Two years ago, I gave a TEDx talk called the "Soulful Company." It was a tough topic and I didn't feel great about...

Two years ago, I gave a TEDx talk called the “Soulful Company.” It was a tough topic and I didn’t feel great about…

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Two years ago, I gave a TEDx talk called the “Soulful Company.” It was a tough topic and I didn’t feel great about the way I covered it. So I ended up backing away from the idea. 

Now, with the two-year anniversary of that talk coming up, I find myself pulled back into this huge can of worms – again. 

This post won’t be to everyone’s liking, I suspect. But here I go anyway, exploring the edges of what it might mean to begin talking about soul within the context of our organizations. 

#soul   #work   #organization


  1. Thanks Rae Scherger. It’s just a touchy subject. 

    Colin Walker, thanks so much for the thoughts. Gives me hope that this will resonate with some. 

  2. Gideon Rosenblatt I was smiling as I watched your presentation Gideon because I can imagine you got some really “touchy” responses!  ;’)  

    What you probably already know, but just in case you don’t, Jung describes all civilizations from our earliest to today, as the way in which we protect our souls.  (Soul = psyche (Greek); psychology, e.g., is literally, “the logic of the soul.”)  The fear, from our very beginnings, was that we would somehow, inadvertently or through some major hubris, lose our souls.  

    In the age of animism, soul was everywhere:  in the trees, in the sky, in the air and ground and we carried totems to protect us from ever losing our souls; in the age of agriculture, the earth becomes filled with soul and the feminine and all things “mother earth” are honored and, in turn, protect our souls, we spill the libation as a reminder of our mother-earth-soul; the emergence of urban society brings in the more masculine elements that “fight” for things which seem strange to us now (honor, valor, modesty, etc.) but found in such notions is soul-fulness; then of course the Ashteroth poles and the “graven images” upon which we projected soul (and from which we get the word, Easter); and now, a recognition of the individual (“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”).  Universal rights to life, liberty and happiness.  Each person has dignity because he has a living soul.  The whole trip from pond water scum to TEDx teacher, one of becoming more and more conscious.

    The most interesting thing in your talk was about people wanting to/needing to have meaning in their work.  What I find so incredibly true is that we rejoice in almost any work activity if we feel it is fulfilling souls around us.  The paradoxes abound (in giving, I receive, etc.).  For example, I take out the trash on almost every Sunday morning as a gift to my husband (he sleeps in on Sundays). The work is not intrinsically meaningful (;’)), but the look on my husband’s face when he’s preparing for the next day and goes to do the “chore” and there it is done, a tiny act, done with good intentions (Denis Wallez and Euro Maestro might want to chime in here) brings soul and meaning to almost any work.

    What is coming to protect our souls in this next age?  I don’t know.  I can already feel that we are in need of the teacher (and that is when the teaching comes, when the student is ready, right?)  I see soullessness still a possibility in a dark wind around us; yes, still an awful possibility.  

    And mixing money with anything is about as dangerous a concoction as I can think of; but if anyone can figure out a way to make this work?  I think it might be you Gideon Rosenblatt !  I’m just a Hobbit, but I’ll bring along my knapsack and some #megstories   for what looks to be a very soulful journey!  

  3. Meg Tufano, what a wonderful comment. And I’d a feeling that I might draw you in with this one, if you happened to see it in your stream – and you did. 

    That’s an excellent summary of the evolution of our understanding of it. Thank you. Did you ever read The Secret History of the World? I’ve a feeling you might find it interesting, if not. I’d not heard of Ashteroth before, so I just did a little digging and found this, which you might find amusing: 

    At times, Israel experienced revival, and notable crusades against Asherah (Ashteroth)-worship were led by Gideon (Judges 6:25-30), King Asa (1 Kings 15:13), and King Josiah (2 Kings 23:1-7).

    So help me understand that connection between that character and the graven images. I wonder if there is a connection there to projecting our souls onto our egoic structures. 

    I will save the meaning in small tasks idea for another follow up as it is a very rich one. I guess I just wanted to focus on the darker aspects that you raise here. Yes, I do see a possibility for soullessness to emerge, especially as we look at the progeny we leave behind us with our machines. And this is an aspect of part of what I want to explore going forward. 

