Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life/Facing the World with Soul: A Re-imagination of Modern Life

Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore; HarperCollins, 1992; paper

Facing the World with Soul: A Re-imagination of Modern Life by Robert Sardello; Lindisfarne, 1992; paper.

Like the Eastern philosophers, Carl Jung drew from his own experience when writing about Soul. His insight, however, was inspired by a myriad of ancient philosophies, such as Greek, Indian, African and Native American.

Jung concluded in his Collected Works that Soul is “objective, self-subsistent and live(s) its own life” (CW Vol.8, p. 666). The ancient Greeks called Spirit’s metaphysical manifestation “pneuma” or “wind.” Vedic philosophers deemed Spirit a latent energy, which can only become activated when joined with its empirical counter part -Nature. Jung calls the union “transcendent function,” a spark of life that gives Soul a form.

Psychotherapists Thomas Moore and Robert Sardello model their notions of Soul on Jungian tradition. By observing today's social and environmental conditions, they present their expanded versions of lung in separate monographs, which work well as a dyptic. Moore observes Soul’s intern al dynamic while Sardello portrays Soul's presence in the material world.

The authors, who are friends, agree that we have ignored Soul's existence in living things and have created a world suffering from its neglect. You can see it in air, water, animals, plants, and humans, they say. All states of Nature are perishing because we tune out the voice within ourselves and that of the Earth. Instead, we apply quick fixes to problems, which do little to resolve the real problem.

Both authors present ways to hear Soul. They explore how the light of the Soul struggles into consciousness and then into action. Cautioning not to fixate on results to problems in our lives, the authors recommend shifting gears and to ca re about our feelings about those problems. To do so requires probing with in and listening to the sacred, silent breath in both ourselves and Nature. One will learn to locate Spirit within the body and mind. Only then can we see clearly when feeling aids reason.

Moore's Care of the Soul, invites us to observe the dark beauty in human suffering, which he views as the most compassionate aspect of listening. Such observations provide the … opportunity to discover the beast residing at the center of the (psychological) labyrinth is also an angel…The Greeks told a story of the minotaur, the bull-headed, flesh-eating-man who lived in the center of the labyrinth. He was a threatening beast, and yet his name was Asterion- Star. I often think of this paradox as I sit with someone with tears in her eyes, searching for some way to deal with a death, a divorce, a depression. It is a beast, this thing that stirs the core of her being, but it is also the star of her innermost nature. We have to care for this suffering with extreme reverence so that, in our fear and anger we do not overlook the star.

In an approach similar to that of Joseph Campbell, Moore explores cultural myths as they apply to family and childhood, love and narcissism, jealousy and envy, money, failure , and creativity. Using rich and free-flowing language, he also confronts psychological conditions, telling tales that reveal Soul's inner workings. His informative and user-friendly book is a must read.

On the other hand, Robert Sardello's Facing the World with Soul is more of a chore. Sardello begin s with a self-conscious and awkward introduction that dilutes the eloquent messages in his essays, which he calls “Letters.” But enjoyment begins once one is embraced by Sardello's patchwork quilt of thought-provoking essays.

Sardello has subtitled his book “Re-imagination of Modern Life.” But it is nothing of the sort. One wonders if his collaborators at The Institute for the Study of Imagination displayed their influence through the title.

What Sardello does, however, is to lift “the primary veil covering direct perception of the soul of the world.” Sardello agrees with Moore's approach to embracing the monster within, which is not unlike Jung's famous concept of embracing the shadow. “Rage, felt, held, not shut off or denied nor acted out-leads to compassion. Compassion must be nurtured to the point that one suffers with things.”

Sardello’s contribution becomes a manual for living in the modern age, drawing on age-old practices. For ordering your physical space, he offers “Feng Shui,” the Chinese Buddhist method for positioning architecture and interiors in accordance with the laws of Nature. Diseases like AIDS and cancer are “the most concrete instance[s] of the suffering of things of the world.” Economics and technology are tackled.His presentation of data informs, but leads to no unique conclusions.

He tells us to wait with an attitude of silence and “the Soul work (will loosen) the web of anesthesia…” that numbs our consciousness. Hopefully, the reader will agree. The spirit in Nature will disclose itself and our neglect of the sacredness in all living things will cease. In such harmony, we will regard ourselves as a part of Nature rather than Nature's master and all living things will thrive in a right way.

While one can appreciate Sardello's series of essays, the reader may become amused at the number of ideas boldly left open to disagreement. Yet, his cognitive speculation pro vides the charm of the book. Soul, after all, is drawn upon for interpreting Sardello's musings.

Feel into what is being said. Neither book defines Soul, perhaps for this very purpose.


Spring 1993