Body, Soul and Spirit 2: The Way of the Soul

3614955279_1404b6dde5_oaIn my second posting (1st here) on this beginning exploration and reassessment of what I’ve come to see as true, beautiful and good I’m going to look more into what Soul is and does. And again, I’m just going to go with my meanderings and contemplations; I’m not trying to be comprehensive and go through the history of that idea, or into explaining what distinguishes it from psyche etc. Much of that you can find by googling it and looking it up in the wikipedia and similar.

There are a couple of aspects of Soul that are important to me, now, aspects that can be put into these questions:

  • Reincarnation being a reality (will get into that a bit in just a minute), what is it that becomes – or is embedded in – flesh?
  • Given the very long duration of the Soul’s existence (don’t want to call it eternity until I’m sure it is), why would it incarnate in the first place? What is so interesting about hanging out in an embodied and matterful dimension?
  • And what about evolution, oneness, enlightenment in the light of the ‘never ending story’ (at least from an incarnated point of view) of the Soul?

I already mentioned my friend from Basel, Switzerland, who does remember a long line of incarnations and can actually see those of others as well. I haven’t mentioned that I’ve not taken reincarnation serious for most of my life – actually I considered it off and on, but I didn’t think it was relevant for this life. I rather liked the metaphor of Alan Watts, that an individual life is akin to a vortex in a river that can stay there for a very long time. And then it dissolves again. As long as it exists it evolves and even develops a sense of unique and separate existence, whereas it obviously is simply water whirling in a very particular way…

I’m not reconsidering because of the fear of dying and the desire to last any longer than my allotted (if it is allotted) time on earth. Some years ago, when on the Czech country-side, all alone by myself, I felt like I was having a heart-attack and seriously thought, “This is it!” And apart of not being able to say good-bye to my family and friends and telling them that “all is very good, and thank you for hanging out with me,” I felt very fine with dying, and was at peace with the what I then believed to be true – that I would end definitely; no further existence, an absolute end from my point of view, and a slow fading into oblivion in the larger context of the people who live on. There was no desire to stay and hang on to life or survival of my person or soul in any way.

graveThis is the conviction my father died with in January this year. But spontaneously, at the ceremony before his cremation, I said, “He’ll be surprised that death is not the end. Actually, they’ve got specialists in the next dimension for souls who were sure that there was nothing after death, to help them overcome the shock of post-mortem existence.” I don’t know where that came from, but I do tend to trust such matters. So I guess that was the beginning of opening up to the possibility of – at the very least – ‘surviving’ death in some way or other.

Looking into the research by Ian Stevenson and seeing some interesting videos on the topic it’s now quite clear to me that, as professor Dr. Robert Almeder puts it, “It would be irrational not to believe in reincarnation … if you have a very commanding argument that you cannot refute, not to accept the argument is irrational.” But, whatever the case may be, the material I’ve seen has convinced me that reincarnation is a matter of fact. But why does that matter?

It talks to me about what a human person is, at least what a person is giving expression to. It tells me that it is the Soul that reincarnates and sounds through you and me (old Greek: per sona, through sound). Obviously this gets me into philosophical trouble with materialists who believe that a person, consciousness and mind are phenomena caused by and utterly depend upon an embodied brain… but frankly, I don’t care. I go with the evidence as it presents itself, and then discuss, if one of my monist friends wants that.

underwater15aAfter this ground work on why reincarnation is obviously real I can come to my first question, “What is it that becomes – or is embedded in – flesh?

I will try to illustrate my thinking with two metaphors, music and character.
Imagine an orchestra. We hear a few instruments, then more, tuning to a common note, and when all instruments are tuned the conductor ticks on his desk and everything goes silent. He looks at the score, just to be sure, and starts conducting. The first notes of the music break through the hushed expectations and off we go: A new life, a new self is born, a new orchestral work sounds.
In it’s first notes it might be remniscent of some earlier music, some melodies half forgotten, and somehow – if we knew what came before – we might recognise a theme, or the way the composer goes about writing his music, or the style of the conductor. But then we embark upon the new work’s opening sequence and we are taken by the polyphony or symphony, or whatever our destiny sounds like.
In this metaphor reincarnation is like moving from orchestra to orchestra. Does it depend on the orchestra, how the sym-/polyphony sounds? Certainly it does. Do the instruments and voices matter? Certainly they do. Is the score, the music created by the orchestra? No; it has been written by a composer. Does the orchestra determine what is played? Not really; it is the conductor and the leadership of the orchestra that does that. In our metaphor it is the Soul and whomever the Soul consults with when it chooses the particular incarnation for this musical work.

