Sunday, 22 March 2009

Spirit ~ Soul ~ Ego

For years I followed the path of Reclaiming. I yearned for community. I yearned to be in a place where I could learn and explore who I was. A place of healing. Connecting. Growing. A meeting place ~ cross-roads. A place to Learn, make mistakes and try new things out. Remember. Risk seeing who others were for themselves and in relation to the Other. Expand and be expansive. Be touched and be alive. To make sense of who I was or could be. Find my name or names. Learn the names of others be they human, fey, God or Goddess, plant or spirit. Dare to feel. Dare to grow. Dare to heal. A fullness in my senses ~ of my sense. A meeting of souls. A place of Spirit.

I left Reclaiming and placed my yearning and longing in a relationship. And placed my energies in an idea of a partnership where I would with one other explore, heal and connect. Co-create.

but my healing was not from this heady ideal. This healing was more blood, guts and bone.

For a year now I have been a single explorer. Not solitary as I am joined by friends. And I am no longer on one path. I have been following my heart. Not my head. Which is and can be confusing to my head.

This is because I have been finding a debate going on with myself which I have been experiencing as conflict between the paths of Spirit ~ Soul and Ego.
Which has more importance? Which should come first? Where is the separation. Is there a cross-over or overlap? What do others mean when using the term of Spirit ~ Soul or Ego. How do I frame and/or contextualize who am I in relation to....?Where is my desire? Where is my passion? How and when should I listen to my mind or soul? Where does Spirit fit in?

For me those questions did not just touch my own personal need for meaning or framework to place my self but I had been witnessing a duality and struggle in differing spiritual approaches. Where I have repeatedly found myself experiencing a gap and blind spot with groups following differing spiritual approaches. Part of me longed to be happy and content. What was wrong? Was the error in me? Maybe it was part of being an edgewalker. But questions would still arise on whether I need to pathologies this 'edgewalker'. Was this fear of commitment? Or intimacy? Was what I was feeling a product and consequence of modern western capitalistic society with a lack of extended family and community? And so I would find myself going around in circles.

Then I came across this book SoulCraft by Bill Plotkin. I found a passage which made sense for me - it illustrates the path to the Secret Garden which I think Stewart Pearce refers to the 'Secret Chamber' of the Heart. Here are some key quotes from SoulCraft which tracked this journey of discovery and remembering which has shown me there is a third way!:

"By soul I mean the vital, mysterious, and wild core of our individual selves, an essence unique to each person, qualities found in layers of the self much deeper than our personalities. By spirit I mean the single, great and eternal mystery that permeates and animates everything in the universe and yet transcends all. Ultimately, each soul exists as an agent for spirit."

"Our human souls are embodied {ie made visible in the world} through our core powers, our deepest and most enduring powers, those central to our character and necessary to manifest our soul-level uniqueness. Our core powers can be divided into our most central values, abilities, and knowledge. Our core values are the ideals for which we would be willing to die and for which we in fact live. Our core abilities are the natural talents or gifts indispensable for performing our soul work: these abilities are developed effortlessly or are capable of being honed to exceptional levels. Our core knowledge consists of those mysterious, soul-level things we know without knowing how we know them and that we acquire without effort: they are the facts essential to performing our soul work."

"Your soul is transpersonal and other because it is deeper and far more expansive than your conscious mind. Your soul encompasses many qualities of which you are not yet aware and may never become aware, including qualities you may flatly deny"

"Spirit, of course, is transpersonal, too. It is independent of any beliefs or knowledge you have about yourself, no matter how shallow or deep, ridiculous or sublime. Spirit simply invites you to return to spirit [and the universal essence of the self] through surrender to the present moment."

