Care of soul

In the modern world we tend to separate psychology from religion. We like to think that emotional problems have to do with the family, childhood, and trauma — with personal life but not with spirituality. We don’t diagnose an emotional seizure as “loss of religious sensibility” or “lack of spiritual awareness.” Yet the soul — the seat of our deepest emotions — can benefit greatly from the gifts of a vivid spiritual life, and can suffer when it is deprived of them.
The soul, for example, needs an articulated world-view, a carefully worked-out scheme of values and a sense of relatedness to the whole. It needs a myth of immortality and an attitude toward death. It also thrives on spirituality that is not so transcendent-such as the spirit of family, arising from traditions and values that have been part of the family for generations.
Spirituality doesn’t arrive fully formed without effort. Religions around the world demonstrate that spiritual fife requires constant attention and a subtle, often beautiful technology by which spiritual principles and understandings are kept alive. For good reason we go to church, temple, or mosque regularly and at appointed times: it’s easy for consciousness to become lodged in the material world and to forget the spiritual.
Just as the mind digests ideas and produces intelligence, the soul feeds on life and digests it, creating wisdom and character out of experience.
Renaissance Neoplatonists said that the outer world serves as a means of deep spirituality and that the transformation of ordinary experience into the stuff of soul is all-important. If the link between life experience and deep imagination is inadequate, then we are left with a division between life and soul, and such a division will always manifest itself in symptoms. In this modernist syndrome, technology becomes the root metaphor for dealing with psychological problems. A modern person comes into therapy and says, “Look, I don’t want any tong-term analysis. If something is broken, let’s fix it. Tell me what I have to do and I’ll do it.” Such a person is rejecting out of hand the possibility that the source of a problem in a relationship, for example, may be a weak sense of values or failure to come to grips with mortality. There is no model for this kind of thinking in modern life, where almost no time is given to reflection and where the assumption is that the psyche has spare parts, an owner’s manual, and well-trained mechanics called therapists. Philosophy lies at the base of every fife problem, but it takes soul to reflect on one’s own life with genuine philosophical seriousness. The modernist syndrome urges people to buy the latest electronic gear and to be plugged in to news, entertainment, and up-to-the-minute weather reports. It’s vitally important not to miss out on anything.
Yet there seems to be an inverse relationship between information and wisdom. We are showered with information about living healthily, but we have largely lost our sense of the body’s wisdom. We can tune in to news reports and know what is happening in every corner of the world, but we don’t seem to have much wisdom in dealing with these world problems. We have many demanding academic programs in professional psychology, yet there is a severe dearth of wisdom about the mysteries of the soul.
The history of our century has shown the proclivity of neurotic spirituality toward psychosis and violence. Spirituality is powerful, and thus has the potential for evil as well as for good. The soul needs spirit, but our spirituality also needs soul-intelligence, sensitivity to the symbolic and metaphoric life, community, and attachment to the world. We have no idea yet of the positive contribution that could be made to us individually and socially by a more soulful religion and theology. Our culture in is need of theological reflection that does not advocate a particular tradition, but tends the soul’s need for spiritual direction. In order to accomplish this goal, we must gradually bring soul back religion.

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