Sorting out Psyche, Self, and Soul


St. Francis guarding the physical resting place of my mother's eternal soul
St. Francis guarding the physical resting place of my mother’s eternal soul

As many of you know, I’ve been taking a sabbatical from regular blog writing after over three years of composing twice-weekly posts. But I’ve been staying in touch on Twitter and Facebook through reposts of some of my favorites from the past.  As I write this it’s Labor Day and we’ve just returned to Florida from our summer home in the North Carolina mountains.
Just before I left I received this comment after one of my reposts.  Busy with packing, traveling and reuniting with our family, I’ve been unable to respond until now, but I’ve been thinking about it all weekend.  Having just written my response, it occurred to me that our conversation would be great material for a new blog post.
Here it is:
Hi Jeanie, In doing an online search for the meaning of psyche in relation to soul and  Self, I googled your blog and saw that you posted recently…nice to have you  back! If you have a moment, can you clarify for me or refer me to a specific  post? As well, I’ve come across two books I really like: “Falling Upward” by Richard  Rohr and “The Light Inside the Dark” by John Tarrant…have you read them?
Dear Bett,
This is a tough one that has stumped the brightest minds throughout the ages.  I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you what I think I think at this moment!

Self: For me, Self is the central archetype of the human “mind” (another difficult term to describe). It encompasses everything about my personhood and distills it into my core desire to evolve, to transcend my human limitations and connect with the Grand Mystery. Jung called this compelling and wonder-filling form of energy our God-image. IT’s what tells us there is something “more” beyond what our puny egos can possibly know, and IT causes us to want to unite with IT.

Soul: Right now I see Soul as my unique essence, one small, but valuable and ongoing part of the Grand Mystery. My body is a physical manifestation of this very real, but invisible entity we call the soul. My soul has a unique contribution to make to physical life, and it will continue to exist, as does every form of energy, after it leaves my physical body.

Psyche: Psyche has long been considered another name for Soul. In Greek myth, the soul’s journey through life was personified in the human woman Psyche who, through her love for the God Eros (Love), was transformed into a Goddess.  If I had to make a distinction between Psyche and Soul, it would be that Psyche is the aspects of the Soul that are accessible to humans through our study of psychology and the human personality.

These are fine distinctions that are by no means utterly clear. At least not to me. There are times when I use all three terms interchangeably, depending on the particular manifestation I’m talking about:  archetypal reality (Self), physical/spiritual essence (Soul), or personality (Psyche). Three in one.  Hmmmm…..   Sounds familiar.

Thank you for this wonderful question.  I hope I’ve answered it adequately for you.  Thanks also for the book recommendations.  I haven’t read either one, but will check them out.


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21 Responses

  1. John Tarrant’s book, The Light Inside the Dark, is one of my favorites and one of my husband Vic’s favorites, too. It helped us through the harsh and scary times of cancer and facing his death–holding both the messiness of our embodied journey and the loftiness of spirit that is untouched by the chaos. Tarrant brings together the psychological and spiritual perspective in one of the most coherent and beautiful way I’ve seen. I don’t know the other book, but will look into it. (Thanks for recommendation.)
    Beautiful memorial place for your mom’s ashes, Jeanie. Must be a great comfort to visit there and leave flowers.
    So, it’s Labor Day and you’re back to work. Thanks for this post.

    1. Thank you, Elaine. I’m ordering The Light Inside the Dark as soon as I finish writing this comment! Thank you for your quick and helpful response. Yes, it’s rather ironic that I chose this day to get back to work, isn’t it? 🙂

  2. Jean, what a great, deep and thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I tend to see the psyche a little differently and that gas to be due to my lack of psychology training. I see the psyche as almost reactive, as an observer which determines our next step. I almost see it as an important element, yes, but sort of less-elevated, more human than the soul and the Self. The Self is what I aspire to know and honor better; the soul is what I am given when I am born and what helps fill me, but the psyche is sort of like a driver. The motivator… Does that make sense? I enjoyed this post very much.

    1. Hi Molly,
      How lovely to hear from you. I think I see the psyche as reactive too, moreso than the Soul, which just Is. What a great observation. It’s like our ego reacts to input from the unconscious and the unconscious responds to the ego and when they’re working together in the Psyche, they’re involved in Soul-making. So maybe that’s what being in a physical body does. It compels the ego to become more aware of the other aspects of the Psyche (persona, shadow, anima/animus and Self); and their integration into our consciousness creates more awareness of the Soul. Then, as Psyche and Soul merge, they activate the Self, which connects us to the Sacred. Sounds good to me on this beautiful September evening! 🙂 Thank you for your contribution to the discussion!

  3. Jeanie, nice to see you having a little time for writing!!! We have missed you!!
    Love the kids

  4. Aloha, Jean,   Labels, names and separation do not exist in an integrated whole person.  I see us individually and collectively as one.  This feeling of oneness simplifies and eases and eliminates the mental manipulation and confusion for me.  Mahalo! 
    With Sweet Aloha, Cynthia Piano Oneness House ~ A Spiritual Spa Mahalo ke akua.  Mahalo nui loa.  Amama ua noa.  I mua ka lahui o Hawaii-nui-akua

    1. Hello, Cynthia. As you suggest, mental manipulations can become substitutes for experience by those who resist full and sometimes painful engagement in life. However, I think you would agree that words and labels can also be helpful tools. We all acquire dualistic thinking in the process of growing and learning. While making distinctions everyone can understand is not the same thing as the subjective experience of oneness, given our strong preference for left-brain thinking, I see it as a necessary phase in the human evolutionary journey. It gives us a way of categorizing experience that can inspire and guide the wholeness journey, ease our suffering, show us possibilities for growth, help us make connections between research, theory, intuition and experience, and facilitate communication. Ultimately, ‘separation’ and ‘oneness’ are simply another pair of complementary opposites we need to accept and integrate into our awareness. Blessings to you, my friend.

