Usless Science Forum

The Psyche => Religion and Spirituality => Topic started by: Matt Koeske on June 17, 2007, 11:48:12 AM

Title: Spirit and Soul
Post by: Matt Koeske on June 17, 2007, 11:48:12 AM

I'd like to open up a conversation on the differences between spirit and soul . . . and the problems resulting from their conflation.

I don't have time to make a first volley right now, but I would like to at least acknowledge that the definitions of spirit and soul are obviously arbitrary.  Perhaps we can do little more than formulate our own personal definitions (more or less based on the history of differentiated thinking about the two terms).

But I think the attempt at understanding and differentiating spirit and soul can lead to a very important understanding our our spiritualities and instincts.

Please give us your opinions, definitions, and reflections and/or quotes and references that you feel are meaningful to this discussion.

Title: Re: Spirit and Soul
Post by: Matt Koeske on June 20, 2007, 03:12:58 PM

From Revisioning Psychology by James Hillman (p. 67-70)

An Excursion on Differences Between Soul and Spirit

Here we need to remember that the ways of the soul and those of the spirit only sometimes coincide and that they diverge most in regard to psychopathology. A main reason for my stress upon pathologizing is just to bring out the differences between soul and spirit, so that we end the widespread confusions between psychotherapy and spiritual disciplines. There is a difference between Yoga, transcendental meditation, religious contemplation and retreat, and even Zen, on the one hand, and the psychologizing of psychotherapy on the other. This difference is based upon a distinction between spirit and soul.

Today we have rather lost this difference that most cultures, even tribal ones, know and live in terms of. Our distinctions are Cartesian: between outer tangible reality and inner states of mind, or between body and a fuzzy conglomerate of mind, psyche, and spirit. We have lost the third, middle position which earlier in our tradition, and in others too, was the place of soul: a world of imagination, passion, fantasy, reflection, that is neither physical and material on the one hand, nor spiritual and abstract on the other, yet bound to them both. By having its own realm psyche has its own logic—psychology—which is neither a science of physical things nor a metaphysics of spiritual things. Psychological pathologies also belong to this realm. Approaching them from either side, in terms of medical sickness or religion's suffering, sin, and salvation, misses the target of soul.

But the threefold division has collapsed into two, because soul has become identified with spirit. This happens because we are materialists, so that everything that is not physical and bodily is one undifferentiated cloud; or it happens because we are Christians. Already in the early vocabulary used by Paul, pneuma or spirit had begun to replace psyche or soul. The New Testament scarcely mentions soul phenomena such as dreams, but stresses spirit phenomena such as miracles, speaking in tongues, prophecy, and visions.

Philosophers have tried to keep the line between spirit and soul by keeping soul altogether out of their works or assigning it a lower place. Descartes confined soul to the pineal gland, a little enclave between the opposing powers of internal mind and external space. More recently, Santayana has put soul down in the realm of matter and considered it an anti metaphysical principle.  Collingwood equated soul with feeling and considered that psychology had no business invading the realm of thought and ideas.  The spiritual point of view always posits itself as superior, and operates particularly well in a fantasy of transcendence among ultimates and absolutes.

Philosophy is therefore less helpful in showing the differences than is the language of the imagination. Images of the soul show first of all more feminine connotations. Psyche, in the Greek language, besides being soul denoted a night-moth or butterfly and a particularly beautiful girl in the legend of Eros and Psyche. Our discussion in the previous chapter of the anima as a personified feminine idea continues this line of thinking. There we saw many of her attributes and effects, particularly the relationship of psyche with dream, fantasy, and image. This relationship has also been put mythologically as the soul's connection with the night world, the realm of the dead, and the moon. We still catch our soul's most essential nature in death experiences, in dreams of the night, and in the images of "lunacy."

The world of spirit is different indeed. Its images blaze with light, there is fire, wind, sperm. Spirit is fast, and it quickens what it touches. Its direction is vertical and ascending; it is arrow-straight, knife-sharp, powder-dry, and phallic. It is masculine, the active principle, making forms, order, and clear distinctions. Although there are many spirits, and many kinds of spirit, more and more the notion of "spirit" has come to be carried by the Apollonic archetype, the sublimations of higher and abstract disciplines, the intellectual mind, refinements, and purifications.

We can experience soul and spirit interacting. At moments of intellectual concentration or transcendental meditation, soul invades with natural urges, memories, fantasies, and fears. At times of new psychological insights or experiences, spirit would quickly extract a meaning, put them into action, conceptualize them into rules. Soul sticks to the realm of experience and to reflections within experience. It moves indirectly in circular reasonings, where retreats are as important as advances, preferring labyrinths and corners, giving a metaphorical sense to life through such words as close, near, slow, and deep. Soul involves us in the pack and welter of phenomena and the flow of impressions. It is the "patient" part of us. Soul is vulnerable and suffers; it is passive and remembers. It is water to the spirit's fire, like a mermaid who beckons the heroic spirit into the depths of passions to extinguish its certainty. Soul is imagination, a cavernous treasury—to use an image from St. Augustine—a confusion and richness, both. Whereas spirit chooses the better part and seeks to make all One. Look up, says spirit, gain distance; there is something beyond and above, and what is above is always, and always superior.

They differ in another way: spirit is after ultimates and it travels by means of a via negative. "Neti, neti," it says, "not this, not that." Strait is the gate and only first or last things will do. Soul replies by saying, "Yes, this too has place, may find its archetypal significance, belongs in a myth." The cooking vessel of the soul takes in everything, everything can become soul; and by taking into its imagination any and all events, psychic space grows.

I have drawn apart soul and spirit in order to make us feel the differences, and especially to feel what happens to soul when its phenomena are viewed from the perspective of spirit. Then, it seems, the soul must be disciplined, its desires harnessed, imagination emptied, dreams forgotten, involvements dried.  For soul, says spirit, cannot know, neither truth, nor law, nor cause. The soul is fantasy, all fantasy. The thousand pathologizings that soul is heir to by its natural attachments to the ten thousand things of life in the world shall be cured by making soul into an imitation of spirit. The imitatio Christi was the classical way; now there are other models, gurus from the Far East or Far West, who, if followed to the letter, put one's soul on a spiritual path which supposedly leads to freedom from pathologies. Pathologizing, so says spirit, is by its very nature confined only to soul; only the psyche can be pathological, as the word psychopathology attests. There is no "pneumopathology," and as one German tradition has insisted, there can be no such thing as mental illness ("Geisteskrankheit"), for the spirit cannot pathologize. So there must be spiritual disciplines for the soul, ways in which soul shall conform with models enunciated for it by spirit.

But from the viewpoint of the psyche the humanistic and Oriental movement upward looks like repression. There may well be more psychopathology actually going on while transcending than while being immersed in pathologizing. For any attempt at self-realization without full recognition of the psychopathology that resides, as Hegel said, inherently in the soul is in itself pathological, an exercise in self-deception. Such self-realization turns out to be a paranoid delusional system, or even a kind of charlatanism, the psychopathic behavior of an emptied soul.

Rejoining Soul and Symptom

Many modern methods of psychotherapy want to retain the spirit of analysis but not its soul. They want to retain the methods and forms without the pathologizings. Then the doctor can become a master, and the patient is metamorphosed into a pupil, client, partner, disciple anything but a patient. Analysis itself is called a dialogue or a trans¬action, for "therapy" smacks of pathology. The focus upon inwardness and the goal of integration of the interior person may remain, but disintegration tends to be excluded, without which such integration has no significance. In their view, falling apart is never for the sake of the parts, the multiple persons who are the richness of psychic life; falling apart is but a phase preliminary to reconstituting a stronger ego.

These approaches that would synthesize rather than analyse, integrate rather than differentiate, and keep the therapeutic rituals without the pathological contents, neglect one of the deepest insights resulting from the last century of psychotherapy. The psyche does not exist without pathologizing. Since the unconscious was discovered as an operative factor in every soul, pathologizing has been recognized as an inherent aspect of the interior personality. Freud declared this succinctly: "We can catch the unconscious only in pathological material.”  And after her last visit to Freud in 1913 Lou Salome wrote: ". . . he put exceptionally strong emphasis on the necessity of maintaining the closest and most persistent contact with the pathological material. . . ."

Title: Re: Spirit and Soul
Post by: Matt Koeske on June 21, 2007, 12:42:01 PM

Kafiri posed this topic to me recently in an e-mail, and at first I thought it was just a matter of semantics, but as I started to think about my own differentiation between and definitions of soul and spirit, I realized that this little semantic problem holds a great deal of psychological significance.  Even for an atheistic bloke like me who isn't very keen on "ghost in the machine" notions.

Of course I still think there is a high degree of arbitrariness in the definitions of spirit and soul, but I can see now that one's definitions of these things end up saying a great deal about the way one thinks and relates to data, whether psychic or material.

So, I'll give this a shot.

Soul.  Non-ego psychic contents that behave like matter.  That is, we are perceiving our non-egoic psyche egoically, and therefore symbolically and narratively, but the specific contents that can be described as "soul" appear to abide by natural laws of matter.  For instance, these soul contents might exhibit libido, energy, force.  They might seem to seek equilibrium; this is, they might compensate oppositional (egoic or social) forces.  They may be perceived as intelligent, but only in an instinctual or "animal" way.  That is, their perceived intelligence is reflexive and seeks to survive or achieve equilibrium with a specific environment.  They might "know" intuitively, but do not think abstractly with intellectual paradigms.  Their "thoughts" feel tangible (willful and directed at matter or action in the world) are directed by libido and put toward an instinctual, living action like emergence, healing, growth, evolution, adaptation, aggression, altruism, empathy.

