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Why Self-Worth Leads to Worthlessness

Posted by Chris Dierkes in Emotions, Healing Arts, Shamanism, The Imaginal, The Soul

Energy healer and author Cyndi Dale argues that one of the core negative beliefs a human being can have is “I am unworthy”. She describes a number of such core negative beliefs: e.g. I am powerless, I am unlovable, I don’t belong, and I am undeserving. And for her, all those are variations on an arch-belief: “I am separate.”

I think she’s onto something. Maybe there are others that could be added but that’s a solid list. In my work with individuals, I’ve come to think that all of us have at least one of those core negative beliefs (if not more than one). Of that list, the strongest one for me, the one that has had the most negative impact in my life is: “I don’t belong.”

Knowing what the core belief (or beliefs) are is a very important first step but by itself is not sufficient to change the underlying dynamic for a person. I’ve known that I feel and believe myself to be an outsider pretty much my whole life. I was adopted so I felt like an outsider in my own family. I felt even more of an outsider in the wider world of school, other families, childhood peers, and later in my life with other people.

So knowing that is on one level affirming. Yes I struggle with that one. Knowing all of them more broadly has given me greater empathy–I have a particularly sensitivity obviously for folks, like, me, with the “I don’t belong” one, but learning this model has given me a much greater appreciation of the struggles and deep pains of other people.

The resolution to these core negative beliefs requires connecting to the energy that ought to be there instead. As an example, for I am unlovable that would of course be the experience/state of being of “I am lovable. I am loved. I am loving.” For I am powerless it would be, “I am, as I am, a being with the capability for power and choice.”

The core belief I see most commonly in my practice is “I am unworthy.” And I’ve noticed something interesting in working with this negative belief. Namely that the energy that resolves this belief is not–what would seem at first blush to be the obvious solution–“I am worthy.”

What I’ve discovered is that I am worthy as an energy, as a feeling-belief statement, as a state of being, is caught in the very same problem as I am worthless. I thought that “I am worthy” would be the obvious resolution to the belief of I am unworthy but to my surprise it’s not.

I’ve come to think unworthiness and worthiness like a chinese finger trap.

Chinese fingers traps were really popular as a kid where I grew up. We’d always win them at summer church festivals. If you’re not familiar with these the are deceptively ensnaring. You put your fingers in each end of the trap. Your instincts tell you to pull your fingers out of the trap but pulling them out is what causes the trap to be set and your fingers to bet stuck.

No matter how many times I played with the chinese finger trap, I’d fall for it again and again and again. Even when my brain was telling me not to get my fingers caught, even when I rationally knew how to avoid the trap, I’d still fall into it.

This is a perfect metaphor (I think) for the question of worth.

Worthiness and unworthiness are the two sides of the finger trap. As long as we play the game of either worthiness or unworthiness we’re trapped–we pull right (affirming our worthiness) and we are trapped. We pull left (into familiar unworthiness) and we’re still stuck.

What I’ve come to believe is even the statement “I am worthy” is very subtly denying the dignity of a person. It is still part of the trap around worth (even though it sounds so much more affirming than I am unworthy or I am worthless). Deep down I believe we all realize that saying we are worthy is a crock of you- know-what. There are people who can very forthrightly say they are worthy and so on–we see these people as having high self-esteem often enough. My experience, on the contrary, is that they are deeply bound, deeply needy, deeply dependent on their projected self-image. To live from a place of I am worthy is to force oneself into life. It’s a posture that make demands of life (that obviously must be met since after all I’m worthy of them). It’s falsely aggressive.

Worthiness and unworthiness, the energetic finger trap, are both products of a world without grace or redemption. The person who feels unworthy might believe there is so much deeper grace in the universe but they haven’t met the requirements. They are unworthy, they have not earned, such grace. Which goes against the very definition of grace, i.e. unearned, free gift.

Rather than having to gain the approval of others or even life itself (like their unworthy counterparts), the ones who feels worthy also do not believe in nor experience a life of grace. They don’t need the approval of life or others, rather others (and even life itself) exist to serve them. Other people must earn their approval. The worthy ones are, after all, already and forever worthy of the affections, desires, and affirmations of others. There is no grace there because grace, again, is free gift. It is unearned. The same pattern holds both positively (I am worthy) and negatively (I am unworthy).

Unworthiness and worthiness–the two sides of the finger trap.

The key to escape from a chinese finger trap is to counterintuitively push your fingers further into the middle of the trap. As a consequence the trapping mechanism lets loose of its own and the ends widen. At that point your fingers gently slide right out.

We need a similar kind of movement in relation to the energetic topic of worthiness.

The answer to the finger trap of energetic (un)worthiness is Dignity.

Beings are inherently dignified. Being itself, in its essence, is dignified.

Dignity is a quality of the Sovereign Soul. The Sovereign aspect of our being does’t need to earn worthiness, nor does it struggle with having lost worthiness (or never having gained it in the first place). The Sovereign simply swims in the waters of Dignity. Inherent, intrinsic Dignity. And when a person feels the deep inherent Dignity of their Sovereign Soul, then questions about worthiness or unworthiness just drop away. The hooking mechanism of the energetic finger trap has released and the fingers spontaneously free themselves.

The word dignity comes from an ancient root meaning “to take or accept.” It later has the sense of proper or fitting (e.g. proper rank), as well as honor or privilege. The Sovereign Soul has a proper, fitting dimension to its being. It “takes” or rather “accepts” its natural state. It properly fits into the wider realities of Life. The Sovereign Soul has its proper fit, its proper place or “rank” within the deep ordering of Life. There is a rightful sense of its honor, of “privilege” for oneself as well as the proper fit, honors, and privileges accorded other beings.

The word dignity did eventually come to mean worthy–as in “worthy of proper honor, privilege, or respect”. It’s closer to the energy of “taking” rather than “accepting”. Here I mean taking in the negative sense. And this is where the energy goes sideways as now we have to earn our place in life, i.e. our proper fit. A life where we have to earn and struggle for respect and honor. A world where whoever is on top–whoever has wealth or power or control—gets to decide who receives honor and respect and who does not.

This way of living automatically creates stress and tension. If we can earn worthiness than we can of course un-earn it. It is unstable. If one can “take” worthiness, then someone presumably can take it from us. If we are forced to “accept” worthiness, then that means someone else has control over us.

Hence all the elbowing, jockeying, fighting ways of being. All the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” contractual, obligatory relational patterns. All to preserve some semblance of worth.

But it all turns out to be a facade.

The entire arena of competition that runs so much of our world drops away at he level of the Sovereign Soul. Here is true Worth. Here we have true Honor and Respect.

When we connect with Dignity, Capital D, then all this world of posturing, avarice, and competitiveness, is like dead skin. It just flakes off. It doesn’t require a heroic effort to peel it all away, it just peels itself off. The trap has been released.

In this place each person is intrinsically Dignified. I am intrinsically Dignified. You are intrinsically Dignified. So however are all other beings and we begin to notice this obvious truth.

There is however no practice, no meditation, no affirmation, no healing technique, no process for one to gain Dignity. None. Absolutely positively none. Zero. Zilch. Nada. For if Dignity, capital D Dignity, could be gained through some kind of process than it could be lost. If it required some action in order to feel Dignified, in order to be Dignified, then it would have a beginning in time. All things that have beginnings must have endings.

If there is a beginning to Dignity then there was a time when you were not Dignified. And now we’re back to the finger trap. If you work hard and then feel worthy then you must have felt unworthy before and that means you could very easily fall back into feel unworthy. Which means you have to hold on like hell to the feeling of worthiness, which is anxiety producing.

Instead, realize your Sovereign Soul, aka realize your distinct flavor of incarnation. Each of us is a singular expression of the universal process. Each of us is a Personalized Expression of the Life Process. That dimension of your being, your Sovereignty, your Soul, is automatically in a state of Dignity. Dignity is an attribute or quality of The Sovereign Soul. And once there is Dignity, fundamental, intrinsic, inherent Dignity, then the whole game of worthiness and unworthiness simply ends. The finger trap is released and one is liberated from ever having to play such a game.

The chinese finger trap is after all a practical joke which as wikipedia helpfully states is meant to be played on “unsuspecting children or adults.” The worthiness-unworthiness is game is far more serious, far less humorous, than a practical joke. It ruins people’s lives. But so long as we are “unsuspecting” we leave ourselves open to being played.

The feeling of Dignity is an automatic effect of realizing, connecting with, and ultimately identifying with your Sovereign Soul. That’s the counterintuitive move here–like pushing your fingers into the trap. Once you bring your consciousness and inquire into worthiness and unworthiness then you are like the person pushing their fingers into the middle of the trap. You open space. Then you can connect with your Soul and its inherent attribute of Dignity. Then your the fingers of your Sovereignty are freed.

If the Sovereign Soul does not take up this crucial life area, then the self (the ego, the personality) ends up trying to do the work of Dignity. When the self takes control of this life area we don’t end up with Dignity (which as I’ve said is a Sovereign Soul energy) but rather we end up with the focus on self-worth on worthiness, which as we’ve seen, inevitably leads to its opposite energy of unworthiness.

The self, in other words, will never believe it is ultimately worthy. It will always be caught in the game of trying to prove it’s own worth, automatically thereby cultivating a shadow energy of unworthiness, of lack, of a sense of deficiency. There is no way out of that flaw from the ego. The ego runs on a closed loop. Asking the ego/self to do the work of Dignity is asking it to do a job it is not equipped to do. It is unfair for judging it as having failed to do something it is not capable of doing. That way leads to negative, dehumanizing, debilitating shame and a profound sense of worthlessness.

Focusing on building self-worth means the self is supposed to be in charge of the process. It’s right there in the name itself: self-worth. But the self is the very thing that feels and believes itself to be unworthy so how is it that it is going to do the work of creating self-worth? It will have to receive a message that it (the self) is, as it is, deeply flawed and is wrong and therefore needs to change, which of course will only fuel a greater sense of worthlessness. At this point the practice of self-worth which is supposed to create a greater feeling of self-worth is actually creating a deeper sense of worthlessness.

In contrast to that egoic reality, the Sovereign Soul offers an inherent, intrinsic sense of Dignity which cuts through any need to prove worth and thereby the fear being proven unworthy. Only the Sovereignty knows it’s Dignity. Be that one and the rest can start to figure itself out.

03 May 2016 2 comments / READ MORE

Climate Change and The Retrieval of The World Soul

Posted by Chris Dierkes in Healing Arts, Philosophy, Shamanism, The Imaginal, The Soul

A client recently asked me how I would take the learnings from my private practice with individuals in soul work and apply to climate change.

What does soul work have to say about climate change? 



It’s a crucial question and in order to do justice to it a bit of background is necessary. 

A while back I wrote a piece on the interplay of soul work with racism. It was an initial foray into the exploration of what I think soul work means in relationship to collective human identity and expression. 

One definition of a soul is that it is the coordinating subtle field of a being. The soul is what brings coherence to a being. The soul co-ordinates all the information of a being–their pasts, presents, and potential futures–into one fluid, coherency. The soul is what makes us fit (more or less) together as a being. The soul is the deepest essence, the unique expression of a being. The soul is what makes someone that particular being that they alone are and not another. The soul is what makes us us.

The word soul however can also be used in a more collective sense. For example, the soul of a nation, the soul of a people, the soul of a place.

One of the most important aspects of our souls is that they can be hurt. Souls are powerful yes, but also tender and vulnerable. Just like individual souls, collective souls, can experience wounding, negative conditioning (i.e. karma), fragmentation, and illness. In that earlier piece I considered white American racism towards black Americans through the lens of a collective soul illness, a stain on the collective white American soul. Just as there are traditions (e.g. shamanism) that deal for individuals with healing and transforming soul illness, so there are such ways to heal and transform collective souls of their illnesses.

The healing and transformation of a soul (whether individual or collective) goes hand in hand. In my understanding, soul work can be summarized as clearing on the one hand and healing (or transmutation) on the other. In clearing there are certain energies that must simply depart or be recycled. In classic language that’s called an extraction or an exorcism (from the Greek “to cast out”).

On the other hand we have healing or transmutation, also called shadow work. Once energies that need to be cleared are cleared, then what remains is what is to be worked with. In soul work we go into the (remaining) darkness only to find a light hidden in the darkness. We then learn how to release the light. Once the light is released, the darkness dissolves. Transmutation comes from the traditions of alchemy (and tantra)–where it is said that the poison becomes the antidote. The antidote to snake venom is often created from the very same venom itself. The venom in its transmuted or liberated form becomes the antidote. 

Knowing the difference between which energies are to be cleared and which are to be transmuted is central to the entire process.

I’ve written many pieces exploring that transmutation model through the medium of emotions–hate, fear, shame, terror–how all of them have their own enlightened expression. Rather than putting certain emotions into positive or negative emotions, we simply have emotions. The question is whether the emotion is in its conscious and healthy or unconscious and unhealthy state (or some in between state). What is positive or negative is our relationship to our emotions and how we act from our emotions, not the emotions themselves. 

In alchemy lead, the basest metal, was transmuted into gold, i.e. the most purified metal. We take the base or unconscious forms of emotions and transmute them into their purified expression. The lead becomes gold, the poison becomes antidote, the darkness becomes light. That is soul work.

(Keep this view in mind as I’m going to apply it to climate change in a moment).

This soul work view is opposed to views that seek to “destroy evil”, i.e. the war mindset that dominates our world. Wars against poverty, terror, crime, drugs, cancer, you name it. These wars only ever worsen the problems. Has the drug war done anything except create a gargantuanly greater degree of violence, suffering, and pain? 

In soul work the (re)solution always lies hidden within the problem itself. The war view only seeks to destroy the problem/enemy. All the war mindset does is create further brokenness and fragmentation. This occurs automatically because the solution lies within the problem itself, not in the eradication of the problem.

The problem (really the symptom or exterior expression) however has to be handled with exquisite, and extreme care. It is a live wire and needs to be worked with in a very sensitive, refined manner. But when it is done properly, the light will be released from the darkness, the lead will turn to gold, and the poison will transmute into its own antidote.

With that background we can approach this topic of collective urgency, arguably the most important issue facing humanity as a whole: climate change.

Does the framework of collective souls and soul work-transmutation reveal a deeper meaning to climate change? And if so, what?

So first how does the idea of collective soul patterning shed light on the subject? Consider two major collective souls—the soul of humanity and the soul of the Earth (aka The World Soul or Anima Mundi).

The World Soul, the Soul of the Earth, is the collective organizing subtle field of all life on and as Earth. The World Soul is the energy, the essence of Earth Life. The waters, the winds, the tides, the tectonic plates, the grasses, insects, mammals, birds, all animal life, the trees, the skies, the mountains, the plains, the coastlines, the deserts, the forests, the jungles. The psychic reality of all of that is the World Soul. 

The World Soul is not simply then a concept but a lived, conscious reality. The World Soul has been experienced by seers and visionaries through a multitude of human cultures and time periods, e.g. through the artful use of plant medicines, as well as in more classic meditation or visionary shamanic journeys.

On the other hand we have a collective soul to humanity. This soul of our humanity carries the deep memory of all of our human stories and journeys, all our pasts glories and tragedies, all our present experiences, and all possible future paths (at least in potential). 

My belief is that climate change is a symptom, a global symptomatic, material, physical response, to the psychic fracture between The World Soul and the collective Human Soul. 

As humans, our collective soul has disowned The World Soul.* Earth is disowned in our human soul expression. Since soul is the organizing subtle pattern of all reality, this disowning of the World Soul infects each and every sector of human expression.

For example, in economics the impact of technology and commerce on Earth is put in a category called “externalities”. To “externalize” the Earth is an act of psychic dismemberment. It is a kind of psychic lobotomy or amputation. 

To externalize the Earth is to put the World Soul in the shadow. It is to disown and “otherize” an aspect of one’s own being.

In soul work there’s an understanding that once an energy is sent into the shadow it will always reveal itself in a distorted, twisted, “sideways” manner. The reason the energy comes out in a distorted, sideways form is in order to be heard. It is trying to being seen, understood, appreciated, and welcomed back home. In practice however we often become so focused on the negative symptomatic expression of the shadowed energy that we miss the deeper message. 

Climate change is the symptomatic expression of humans putting The World Soul into the shadow. The World Soul is sent into the shadow, it is disowned, it is “externalized” and then it comes out in a distorted, twisted form. Namely climate change. 

