The Soul and the Sea was written during the pandemic lockdown when author Benig Mauger took solace in the daily walks out to the nearby shore. The sea acts as a metaphor for depth psychology and even the waves of childbirth. An experienced Jungian therapist, Mauger became interested in weaving together psychology and spirituality to heal clients. Describing how a patient can know intellectually why they are wounded but not actually heal from that knowing, she sought out the ways one can heal from the dark night of the soul and that ended up being a spiritual awakening for her. Parts of the book are autobiographical. Her spiritual path is part Jungian archetype, part New Age with Indian and yogic influences and shamanistic practice but also inspired by poetry from Rumi and Christian mysticism. 

Mauger arranges Part One of the book to take the reader through different colored rooms that represent the chakras and various types of psychological wounds. For instance, the first room is the red room, the root chakra, where she discusses the necessity of the dark night of the soul to propel one into spiritual growth. This is followed by the pink room, representing love and heartbreak.The author describes herself as an Aphrodite woman whose destiny has been one of love and loss. Her own lost loves she says propelled much of her own spiritual and psychological growth but her descriptions of these experiences are a bit vague. She wrote another book on this topic. so, perhaps she didn't want to go over the same ground? In the blue room, she tells of the loss of love, the heart healing found through curanderismo, the Jungian concept of the Inner Marriage and archetypal imprinting.In the green room, the theory of chakras is presented and the psychological influences on love choices is explored. 

The rose room introduces us to her guru, Sai Maa, who apparently has a ritual meeting room that is similar to the one described here. This room is for healing abandonment. Some people may not be literal orphans but they suffer from living the orphan archetype and must learn to find belonging in oneself. Mauger mentions this guru, Sai Maa, repeatedly throughout the book and sees her as the living embodiment of the Divine Feminine. She is clearly very taken by this guru but I couldn't really understand it beyond that she has strong feelings in her presence that defy explanation.

In the green room a goddess leads Mauger to a cave with smaller caverns and she is told again to write. She writes about living on the Wild Atlantic Way on the West coast of Ireland. She explores the concepts of Ego, Jungian Self, and complexes. Her creativity is sparked by Earth goddess dreams. Then she returns to Jungian theory to discuss the inner archetypes of victim. prostitute child and saboteur She feels neither psychology nor spirituality are complete without the other one for the balance and depth it adds. She talks about healing as releasing old patterns and offers an exercise of Sai Maa to recognize, accept the trauma and then replace it with the higher frequency of love and trust. The last of these rooms is the purple room, representing the crown chakra, dreams and the path to soul. She describes the soul as speaking the language of symbols and images. She delves into traumatic birth and miscarriage and the feeling of loss and the feeling of connection with nature and the divine. 

The second part of the book is a series of healing rooms. Mauger ran yoga workshops for pregnant women and subsequently wrote a book, Songs from the Womb, that was influential in terms of discussing how medicalized birth and difficult births had traumatized mothers and what was needed to heal after these experiences. You can see from her writing in the Birth Room that she has extensive experience working with pregnant mothers and this section is one of the strongest in the book. Women with traumatic birth stories are provided with therapeutic measures to help cope with their feelings.

In the Life Room, Mauger presents some patient case studies and healing suggestions. Then she finds a way to add a partial romance that she herself wrote at the end of this chapter and apparently would like to publish as a whole book. There were some moments like this where I felt like the author crossed the line into promoting her other books to the point that it felt like blatant self-promotion.

The other chapter that I felt was especially powerful was the Death Room. In this chapter the author says some very interesting things about Ireland and then says that she doesn't have room in this book to address these issues. I felt like if she were willing to address them, it would have made for an excellent book but I wonder if she doesn't want to poke into the traumas of her nation. It is one thing to spark change in childbirth practices, quite another to open the wounds of a nation. The death room is very heartfelt, vividly describing the emotions of miscarriage and the loss of loved ones. Mauger tells of meditating in a cave guided by Hecate, the goddess of the crossroads. The feelings of a widower and a mother who miscarried and her therapeutic prescriptive activities are laid out so anyone else who has experienced similar losses can do them too. 

One of the best things in this book is that as a Jungian psychologist, the author is aware of the shadow self and she balances the New Age ascension ideas she has with an acknowledgment that people need to face the dark night of the soul. The discussions of clients and therapeutic treatments could help readers with similar experiences. The Jungian archetypal theory influences her spirituality and leads to a very eclectic melange of influences. She believes in the necessity of a return to the Divine Feminine and this manifests itself in imagery of an Earth Goddess and Hecate but her language is otherwise very New Age with talk of higher vibrations and ascension. Her time studying with Mexican curanderos shows in the language she uses to describe heart healing. She is clearly devoted to her guru, Sai Maa. 

Her premise that psychology needs spirituality and vice versa would be controversial in psychology circles and popular with readers of spirituality topics. I wouldn't read this book for theological purposes as the concepts are all over the map. The healing methods have a strong influence from shamanic practice and Jungian therapy. The author excels in the instances where she presents people with trauma and methods to help themselves heal. I believe Mauger is a caring and skilled therapist who finds her own strength in her spiritual pursuits. Readers who are similarly interested in Jungian psychology and open to alternative healing will be most likely to enjoy this book. 

~review by Larissa Carlson

Author: Benig Mauger
O Books, 2023