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Soul, Psyche and Symbol--a Dialogue

Q Here summer is coming and the beach is getting crowded at weekends. Humming birds are humming, and the gardens are exploding with colours.

After our last session with Symbolic Encounters, I have been feeling very good. it really works! The images from the session stayed with me, but I avoided going into interpretation. They just popped up in my awareness now and then. What I have been noticing is that I feel so much better! I took a test which I have taken 3 times before during the treatment by my physician and failed. This time I passed!

I have been reflecting on this non-rational way of tending to, what I think I have to call soul, through embodied imagination and symbol, and how life-giving that can be.

I am wondering about this whole concept of soul.

I think I have been focusing on some kind of pure awareness, on Dharmakaya, on Spirit... or whatever to call it, and soul appeared such a vague, mushy, 'common', mundane concept . But as I started to think about it, it seems to be deeply connected to the world of meaning, and to the personal experience of Spirit or a power more impersonal.

Soul seems to be connected with the particularity of each individual, of how we create meaning from our experience. It seems to be this 'something' that binds together the mind, the heart and the body, and which grows with experiencing humanness in all its expressions.

And as I reflected on the Symbolic work, it seemed that embodied images and symbols are a language used by the soul.

A. Your email reached me as I sat on the balcony on our last evening in Portugal, gazing across whitewashed houses and the delicate spires of their little pointed chimneys. It was a lovely break, walking lanes filled with wild flowers and the scent of orange blossom and wandering along the spectacular golden cliffs where the sea thundered into caves far below. Portugal is very pretty.

I'm delighted by your ruminations on the soul, and that our session seemed to produce results. Your thoughts tie in with how I understand the soul as equating with Psyche, the totality of our individual being-ness (cf. Essence--shared human being-ness). Psyche definitely speaks and responds to the language of symbol, since it is 'beyond' the associative nature of speech and rationality, and also transcends the emotional grasp of meaning investment. And it is powerful, a reservoir of personal power linked to one's destiny as an individual manifestation.

That's how I see it.

In esoteric tradition there are sometimes different levels of 'soul', eg. in Kabbalah there are 3--nefesh, neshamah, ruach, equating to vegetable, animal and divine levels, but I can't see the usefulness of these divisions. What Christians mean is probably very varied, and various traditions identify different levels/planes which may or may not be a useful definition of 'soul'. The popular conception is vague and mushy.

Yours works well. Particularity is key; 'holding together' or binding the various elements which constitute an individual being into a Totality, which of course can grow – we are living beings with the potential to grow into our full shape, as a tree given the right conditions expands into its fullness and may shelter other living beings for hundreds of years before its span of time is over. With olive trees, new growth can emerge even from an ancient gnarled trunk, as I saw in Portugal!

Q. Does each soul have a particular task, as it were, and when the person goes too far from this, the soul speaks through illness and symbol, or even circumstances, or is that just a populist notion of soul?

A. Illness does seem like a mis-match, unless it is part of Psyche’s toolbox to shape awareness and compel recognition. After all, why should we expect to have been allocated a perfect mould? If the old traditions are right, our mould has been designed through our actions in many lifetimes, and it is what it is in this life. We are still working on it --until it is no longer necessary.

So in that sense, soul speaks through illness, but we don’t know what it is saying—simply that we must attend. It is not crime and punishment. Does that seem right?

Q. The Symbolic Encounters seems to be a kind of shamanic practice, where the soul can be listened to through attending to the images arising from embodied awareness?

This seems to be reversing the instruction from the meditation practice, where the images are not paid particular attention to, and a more 'transcendental' approach is taken.

It seems to me that one approach needs the other, the top down and the bottom up...

A. I like your comparison of SymEnc and meditation. I see them as partners, and I think we could extend the definition of ‘shamanic’ to include all work with embodied image, all ritual and evocation from poetry to dance and the weaving of themes which touch on Psyche, whatever form they take.

I speculate that genuine shamanic healing, for example, is in the context of reference to a ‘great spirit’, whereas many modern healing modalities are really just aiming to fix the body to enable greater indulgence in the good things of life! A long way from true shamanism.

Hope your life and plans are on course, and pat a hummingbird for me (there’s a worthy challenge for a dancer!)

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These musings are responses to a context, a time, a place, a query. Another time, another context. An angle slightly different, a different response, perhaps seemingly in contradiction.

But Truth is present if it resonates truthfully, and in the process should generate more questions...

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