Soul is instinctual and never loosed from the biological materiality of instinct.  The archetypes of the unconscious are soul.  They are willful and likely to appear very complex at times . . . in the way nature expresses its complexity.  With elegance and purpose.

The perception of soul is often very difficult, because we will always personify it, project our egos onto it, anthropomorphize it.  When soul is at its most complex, it will seem divine and mysterious to us, perhaps even seeming far beyond our capacity for comprehension.  Although this anthropomorphism is inevitable, it tends to misrepresent the soul, making it at times appear very much like spirit.

This is where the need for a differentiation between spirit and soul becomes important.  This differentiation allows soul to be soul without the ego's excessive spiritualization or making over of soul in its own image.  We can see this kind of make-over easily in Christianity.  The Old Testament Yahweh behaved instinctually, rashly, willfully, often irrationally.  He did not make sense by the ego's terms.  But the Christianization of God involves the re-representation of God by a man, Jesus, the Son.  Jesus becomes a more approachable, more human, more egoic face of God.  He can think rationally.  He is more concerned with human needs and feelings.  He is also largely stripped of the chthonic, instinctual, willfulness of Yahweh.  That is, he isn't compensatory.  He is an ego facilitator (as used by tribal Church dogma . . . archetypally, Christ represents the super-adaptive individual or Logos principle, a problem the Church has addressed with a combination of the totemic taboo against individuality as represented by the crucifix-scarecrow and the abstraction or totemic deification of the godman . . . enforced with totalitarian brutality and propaganda and systematic purgings of heretics and infidels).

The symbolic alchemical process of extracting the spirit from matter is, I believe, equivalent to making a differentiation between the soul and the spirit.  The soul is "purified" of the spirit (in my opinion . . . rather than the other way around), and the spirit is reformulated into a separate extract that is then consciously directed at the soul out of curiosity, attraction, and a sense of religious devotion.

Spirit.  The contents of the ego that respond to and are directed at the soul or instinctual, unconscious psyche.  The spirit, then, is initially very mythologically inclined.  As the ego perceives the soul only hazily, via non-linguistic, instinctual willfulness that compensates and balances ego-strategies and pours libido into the ego's pursuit of soul ("spiritual pursuit"), the ego is largely responsible for bringing words and abstract form to what it senses.  The initial impulse of the ego is to project the urgings of the soul's instinctuality out into the world, into objects and other people and animals.  This results in animism.

A later stage (perhaps driven by increasingly large societies where diversity demands that the reality function of human consciousness adapt by recognizing that more animistic or totemized people and objects don't have true power over the individual or tribe) would involve an abstraction of the gods.  The gods are no longer in trees and rivers and forests, but in the sky, in heaven.  They are incorporeal.  But the attitude toward the gods is the same.  I.e., they are Other.  They are powerful.  They are "out there".  And we must still cater to their wills in order to survive or prosper.

The spiritual drive, that drive that encourages us to turn toward the gods (the soul) even at the sacrifice of our well-being, at times, constructs a symbolic path or spiritual quest.  On the spiritual quest, the ego is restructured in accordance with the perceived will of the gods.  But the spiritual quest tends to produce substantial abstractions as part of the mythos it sheds as it moves along.  Laws, hierarchies, disciplines and the minutia of belief.  In general, the more of these abstract products there are, the more the ego is "contaminating" the soul.  All too often spiritual pursuits bog down when the abstract products of spiritualism become the objects of worship and motivation . . . instead of the gods/soul themselves.  In fact this "spiritual mania" is a constant with all spiritual pursuits . . . and it's a bitch to work through.

Most spiritually-inclined people never learn how to deal with the problem of mistakenly obscuring the gods behind the totems of belief and egoic abstraction.  The totemic beliefs are more attractive than the gods.  They are easier to relate to and easier to control . . . because the Otherness of the gods has been subdued.  In fact, the subduing of the soul's Otherness is often seen as a positive aspect of the spiritual quest.  "Get thee behind me, Satan!" and so forth.

Regrettably, at this point spiritual systems are no longer adaptive, because they are not in true contact with the soul.  In Jungian terms, the shadow has been repressed.  When Jung stated that individuation was a movement toward wholeness rather than perfection, he was saying (in my interpolation) that the individuant must decide to seek the soul at the expense of spirit.  This is an act that requires consciousness.  Spiritual pursuits that lack a soul dimension do not require consciousness.  They begin in unconscious instinctuality, but they tend to plateau in belief systems.

