Because it is not the point of the article, I am not going to go into what the soul is or is not or where it goes when we die. When I speak of Soul Loss I’m speaking to what happens to our souls when we abuse them or when we injure them.
Whenever you’ve said to yourself, “I wish I were dead” we’ve sent a part of the soul to the land of the dead. Every time we give up on a dream or when we lose trust in ourselves we give up a part of our soul. When we play small in our life by giving in to our fears or pride or greed we injure the soul as well for the soul only wants to play large in everything we do. We are constantly banishing pieces of our soul.
In fact many of us cause harm to the soul through our self-destructive habits–drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, self-criticism, overeating, arrogance, etc..
But the soul also leaves us when grief has become so painful that we shut down or when fear becomes too great. Even certain life changes can bruise the soul such as a relationship break-up, a death in the family, or a change in jobs or life style.
Immigrants and refugees suffer this kind of damage when they leave their homes, especially when they are not leaving out of choice. This is of course compounded when their freedom destination has been blocked.
Soul loss is chronic in societies where there’s a small but dominant group of people who control the lives of others such as in autocratic, totalitarian or theocratic cultures or subcultures (this can happen here in the U.S. in villages, small towns, or in peoples homes with an oppressive element). It also happens in cultures and subcultures where opportunities are restricted on an ethnic, class or gender level, or where there is a huge and widening gap between those who have and those who have not. We also see it in cults or with the rigid dogma of some religious sects.
And some jobs are so stifling because of certain oppressive management practices that the soul begins to retreat to the darker parts of our being. The fact is that the soul thrives in creative environments where the individual’s independence is honored and nurtured.
Some say that only trauma will trigger soul loss but isn’t that what I’ve outlined above? Do not all these little traumas whittle away at our souls?
Have you suffered soul loss? It’s possible. Look closely at yourself for a moment do you, or have you, suffer(ed) from depression, constant anxiety, low energy and constant fatigue (any chronic sleep disturbance)? Does the world look gray around you regardless of the weather? Do you suffer low-self esteem, emotional numbness, helplessness or are caught up in and can’t let go of a negative past or some past event? Do you stress over many little things? Are you extremely overweight (or affected by some eating disorder), given up your dreams, or suffered or acted out abuse? Those who have suffered extreme abuse and who have been diagnosed with PTSD are on the rise globally.
Have you ever suffered a loss of self-esteem from a failure or at the hands of a bully personality? Most of us have and most of our negative soul-damaging experiences have been unavoidable. But it’s what we do afterward that can make all the difference to their healing. Often it’s the degree to which we let the hurts steal a part of our souls and when we go into agreement with our darker aspects that the loss was deserved that determines the depth and longevity of the experienced loss.
When we try to stuff the stink of soul loss i.e., suppress it or try to change it by adding perfume to it through a change of narrative the smell becomes buried but isn’t gone. It continues to foul our inner atmosphere until we bring it out of the darkened depths and into the light where we tell the truth about it without drama, judgments, and self-criticism.
Did you know that in some studies in the U.S. almost half the adult population has reported suffering some kind of childhood abuse (this includes neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse)? 1 Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident in their lives and that 28% of teens 14-17 have reported sexual victimization.2 Children who live with domestic violence regardless of whether the family is intact or not have a higher risk of abuse and I contend not only suffer psycho-emotional damage but soul loss as well.
But we do not lose our soul permanently or any part of it for that matter. What does happen is we lose touch with it and/or build up barriers to its expression. Meditation, dream work, creative expression, poetry, art, giving, and yoga are some means for healing a damaged soul.
In the fictional novel by R.J. Cole, “The Archipelago of Dreams” is an exploration of how damaged souls are healed in the spirit world.
1deMouse, Lloyd, The Evolution of the Psyche and Society, Journal of Psycho-history v. 29, #1, 2002, pg.239
I just spent an interesting, stressful, scary and embarrassing week with my shadow.
