Saturday, May 5, 2007

NIKES AND PSYCHE: The Relationship of Religion and Soul

Imagine a fellow saying, “Unless you wear Nike shoes, you are not really walking.” You might ask him to repeat himself, or to explain what he means, and he replies, “You heard me, all true walkers wear Nike shoes. You are not REALLY walking unless you are wearing shoes like these”, and he points to his $200.00 Nike shoes.

You might smile dubiously, tell him that you do not wear Nikes and that you are walking just fine. He then responds, “Oh sure, you think you are walking, and it might even appear to others that you are walking, but without Nikes on your feet, you are pseudo-walking, not REALLY walking.”

Then I want you to imagine three of his friends arriving and confirming his statement as each one points to his Nike shoes. In fact, he convinces you to attend the United Nike Assembly meeting. Posted on the wall is the following statement:

Welcome to the Nike Only assembly. We believe that Nike shoes are the only true way to walk. All other shoes are false and any walking done in those shoes is not REAL walking.

Even more incredulous, you turn to your friend and say, “What makes you think any sane person is going to believe this? Give me proof that Nike is the only REAL way to REALLY walk."

Your friend reaches into his pocket and pulls out a little booklet titled, The Way of Nike. He then opens to a passage and reads, “This saith Lord Nike, ‘I am the only true manner of walking. Only those who wear my shoes are REALLY walking.”

He then closes the booklet announcing, “There, now are you convinced? Ready to buy some Nikes?”

Before you have a chance to respond, all eyes turn to the front of the meeting room and people scramble to find seats as someone begins to speak:

“Welcome brothers and sisters, and all visitors. In the name of the Lord of Feet, the Savior of Soles, we ask you to make yourself comfortable and hear the Word of the Lord. Many years ago, Lord Nike gathered twelve shoe salesmen and commissioned them to wear his footwear. They were astounded at the fit, comfort and experience of Lord Nike’s shoes. He then commissioned them to make disciples and assemblies around the world to teach people to walk, saying that there is no true walking without Nike shoes.”

When the message is over, you turn again to your friend and say, “You all are serious aren’t you? This is ludicrous!”

Your friend points to the several hundred people in the room - intelligent, successful and articulate folks, all wearing Nikes and says, “Can all of these people be wrong? Let us pray for you. You may think you are walking. I once thought I was walking when I wore Reeboks, but once you put on a pair of Nikes, you will realize that you were never REALLY walking. Nikes are the way my friend, the ONLY way.”

You then say, “Shoes don’t make a person a walker; feet make us walkers. We are all born with feet and the ability to walk. Shoes are simply different styles, sizes and ways to protect the feet. They don’t make you a walker!”

Your friend replies, “I can see how you believe that, I once did. But feet don’t make you a true walker, only Nikes do that. You are blinded by the Evil Hoofster who thinks all people are walkers. We will pray for you.”

At this point, you realize that it is hopeless, turn and walk out of the room. You hear your friend whispering to sympathetic companions as you leave, “Look at him. He thinks he is walking. How sad, how very sad to see a sole in such need. If only he’d listen.”


This is a parable about Psyche and Religion. Every human is born with Psyche (feet) or Soul. It is that aspect of the universal human make-up that receives dreams, hallucinations, fantasies, imagination.

Religion (shoes) are constructed to cover, protect and beautify the experiences of Psyche. Religious shoes show up as doctrines, theologies, rituals and a host of organized externals to dress universal Psyches (soul-feet).

The problem is that all soul-feet are slightly unique, and not all religious shoes fit. One Religion (Nike) does not fit all. The common denominator for human walking is feet, not shoes. The common denominator for human spirituality is soul, not religion.

