The phrase “one soul in two bodies” most likely makes you think of marriage or a romantic partnership, right?

Yet Paul O’Callaghan, an Orthodox priest and author of The Feast of Friendship, says “one soul in two bodies” is one of the most ancient metaphors for friendship.

Friendship doesn’t get the attention marriage and romance does, so I appreciate Feast of Friendship and will touch on some of the main characteristics of deep friendship he discusses in his book.

1. Similar temperaments – When it comes to marriage, opposites often attract. This is not so with close friendships.

O’Callaghan says the sense of unity in friendship occurs when friends have similar temperaments. He cites the Myers-Briggs temperament indicator, which is based on the work of Carl Jung.

When moments of “synchronicity” occur, such as uncanny similarities in thoughts, feelings or activities that seem almost psychic in nature, it’s at least partially because the two people are hard-wired in a nearly identical way.

2. Creativity – O’Callaghan says it’s vital to understand how friends stimulate our creativity.

Whoa: “Friendship is creative, but it’s the friends who create one another.”

So often our friends see in us a potential for goodness we cannot see ourself. Through their love for us, they bring unsuspected aspects of our ourself to life.
Or sometimes we see these possibilities but are not able to touch them. It does not matter. Our friends touch them, our friends draw them out of ourself. Through them we are put in touch with the deepest, most promising aspects of ourself. They lead us to discover ourself in ways we had not known before.

3. The Unconscious and Archetypes - Friendship largely takes place on a conscious level, but unconscious forces are powerfully active within it. O’Callaghan draws on Jung again to explore this.

Sometimes a friend embodies an archetypal image for another, such as mother, sister, conquering hero, wise sage, etc.

More whoa: The symbolic role played by a friend in one’s life “may be vital to personal integration and wholeness.”

O’Callaghan says that just like there is a greater “collective unconscious,” there is also a collective unconscious within deep friendship that forms and characterizes that particular friendship.

4. Fruitfulness – Friendships “dead-end” when the focus is only on each other, therefore the power of friendship should not be limited to the friends themselves.

When there is deep unity “the relationship becomes an interpersonal person.”

It becomes necessary for the friends to find a common vision or cause larger than themselves. “For a relationship, like an individual, must reach beyond itself or wither.”

He gives as examples ministry, social service, prayer, common projects, and building institutions.

5. Distance – True friends relish the distance between them as much as the communion that unites them. This keeps friendship from turning into self-love, idolatry or narcissism.

O’Callaghan quotes author (and well-known blogger) Andrew Sullivan:

To ask what a friend is for is to mistake the nature of a friend. A friend is for herself and for nothing else. If you enter into a friendship to be less lonely, then it is not friendship.
6. Secrecy – Not secrecy in the sense of things deliberately being kept from others, but in the sense that there are so many things unique to the friendship – euphemisms, private jokes, nicknames, a language all their own – that an outsider couldn’t ever understand it because it’s a world only the friends can inhabit.

Finally, O’Callaghan says that the nature of true friendship is “embedded in the fundamental mysteries of the Christian faith.” He refers to an ancient church ritual called adelphopoesis, which was a sacramental rite for the blessing of a friendship.

Unfortunately this ritual fell into disuse a long time ago so I guess it’s up to us to bless and celebrate the feast of friendship.

Filed under: BooksFriendship


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