The process of transmutation described in hermetic alchemy is a shifting of intentionality from spiritual beliefs onto soul pursuits.  But the entirety of the first alchemical opus is a development of spiritual consciousness (albeit soul-directed spiritual consciousness).  The learning of the Logos (a language that accurately reflects the Will of the Self/soul/gods) is the goal of the first opus, and the Logos is an egoic creation.  More accurately, it is a co-creation between the ego and the Self . . . but the ego constructs the language, and must learn how to construct a "temple" of language in which the Will of the Self can be recognized (by the ego) and responded to.  That is, the Logos is a gnostic, spiritual pursuit.  With it, the ego seeks to know the Self/soul more and more precisely and intimately . . . by paring away the unnecessary beliefs and projections.  But the gnostic drive is entirely fueled by the spiritual instinct, the instinctual drive that pushes the ego into increasingly healthy relationship with the instinctual Self.  In other words, to seek gnosis, to know, is compatible with spiritual pursuits.  The spiritual endeavor need not end in belief . . . and, in many cases, such an end marks a reneging on the "spiritual pact" between the ego and the soul.  Gnosis reveals and revitalizes the soul, whereas belief mystifies and obscures or totemizes the soul.

But despite the egoism innate to spiritual pursuits, such pursuits are not entirely egoic or projected, imagined, or abstracted.  The drive to pursue the soul, to know the soul intimately, is as much an instinctual drive as any soul drive.  This spiritual instinct is basically the same thing as what I call the super-adaptive instinct, albeit at a slightly earlier, more mythologized stage.  That is, when we think of spiritual drives or pursuits, we are still perceiving the soul and its Will entirely egoically (even as our Logos has become increasingly refined).  But when I use the term, super-adaptive instinct, I am trying to see this instinct from outside, more scientifically . . . not as a character on the stage sees another character in the play, the fiction . . . but as a member of the audience sees the character (i.e., as both the actor and the part played in the fiction of the theater).

What this means is that the spiritual pursuit taken far enough will run into a problem: even the will to pursue the soul or the gods is itself a will of the gods.  The instinct that seemed so personal, so heroic, so much a piece of conscious personality, so much an "attainment", turns out to be partially Other.  At this point, a further differentiation is required, as is a sacrifice by the ego.  The ego must learn (should it choose to pursue gnosis) to reattribute the heroic, spiritual Will that fueled its quest and achievements to the instinctual unconscious (the soul).  The soul, in essence, acted through the ego in order to draw the ego into a reciprocal relationship with it (the soul).

This is the process described in the second alchemical opus.  Here the ego is "de-spiritualized", and the spirit (via the super-adaptive instinct) is re-infused into matter.  That is, we recognize that the spiritual drive that guided this process is instinctual and Other and it behaves like matter.  It is libidinous and willful.  It wants to adapt, to live in equilibrium with the environment.  It is not a Calling to withdrawal from life and toward some abstract, heavenly, egoic paradigm of the spiritual . . . some place where the ego that has followed the spiritual path is rewarded by being reabsorbed into the soul or primal unconscious.  There is no heaven, no nirvana, no attainment of a higher plane of existence, no transcendence at the end of the spiritual journey.  All of this must be sacrificed in order to recognize that the Will of the Self wants to adapt to and reciprocate libido with the material environment.

So, whereas the first opus draws the ego deeper and deeper inward, toward the instinctual source of libido . . . the second opus is concerned with the ego learning to channel the soul's libido outward into the world, into the act of adaptive living.  The very idea of reward for one's spiritual achievements must be thrown on the flames for this to take place . . . and that is no easy sacrifice to make.  But the spiritual quest leads one to the understanding that the ego is meant to facilitate the instinctual Self and not vice versa.  The idea that the Self provides for the ego (in relationship to the ego's "goodness" in abiding by the Self's Will) ends up being a fallacy.  The ego is the provider for the Self . . . and only as an organ of the Self does the ego find sustenance in its Self-sustaining actions.

Of course this is much easier said than done, and I want to reiterate the enormity of this sacrifice, which may sound all too simple in words.

Generally, when we talk about spirituality, we are not talking about the second opus.  The vast majority of spiritualists wouldn't even recognize the Work of the second opus as spiritual at all.  It will generally be perceived by them as anti-spiritual, even atheistic, and perhaps even a descent into rationalism.  That is, the second opus cannot be easily differentiated by people who are immersed in a muddied Logos of belief and blind faith and projection.  This generic spiritualist will only see shadow in the description or portrayal of the second opus.

As Useless Science is in many ways dedicated to making sense out of the second opus (or constructing a Logos for it), I can only say that I am all too familiar with this phenomenon.
Title: Re: Spirit and Soul
Post by: Kafiri on June 21, 2007, 10:08:35 PM
From an on-line article about Hillman:
More important and ironic, though, was the way Hillman’s angry explosion expressed the full measure and difficulty of his archetypal psychology. Like Jung, Hillman believes that image is psyche. "The soul is constituted of images… the soul is primarily an imagining activity," he writes in Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account. Thus it’s no great stretch to say that, from Hillman’s perspective, the photographer was playing the anthropologist attempting to capture the soul of a shaman in his camera. “It’s my image!” Hillman shouted.

