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Record Type: Review   ID: 227

The Stirring of Soul in the Workplace

Briskin, Alan

 Briskin provides both theory and practicality in this insightful book on how the individual soul has become dominated by organizations, who are our keepers. He attributes this mass loss of soul to the development of technology (in place of human development) and how putting conscripted efficiency and productivity first has separated action from meaning. Part One is on Perceiving the Soul, and provides 3 chapters on views of the soul and its counterpart, the shadow, or the "other" side of our best intentions, and how organizations have become the keepers of our souls. Part Two, in 4 chapters, tells how it got to be this way. The last part is the most important one for readers of this journal. It consists of 3 chapters: Journey Toward Meaning; Coherence; and Wholeness. They deal with how to affirm work experience, grapple with contradictions, and meld outer and inner worlds by means of a soul path. He views soul as being the midpoint (Eliot’s "still point"?) between conscious and unconscious, individual and group, the material and the spiritual. It is "the place of meaningful paradox" (p. 266), where two become one. (I guess he does mean Eliot’s still point because later he quotes him.) To him, soul is what William James called the MORE, saying it is the something greater than ourselves and is both inside us and outside. Briskin says "Soul, at once personal and individual, is also a window to the world around us. Soul is outside as much as it is inside, if we can respect soul’s unique markings on everything we touch" (p. 267). Pointing to the catalytic role of desolation and nadir experiences as EHEs, he says that "often, soul appears to us first as our wounds" (p. 267). He also refers to the anima mundi, the soul of the world, pointing out that "the fate of the world hangs on the thread of our individual and collective consciousness" (p. 269). By finding ways to serve wherever we are, including work, he says we accomplish a dual purpose: we "offer help to another and ... attend to our own need for learning and growth" (p. 269). We must meet the Other in as many moments as we can—and it is everywhere. The secret, he says, is that "we are transformed not by caring for our own soul in isolation but by entering into a dialogue with something outside ourselves. ... whatever it is, we must meet it at the boundary and know it as something alive, animated by its own powers—a spark of soul addressing us" (p. 269). From my study of exceptional human experiences, it appears that EHEs also tend to occur out (and in?) at the edges of ourselves, where we extend the limits of what we thought we were, and then suddenly, discover we are more!
Publisher Information:San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1996. Pp. xxvi + 288. Ind: 275-287; 73 refs
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