Skip to content

body and soul

“I love you…”

The point being that the lives of millions of Americans are being damaged by the selfish and sometimes criminal actions of a very few persons with extreme wealth and power, aided by a major political party, and we must therefore band together in resistance and civil self-defense, to achieve a sane and healthy society.

Soul is important to me in this context because I want to suggest that it as the basis of the critique, resistance, and vision of a better society that i think the 99%Occupy movement must offer.  Soul is the true basis of value, in radical opposition to money, wealth, ownership, hierarchical power.  On the previous page I presented ideas by James Hillman, and on this page I’ll bounce off those ideas onto some thoughts of my own.

IMHO soul is an aspect of being, infusing all of the universe.  Body and soul are merely two manifestations of the same thing, like particle and wave in the nature of light.  It depends on how we look at being.  The body and soul of the world, and our bodies and souls, are separate only in the way yin and yang are separate but inter-informing in the image.  They love each other, like Psyche and Eros.  We love one another most fully when we love wholly, body and soul; but the love between the body and soul of the world takes forms that permeate human society and all of Earthly life.

Nevertheless, since people typically attend either to one or to the other, and place most value on the soul, I’ll think first about it.

a pearl of great price                    

…for what profit do you get by owning the world, if you pay for it with your soul?

Fact:  Not every person (for instance in business or politics) is mentally healthy.  We should not pretend that persons who are not healthy are not ill—some, dangerously ill.

The most important thing that a healthy society does is nourish the soul, keep the soul healthy—soul in the individual person, family, local community, nation.  And the anima mundi, the soul of the world, the living whole within which each thing plays a part and each person is a relative of every other.

The worst thing about the predatory capitalists and others of the Ignobility, against whom we struggle, is that they attack and destroy soulfulness.  Having lost their own souls, they are the Living Dead.  No wonder they are famished.  “Feed me,” they cry, like a bloated Cookie Monster.  They are insatiable.  They are consumed with Ego, over which they have become powerless, and so they hunger to control.

Their ruthless, reckless disregard for the souls of others must be countered with attention to our wounded souls (personal and collective).  This should be the basis of the critique, and of the vision of a better life, that is offered by the Resistance.

(Readers of James Hillman will recognize that he is a major influence on my thinking.)

While I am not a religious person (though influenced by Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity), I do believe in the existence of a something that is generally called “the soul”.   My bottom-line philosophical position is that everything is material.  People who make the mind/body or mind/spirit split might wonder how a nonreligious materialist can consider the soul to exist, but I follow Oscar Mandel’s method in his defining tragedy: I assume the existence, as an identifiable entity, of something that has been addressed as real by so many people over so much time—and that seems real in my own experience too.  I believe, furthermore, that the historical descriptions of the soul and its importance are accurate, in their broadly intuitive and emotional insights.

(Friends suggest that this method thus also applies regarding the existence of God.  However, IMHO the disqualifying difference is that God (the archetypal figure that Jung called, in Answer to Job, “the God-concept”) is immaterial; reality is material, and there is no reality “beyond reality.”  Soul, on the other hand, is material; it can and should be perceived sensorily—but many people have lost touch with the kind of mental activity, as described by Hillman and others, that includes this kind of everyday sensory perception, about which more, below.  But the point here is not whether God exists.  I gladly accept the faith of my friends and fellow citizens.)

So, to my knowledge, what is the common testimony regarding the nature of soul?

The people with whom I have talked (most of whom are Biblically oriented), or whose writings I have read—and their thoughts are alike—speak of the soul as an intangible, divine breath of life and spiritual vitality, enlivening the human person who, in Biblical terms, God created in His image.  It is an inner element in one’s being, the essence of personhood and individual identity, and the transcendent basis of the person’s eternal value.  It is the promise that we have eternal life.  Soul puts the person in direct contact with God, making the person capable of knowing the existence of God and His divine love, and capable of feeling His presence and the presence of His love.  It is the empathic vehicle of our common humanity and of humanity’s transcendent being.  It makes persons capable of being compassionately perceptive and responsive, and thus of being responsible.  For my Christian friends it is what makes a person able to receive grace, and it is thus the vehicle and site of redemption.  It makes a person capable of repentance, forgivable and forgiving, redeemable, renewable.  It’s spirit transcends mundane wants.  It dwells at the center of one’s being, an intuition of oneness and wholeness, a calm solitude and steadfastness at the core of one’s social personality.  It is also the sufferer of the underworld of life, life’s deepest pain and anguish; and it is the bearer of the perspective and wisdom that can come from that suffering, including the bedrock reality of the human spirit and of the need to sacrifice self in the service of others and of a higher vision and order.  Thus it is the most valuable part of a person’s being, and as such it must be cherished above all else—a  pearl of great price.  Violation of a person’s soul is the worst of violations, an insult to one’s soul is an insult to God, and lack of soul is the worst state of being.

