True Self, False Self, Soul????

soulAs I learned from Ernest Becker’s review of 19th century psychology (Denial of Death, chapter 9), scientists opted for the term “self” to mean one’s history of neuroses going back to childhood that could be studied and understood as a path to happiness.  19th century science opposed religion pretty much at every point.  Becker names this as reductionism in the face of “soul,” that which is mysterious and not easily known.

Lots of good things came from that, especially relief from childhood hurts and dependencies.  Yet, it never could deal with mystery.  So, here are two thoughts:

  1. I’m wondering whether “false self” and “true self” are adequate to the notion of mystery contained in “soul.”  Don’t know, just wondering out loud.
  2. What if “soul” isn’t something one gets at birth?  What if it’s achieved.  Now that’s a loaded word, eh?  What if soul doesn’t mean that which we rely upon that will perdure through and after death?  What if “soul” has to do with what soul music is all about – the blues one sings after loss, the gut-driven horn section that gets us up to dance, the back beat that carries our joy and sorrows?  

Here’s a way I’ve talked about it in the past.  It’s an overstatement, but only for effect…

High school boys do not have souls.  They are a mass of ID and growth hormones.  Sometime after Junior year, they start to show signs of humanity.  Hence, “soul.”  But, they’re only the signs.  It takes guys maybe till we’re 50 or 55 to have enough experience of loss, enough questions, enough heartbreak, that it’s possible to maybe achieve “soul.”

Women, maybe 50-ish.  “Soul” means stepping out into the uncertainty beyond what and how we believe we can do to foster our self-esteem.  No longer good little boys or good little girls… What next!!??!!??  That’s the path to “soul.”

Just an exploration.  Just a thought. -=-roc,sj

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