Defining Soul. Part 1

Copyrighted photo by D. Bridge

   For my first post I thought it would be a good idea to define what I mean by the word soul. I have long been interested in understanding soul and that is probably what drew me to depth psychology.  I remember sitting in a class at Pacifica Graduate Institute in 2012 with Dr. Joe Coppin when I was struck by the fact that there was a clear difference between spirit and soul, but I could not quite grasp what it was.  It was then that I first read James Hillman’s essay “Peaks and Vales” (Hillman, (2000).  (Peaks and vales.  In E. Sells (Ed.), Working with images: Theoretical base of archetypal psychology.  Woodstock, CT: Spring.) and Henry Corbin’s “Mundus Imaginalis” (Spring, 1972).  These two pieces set me on my quest to develop an understanding of the similarities and differences between spirit and soul.  Up until now it had been my experience that these two words were often used interchangeably and with little, if any, defined difference.

   At this point let me jump to how I have come to understand soul.  It is pretty widely held that we understand that we each consist of body (matter) and spirit. Often these are held in opposition and my own religious training taught that the body was ‘bad’ and spirit was ‘good’.  I grew up with the idea that these two aspects of my being were mutually exclusive and the virtuous person denies the ‘flesh’ (body) and lives in the spirit. I lived this paradigm of body vs. spirit most specifically in my years I lived in a convent.  While this is my specific experience, I believe that it is not so very unique of an experience of the dualism of body and spirit.

   What if we were able to employ what Carl Jung called “The Transcendent Function” wherein two opposites are held in tension with each other, but not in competition.  Instead of saying. “either/or”, we hold the tension of these opposites while saying, “both/and”.  If we are able to do this, then, according to Jung, a “third thing” arises.  In the case of the opposites of body and spirit, I propose that the third thing that rises is soul.

   I propose that soul is what happens when spirit is embodied.  If we live according to soul then we must tend our bodies as well as our spirits with equal fervor.

*** In part two of this post I will share the section on soul from my dissertation.

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