Recently I wrote an article promoting an alternate view to our current politics and deliberately posted it to those regions in the country that I was pretty sure had the opposite view. I was expecting pushback and thought that the dialog might prove interesting maybe even transforming. Though to be honest there was also a need to make them wrong for what I perceived was a very dangerous politic.
What I got was the most negative vitriol I’ve ever read. The things I was called and likened to couldn’t possibly exist in one person even if I were as evil and worthless as my detractors believed me to be.
Eventually the negative rhetoric got to me and I took down the posting.
After some thought I tried to apologize for what I’d done to stir up so much emotion. One detractor however, noted, correctly, that I was still attacking others points-of-view even with the apology. How embarrassing to be called out like that. It was a very negative experience.
The whole episode did have some positive for me in that it forced me to look at my original motivation for the article i.e., an ill disguised and dishonest put down of a very different point of view. The rejection that came my way was immediate and hostile.
Though embarrassment is often a shadow that follows me wherever I go, rejection is my greatest bogeyman and threat to my sense of well-being and yet I am continually rejecting myself or putting myself in the space of rejection.
When threatened or when not feeling safe for whatever reason I bellow, flail, reject and dominate. When I hurt I withdraw. When at peace and feeling safe I am open and accepting. When feeling accepted and at peace I am able to give of myself instead of trying to hurt others.
I suspect that this reaction to my shadow is not uncommon with others though it may take different forms in different folks.
So what’s the name of this particular shadow? Why do I react so strongly to something when I feel it’s trying to make me feel less than? Why is it I get so frightened and angry at being rejected?
In asking this shadow those questions it reminds me that I have always been angry at myself for not being better than I am. And yet what is this “better” that I am comparing myself to? How is it I know of it if it’s not already in me? And if it’s in me, why am I not accessing it? What do I put in the way of being this better version? Why all the clutter around the better me and why did I put it there? What do I gain?
As I muse on these questions it occurs to me that the question of what am I gaining might be better put as, “What do I stand to lose?” At that exact point I realize what is the “me” I’m operating out of, it’s the “me” that’s asking the questions, and the “me” who’s been reactive all along and at this point a new answer to the revised question makes itself known.
It’s the ego-‘me’ the ‘me’ I so often think of as the real me that stands to lose. It stands to lose power and control. It is the pretender to the real me, the deeper me, the soul and deeper Self who fears loss of control and its belief that it should be the heir to the throne of my life. Loss of this control through domination looks like death. No wonder it fights so hard to keep me in the dark. From it’s limited perspective it’s about survival i.e., life and death.
In short, when not being me the shadow me takes over.
Cabinets of Wonder, Cabinets of Curiosity, Wunderkammer, and Chambers of Art were sort of the first museums and often served their owners as a place for retreat and reflection, which is how I use my section of the Den where I do my writing and have my own cabinet.
They’ve been around in one form or the other (as whole rooms, warehouses, or in a piece of furniture) since about the 16th century. Click on this Wikipedia link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_curiosities ) and you can scroll through a number of different Cabinets and read a little background on the subject.
I also include this link to the Idols of the Cave that as it says in its introduction is, “a site devoted to the experience of Wonder, cultivated according to Renaissance rite and custom.” http://idolsofthecave.com/about-this-site/
Over the years I’ve collected objects that move my imagination in some way and have placed many of them on display that I frequently just gaze at and let whatever thoughts, memories, or feelings surface as a result. They also seem to serve as food for the soul and help me enter into the imaginal realm. To that end I have collected poems and quotes that inspire and transport me into this realm as well.
The cabinet includes such items as Bismuth (the modern Philosophers Stone), Merlinite, Galena, Aragonite, Lapis, Amethyst, Ruby, Hematite, and translucent slices of agate. Fossils of Ammonites, trilobites, and orthoceras share the dishes of a brass apothecary scale with old compasses, sundials, antique pocket watches and a bronze hourglass crowding the corners.
