Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How is The Imaginal Realm Different from Human Imagination?

Someone recently asked me why I use the term 'Imaginal Realm,' and wondered if it was the same as 'imagination.

First off, the Imaginal Realm, like the Chinese Tao, cannot be named or defined.

We may examine the Imaginal Realm in the way a physicist studies an atom. Some activities and very limited results of the atoms existence can be observed, but never is the dynamic atom seen. If that is true of the miniscule atom, how much more of the vast Imaginal Realm which originated the atom? Perhaps these are more closely related than we realize as William Blake said, “To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower/Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.” (Auguries of Innocence)

I use that term 'Imaginal Realm' to distinguish it from 'human imagination', or the 'imaginary' work of people. 'Imaginary' refers to what we make up with the human will, like making up a story, creating a television commercial or constructing ideas for projects, etc. The Imaginal Realm is beyond and before human imagination, or imaginary human musings. The two areas clearly intersect because all human 'imaginings' are ultimately connected to the Imaginal Realm.

The Imaginal Realm is the arena of dreams. It is the Psychic-Sea in which we swim. It is the Realm of Psyche or Soul. It most often takes us into the depths, into the deep, into the abyss, into the labyrinth, into the matrix, into the womb of darkness, into the caverns of Hades. It is the realm of myth and fantasy - but again, these are not humanly constructed fantasies; rather they are unexpected and alien ideas, daydreams, thoughts and emotions.

The Imaginal Realm transmits those intrusive and often annoying feelings of awe or dread that seem to arrive from nowhere, those waves of overwhelming love or murderous resentment, and those flashes of clarity or confusion that seem to drop in 'out of the blue'.

The Imaginal Realm removes our limiting blinders and shows us, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, the evolving Numinous Realm, the sacred spheres, the worlds of the Gods. Sadly, most modern humans try to assign the responsibility of all such experiences to the human mind and 'free will'. That is a huge mistake, and an impossible burden for us to bear. All ancient cultures realized that the Gods were the authors of such 'revelations'.

The Imaginal Realm conjures up the invisible playmates of some children, and sends us sudden insights into deep problems. It manifests itself as puzzling nightmares or shocking erotic interludes that interrupt our dreams. These perplexing images require us to move beyond a current ego-self, beyond the literal 'manifest content' of the dream, as Freud would say, to the 'latent content' wrapped in the dream's symbols. In other words, the Imaginal Realm loves to give us riddles and cryptic psycho-spiritual codes to crack. Humans love codes and riddles! That is why we are always finding religious, political and relational conspiracies everywhere!

The Imaginal Realm reminds us of our inevitable appointment with death, takes things apart we thought were solid and introduces transformational periods of depression, addiction, grief, insanity or other 'neuroses'. These useful psychological terms can also be misleading when we assume there is something 'wrong' with us and the cosmos. These necessary, normal and purposeful chaotic pathologies and painful symptoms, like the knotted root-ball of a potential plant, spread their tentacles into the deep rich loam of the Unconscious and prepare us to blossom.

The Imaginal Realm rearranges our understanding of 'love' and calls us beyond our ego and self will. It always surprises, troubles and nudges us beyond our current world securities and beliefs in what is taken for granted. It is the inner undiscovered jungle, and the Guide into that jungle of the unexplored unconscious, often showing up like Gandalf the Wizard from the Hobbit, prodding us on an adventure and into experiences which we could never have imagined would have entered our lives.

Rod Serling called the Imaginal Realm the Twilight Zone, "We are traveling through another dimension. A dimension not of sight and sound, but of 'mind'. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition; it lies between the pit of man's fears and summit of his knowledge."

The Imaginal Realm is like a stack of 10 trillion kazillion Lego pieces which can be constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed into an infinite number of images - both physical and psychical. It is simultaneously chaos and creation. The Hindu Sankhya philosophy calls this ‘prakriti,’ the eternal substance from which all physical and mental forms arise.
The Imaginal Realm is a crystal ball containing visions which may calm us or scare us. It was accessed by Shamans, Greek Oracles, Hebrew Prophets and Christian Apostles (cf. Apostle Paul, Colossians 1:15ff.). It is described in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter eleven.

The Imaginal Realm captures what we see when we shut our eyes and visualize, or listen to what is beyond the audible senses, and beyond our own intentional thought. Some today call it channeling, others call it being filled with the Holy Spirit or speaking in tongues. It is what Jesus referred to when he talked about 'the Kingdom of Heaven'. It is the Hindu Ganesh, a boy with an elephant's head. It is Alice Through the Looking Glass, Neo Anderson escaping the Matrix, Dorothy entering OZ through a tornado and all fantastic journeys into fantastic lands. It is the Realm of the Living Archetypes, which we call 'gods' and 'goddesses'.

Perhaps most importantly, we must remember that this Realm existed long before the human being, long before the human brain evolved. The Imaginal Realm is NOT synonymous with our neural biology any more than a television image is the result of the televisions internal technology. Both the television and the human brain receive their 'images' from a realm that is beyond the container holding the technology, beyond brains and microchips. To identify human bio-chemical cognition (the brain) with the Imaginal Realm may be the biggest and most deadly mistake in modern psychology, and the cause of our modern pharmaceutical culture.
Industry and technology are modern manifestations of the Imaginal Realm, but not to be confused with it, or seen as substitutes for humanness. The Greek God Hephaestus was the God of technos, constructing and inventing from the world of stuff, but he was homely and limped when he walked. Perhaps the Greeks recognized that technology, as wondrous as it is, contains a kind of ugliness and impairment of humanity. We see increasing numbers of people welded to their iPhone, iPod, television, computer or other techno-gadgetry. This is the shadow side of technology. There is a kind of ugliness and impairment of relational and communal intimacy. The wondrous product of the Imaginal Realm has replaced the Imagination, replaced revelation and creativity. We ought to stop using the ‘hardwired’ metaphor for the human brain. The Imaginal Realm reminds us that we are 'soft-wired,’ pliable – not machines. We need some Totos today who can do to us what the little dog did to the Wizard of OZ trapped behind his inhumane 'computer' screen. Toto drew back the curtain and revealed the human as primarily a receiver of personal contact, not a transmitter of second hand images.

The Imaginal Realm will never be defined, located or controlled. It is the sea of infinite potential and usually beyond human manipulation. I say 'usually' because at some minor level we are allowed to use our thoughts and intentions to create reality. But we do NOT create all reality. Man is NOT the measure of all perceptions, as Protagoras said. The Imaginal Realm created us as an author writes a poem, and It still continues to make us into unique poems. This realm screws with our perceptions in the most annoying ways.

Let me repeat: Most importantly, humans and specifically the human brain with which we are so enamored these days, receives the Imaginal Realm. The brain does not originate it. When this solar system runs down, shrivels into a smoldering ember and eventually fades into a cold, dead intergalactic debris field - after all sentient life has been consumed - the Imaginal Realm will continue to unfold new imaginings, new fantasies and infinite realities beyond our humanly 'imagined' ponderings.

The Imaginal Realm does NOT depend upon us, but we on It. That is why the ancients spent so much time addressing issues of destiny, fate and necessity. That is why even moderns, as they become older (ancient), begin to look in the rearview mirror of time and see forces beyond human will.

I have a series of comments and quotes regarding the Imaginal Realm on my blog site:

God is One, and Two

The irony of dualism is that until we see good and evil as part of the One, we are dualists.

When you say, "God is all there is," are you paying attention to the word 'all'? All is more than one. To say "God is all there is" implicitly recognizes duality by using the word all.

One cannot separate evil or any other thing from God without being a dualist. One must recognize duality in order to cease being a dualist, just as one must recognize the equality of two opposing football teams to see it as a perfect union of One Game. The Two (or more) and the One are both eternal. That is why the Yin/Yang symbol, and every other religious symbol, contains One and Two together.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ten Hard Questions for Soul-making

Like Siddhartha Gautama, I find myself intrigued with the hard questions of suffering. Unlike the Buddha, I do not dismiss them by saying 'it is not important to know why we suffer, but only to put an end to suffering.'

I agree with Nietzsche that 'when one knows the reason why, he can endure almost any situation.' When I was in school, the teacher who could convince me there was a good reason to study the course material, got better results than the teacher who simply said, 'because it is good for you.'

If you believe we are here by dumb chance and that there is no rhyme or reason behind the Cosmic experience, these questions are not for you. Go read Russell, Hitchens or Dawkins.

I do not expect absolute and complete answers. This blog site is aimed at wrestling with these questions, not getting them right. I hold to a position that Soul is made in the grappling. Welcome to the Soul-Gym - now, go build some Psycho-spiritual muscle!

