The Soul today is an orphan. At least that is what John Sanford claims. Why?
Because Philosophy, her father, decided she did not actually exist and cast her aside. But, in doing so, Sanford says, he became confined to the world of semantics and semiotics, a wall that could not be breached.
The Church, her mother, soon found herself in the extraverted and rationalistic materialism of our times and abandoned her child. But, in doing so, she lost her ability to relate the individual to God.
Why is it not unforgiveable that the Church, her mother, abandoned the Soul? In the Old Testament, alone, there are about 450 references to the “nephesh,” which is “soul” in Hebrew. Even in the New Testament, you will find more than 50 references to the “psyche,” which is Greek for “soul,” and “butterfly,” which is fitting.
Psychology even means “Study of the Soul;” psychiatry, “Healing of the Soul.” But somehow, Soul became Mind.
“Not only is the soul cast aside,” Sanford says, “she is also the victim of the egocentricity and one-sidedness of a modern ego that does its best to kill her.”
Simply put, the EGO (Edging God Out) puts the sword to the soul.
The Soul is trying to make ingress into our modern life. For example Carl Jung (who published a book entitled Modern Man in Search of a Soul) knew that psychic ills present themselves when a person loses his or her soul, and that the separation of soul from body leads to illness and then, death.
Today, many people want to reconnect with the soul, and there are myriad online courses and lectures (many available from Hay House, for example) that want to help people find that connection. But, the majority are not interested. Why?
Because “Soul” is irrational. It cannot be defined, and without the semantics and semiotics, well . . .
. . . Soul cannot be caught in our net. She is just like the butterfly and eludes every attempt to catch her conceptually. It is almost as if the more one tries to define Soul, the more elusive she becomes.
How does the word, Soul, resonate with you? There are so many images and emotions, but no clear definition. Soul is subjective. She experiences. She both suffers and rejoices. And, she reflects. The soul receives psychic impressions and creates them, gives birth to and takes in psychic life, Sanford says.
“Fantasy, image, imagination, and a ‘religious concern for values and meaning’*–these are the province of the soul. Soul longs to be loved, and longs to love; soul brings the food of life to us, but also herself hungers. Indeed, the soul hungers for God.”
It is the faith of Soul that, in the end, truly leads us to God.
Soul, Sanford says, despite our modern need to neuter, is She. She is Yin. Spirit may be masculine or neuter but Soul, like Mother Nature, will always be feminine.
“So, in man or in woman,” he says, “our deepest essence is soul, a feminine reality.”
Soul may appear in the dreams of a man under the guise of an unusual or beautiful woman whom he greatly loves or yearns for. Women also dream of the soul as a woman. Sometimes, it is a woman of whom she is jealous, if she is separated from her own eros, or, possibly, as a woman whom she admires. The soul will also sometimes appear as a bird. Our relationship to our soul will be indicated in what is happening with the bird. Is it soaring? In captivity? Dead? And, if dead, something catastrophic may be about to happen.
In reference to psychology, Soul is that within us that connects our consciousness to our inner depths. She is our connection between the ego and the inner world.
“Without the living connection to ourselves that the soul makes possible,” Sanford says, “we are like a ship without a rudder, or like an uprooted tree. Such a person becomes ill, or brutal, or falls into despair, or seeks substitutes in alcohol and drugs.”
For a person to have a soul, they must take off their outer mask and face their inner adversaries.
“But beyond relinquishing the mask,” he says, “a person in search of his or her soul must accept and cherish the principle of eros, for the soul, as a function of relatedness, has eros as its primary quality.”
According to Sanford, eros is the feminine principle par excellence. Eros is that which binds together, unites, synthesizes, and heals. She is the cement of human relationship, the fount of inspiration for social and humanitarian causes, the bond between consciousness and inner meaning, and the door through which a person walks to spiritual insight.
“Women naturally lie closer to eros,” he says, “and therefore to the soul, than do men, which may be one of the reasons women tend to be more religious and more open to the inner way. But men, too, have a soul within them whose activity is characterized by eros.”
Because eros gives us the capacity to love, it is also the ground of faith. It is out of eros that faith springs, and from faith springs hope. That means a connection to the soul is absolutely fundamental to our capacity to affirm life meaningfully and positively.
Faith is fundamental in our journey to the Kingdom. So, when Jesus speaks of faith, he is speaking of our capacity to affirm life no matter what life may bring.
The importance of faith abounds in the teachings of Jesus: Matthew 8:10, 8:23-27, 9:29, 15:28; Luke 5:20, 7:9, 7:50, 8:25; Mark 2:5, 4:35-41, 11:22, for example.
“I tell you solemnly, if your faith were the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it would move; nothing would be impossible for you,” Matthew 17:20/Mark 11:23/Luke 17:6
“Faith, like a grain of mustard seed, is obviously not a matter of the intellect or will but a function of the soul,” Sanford says. “People in touch with their souls have faith because, like a grain of mustard seed, they feel their fundamental connectedness to the wholeness of things.”
The denial of the soul denies both faith and eros. Because sexuality is often mistaken for eros, eros is often dragged through the mire of hedonism. Women and men find themselves separated from the eros principle of their souls, and thus, from their true selves.
“Man or woman,” Sanford cautions, “ the eros side to a person’s totality must be accepted, differentiated, and lived if faith is to live and we are to find the kingdom.”
*Lynn Cowan, Masochism (Dallas: Spring Publications, 1982), p. 4.
NEXT WEEK: The Faith of the Soul, Part II