The innate faculties in us which mediate the experience of the Soul
are the following: Instinct
The capacity to imagine
The Feminine Image of Soul carries the Values of the Heart.
These may be defined as:
The instinct to heal, nurture, protect and cherish
The capacity to love
Rose Window with the Virgin, Chartres
The root of the concept of Soul as a feminine, containing
entity is the Great Goddess or Great Mother of the Bronze Age (see Seminar
2). The Soul in its widest sense is the underlying gossamer-fine invisible
web of relationships which connects the life of the universe with the
life of this planet. This web connects our human lives in ways which
are not yet understood by science to the matrix of planetary life and
beyond that, to the immensity of the life of the universe, perhaps to
many universes or dimensions as yet undiscovered. I find that the great
rose windows in Chartres Cathedral offer me an image of this marvellous
web of life.
-----What connects us to this greater web?
It is the instinct in all of us that seeks relationship, that responds
to the attraction of people, ideas, mythic images. It is the capacity
to imagine, to feel, to make intuitive associations, to bring things
together that are felt to be related. Creativity comes from the deepest
recesses of instinct and feeling. It is through our longing to understand,
our capacity to feel and to imagine that we are most closely connected
to nature and the cosmos. Feeling and intuition make the connection
with a reality initially beyond the reach of mind, acting like a plug
connecting us to the socket of that deeper reality. Later, we can reflect
and attempt to understand what we have been attracted to, what gives
deep meaning to our lives. What part of the body do you touch when someone
asks "Where is the seat of your feeling?" Most people instinctively
touch their heart or the centre of their chest .
----- To the Greeks, the soul was the air
- the breath of life: they called it psyche. The Romans called
the soul anima. Both of these nouns are feminine. The Oxford
Dictionary defines the personal soul (old English sawol, sawl)
the animating principle in humans
and animals .
the principle of thought and action in man (distinct from the body).
the seat of the emotions and feelings. (The quintessence, core or
heart of a person or a place).
the spiritual part of our being.
the part of us which survives the death of the body and can experience
happiness or misery in a future state.
the disembodied spirit of a deceased person.
The word 'unconscious'
was used by Jung in order to move towards a scientific understanding
of aspects of consciousness not yet fully recognised or understood.
It was not a new concept but had already appeared during the nineteenth
century in the work of certain writers and philosophers. Today, however,
it is often used in a limited, clinical sense, related to the personal
psyche alone. Even among Jungians, the word "unconscious"
may lose the wider dimension of the meaning that the word 'Soul' as
anima-mundi or the soul of the world once had, as it was once
imagined by poets, visionaries and philosophers.
----- However, it is the wider concept
of Soul as a universal containing and connecting matrix that I am concerned
with here and this needs to be placed in the context of the story of
planetary and galactic evolution. To understand our relationship to
this great cosmic matrix we have to go back to the beginning of evolution
and follow the whole process of cosmic, planetary and human evolution
coming into being over some 12-15 billion years. (this material is not
included in this seminar. I would refer those interested to The Universe
Story by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry). But I would say here that
it is important to know that we have come from the stars, the we are,
in our essence, even in the composition of our physical bodies, starry
matter - stardust.
The Sleeping Beauty
Fairy tales are very old, certainly as old as the Neolithic
era, perhaps as old as the Paleolithic era. Fairy tales speak with the
voice of the soul and carry many levels of meaning. In this story the
prince I believe, stands for the solar principle of consciousness expressed
as the questing human mind (logos) seeking always for meaning,
seeking to explore every aspect of the universe but also, ultimately,
seeking reconnection with his feminine counterpart - the soul - in the
same way that Odysseus sought to find his way back to his wife, Penelope.
The Sleeping Beauty symbolises the lunar principle of
soul, the feeling values (eros) which have not been considered
rational and therefore essential to our perception of reality. At the
same time she symbolises another dimension of reality - that mysterious
other world, intermediate between the physical one and the deep ground
of being - the world which is the origin of our world, its archetypal
ground, as it were, recognised by the mystics of all religions traditions.
In essence, this fairy-tale is a myth about the marriage of the sun
and the moon. The ancient lunar imagery of death and regeneration lies
at the heart of the story: The moon is "the most beautiful princess
in the whole world". The dark phase of the moon is symbolised by the
sleeping princess and the court. The solar prince awakens the sleeping
princess to life as his bride (the crescent moon) and, as this happens,
the whole court awakens. We can understand the appearance of the 'new
moon' as a metaphor for a new phase in the evolution of consciousness.