Sadly, we have not allowed individual psychic experiences to be the ground of spirituality. We have made religion the test and ground. Consequently, those folks who have had unorthodox psychic experiences that don’t fit the designated religious categories, sometimes feel they are not spiritual. This would include the twenty year old male soldier who has a profound experience when he comes under fire for the first time; or the young woman who has an abortion or gives birth and sees a vision; or the drug addict that hallucinates and encounters some terror that leaves him permanently influenced; or the person who had a near death experience; or the kid that read Harry Potter and felt some Presence shudder inside of her – the list could go on and on. Psyche is universal.

Psyche just is. We do not create it.

We know that Psyche exists when we experience it. We don't invent or discover Psyche, it discovers, and at some mysterious level, it invents us.

How do we know? Because it shows up uninvited as dreams, numinous experiences, alien visitations, inner voices and a host of phenomena that normal people from every culture and from every walk of life have had and continue to have.

But because we have allowed only one pair of religious shoes, people who experience Psyche typically keep silent, think themselves insane, a little odd or quirky. If they do risk going public, they fear they may be labeled heretics, New Age or worse.

Psyche is.

Soul is.

Psyche (Soul) is the name some of us give to that category in human experience that encounters ‘the Other’, ‘the Something’, ‘the inexplicable’, ‘the Realm of Imagination’ that defies categorization and doesn't fit into any religious shoe. One size and style does not fit all. Granted, sometimes there are enough similarities in these experiences that we can join a ‘Nike Assembly’ and fit in, but even then, most of us find ourselves having unique aspects and nuances of our individual psychic experiences. I have met evangelical Christians that experience telepathy or have revelatory dreams, but they don't dare share them with their ministers. I have met Atheists that have had paranormal experiences and explain them away as biological malfunctions, or as Dicken's Ebeneezer Scrooge explained the presence of his haunting ghosts as being a 'bit of undigested mutton.'


Theology and metaphysics conjecture and make statements about the Psychic Thing that shows up. Metaphysics tries to tell us how and why the Psychic experience works, what its nature is, how to use it, etc.

Psyche knows nothing about any of that. Psyche finds metaphysics a bit silly, limiting and boring because metaphysics always says more than it knows. Psyche is not a metaphysical category. Psyche is not a theory. It is discovered, not invented – Psyche is discovered when we have an affective dream, hallucination, numinous encounter, unexplainable feeling, life altering relationship; these may arrive as terribly or joyfully haunting, or pathological nightmares, erotic fantasies or any ambiguous experience. Sometimes it is a persistent intuition, a shattering love experience, an inexplicable obsessive behavior, an unwelcome addiction, a persistent song in the head or some surprising insatiable curiosity that ‘just appears’ out of nowhere. These defy categorization and are often odd and uniquely our own, sometimes embarrassing or troubling. The ancient Gospel of Thomas has Jesus saying, "Seek and you shall find, but before you find, you will be troubled."

Psyche intrudes into our otherwise mundane and routine lives, often plunging us into the unfamiliar archetypal, imaginal realms. Psyche sneaked up on C.S. Lewis when he was an Atheist, chasing him into the Anglican Church, and then into Hell as he lost his wife to cancer. Psyche is the modern UFO craze that has convinced thousands of sane people that there is 'Something More' to the universe than just dead matter and impersonal space. Psyche moved mysteriously in four young men from Liverpool, England to form a singing group that communicated revolutionary ideas to an entire generation via records and radio (The Beatles).

Psyche is that portal that opens out into unexplored realms at the least expected moments, in the most illogical ways, causing the religious establishment to define and defend past institutionalized forays into Psyche.

Unnamable Psyche has been called by many names: the Hound of Heaven, the Holy Ghost, a paranormal haunting, ESP, UFOs, Near Death Experience, Psychotic Breakdowns, Multiple Personality Disorder, etc. In fact, our post-Freudian culture frequently calls these Psychic anomalies ‘disorders’, making it even more difficult to admit that you have ‘had one’. And when we do admit that we have ‘had one’, some Nutball comes along and tells that it wasn't really REAL, and that we must wear Nikes, if we REALLY want to walk.

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