The symptoms of climate change become the focus of attention, controversy, and struggle. Meanwhile the deeper message is all but muted: the World Soul has to be re-owned by humans.

The solution always lies hidden within the problem. The light is always hidden within the darkness. 

To “solve” the climate crisis will require many people working on many fronts simultaneously. But one necessary form of such endeavors must be psychic transmutation work. At the core, climate change is the outward expression of inward shadow in the collective human soul.

Please recall however that the poison transmuted becomes the antidote.

Climate change is the goading psychic act attempting to initiate us as humans into actual maturity. Either we will meet that initiation or, in true initiatory experience, if we fail, we will die. We will not just die, we humans will largely be annihilated. Perhaps AI will have become sentient by then and they will spontaneously learn to adapt and continue the evolutionary trajectory. Perhaps life will collapse back to the explosion and profusion of insects, viruses, bacteria, and the like and begin a new process from there. Perhaps like mammals at the time of dinosaur comet, some other life form not even in our radar/awareness right now will come to propagate a future. 

If however we were to meet the initiation, truly transmute the energies and re-own The World Soul, then a very different world than the one we currently live would be concretely realized.

Naomi Klein has written persuasively that climate change changes everything. She is particularly focused in that book on how if we deal with climate change correctly then it becomes the opportunity/medium through which to rebalance the structural injustices of poverty and power in our collective human expression. The upshot of correctly addressing climate change is we end creating a truly just economics.

She’s right. Emphasis on the word “if”….“If we deal with the climate change issue correctly…”

Still she’s correct. In shadow work the problem transmuted releases light and wisdom that we cannot imagine beforehand. Climate change is as I said an initiation. If we passes through the initiation, if we squeeze through the eye of this needle, then what will be revealed on the far side would be more glorious than we could have ever imagined.

(Re)solving climate change opens up a world far more beautiful than one any of us can currently imagine. But the only way out is through. Conversely not dealing properly with climate change will continue bringing forth a world we can partially, nightmarishly imagine at this point (but only minimally feel I would argue).

I would take Klein’s thesis one step further. Climate change is the opportunity to solve the underlying economic injustice of the world, yes absolutely. Climate change is also the opportunity to overcome the psychic alienation between The World Soul and our collective Human Soul. 

That alienation is wreaking incalculable damage, a damage so great the only term for it is the loss of soul.

Shamans speak of soul loss. Souls lose pieces of themselves due to trauma, illness, or negative choice. These pieces are not obliterated or destroyed. They fragment. They go into exile. They are strewn along the road somewhere, hidden. Missing-in-action. 

Shamans then help with soul retrievals, finding the lost pieces of a soul and restoring them. 

The World Soul is in exile in relationship to humans. Or our human soul is in exile from The World Soul. The World Soul itself is in a state of soul loss. Climate change is the symptomatic expression of such global soul loss. 

What is needed then is a collective soul retrieval of the World Soul. That is the interior psychic work whose exterior representation is creating a world of economic and ecological justice and sustainability. The inner and the outer are mirror images of each other, both are two sides of one integrated process.

* It could be argued that it is not the collective human soul but the collective Western human soul refracted through globalization that is the cause of the alienation to the World Soul.

30 Nov 2015 2 comments / READ MORE

Getting Purgatory Over Early

“She who comes to be saved, comes to be saved through a fire.” –Origen

“St. Ambrose of Milan speaks of a kind of ‘baptism of fire’ which is located at the entrance to Heaven, and through which all must pass, at the end of the world.  (wiki on purgatory)

“You’re getting purgatory over early.” –My Mom

November 2nd (yesterday) is, in the Roman Catholic Calendar, the Feast of All Souls. This feast is a Catholicizing Christianizing one, predicated on the earlier aboriginal traditions of ancestor veneration, both in European (“pagan’) religions as well as in The Americas, e.g. Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in Mexico.

November 1st in the Roman Catholic Calendar is All Saints Day, a day to remember those whose souls entered into paradise directly upon death. All Saints is the root of the word Halloween–which is Eve of All Hallows (hallowed = saintly).

All Souls, on the other hand, (Nov 2nd) remembers those who died with, as it were, “work still to do.” That is to say, the remembrance of those who experienced grace but the more comprehensive purifying effects of grace had not yet taken place.

During the Middle Ages, the practice of remembering one’s ancestors became connected to the rising doctrine of purgatory. All Souls Day became in particular a day to pray for the release of souls from purgation.

In the later middle ages, a series of abusive and manipulative practices around purgatory became big business. It was these practices–for example the selling of indulgences–that became the rallying cry for the Protestant Reformation.

Consequently, the doctrine of purgatory later came to be denounced in total with the Reformation. While I agree with the criticism of the abusive practices surrounding purgatory, I think the loss of purgatory has been a major loss for Western consciousness.

What I mean is that though the term purgation evokes a lot of resistance in people, I think it’s a wonderful term and a beauteous grace–one we need to recapture. It’s important to keep in mind that the doctrine of purgatory is for those who have already been saved and the healing and purifying effects of salvation still have to do their work.

In The Divine Comedy, when Dante arises from Hell and sees Mt. Purgatory he immediately weeps, for he knows he is already (as it were) in paradise. He is already assured a place in paradise. The long climb up on Mt. Purgatory towards Paradise (Heaven) is a path of graceful unburdening so that he might rise up. (I’m going to come back to this point in a bit).

I was raised very traditionally Roman Catholic. Praying for those in purgatory was a common part of my upbringing.

When things would be rough or unnecessarily harsh, my mom would say (as quoted above) that I was “getting purgatory over early.” What she meant of course was that one could go through purgatory while alive here on earth. Basically one could work off one’s purgation here on earth so as to have less of it on the other side of the veil of death.

Now as weird (or potentially masochistic) as that worldview might appear, I actually think there’s something to it, though not in the way I believe my mom tended to (mis)understand it. It isn’t about just random suffering happening to you, causing you to pay off some kind of penalty and either you go through it now or later. That makes God a sadist.

The truth of purgation is that to be saved one must pass through a baptism of fire as Origen and St. Ambrose said. That fire of grace is purging, purifying. It is alchemy–turning the lead of our being into gold. (This view accords with shamanic traditions the world over btw). And that fire can be experienced on this side of the grave (otherwise it will be experienced on the other side).

“He who comes to be saved, comes to be saved through a fire.”

Saved here means experiencing the entrance into paradise, i.e. the soul (the lowercase ‘s’ is important here) ascends to the realms of paradise.

In traditional shamanic cosmology there are classically three worlds: the lower world, the middle world (our world), and the upper world. The upper world is what most people would call heaven (though more technically should be called paradise). The middle world is our world. In Roman Catholic theology, the lower world is divided into two sections: hell and purgatory. I see hell and purgatory more along a continuum than a strict division as in Roman Catholic thought.*

The point is this: the imagery purgatory consists of fire.

When the fire is embraced it turns out not to be the source of suffering but rather the source of healing and purifying grace.

The deepest hell, as Dante so brilliantly understood, is coldness. Hell is pure isolation, incoherence, dissociation, alienation, and traumatic freeze. Hell is not hot. Hell is ice cold. Having worked with hellish energies and realities in people, I can tell you that Dante’s depiction of the bottom of hell as total frozen is not a metaphor but a literal description.

Purgatory is fire. Paradise is the ecstasy that occurs when one acclimates to the temperature of God’s fire. The fire no longer burns but becomes pure bliss.

So if November 1st (All Saints) is the day to remember all those in paradise. If November 2nd is to remember those in purgatory. Then I would propose that November 3rd is a great day to pray for our own purgation here on earth. November 1st is All Saints, November 2nd is All Souls, November 3rd could be Day of Our Own Purgation.

When people work with plant medicines, they purge, literally, bodily. In energy work, deadened energies are burned off us. In trauma work, when places of freeze re-awake, they release the flight or fight mechanism (“the fire”) held underneath the frozen exterior.

It’s like going outside on a cold day and your fingers become numb. You come back indoors and your fingers start to thaw out. As they do, your fingers ache, even hurt because feeling is coming back to them. The ache however is a wonderful sign because you know that once your fingers warm back up to room temperature, the pain will go away. You know the numbness is wearing off.

It’s the same with purgatory–whether you face it in this life or on the other side.

Our souls are deeply numb. Only heat is going to wake them back up and bring back feeling. In the intermediate period between the numbness beginning to wear off and the fingers being fully back to normal temperature, that is the period of purgation.

