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Swamplands of the Soul

New Life in Dismal Places
Paperback Book
Inner City
August, 1996
$25.00 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

Is the purpose of life to achieve happiness? Don’t we all long to arrive in that sunlit meadow where all is well and we may abide in pure contentment? In reality [have you noticed?], life isn’t like that: our road is often dreary, the way unclear. Much of the time we are lost in dismal states of guilt, grief, betrayal, doubt, depression, anger, terror and the like. Is this all we can hope for?

Perhaps not, says Hollis, author of several Jungian texts, the most popular of which has been The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife. The Jungian perspective, by encompassing both the meadow and the bog, asserts that the goal of life is not happiness but meaning. And meaning, though it may not be all sunlight and blossoms, is real.

Anxiety is the price of a ticket on the journey of life; no ticket—no journey; no journey—no life. We may run from anxiety as much as possible but we thereby run from our only life....

Interestingly enough, we make a great move toward personal liberation when we can acknowledge the existential angst directly, know ourselves to be fragile beings clinging to a spinning planet hurtling through space, and at the same time be grateful for such a grand ride....

What I can make conscious, face directly and deal with as an adult, frees me from unconscious bondage to the past. We truly perceive that something is more important than what we fear. And there is. We are more important than what we fear. This is what is meant by courage.

Swamplands of the Soul explores the quicksands where we have all floundered. It lights a beacon by showing what they mean in terms of our individual journey and the engendering of soul. For it is precisely where we encounter the gravitas of life that we also uncover its purpose, its dignity and its deepest meaning.

Hollis cheers us on through explorations of obsessions and addictions, doubts, fears and anxieties, angers and angsts.

So, we never get it all right. The blur and blot of it, too fast, too complex, too obscure. Only now and then is there clarity, purpose, victory. For surely we are not gods, though the godly courses within us just as the demonic does. It is a wonder we survive at all, that we have moments of peace, of kindness toward others, even occasionally a bit of charity toward ourselves.

In the final analysis we do not solve our problems, for life is not a problem to be solved but an experiment to be lived. It is enough to have suffered through into deeper and deeper meaning. Such meaning enriches and it’s its own reward. We cannot avoid the swamplands of the soul, but we may come to value them for what they can bring us.

We must be still and still moving

Into another intensity

For a further union, a deeper communion

Through the dark cold and the empty desolation.

—T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets

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