----- The ancient imagery of the story
of the Sleeping Beauty is woven into the fabric of myth and fairy tale
and has its origin in Bronze Age rituals - rituals of the sacred marriage
and rituals which mourned the annual death of the life of the earth
and its regeneration in spring. Who can say where this story originated
and how it was transmitted for centuries from generation to generation?
The sacred marriage of king and queen, prince and princess is also an
image transmitted from the ancient myths and rituals of the Bronze Age
to Alchemy, Gnosticism and Kabbalah.
----- In today's world, I feel that the
Sleeping Court symbolises Western civilisation or perhaps the whole
modern world, where the feminine value - the Soul - has lain under a
spell for many centuries. In this seminar I would like to explore the
awakening of the Soul and the awakening to awareness of the Soul during
the last fifty years and the search for the new values which will need
to replace the ones that currently direct the culture if we are to survive
as a species. In a later seminar, I will explore the mythology and meaning
of the dragon whose unconscious archaic reflexes present such a threat
to our survival on this planet.
----- I see this magical story as a metaphor
for our time and the urgent need for a marriage between our head and
our heart, a marriage between our solar thinking and our lunar feeling
- between our rational mind which knows nothing of a deeper dimension
and has become sterile and rigid, and our imaginal, instinctual, creative
soul. From another perspective, I also see it as a metaphor of the reconciliation
of spirit and nature or the reunion of the masculine and feminine aspects
of spirit which have been progressively sundered during the last four
----- So the story gives us the image of
two aspects of our being that need to be brought together. We need to
recover the lost feminine value. Until we do this, life cannot be seen
as it truly is nor can we know who we are.
----- In ancient cultures people imagined
the whole cosmos as a living being and felt that the visible world was
the manifestation of an invisible causal one whose eternal life continually
flowed into it. Everything - plants, animals and humans; planets, moon,
sun and stars - was sacred because all were part of a universal soul,
a great web of life.
Notre-Dame de Saint Gervazy,
Puy de Dôme, France. XIIc
However, for almost three thousand years in Judeo-Christian
as well as Islamic culture, the image of the goddess, who carried this
principle of universal Soul, has been missing. Almost everything which
the image of a Divine Mother stood for in Bronze Age cultures - most
importantly the feeling of the immanence of spirit within nature - was
lost. The effects of this loss on civilisation are incalculable because
what was once imagined as a Great Mother - all nature and her mystery
- came to be seen as separate from spirit and desacralised. There is
a deep sickness within our religious traditions which have excluded
the feminine principle from the god-head, and have looked upon nature
and matter as something inferior to spirit and emptied of divinity.
Because of the repudiation of the goddess and the belief that spirit
was something completely separate from nature, we gradually lost the
feeling of containment in nature and the feeling that life on earth
was sacred because it was animated and sustained by spirit, that it
was a manifestation of or epiphany of spirit..
----- The Hedge of Thorns shows
what an impenetrable barrier has grown up between our head and our heart
and how difficult it is to accomplish this task. I see the Hedge of
Thorns as the body of religious and scientific beliefs which currently
offer a fixed and incomplete view of reality. On the one hand there
is the Christian religion which, in its emphasis on belief and service,
has neglected the need for an inner and direct relationship with spirit
and has never regarded the world as intrinsically divine. God has been
presented as a creator beyond nature and ourselves. Man is fallen and
sinful through the very act of procreation; he is not intrinsically
divine, but is redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, the Son of God -
provided he belongs to the Christian Church and adheres to its beliefs.
----- One of the main features of the last
two centuries has been the "death" of God, or the loss of
the transcendent value and containing belief-system that has structured
Western civilisation for nearly 3000 years. The moral values associated
with that belief system have been jettisoned - creating moral anarchy.
The vacuum created by the absence of a transcendent value has been filled
by secular belief systems which have inflicted enormous suffering and
sacrifice of life, creating a dark night of the soul for millions. Yet
the deconstruction of the old system invites the formulation of a new
vision of reality that would include the essence of what previously
had been neglected by the old religious traditions.