The fire brings back feeling. Our world is predicated on dissociation, on numbing out, on frozen traumatic conditioning. Our souls are ill. Pieces of our souls lie forsaken and strewn about.

What is needed then is a cleansing fire. A fire of Love, to reignite our frozen souls. With that fire comes pain but not suffering.

And this is a key point. Anyone who has ever gone through a truly purgative and cleansing process knows that that what occurred is they felt into and through the pain and as they did the suffering (amazingly) decreased.

Suffering is largely what happens when we do not stay directly with pain–or rather with the series of sensations we typically unhelpfully label as pain. So with the fire comes the purging, no doubt. But it is not a pain built around moral punishment. Here in the popular traditions of medieval Christianity really are problematic. The pain is not to pay off some penalty. Purgatory is not jail time with God the Vengeful Judge.

The process is not built out of a negative sense of Judgment but rather proper Judgment, which is to say Merciful, Loving Justice.

I can’t stress this point enough. In my experience working with people what prevents them from facing purgation is the sense that they are being punished. In other words, they resist the process because they believe the process communicates a message of negative shame. 

“You’re a bad person.”
“This is karmic retribution for your sins.”
“You deserve this [as punishment].”

These false beliefs need to be burned.

“They who comes to be saved, come to be saved through a fire.”

Being purged has nothing to do with being judged as a failure or fundamentally bad. It is precisely the opposite.

Purgation is a process that reminds us that in our essence we are fundamentally good. In our essential nature we are whole, redeemed, beloved.

We have however strayed from our essential nature. As such we have picked up the residue, the accretions of living in ways out of alignment to our essential nature.

Purgation is a message from God saying we are Loved and offering us a way to be released of the violence, trauma, dissociation that burdens and haunts our souls.

An ancient image in the Christian tradition is that the soul is a mirror. The mirror has unfortunately becomes obstructed by layers of mud that have clung to the surface of the mirror. The mirror is still a mirror but in practice is is not functioning as one–i.e. the essential light of a person (their soul) is still present but no able to be experienced. 

Purgation is to remove the mud that has caked onto the soul. It is one of the best feelings in the world just after having been purged. To feel the release of some weight one has been carrying for years, decades, lifetime, or maybe even lifetimes. That is a direct experience of Grace.

Once the mud is gone, the mirror naturally reflects the light of God. That is what is meant by Paradise.

In my practice, I’m blessed to be able to witness the purgation of souls in real-time. In my own path, I have experienced numerous times the grace of having my soul purged by God.
The reason St. Ambrose said there was a baptism of fire one must go through before entering the gates of paradise is precisely that. We want to be as cleansed as possible, as much as grace will allow in our case, to reflect the Light of Loving Truth.

The way is to trust that purification is happening with a space of Grace (a fundamental space of Resource and Safety). When we learn to co-operate and work intelligently with purgation, we can make it go relatively more smoothly.

But go through purgation we will.

The word salvation comes from a root meaning “healing”–like the world salve. Purgation is the pain that occurs as the Great Doctor lances boils, excises growths, and extracts the poisons held in our souls.

That is why purgation is grace. It’s not a moralistic process. It’s not a criminal process. It’s medicine for the soul. Shamans, recall, are called doctors of the soul.

On All Saints Day (Nov 1) we pray for the saints and ask them to pray for us. On All Souls (Nov 2) we pray for the souls of our ancestors and ask them to pray for us. On what I’m calling Purgation Day (Nov 3) I recommend we pray for the graceful purgation of our souls. We pray for our souls and ask our souls to pray for us.

I can testify to how truth of Origen’s words that all who be healed (saved) must do so through a fire. I can testify to the truth of St. Ambrose’s words that all would enter into paradise (bliss) must first go through the graceful baptism of fire. And I can testify to the truth of my mom’s words that it is possible to go through purgatory while here alive in this reality.


* Personally I tend to the view, strong in the Eastern Christian tradition (e.g. Origen) of the apocatastasis, i.e. that there will be a universal salvation. Or at least the option of it. Contrary to Roman Catholic theology, I don’t believe in eternal punishment in hell. I do believe in the possibility of everlasting damnation–though I’m unsure if that actually applies to any soul. What I mean is that I believe all souls are given infinite chances to be redeemed. Whether they will accept that offer I cannot say.

02 Nov 2015 1 comment / READ MORE

The Case For Social Exorcism: On Charleston

“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

–The Letter to the Ephesians Chapter 6, verse 12

A month ago in response to the protests in Baltimore, I wrote a piece called Political Shamanism and the Subtle Energetics of Racism.

In that piece I argued that racism is not only a phenomenon of the manifest concrete world (though it is most definitely that as well), but is also a reality of the subtle world: i.e. the world of our energy, our dreams, even our souls. Racism is, in part, a soul illness. It is a debilitating virus of the soul that eats away its host from the inside. It also harms the souls (and often the bodies) of those whom it chooses to hate. I cited the ancient wisdom teaching that souls are not only individual but also collective–there are souls (animas) of places, of institutions, of peoples. They too, just like individual souls, can become sick.

In that piece I was focused on the collective soul of white America and its soul illness of racism. This week there was the racially motivated terrorist attack against the Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. Following this story, and much of the analysis and coverage of it, further convinces me of the importance of that initial argument.

I want to take it a step further here. It’s going to take it to a more troubling place. But I believe through that land lies a path to a more promise-filled way of life. (For the record I almost wrote “dark” place there instead of troubling until I caught myself as to how atrocious it would be to use that word in this context, so the infiltration runs deeply).

I don’t want this view to be seen as supplanting all of the other important perspectives on this topic. Just that I think the perspective I’m offering here is one I typically see missing.

So before we get there we need one more important piece of theological wisdom: souls worship god(s).

The soul is the energetic matrix, the deepest essence of a being. When souls become drawn to their source, they enter into devotion. Souls devote themselves, which means they worship God or rather gods. This point is an important one with significant ramifications, though we don’t typically talk in this manner so the implications aren’t very obvious to us in our secular world (yet the effects are very much real nonetheless).

It’s of course impossible to talk about gods in the United States with talking about The Bible. It is often incorrectly stated that the Bible teaches monotheism–i.e. the belief that there is but one God. The Bible however is very polytheistic insofar as it teaches there are many, many, many, many, many gods. Even the name of God in the Bible is a plural world (Elohim). The Bible’s argument instead is that one god of all those gods is worth worshipping, namely the God of Israel.*

The Bible then would more accurately be termed a text of monolatry rather than monotheism. The Greek word latreia means worship, adoration, and obedience–that’s where the “latry” comes from. So monolatry means worship (latreia) of one god as opposed to worship of one or many of the other gods around, whereas idolatry is worship of an idol, i.e. a false god.

The crucial piece to remember is that The Bible does not say false gods are unreal (in some ontological sense). The critique is far more subtle than that. It’s that the wrong god (who is nevertheless real) is being worshipped. gods that don’t actually exist don’t cause problems. gods that do exist but are harmful, when worshipped, now these gods are indeed profoundly destructive.

Here’s my supposition then:

The soul of white America worships one (or more) of such very real but very harmful false gods.

“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

In the Hebraic-Jewish understanding worship of a god meant total service to that god. There was a specifically cultic dimension of worship to be sure, what we would think of today as religion proper–different gods had different temples, different locales, different customs, and different priesthoods. But worship in the Jewish understanding is an integral process. Religion in this view is an entire way of life, not something one does for an hour on the weekend. Obedience or worship would specifically cover one’s cultic duties but also one’s ethics, relationships, sense of personhood and group identification (“we are the people who worship this god”), and so on. These would all be, in totality, one’s religion.

Given that totality, here’s the catch:

Different gods bring with them different energies and different worldviews.

The argument of the Bible, particularly the Book of Exodus, is that if you worship the wrong god you will have the wrong social order. And conversely if there is an unjust and unmerciful social order it must be because there is bad theology.

The equation would go:

wrong god = unjust social order

Pharaoh worshipped the wrong god and therefore enslaved the Hebrews. The right god (or at least a better god) freed the slaves.

Again it’s not that the gods worshipped are unreal. It’s not Scooby Doo. We meddling kids don’t pull off the masks of these supposed gods and jenkies we really find out all along it’s been the old caretaker of the children’s park.

