Iron John Chapter 01 Towards an understanding of Soul

What is Soul

Soul is everywhere, but hard to see. The soul is a betwixt-and-between thing: neither simply physical nor strictly spiritual, but something that participates in both realms. The soul is another kind of body, a subtle body that partakes of both spirituality and physicality. It is much closer than we think and permeates our lives like salt in water, you cant see it, touch it once mixed you can’t separate it unless you kill the water by boiling it. Then salt will remain but the water will be lost. You can however taste the salt in the water, you can taste the absence of salt in food. Salt carries much mysticism with it, from Shakespeare’s King Lear Cordelia’s line “I love you nor or no less than a daughter should I love you like salt”  to warding off evil spirits and other fairy stories.

Soul keeps spirit and matter related by sustaining an in-between realm of imagination, emotion, and deep reflection”.

Soul is the glue of the world and the connecting agent of existence.” 

To understand Soul, we cannot turn to science for a description. Its best meaning is given by its context. Soul has a perspective rather than a substance, a point of view toward things rather than a thing itself. This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes difference between ourselves and everything that happens.   Between us and the events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment–and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground.  Soul appears as a factor independent of the events in which we are immersed.   Though I cannot identify Soul with anything else, I can never grasp it by itself apart from other things like a reflection flowing across a mirror, or like the moon which mediates only with borrowed light.   However intangible and indefinable, it is the soul that carries the highest importance in hierarchies of human values and behaviours, frequently being identified with the principle of life and even divinity.

Never underestimate the soul’s ability to create crisis When we are in crisis when we lose our way in this world, that is the soul’s way of being in touch with the pulse of life that has been lost. For we are most lost and truly abandoned when we have lost touch with our own soul, with our own inward style and way of being in the world. By its nature soul is the mutable, multiple, changeable aspect of both the world and individual life. 

Soul turns events into experiences and deepens the experiences into meaning.

Soul has a special relationship to death, soul attributes meaning to events with a significance not otherwise possible.

Soul also holds for us the possibility of imagination, dreams, image, and fantasy. That mode which recognises all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical. From this flows the idea that story carries a context for us to understand souls intention as we walk through physical life.

Indeed, physical life is the product of Soul’s intention for Soul to be understood. Never underestimate Soul’s ability to create a crisis in our physical life. Crisis is a great teacher or rather an ability to realign us with our soul purpose, our destiny.

The soul is not unconscious, we are. For those who understand the Jungian concepts, the word unconscious carries huge implications The soul is constantly making intelligible statements. It’s making dreams, symptoms, fantasies, and moods, (reaching down into our emotions and feelings).   It is extraordinarily intentional, and, full of purpose.

No solitary idea, no matter how great, no single notion nor shared belief can shift the weight of the world towards a meaningful future, but the accumulated vitality of many lives lived more fully might become a meaningful counterweight in the balance between time and eternity. Strange as it may seem, individual consciousness forms the counterweight, and living out the hidden meanings within life helps to balance the weight of the world – each living being wrapped around an invisible, eternal thread, each a story breaking out of the wall of time to become a genuine story that adds to the ongoing story of creation.

Soul then is not so much an individual thing as a collective expression. As the fingers of our hands appear separate from each other but they have no life separate from the body.

Loss of soul.  Anthropologists describe a condition among primitive people called “Loss of soul.”   In this condition a person is out of themselves, unable to find either the outer connection between humans or the inner connection to Self.

These are the views and an expression of a world-famous Jungian Lecture and writer James Hillman, has come as close to Soul in his work, as pure mathematicians have come to Soul in Quantum physics.  I have chosen to use this description because I can easily identify with the soul as described.

Therefore, they are unable to take part in society, its rituals, and traditions.  They are the living dead, the connection to family, to totem, to nature, is gone.   Until the soul is regained true humanity is not possible.  Such a person is “not there.” (Far out) It is as though that person had never been given a name, never been initiated, never come into real being.   The soul may not only be lost, but also may be possessed, bewitched, ill, transported into an object, animal, place, or another person in the Shamanic world.

Without Soul there is a loss of a sense of belonging and the sense of being in communion with the powers and the gods.   They are no longer reachable: no prayer, nor sacrifice, no dance, (No psychotherapy, no counseling, no rehabilitation) can reach them.  The personal myth and the connection to the larger myth of community as a reason for existence is lost. Not being sick with disease nor out of their minds we become lonely.   Simply the soul is lost and death may follow. Here too we hear a description of depression, where along with the will forces the life force has left the body or is not available.

Our root metaphor from a parent’s and guardian’s point of view has to be that human behaviour is understandable because it has an inside meaning.

There is also the aspect of Soul loss which is a result of Ego formation. In stories this is sometimes called “The loss of the Golden ball” as in “Iron John” or “The frog Prince”

Soul retrieval

If Sul can be lost it can also be found. Soul retrieval is the purpose of physical life even at the extremities of the human experience. Life’s events ask of us a response, as Victor Frankel discovered, the meaning of life may be reversed, it is life and events that asks us to give it meaning and awaits our response.

Stories as set out in for storytellers 101 describes in metaphor how the journey of soul retrieval may take place. It places the story in a physical context so we can enter the story experientially while at the same time taking us on a journey to discover Soul. It is the listener or rather the listener’s soul that gives the story meaning each according to their life’s experience so far. It is the listeners Ego that has to make the journey.

Stories that end in Gold or a marriage imply the whole soul retrieval process has been completed. (squaring the circle, the mystical marriage link)

Many of the ideas and quotes incorporate ideas of James Hillman, Michael Meade and Robert Bly combined with 71 years of my own experience.  Some Utube conversations about what Soul might be, below.


Loss of soul. Taken loosely from “A Blue Fire ”  By James Hillman. ISBN 0-06-016132-9  Deepak Chopra.  Gary Kukav

Salt and the golden ball in Fairy-stories:

%d bloggers like this: