A Dream in the World: Poetics of Soul in Two Women, Modern and Medieval

A Dream in the World: Poetics of Soul in Two Women, Modern and Medieval

A Dream in the World: Poetics of Soul in Two Women, Modern and Medieval

A Dream in the World: Poetics of Soul in Two Women, Modern and Medieval

Synopsis

How can science and religion co-exist in the modern discipline of psychotherapy? Written in flowing, easily-read language 'A Dream in the World' details a classical Jungian analysis of a woman's dreams, and searches the relationship between religious encounter, psyche and soul.

Excerpt

Theoretical approaches to mystical experience

In order to set the stage for working with Mairi's dreams in the next chapter, here I will outline some of the theoretical ways in which mystical experience has been framed and how mystical experience challenges our usual ways of thinking about the mind, the spirit, the psyche, the soul, and the body. To ground these ideas and prevent our discussion from becoming too abstract, I begin with the actual, lived experience of our two women in their own words. More detailed accounts of Mairi and Hadewijch's mystical experience are found in Chapters 2 and 4 respectively, but brief descriptions of their embodied moments of union follow here.

In later sections of this chapter we will explore some of the ways in which modern theorists (including Jung and my adaptation of his notion of the Self) try to put rational words around ineffable yet concrete, bodily experience in order to organize our thoughts about it in terms of a depth psychology of religion. All these theories and notions represent efforts to square the reality of religious experience as a primary “given” in our lives with what is known of the mind and psyche scientifically. Is there something in our human makeup that provides a way to apprehend an immaterial, “spiritual” reality that surrounds and interpenetrates the material world of our ordinary lives? and if so, how do we sense it, or what is the inner agency of apprehension? Both Mairi and Hadewijch were explicit. They called this inner “agency” the soul.

The body as a locus for religious experience: Mairi and Hadewijch

Mairi's breakthrough experience was mediated primarily through her body. During a period of intense psychoanalytic work (in which her dreams played a large part) Mairi began to report occasional states of what I felt were moments of expanded consciousness or heightened awareness of herself and her surroundings (see Chapter 3). Then, leaving her session one day, Mairi experienced a powerful inner vision during which she felt

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