These gods, these subtle energies-archetypes, these deities are real. And some of them are opposed to life. Some of them are evil. (Many are benevolent, but that’s not our focus for the moment.)

Secularism, as a philosophy that dominates our world, denies the truth of the subtle realm. It doesn’t stop the subtle realm however from being real or having effects. Secularism simply makes the subtle unconscious (which is very dangerous). The truth is obedience and worship is occurring whether or not one identifies as secular, religious, atheistic, agnostic, whatever. The labels actually are quite secondary. The primary thing is who or what is being worshipped and being given one’s obedience.

“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

I’ve always found that last sentence so strange–spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Shouldn’t heaven be free of evil? Well no. Not if we understand heavenly places to mean the subtle realms (as I do). Then there are forces of evil in the subtle (i.e. heavenly) realms, one of those forces being racism.

Now we are in a position to tie these various strands together. I argued (in my earlier piece) that white America has a kind of soul, a soul that is infected with the subtle illness of racism. In this piece I’ve argued further that souls worship gods and that worship means total obedience unto the god and that god’s energy.

Moreover, some gods are anti-life. Some gods are spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. To worship those gods is to serve those powers. Worship here meaning full spectrum worship. To give our money, our energy, our time, our allegiance, our bodies, our hearts, even our very souls to a false, anti-life god.

Further, the social order reflects the god (or gods) worshipped. The social order, according to the Bible, is the reflection of the gods worshipped. The social order then is the test of the dominant worship. In other words:

The institutions and structures of a society reflect the god or gods being worshipped.

Therefore, if as I’m suggesting, the soul of white America is worshipping a false god (or gods) then its institutions are corrupted at their very energetic level. The rise of prisons in the US would be the most obviously example–soul crushing places which are temples or churches built to a god who lives off the torture of others. But it goes well beyond prisons alone. They are only the most obvious example of what liberation theologians called social sin.

All of which means the soul of white America (broadly speaking) not only suffers the illness of racism, it’s also worshipping a false god. It’s worshipping an anti-life subtle energy/archetype or deity (or possibly deities). It worships an idol. The soul of white America (or more precisely, significant portions of it) has given its worship, its obedience, its devotion to a god of death and domination. The soul of white America has wedded itself in a perverted form of love to a loveless spiritual force of evil in the subtle heavenly places.

The Bible is very clear about what to do with demons, false gods, and idols: exorcise them.

Hence it’s time for a social exorcism.

The social conservative narrative forming that attempts to co-opt this massacre as an attack on religious liberty points precisely in this direction though not in the way those advocating that position imagine. Their attempt to hijack the narrative of the event is an evasive maneuver, attempting to hide the ugly truth lying at the heart of this all. There is a spiritual esoteric aspect to this story, but it’s not about white evangelical American Christians not being able to pray in public schools and therefore being similarly oppressed such that they are able to identify with those of murdered African Americans in the black church tradition.

There are different gods at war and different social orders representing those opposing gods. This obvious distinction gets confused in media because both groups theoretically worship the same Christian god, but in practice they do not.

The social order of white America is one with a terrible history: genocide of indigenous peoples, slavery and segregation, class-based violence, sexual degradation, global rapaciousness, and destruction of the biosphere.

Of course there were and are plenty of well-natured and well-meaning white Americans, as well as white Americans who actively opposed such realities. That’s not the point. We’re talking the collective soul. We’re talking its devotion, its obedience to a spiritual force of evil in the heavenly places.

Because, as the Biblical argument goes, we need to look at the social order. The social order is the expression of the god worshipped. The social order (and not anything else) is what tells us who really is the god or gods of our time. What the Letter to the Ephesians calls “the cosmic powers of the present darkness.”

Those words still apply today. After the massacre at Sandyhook Elementary, Catholic writer Gary Wills wrote an article calling gun culture in American “Our Moloch”.

Moloch was a god to whom devotees offered human child sacrifices, their own children in fact. Wills’ point, one of complete truth, is that America worships the gun god Moloch and therefore must sacrifice its children to him, since he is after all, a subtle energy-demonic god-evil spiritual force who requires the blood of children to survive. That was or more accurately is (since Moloch is clearly real) the cultic obligation due Moloch.

As long as Moloch is worshipped he will have his blood. He will demand payment in the form of innocent lives and he will get it. Until white America stops worshipping Moloch, legitimate gun regulations (much less the disarmament of the country) will never happen.

The Bible understands something very crucial when it comes to gods–namely they need us as much as we need them. The relationship is a two way street. We become devoted to a god but that god also becomes devoted to us. Our worship of the gods changes us, but our worship of the gods changes the gods themselves.**

Said more simply:

You become what you meditate on.

And if we meditate on death, that is what we become. Robert Oppenheimer knew this terrible truth; which is why when he saw the atomic bomb explode, a bomb he helped to create, he quoted the Bhagavad Gita:

“I have become death, destroyer of worlds.”

You become what you meditate on. We all do.

Which is why the only question really worth asking someone is: who do you worship? For that is what you will become.

The soul of white America worships Moloch; hence it has become his servant, his devotee, even his incarnation. Moloch is a parasitic god requiring the blood of children to survive. Moloch is an anti-life force, a kind of zombie, a dead reality still somehow in a quasi-state of non-dead yet non-living life requiring the consumption of truly living beings in order to continue to exist in this non-dead yet non-living state.

However, it gets worse, I believe Moloch is only one of the false idols worshipped by the soul of white America.

Another such god (or perhaps another facet of Moloch?) is the god of the white American South, the god of the Confederacy, that is the god of white domination. This is the god Dylann Ruff worshipped. In fact, he wore badges to show his loyalty (his latreia) to white colonialist Rhodesia.

The reason why no major US conservative political figure wants to acknowledge the racism underlying the terrorist attack in Charleston is because to do so would leave the entire edifice of their theological and social reality crumbling. To acknowledge the obvious reality that the attack was motivated by race would be to implicate their souls. It goes way deeper than revealing the flaws in their political ideology. It would be to confess a very stain at the core of their psyches.

After the end of the US Civil War, the Union Army occupied the lands of the former rebel confederate territory. There began perhaps the most radical social and political experiment in US history: Reconstruction. It was an attempt to dismantle the entire edifice of white supremacy upon which the South was built. It was an attempt to not simply end slavery but deconstruct the entire ideology on which it was built.

For many complex reasons that plan was abandoned and a bargain was struck with the devil–and given we’re talking subtle energetics, I mean quite possibly and quite literally the devil. That deal was to leave the South free of the occupation. From there the KKK filled the security void and reinstalled white power. The tragic irony being that the (Northern) US Army had to occupy the South once more a hundred years later in order to end segregation.

From the late 19th century on, an entire industry arose to attempt to “heal the wound of America” but that healing was only to take place between the white southerner and his white northerner “brother.” Formers slaves and their descendants were definitely not welcomed into that healing circle. Movies, novels, historical narratives, Civil War re-enactments all treat the antebellum South and the Confederacy as a beautiful but tragically doomed land. The ubiquitous Confederate flag throughout the South (and rural parts of the North, Midwest and Western US) is the most visible sign.
The nostalgia of Dixie and the land of cotton stirs much of the white soul (even those not from the South). The most virulent edges of it were dulled in the 1960s but many parts of it were left to remain. It was those that allowed Nixon, Reagan, and the entire conservative counterrevolution of the last 40+ years to flourish.

When Reconstruction was ended, The Confederacy, large parts of it anyway, was fused back into the soul of white America. It was a soul retrieval of the worst possible kind rather than the exorcism that was (and still is) so sorely needed. The Confederacy is a poltergeist, an entity attachment on the soul of white America one that needs to be exorcised.

How many US military bases are named after Confederate Generals? Generals who took up arms against the government, the same government who now has bases named for those rebellious leaders? A deal with the devil to bring back the South. And it worked in its perverse way: e.g. the dominance of the South in the current US military is well documented. Remember how I said the institutions themselves become means of the dissemination of the false god’s energy into the manifest world? It’s right there in the names.

Which is to say all of it is built upon worship of a false god. Whether it was the white American soul that first revived some dead or dying god and corrupted it to serve its purposes or whether that god was corrupt to begin with is hard to say. At this point, the relationship is a co-dependent one.

That evil force in the heavenly spheres, that white god of domination, had a devotee in Dylann Ruff. He shouted core theological beliefs of that god just prior to his act of terror: “you’re stealing our [white] women and taking over OUR country.”

