Can we more carefully define soul


Bird Droppings September 16, 2013
Can we more carefully define soul

Over the years I have written about the idea of or concept of soul many times to the point of considering using the word at one point in my dissertation title. The word has differing meanings as you discuss with various religious groups and or psychologists. It is quite a big jump from psychology to religion and back and forth. Dr. Carl Jung famous for his understanding of dreams referenced soul numerous times in his writings as did his student James Hillman and his student Thomas Moore both who wrote several books out currently on the soul and its impact on us as humans. The Care of the Soul is one of the first of Moore’s books that I read several years back and his view is rather interesting as he separates from religion this idea of soul. Today as I was updating my status using a quote from a Carl Jung student on Facebook a news article came up about how atheists and agnostics know more about religion than do believers.

“A new survey of Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths. Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ. More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.” Rachel Zoll, AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll, AP Religion Writer, Sept. 28, 2010

I recall growing up being told in church that Catholics were cannibals because they ate the body and blood of Christ. Something I heard in school and not at home. Back in the day many Catholic students went to parochial schools in the community and transferred to the public high school since the parochial high school was a longer commute. I never did quite understand the cannibal thing till the concept of transubstantiation came up. What a great vocabulary word, transubstantiation, or the changing of the wine and bread to the body and blood of Christ in the Sunday service. While studying to be an Anglican priest issues with communion came up and this was one. Later in a seminary class various rules and guidelines for accidental spills of blessed wine were in the lecture. Where am I going I am not one to down play beliefs of others and will not here but in looking at religion as a whole? Far too often followers are just that simply followers of someone who is a good talker and has a good line. Churches split and separate and new churches form as one idea surpasses another. It becomes more of a follow the leader than having staunch believes in a philosophy or creed.

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.” Carl Jung, The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man

“For one man the world was full of beauty, for the other it was a place of sin and ugliness to be endured until he went to another world, there to become a creature of wings, half-man and half-bird. Forever one man directed his Mystery to change the world. He had made; forever this man pleaded with Him to chastise his wicked ones; and forever he implored his God to send His light to earth. Small wonder this man could not understand the other.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

Perhaps it was this distinction in life views that separated and continues to separate indigenous thought from the invaders. When your goal is eternal life versus being one with your environment you are really not too concerned about the existing realm. Far too many people do not see the beauty of our world. They never take the time from seeking their profits and gathering to themselves of all they can to see the pieces of life’s puzzle.

“Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’ Say not, ‘I have found the path of the soul.’ Say rather, ‘I have met the soul walking upon my path.’ For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals. “ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, 1923

“But the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux

When we crawl away from life we tend to lose touch with all about us. As Standing Bear states we lose respect for humans as we lose respect for our world. As I read stories of Native Americans one fact I found it was customary to sit on the ground to be closer to mother earth than to sit in a chair or bench. There was a connectedness in the way of life that was instrumental in their thinking. We have lost that and replaced with greed and self-centeredness.
In the early 1900’s Freud and Jung worked together and it was Jung’s desire and understanding of the nature of man that led to their separating and to many new ideas for Jung. Jung saw a man as various shades between black and white and Freud saw only the contrast. Dreams became a focus for Jung and those interconnections that seem to continually pop up.

“You see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.” Martha Graham

“Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy, the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.” Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind

“Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul and shows to people these secrets which are common to all.” Leo Tolstoy, Diary

Most cultures have some reference to soul in their teaching and stories. Philosophers use the term loosely as they play with our understanding. Within art it is the soul of the artist that is laid bare but what is this that is defined as soul.

“Loss means losing what was; we want to change but we don’t want to lose. Without time for loss, we don’t have time for soul.” James Hillman

“We’re an air bag society that wants guarantees on everything that we buy. We want to be able to take everything back and get another one. We want a 401-k plan and Social Security.” James Hillman

Strong souls
Live like fire-hearted suns to spend their strength
In farthest striving action; breathe more free
In mighty anguish than in trivial ease.
George Eliot, The Spanish Gypsy

Sitting here at my writing desk at home this morning thinking and pondering I might have bitten off more than a day’s effort in writing and might need to return again tomorrow. So with a heavy heart and incomplete task here in front of me I wish everyone would please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

All my relations
Wa de (Skee)
bird

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