or even improvement.
It doesn't look to the future for an ideal, trouble-free existence.
Rather, it remains patiently in the present, close to life as it presents itself day by day, and yet at the same time mindful of religion and spirituality.
Our very idea of what we are doing in our psychology has to be radically re-imagined. Psychology and spirituality need to be seen as one.
In my view, this new paradigm suggests the end of psychology as we have known it altogether because it is essentially modern, secular, and ego-centered.
A new idea, a new language, and new traditions must be developed on which to base our theory and practice.
The great Renaissance thinkers made continuous efforts to reconcile medicine and magic, religion and philosophy, everyday life and meditation, ancient wisdom and the most recent discoveries and inventions.
We are dealing with the same issues, except that we are farther in time from the days of magic and mythology, and for us, technology has become a burden as well as an enormous achievement.
We yearn excessively for entertainment, power, intimacy, sexual fulfillment and material things, and we think we can find these things if we discover the right relationship or job, the right church or therapy.
But without soul, whatever we find will be unsatisfying, for what we truly long for is the soul in each of these areas.
Lacking that soulfulness, we attempt to gather these alluring satisfactions to us in great masses, thinking apparently that quantity will make up for lack of quality.
Care of the soul speaks to the longings we feel and the symptoms that drive us crazy, but it is not a path away from shadow or death.
A soulful personality is complicated, multifaceted, and shaped by both pain and pleasure, success and failure.
Life lived soulfully is not without its moments of darkness and periods of foolishness.
Dropping the salvational fantasy frees us up to the possibility of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, which are the very foundation of soul.
Several classical phrases describing care of the soul are relevant in the modern world.
Plato used the expression techne tou biou, which means "the craft of life".
When techne is defined with sufficient depth, it refers not just to mechanical skills and instruments but to all kinds of artful managing and careful shaping.
For now, we can say that care of the soul requires a special crafting of life itself, with an artist's sensitivity to the way things are done.
Soul doesn't pour into life automatically. It requires skill and attention.
Another phrase Plate used was heautou epimeleisthai, "care of oneself"; this word for care also described honoring the gods and the dead.
Somehow we have to understand that we cannot solve our "emotional" problems until we grasp this mystery that honoring the divine and the departed is part of the basic care that as human beings we have to bring to life.
Care can also mean cultivation, watching, and participating as the seed of soul unfolds into the vast creation we call character or personality, with a history, a community, a language, and a unique mythology.
Cultivation of soul implies a lifelong husbanding of raw materials.
The aim of soul work, then, is not adjustment to accepted norms or to an image of the statistically healthy individual.
Rather, the goal is a richly elaborated life, connected to society and nature, woven into the culture of family, nation, and globe.
The idea is not to be superficially adjusted, but to be profoundly connected in the heart to ancestors and to living brothers and sisters in all the many communities that claim our hearts.
Epicurus was a vegetarian who urged his followers to cultivate intimacy through letters. He held his classes in a garden.
This concept of the value of simple pleasure runs through the entire tradition of thinking about the soul.
As we try to understand what care of the soul might mean for us, we may want to keep in mind the epicurean principle that the rewards we are seeking may be quite ordinary and may exist right under our noses, even as we look to the stars from some extraordinary revelation or perfection.
The word self implies an ego project. Soul is nothing like ego.
Soul is closely connected to fate, and the turns of fate almost always go counter to the expectations and often to the desires of the ego.
Even the Jungian idea of Self, carefully defined as blend of conscious understanding and unconscious influences, is still very personal and too human in contrast to the idea of soul.
Soul is the font of who we are, and yet it is far beyond our capacity to devise and to control.
We can cultivate, tend, enjoy, and participate in the things of the soul, but we can't outwit it or manage it or shape it to the designs of a willful ego.
Care of the soul is inspiring.
The act of entering into the mysteries of the soul, without sentimentality or pessimism, encourages life to blossom forth according to its own designs and with its own unpredictable beauty.
Care of the soul is not solving the puzzle of life; quite the opposite, it is an appreciation of the paradoxical mysteries that blend light and darkness into the grandeur of what human life and culture can be.
In there pages we will consider important differences between care and cure.
We will look at several common issues in everyday life that offer the opportunity for soul-making, once we stop thinking of them as problems to be solved.
Then we will try to imagine spiritual life from the point of view of soul - a different perspective that offers an alternative to the usual transcendent ideal that we bring to religion and theology.
Finally, we will consider how we could tend the soul by living artfully.
Psychology is incomplete if it doesn't include spirituality and art in a fully integrative way.
As you read this book, it might be a good idea to abandon any ideas you may have about living successfully and properly, and about understanding yourself..
Rather, you might take a more relaxed position and reflect on the way your life has taken shape.
Some of the points of view here may be surprising, but surprise is another gift of Mercury.
The twisting of a familiar theme into a new shape is sometimes more revealing and ultimately more significant than acquiring new knowledge and a new set of principles.
Often when imagination twists the commonplace into a slightly new form, suddenly we see soul where formerly it was hidden.
Let us imagine care of the soul, then, as an application of poetics to everyday life.
What we want to do here is to re-imagine those things we think we already understand.
If Mercury is present with his wit and humor, there is a good chance that the soul - as elusive, the ancient poets said, as a butterfly - will make an appearance, and my writing and your reading will themselves be a way of caring for the soul.
(Layout and editing by Bobby Mozart of The Invisible College. Snapshots are offered to stimulate curiosity).
Any personal reports, thoughts or response on this?
H O M E