And that claim, while expressing the primacy of the image, also discloses the difficulty of archetypal psychology. For Hillman maintains repeatedly that images have autonomy. They are the spontaneous production of the soul. Indeed, for him, psychotherapy itself is on behalf of the image, not on behalf of the self. So, while one can argue that photography inhibits the essential movement of an image by freezing it, the fact is that Hillman, logician of the soul, attempted vainly (in all senses of the word) to control exhibition of the image that, in his terms, dreams him.
Complete article at:

While I did not find Hillman's "The Soul's Code" very interesting, I have found Hillman's early writings provide useful information on the "soul." For example:

Because our tradition has systematically turned against soul, we are each unaware of the distinctions between soul and spirit-therefore confusing psychotherapy with spiritual discipline, obfuscating where they conflate and where they differ.  The traditional denial of soul continues within the attitudes of each of us, whether Christian or not, for we are each unconsciously affected by our cultures traditions, the unconscious aspect of our collective life.  Ever since Tertullian declared that the soul(anima) is naturally Christian, there has been a latent Christianity, and antisoul spirituality, in our Western soul.  This has led eventually to a psychological disorientation, and we have had to turn to the Orient.  We place, displace, or project onto the Orient our Occidental disorientation.  And my task in this lecture is to do what I can for soul.  Part of ths task, because it is ritualistically appropriate, is th point out C. G. Jung's part in prying loose the dead fingers of those dignitaries in old Turkey, both by restoring the soul as a primary experience and a field of work and by showing us ways-particularly through images-or realizing that soul.
From the essay Peak and Vales, The Soul/Spirit Distinction as Basis for the Differences between Psychotherapy and Spiritual Discipline found in Puer Papers, p. 55
FWIW it is the failure to understand this basic and profound distinction among many who call themselves Jungians that convinces me that they misunderstand Jung's psychology.  And, I suspect Matt also, but he can speak for himself.  When Jung's psychology is treated and approached as a spiritual discipline the wrong god is followed home.
Title: Re: Spirit and Soul
Post by: Matt Koeske on June 22, 2007, 11:22:06 AM
FWIW it is the failure to understand this basic and profound distinction among many who call themselves Jungians that convinces me that they misunderstand Jung's psychology.  And, I suspect Matt also, but he can speak for himself.  When Jung's psychology is treated and approached as a spiritual discipline the wrong god is followed home.

I had never thought about this as a core Jungian problem before you mentioned it to me, but I can see now that it most definitely is.  I wouldn't insist that it has to be put into the specific language of "spirit vs. soul", but I have recently been thinking about spiritualism and tribalism as the core Jungian wounds.  So maybe we could say that the conflation between spirit and soul in the Jungian community is very much similar to the community's general ignorance or dismissal of evolutionary biology/psychology.  That is, in my opinion, the soul is biological stuff . . . albeit perceived anthropomorphically or projectively (by the ego).

Therefore the Jungian overemphasis on the spirit could be seen as a detached interest in, or belief system of, the soul, but not soul work or genuine soul investigation.  Such an investigation (which I would call small-g "gnostic") is Work, not belief.  The soul, in Jungiana, is still being totemized, made symbolic, iconic, an object of fear and worship suited for usage in ego-strategies.  But in the spiritual approach there is no constructive engagement with the soul.  This attitude is perhaps akin to the romantic placing of the anima woman on a pedestal (and, in fact, the author of the article you linked voices or quotes some criticism of Hillman for the "virgin anima" attitude behind his psychology).

Engagement with the soul would be perceived as "shadow work" . . . because working with/investigating/engaging with the soul (which has instinctual designs on the ego and its strategies) increasingly requires the ego to take a backseat, to stop playing Sorcerer's Apprentice and let the soul's instinctual self-regulating process clean up the mess the ego made of its strategies.  In that model (which I call the Work), egoic-spiritual notions like transcendence are insignificant.  As we can see in the alchemical portrayals of the Work, the ego (as the King) is drowned, dismembered, and dissolved before it can find a state of union with the anima or animus (the soul in personified, sexual form).  And even after that coniunctio, there is another death and depotentiation, complete with rotting.  In the "second opus" a similar process is repeated which I associate with de-spiritualization.

This whole dark side to the individuation process is what the Jungian community seems to be missing when it conflates spirit and soul.  Instead of doing the Work, many Jungians fetishize the individuation process or mistake it for a spiritually uplifting "finding the real me" experience.  I have followed the Work doggedly for about 20 years now, and all I can say is that I have never found the process spiritually uplifting.  It is mostly painful and overwhelming.  And the deeper one goes in this pursuit, the more alien one will seem to most people.

The idea that the "real me" is something that merely saying the word "individuation" enables is also pure bunk.  The Work teaches us that there is no specific "real me".  Rather, we are forced to rebuild ourselves with conscious, functional myths and strategies (while simultaneously destroying the ineffective old strategies).  We create ourselves, and as any artist/creator knows, the maker bears full responsibility for the creation, and criticism can be harsh.  When we exist as affiliations and beliefs only, we have large tribes or institutions to bolster our sense of identity.  Not so for the individuant.

