Path of Soul

The word ‘psychology’ is rooted in the word psyche. Psyche is from Greek psykhe “the soul, mind, spirit; breath.” It is unfortunate that the field of psychology has moved away from its glorious roots, loosing contact with the soul. Depth psychologist, James Hillman understand this. He calls on us to “speak for the soul” (p. 161). In doing so he is aware of the difficulty of such a tasks.

According to Hillman, psychopathology rejects the soul and the soul’s language, “calling it pejorative names” (p.161). In Myth of Analysis, James Hillman says that “Freud’s Psychology, and Jung’s, and analysis itself all arise from the ontological ground of pathological imagination” (1972, p. 172). How can psychology speak for the soul if the soul’s language is seen as pathological?

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The Gift of Love

Gentile Da Fabriano- The Annunciation- circa 1425, currently at held at the Pinacoteca Vaticana, via wikimedia US public domain.
Gentile Da Fabriano- The Annunciation- circa 1425, currently at held at the Pinacoteca Vaticana, via wikimedia US public domain.

Life energy moves through all living things. A seed sprouts, growing and becoming a tree, blossoming and bearing fruit. As long as the tree is healthy and without disease its life energy will follow a path. This is not a scientific declaration, but a poetic one: energy creates transformations in form.

In human terms, we call this energy ‘libido.’ The potential transformations of our energy are shaped by ‘libidinal’ desire: our instincts animate us, drive us. Our desire moves us to seek an object; in pure form libido moves us to seek out an other, not as object but subject.

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Via Dolorosa: the soul’s spiritual riddle

Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) Christ Carrying the Cross, US public domain via wikimedia

In Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung speaks of psychical symbols as “psychological riddles” (para. 83). Jung says that if a “problem [is] not worked out consciously”; then, it “goes on working in the unconscious and throws up symbolical fantasies”(ibid). The psyche brings forth spiritual riddles, appearing in myth, dreams, art and other forms of imagination.

Spiritual riddles point to “natural currents of libido.” Symbols transform, creating currents within psychic life (fn. 18). One such current is formed from the transformation of desire. As desire transforms, so do the symbols that appear in dreams and fantasy.  Jung says: “The yearning clothes itself in ecclesiastical garb… where it at last finds its way to freedom.” (ibid)

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Heaven above, Heaven below: what the soul foretells

“Everything psychic has a lower and a higher meaning, as in the profound saying of late classical mysticism: ‘Heaven above, Heaven below, stars above, stars below, all that is above also is below, know this and rejoice.’ Here we lay our finger on the secret symbolical significance of everything psychic.” (CW 5, para 77)

In the above passage, Jung is referencing a mystical text titled the Oedipus Aegyptiacus. Jung  borrows from this text to express the tension of opposites within psyche life. The psyche has an urge, aim, a desire: part an expression of base instinct and part spiritual instinct. Fantasy holds the potential to express both of these instinctual urges.

Jung explains his point of view: the [Freudian] “sexual problem” is “only one half of the meaning, and the lower half at that. The other half is ideal creation as a substitute for real creation.” (CW 5, para 77) Here, Jung recognizes the spiritual instincts of the soul. Such instincts modify base instinctual urges into the spiritual through the creation of spiritual symbols and ‘ideals.’ Through spiritual symbols the soul expresses a capacity to dialectically integrate the tension of opposites within the Self.

Jung goes on to say that such symbol creation may hold a ‘presentiment of the future,’ guiding the individual in the process of psychical transformation. Jung says:

“With personalities who are obviously capable of intellectual effort, the prospect of spiritual fruitfulness is something worthy of their highest aspirations, and for many people it is actually a vital necessity. This other side of the fantasy also explains the excitement, for we are concerned here with a thought that contains a presentiment of the future-one of those thoughts which, to quote Maeterlinck, spring from the “inconscient superieur,” (the higher unconscious) from the “prospective potency” of a subliminal synthesis.” (CW 5, para 78)

The ‘higher unconscious’ or soul’s imagination appears to hold the instinctual and creative ability to create a subliminal synthesis of opposites. Such a synthesis may offer ‘visionary clarity’ into the ‘hidden meaning’ of one’s life. Jung says:

“I have had occasion to observe, in the course of my daily professional work [that… ] a dream, often of visionary clarity, occurs about the time of the onset of the illness or shortly before, which imprints itself indelibly on the mind and, when analyzed, reveals to the patient a hidden meaning that anticipates the subsequent events of his life.” (CW 5, para 78)

Here, Jung is beginning to apprehend the teleological nature of psychic life. The soul expresses teleology within dreams, asserting ‘hidden meanings’, pointing to ‘the subsequent events of his life.’  In a footnote Jung goes into further detail:

“Just as memories that have long since fallen below the threshold are still accessible to the unconscious, so also are certain very fine subliminal combinations that point forward, and these are of the greatest significance for future events in so far as the latter are conditioned by our psychology. But no more than the science of history bothers itself with future combinations of events, which are rather the object of political science, can the forward-pointing psychological combinations be the object of analysis; they would be much more the object of a refined psychological syntheticism that knew how to follow the natural currents of libido. This we cannot do, or only badly; but it happens easily enough in the unconscious, and it seems as if from time to time, under certain conditions, important fragments of-this-work come to light, at least in dreams, thus accounting for the prophetic significance of dreams long claimed by superstition. Dreams are very often anticipations of future alterations of consciousness. (fn 18)

The soul creates symbols which are ‘forward-pointing psychological combinations’.’ Such symbols ‘follow the natural currents of libido.’  Dream symbols, guided by libido, may anticipate “future alterations of consciousness.”


  1. Symbols of Transformation (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.5): C. G. Jung, Gerhard Adler, R. F.C. Hull: Books.

An imaginal journey into the origin and history of soul

“Language, in its origin and essence, is simply a system of signs or symbols that denote real occurrences or their echo in the human soul.” (Carl Jung, para. 13)

In its origin and essence language is a mode of the soul. Jung echoes one of the earliest psychological texts, titled the Psychologia Empirica. Writing in 1732, Christian Wolff says:

“Thinking is an act of the soul whereby it becomes conscious of itself and of other things outside itself” (cited in Jung fn 2).

It is with the soul in mind that we begin our discussion of Jung’s Essay on Two Kinds of Thinking, addressing language from the perspective of the soul. Here, language is an act of the soul, whereby the soul becomes conscious of itself.


At origin, at basis, there is no thought, no language.  Something is, but we cannot call it being or non-being, we cannot know it as full or empty. All we can fathom is that it is the ground of life: essential to life, yet unsayable, unspeakable. It, unfathomable, gives birth to soul.

Ground emerges into form, becoming the divine body of life. The divine body is the birth place of soul, the container or vessel for soul. Divinity and soul are first in unity; they are “indistinct” (Para. 23), like a baby in womb.

With time, the soul emerges out of primal unity into differentiation, initiating a process of individuation. The soul aims to become conscious of itself and others outside of itself. The soul seeks to know life, as the divine body of life. Language is a mode of the soul in communion with and about its mother world. Jung says:

“From time immemorial language has been directed outwards and used as a bridge, which has but a single purpose, namely that of communication. So long as we think directedly, we think for and speak to others” (para. 12).

In its emergent form the soul thinks for and speaks to the divine body. Language becomes a bridge between a soul and divine other. The soul realizes itself in dynamic communion: speaking, bridging, linking, and interweaving with the divine body of life.

Imaginal Knowing

The earliest form of language is one of pure imagination. Imagination offers a kaleidoscopic array of forms and images which expresses an emergent awareness.  Through imagination the soul first becomes conscious of itself and of other things outside itself. Jung says:

“This creative urge explains the bewildering confusion, the kaleidoscopic changes and syncretistic regroupings, the continual rejuvenation, … We move into a world of fantasies which, untroubled by the outward course of things, well up from an inner source to produce an ever-changing succession of plastic or phantasmal forms.” (para. 24).

Imagination is an expression the soul’s subjective knowing– of its immediate relationality to the mother world in which it is contained. At the origins of life soul imagines the other; it dreams the other.

Mythical Knowing

Where there is mother, there is also father. Mother and father are the archeaions of life: the archetypal unity of life. They give forth life through their divine play. Mother offers herself as ground, vessel, womb of soul; father offers himself as creative force, providing the potential for transformation and awareness of soul.

