Modern behavioral psychology has denied the existence of the human soul, believing instead that a person’s actions are key to understanding. In this way, a “cure” can be found for atypical behavior. Author Thomas Moore believes this neglect of the human soul has led therapy astray. According to Moore, only by looking deeply inward to the soul can a person discover the key to coping with life’s problems.
Moore first addresses the question of just what the human soul is. To Moore, it is the center and core of every human being. It is the locus of the spiritual side of a person, beyond the reach of rational inquiry, yet is key to understanding the essence of life and its challenges. The only way to explain the workings of the soul, he says, is through metaphor and myth. Myths have always served to illuminate universal truths about human triumphs and sufferings. Many have to do with love and power. Myths begin to unravel the mysteries of life in a way that rational inquiry cannot. They explain, in a symbolic way, a person’s relationship to the world and can produce a profound sense of acceptance and understanding. In contrast, modern psychology has focused on developing a “cure” for life’s problems by redirecting patterns of behavior. This empirical approach obscures the fact that there are much deeper origins. Problems of love and hate, jealousy and envy, depression and failure are too complex to be cured by a modification of one’s behavior, if they can be cured at all.
To reach the level of understanding of the soul, one must first acknowledge its existence. This requires a journey deep inside oneself. This effort of self-discovery may be painful but is essential. It is a journey taken throughout history by many people, which is why myths have a universal ring. Despite humanity’s technological advances, the human condition has not changed. To illustrate how myths can teach us about ourselves, Moore recounts the ancient Roman story of Narcissus, who falls in love with his own image in a pool of water and, in an attempt to merge with that image, falls into the pool and drowns. This is more than a story of self-love; it...
(The entire section is 881 words.)