In my experience, one can follow the Work well into its final stages and still never feel absolute "self-discovery".  Even with the "Philosopher's Stone" in hand, one still does not necessarily have a use for the Philosopher's Stone.  It is only a potential.  To give oneself over to the Work is to always be a Work in progress, to embrace plasticity and adaptivity.  This means that identity is in flux (except when we find some role to pour it into).  The believer's identity, by contrast, is much more rigid.  The distinction between self and other is tribally reinforced.  As creatures of our affiliations, we are made of abstract stuff, and abstract stuff is not actually plastic like matter or soul are.

I feel that the spiritual drive only really takes us to the beginning of the Road, to the most abstract potential of the soul.  But it doesn't teach us how to relate to the soul . . . only the soul's instinctual process can do that.

I like the emphasis that Hillman places on "pathologizing" and the soul in the excerpt from Revisioning Psychology above.  In typically Hillmanesque fashion, at times poetry (or aestheticism) gets the best of the writer (and thinker), but there is definitely something to the association of soul with pathologizing.  It demonstrates the psychosomatic/biological and shadow dimensions of soul work.  Some of Hillman's other terms are too poetic for me.  "Soul-making".  This is a conflation between ego and soul, I think.  We do not "make" soul.  If anything, it is the other way around.  We are made by soul's (instinct's) attempts to find equilibrium or adaptivity with the environment.

Pathology is an indication of maladaptivity, it smacks of the real, the material.  In pathology, something biological is protesting because its libido has been quashed.

Also, Hillman's emphasis on the soul as "imaginal" (or as imagination) strikes me as a similar conflation.  Our experience of the soul might be called "imaginal" . . . but there are numerous indications that what were are perceiving behaves like matter, and specifically, like instinct.  Imaginalism (or psyche) is a product of the egoic way of perceiving.  We talked about this in the Wrestling with Giegerich thread a while back, I think.

Title: Re: Spirit and Soul
Post by: Matt Koeske on June 22, 2007, 02:43:26 PM

I noted in the Cliff Bostock on Hillman article that Kafiri linked above that the author makes a differentiation between soul and Self.

Before I explain that more fully, let me first outline in very simplified terms some of the reasons I revere Hillman’s thinking, which basically amount to the important ways he departed from Jung. The primary one is his rejection of monotheism. Jung, of course, was heavily influenced by Christianity, and his psychology imagines the human evolving in a Christ-like way to what he calls the individuated Self, a kind of umbrella archetype under which our warring interior drives can be brought into dialogue and resolution. Thus the Jungian holds any pair of opposites in tension for the sake of constellating a third possibility. Jung is always pushing us to wholeness and integration – the “oneness” to which monotheism inevitably aspires.

Hillman instead draws his inspiration from the Greeks and advocates a polytheistic psychology. He effectively abandons the idea that we have a central Self. Instead, he argues, the psyche is inevitably plural – comprised of different beings, personified as the gods in the ancient pantheon. He doesn’t purchase the idea that monotheism (or individuation) represents an evolutionary improvement over polytheism (or psychic plurality).


For Hillman it is enough to continually deepen one’s sense of life’s beauty. This is soulmaking. We should not confuse the soul with the Self. The soul seeks and expresses difference. It delights in multiplicity. It confers meaning by processing images and, most important, it is not “inside” us. It is an "other." It is with us. It is connected to the soul of the world, but it is most definitely not “us.” In Hillman’s world, we live as poets, not as Christs-in-training.

I made no such distinction in my attempt at definitions above (where I used Self and soul interchangeably).  I had never thought about Self and wholeness in the way Bostock does (as a spiritual or egoic concept).  It never seemed to me that Jung's emphasis on wholeness was really a spiritual idea.  Quite the opposite.  I always interpreted Jung's differentiation between wholeness and perfection as parallel to the distinction between soul and spirit respectively.  Nor did I ever think of individuation as monotheistic or the individuant as a "Christ-in-training".

Perhaps I have projected my own ideas onto Jung's language.  But it is just as likely that the opinion Bostock and Hillman express (re: polytheism of psyche) demonstrates the conventional conflation in the Jungian mindset between spirit and soul.  Wholeness is not "oneness", in my opinion.  Oneness is more like the spiritualistic idea of perfection.  I always saw Jungian wholeness as the sense that there is a coherent, interrelated and interactive pantheon of archetypal/instinctual forces in the unconscious.

For instance, the ideas from systems science that Kafiri recently introduced to the conversation.  Wholeness is like emergence or self-organization in a complex system made up of micro-systems or elements.  We are beings adapted to the macro world of these emergent, self-organized systems.  That is, the sub-systems of the body unconsciously and autonomously function and self-regulate without our will for them to do so.  The emergent system (a kind of macro libido or adaptive, material Will) as well as all of its elemental sub-systems would make a "whole" in the sense of the Jungian Self.

