Going deeper


Jung equates the unconscious with the soul, and so when we try to live fully consciously in an intellectually predictable world, protected from all mysteries and comfortable with conformity, we lose our everyday opportunities for the soulful life.

The intellect wants to know; the soul likes to be surprised. Intellect, looking outward, wants enlightenment and the pleasure of a burning enthusiasm. The soul, always drawn inward, seeks contemplation and the more shadowy, mysterious experience of the underworld. (233)

Mark Rothko: Red and Orange, 1955

Ruminating is one of the chief delights of the soul. Early Christian theologians discussed at length how a biblical text could be read at many levels at once. There were literal meanings and allegorical meanings and anagogical (concerned with death and afterlife) meanings.

The infinite inner space of a story, whether from religion or from daily life, is its soul. If we deprive sacred stories of their mystery, we are left with the brittle shell of fact, the literalism of a single meaning. But when we allow a story its soul, we can discover our own depths through it. Fundamentalism tends to idealize and romanticize a story, winnowing out the darker elements of doubt, hopelessness, and emptiness. It protects us from the hard work of finding our own participation in meaning and developing our own subtle moral values. The sacred teaching story, which has the potential of deepening the mystery of our own identity, instead is used defensively in fundamentalism, to spare us the anxiety of being an individual with choice, responsibility, and a continually changing sense of self. The tragedy of fundamentalism in any context is its capacity to freeze life into a solid cube of meaning. (236)

Mark Rothko: Composition, 1959

And so, in the style of a truly challenging & soulful writer, Moore goes on to say:

There are many kinds of fundamentalism; Jungian-Freudian, Democrat-Republican, Rock-Blues. It all has to do with the way we understand the personal stories we tell. In this age of psychology, for example, many of us convince ourselves that we have certain troubles in our lives because of what happened to us in childhood. We take developmental psychology literally and blame our parents for everything we have become. The situation might change if we could see through those childhood stories, listen to them as myth, grasp their poetry, and hear the eternal mysteries singing through them.

We all have fundamentalist stories about ourselves, tales we take literally and believe in devotedly. These stories are usually so familiar that it is difficult to see through them on our own. They are so convincing and believable that they lead to resolutions and axioms that are very much like religious moral principles, except that they have been developed individually. Like the early Christian theologians, we can open up these stories to reveal subtleties, their many layers of meaning, their nuances and contradictions, plot structures, genres, and poetic forms—not so they can be debunked or demythologized, but so they can reveal a much greater range of their meaning and value. (238)

on Mark Rothko