When I saw the book Adventures in Soulmaking by Troy Caldwell, M.D., and read the description, I got excited. A book combining spiritual direction and depth psychology – wow! I am a spiritual director and a directee. In addition, I see a Jungian analyst twice a month. So I was looking forward to this book that integrates these two disciplines, both for me in my own inner work and also for insights on how to guide directees in integrating the spiritual and psychological in their own lives.
I am sorry to say that the book is a disappointment. It is a very heady book, heavily intellectualized. That in itself is not an issue; however, it is not what I expected, nor is it what I usually find helpful in penetrating my soul. In addition, the way the material is presented feels mostly disjointed. I found it hard to dwell in the deeper points Caldwell tries to make. There are moments of illumination in which I felt a deep resonance and wanted more, such as the section on nous – the spiritual mind. Most of the book, though, is simply a recounting of his and other people’s dreams and stories without making a strong connection for how readers might find this rich depth in their own lives.
One of the things I really like about the book: how God uses dreams and symbols to form and guide us. While this is something I already know, I was kind of amazed to read some of the stories and how Caldwell and his clients unpacked dreams to reveal deep and profound truths. Jesse’s story of how Jesus miraculously heals a part of her that seemed immune to healing work is especially powerful and profound – and it gives me hope for my own hopeless places.
Caldwell’s exploration of archetypes is also quite useful. It shed new light onto my own Jungian work, especially when he writes about how an archetype might “arise and threaten to possess your ego. When that happens, you feel controlled by an outside force … It feels like a threatened loss of identity…” (p. 110). I have felt this, and the way Caldwell frames it is helpful.
In a number of places, Caldwell touches on potentially transformative topics, but somehow comes short of their transformative power. Inner healing prayer is one of the areas where I wanted more. I wanted an exploration of the power of inner healing prayer within the context of depth psychology, and how it might transform us. That is not what this book offers. In most cases, Caldwell doesn’t seem to be able to turn the specific into general concepts that take the reader to a deeper level.
The second part of the book is largely more fruitful than the first. The chapter on discernment has some useful guidance, especially in considering whether dreams, imagery, visions are from God; and what to do if one confronts what may be spiritually evil. There are spiritual practices that he describes that can grow our souls and open us more fully into the Holy. This is a strength of the book, the entryway into contemplative practices such as lectio divina, active imagination (which I especially found helpful), journaling, and others. Also, the book’s appendix on how to interpret dreams will be a useful framework for many. All very practical information, even though the soul connection is not as strong as it could be; not as strong as I want it to be.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.