An aspect of the father principle is Logos. Logos is derived from the Greek verb legō, meaning “to count, tell, say, speak.” Logos offers a path to awareness through speech, insofar as we  speak of the divine body of life.  The soul next becomes aware of itself and others around it through a mythical language, through Logos. In the biblical tradition it is said: “The Word Became Flesh – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

When aligned with Logos, the soul begins to weave narrations and myths which speak to and of life and the soul’s relationship to life. Words become the “creative power” of the soul (para. 24, 176).The soul tells mythic stories of its relationship with the sacred other. A creative urge seeks to know the other, to speak of the other. Here, we are not only speaking of a relationship to the form of the other but to that which is essential in the other— unspeakable yet real. Jung says:

“The naive man of antiquity saw the sun as the great Father of heaven and earth and the moon as the fruitful Mother. Everything had its demon, was animated like a human being, or like his brothers the animals. Everything was conceived anthropomorphically or therimorphically, in the likeness of man or beast. Even the sun’s disk was given wings or little feet to illustrate its motion” (para 24)

Myth tells stories not only of the soul’s relationship to the divine body of life, but also of the process of becoming conscious within the world: “men go forth, and admire lofty mountains and broad seas, and roaring torrents” (cited in Jung fn. 21). The soul struggles to know itself and its world; myth tells of such struggles.

Through the creative power of the father principle, the soul performs the heroic task of becoming aware of itself– as subjectivity. The hero is a metaphor for individuation, for subjective awareness. Through mythic language the soul becomes conscious of itself as a separate and unique individual.

The heroic spirit is not inclined toward the “subterranean passages” of the mother (para.1). Nor is it inclined toward the inner world. The heroic spirit seeks mountain tops and vistas. The soul aligns with the transcendent aims of the spirit of logos, providing the potential for transformation and awareness within itself.

Metaphysical Knowing

Heroic spirit seeks to know not only the mountain tops and vistas of the mother’s body, but also the heavenly realms and kingdoms of the father. Metaphysics reveals new ventures of the heroic spirit. Language becomes metaphysical: beyond the physical. Jung tells a story of the medieval metaphysician:

“The subjects he thought about were often unbelievably fantastic; for instance, it was debated how many angels could stand on the point of a needle, whether Christ could have performed his work of redemption had he come into the world in the shape of a pea, etc, etc. The fact that these problems could be posed at all-and the stock metaphysical problem of how to know the unknowable comes into this category-proves how peculiar the medieval mind must have been” (para 21).

With this metaphysical knowledge, the soul holds the potential to think of and speak to that which lies beyond the natural world. It has developed a metaphysical language to speak of the father realms. The soul achieves the capacity to think of and speak to the divine other. And, at the same time and on another level,  something begins to go wrong.

Abstraction & Egoic Thought

Metaphysics brought with it abstraction. Abstraction takes that which is essential and turns it into a general idea or quality. Language transforms active, relational knowing into “a conceptual scheme” (Wundt, cited in Jung, fn 22), a kind of fixed “known”. Abstract language “designates… general concepts” (ibid). Such conceptual schemes and general concepts mirror a world. The are not real in and of themselves, but are mirrors of the real capable of being “applied in a uniform manner to the most varied problems” (ibid.)

Language shifts from a language of the soul to a system of abstractions– a copy system. Jodl makes this quite clear:

“Language is the register of tradition, the record of racial conquest , the deposit of all the gains made by the genius of individual. The social “copy-system” thus established reflects the judgmental processes of the race, and in turn becomes the training school of the judgment of new generations” (Jodl, cited in Jung, para 15).

The soul begins to transform through abstraction, knowing itself in abstract terms. Soul becomes an object to itself, a copy of itself, designating a general concept for itself. It calls itself ‘I’. The soul splits within itself: Mirroring itself through it own abstraction. The soul mirrors itself as ‘I’.

The Latin word for ‘I’ is ‘Ego.’ The ego’s abstraction creates a conceptual scheme about itself capable of being applied in a uniform manner, allowing it to adapt itself to a collective reality. Each soul surrenders its own subjectivity and becomes part of a social “copy-system.” It is only through the social copy system that one is able to achieve the aims and objectives of the will. Jung says:

“The ego is the subject of all successful attempts at adaptation so far as these are achieved by the will”(CW 9ii, para 11).

