Words are wild, and few words are wilder than the word “soul.”
Derived from the Old English sāwol, meaning animate existence, and the Proto-Germanic saiwalō, refering to the sea, this word often evokes strong reactions.
From a traditional religious perspective, soul refers to that in us that is immortal. In the secular world, this word has mostly been orphaned and lost.
So, what is the wild life of this word—soul—in the context of depth and archetypal psychology?
"Soul is not confined by man, and there is much of psyche that extends beyond the nature of man. The soul has inhuman reach."
"Making soul means putting events through an imaginal process."
Archetypal psychology imagines soul as the in-between, “an unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences.” In contrast to more traditional uses of the word, in this context we do not imagine soul as a thing that is skin-encased and “inside” of humans. Echoing Plato’s idea of the anima mundi, archetypal psychology perceives soul everywhere, in every thing. In that sense, we could say soul does not live in us, but rather that we live in soul.
Within this perspective, soul refers to that which connects, that which lives just beyond the edges and borders of what we think we know. So, engaging with soul refers to leaning into the mysterious and less illuminated aspects of our experience. Therefore, we often imagine entering into the dim realm of soul—this move beyond the edges into what is unknown—as a descent and as an underworld experience.
“Soul gets lost when life can’t go its rhythmic way, and soullessness
is the ultimate cause of deep dissatisfaction.”
Also, in this context, soul is often understood as a partner to spirit. Where spirit is often a quest for transcendence and light, soul is the pursuit of immanence and lunar knowing. Where spirit ascends, soul descends. Spirit seeks to construct, while soul asks for many de-constructions.
As we imagine beyond the surface of things and move into the in-between, we move into meaningful connection with the realm of soul. This work is more about how we see than what we see.
So, as James Hillman put it, soul-making happens when we imagine more deeply into the events around us. It is a move into a metaphorical sensibility, where we have a deep imagination into the way each event is connected to everything else.
"A soulful life is one of thoughtfulness, care, and engagement – you are present in everything you do, not just going through the motions. You give attention to the things that matter most. You take care of your body and your health. You make your home a place of comfort, welcome, and beauty. You educate yourself throughout your life in values and solid ideas. Your leisure time relaxes you, gives you a rich social life, and provides fun and play. Your spirituality is deep as well as visionary, and you incorporates contemplation, discussion, ritual and prayer into everyday life, and you do all of this in a style that suits you as an individual."