----- There is a second aspect to the Hedge
of Thorns: the belief system of scientific reductionism which now dominates
western secular culture. I see this belief system as the end-result
of the long-standing dissociation between spirit and nature, mind and
matter. Ours is the first culture which recognises no principle transcendent
to the human mind, which does not believe that a non-visible dimension
orders and influences the visible world. Instead it believes that the
universe is indifferent to us and that we are the products of impersonal
forces operating on inanimate matter. Atoms are lifeless particles,
floating randomly in a random universe. We are simply the products of
genetic, social and environmental conditioning. In scientific reductionism
(not science per se), the idea of dominance and control gradually
overlaid and suppressed the instinct for connection and participation.
(Descartes gave us the concept of the self as subject and the world
as object and said that he wanted to make man master and possessor of
the Earth). According to this reductionist belief, the Earth and its
resources are there for us to manipulate and exploit as we choose. When
we die, that is the end of us. We are only body and brain. There is
no such thing as the survival of consciousness after death. There is
in this belief system a strong fascist element, since any belief system
outside of it is ridiculed and dismissed as irrelevant and out-dated.
There is more than a suggestion of a totalitarian ideology once more
raising its head which is having more and more influence on our current
secular culture. This reductionist science or scientism has little to
do with real science although it claims to present the 'truth'.
----- The story of the Sleeping Beauty
says that at the right moment, for the right person, the hedge of thorns
turns to roses and a way opens through it. I think we are, at the millennium,
at this moment of breakthrough. A deep human instinct is attempting
to restore balance and wholeness in us by trying to articulate values
grounded in a different vision of reality. A gradual restoration of
a sense of the sacred has been taking place beneath the surface of our
culture. In a deeper sense, we are awakening to awareness of our relationship
with the greater planetary organism on which our life and the life of
all species depends. A new consciousness is being born - an awareness
of interconnectedness, an awareness of our involvement in a great hidden
web of life.
----- The last hundred years or so have
seen a gradual process of death and regeneration taking place as a few
individuals - a minute fraction of the world's population - have responded
to the instinct that we must relinquish the old pattern of domination
and control of nature if our species is to survive. The small seeds
of change sown by these individuals are slowly bringing about a change
in the culture as a whole, even though it is still difficult to see
clearly what is happening. Some of us are gripped by a sense of hopelessness
and despair, feeling powerless to alter the course of events. Others
fall into a blind fanaticism and a desire for absolute power. Still
others are so immersed in the daily requirements of their lives and
in blindly following the superficial goals of the culture, that they
have no time to think about anything at a deep level.
----- Fifty years have seen the foundations
laid for a transformation of our relationship with the planet and the
emergence of many groups of individuals who are focused on protecting
it from the effects of human ignorance and greed. These form a new collective
entity, no longer tribal in character, which is held together by shared
values and a shared commitment to implementing them. This global community
of concerned individuals is what I would call "the Prince". In their
world-wide collaboration on behalf of life, the foundations have been
laid for the development of a contemporary image of both women and men
acting as sacred custodians of the earth - sacred because they are participants
in a universe that is increasingly rediscovered as sacred. Wherever
violence is used to promote these new values, one can be sure that people
are still thinking in the old polarised and oppositional way rather
than in the new way of reconciliation, dialogue and integration.
----- As this deep soul-impulse for change
and transformation gathers momentum, the integration of the emerging
feminine value with the ruling masculine one has begun to change our
perception of reality. I would like to suggest twelve areas where this
transformation of consciousness is taking place, called forth by the
many individuals responding to the need to articulate different values
and a deeper perception of reality - to awaken to the soul.
The Awakening of the Sleeping Beauty
1. The Recovery of the Lost Feminine Image of the Divine
and a new definition of spirit, not as something remote from and beyond
ourselves but simply all that is, both invisible and visible. Creator
and creation, Processor and process cannot be separated. We are beginning
to realise that in exploring matter and ourselves we may be exploring
a manifest aspect of God or Spirit.
----- In 1950, in response to a document
signed by eight million Catholics, a Papal Bull declared the Virgin
Mary to be assumed, body and soul into heaven. Four years later she
was named Queen of Heaven. Interpreting the symbolic implications of
this event, Jung anticipated that the feminine archetype or principle,
personified by the Virgin Mary, was being raised to the level of spirit
and that this hieros gamos or sacred marriage of the masculine
and feminine aspects of life heralded a profound transformation of human
consciousness which would soon be given visible expression in the collective
life of humanity. In further confirmation of this rising impulse in
the collective psyche, a petition was presented to the Pope in August
1997, asking for the Virgin Mary to be made co-redemptrix with Christ.