This shift towards adaptation effects a radical shift in the locus of control. The will becomes less a will of the soul, with its spiritual drives and instincts, and more a will of the ego. The soul’s speech sinks into the hidden recesses of the unconscious: the two forms of thinking are born. Jung says:

“We have, therefore, two kinds of thinking: directed thinking, and dreaming or fantasy-thinking. The former operates with speech elements for the purpose of communication, and is difficult and exhausting; the latter is effortless, working as it were spontaneously, with the contents ready to hand, and guided by unconscious motives. The one produces innovations and adaptation, copies reality, and tries to act upon it; the other turns away from reality, sets free subjective tendencies, and, as regards adaptation, is unproductive” (para. 20).

Speech expresses a split within the soul. The egoic mind speaks a language of abstraction, objectification, and adaptation. While the soul speaks a language of subjective reality, of dreams and imagination.

“Directed thinking… is manifestly an instrument of culture. And we shall not be wrong in saying that the tremendous work of education which past centuries have devoted to directed thinking, thereby forcing it to develop from the subjective, individual sphere to the objective, social sphere” (para. 21).

Directive thinking is adaptive because it is the key to all endeavor, to all enterprise. Jung’s essay on Two Kinds of Thinking shows that “the secret of cultural development is the mobility and disposability of psychic energy” (para. 17 ). Directive thinking allows mankind the ability to harness psychic energy for use and power.  Here, power is mobilized as a  capacity to enact “transformations of inanimate matter and to reproduce natural process artificially” (ibid). This in turn, allows mankind to gain “control of the forces of nature.” (ibid)

The rewards of such directive power are great: innovations, riches beyond measure, security, control. With such grand rewards people lose interest in the subjective soul, and resort to objectification of self in exchange for reward. Those with the greatest control over the forces of nature take the highest positions and garner the greatest reward. They are seen as God like, replacing the God image with their own.

The ego begins to regard itself as God like or as holding the potential to be God like. There is no longer a need to know a father God or mother world. Mankind becomes king to himself; mother world becomes mere matter to be controlled. Mankind begins to inhabit a kingdom of abstraction: language acts only as a mirror of the real. In such a kingdom, all beings are objects: mere copies.

The world becomes all hierarchy: the ones with the greatest control over the forces of nature are at the top and the ones with the least are at the bottom. Those in the middle try to identify themselves or otherwise align themselves with the Godlike status of those at the top. What better way to hold at bay the vulnerabilities and fragility of the soul than to identify oneself with greatness and strength, to repress the struggle and fragility of the soul.

Ego against soul

Egoic culture turns against the vulnerabilities and frailties of the soul. The ego knows the world through differentiation.  “I” know “I” by defining what is “not I”. The ego exists in its world of division because of this “I” and “not I”.

The ego seeks to identify itself with that which is powerful and that which is perceived as invulnerable: The “I” is powerful and useful; the “not I” is not. The soul, from this viewpoint is seen as not only unproductive but pathological. In The Myth of Analysis, James Hillman shows that psychology is built on a premise that the soul is pathological. Hillman says:

“Freud’s Psychology, and Jung’s, and analysis itself all arise from the ontological ground of pathological imagination” (p. 172).

According to Hillman the aim of psychology is not study and knowledge of the soul, but instead knowledge of the ego. Hillman puts it quite succinctly: “psyche = mind, and mind = head” (p. 153) and he adds that this can be pushed one step further “head = ego” (ibid).  When Hillman speaks of the ego, he is speaking of “the controlling and ordering organ” (ibid).

With its need for control and order, the ego rejects the soul, “calling it pejorative names” (Hillman P.  161). This act has dire consequences– we lose touch with the soul, with the soul’s knowing. While the ego may provide us temporary comfort and seeming control over nature, the soul provides us with a mode of knowing: deeper, more enduring.

In tragic irony, the ego’s “copy system” is a flailing fantasy system. While innovation and “control over the forces of nature” provide some relief from existential burden, it does not save us from ourselves. Nor can any identifications with power save us from ourselves.

Every move toward power and control is a move away from a sense of self, of soul, and soul is all that is durable and enduring.  The soul has a will of its own (Kueple, cited in Jung para.17), it has its own aims and desires, and it is only though an alignment with these aims of soul that we can find the durable, the enduring, and even the eternal in this life.



  1. The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology by James Hillman- 1972
  2. Symbols of Transformation by Carl Gustav Jung– 1912
  3. Image- Louis Janmot, Poème de l’âme: L’Idéal