The miracle of the living soul: Inspiration from Jung

All my life’s work has been with people: as an adult education teacher in many settings, as a psychiatric social worker, as a private counsellor, trainer and supervisor of counsellors, and writer.

At the core of this apparent vocational diversity has been, I now understand, the same drive. It is that urge to find meaningful contexts for my own tiny, ephemeral spark of life, whilst offering some affirmation to others that their tiny flame matters too: it is worth struggling to get our light to burn with a purer and brighter radiance.

Something ineffable and charged can on occasions arise in deep communication between one person and another – those in the helping professions and their clients are by no means the sole partakers of this context. There is a moment in which the feeling of safety, intimacy, trust, empathy and openness of exchange becomes so intense that the level on which two people are interacting shifts from ‘ordinary’ to numinous.

The Diamond Soul

The Diamond Soul

In that moment, (to my subjective recollection) both souls are held, in a state of grace, in the palm of some vast invisible benevolent Hand. Both sparks of life are suspended in a sense of the sacred….Such a state can never be evoked. It can only be bestowed – fleeting, memorable, perhaps life changing.

Coming across the following quotes recently thus struck a profound chord:

first, from Carl Gustav Jung –

“ That is why I say to any beginner: learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul. Not theories but your creative individuality alone must decide.”

Carl Jung from “Contributions to Analytical Psychology” (quoted in Self and Society Vol 27 No 1 March 1999, p 22.)

second, from ‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson, p 51 –

“ When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the ‘I’ whose predicate can be ‘love’ or ‘fear’ or ‘want’, and whose object can be ‘someone’ or ‘nothing’ and it won’t really matter, because the loveliness is just in that presence, shaped around ‘I’ like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else …. To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned.”

(‘Gilead’, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is a wonderful novel in which, towards the end of Rev John Ames’ life in 1956, he begins a letter to his young son, setting down all that he wishes to communicate which impending death will otherwise render impossible.)

I urge you to read it for its humanity and its wisdom.


500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

6 thoughts on “The miracle of the living soul: Inspiration from Jung

  1. That is one of my favorite quotations from Jung. And, I’ve had “Gilead” recommended a couple of other times. I suppose it’s time I get with it and have a read.

    The flame and wick image is used to great effect by Annie Dillard in “Holy the Firm.” I get chills every time I read the passage, which you can read, too — here.

    1. Hi Linda, I had a quick glance at the Annie Dillard but will save it for later since I want to give her my full attention – I have read “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek…” by Annie Dillard, which was truly wonderfu,l so you have nudged me to get a copy of “Holy the Firm.”…

  2. To have a soul to soul connection with another person is indeed a rare and wondrous happening. It can only happen when we are willing to bare our own soul, and yes it is indeed a magical moment.

  3. My emails have backed up exponentially and I have only just read this wonderful piece Anne. What an insight into the course a varied professional life has taken – seeking a meaningful context. And yes, we are each a tiny spark. A great advantage of reaching the last phase of a life is time for just that seeking – thank you!

    1. Many thanks for your affirming words, Jane. I love both those quotes. They really do express in powerful but simple language, something deeply profound about a special dimension of human connectedness…

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