That’s the kind of thing that I have in mind: a “sacred,” spiritual, common humanity, of persons who are compassionate and self-sacrificing, aware of their fragility, but confident of their value and their ability to endure and improve.  Persons who are soulful.

I think also of the soul of the world, the “breath” of Being that enlivens and unites all beings and aspects of being in one common existence.

We know it as we live it, or as Hillman would say, as it lives us.  (Be occupied by soul.)

This is what we should live in our critique, resistance, and vision; and this is the core of the values that we should strive to put in place in a better society.  This is what is lacking in today’s American, money-based society.  No wonder there is so much mental illness.

But there is yet more to soul, and a soulful society.

I think also of the “gesture” in the pose of a body, caught in an effective drawing, as Nathan Goldstein and many others have taught.

And of Coleridge’s suggestion that Beauty calls upon (is a calling upon) the soul, as light calls upon the eye.  They are made for each other.  And then Hillman’s suggestion that mythic Aphrodite (as an image of the soul), shows us that the soul is the loving-Beauty and beautiful-Loving that is the nature of being.

Thus the soul, “vast” in the spread of its parts and activities, and holistic in its functioning, consists of/in everything of us that receives Beauty.  In the way the eye has evolved into great receptivity to photons—activation of the soul can happen as when standing in a dark room and flipping a light switch, or when awaking in the grey before dawn and watching the gradual rising of the sun.  A flash of lightning, or an enlightenment of the horizon.

I agree with Hillman and others that the key to our consciousness is the imagination, and I believe that our imagination takes the archetypal forms of image, story, and conversation.  And just as, according to Hillman, the mythic Psyche (as an image of the soul), is simultaneously the forming of image, the image thus formed, and our expressive reflection upon the image, so the soul is the holistic functioning of all of our faculties and parts of being, reflectively perceiving and enacting the beautiful-loving, loving-beauty.

Thus the imagination (how we perceive “Aphrodite”) is the key aptitude of the soul; and our most soulful moments are when we are creating, affectionately—creating a something, beautiful, a nation, an economy, a farm or town or city, a relationship, a family, an ecology, a method, a goal, a tool, a work of art, ourselves and others, with attention to the soul and reverence for the soul, responding with our entire being to that Aphroditic Being that creates us selfless and whole.

Well that got pretty vast.  But that’s the reality and spirit of the thing, which we must strive to realize, imperfectly but more perfectly, as we Occupy our lives.  We can mend, we can recover.  Because what we seek is bigger than we are, and always right at hand.

As know by the American poet, James Wright:

Milkweed

While I stood here, in the open, lost in myself,
I must have looked a long time
Down the corn rows, beyond grass,
The small house,
White walls, animals lumbering toward the barn.
I look down now. It is all changed.
Whatever it was I lost, whatever I wept for
Was a wild, gentle thing, the small dark eyes
Loving me in secret.
It is here. At a touch of my hand,
The air fills with delicate creatures
From the other world.

And from a sorrow song, as quoted by James Baldwin:

Just when I thought my time had come
the dungeon shook, and my chains fell off

In our religions and our democracy we believe that all souls are created equal, and that no soul is ever more than, or less than, any other soul. Thus, among our fellow humans, every person has some rights than cannot be taken from us, three of which are the right to go on being alive, the right to self-possession, and the right to try to find happiness.

Take, eat, . .

IMHO collectively, we Americans have lost our body, by neglecting it until it has become a wild, gentle thing with small dark eyes, able to love us only in secret.  We have lost it by allowing the “gross materialists” among our ruling class to turn it into money, and into images of themselves as golden idols.

[more to come]

[“Milkweed” by James Wright from The Branch Will Not Break. Copyright © 1992 by James Wright, Wesleyan University Press. Reprinted without permission.  Sorry.  Also in e.g. Collected Poems of James Wright, ed. Anne Wright and Robert Bly, Wesleyan Press, 2007.

By James Hillman, see e.g. his books, The Dream and the Underworld, Healing Fictions, and The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of theWorld.

“Body and Soul” lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton; music by Johnny Green.]

Other Topics:  99%OCCUPYnutshellnonviolentpowerhistorymisogynyracismmoneywealth gap 1wealth gap 2republican partynamescapitalismfascismother ismspathologiessocial justice 1social justice 2social justice 3soulbody and soulthingsanarchyactionsbtwbib

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: