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The spiritual mirror, eros, and Narcissus

When I wrote about projection and the mirror of Narcissus last week, I realized there is a hidden connection between some of the topics I recently discussed: the neo-Platonic mirror theory of eros, and Jung's notion of spirit.

Dreams of the soul, visions of the spirit

In one of the most fascinating passages of "The Dream and the Underworld", Hillman considers dream characters: “In dreams we are visited by the daimones, nymphs, heroes, and Gods, shaped like our friends of last evening.” But the next question is obvious: “why don’t the shades and Gods come in their own shapes?" And once again Hillman’s answer has to do with the difference between soul and spirit.

The spirit of Jung, and the spirit of Hillman

In recent posts, I have discussed Hillman’s distinction between soul-work and spirit-work (doing psychology vs. spiritual development). Hillman claims Jung’s ancestry here, but there are also grave differences in how they understood these notions.

Spiritual practice and its distractors

To add some more detail to the distinction we’re exploring, between spirit-work and soul-work, according to Hillman’s “Peaks and Vales” essay, let’s look at a common experience: distractions we suffer when we attempt some typical spirit work. These may fall under either of Hillman’s first two criteria (pathologizing of the soul and anima confusions), or perhaps even remain in a grey area in...

Is the way of the soul riskier than the way of the spirit?

We have now looked into two of the three marks that distinguish soul-work (psychology) from spirit-work: pathologizing and anima confusions are regarded as inherent activities of the soul, and therefore in soul-work we must attend to them and engage them on their own terms, rather than trying to get rid of them.

Loving anima confusions

I have started to discuss Hillman’s three criteria for telling soul-work and spirit-work apart. The first was that soul-work would take the soul’s pathologizing seriously. Now the second: love for anima; Hillman says that he would not recognize someone as doing soul-work if they “dismiss anima confusions for ego strength or spiritual illumination”. There’s a good bit to unpack here.

Understanding (Hillman’s notion of) pathologizing

I have quoted Hillman, from his “Peaks and Vales” essay on the difference between spirit and soul, as listing three distinctive features of soul-work, in contrast to spirit-work. The first of those three is that “pathologizing” is not “dismissed for growth”. But what does that even mean?

How Jungian is the “pathologizing” nexus as indicator of soul-work?

In Mysterium Coniunctionis, Jung points to a fundamental difference between Christian religion and alchemy. Both are concerned, according to him, with the monumental task of unifying opposites; but Christian religion finds these opposites projected in spirit (Geist) and alchemy projects them into physis (Stoff), whereas “none locates the problem where it originated, namely, in the human soul”...

More ways to distinguish between spirit and soul

In my previous post, I have discussed Hillman’s criterion for distinguishing between spirit-work and soul-work from "The Myth of Analysis". Hillman has also written an entire essay on this topic: “Peaks and Vales", and there he lists three more criteria.

Leif Frenzel is a writer and independent researcher. He has a background in philosophy, literature, music, and information technology. His recent interest is Jungian psychology, especially synchronicities and the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious.

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