Character is an ambiguous word as it refers to both persons and letters and words. Which is why I like it as a metaphor for what is embedded in flesh, what is incarnating. A body of writing, a poem, a story comes as characters on paper or screen (or sounds in the air, but let’s stick with the written word as we’ve already covered music and sound). Are the characters causing the poem? No, they embody it. Their embodiment certainly influences the reception, but that’s about it. It is the way the story is told, or the poem is composed that makes all the difference in the world, not what are its constituent letters – except, maybe, that a well readable typography is a good thing…

symph1Both these metaphors illustrate two aspects of reincarnation and a Soul’s Way – we cannot hear a symphony or polyphony without voices and instruments embodying it, and neither can we read a story or poem without the use of letters or ideograms. I’ve used both metaphors as if the embodied music or poetry pre-exists, but that doesn’t need to be so. Not being a composer I just know a bit about writing. Writing, in my case at least, develops as I’m writing and re-reading what I’ve written. And so our metaphors do not only answer what it is that incarnates but also if there needs to be a pre-existing fate or destiny. Does the end of the story already exist when we start with the first lines? It depends on the writer. In reincarnation it might depend on the maturity and artfulness of the Soul that composes the life; maybe it is already quite accomplished and has composed enough previous lives to be confident enough to ‘free-style’ in this life. Maybe it already knows the plot, and maybe not. I think we’ll know in the very end…

So does the Soul incarnate? Well, I’d say as much as an artist incarnates in a piece of art. While s/he’s in the act of creation, s/he’s absorbed by creating; maybe once in a while taking a few steps back, but that’s all there is for the time being… (Writing this I suddenly understand why great art touches us so deeply; the Soul is very much of an artist.)

Which brings us close to a possible answer to, “Why incarnate in the first place? What is so interesting about hanging out in an embodied and matterful dimension?” The richness of using a restricted palette is fascinating – matter, 3 space dimensions and 1 or 2 time dimensions, first-person perspective, impermanence, fallibility, spirit etc.
The view from a mountain top is amazing. We can see very far. We’re above the clouds. We can breath free. All is clear. This is very different from moving about in the valley, the jungle were we can see just a couple of meters, maybe. We’re right in the middle of the blood, sweat and tears, the parties, joys and beauties of deep immersion.
It seems to me incarnation expresses the unending creativity of Soul and it’s fascination with limits, impermanence and diversity.

Which brings me to the third and last question for now, “What about evolution, oneness, enlightenment in the light of a ‘never ending story’ of the Soul?”
Since a human life, a given incarnation, is very much akin to a symphony or a poem, a piece of art, it doesn’t make much sense to insist on the bourgeois imagination that the Soul is learning and moving to some superior state of enlightenment, divinity or some such, taking reincarnations to be a kind of school where with every life we have to learn some lessons or repeat them in a next one.
Obviously, in life, there is learning. And, obviously again, the orchestra and instruments have been evolving on this planet since it came into existence billions of years ago. And, even more obviously, human kind has been developing as a society in a more or less wholesome direction in spite of the numerous challenges we face. But to take that to mean that there is a goal to the Soul’s incarnating activities, and that this goal is some sort of unembodied existence as a post-enlightened being seems to be much more part of a heroic story-line than connected with the ‘goal’ of reincarnating.
Every piece of art is the artist expressing hirself – and possibly getting better at doing that with the given medium of expression – so a human person and particular life is the Soul’s expression, it’s writing in flesh and behavior, dreams and visions, joys and fears and everything else that comes with being alive.

Tat tvam asi! That thou art!Keizaburo Tejima, Swan Sky, 1983a

Body, Soul and Spirit 1: Modes of being alive

This is the very first installment of what I hope will become a Body, Soul and Spirit series of posts that will meander around most of the topics that keep fascinating me since a while.

