Disappointments in love, even betrayals and losses, serve the soul at the very moment they seem in life to be tragedies. The soul is partly in time and partly in eternity. We might remember the part that resides in eternity when we feel despair over the part that is in life.
It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed.
It is precisely because we resist the darkness in ourselves that we miss the depths of the loveliness, beauty, brilliance, creativity, and joy that lie at our core.
During the dark night there is no choice but to surrender control, give in to unknowing, and stop and listen to whatever signals of wisdom might come along. It’s a time of enforced retreat and perhaps unwilling withdrawal. The dark night is more than a learning experience; it’s a profound initiation into a realm that nothing in the culture, so preoccupied with external concerns and material success, prepares you for.
As the poets and painters of centuries have tried to tell us, art is not about the expression of talent or the making of pretty things. It is about the preservation and containment of soul. It is about arresting life and making it available for contemplation. Art captures the eternal in the everyday, and it is the eternal that feeds soul—the whole world in a grain of sand.
When soul is neglected, it doesn’t just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning.
Spirituality is seeded, germinates, sprouts and blossoms in the mundane. It is to be found and nurtured in the smallest of daily activities.
One effective “trick” in caring for the soul is to look with special attention and openness at what the individual rejects, and then to speak favorably for that rejected element.
For the soul, depression is an initiation, a rite of passage. If we think that depression, so empty and dull, is void of imagination, we may overlook its initiatory aspects. We may be imagining imagination itself from a point of view foreign to Saturn; emptiness can be rife with feeling-tone, images of catharsis, and emotions of regret and loss. As a shade of mood, gray can be as interesting and as variegated as it is in black-and-white photography.
Don’t take anything literally but always look deeper. For example, if you drink too much, what is your soul looking for in the alcohol? If you eat too much, what part of your soul is in need of nourishing? Think poetically and never respond on a surface level.
Something deep in human make up needs and longs for a taste of eternity – a momentary release from the relentless pace of time.
Only when you are fully engaged can you see the activity that will make your life feel worth living.
That is the point of the night sea journey—to be born into yourself. There, you are in the amniotic fluid, in an alchemical substance once again. You are journeying toward your own life. You are preparing for your fate. The promise is exhilarating, but the dangers are extreme. You have to avoid being just one of the crowd and instead take the chance of being born an individual.
There is nothing neutral about the soul. It is the seat and the source of life. Either we respond to what the soul presents in its fantasies and desires, or we suffer from this neglect of ourselves. The power of the soul can hurl a person into ecstasy or into depression. It can be creative or destructive, gentle or aggressive. Power incubates within the soul and then makes its influential move into life as the expression of soul. If there is no soulfulness, then there is no true power, and if there is no power, then there can be no true soulfulness.
Soul-making is a journey that takes time, effort, skill, knowledge, intuition, and courage. It is helpful to know that all work with soul is process—alchemy, pilgrimage, and adventure—so that we don’t expert instant success or even any kind of finality. All goals and all endings are heuristic, important in their being imagined, but never literally fulfilled.
You might also understand the difference between force and strength, the former pressing too hard to achieve questionable ends, the latter a deep-seated power of soul. You might notice the difference between ego power and soul power, the former anxious and self-centered. Finally, you might appreciate the paradoxes involved, where being more vulnerable in a comfortable way gives you strength, and when you have some deep strength, you can finally feel vulnerable.
The word passion means basically “to be affected,” and passion is the essential energy of the soul. The poet Rilke describes this passive power in the imagery of the flower’s structure, when he calls it a “muscle of infinite reception.” We don’t often think of the capacity to be affected as strength and as the work of a powerful muscle, and yet for the soul, as for the flower, this is its toughest work and its main role in our lives.
Care of the soul may take the form of living in a fully embodied imagination, being an artist at home and at work. You don’t have to be a professional in order to bring art into the care of your soul; anyone can have an art studio at home, for instance.
Again, we can see the importance of imaginal practices such as journals, dream work, poetry, painting, and therapy aimed at exploring images in dream and life. These methods keep us actively engaged in the mythologies that are the stuff of our own lives.
Growing old is one of the ways the soul nudges itself into attention to the spiritual aspect of life. The body’s changes teach us about fate, time, nature, mortality, and character. Aging forces us to decide what is important in life.
If you are often angry, trace the roots in story and then apply your anger as a force and a sharp edge to whatever you do. Don’t indulge in venting. Always convert and transform your anger into something worthwhile. Let people see and feel your anger, but don’t explode every time you feel it.
A philosophy of life is a bundle of wisdom you have gathered from your reading and experience. It is not a rigid ideology that allows no development and complexity. It’s a living thing, a developing idea about life that belongs to you alone.
The point is not merely to succeed but to become a deeper, more complex, more mature person through your struggle. You allow the alchemy of your challenging journey to etch itself into your character, making you into a rich personality. Then whatever work you do will have the quality of your experience and your capacity to be ripened by it.
We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.
Care of the Soul: Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
Thomas Moore (born 1940) is an American psychotherapist, former monk, and writer of popular spiritual books, including the New York Times bestseller Care of the Soul (1992).
He writes and lectures in the fields of archetypal psychology, mythology, and imagination.
His work is influenced by the writings of Carl Jung and James Hillman.