in soul pursuit

in soul pursuit

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Pursuit is Over!

Well the pursuit is finally over! After three years, many sleepless nights and constant revisions I submitted the manuscript of 'The Pursuit of the Soul' to T and T Clarke today. It has been a lot of hard work and I am very grateful to so many people who helped in so many ways... not least my new friends on the Blogsphere! I attach the beginning for your pleasure below and hope to 'serialise' more as the year goes on. In the meantime a very happy and peaceful Holy Week and Easter to you all!

best wishes


Prologue: A Night-Dream

Psychoanalysis had to be invented in order to reconstruct a place where mystery might again be a sacred guest rather than always an enemy, always to be slain.

Luigi Zoja, Analysis and Tragedy[1]


‘Soul-ish’ is for me not a metaphysical but a logical epithet.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology. Vol 2. 63e


Qui enim se cognoscit, in se omnia cognoscet.

(Whoever knows their self, knows all things in their self)

Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola, Oratio de hominis dignitate/Oration on the Dignity of Humanity:118



It is night.

A taxi has come to take me from London to my home in Worcestershire. As we drive I slowly realise that my driver is the celebrated American composer, Philip Glass. He is rather silent and soon I fall asleep. When I awake it is still dark but just before dawn – we are parked in a strange housing estate and my driver is asleep. I shake him awake and ask him where we are. He neither knows nor seems concerned – all he can say is that we got lost during the night. Despite my anxiety (I am due to teach at the university that morning), he seems implacable. In fact, the more agitated I become the more unconcerned he appears. Eventually I go to seek help: first from a woman in an office and then a man on the street. From both I plead for a GPS or satnav in order to find our position. As I am negotiating the loan of these, Philip Glass returns, this time with a group of followers. He tells me, as the sun is rising we now need to pray. I think to myself: ‘Hmmm, this guy would make a good spiritual director, he is so relaxed and easy-going...’


This dream came to me during a stormy night in southern Italy whilst I was thinking about the shape this book would take. At first I was somewhat surprised. My working hours were preoccupied with ‘the mind of Christ’ as it is described by St Paul, the early mental constructs of Christianity and how they relate to the last 150 years of psychoanalysis.  Yet, whenever I receive a dream such as this from the ever-resourceful unconscious I first of all essay my reactions as I was taught during my analytical training. I immediately knew that this was an important dream – it was an ‘opening dream’ that was opening my perceptions and heart. I looked at the images and the shape of the dream. First of all there was the choice of my ‘dream-guide’: the somewhat taciturn figure of the great American minimalist maestro, Philip Glass. Where did he come from? I asked myself. This slightly new-age eclectic composer was not what my conscious mind had been seeking. I had spent Easter in the southern Italian town dodging showers and downpours whilst participating in the fervent devotions of Holy Week in the little hill-top villages and, like the southern storm, my unconscious had blown away my conscious musings on Freud, Jung and the great Christian tradition. As I struggled with the conscious forms – the London of my psychological training as an adult and the Worcestershire of my childhood and religious upbringing – here sat the ‘composer’ of the unconscious, quite happy in the gathering dawn simply to pray. As Novalis wrote in the Hymns to the Night, the night is darkest just before dawn, and in the deepest unknowing a simple light was being shed over my thoughts. The ego had been hijacked by the ‘taxi-driver’ unconscious and taken to a new place, what I will end up calling in this book, a ‘third position of the soul’: a position that the medievals termed the ‘knowing unknowing’.  The unconscious had presented the whole book to me in such an elegant and simple fashion that my conscious mind could not have arranged. For, as with all books, there is the desire to communicate and share ideas with you, the reader, but also there is the desire to work on a problem that besets the author. In my case it was how to reconcile two halves of my adult life: working as a psychological analyst in the Jungian and Freudian tradition on the one hand, and working as a theologian and spiritual director in the Christian Catholic tradition on the other. For in our own lifetimes these two great streams of interpretation of the psyche – that glittering, fragile axis of our existence which the Greeks termed iridescent, breath, life, spirit and even butterfly – have met. Once sworn enemies, in the past few decades psychologists and theologians have once again begun to talk to each other, and I offer this book as a contribution to that dialogue. A dialogue between thought-traditions, ideas and experiences of the self and the world.

[1] Zoja 1998:37

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