      1. Mahalo nui loa. Thank you from the heart. Peace, ease of living, and deep joy have come with my simplification and integration of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being.
        As we move more into “thinking with our hearts and minds” and feeling solutions and paths in the “now” moment, the words and labels will disappear, with only love remaining.
        Such is my discovery and belief at the moment. It has taken years to get “here,” and the journey continues…
        All in right timing for each loving being!

        1. I love your phrase, “thinking with our hearts and minds!” Yes, that is what it is: integration of word and image, heart and mind, feeling and thinking, and staying present! Here’s to the ongoing journey…

  5. Jeanie,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to delve into Psyche for me and other readers! After reading your reply to Molly I was able to locate your discussion of aspects of Psyche in your introduction to Part Two of “Dream Theatres of the Soul”, which I couldn’t find earlier but ‘knew’ I’d read it somewhere in your book! Here’s what I worked out for myself: the term psyche is more psychology/personality based, while soul terminology is more religious/spiritual in nature. A knowledge of the 5 aspects of the psyche aids in individuating through bringing those unhealed parts to consciousness to be worked through (as well as those aspects that help with that such as animus), while soul knowledge and soul making comes through intuition, dreaming, the inner voice, emotions, or in your words, mythos processing while including helpful qualities such as love that come with us when we incarnate. Am I in the ball park on this? (I was also intrigued by the idea of psyche as reactive…) Once again, thank-you! bett

    1. I love it that you’ve challenged yourself to find answers to these pressing questions, and that you’ve found an extremely helpful way to integrate them into your understanding, feeling, and experience. Way, way in the ball park as far as I’m concerned! Staying open to new answers and new experiences, Jeanie

  6. Hi Jeanie,
    What a lovely surprise it’s been today to visit your website and see that since my last visit, you’ve put up a couple of new posts. O the joy of reading your words again! And on the subject of words it would be wonderful for maybe? a future post to be all about them….in the form of books.
    Which do you treasure? Which have been the most influential? I would love to know Jeanie which books have helped and nourished you so far in your life and which have been that good friend and teacher to you?
    At the moment I am reading ‘The Dream of The Cosmos’ by Anne Baring which got published a few months ago – it’s just incredible! Like you, she’s also a Jungian Analyst. I know you’d love her book too Jeanie! It’s her magnum opus and like your wonderful book, ‘Healing the Sacred Divide’, it has taken her many, many years to write too.

    1. Hi Deborah,
      Thanks for the warm welcome back. I won’t be posting on a regular basis, at least for a while. I’ve so enjoyed the freedom from my self-imposed deadlines this summer, and can see and feel the positive results of listening more to my heart and body. But I will continue to write from time to time when the time and need arise. I love your suggestion for a future post and will definitely write one about my favorite books.
      Thank you also for suggesting Anne Baring’s book. I can’t wait to check it out. I’m always on the lookout for new information and perspectives. While I’m not actually a Jungian analyst, it could be argued that I’ve put in as many or more hours of study, inner work, writing and research into the field as many professionals! It’s what one does when seized by a passion!!!
      It’s so good to hear from you, Jeanie

      1. The thought of reading a future post ‘all about your favourite books’ is just wonderful to contemplate and it’s lovely to hear you in the flow of your own life….time edges away like a poet with a dream. Your work is my inspiration and touchstone! xoxo

  7. I’ll look up Ann Baring’s latest book, too. Her book (second author Jules Cashford) The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image has been a constant inspiration for my women’s mythology class that has met for 25 years. We leave it for a while and then return back again. We started working on Egyptian Goddesses 3 years ago. Started with Baring and then worked with Alison Robert’s texts to study Nut (Sky Goddess) and Hathor (Sun Goddess). Now that we have a wonderful background, including a few trips to Egyptian collections in museums in New York City, we’re returning to Baring for her wonderful work on Isis. She’s terrific and I’m glad to learn she has a new book. With love and gratitude for all you do, and I completely understand your need to back off a bit. As another active blogger,I can’t imagine more than once a week.

    1. You won’t be disappointed Elaine, i’m 160 pages in and just loving it!
      Ok, back to the garden and back to the Dream. Take care, Deborah

    2. How have I managed to miss her work? I’ve ordered her newest and can’t wait to get acquainted with this new source of information and inspiration. Thank you for all your affirming words. Love, Jeanie

  8. Hi Jean,
    Re “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr. His book came at an important time in my life. It brings together his Franciscan Christian/Catholic insight and his understandings of the spirituality of the 2 halves of life through a Christian and Jungian lens. It was published in 2011. “The Immortal Diamond” a 2013 follow on, speaks explores the True Self. You will find information re Richard and his team on the Centre of Action and Contemplation site (CAC) at Their work and progressive thought is hope-filled.
    Warmly, Catherine
    PS Yes, It is wonderful to read both your old and new blogs 🙂

    1. Hi Catherine,
      Don’t you love it how books seem to arrive just when we need them? Thanks for these great recommendations. I haven’t read The Immortal Diamond but will look into it! Richard Rohr’s work is excellent! I became familiar with him last summer when I was asked to write an article for the fall edition of the CAC’s wonderful journal, Radical Grace. He’s another of those writers who, like my author/mentor Robert Johnson, is a priest, yet manages to rise above exclusive dogma in his inspiring and healing books for contemporary seekers. Love, Jeanie

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