There’s a Theodolite surveyors instrument, an 1890s microscope, an armillary and orrerary (planetary models), a brass scale and assorted dragons including a bat skeleton that I’ve relabeled as “Draco Infantia (Latin for ‘baby dragon’). North American butterflies, dragonflies. Bats, a flying Dragon Lizard, and shells from the deepest regions of the ocean adorn the walls while some vintage laboratory glassware sits on a bookcase full of old books and artifacts that have caught my imagination over the years. A taxidermist’s black crow stands watch over a sculpture of old magnifying glasses that serves to remind me that it is the realm of the hardly noticed that can open a whole new world if one were to look more closely at life.
I believe that anything that opens a link between our soul and us is worth exploring and experimenting with and our own expression of that can be immensely fulfilling.
Books that I’ve collected include the research of alchemists, psychotherapists, shaman, mystics, artists, poets, mythologists, physicists, theologians, fantasists, and holy books, collected dreams, and journals also share the crowded space along the wall and stacked upon the floor all representing a lifetime of interests.
As I sat working on a workshop on poetry I’m developing I began to list answers to the question, “What is poetry?”
When I came to the end of my list I wrote down, “Everything, and every event in life is poetry. The soul of our being is a poet!”
Poetry speaks of and from the imaginal. When it “speaks of” it’s the soul trying to understand itself and in the “speaking from” it is talking about a nonlinear, non-rational, imaginal, and animating force behind the human quest and thirst for meaning.
Poetry for me is an imaginative activity that encompasses everything in life. Imagination is at the root of all poetry and may very well be the essence of our souls as well. It seems that when my soul desires to break free of my egoistic rational and literal interpretation of reality it speaks to me through poetry and metaphor in my dreams and the events and people in the world around me.
Poetry is about images not literalisms or naturalisms. It is about alternative ways of seeing the world and ourselves. Poetry helps us reconnect with our soul.I say “reconnect” because our society seems to be suffering a loss of soul where it has lost its connections with others and with self. This affects those within the society by robbing them of their sense of belonging and communion.
Our personal myth has also gotten lost, as has that of the larger myth of the greater society. Meaning has become blurred, as has our reason for living.
The current social situation infecting the country and the world is a symptom of our loss of soul. Radical and violent approaches to regaining what is lost reflect the unrecognized panic people are feeling associated with this loss. But this panic is also a symptom of the loss of soul and trying to treat symptoms is futile; It may temporarily relieve the pain but doesn’t cure the cause. Addressing the loss behind the symptoms is critical.
It’s the imaginal needs of the soul that are missing and this has separated us from that which gives life meaning. We see some attempts to address these imaginal needs of the soul in the growth of interest in astrology, divination, magic and fantasy. Even poetry is experiencing a revival. But the society in general is trying to deal with the loss through literal thinking e.g. more jobs, better wages, better medical care, and walls and laws. These may have their merits but are not what the soul is crying out for. Achievement of these goals might temporarily satisfy the ego, a voracious consumer of temporary satisfactions, but will do little or nothing for the soul.
We seem to have lost our excited and loving connection to life. We are in survival mode and this abuse of our souls that we have tolerated for so long has led to the symptoms of disconnection that we see in our communities and greater society. This disconnect is the herald of our greater loss of soul.
Humans are being treated as commodities, objects to be manipulated, and subservient to the power and greed of others. People have become just a means to and end for producing ever-increasing capital. To that end they (we) only have one purpose until they are no longer needed. There is no soul in this and that has stripped people of their own soul expression, their raison d’etre. Modern society implies that a human’s meaning is in what they can produce outside itself. It ignores the inside meaning and demeans the experience of spirit, humanness, individuality, essence, purpose, emotion, mercy, morality, wisdom, and God. Our soul has become secondary to our utility and with this shift in our meaning is the loss of meaning in life.
Are we just cogs in the machine or plug-ins to the corporation god or do we have greater meaning than that? I know that you know the answer. So what are you going to do about it? Hint: the answer is already in the text of this post.
“Floating to the surface of an impenetrable water a pulsating mandala whose rings appear and disappear when a disembodied voice exclaims, “Where’s the wind?” and is the last thing I hear before I wake up.”