And it is that god and all his minions that must be exorcised; all his demons, demigods, all his lieutenants, powers and principalities. The white soul of America has to confess its worship of this false god, repent, and detach itself. It needs to cut the cord to that parasitic god until that god disintegrates. The parasite cannot live without its host. If we stop feeding it, if we stop meditating on these gods of death, they will die out. But that will not be pretty. False gods are addicts; their parasitic tentacles reach deeply into the core of the white American soul. They will not go gently into that good night.

Since the soul we are speaking of here is collective and has impact on individual souls, it will require individuals of a high caliber to do the subtle energy exorcism work collectively. Prior to an exorcism, shamans, exorcists, and priests have to prepare themselves for what is to come. In all honesty, I think just about the only real remaining value to individual spiritual practice nowadays is to act as a kind of preparation for the collective exorcism rites we will need to perform together.

While my background is Christian and therefore I speak from the Biblical view of liberation and the Biblical cosmology, the closest parallel to what I’m arguing here that I’m aware of from the Buddhist tradition comes from my friend Darrin Drda whose re-imagined Buddhist cosmology and teaching in relation to the US as an imperial reality.

The key point, regardless of which language or system we want to reference, is that the evil subtle energetics be taken as real. Not so real as to be overwhelming or to create paranoia. Here The Biblical account offers hope that these false gods are not and need not be victorious. They can be exorcised. They can be energetically metabolized.

C.S. Lewis wisely said there were two mistakes when it came to evil: to underestimate it and to overestimate it.

To invoke the process of social exorcism is to take this issue very seriously and yet to create a stronger feeling of empowerment. Neither under nor overestimating its power.

Liberal religious types and secular individuals have ceded this territory because of the discomfort of talking about things like exorcisms. People might think you crazy for even contemplating such a thing. It leaves the truth of social exorcism to be perverted and corrupted to the ends of those who claim to use it to rid the world of their hated “other”, e.g. gays and lesbians. It’s also left the field wide open for the devotion to the false god(s), whether that devotion is conscious or not (the vast majority of which is definitely not).

I believe it’s time to change that.

“For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

* Christians, as distinct from Jews, argue that the God of Israel was incarnate in the human being Jesus of Nazareth. While Muslims believe that same god, the god Al-Lah, perfected those earlier revelations with the final revelation to the Prophet Muhammad. Specific and important differences aside, all in all same god.

** Though this is not my focus here, for the theology-spirituality nerds out there, I’m making an argument for a post-metaphysical argument form of social exorcism.

21 Jun 2015 1 comment / READ MORE

Energetic Care for Your Home

Posted by Chris Dierkes in Healing Arts, Shamanism, The Imaginal, The Soul

soulwork
This site is dedicated to soul work. It’s even the name on the door of my office (see pic to the left). When I speak of the soul I mean the singular, unrepeatable energetic expression that is each being. Each person, each reality is a distinct combination of different energies, impulses, emotions, drives. This combination of forces creates a kind of signature–a kind of coding or deep patterning. This pattern is unique in each being.

In the ancient world this view was called animism–from the Latin anima, soul. There was a soul, an energetic pattern in all things. Or maybe it’s better to say that all things are within (or really are) their energetic pattern. The Greek philosopher Aristotle described the soul as a kind of bubble around the self. It was not the soul of a person was inside them, rather they the human were inside their soul.

The ancients understood correctly then that humans alone did not just have souls but that all living realities have (or rather are) souls. This soul-ness, this animism includes land, as well as homes built upon land. And it’s land as ensouled, land as an energetic reality that I want to explore here. In particular I want to explore what it means for our homes, our apartments (as dwellings) to be ensouled. What I mean is that our homes are energetic realities and as such we can relate to them as such.

As I said, land (and anything built upon land, like a home) is ensouled. Land is an energetic reality in addition to its obvious physical reality. As an energetic reality,
the land itself remembers. The land–and the homes, apartments, and offices which are built upon the land–remember. They retain the energy, the history of that place. They hold the memories, the energies, the emotions, and the experiences that have occurred in that space and on that land.

So when we move into a home or apartment or building we encounter that history.

To take two very extreme cases. If you have ever travelled to a place of terrifying horror and trauma the energy is very apparent as you enter. I’ve been to a few such places in my life, and immediately felt a creepy, chilling feeling wash over me. I felt a deadness, a coldness inside.

Conversely, I’ve been graced to be in sacred spaces and lands all around the world that carry an intensely positive energy about them. The kind of energy that people walk into and immediately gasp in awe. Their eyes widen and for a second their breath has been taken away by the overwhelming beauty and sacredness of the space

As an example of the latter trend, I used to work as a night custodian at a church. Often I would work when there were evening concerts–jazz, orchestral, choral, etc. The energy in the church was quite buzzy as people would be arriving. Then the energy would take on the flavor of whatever musical or dramatic performance was occurring–more quiet and introspective for classical music, more rocking for gospel choirs, and so on. Then there would be another round of noise and high energy as people were chatting after the performance and getting ready to leave. Musicians were packing up their instruments, sound techs stashing away their gear. I would be disassembling choir risers, picking up garbage, and moving the church furniture back into place. There was even a movable altar!

Then eventually everybody would leave and I would be left alone in the church. And suddenly I would notice this deep calm come over me. A quiet power, the energy of the church returned, as if by magic.

I came to think of that energy as the soul of the church–as the combined influence of all the prayers said, songs sung, and tears shed in the place. All the weddings, the burials, the welcoming of infants, the tragedies, the joys of human beings over a century—all of them were contained in that one place. The energy was particularly palpable.

Those are the two extremes of energy in land or buildings.

Our homes, apartments, and offices usually fall somewhere in between those energetic extremes.

Apartments, condos, and townhouses in particular hold the energy of everyone whose lived and who is living in them currently. Loving families, warm friendships, intimacy shared, as well as bad breakups, major bouts of depression, or in the worst cases sites of trauma, abuse, or violence these are all held in the space.

We want to create our homes as places of love, affection, and energetic repose. The home is meant to a place of blessing, solace, and sanctuary. Negative energetic memory interferes with our desire to abide in such an energy, to maintain such a “feel” to our home. The greater the degree of negative energetic the greater the degree of interference.

The good news however is that energy can be cleared in homes very simply and powerfully. The history and the memory of a place can be honored and yet be released, freeing up the possibility of a new feeling and energy.

As with the example of the church, we can conceive of each dwelling (and the land it is rooted in) to have a specific energetic signature–the soul of that place if you will. The soul of a place is the confluence of all the energies, emotions, and experiences of the place.

Conceiving it of this way allows us to interact, to commune with the soul of our homes. It’s not as crazy or wu-wu as it sounds. It’s very simple and meaningful.

Here’s a simple practice to make this concrete.

Sit in your home (or apartment). Gently begin looking around the room you’re in. If you want you can even walk around the house to the different rooms. But settle into a room you felt at ease in.

Start by noticing all the aspects of the home that comfort you. The walls, the floor, the roof all speak to a sense of stability, of being protected. Warm glowing lights are a symbol of nurturance. The air in the room a sign of openness. The windows a metaphor for vision and perspective. Any photos, art, or colors that communicate the beauty and grace suffusing life.

When you feel settled in this way, soften your gaze in an unfocused but open manner. You will then feel to the soul of your home. It’s a kind of attuning to its presence. It might sound weird to say it that way but it’s real and it happens. All the really matters is your intention, your desire to connect.

And then give thanks. Thank your home for providing you a place to live, a warm place to sleep, a place where you can lay down your burdens at the end of the day.

Then wish love and light to your home. Imagine or visualize or feel your home bathed in a soft, warm radiance. In so doing you are praying or blessing your home (or whatever term you would feel best describes this process).

Close by releasing all images, thoughts, or feelings and simply sit in silence for a few moments in the stillness and beauty and perfection of the present moment.

This practice is one I encourage for everyone. Anyone can connect, bless, and thank in this beautiful way.

There’s another way to help clear negative energy in a home. This second way however requires specialized capacity and training. This process involves an intuitive to work directly with the soul (the signature energy) pattern of the home and land itself. The intuitive can read the energetic signature or profile of the home and request clearing on any negative energetic patterns, returning the overall soul of the home to its pristine, original energetic state.*

Through these two processes, we develop a sense of energetic care for our homes, our apartments, our offices. In so doing we participate in the larger project of blessing and healing our lives, our relations, our world.


