Soul as Holy Wisdom


Sophia – holy wisdom

In our sceptical age, ideas about the soul and indeed the psyche are often reduced to neurological functions, and seen as less important than the brain. Carl Jung and indeed all subsequent analytical psychologists would be totally opposed to what we might call this ‘soul-deadening view.’

Jung wrote that the psyche is the indispensable – the absolute essence of all existence. It is the only category of existence about which we have immediate knowledge. For Jung the essence of life was to ‘be in the soul’. And, ‘Being that has soul is living being’. Soul is the living thing within each person: ‘that which lives in itself and causes life. … With her cunning play of illusion, the soul lures into life the inertness of matter that does not want to live.’

In other words, things come alive and are touched with soul when they ‘come under the realm of the imagination’. Using the term ‘anima’ Jung saw that everything touched by the soul became numinous, existing as a perfect companion to consciousness. He believed the soul/anima was a feminine principle – the embodiment of yin in classical Chinese philosophy; but believed that it was less unconscious or repressed in women where the soul aspect that remained unconscious is carried by the animus – the embodiment of yang.

Anthony Stevens writes that:

‘Its [the soul’s] utterances in words and symbolic images proceed ceaselessly below the threshold of everyday awareness. Normally we are unconscious of these priceless communications, just as we cannot perceive the stars in daytime because we are dazzled by the sun. But if we can cease to be dazzled by ego-consciousness, the soul becomes as apparent as the stars at night.’

Confrontation with the inner soul is a necessary part of Jung’s individuation process bringing a broadening of psychic horizons and great personal freedom. Emma Jung writing of her experience of assimilating her animus wrote: ‘Above all it makes possible the development of a spiritual attitude which sets us free from the limitation and imprisonment of a narrowly personal standpoint.’

Reading about the soul, and Jung’s ideas on the integration of the contra-sexual elements within each person to reach a hidden wholeness, reminds me of the revelation that Thomas Merton shows in his great prose poem on divine Wisdom called Hagia Sophia:

‘There is in all things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all … This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom.

I am awakened, I am born again at the voice of this my sister, sent to me from the depths of divine fecundity.’

The soul – our inner wisdom – the feminine manifestation of God.