----- The "goddess movement" was mediated
by women deeply concerned by the absence of the feminine dimension of
the Divine in the Judeo-Christian god-head and the need to recover a
sacred image of the Earth and of themselves. They have made an immense
contribution to the recovery of the soul.
2. The Resacralisation of Nature: The awakening sense
of responsibility towards the natural world. The recovery of the
ancient instinctive awareness of the interdependence and interconnection
of all things. The Newtonian legacy of viewing matter as something separate
from ourselves is being replaced by the idea that we are inextricably
involved in what we are observing. The sense of responsibility towards
other species is emerging and strengthening, helped by the spectacular
programmes put out by the great biologist, David Attenborough on the
----- Many influential books set the agenda
for a transformation of our attitude to the Earth and to nature, grounding
this in the realisation that life was an indissoluble tissue of relationships
and that the observer is an inseparable part of what is observed. The
biologist Rachel Carson was the first to sound the alarm in 1963 with
her book Silent Spring.. She drew attention to the inter-dependence
of the human, animal and plant orders of life and the danger of contaminating
air, soil and ocean with the dangerous chemicals that were at that time
being used widely and indiscriminately to control insects. She challenged
the scientific myth of the control of nature, born, she said, of the
Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy when it was supposed that
nature existed for the convenience of man. "It is our alarming misfortune,"
she wrote, "that so primitive a science has armed itself with the
most terrible weapons, and that in turning them against the insects
it has also turned them against the earth." The furious anger she
aroused showed both the depths of human ignorance about the interrelated
systems of life on the planet and also the power of entrenched attitudes
which resisted any impulse for change. Rachel Carson warned us of the
dangers of interfering with the balance of nature. In the preface to
the 1961 edition of The Sea Around Us first published in 1950,
she warned of the effects of disposing of nuclear residues in the sea:
In unlocking the secrets of
the atom, modern man has found himself confronted with a frightening
problem - what to do with the most dangerous materials that have ever
existed in all the earth's history, the by-products of atomic fission.
The stark problem that faces him is whether he can dispose of these
lethal substances without rendering the earth uninhabitable.
3. Woman's Growing Sense of her Value and her increasing
participation in the culture - to its enormous enrichment. However,
women enter and try to adapt to a world created entirely by men and
there is a danger that they may try to copy the male model offered to
them and lose touch with their own unique values. At the other end of
the spectrum, particularly in those areas dominated by fundamentalist
Islam, millions of women still lead lives blighted by abyssmal poverty
and are denied access to education and a free exercise of their great
4. The Changing Relationship between Men and Women.
The ancient archetypal relationship between men and women is changing
with a new emphasis on partnership instead of control and subservience.
Men are no longer so contemptuous of women. Women are no longer so dependent
on men for financial support. Yet this applies to only a tiny proportion
of the total female population of the planet. Millions, if not billions
of women live lives of servitude, misery and oppression, subject to
persecutory tribal and religious customs and beliefs.
5. The Recovery of the Soul: reflected in the growth
of interest in psychotherapy and the many ways to heal human suffering.
A deeper understanding of the psyche and the development of insight
into where we are still controlled and driven by unconscious complexes.
The uncovering of the appalling suffering of children and the realisation
that much of the violence we deplore in society is due to our neglect
of their emotional and spiritual needs. There are five fundamental questions
the soul asks:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
Will I see
my loved ones after death?
How can I
heal my suffering?
How can I
discover the true potential of my being? These questions are being
addressed by many individuals.
6. The Interest in the Body and Healing the Mind/body
Split: Ancient traditions of healing have been brought to Europe
and America from China, Tibet, India. Indian (ayurvedic) and Chinese
(acupuncture, herbal medicine) medicine have formed the basis of what
is called Alternative or Complementary Medicine. The focus of this medicine
is the treatment of body and soul as a single organism and the prevention
7. The Integration of Different Races, Religious Traditions
and Ethnic Groups. This is an immense change on a planetary scale
and is far from complete. As global warming accelerates, there will
be huge movements of population and an ever-greater mingling of races.