Starting with a meeting with a great and lovely man in Basel, Switzerland who remembers a long line of incarnations in a, for me, absolutely credible way and context, I’ve started to reconsider most – and in the end probably all – of my convictions connected with body, soul, spirit, consciousness, life and what, who and why we are. (In my hippie-days Death used to be a more or less constant companion, and now s/he is in a new way, faced with the endingness of individual life a couple of times recently. This surely also plays a role: a renewed fascination with each night’s fading of awareness and the life of dreams, and the reappearance of more or less the same person in consciousness upon waking up…)

I will not be very philosophical, in the usual sense of that word, about this, even though I’m in love (philo) with wisdom (Sophia). This inquiry is also very personal, anecdotal and hopefully at times poetical. I might also rave and be full of pathos for something or other… we’ll see. What’ll be my guide, or should I say guides?, are my fascinations with what appears in the theater of what it is to be ‘me’. I could, of course, also call it the arena or the clearing – that space in which matters, things, imaginations, illusions and the real alight; what we ordinarily call consciousness, that mode of being alife that ever eludes our grip of understanding; trying to understand consciousness is as if the eye were trying to see itself, when the best it can do is see itself reflected in a mirror.

Modes of being alive

Being conscious, aware; being taken; in a pensive mood, reflecting on important and not so important, but urgent matters; reverie; witnessing, choiceless awareness; in the flow, totally immersed in sensual immediacy… many of the possible modes of being alive, and some of them mutually exclusive. When, for instance, I’m in a reflective mode – and mood, as often I am these days – I can’t really witness being reflective more than generally, can’t reflect and be choicelessly aware and without judgement at the same time. Isn’t reflecting closely considering a matter, the way the soul participates in life for instance, and looking what this means, what are the concepts being nourished on soul and what are relevant experiences, and what have interesting persons said about this matter? Witnessing this reflection I wouldn’t follow one thread or another but rather I’d let them all unfold as they please as, also, sensations of breath come up and unfold and whatever else unfolds or pops up in consciousness. Witnessing is mostly passive, and only active in extracting oneself from being caught up in any of the phenomena that are witnessed.

adi_da_samraj2Certainly, when in a deeply enlightened mode of awareness, everything can be done or not done – but then there is no witness, no anyone, and, really it is so beyond anything that means something to me as human that I’m not really interested in ‘getting there’ again. Also, those that are supposed to be there – claiming it for themselves or others claiming it on their behalf, the followers or disciples – do not have any characteristics that seems truly valuable; on the contrary, there seems to be an atmosphere of megalomania around them, an air of absolute altitude, an assumed divinity that unpacks as utterly undesirable social context. The unresolved power-issues around that mode of aliveness in our day and age – enlightened teachers abusing their students – are such that however true and beautiful that mode is from the inside of it, it is best left alone.

On the other side of the spectrum, or so it seems, is flow, a mode of being alive that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has made popular; flow as total immersion into what you’re doing. In sports it’s been called ‘being in the zone’. Witnessing could be said to be transcendent to everything that appears and flow as being totally immanent – you’re totally in it. You can witness the flow of events but then you’re not in the flow because being in the flow collapses any kind of witnessing as activity that plays a role, even though there is a particular kind of awareness available. But it’s more that the awareness of it is part of the flow as a whole than that the flow would happen within consciousness. For me this happens in dancing with closed eyes, easily, or in something called body-flow, where the body can just do what it feels like doing… It’s mostly a very sensual experience, being in a physical sensing mode.

Seems I had to do some explaining to come to the main dish I’m serving here which is that these modes of being alive are in a very large sense mutually exclusive. We are polymorphs, being with many (poly) forms (morphe) and – something I might pursuit at a later time – maybe there is really no unity below all this; although there is the idea that “Isness” – a German term coming from Meister Eckhart, “Istigkeit” – would describe that essential unity, something Mister Tolle calls The Power of Now. Nevertheless we cannot both be in the flow and witnessing at the same time. We could do that in a team, with a third friend then reflecting on what we’re doing, you in the flow, me being choicelessly aware of all this. Which brings me to another very mysterious mode of being that I’ve been blessed to participate in at times: the mode of we-fullness, as I keep calling it, the mode of being with others in such a way that you are deeply convinced and experience yourself to partake of a collective being, the ‘circle-being’ , the first inkling of a collective consciousness, I think, the becoming aware as a living multi-personal field.

foodBack to the main dish. As we do not eat hors d’oevre, main dish and dessert all at once, as that would maybe not taste so great, or at least very different from tasting them separately, so this goes for the modes of being alive. The “One Taste” (Ken Wilber’s diary-like book on being in non-dual mode most of the time) is really a “special taste”, a “particular taste” that some people like and evangelize about; but it is neither superior to other tastes, unless you like it, of course, nor is it the basic essence of all other dishes. The commonality is that it’s all food, but that doesn’t make it one, dish.

