It was wonderful to interview Thomas Moore for the Jung Society of Utah blog. He is a truly kind, intelligent, and soulful person.
“I found [my soul] again only through the soul of the woman.”
– C.G. Jung
Carl Jung wrote in The Red Book about coming to know his own soul through relationship with an other. According to author Thomas Moore, our deepest connections with others often teach us the most about ourselves and lead to our greatest development as individuals.
What is a soul mate?
“All of our relationships may be soulful to various degrees,” Moore said. “So you may have a friend that is very close to you, and you could call them a soul mate, even though they’re not a lover.” In his extensive study on the history of the soul, including what it is and how it’s been written about, Moore found that “when you look at Western history, in almost all the books, every spokesperson for soul has written about friendship as being the best model for a soulful relationship. So even if you’re lovers or spouses, the friendship dimension is probably the most soulful aspect.”
“I understand that when people use the term “soul mate” they mean something very special and specific,” Moore said. “I like the idea that people begin to think in more mystical ways about relationship when they think of soul mates. So when you think of a relationship as being destined from eternity, I think it’s really good to shroud your relationship with that.” However, Moore also noted the importance of looking beyond the mystical to face aspects of relationship which can be difficult. “That doesn’t mean that it’s not a human relationship too. If the time comes that you need to end the relationship, you have to be able to do it; you can’t stay with the romantic mysticism of the soul mate idea. So there’s a side to soul that’s very challenging and has a lot of shadow. It takes a lot of work and courage to stick with it.”
One reason for this, Moore said, is because “a soul mate is not the same as compatibility. I don’t think those two things necessarily go together. There may be all kinds of things in ordinary life where you’re not compatible at all.” Some reasons one may feel incompatible a soul mate include poor timing, or an inability to reconcile the relationship with the details of life, such as career and children. “Sometimes the conditions just aren’t right,” Moore said. However, it is often possible to work out the demands of life so that “the deeper values carry over and are stronger, so there is something in common.”
This process of “maturing the relationship and getting beyond the initial attraction” is important to the experience because it contributes to the growth of the people involved. “I think we expect relationships to be easy, but the fact is that we are bringing two individuals with unique lives together and it takes a very special vision, a special way of being together where you’re not expecting the other person to be a carbon copy of you,” Moore said. “We tend to think that the other person will have the same psychological makeup we have. They don’t. They also don’t have the same destiny or the same values. And yet we can share the process. We can enjoy watching and being with the other person as they emerge into their own individual nature. And we can hope that they become more of an individual because of our relationship.”
“When we talk about soul mates we have to understand that part of that sense of destiny is also daimonic,” Moore said. “We haven’t just rationally said, ‘There’s someone who looks like my type or looks like we could probably share a life together pretty well.’ You just get struck and you want to get to know that person. You may know nothing about them, yet still you’re drawn and you don’t know why.”
While it is necessary to sort out the details and “see if that passion can create a life or not,” Moore said “the daimonic aspect is there to bring people together and to keep a person in that place where you’re not living too rationally all the time. It’s a different way of living. You respond to the passions you feel that pass through you. You are not responsible so much as you are responsive. You respond to the invitations that are daimonic.”
Why does the daimon invite us into these soul mate connections? “The material of our psyche or soul is raw at first,” Moore said, describing the prima materia of passions and desires we might not know what to do with. “One of the purposes of relationship is to create an alchemical vessel in which that raw stuff can be cooked and sorted out. So you sort out the raw material that is in you, and in a way you’re also helping your partner sort out his or her material,” Moore said, and pointed out the difficulties this can cause. “When you have a deep soul connection like that, it’s not easy to be the partner of someone who is pursuing their own deep life, which is always changing.”
However, having such a connection is “a deep, profound, dynamic, mysterious source of identity that is wonderful because it traditionally is what makes you feel alive,” Moore said. “It makes you feel an individual. Those are wonderful gifts to have. But at the same time it means that the challenges are very strong and very deep.”
The eternal in the temporal
Even though dealing with such constant change can be difficult, the process provides “a possibility of great depth and joy because if it’s really a relationship that is full of soul then, it’s very deep and there’s a lot of mystery in it,” Moore said. “If you have a relationship where you feel that you are soul mates, it is a very deep, ritualistic way of honoring the fact that there’s some connection there that is mysterious and mystical, which I think is the essence of what the soul mate idea is. Having that can give everything you do a dimension that is very profound, and gives you the sense that the eternal is part of the temporality of your relationship. That can hold you together more effectively than the temporal side.”