Poets and Soul

By Robert M. Oliva CSW

The poet is a person of soul.  To reach soul the poet must always move downward.  It is not the sky that governs the poet but the earth.  All through history the search for the soul or soul travel has been to descend.  The spirit ascends, the soul descends.  The soul is limitless.  It offers endless dimensions of possibility.   The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: “You could not discover the limits of soul, even if you traveled every road to do so; such is the depth of its meaning.”

We live our normal everyday lives in the light of consciousness.  Things are logical and literal.  Our lives are defined and make sense.  Our consciousness makes all the appropriate connections; things are where they should be.  Science governs.  But the poet can’t live there.  To create, the poet must descend into the darkness below the surface.  The world of soul is hidden from the light.  It is not governed by logic.  It is not defined by science.  It is not literal.  Things are never what they were at the surface.  The world of soul is turned upside down and inside out.  It is the source of creativity.  The language of myth rules.

To live with soul demands a change in perspective, a transformation of mind.  It is not easy to confront soul.  The limitlessness of soul means the poet must face the chaos of images that makes up the soul.  Things are not logical.  Things are never simple.  Things seem uncertain and conflicted.  It is creativity itself.   To confront the soul is to confront all that we try to keep hidden from others and ourselves.   It is the death knell of the literal and the birth of imagination.

It is by means of our dreams and myths that soul comes alive.   The early Greek matriarchal myth of Eurynome and Ophion reverberates with soul:

“In the beginning was Chaos and darkness. Chaos was a great vast sea in which all elements were mixed together without form.  Out of the sea rose Eurynome, the Great Goddess of all things.  She emerged from the waves naked and began to dance on the sea, as there was nothing firm for her to stand on.  Suddenly, the south wind blew and spun her around.

It is said that the north wind has miraculous fertility powers and, when she spun around, Eurynome grasped at the north wind.  The great serpent of waters, Ophion, saw Eurynome dancing and was filled with desire.  He made love to her immediately.  She then assumed the form of a lovely bird and gave birth to the great universal egg.  Ophion coiled his tail around this egg until it cracked, spilling out creatures all over the newly formed earth.

Darkness, nakedness, deep water, lack of firmness, serpents, eggs, love:  the language of myth, the language of creation.  This is the world of the poet.

Dreams give us direct daily access to our souls.  Cacophonies of images explode each night to transform us, to draw us to the deep waters where the muses whisper the language of creation.  Poets create the world.

Our dreams create us; we do not create our dreams.  We do not choose our dreams.  We do not determine the images of our nocturnal existence.  We are dreamed.  Modern psychology has it backwards.  We do not interpret dreams.  Dreams create us.  The definition of our reality occurs below the surface.  It is in the cave and under the dark waters that we are created.  It is here that our imaginations are nurtured.  It is here that the images of our poems, the language of our souls are given birth.   There are no poems without imagination.  There is no imagination without soul.

Poets are the instruments of soul.  Poets express the truth of soul.

Robert M. Oliva, CSW is a certified New York State social worker with over twenty years experience in psychotherapy, stress management and wellness. Bob is an internationally known health writer and is the founder and editor-in-chief of the health site HealingAction.com. Presently, Bob is a doctoral candidate in naturopathy at Clayton College. He lives with his wife Mary and his two sons David and Chris on Long Island, New York. Bob also spends a few hours a week playing with his grandson Jonathan.

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