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Reply To: Releasing the Dreamings,” with mythologist Joanna Gardner, Ph.D.”


Stephen, thank you for raising the topic of soul for discussion! And thank you, too, for mentioning the Mythologium. The Mythologium is a place for mythologists and friends of myth — meaning you, mythic reader — to share ideas, inspire each other, and amplify each other’s work. The 2022 program is now live, and we are so excited about this year’s theme of Myth and Ecological Consciousness. Please do feel free to visit the Mythologium site for more info (of particular interest might be JCF’s panel!) and to sign up to receive Mythologium emails.

Now, back to the topic of soul. In the Campbell passage quoted in the MythBlast, Campbell was using the term in a colloquial way, and not as defined by Jung or Hillman. Extending the idea of soul to a community, however, does gesture toward depth psychology, relating to Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious (from which Jung believes mythic motifs can arise across cultures), and also to archetypal psychology’s assertion that soul doesn’t live within us, but rather we live within soul. Soul, in this view, is far, far greater than ourselves.

To me, soul implies a person or community’s (or planet’s) most inward essence and most fulsome totality, both at once. Soul embraces all dimension of experience. For humans, that means mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional experience — and then also an extra something. Soul carries the ever-present possibility of more meaning, more depth, more experience. You could think of it as the greater mind, body, spirit, and heart that encompass and enfold us, each and all and perhaps the entire cosmos. I sense it as the qualitative dimension of all other dimensions, the context in which individual and collective experience unfolds.

Soul is the truth of our being, and it is that which allows us to recognize misalignments with our truth. When we are aligned, or in accord as Campbell would say, that’s when we can most easily experience the extra something through intuition, insight, synchronicity, and creativity — the images, ideas, and understandings we could never have come up with on our own but instead feel given as though from outside ourselves. These, I believe, are the language of soul.

What about you? When and how do you experience soul? What images come up for you when you think of the individual soul and/or a community’s soul? I’m also keen to hear your thoughts about the questions at the end of the MythBlast: How might a community release its soul from false beliefs, disidentifying from myths that cause misery and harm? How might a community enter more fully into the realm of truth, beauty, and creativity?