Honoring all meals and dishes we are served by life and psyche, by being and soul, by the gods and whoever else cooks them (including all the cooks inside of us) means neither reducing them to the recipes nor to their essential ingredients but eating them with mouth, nose and everything else, actually tasting the meals and the company we eat them in.

Emperors_New_Clothes

We’re polymorphs, able to take on many forms – or maybe it’s forms that take us on; it’s voices that speak us, maybe the voice of the enlightened spirit, the pensive wizard, the flowing joy, the heroic responsible person, the mystic poet and so endless on. There is no need, whatsoever, to become monotheistic about diversity, to call on our unity, to invoke our oneness, to go for the One that keeps it all together. That, as it reveals itself to me more and more obviously, is the naked emperor whose new clothes of the unity of his realm really do not amount to anything but the ego’s (or hero’s) vanity. Yes, in a certain mode of being alive I have experienced an all-pervading oneness, an ecstatic experience par excellence. But it is only in reflection that I can turn this into the essential or absolute or superior or ‘real’ (maybe even with capital letters); a reflection I’ve followed for most of my life. But not so anymore as I’ve come to honor the multitude of meals and cooks, all feeding the soul.

And this post, quite obviously, has been created in a reflective mode of being.

Laboratory of Life

With the fire is gold tested. — Alchemical saying

alchemy01Looks like I’m asked to look at the next steps in this destiny that I find myself in. There has been today a tinge of desperation. I talked to my father who was just returning from hospital. Important people in my family believe that he doesn’t stay with us for very long and I should go make my peace with him.
Talking with him he said, he wouldn’t have minded dying. I said, I understand this but that I want to come visit him early next year and that he has to stick around for that. “Can you manage to do that for me?” I asked. And he said that he would do his best.

I’m asking myself if I can bear this now at this time. Just having gone through a very intense period of which the Experiment was an important and enabling part, I felt that some rest would do me good. So I’m asking my father to just hang in there a little longer. Because I need to tell him that I’ve made peace with my destiny and that he can go knowing this to be so.

No wonder, kids tell me that they don’t want to grow up. We all will arrive at a point were we’ll have to face our character. This basic pattern that navigates our destiny and how it apperas to us at the time. For at what stage of development we are determines for a large part how we face our destiny – that part of life that is given through our habits and the behavior we expressed in the past.

divinemarriageIntimate relationship and life and death.
My father is going to go for good in the next months, if I am to believe my family’s expectations. And the relationship in which I am embedded will go through this with me. I am blessed, and also I have to take care of my strengths, to keep them awake but not under stress. Destiny is giving me a chance to prepare, and my partner’s love helps me move on the soul’s level.

Presently I’m reading “The Reflexive Universe” by Arthur Young that portraits and demonstrates a developmental physics/evolution/life science which interestingly has a U-shape; it’s a process of light losing its freedom and “falling” through 3 stages and turning on the 4th, the molecular level to start what we call “life”: plants, animal, men?; each level up the second half of the U having more freedom again.
What I have understood so far is inspiring – and most inspiring I find Young’s ideas about the animal “group-soul”, and then that with man the evolutionary jump to an individual soul is made.

Group-souls being on the second level up the 2nd half of the U are resonating with the first stage of the “fall” of light into “matter” as particles: photons, electrons that on the next stage, where atoms form the 3rd kingdom (light being the first realm or kingdom, particles the 2nd, atoms the 3rd, molecules the 4th, plants – 1 level up te U on the 5th, animals on the 6th and man on the 7th). Particles are in space but not in time. they are eternal, as eternak as are the group-souls on the opposite side of the U.

postcard21Individual souls in this cosmology are eternal; they interact with matter by what can be described as a non-vsible force-field – creativity being a matter of the right timing of the soul. I was gladly living with the possibility that after death – nothing. Life being forever the place for the living.
John Heron’s experiences and now what Young writes makes me change my perspective. This book falling into my hands, making such a convincing case for an eternal individual soul (as an evolutionary development!), and at the same time learning of my father’s health…

Looks like alchemy has a point when it talks about refining the matters that go into the laboratory. Life, as it unfolds and flows, is the labratory and my feelings and intelligence, my experiences are the “matter” that is being refined.
And sometimes you have to let the Work rest…