Here then are hard questions. I hope you do not find these questions too morbid. They go beyond the typical response which says that suffering results from 'free will.' That response is like saying, "My poem is crappy because it has rotten verses." The Creator of the thing must take, or be assigned, responsibility for the thing it has created, and the way he/she created it.

1. If there is a 'Creator or Conscious Source', why did He/She/It make us with a free will that would result in such atrocities and suffering as the holocaust and so many internal and external wars? Why is the human brain hardwired to worry, fear, disagree, form opinions, judge, feel lonely and grieve?

2. Why did the Source create or allow a world with earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, flesh eating animals, meteors, Big Bangs, birth defects, poisonous plants, crushing gravity, consuming fire, engulfing water, lightning bolts and rolling rocks that can maim or kill us?

3. Why did the Creator introduce or allow disease, old age and death?

4. Why did the Creator give us nerve endings that can experience so much pain as well as pleasure?

5. Why did the Creator make us to evolve into this world naked, cold, hungry and vulnerable to attacks and exposure to a Nature that can be quite hard on us? Why evolve a being without giving it clothes, food and shelter? Why make existence so difficult? Why make beings with such strong yearnings for more than we have?

7. Why did the Source create a being or allow the likelihood that we would choose to steal, kill and cheat another due to our insatiable desires? Why give us such unfulfilled desires?

8. How does one say 'it is ALL God' and then blame humans for the selfish ego? Is that not like the artist blaming the painting for having flawed brush strokes?

9. If it is ALL God, then how can people claim that the so called 'negative' emotions of fear, anxiety, grief, depression, loneliness, etc. are not part of God? Did these emotions originate with humans, or are they eternal too? Are they as eternal and necessary as their ‘opposites’ of love, serenity, joy, ecstasy and relatedness?

10. Why do we humans have the strong innate idea of personal and collective Utopia and bliss, and so consistently and often deliberately create so much dystopia? Dystopia is a vision of a society in which conditions of life are miserable and characterized by poverty, oppression, war, violence, disease, pollution, nuclear fallout and/or the abridgement of human rights, resulting in widespread unhappiness, suffering, and other kinds of pain.


Why do so many people argue against duality? Does not the motivation to debate from a contrary opinion prove them wrong? How can one oppose duality while taking a dualistic position against duality? Why is the human brain simultaneously obsessed with unity and made to think in opposites?


Why do humans NOT wonder and question why we experience happiness in the same way that we question suffering? Put another way, why do we expect and take happiness for granted, but feel suffering is foreign? Why do we not assail God with the question, "Why have you made me so damn happy?"


Some will find these questions depressing, troubling and disturbing. Good. Both Jesus and Lord Krishna said that one must wrestle with such issues before finding lasting peace and joy:

In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Saying 2, Jesus said, "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be sorrowful. When they are sorrowful, they will marvel, and will reign over all. And after they have reigned they will rest."

In the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, after Arjuna sees a vision of Lord Krishna with sharp teeth devouring men on the battlefield, Arjuna says, "O Lord of lords, O refuge of the worlds, please be gracious to me. I cannot keep my balance seeing thus Your blazing deathlike faces and awful teeth. In all directions I am bewildered...O Lord of lords, so fierce of form, please tell me who You are. I offer my devotion unto You; please be gracious to me. I do not understand Your mission, and I desire to hear of it." ~ Gita, Verse 11:25, 31

Lord Krishna responds, "O best of the Kuru warriors, no one before you has ever seen this universal form of Mine, for neither by studying the Vedas, nor by performing prayers, nor by acts of loving kindness or similar activities can this form be seen. Only you have seen this. Your mind has been perturbed upon seeing this horrible feature of Mine." ~ Gita, 11:48,49

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Where Do Mistakes Come From?

Where do mistakes come from?

Someone recently told me that she was giving up her 'mistaken beliefs'. Her face and voice were exuding self loathing - clearly disappointed that she had spent so many years believing lies.

Where do all of these mistakes come from? Why are there so many mistakes in life? Why are they so common? Do we assume that mistakes are foreign intruders, unwelcome guests on planet earth? Are 'mis-takes' because of human Original Sin? Why are we on a planet with such strong tendencies toward, and so many opportunities for mistakes, miscues, misunderstandings, missteps, misinterpretations, misbehaviors, miscarriages, and missed opportunities that result in separation, grief, fear and confusion?

The prefix 'mis' originally comes from an Indo-European root word meaning 'to change'. So a 'mistake' is a 'change in takes,' a sort of cosmic movie term - 'Action: take two,' or three, or four, or more.

If that is true, then 'mis-takes' are perfect for a soul learning to grow into divinity. Each earthquake is a mis-quake, a change in the scenery. Each tsunami sweeps away the old props. Each war or conflict is a change in the individual or collective social and psychological story. Each cancer cell or AIDs virus is a change in the shape of the body, the mind, the family, the emotions and ultimately the soul's adventure. Each contamination, whether by a snake bite or carbon emission, is natural ultimately, if humans are as much a part of nature as everything else. Each 'miscue' changes the scenery in the drama of soul-making on stage earth. Each act of abuse or damage, which is a more uncomplimentary name for 'remodeling,' is an act of renewal - a transition from one idea, feeling or state of being. Ultimately, every mis-take is a shift in the story, a change away from the current version of the 'self' to the next self in a succession of molting and shedding, moving us toward completion.

If this is a truth, and it is not the whole truth, then 'mistaken beliefs' and 'separations' are as necessary and important as our 'taken' or true beliefs. Actual 'Wholeness' is drawing the circle large enough to encompass the mistakes as well as the right-takes. The Chinese Taoists had something when they wrote, "In order to become straight, you must be crooked. In order to become perfect, you must be imperfect." (Tao Te Ching, 22)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


It never ceases to amaze me that we can argue theoretically for unity while practically holding to duality.

It is not uncommon these days to hear those who have been exposed to some Eastern spiritual ideas say, "I believe we must get beyond duality." Then a few moments later they will assert, "God is Health, Light and Wholeness." Ponder those two statements for a moment. What do you see?

If God is NOT ALSO disease, darkness and fragmentation, then you have duality. You see, the opposite of health is disease, which is duality; the opposite of light is darkness, which is more duality; and the flip side of wholeness is fragmentation - more duality. At some level I do belive you can have it both ways, but I won't address that here. My point is that humans on planet earth must live in duality. That is how things are created, from planets, to plants, to platypusses, to platitudes and finally to souls. Duality or the conflict of opposites is the matrix of creation - masculine/feminine, negative/positive, plus/minus, up/down, chaos/order, gain/loss, etc.

I also find those who argue strongly for unity, and then assert that one political party or the other is wrong.

NOTE TO SELF: To call one view, idea or person wrong is duality.

Perhaps this conflict exists because it ought to exist. There is a compulsion in us, let's call it Spirit, that moves us to unification and wholeness, healing and agreement - we often call this 'love.'

But there is another more subtle compulsion in us toward disagreement and wondering, questioning and separating from the herd.

Coming together is more pleasurable for most people, therefore more desirable, hence the emphasis on unity. Coming apart or loss is typically more painful, hence the shunning of such experiences as bad.

Lesson: Feelings have little to do with creation and soul-making.



"He who has lost his soul will be finding God anywhere, up above and down below, in here and out there, he will cling to every straw of love blown past his doorway as he stands waiting for a sign." ~James Hillman


Humankind has lost soul, at least the western world. I don’t mean soul in the Catholic sense – as some ethereal essence which comes wrapped in a body of sin to be released at death to reside in Heaven, Purgatory or Hell. I don't mean soul in the Eastern sense of returning to earth in another body to work off our Karma. I don’t mean soul in the materialist sense – as some organic site located in the human brain.

I mean soul in a sense that has been so lost that we don’t even understand it when it is being described, let alone active in us each day. Soul is so lost that it may take a miracle or the end of western civilization to rediscover it. If there is an apocalypse of the conservative or liberal variety, it will be Soul forcing the human race to see its forms and necessity.

We are so devoid of soul that we don’t even recognize that it is missing. We have substituted matter and spirit for soul, and neither of those works. Matter works well for the material part of us, and spirit fills the spiritual part of us, but neither fills the role or work of soul. Modern medicine offers us an array of pharmaceuticals and statistical manuals, and modern religion offers us an array of old and new gods and goddesses. That is why James Hillman says, “He who has lost his soul will be finding God anywhere, up above and down below, in here and out there, he will cling to every straw of love blown past his doorway as he stands waiting for a sign.”

To rediscover soul is to rediscover our darkness and depths. Soul is what leads us into the unavoidable void, tricks us into conflict, startles us through unplanned infatuations, snares us by resentments, haunts us by unsolicited thoughts of illness and death, sweeps over us with irrational jealousies, and surprises us by a hundred forms of fear, anxiety and self obsession.

Soul most often shows up when life is good and all is fairly calm, whispering that something is missing or quietly asking, 'You do know this is going to fall apart at some point don't you?’ Soul nudges us to wonder, and wander down uneasy paths into fantasies which sometimes shock us. Soul shows up in what we call symptoms, problems and other annoying irritants which get in the way of ‘living the good life’. These irritants of soul remind us of Gandalf’s request to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit when he asks him to accompany him on an adventure. Bilbo replied, “Adventure? Nasty, uncomfortable things, make you late for dinner.” Soul makes us late for dinner, and almost every other scheduled appointment. A major role of soul is to disrupt, annoy, confuse and bring dis-ease. This notion of soul is antithetical to the whole western attitude toward existence, which seeks to create a life free of all problems and to eliminate suffering. Like the aggravating grain of sand in the oyster, soul inserts itself into the shell of our everyday lives in order to make pearls.

But most of us blame such annoyances on Original Sin or the bad human ego. If oysters were modern Americans, and could write diagnostic manuals to assess abnormal psychological conditions for all of Oyster-kind, I am sure you’d find P.T.S.I.D. listed on page one, Post Traumatic Sand Irritant Disorder. Never mind the damn pearls, oyster life would be better without the particle of sand. Similarly, we humans are largely ignorant of the necessary and normal grains of sand which will inevitably show up in our little shells called human existence. No matter how hard we try, soul will never cease doing what it does. Humans are here to make pearls, soul is here to bring the irritants.


Many have mistaken eternal soul for our thoughts and emotions. Soul is neither human thinking nor human feelings. Soul does incarnate in human thoughts and feelings, but it is neither of these. Soul existed before there were human bodies with brains and nerve endings - and soul will continue to exist long after the human species is extinct. Soul does not depend on human organs or emotions. A smile may incarnate on human lips, but that does not mean Joy depends on human lips for its existence. What we call ‘thoughts’ and ‘emotions’ are archetypal patterns that show up in many forms - thoughts and feelings being only a finite manifestations. One might as well exalt the Mona Lisa over Leonadro da Vinci. The form is not the source. The reason humans have turned soul into thoughts and feelings is to give us the illusion that we can control it. If I am the source of all my ideas and emotions, then I can control them. But I am not the source.


Soul cannot be controlled, but it can sometimes be placated as long as it is recognized and heeded. As long as I think I am controlling ‘my’ thoughts and feelings, I will continue to be estranged from soul. Soul will not disappear. Soul will always master my thoughts and feelings until it is done with me. Soul will not be overcome by human programs to make life free of suffering. These programs can be extremely beneficial and provide temporary relief and respites from discomfort, but they will never trump soul. We should not ignore or acquiesce to suffering, but our best programs and pharmaceuticals will never end painful thoughts and feelings. Suffering is the Soul expanding human consciousness. Perhaps we can use the metaphor of psychological growing pains. When we solve a particular kind of suffering, something else will replace it. Suffering, like bacteria, will always morph into new forms in order to move humans into deeper experiences of soul. Soul operates the same way in the animated material Cosmos, as a tumbling universe of tumultuous galaxies and swirling debris fields form elaborate designs and subsequently disassemble into chaos. Recognition of these cosmic and psychic phenomena provide an ironic relief of some sort to the turbulent nature of reality. Progression works through disintegration and reintegration - Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma work together.

Many of us are enamored by modern physical science, just as our forefathers were enamored by metaphysical spirit. Quantum physics is all the rage, being used by spiritual teachers everywhere to ‘reveal the true nature of the universe,’ or to demonstrate that their New Age discoveries have superseded the old traditional religious dogmas. Some have tried to turn science into a kind of spiritual certainty, buying into the fantasy that science is better than religion. Science and religion, and religious science, all serve a function – but none of them is Soul. The old age and new age have both neglected Soul – focusing instead on spiritual or physical wholeness as the aim of existence. The old priests believed they could save our spirits, the new priests believe they can save the globe. Neither seems to recognize that these temporal vessels are just that, temporal vessels for soul making.

This may come as a shock to the religious conservatives and secular liberals, but nothing around us will be saved – cared for hopefully, prolonged possibly, but never saved. Soul is using these temporal vessels as a seamstress uses a sewing machine.

Soul is in our symptoms and pathologies, in our irritations and insanities, in our addictions and dysfunctions – in the nuisances we are trying to solve and eliminate with medicinal physics and metaphysical spirit. Neither allopathic nor homeopathic medicines will stop the affects of soul. Soul will assail us no matter what we use to avoid it. These daily irritants which we dismiss with labels like fear, projection, dysfunction, death, disease, problems, etc. will never go away as long as the human poem is being written. One might as well try to write a good story without an antagonist as the foil for the protagonist.

Books and seminars proliferate promising to solve our myriad problems, never stopping to look at these problems as the critical and wondrous vehicles of Soul. Psyche is the ignored Invisible Realm in our culture. Soul has been relegated to some spiritual substance which gets released at death if you are a good Christian, or transmigrates back into another physical body to work out karma if you are from the East. Soul is not limited to or by spirit or matter in any form.

People are frantic to get rid of their problems through spiritual and material solutions, frantic to relieve stress and banish all painful thoughts and feelings – and I understand it completely. Part of being human, and making souls requires the instinct to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. The tragic irony is that without the awareness of the role of soul, no matter what programs we use to relieve pain, the pain will not go away. Soul will not be pushed aside. If I use alcohol or enroll in meditation school, I may experience some temporary relief from my painful thoughts and feelings, but what I have likely done is sublimate Soul’s work. The symptoms may disappear for a time, but they will resurface, usually even more severe. Roiling molten lava can be held under the surface for only so long.

Perhaps the AIDs virus is Soul telling us we will never develop a completed ‘immune system’ at the physical or spiritual levels to fight off psychological dis-ease. Perhaps the depression and suicide epidemics reveal Soul shouting to pay attention - to recognize the isolating depths which focus our attention, and to pay heed to the voice that tells some part of the old self needs to die. The proliferation of eye and hearing problems in our culture may be related to our inability to see and hear Soul. Soul’s work will not be eradicated no matter how clever we get with our spiritual and so called psychological solutions.

I constantly hear New Age adherents talking about the illusions of F.E.A.R., False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear is no more or less an illusion than love or peace. For the human to think he can banish death, fear, resentment, illness and other unpleasant experiences to the metaphysical category of illusion is the puny ego trying to build a modern tower of Babel to reach the Heavens and control the gods. We will always fail and be scattered like a ripped sack of marbles, and our psycho-spiritual languages confused into non-sensical babble. Often, those who cry most loudly against the illusion of fear, and claim victory over their fears will be those who enter into the most palpable experiences of fear to see that it is no illusion, but a symptom of Soul utilized to bring deeper awareness.

Some will hear me saying that we should not try to overcome pain, but that is not the point. I am saying that pain is most easily overcome when we see the normalcy and necessity of suffering. Just monitor your own life and watch Soul. You will notice that when you have gotten a handle on one problem, two more pop up like the Hydra-headed serpent of Hercules. And often, the old problem which we thought we had ‘overcome’ returns twice as ugly.

There appear to be two really beneficial ways of approaching soul suffering:

1. First, we must realize that the problem or symptom will run its course, taking us as far into the rabbit hole as we need to go, and will not let go until it is done with us. In this case, yes, we are victims, or disciples, of Soul. As hard as it may seem for modern Americans to see, we are not the ultimate masters of the universe. I do not completely create my reality. I may have some say in my response to what Soul brings to me, but I do not control Soul. We are the block of unformed marble at the mercy of the Sculptor. This option does not bode well for those of us who have been taught that we create our own reality.
Soul will have its way with us. Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl realized this as his new wife was wrenched from his arms and marched off to a Nazi death camp. Frankl waited in a line of Jewish males to be stripped of his jewelry, wallet, briefcase and clothing - eventuating in a shaved head and eyebrows. Lastly, he received his new identity number tattooed into his arm. Naked, branded, humiliated, socially and personally bankrupt, Frankl had a flash of insight that – that in order to survive, his old life had to be completely forgotten. He was now entering into a new way of living and was at the mercy of his captors. If he clung to the past and dwelt on what once was, he would lie down and die and as so many others would eventually do. To survive, he would submit to the necessity of the horrific ordeal. Soul would have its way.

