Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
Educating With Soul Through Depth Psychology
by R. Michael Fisher - Thursday, January 12, 2012, 07:47 PM


The word education means a leading out of the soul; and that says learning consists of allowing our soul to enter, via the heart, into the things of the world, to mingle there in unfamiliar conversations, to be affected, moved by the soul of things, gradually learning to speak their language.... The roots of psychopathy are found in the loss of care for the things of the world. -R. J. Sardello (1)

Although everyone of the Associates and Faculty at CSIIE are independent entities in what they utilize as philosophical and psychological bases for their teachings, I have to declare that I have a strong vision for an alternative higher educational institution in CSIIE that would definitely incorporate the best of depth psychology (many psychologies of the depths and heights of human nature and development).

Recently, this interest in spiritual psychology, one of the more intriguing forms of depth psychology developed by Robert J. Sardello (Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, and The School of Spiritual Psychology) (2), is burgeoning and focusing on how to bring "soul work" into CSIIE and higher education overall. As you may have seen, I've been writing (like a number of scholars) on spirituality in higher education in this Faculty Forum. Not often will I use the term "soul" nor will you find it on our website often (3). Yet, Sardello's view (and others great educators, like Rudolf Steiner, or Parker J. Palmer) is one centralized on a depth psychology of soul. I recently have read several of his scholarly papers in Education journals, and his book on fear (for about the 3rd time), and am so impressed what he has to offer. I wish to excerpt (4) from one of his papers (27 yrs. ago, if you can believe it) to offer seeds for thought on why soul and higher education cannot be disregarded in the future without serious consequences:

The Patient Suffering Breakdown Today Is The World Itself

"The field of depth psychology originated in the consulting room. Because of this origin, we are often reluctant to consider other places in which depth psychology has application. When psychological events such as use of language, behavior, memory, dream, fantasy, and mood are brought to reflection, the psychologizing of such events is valued for its relation to psychotherapy. If the field is to avoid becoming a 'cult' of therapy, however, it must risk entry into other domains. Besides, the cultural situation has changed radically since the inception of depth psychology [e.g., since Freud's time]. The individual presented himself or herself in the therapy room of the nineteenth century; during the twentieth [what Albert Camus called the "century of fear"], the patient suffering breakdown is the world itself. Medicine, education, money, food, energy, media, technology, religion, buildings, law, literature, transportation, leadership, business, drama--all the activities that bring a peope together are suffering a massive breakdown. The new symptoms are fragmentation, specialization, expertise, depression, inflation, loss of energy, jargonese, violence. Our buildings are anorectic sheaths of glass, our business paranoid, our technology manic.

Education is an area ripe for and in need of the reflections of depth psychology. While Carl Gustav Jung wrote several essays on the education of children, higher education has received no attention whatsoever from depth psychology. The metaphors 'high' and 'deep' seem to have nothing to do with one another. The breakdown of the culture of education will persist until the depth of higher learning can be remembered. As long as the academy is valued for scholarship, acquisition of information or skills, professional training, research, and specialization to the exclusion of the transformation of the human soul, the soul of the world suffers. This article begins psychological reflection on higher education. It follows the tradition of the analytic [depth] psychology of Jung, and the archetypal psychology of James Hillman: it is an entry of this tradition into a truly cultural psychology." (p. 423).

I wonder if in those 27 years since Sardello penned this article and claim about higher education not being informed by depth psychology, if there are some contributions made from the depth tradition of psyche/soul? A research topic for someone?


1. Sardello, R. J. (1984). The technological threat to education. Teachers College Record, 85(4), 631-39.

2. For a brief review of Sardello's bio, you can search on the Internet and/or visit my recent artcle on his work at (Jan. 12, 2012).

3. Defining "soul" or "soul work" is a complex topic, and it is beyond the scope of this forum intro. to address Sardello's view on soul, other than to say it requires an imaginal modality of perception to "imagine" and experience. So, if you are looking only through a scientific, technical, or rationalist philosophical lens, or even a nondual absolutist lens, you'll not likely "see" soul, or believe it is a useful construct. Thus, following Sardello, in particular, depth psychology is poetics, is artistic, and imaginal primarily, though not exclusively. Sardello (1976) wrote "Essential to that unknown [soulful] component which deepens into experiences which is named soul but which is not substance or thing but a perspective, is personifying. Personifying is imagining the world in its interior dimension [i.e., part of soul work]. From the perspective of soul, the world in all dimensions is personal" (p. 175). See Sardello, R. J. (1976). In the vale of soul-making: Towards an archetypal psychology [Review of Re-visioning Psychology by James Hillman, NY: Harper & Row, 1975). PsycCritiques, 21(3), 175-77.

4. Sardello, R. J. (1985). Educating with soul: A phenomenological archetypal reflection on higher education. Teachers College Record, 86(3), 423-39.