(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

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.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Armstrong, Karen. A Short History of Myth. New York: Canongate Books, 2005. An introduction to the history and meaning of myths and mythology in Western culture.

Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Anchor, 1991. A good introduction to the significance of myths in modern life by one of the most famous scholars of the subject.

Hillman, James. A Blue Fire: Selected Writings by James Hillman. Edited by Thomas Moore. New York: Harper and Row, 1989. A collection of essays by a modern disciple of Carl Jung and the foremost spokesperson for a soul-oriented psychology.

Hillman, James. Re-visioning Psychology. New York: Harper, 1978. Hillman’s most important work, a primer on his school of archetypal psychology.

Jung, Carl. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Edited by Aniela Jaffé and translated by Richard and Clara Winston. New York: Pantheon Books, 1973. A collection of memories, thoughts, and philosophical reflections compiled shortly before the 1961 death of the founder of analytical psychology.

Moore, Thomas. Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals. New York: Gotham, 2004. A sequel to Care of the Soul offering specific advice on dealing with life’s challenges.