Saturday, December 26, 2015

Adventures in Soulmaking, a book review

Adventures in Soulmaking, a book by Troy Caldwell
Review by Gil Stafford

Troy Caldwell has presented an excellent entre into the world of spiritual direction from a Jungian perspective for his intended audience. He makes it very clear on the first page that he is writing his book for orthodox evangelicals who are mental health care providers, spiritual directors, and pastors.

Caldwell is a psychiatrist and spiritual director. His book contains countless interesting anecdotes about his life and those of his clients. Chapter 5 “From Fragmentation to Higher Things,” is the story of Caldwell’s psychiatric treatment of Andrea, a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I found the story fascinating. But, the story would be out of place for anyone who is not a mental health care provider. Caldwell does not make this point clear in his book. Instead, Caldwell uses the story to “illustrate the fragmentation that can occur as we grow up in a fallen world.”

What drew me to Caldwell’s book was my curiosity as to whether someone could bring together Jungian depth psychology with orthodox evangelical theology. For example, his view of a fallen world and original sin are clearly orthodox. Then, Caldwell quotes liberally from Carl Jung, Evelyn Underhill, and Charles Williams. He includes information about archetypes, dreams, and the Tarot. I found his presentation intriguing. Caldwell says, “I am convinced from scripture, convinced from empirical observation of patients, and convinced from personal experience that the opening to the ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of (Jesus Christ)’ involves activating the symbolic mind.”

I applaud Caldwell’s valiant attempt to convince orthodox evangelicals that Jung, Underhill, Williams, and the many others he quotes have something valuable to offer them. However, as someone who reads those authors and is not an orthodox evangelical, I take issue with some of Caldwell’s interpretation of Jung as a way of supporting the author’s orthodox theology. For example, Caldwell equates the “shadow” with “sin.” On this issue, Mary Ann Matton in her book Jungian Psychology in Perspective writes that Jung’s view is that, “although ‘sin’ and ‘shadow’ are identical to some people, the designation of ‘shadow’ implies the possibility of embracing the dark side for the sake of wholeness while ‘sin’ suggest rejection of the dark side in pursuit of perfection.” In this regard, Caldwell falls short of Jung’s goal of the non-duality of individuation, in other words, the union of opposites. Instead, he chooses to maintain the orthodox view of Christian dualism. At this point, and some others, in my opinion, I think Caldwell misinterprets Jung and maybe Jesus as well.

One last point, in reviewing books I have chosen to read several self-published authors. I think self-publishing has an important place in our world of independent authors. My humble opinion is that self-published books fall into two categories: authors who invest in an excellent editor and those who don’t. Unfortunately, Caldwell must have done the later. Caldwell’s writing is, at times folksy, clumsy, and rambling. A good editor could have challenged him to move beyond those possible stopping points for his reader.

I would, though, still recommend Caldwell’s book for his intended audience. Adventures in Soulmaking has much to offer. For those outside the realm of Christian evangelical orthodoxy, just know Caldwell has not written this book with you in mind.

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