Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What is Soul?

Yesterday I mentioned that I was interested in what the soul is. Here is how James Hillman sees it:

"The term psyche and soul can be used interchangeably, although there is a tendency to escape the ambiguity of the word soul by recourse to the more biological, more modern psyche. Psyche is used more as a natural concomitant to physical life, perhaps reducible to it. Soul, on the other hand, has metaphysical and romantic overtones. It shares frontiers with religion.--James Hillman, pg. 44-45,77, Suicide

He then goes on to say:

"By soul I mean, first of all, a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things than a thing itself. This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment--and soul--making means differentiating this middle ground.

"It is as if consciousness rests upon a self-sustaining and imagining substrate--an inner place or deeper person or ongoing presence--that is simply there even when all our subjectivity, ego, and consciousness go into a eclipse. Soul appears as a factor independent of the events in which we are immersed. Though I cannot identify soul with anything else, I also can never grasp it by itself apart from other things, perhaps because it is like a reflection in a flowing mirror, or like the moon which mediates only borrowed light. But just this peculiar and paradoxical intervening variable gives one the sense of having or being a soul. However intangible and indefinable it is, soul carries highest importance in hierarchies of human values, frequently being identified with the principle of life and even of divinity.

"In another attempt upon the idea of soul, I suggested that the word refers to that unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern. Those four qualifications I had already put forth some years ago. I had begun to use the term freely, usually interchangeably with psyche,(from Greek) and anima,(from Latin). Now I am adding three necessary modifications. First, soul refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second, the significance soul makes possible, whether in love or in religous concern, derives from its special relation with death. And third, by soul I mean the imaginitive possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, and fantasy--that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic and metaphorical.--James Hillman, x, Re-Visioning

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