Excerpt from April 8, 2019 posting from The Book of Dreams Blog
Yesterday I wrote down a poem generated by a dream the night before and titled it, “The wind in my life.”
Now normally I think of the wind in a dream as symbolizing ones soul, life source or energy but it also reflects the changes in one’s life and it was these changes that floated to the surface and demanded my attention.
But change has always been attached to people so that every change event came with a person or persons introducing it or acting as the co-navigator(s) for the ship of my life.
It’s not too far off course then to think of the people in my life as the souls of the winds of my dreams. It’s people who for whatever reason have blown me in directions I didn’t know I wanted but perhaps needed to go.
In looking back across my life I see moments where people entered my life at precisely the right time to help steer me into a new direction. As I wrote in yesterday’s poem, “…I don’t know where I’m going!” So it’s a good thing these navigators keep showing up or I’d be foundering in some uncharted sea or held fast on some unseen shoal.
How these souls find me when I most need them is a curiosity. It’s as though we are somehow attached at some as yet unseen level. I wonder if our souls communicate with each other though we aren’t always open to their message or willing to let go of the illusion of thinking we know something and allow ourselves to follow one who does?
In the poem I curse the winds that never stay put like a pulsating mandala whose circles of completion and new beginnings forever seem to appear and disappear but it may be the wisdom of these symbols of the psyche to forever be changing for the change is the pulse of the universe within itself continually individuating and transforming the separate into the whole.
Because I really don’t know where I’m going I will sometimes curse the wind and the curse itself will become part of the whole for which I search and the pulsating mandala that is my life will sometimes float to the surface of a dream and add light to the journey.
Nodding off while sitting before my computer after three hours of writing I dreamed a box with me standing inside. As I looked up I saw the flaps of the box taped shut from the inside. Slowly the space within the box and the walls as well began to move as though the whole room were turning itself inside out. Still looking at the taped flaps I was now on the outside looking down instead of up. A very disturbing vision but consistent with the blog posting I’d written earlier in the day.
After I came to I recalled a book written by Madeleine L’Engle titled “A Wrinkle in Time” where she had described a hypersurface cube, or four-dimensional analog of a cube, called a tesseract. “Googling” this object I found an animated gif that pretty much mirrored the vision of the nap.
Trapped in the box I was able to escape the trap that I’d obviously put myself in (remember the tape was on the inside) by manifesting the inner into the outer, perhaps this was a metaphor for what needs to happen in order for the entrapped soul to more fully and authentically express itself?
A tesseract (or hypercube in this case) folds the fabric of space/time onto itself thus overcoming the limits of time and space. This same phenomenon, though unknown to him at the time of the writing of the book, was what Robert experienced when gazing into the mirrors that lined the walls of the Aelf house he visited while on the Island of the Dream Healer in theArchipelago of Dreams.
In Robert’s story mirrors played an important role in revealing hidden information on the characters of the island called Tir Na Nog. Hidden information is often revealed in dreams in that mirrors are a metaphor for reflecting the inner self.
The world that you and I live in is three dimensional (3D) in nature, thus the box I’ve been referring to is a cube. When the bigger-self is experienced I imagine yet an inner cube within this cube that when properly stimulated turns itself inside out to become the larger cube and creating yet a fourth dimension and thus revealing what’s inside. This may very well be the process of transformation in graphic form.
Both are allegorical in that they both point to something and teach a lesson. “That’s like a fable! You might say.” Though both parables and fables teach lessons, the former uses people, whereas the latter uses animals. Both teach morals, both are a form of guidance.
However, a parable generally refers to spiritual lessons and in this way is not unlike many dreams that help one to develop a connection with their spirit. Over the centuries many people have claimed to have received messages from God through the medium of the dream. Throughout the history of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) dreams were said to have been sent from God to certain individuals that were supposed to be used for the good of all people, or to advance the understanding of one so that they may do more good for others. Parables were for all of these religions a means for communicating religious and spiritual concepts.