    A year or so ago, CJ Liu was interviewing Lama Surya Das, and at my urging, she asked whether human consciousness could ever be uploaded to a machine. He noted that he’d once seen a meeting where someone asked the Dalai Lama whether someone could be reincarnated as a computer; and to Lama Surya Das’ surprise, he said “yes.”

  4. You know me, Gideon – I am all about strategy, leadership and the soul! Onward . . .

  5. My GUESS Gideon Rosenblatt is that we will always be in an interesting pickle with regard to our egos.  When we can remember to keep our egos to their relative size compared to ALL that we are, we flourish (egos are good things; I shiver when I hear someone say we need to get rid of our egos!)  It is how we become individually conscious!  

    Worshipping Ashteroth poles or any kind of “image” is proportionally wrong-thinking as thinking that the images of the archetypes are the archetypes themselves.  The image is not alive.  But it may very well “set off” something in you that is quite powerful (remember our pornography/erotica discussion)!   The soul-energies are living vital forces and I cannot see any reason for not thinking of soul as the container (or the conduit for)  experiencing ALL the archetypal energies.  The dead picture of the soul is not the living soul (remember when American Indians were afraid to be photographed because they were afraid their spirit/soul would be taken away?)   I Am Who Am (Yahweh) is as good a sentence as any to describe our entire real selves I think.  Tribes putting up poles to worship is (analogous) to thinking that what you are projecting onto the world (your OWN graven image) is really you; that whatever divinity is, that it can be limited to and stuck “in” the image; whereas, I think that at least you and I know that whatever the hell we are, we do not just go skin deep!  We are not just our image.  We are STUCK with our image perhaps!  ;’)

    When the Christian era arrived, it spread like wildfire all around the world.  And there was no TV or Internet.  Why did it grow so fast?  Jung felt strongly that it had to do with the symbol (similar to an image, but not the same) of Christ on the Cross WITH THE TWO THIEVES.  He thought this symbol was the perfect symbol of the entire self.  Generally speaking, our human condition is that our feet are off the ground, we are being pulled apart, we are suffering unfair judgment, we are always abandoned, even by good fathers (they die), we know we are a thief and should be punished, while at the same time, we deny we are a thief and blame everyone else.  

    This symbol was also powerful because it is a symbol (strangely) of a living person, not a graven image (not that most Christians have pushed Christianity back into a dead image projection (what Kierkegaard calls pagan Christianity (“If only I could touch the hem…”  Whereas, of course, for a religious believer, Jesus isn’t “back there,” he is alive right now.  And he even tells us where to find him:  in the least among us.  Or, in Depth Psychology terms, in the arc of the drama that is human life, we are now at the point of being able to carry our own souls within us; and recognize the soulfulness of others.  Christianity (for me anyway) isn’t really a religion, it’s a relationship with something/someone divine that, paradoxically again, is just about as simple as sharing a piece of bread and drinking wine with my friends!  But religion really is not necessary to bring into the discussion except to say there appears to be a religious function in the psyche that likes things to become “whole.”  

    This consciousness is really new (historically) and has nothing to do with organized religion (a hard point to grasp, and why Jung is marginalized as is most Depth Psychology in academia).  The soul’s growth in consciousness happened very fast after The Renaissance.  It APPEARS to be what we are here for, our purpose:  to become conscious of ourselves, others, and creation itself (and not to turn around three times and waste our short time here with repetitious rituals (the biggest problem with our level of consciousness when living with tribal gods is it wasted so much of our time we could be spending loving one another; not to mention wasting money idly).

    It is pure synchronicity that Gideon of the Bible is dealing with Ashteroth poles! ;’) This fight against the tribal Baals etc. was (in Jung’s judgment and I agree), the fight to free our experience of divinity and soulfulness from a particular place.  The Bible makes sense as a soul journey story of our souls searching for contact, meaning, significance.  Looking for a bride at the beginning, has a wedding at the end!  ;’)  

    And now we are at another turning point.  I don’t know what the next level of consciousness is but I’ve read a lot of guesses.  One of them seems the most probable:  we are preparing ourselves for becoming capable of containing our UNconscious selves (the image of the Age of Aquarius is that of a jar of water (water is almost always the symbol of the unconscious)).  