Spiritual perfectionism, on the other hand, would be the notion that the emergent system we identify with (the sense of self or ego) can achieve a state of transcendence of its sub-systems.  As the lexicon on complexity studies Kafiri posted illustrated, this phenomenon is not at all a part of complex systems.  Complex systems, emergent systems, fall apart when their elements or subsystems fail (although a certain amount of redundancy generally grants them some robustness).

Looked at in this systems language, spiritual perfectionism would be both delusional and organically destructive.

My take on Jung's idea of Self is that it is a complex system in which all the elements of the system have specific, interrelating functions.  It cannot exist if we pluck out its elemental organs . . . but there is yet a sense that the emergent system (the individual personality or psyche . . . or even the entire organism) is both one with and separate from the elemental systems.

My guess is that we, as egos, personify or symbolize the Self when as perceive it (thus granting it singularity) . . . but what we are actually perceiving is the unconscious, elemental subsystems on which we rely for our existence (and adaptation) focusing into a specific instance of macro-oriented (emergent) Will.  So when I use the term "Self", I mean to evoke the sub-systems that make up the human organism as well as the emergent "macro-organism" that had evolved to coordinate and adapt the subsystems to the macro environment.  Part of that emergent macro-organism is a complex system we call the ego.  The ego is both an emergent system and an organ of the macro-organism (think fractals, like the Mandelbrot Set, where the shape of the whole/Self is reflected in it parts).  Actually, all organs are emergent systems that then become elements of a larger emergent system.  As an organ of the Self, the ego has evolved for the task of mediating between the (largely informational) environment in which humans exists and the instinctual Will of the Self.  The Self's Will is a macro-level Will, because it conducts the will of the sub-systems toward the macro environment.  That is, the Self is not merely concerned with the internal functionings of its organs, but with the coordination of these functionings with an outer, macro world.  The specific tool of adaptation of the subsystems to the external, macro environment is the ego.

But the ego's high plasticity (enabling it to be super-adaptive to the rapidly changing and diverse environment of human evolutionary adaptedness) also grants it a sense of autonomy or free will.  Meaning it can malfunction quite easily and ignore the Will of the Self to coordinate the sub-systems with the outer environment.  The Self's attempts to regulate this upstart organ are perceived by the ego as archetypes or manifest as neurotic complexes that surface when the ego's living strategies fail to adapt human instincts to the external environment.

The phenomenon of soul would be a specific psychic manifestation of the Self, a gateway archetype, for instance . . . like the animi.  In this archetypal manifestation the Self is using a specific role or instinctual device to address specific ego strategies.  The Self, then, is more formless, more a potentiality than a characterization.  Characterized as a soul figure, the Self demonstrates an oppositional or compensatory position to the ego-strategies it is addressing (much like Bostock says above).  It thus appears as and feels like an Other from the ego's perspective.

But in its potential and whole state, the Self contains the ego as an organism contains an organ.  The perceived Otherness of the Self-as-soul is the ego's perception of being self-regulated by a Will acting through a specific agent or emissary (a soul figure).  The Self, in this sense, is a collective whole (a pantheon) . . . but it is also the gods that make up that pantheon when it moves into action or attempts to engage with the environment (through the organ of the ego).

In other words, the distinction I make between soul and Self is subtle and complicated . . . which is why I used them interchangeably above.  I see a sameness between Jung's position and Bostock and Hillman's position (as Bostock relates both above) . . . one that Bostock himself doesn't seem to fully recognize.

Title: Re: Spirit and Soul
Post by: Matt Koeske on June 22, 2007, 02:55:47 PM
The issue of "Christs-in-training" is, though, a tricky one.  The problem is not, in my opinion, monotheism vs. polytheism.  The problem is the relationship in the psyche between the ego and the Self.  This is expressed in early Christianity as the confusion about the role of Christ as God, man, and son of God.  In Gnosticism, Christ was an ideal that the initiate pursued (rather than emulated) like the lapis philosophorum of the alchemists.  It is, then, the potential of the ego to fulfill the task of channeling the Self's Will adaptively into the world.  But as with the lapis, the goal and the actual completion of the Work are not the same thing.  The goal is a numinous object, perhaps something like a mandala on which one meditates.  But it is an abstract representation of how it feels to become adaptive.  The goal is spiritual.  The achievement, though, is instinctual, material, and adaptive.

Catholicism drastically muddies this by deifying the Christ, making it an object of worship, and driving a wedge between "Good Works" and "Faith Alone".  Christ becomes a totem . . . and must therefore be protected by a taboo: the self-deification taboo.  This is one of the core taboos in our Christianized culture, especially where spirituality is concerned.  It is even still influencing the thinking of Bostock in the passage quoted above.  He is, in effect, saying: "A Christ-in-training is not a valid orientation for the individual, because this breaks the self-deification taboo and conflates ego and Self."  But in order to hold this opinion, one must accept the Church dogma about the Christ (i.e., that it is a totemic deity, not an archetype of ego-potential).