Why do parables, fables and dreams exist? The answer may be because that they are easier to remember than a direct example. “Dreams, easier to remember?” You say incredulously.
We don’t remember many dreams these days because it is not encouraged by the culture, but once a dream comes through, it’s hard to forget, especially if you’ve figured out what it means. But just because we don’t use them much, dreams haven’t gone the way of the appendix. Ever notice how much you dream after you start reading about dreams?
Mysteries bewilder us and tend to make us pay attention and to focus. Few of us would want to leave a mystery unsolved. Bewilderment makes us strive to know why, or what, or how–it is the carrot at the end of the stick. Dream symbols also beg that we interpret them just as we tend to add meaning to every event and person in our waking life (though this is most often an unexamined ego-supporting process where we project ourselves onto everything and then label it as reality).
Unlocking the meaning of a dream is not unlike discovering the meaning of a parable in that the process starts with asking the right questions and noting that these questions are affected by our beliefs regarding the symbols. Certain questions will often determine the answers, or at least bias them. So before you ask the questions, take a look at the foundation that they sit on. If you already have an answer, that will drive the question and bend it toward your answer. You see this phenomenon frequently with regard to news articles. This is just another form of, “We see what we want to see.”
What did this parable really mean? If the word “shepherd” were a metaphor for soul, your soul (your guide), what would the parable mean?
Is it possible to read this parable in yet another way, other than the traditional shepherd/flock metaphor? Might Jesus be telling us of our own divinity, our own spiritual nature and its connection with God? Might he be showing us how we can be following the wrong shepherd (the ego-self)? Might the guide that is within us all and that can come to us through a dream be the unconscious self?
Parables and dreams encourage us to dig deeper into their meaning and then apply the lessons to our everyday lives. Neither have to be an accurate depiction of actual events– they only need to point to the idea being conveyed in order to be instructive.
*Photo by-The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.
Today I thought I’d tackle yet another of the English-speaking world’s favorite fantasy stories, Peter Pan.
“The second star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning.
But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?
Fly, of course.
It’s easy! All you have to do is to… is to… is to… Ha! That’s funny.
What’s the matter? Don’t you know?
Oh, sure. It’s… It’s just that I never thought about it before. Say, that’s it! You think of a wonderful thought. “
And thus began one of fantasy’s most incredible magical journeys, Peter Pan by J.M Barrie.
What is this Never Land of which he spoke?
Barrie thought of this land as a place found in the minds of children. Each land is as different as each child, though there are some basic similarities as it is between children as well. This seems not unlike the archetypal images of which Jung spoke which would make Never Land an archetype for the psyche’s imaginal realm.
In this way Never Land might be likened to the dream world with the “mainland” of Wendy, John and Michael Darling representing the waking world.
Barrie’s Never Land was probably a reference to the popular name for the Australian Outback i.e. The “Never-Never” that was to be found in the deserts of the Northern Territory. This wouldn’t be too far fetched when one thinks of the Australs as the southern most land mass on the planet and thus analogous to the unconscious mind from whence all dreams are born.
Neverland can only be reached by flying and in the dream world, flying is a metaphor for freedom and independence, it’s also a central theme in Peter Pan’s world.
The star in the beginning of the story serves as a guide or map to the place of their desire; where they aspire to be i.e. Never Land. In dreams stars also relate to ones aspirations and desires. There’s also an aspect of fate or luck in the story because you’re encouraged to believe that you just have to follow “the 2nd star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning”, a star in ones dreams also symbolizes this same aspect of luck.
In the book TheArchipelago of Dreams Robert also followed a star that drew him into the Spirit World of his deeper self where he also tempted fate.
Growing up in some way is also an aspect of many stories both in the desire and the resistance to it. We all want the seeming independence of being grown up and in charge of our fate, but how many times have we all, when overwhelmed with the responsibilities of our grown-up status, wished for the simpler days of our childhood? In our dreams this often shows up in images of our childhood home, friends, events, or family.
You see, our fantasy stories as well as our myths come from the same place as our dreams– they are projections of our deeper, and all too hidden, nature.