The words of the 8th century B.C. Hebrew prophet, Isaiah, come to mind, "This is what the LORD says, 'Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.'" (chapter 43:18-19)

I know that this approach flies in the face of our positive thinking and can-do optimism, but it is the only solution to situations where Death is having His way with us. Let me emphasize: IF YOU CAN CHANGE THE SITUATION, FOR GODSAKE CHANGE IT! I am speaking here of those situations in life which keep bringing the same horrific symptoms back again and again. Most of us continue to encounter the same kinds of troubling jobs, friends and partners because Soul has work to do through them. No matter what we try to do to eliminate these people and situations, they seem to arise again and again until the ‘awareness’ occurs. Once the awareness occurs, we may kick ourselves at how simple the lesson was and how we should have learned it years ago – but we didn’t. Soul does not relent.

2. The second approach is to learn to shut up, quit fighting and to listen to Soul. Every addict is likely sitting face to face with Soul and not stopping to listen, or even realizing that there is that option. Soul comes disguised as heroin, alcohol, Vicodin, work, food, children, marriage, sex, politics, relationships, etc.. Soul begins by whispering to us through some substance or situation, and then shouts as the substance or situation becomes become lethal. We will listen or die. Soul is not concerned about the mortal body or about social prestige or public morality.

But instead of listening, we fight, deny, resist, work against, seek solutions or ask God to deliver us from our ‘devilish’ dilemma. We do not realize that what Jesus said to Simon Peter was soulfully insightful, “Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat that you may return and be of help to the brethren.” (Luke 22:31-34) There are aspects of this Cosmos that are 'Satanic,' that is Soul coming as a hellish onslaught into the routine of daily life to sift the chaff away in order to make you and me larger souls. To honor Soul is to set the rational mind aside and humbly ask, “What would you have me know?” To honor Soul is to quit staring into the pond of narcissistic nostalgia, but instead ask, “What new thing is coming?”

That is why Freud called his therapy a ‘talking cure’. Freud was recovering what many ancient cultures knew and we moderns have largely lost, namely that soul has a voice and wants to make us conscious of deeply creative unconscious or hidden psychic material. The Hebrew prophets did this in their writings, but we moderns have negated the therapeutic value of listening by dismissing it as 'primitive prophecy,' or raising it to the level of revelation from a God no longer available to the ordinary man or woman. Jung called this approach ‘active listening,’ after watching hundreds of clients experience psychic shifts by paying attention to Soul speaking from the depths through their symptoms.


This essay has been about the modern neglect of Soul. This soul-focus does not negate the orderly, beautiful, holistic nature of Spirit. Spirit is what many call ‘God the Good’. Spirit calls us to health, abundance, life, hope, happiness, success, victory, peace and bliss. Spirit works in conjunction with Soul as we live in a material body and world. Body, soul and spirit all work together to make the complete Human.

I include this little concluding caveat because our monotheistic culture is plagued with mono-vision. We are monogamists and monopolists. Duality drives us a little nuts and we have to integrate or elevate everything - seeking the number one football team, the number one candidate, the number one beauty contestant, the unifying principle in physics, the top song or movie of the year, finding the common elements in religious systems, etc. We usually feel there is only one Cosmic Power. We usually conflate Soul into Spirit because we see only one side to the interior life and it must be light, integrated and spiritual. Consequently, there is no room for fragmentation and divine messiness - we turn Soul into an empirical science and label it Cognitive Psychology, Behavioral Psychology or handily place the Psyche into some other medical or spiritual category.

Some Christian Renaissance writers often called themselves spiritual monotheists and psychological polytheists, worshiping the One True God while simultaneously recognizing the diverse roles of Soul in the complexity of the so called interior life. Making a full human includes Soul's meanderings as well as Spirit's wholeness - holding the paradox of pathologies and healings. The Roman Catholics called it the Via Negativa and the Via Positiva; the Chinese call it the Yin/Yang; the Hindu’s call it Bhrama the Creator and Shiva the Destroyer. Or as America's new philosophical protégé Bart Simpson says, "Life is a paradox, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't."

Some will read this essay and think that I am saying life ought to be painful and problematic. I am NOT saying that it SHOULD. I am saying that it IS. I don’t care who you are or how enlightened you may be, soul will knock on your door and introduce another symptom of insanity when you least expect it. It is normal. In fact, if this essay has troubled you at all, look behind you right now - you just may see Psyche disappearing out the door with a little grin on her face.
Posted by Michael (Mike) Bogar at 3:18 PM
Lainie Petersen said...
This is a stunning essay, and exactly what I needed to read today.