"Although both are Transpersonal {Soul and Spirit}, spirit takes you in one direction from the conscious mind or personality, and soul takes you in the other. The movement toward spirit is a journey of ascent, a journey of transcendence, while the movement toward your soul is a journey of descent, or what Thomas Berry calls 'inscendence', a journey that deepens"

So on reading this I thought this makes so much sense to me! Why I have been drawn to differing paths ones which embrace Soul and ones which embrace Spirit...until recenty where I have found a third way....Bill Plotkin goes on to describe this split/duality often found in spiritual/religous paths/traditions:

"People who live excessively upperworld lives take a transcendental view of everything. They tend to see light, love, unity and peace everywhere. They are attached to the Course of Miracles or aspire to 'enlightenment' via an ungrounded approach to Buddhism. they avoid getting dragged down into the particulars of life or actively addressing the social, political, or environmental deterioration of the world. They want to exist above it all and are encouraged to do so by many approaches to spirituality....
People who live excessively underworld lives see the world darkly. They tend to see hidden meaning, mystery, and the undoing of things everywhere. They gravitate toward the occult and the paradoxical. They prefer the night or the shadows and may find themselves addicted to the gothic and the arcane."

" A holistic approach to spirituality interweaves the ascent and the descent, rendering balance to the experience of both the upperworld and underworld"

Bill Plotkin goes on to say that soul and spirit are not opposed to one another...

"Soul opens the door to the unknown or the not-yet-known, while the spirit is the realm beyond knowledge of any kind, consciousness without an object. Soul is encounted in the subconsious [ie that which lies below awareness], while spirit is apprehended in state of superconsciousness."

Bill Poltkin suggests the Shamanic model for where the Spirit ~ Soul ~ Ego reside:

"In many traditions, these three realms correspond to three different worlds. The upperworld is the home of spirit, the underworld the home of souls, and the middleworld the home of our human personalities and bodies. The middleworld represents the personal and interpersonal [including the social and political] and the upper and lower worlds represent the two poles of transpersonal, or spiritual".

Humans are like a Tree or a Cross~Roads ~ our root sink into soul and our branches reach to spirit. However, we must not forget the healing of the ego in order to embark on initiation...

" A well-balanced ego is the necessary carrier of the gift of the soul. Soulcraft at the wrong time can undermine the ego's viability. Shadow work, for example which helps us recover rejected parts of our selves, many not be the best idea for people in the early stages of recovery from substance addictions, sexual abuse, or other emotional traumas. A vision quest or fast would not be advisable for clinically depressed person. The soulcraft use of hallucinogens, even if they were legal, would not be wisely recommended to children, most teenagers, or adults with poor ego boundaries"

Bill Blotkin explains his context/meaning of the term ego:

"when I write ego, I refer to a person's everyday conscious self. The word everyday is key: I mean the conscious self while in its normal, everyday state of consciousness. Our state of consciousness - our way of being conscious - can and does change, sometimes becoming deepened, heightened, or otherwise shifted. The conscious self in a significantly altered state lies outside what I mean by ego."

" A mature ego understands the occasional necessity of surrendering to - or being defeated by - a force greater than itself, sometimes during the death-rebirth of soul encounter {when ego surrenders to soul} and other times during ego transcendence { when ego surrenders to spirit}. Ego obstructs personal development when it gets stuck, lost or entrenched at any life stage - when it resists change, loss, grief, or radical transformation at the hands of the gods and goddesses"

Bill Plotkin refers to the need for all humans to go through initiation. This would happen around adolescence. And makes the suggestion that adolescent rebellion can be the desire to find their self and identity in relation of their soul and the Spirit. This initiation would be held by a community.In our western capitalist society this desire to find our soul's core powers,core values and knowledge can easily been mis-understood and mis-interpreted. This natural desire to connect having been warped by the wrong use of the lens of western capitalism.

So now when I reflect on my journey I am reassured that I was listening to my self and soul. It was wise for me to seek therapy to strengthen and heal my ego. Gain an increasing sense of self. Bill Plotkin advice is this that before going on a 'walkabout' one needs the tools and stable support structures. Such as either literally or symbolically being able to read a map and use a compass.

Bill Plotkin, Chapter Groundwork from Soulcraft.

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