* If you’re interested in having clearing work done for your home please see my offering of property clearings. You can request such a clearing, as well as empowerments for your home, directly from the link.

21 Mar 2015 no comments / READ MORE

The Law of Attraction for Socialists: Part II

(For Part I, see here).

I’ve worked with a number of clients with a sincere struggle around the question of manifestation and money. They want to be successful but also struggle with the questions of mass poverty in the world. They look to manifestation teachings which essentially argue in one form or another that systemic injustice is a consequence of poverty consciousness, either that of the poor themselves or of the rich (usually the former admittedly). And this answer doesn’t really satisfy them. Yet somehow they sense some intelligence or wisdom inherent in the manifestation teachings, not necessarily related to this specific point but to other aspects of the overall teaching. Hence the confusion.

So my first reply is that we need to separate out the process (or practice) of manifestation teachings from the wider context and framework within which these practices are taught. I described some of the flaws of that framework, most especially the blindness to its own contextual nature in Part I.

I believe many, if not most, of the processes and practices at the heart of manifestation teachings could be retained if they were put within a different political, social, economic, cultural, and ecological framework.

Just so my own cards are on the table, I’ll say I’m personally of the view that capitalism and the classic liberal-democratic social order which undergird it, are in significant breakdown globally. That’s far from an entirely positive thing in my view–quite the opposite in fact. I’m not gleeful at this prospect but nevertheless I agree with analyses that point to inherent contradictions at the heart of capitalism and even liberal-democracy itself. I think those inherent contradictions and flaws are revealing themselves on a global scale.

For the purposes of this article, the reason I mention that is because manifestation teachings are entirely sourced in a capitalist economics/liberal-democratic value systems. Since I think that system is increasingly at war with the flourishing of life itself, then manifestation teachings (as they are currently contextualized) are part of the problem for me.*

In other words, manifestation teachings–in their current form–have no solution to the problems humanity faces. What they can do, in a very small percentage of people, is help individuals acquire greater material prosperity. But that’s not a strategy for solving poverty given that the primary way one can become rich (under our current economic realities) is by the immiseration of others.

What I want to explore here then is the possibility that elements of manifestation teachings however could be a part of the solution (or at least part of a solution, as I believe there are many possible solutions). What I half-jokingly/half-seriously am calling The Law of Attraction for Socialists.

In other words, seeing if we can separate out the valid insights and practices of manifestation teachings and place them within a more liberation-minded frame of reference.

To use some philosophical jargon for a second, I think most manifestation teachings make the error of confusing is for ought. Just because capitalism is the way of the world does not mean that’s how it should be. (Just ask The Pope).

So….

If we retain a capitalist currency framework, then we need to install a whole series of realities to create for a more equitable and just distribution of goods (material goods, social goods, etc.).

Things like:

  • A Guaranteed Basic Income
  • A much higher rate of taxation on wealth (particularly as gained through financial investments) concomitant with major public investments in social goods like education, health care, and the like.
  • Creating a legal framework that acknowledges the public ownership of the commons (e.g. the air, the water, etc.) and charging rents on private interests that use the public commons property.
  • A separation of the media and the political process from the corrupting influence of major financial investments.
  • A series of strictly enforced legal measures meant to protect the environment and promote (even force) technologies that are beneficial to all forms of life and degrade the power of technologies and energy sources opposed to the flourishing of life.
  • A recognition of the historical wrongs done to many groupings of people and the ways in which those historical wrongs have been inscribed into the current reality, along with steps taken to adjudicate that present reality (sourced in historical wrong).

I can’t say I’m super optimistic that is happening anytime soon to put it very mildly.

The other option would be a more revolutionary one, like the one envisioned by Eileen Workman in her book Sacred Economics. Workman describes a society not based on money (i.e. debt). Instead she lays out a clear vision of a society built around credits (interestingly derived in its root meaning from the word belief, credo).** That it an economic system that would be predicated upon and cultivate trust as an actual currency. In contrast to neoliberal capitalism which bases itself on the mistaken belief that individuals working in mind of their own supposed self-interest ends up (magically) encouraging the good of the whole. This view creates mutual distrust throughout society (i.e. the prisoner’s dilemma of game theory). Workman envisions more worker-controlled forms of commerce, reversing the power of finance over labor (her name after all is Workman).

Let’s for the moment imagine (as best we can) one or both of those two options being a reality. Very hard to imagine but let’s try. Neither would be anything approaching a completely perfect society of course. They would simply be ones far more aligned to the truth of existence. They would be substantially better than what currently is the case.

Imagine then a society and culture formed this way. The key element to hold in mind here is that your artistry or profession is not tied to your ability to actually eat, have a roof over your head, or clothes on your back. Your gifting, your offering of goodness in the world is not inherently tied to the anxiety and panic of survival. (This energy underlies the experience of many artists and entrepreneurs, not to mention many others).

At this point commerce, exchange, artistry, production could actually be truly free. We might say that would be an actually free market, i.e. free of the endemic injustice of the current reality.

Then manifestation teachings could actually be put to use within a just social reality. The reason manifestation teachings currently talk so much about monetary or financial freedom is because our current reality is very oppressive. I mean what’s the opposite of freedom if not slavery?

Manifestation teachings do have a great deal of wisdom within them. It’s too bad that this wisdom is either too closely aligned with the problematic nature of capitalism or rejected altogether (because of it’s naivety around historical, economic, and political power relationships).

But for the moment let’s acknowledge the wisdoms present in these teachings. Here’s some simple but powerful examples (shared with me by a friend of mine).

People often think of manifestation teachings as picturing some future state that person desires, e.g. more money, a better relationship, more meaningful work, etc., and then meditating on how to get that. It’s also possible however to wake up each day and ask Life, The Universe, God (however you call it) to send you a revelation for that day. Ask for something from life to teach you, something to reveal, in ways large or small, a glimpse of the spiritual world become real in this world. What the ancients called a wonder (the original meaning of a miracle).

Wake up each day and ask for two wonders that day. Then keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Or consider this one (adapted from Robert Moss). Upon waking ask Life to send you a question that day. As you are going through your day–reading, talking and interacting with people, scrolling through your FB profile, listening to the news, whatever–when you encounter a question posed to you (as a reader, conversation partner, citizen, or consumer) consider it being asked by Life itself.

Spend that day wrestling with that question.

These kinds of practices play with the dream-like nature of reality. You begin to become a conscious participant in the psychic nature of life itself. Animals, dreams, babies, social media, images on tv & movies, the land, the waters, ideas, people you interact with, all become part of a subtle array of energies and forces, dramatically and creatively at work.

And this same magic can be directed specifically to one’s gifting or vocation. The 101 version of manifestation teachings typically has the individual impose upon life the vision he or she wants and then use these techniques to attract the energy necessary to complete it. For example in mega-popular book The Secret the Universe is depicted as a genie in a lamp who simply says, “Your wish is my command.” In other words, The Universe is enslaved to our human desires in such a view. The manifestation practices are a technique for controlling the magic of Life to serve our own individual ends which of course almost always become an (un)conscious replication of cultural dreams.

But if we come to a more mature relationship to manifestation we should hold a different view. Rather than a genie in a lamp manifesting my wishes, why not imagine the Universe’s magical play as something more like a spirit guide? Like Virgil or Beatrice leading Dante through realms of hell and paradise, we could play with the magical manifesting forces of life. Those forces would be tutoring and guiding us and yet we would still free to make our own decisions in the process. The autonomy and dignity of the Manifesting Energies would be appreciated and honored (just as Virgil and Beatrice are not slaves to Dante’s wishes to journey in the Divine Comedy). They would direct us as much as we would direct them. There would be mutuality, communion.

Which brings us back to the issue of a social order. If we lived in a just economic and social order, then we could approach these manifestation teachings from a healed place. We wouldn’t be using them as a way to get out of our woundedness or to escape from the inevitable pains and sorrow of living under capitalism.

This manifesting way would be true both in its more general sense of wonderment as well as the more specific sense of harnessing the magical forces to (co)create something as a gift in life.

All of the magic of learning to play with the psychic nature of Life would still be there. Those practices and that way of being however wouldn’t be so tightly funnelled through a world built around debt, constant insecurity (for many) and constant debilitating stress (for many more). It would fundamentally about play and true service.