Thank you.
August 22, 2008 10:33 AM

The Terror and Joy of Finding God in the Dark

A friend recently asked me if I really 'believed' that God is darkness as much as light. Here is the simple answer, without getting into definitions of what 'God' means, or monotheisms, polytheisms and pantheisms, etc.:

For me, if God is all there is - then all there is must be God.

That means God is heart, head, body, life, death, friend, foe, light, dark and all in between. (Read Bhagavad Gita chapter 11)

We humans choose, or are chosen by, that aspect or experience of God we prefer or need most at a given moment in time, and then call that 'God.' Those who live from the heart call God 'the Heart.' Those who live by rational thought call God 'the Mind.' Those who live by the body call God 'the Physical.' Those who live by laws call God 'the Law.' Those who live by the sword call God 'the Sword.'

We carve God up into pieces by saying God prefers heart over head, or law over freedom, or compassion over consequences, or sword over diplomacy. If the Cosmos is truly a school for souls - then all aspects of life are necessary and equal. All aspects are normal and efficacious in their purpose of making souls. It is we humans who decide in a given day or decade in our life which part is more God than another based on our limited experiences and feelings.

The parts of God that we don't recognize are in the shadows for us, unseen; and that is different for each of us. The Heart-centered, Compassionate person (often Democrats) has a hard time seeing how suffering or hardship could be an aspect of God that makes a deep soul. His/her shadow is the failure to recognize darkness, and suffering as God. This person often condemns the cruel, insensitive Conservatives.

The Consequences-centered, Personal Responsibility person (often Republicans) has a hard time seeing how rescuing people from their problems can be an aspect of God that makes a deep soul. His/her shadow is the failure to recognize bailing people out and rescuing them from their difficult lessons can be God. This person often condemns the co-dependent, messianic Liberals.

In the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, after Arjuna sees Death and Life, darkness and light as part of God, he says, "
O Lord of lords, O refuge of the worlds, please be gracious to me. I cannot keep my balance seeing thus Your blazing deathlike faces and awful teeth. In all directions I am bewildered...O Lord of lords, so fierce of form, please tell me who You are. I offer my devotion unto You; please be gracious to me. I do not know what Your mission is, and I desire to hear of it." ~ Verse 11:25, 31

Lord Krishna responds, "O best of the Kuru warriors, no one before you has ever seen this universal form of Mine, for neither by studying the Vedas, nor by performing sacrifices, nor by charities or similar activities can this form be seen. Only you have seen this. Your mind has been perturbed upon seeing this horrible feature of Mine." ~ 11:48,49

For many, this is a dreadful realization. We prefer our God/s to be loving, compassionate and healing - as we understand those terms, which means removal of pain and difficulties. Spiritual maturity and deep soul-making requires us to incorporate all of life into our cosmic vision. The most miserable people in the world are those who consistently expect to be happy all of the time. Paradoxically, the most joyful people in the world are those who see the all encompassing hand of the Divine in every circumstance.

The Yin/Yang symbology sees both Light and Dark as Eternal ('God' if you prefer). The goal of life is for each developing human soul to realize and incorporate the opposite into their character in order to become fully Human. It is a long, often rigorous and difficult process for most of us to gaze beyond our dogmatic but limited ideas of 'what God is' and 'how God thinks.' Of course God sees and thinks like we see and think, until we yield to our role under the All.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

List of Bible Losers

  1. Noah was a drunk.
  2. Abraham was “too old.”
  3. Isaac was a daydreamer.
  4. Jacob was a liar.
  5. Leah hated her prettier sister.
  6. Joseph was abused.
  7. Moses had a stuttering problem and tried to commit suicide.
  8. Gideon tested God over and over.
  9. Samson was a womanizer.
  10. Rahab was a prostitute.
  11. Jeremiah didn’t want to be a prophet.
  12. David had an affair, was a murderer and was bi-polar.
  13. Elijah was suicidal.

14. Isaiah was an exhibitionist.

  1. Jonah ran from God.
  2. James and John asked God to kill the Samaritans.
  3. Job went bankrupt and fought with God.
  4. Peter denied Christ three times and hated Gentiles.
  5. The Disciples fell asleep while praying.
  6. Martha was a codependent worry-wart.
  7. The Samaritan woman had been married four times.
  8. Matthew was an extortionist.
  9. Paul was a religious hypocrite and a murderer.
  10. And finally!
  11. Lazarus was dead!