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

The Living Field & the Art of Living

childrendetail3-cory_enchWikipedia: Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music and literature.

In my most recent post I have been revisiting what I’ve called the Living Field, how I experience it and how I’ve worked with it and still do. Michel Bauwens of the P2P foundation extracted a “typology of fields” from that post and talked about it here.
I don’t know if it was the “Goldberg-Variations field” that Jascha Rohr tweeted about in response that got me thinking about art as a particular type of constellation of the living field or if it was the Wikipedia definition of art; it might also have been the dream I had this morning of creating a large scale systemic constellation in some unknown land and being struck by the beauty of what emerged…

One of the most amazing characteristics of a living field is that it creates epiphanies, realizations or comprehensions of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. In systemic constellations this might be some explicit pattern in the system one inquires into that is surfacing as an “Eureka!” experience, a surprising insight into why or how things are as they are; in a circle that has managed to surrender into a highly coherent we-fulness the epiphany can be the tacit experience of individually being embedded in a higher We or “Circle Being”; and in a Dynamic Presencing constellation it can be the undeniable sense of unity with ‘all-there-is’.
The living field is, it seems, childrendetail1-cory_enchcontinually creating or triggering epiphanic in-formation in living beings. And since my main gate to the spiritual realm is beauty – truth is beauty, love is beauty, the gods are beauty, the essence of life is beauty etc. – to talk about epiphanies is to talk about essential beauty. Beauty – something many of us look for in art – is an epiphany more or less strongly altering our conscious state, momentarily or sometimes even permanently changing us by changing the way we perceive the world and interact with it.

In previous posts I have suggested that a living field is a particular – often dynamic – constellation of elements and/or beings in space and time. It can be regarded as the network, the mesh of relations between all these elements and beings involved. We could also imagine a living field as a web of relationships that in and of themselves already are dynamic, comparable to a melody which can only be enjoyed or understood in their flow.
[This makes me think of the neuronal network in the brain and that this particular constellation gives rise to the ultimate form of beauty: consciousness.]

Take these lines of poetry:

Here are the miracle-signs you want: that
you cry through the night and get up at dawn, asking,
that in the absence of what you ask for your day gets dark,
your neck thin as a spindle, that what you give away
is all you won, that you sacrifice belongings,
sleep, health, your head, that you often
sit down in a fire like aloes wood, and often go out
to meet a blade like a battered helmet.

When acts of helplessness become habitual,
those are the signs.

But you run back and forth listening for unusual events,
peering into faces of travelers.
“Why are you looking at me like a madman?”
I have lost a friend. Please forgive me.

— from Acts of Helplesssness by Rumi

What makes the hair on my skin stand as I read the poem? Is it how I relate to it? Is it how words and meaning of the lines relate to each other as in, “to meet a blade like a battered helmet“? I don’t know. But following the trace of the experience in my imagination/memory it feels as if at a certain moment all the relationships between words, lines, meaning, feeling ‘gel’ into a highly coherent whole. The ecology of the living field has reached a tipping point and evokes an insight, feelings, childrendetail2-cory_enchconnectedness, inspiration – sheer beauty.
This leads me to the understanding that creating the ecology and atmosphere for a living field to resonate with high coherence is very much akin to art. This type of creation, though, goes way beyond the above mentioned definition of art as “deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions“. Creating living field art is also related to the question that shapes the boundary of that ecological niche of highly coherent resonance, asking, “Which dimension am I going to call on, explore and what are the ways, values and means I set out with?”

We know nothing of the living field in ‘ordinary circumstances’ – it is epiphanies that indicate the whereabouts of the high resonant spaces within it that can be used for artful constellation. And then, once the artist has gone through the epiphanic process provided by the living field, s/he can constellate circumstances and deliberately arrange elements so as to propagate an epiphany-prone ‘object of art’. A conversation, a poem, singing, growing a garden, sitting in a circle, writing, dynamic presencing, participatory design, intense we-fulness, the blossoming of the heart-chakra, cooking, painting, cuing up, communing with disembodied entities, a smile on the bus… it is epiphanies that turn these moments and movements into art, making space for beauty in form. There is, of course, always a magic at work, something forever out of control of the artist. Without it all these moments and ‘objects of art’ lose their color and feel; without this mysterious extra it all lacks authentic, beautiful presence in our real-life-stream.

childrendetail-cory_enchAn artist, a living field artist recognizes this ‘magic’, s/he follows its scent to where there is ‘light in the atmosphere’ that is on the brink of emerging as epiphany. S/he’ll arrange – often without knowing how – the words, gestures, colors, beings so that their relationships invoke and evoke, tease out what flows and resounds between them; these streaming sounds, the melody of the artist’s doing, entrain the relating participants into epiphany-prone circumstance. This is where everybody and everything involved is unfolding in a deeper, higher, utterly satisfying space, round and resting in itself, and expressing in religious people spiritually, in the aesthetic ones as beauty, in inquisitive beings as realizations and insights, in philosophic and scientific minds as truth, in life’s sailors as the winds of love, in kosmic space cowboys as bliss-bubbles, in earthlings as the joyful gravity of reality.

Becoming an artist of life entails more than sniffing out, co-creating, co-evolving the forms and ecologies for epiphany, it is developing spiraling processes that enlarge the circle of resonant living fields in the manifest and virtual realms by participating in their emergence wherever that may be, “making it up as we go” with all the other feelers of the collective world-being we truly are.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

childrenstorymural-cory_ench

Mural by Cory Ench

An Artful View of (Western) Civilisation

Reminding me somewhat of the Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, Marco Brambilla‘s video installation is traveling from Hell to heaven in an elevator… well, not really, it just looks as if we’re in one. Not much I can say about this, really, except that I’ve looked at it in HQ and on the whole screen many times now… it’s quite a trip!

Some more information on the making of this video installation and a quicktime version of this video here.

The Nest that Sailed The Sky

I’m so happy to have stumbled upon this video – the music is by Peter Gabriel, one of the most creative musicians that I know. I don’t usually like music videos as they tend to subtract from what I can see with closed eyes when listening. This is different. Relax. Breathe in and out and click play…

The Nest That Sailed The Sky from Glenn Marshall

You can find a HD version here.

Amazing Art in (In-)Action

I was alerted to this movie by George Por, and love it so much I’ll republish it here.

Enjoy!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwMj3PJDxuo