If we go back just before this dogma was formed to the era of pagan Mystery religions (on which the Christian mythos is founded), we see that the Mystery rituals were designed to temporarily identify the individual initiate (ego) with the suffering, dying, and resurrected god or goddess.  We can guess (at least I've never heard otherwise), that the way this ritual was conducted prevented initiates from leaving with a belief that they actually were gods (i.e., with inflation complexes).  Therefore, we are forced to conclude that the primacy of the inflation complex (conflation of ego and Self) is a product of Catholic Christianity.

In the Mystery rites of initiation, the initiate put on the eyes of the god as a mask . . . and saw through the god, thereby empathizing with the suffering/death/rebirth experience of the god.  Afterward the mask of the god was ritually removed.  I believe the Gnostic approach was precisely the same (and that Gnosticism represented the transitional "Mystery Christianity").  In these Mystery traditions, the connection between initiate and god (ego and Self or soul) was relational.  The initiate was not (at least after the rite of passage) the god.  Rather, the initiate was related to the god by an archetypal, feeling experience.  The feeling itself was archetypal, that is, it belonged to the god . . . but the initiate learned to empathize with it.

This is the healthy way of relating to an archetype.  If we feel an archetypal instinct for aggression, we do not conclude (at least not sanely) that we are only that aggression.  We relate to it, mediate it.  We recognize that in some situations aggression can be adaptive, while in others it is destructive.  We lend aggression plasticity . . . to the degree that we are conscious of the instinct as Other.  If we fall into unconsciousness, we will act out the aggression whether appropriate, constructive, adaptive or not.  It "possesses" us.

It is the same way with Christ.  Christ represents the godman, or the ego's potential to suffer, die, and be reborn anew . . . the fulfillment of its plasticity in successful adaptation to the environment.  But the ego is a complex of strategies, strategies which can be reworked, discarded, re-created.  It is not the instinct for adaptation.

What Christianity did with the assertion of the self-deification taboo was force us to deny or repress the super-adaptive instinct (we are thus, Peters, the "rock" on which the Church was built . . . not at all surprisingly).  Peter is the Christ-denier.  And, also quite symbolically, the story goes that he insisted on being crucified upside down.  Supposedly out of humility . . . but really (when read symbolically), because he represented the denial of the identification with Christ's suffering/dismemberment.  One is even tempted to wonder whether the character of Peter (as Church foundation) was not a symbolic, Gnostic slur critiquing the proto-Catholic Church as an institution of Christ-denial . . . later to be unconsciously adopted, misunderstood, and literalized in Church doctrine.

Regardless of the history of its symbols, the result was that Church doctrine became Christ-denying and this pushed the Gnostic Christ-as-mask, the Christ to be empathized with, the archetypal Christ into the Christian shadow.  Forced into the shadow, the super-adaptive instinct behaves "demoniacally".  It "tempts" us to identify with the Christ archetype (since it is undifferentiated by and from the ego), and when we relax our defenses for one reason or another, it leaps up and possesses us.  Here we have the core complex that has fueled centuries of Christian madness and mysticism both.  This complex required post-Gnostic alchemy to process and transmute it.  Alchemy (when it worked as proto-psychotherapy) was able to make the Christ archetype non-demonic, reconnecting it to nature, reestablishing the empathic relationship between ego and instinctual soul.  Christ is taken down from the totemic, abstracting, spiritualizing cross (where the archetype was paralyzed by the Church) and returned to matter.  The last emblem of the Rosarium Philosophorum displays Christ climbing out of his tomb, holding the symbol of the Cross in his hand (rather than being impaled on it in the conventional Church fashion) . . . reawakening from his petrification/entombment to walk the earth again.


This process as Jung saw it (and I also see it, albeit with certain revisions) was not about monotheism.  The godman or dying god was an archetype in pre-Christian polytheism . . . an archetype as old as any other archetype (recognizable in Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian mythologies, for instance, not to mention druidic, Celtic paganism).  Alchemy was simply a renaturing of the godman archetype to compensate for the Christian self-deification taboo that sought to curtail adaptive (and potentially rebellious and diversifying) individuation.

Christianity is humanity's largest, most "successful" experiment with wide-scale tribalism.  By "successful", I don't mean adaptive.  It succeeded at regressing the human spiritual (or super-adaptive) instinct to a tribal primitivism en masse . . . and this success lasted as long as the Christian power structure was able to keep an empowered middle class from forming (where by "middle class" I mean the state of human sociality in which the individual's value must be recognized as a social unit and not only the tribe's . . . as diverse and numerous tribal affiliations will require an affiliation-mediator in the individual; in other words, the Problem of the Modern).