8. The Influence of Eastern traditions on the West:
Hinduism, Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism; Sufism. With these has come
access to the idea of a direct path of communion with a transcendent
order of reality. Many Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu and Sufi texts have
been translated by individuals from the West as well as the East. Many
teachers from the East, including many from Tibet, have established
centres in the West. Influence of Yoga, Chi Gong, various approaches
9. The Recovery of the Shamanic traditions of the First
Peoples - North and South America, Australia, Africa.
10. The Awakening of Compassion for the poor, the
deprived, the exploited of the world. Growing pressure on governments
to act ethically and with the welfare of the planet in mind. Participation
(through witnessing on television) in the suffering of people remote
from ourselves. Awareness of the outrageous suffering of the victims
of war, often referred to as "collateral damage". An immense
work still to be done.
11. Extending the Boundaries of the "Rational" to include
the "Non-Rational". The interest in the Near-death experience. The
question of the survival of consciousness after death. The fascination
with UFOS and crop circles. Einstein said: "The paranormal is the normal
of tomorrow." This interest reflects something that is essential to
our spirit of exploration and cannot be censored or repressed however
much there are attempts to do so.
12. The Emergence of a New Paradigm of Reality
formulated by a group of concerned scientists and philosophers - among
them: David Bohm, Frithjof Capra, Rupert Sheldrake, Danah Zohar, Brian
Goodwin, Amit Goswami, Candace Pert, Thomas Berry, Huston Smith, Richard
Tarnas, Brian Swimme, Ken Wilber, Deepak Chopra, Ervin Laszlo, Elizabet
All these influences
and many more which there is no time to address in this seminar are
contributing to healing the dissociation in the human psyche and the
culture between mind and soul, spirit and nature. They cannot really
be separated from each other because each is intrinsic to a psychic
impulse that I would call the recovery of the feminine principle. I
mean recovery in two senses: first, the sense of something that was
ailing, diminished, or crippled being restored to health, and secondly,
the sense of something of great value that was lost and is now being
recovered. It is to be expected that, this impulse for recovery will
be fiercely resisted because old habits of thought and behaviour are
so deeply established. It is for the most part carried by individuals
working in relative obscurity. It is not yet recognised and welcomed
by the culture and particularly by the media as a conscious goal. There
are still countless millions of people who are not aware of these issues,
who may feel nothing for the Earth, for the pollution of the oceans,
for vanishing forests and species, for the well-being of animals. They
have not recovered the lost instinct for participation in the life of
nature. They may ridicule or resist those who speak up in defence of
another vision of life.
----- Yet we are becoming more concerned
to protect the delicate ecological balance of the earth, more aware
that we are poisoning the earth, the seas and our own bodies with chemicals
and pesticides, that we are inviting our own destruction through our
continued aggression towards each other and our degradation of the environment.
Climate change is becoming a confirmed reality.
The Awakening of the Soul reflected in all these different
events is creating new values:
A growing sense of responsibility towards the planet.
A new concept
of spirit as the life process itself.
of the inter-connectedness of life.
to heal the mind/body split and the realisation that the emotions
are the factor which connects each to the other.
A deeper understanding
of the psyche and the growth of insight into where we are still controlled
by unconscious complexes and what Jung called "the shadow"..
of a different quality of relationship between men and women.
A new awareness
of the suffering and needs of children
that we need to treat animals and all species on Earth with greater
The activation of the
Feminine Principle is discernible in all these different avenues of
collective effort but I would like here to connect the image of the
Feminine with the image of the Holy Spirit of Wisdom.
----- Awakening to the presence and guidance
of this Holy Spirit means becoming protective towards the whole of creation,
dying to the old divisive ways of looking at life and each other, and
being born into a radically different way of living through the creation
of a relationship with an immanent Divine Presence. Some people call
the intelligence or consciousness of the universe Sacred Mind, or Cosmic
Intelligence. Some prefer to call it God or Goddess. During these seminars
I prefer to call it Cosmic Soul or Holy Spirit because to me these words
reflect both the universality of the Presence and the feminine quality
----- Under the guidance of this Holy Spirit
what we have seen in the last half-century is the growing contribution
of many concerned individuals to answering the question: "What can be
done to change ourselves and our culture in time to avert a catastrophe
of our own making?" I will end this seminar with these words of Einstein:
A human being is part of the
whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He
experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated
from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This
delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal
desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task
must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle
of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature
in its beauty.