    So, instead of just letting all these energies wreak havoc by remaining ignorant, we are going to all become more conscious, more connected with one another and appreciate the soul in every person as a self-evident truth.

    We MIGHT be going in that direction!  

    I soulfully hope so!  ;’)  

    Meanwhile, remember that it is not money that is evil; it is the LOVE of money.  So I think mixing money into this (and businesses must make a profit) is probably going to work out if the primary focus and intention is on EVERYONE COUNTS.  (That is Bill Gates’ motto; and I like it.)

  6. And THEN I listened to C.J.’s interview and, “We are all Buddha’s by nature.”  I will be reborn as a REALLY long code; and this lama will be reborn as a Tweet!  ;’)  

  7. Ken Worthy We were talking about the incredible dialogue and merits of Google+.  Check out above 🙂 

  8. Jennifer Sertl, thanks for the encouragement. 

    For those who don’t know, Jennifer thinks a lot about this stuff too. In her video, she calls soul “the intrinsic corporate identity that underlies all that it does.”

    Strategy Leadership & the Soul

    Some day, Jennifer, I want to have a conversation with you about what it means for an organization to be soulful. At one level, a simpler level that I’d been seeing things from before, it meant “a workplace that is full of souls – a place where people can bring their full and greater selves.” 

    Then, there’s a deeper level, I think, which is to say, an entity that has something within itself – something you might actually call a soul. This is the level I want to start exploring now. 

    And so, I’m just wondering if you have any insights or thoughts to share on either of those two perspectives. 

  9. Thank you, Gideon and I welcome that conversation.  The transparency required in business due to social media has really accelerated the visible importance of alignment  of core values. A person’s competitive advantage is not where they work or what they do it is the accuracy in which they read the environment and the way they articulate their life experience. The rub in today requires higher levels of introspection, presence and awareness. One must better value themselves as a sensory node vs. a performer with skills. There is a level of grace to that level of self respect.  I thank you for your kind words here and look forward to our conversation. Onward to deepen the human experience in the midst of carving out personal clarity through the dance of life. Jenn 

  10. Engaging the soul is working at and doing something you driven to do, you can’t help it, turn it off or stop doing it unless it is killed off. That could be applied to anything personal or work.

    But if people are treated, limited, only allowed to fulfil the role of a spare tyre (insurance, efficiency, replaceable part), you kill it. The soul does not survive or return without a nurturing place to grow. People and surroundings provide or hinder soul nurturing. That’s why company culture is important for success.

  11. Meg Tufano – another wonderful addition. Thank you. 

    Yes, the connection here between graven images and pretending they are more than what they are really does seem to be symbolic for what’s going on here at a deeper level.

    I don’t know if we’ve talked about this before, but the book Finite and Infinite Games, by James Carse is a classic. I read it in the 80s sometime and have found myself coming back to it several times over my life. Why? Because it centers on this tension between the divine and the mundane, the inner and outer, the infinite and the finite. 

    I love this quote about the soul from Novalis to this end: 

    “The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap.

    I found it while reading The Power of Myth, where Joseph Campbell just mentions it in passing. To me it speaks wonders. I’ve also said that the very symbol of the cross gets to this same beautiful tension, with the vertical line symbolizing the Infinite and the horizontal line, the Finite. Jesus is there in the overlap, as a reminder of who we really are. 

    Love your speculation on the Age of Aquarius, by the way. Excellent. I am particularly intrigued by your preceding point though:

    This fight against the tribal Baals etc. was (in Jung’s judgment and I agree), the fight to free our experience of divinity and soulfulness from a particular place. 

    Is there a good place for me to find out more about Jung in relation to this point? 

  12. Thank you, Chris Seifert. I used to have a much-loved t-shirt from a creative agency in SF called Colossal Pictures; it simply had a can on it, have opened with the phrase “Opening a new can of worms, daily.” 😉


  13. dawn ahukanna, excellent. Thank you. I really get the sense that the soul likes to be seen, but never captured or controlled. And thanks for sharing this, by the way. 

  14. Jennifer Sertl, it would be fun to find a time to talk. Maybe a Hangout sometime?

  15. anytime – let me know two options .

  16. Me too, Drew Sowersby. I like this quote by Novalis though: 

    “The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet.”

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