Until then (as I do in my own work) all of us doing this kind of work either need to ignore the real complexities and ethical ambiguities of charging or we each find our own particular ethic. That usually means some combination of various responses to the economic reality (e.g. here are mine).

If we lived in a truly just and wise reality then we wouldn’t have to do such half-measures.

Nothing stops us now from incorporating these kinds of manifestation practices either in the more general or the more specific sense. But having considered these perspectives, I don’t think it would be possible to go back to some utterly naive or pre-critical view around them either.

* Given the philosophical limitations laid out in Part I, the best manifestation teachings can do is amelioration. They can lead people to have greater resources so they can give more to charity, aid foundations and the like. That’s difficult however insofar as the belief of the teachings of themselves is that everyone should follow and manifest their true heart’s desire. They are best then treating wounded people on a battlefield and sending them back into the battle rather than seeking to end the war altogether.

** In Biblical terms, debt is an expression of sin. For the record, The Bible’s vision of a perfect world is not one where everyone has the perfect life they all individually desire but one in which there is no debt or hunger. Abundance in the true meaning of the term.

25 Feb 2015 1 comment / READ MORE

The Law of Attraction for Socialists: Part I

Soul work is classically defined as having two major components: healing and manifestation. Another term for manifestation would be creativity or creative expression.

Healing at the level of the soul involves a release of negative soul conditioning (often called karma). There are patterns that lie at the level of our energy. These patterns have been cut into deep grooves and from there shape our lives in ways we are often only dimly conscious of. Soul healing purifies personal karma, ancestral karma, even at times our own participation in collective human karma. Soul healing requires coming to face and embrace and love our shadow–to find the light always hidden with the darkness and to release that light.

Soul healing calls forth a posture of welcome. Soul healing demands we welcome the full range of our human emotions and grasping the wisdom of each, even emotions like shame and fear. Soul healing is an affirmation of the nature of our soul, i.e. our unique personal expression of The Divine. It is a healing act to learn and to feel validated at the deepest personal level of our existence, to learn the kinds of energies that fundamentally drive our being, the inherent gifts as well as challenges of being who each soul is. In soul healing we come to realize the fundamental truth of our singular expression and identity.

Manifestation work, however, is aligning with the soul’s deepest desires and works to make those desires concrete. Manifestation is following the creative process to its fulfillment–in some concrete, material expression. For example studying to be a counsellor and then developing an actual practice with real live clients. Creating a work of art.

I freely admit I’ve had a bias towards healing. Soul healing seemed real, mature, and sane whereas manifestation can seem very ungrounded, excessively fake, and too happy. (I’m after all the guy whose on record as being against high vibrations!). It’s also true that the healing side of the soul dyad has always come easier to me. I have more natural gifting for it than manifestation work. So to be fair, it’s been safer for me.

It’s clear however that both personally and in my ongoing work with individuals that manifestation is calling to me. Creative expression is finally starting to burn deeply in my gut. While I haven’t been denying that creative impulse, I haven’t known really what to do with it either. In some ways I still don’t, at least not fully. I figure I’ll take one step at a time and learn along the road.

But I am starting to think about what manifestation really means. As I do, one question keeps gnawing at me as I contemplate this possibility:

What is the proper context for teaching on manifestation?

I think this is a hugely under asked question.

One reason why it’s an under-explored question is that very many spiritually inclined traditions simply don’t address the question of creativity and manifestation. They are typically much more interested in spiritual awakening and therefore the question doesn’t really arise in the first place. The question of purpose or vocation or creative expression comes from the soul not the spirit. Therefore spiritual teachings that bypass the soul usually leave out this dimension of being human. Consequently the question of creativity has deeper roots in the worlds of art, drama, sport, and music than spiritual practice.

In the Western spiritual tradition manifestation work has predominantly come through the New Thought and New Age traditions. For better and for worse, it’s to these we’ll need to look for guidance. These teachings have set the context for the majority of folk exploring the topic of manifestation.

The issue is the context and background set of assumptions from those traditions is highly problematic in my estimation.

I don’t normally break out the old four quadrant map from integral theory anymore, but this is a good moment to do so–it reveals a really important point about why the context of manifestation teachings is often so confused and problematic.

quadrants31

In this map you see there is individual inner experience (Upper Left), individual outer physical form and behavior (Upper Right), external collective structure or social reality (Lower Right), and interior cultural reality (Lower Left). The map states that each moment in time is all four these dimensions of existence–no quadrant is superior or more primary than another. An integrated pattern therefore is one that takes into account all four dimensions. Anything less than all four is by definition less than integrated.

Why this schema matters is because manifestation teachings of The New Thought/New Age variety emphasize inner individual experience (Upper Left), outer action and spiritual laws (Upper Right). They also spend a good deal of time discussing how to relate to the social networks of the day (Lower Right).

What that leaves out is culture or what is known as the intersubjective (Lower Left). The intersubjective space is the source of our ethics, cultural narratives, and worldviews. The intersubjective points to the truth that all of us always arise in relationships, from specific languages, cultures, nationalities, and histories. These aspects of our being-in-the-world inevitably influence and effect the ways in which we see the world.

To paraphrase the philosopher Wittgenstein, if your language does not have a word for something it doesn’t exist in your world. It’s a thought you can’t think.

That’s the intersubjective. And that is the one that’s missing in most, if not all, manifestation teachings. For the record the cultural-intersubjective is basically missing in all personal growth or spiritual practice of any variety. These cultural factors often are held as deep unconscious biases within spiritual communities and The New Thought/New Age manifestation traditions are no different in that regard.

When the intersubjective goes unacknowledged it simply goes underground. It’s influence is still present, the influence however has become unconscious. What that means in this case is that manifestation teachings unconsciously continue to replicate the cultural biases of 19th and 20th century America (the historical context that gave birth to New Thought and New Age teaching).

In other words, almost all manifestation teachings unconsciously assume a very modernist, North American culture. That culture has its roots in what Max Weber called The Protestant Work Ethic. The Protestant Work Ethic is the belief that if one was healthy and prosperous it was a sign of blessing from God. Therefore a strong value is placed on thrift, hard work, efficiency, and rugged individualism–because those values will help accrue wealth and therefore retroactively prove blessing from God. In the United States particularly The Protestant Work Ethic became fused with the American mythology of being a land of total freedom where everyone could succeed if they were simply hard working enough.

The dark side of such a view is that if one is poor or suffering it’s one’s own fault. Such a person is lazy or stupid or consistently making bad choices. This view undergirds most conservative US political philosophy and leads to criticisms of the welfare state as a form of “handouts” to the “takers”.

And the key point here is that manifestation teachings from the New Thought tradition (and later New Age) have essentially replicated this ideology. It’s no longer that being rich is a sign of blessing from God per se although that is still explicitly the case in some such teachings like the prosperity gospel movement. Rather in most New Thought/New Age traditions health and wealth are signs of being fully actualized in one’s true self. It’s a sign of holding true abundance consciousness and not therefore poverty consciousness.

Consequently if one doesn’t have material wealth, physical health, fulfilling work, and emotionally satisfying intimate relationship then one has clearly not manifested properly. Just as with the Protestant Work Ethic there is a real dark side in this teaching, namely that failure to manifest one’s dreams is one’s own fault.

Looking at the integral map we see that the context (Lower Left) of a teaching, its practice (Upper Right), and its social vision (Lower Right) is as important as its inner experience (Upper Left). It’s only North American European-descended culture that describes itself as having no culture–as being a place of individuals. It’s a culture of individualism. It’s a culture which is unconscious of its own cultural influence.

And up until now manifestation teachings have been almost, if not, entirely unaware of that gigantic blind spot. Modernist Western philosophy recognized the validity of the Upper Left, the Upper Right, and the Lower Right quadrants but didn’t recognize the Lower Left (the cultural or intersubjective). Manifestation teachings all arose during the modernist era, hence they are typically ignorant of the intersubjective realm. Consequently, the assumed cultural norms under which they were born are simply passed on.

This flaw is true of all the big name manifestation texts–The Course in Miracles, The Secret, you name it–as well as a host of lesser-known ones.

There’s a dark underbelly of personal shaming, spiritual bypassing, and problematic political and social views in this world. For nearly 200 years, manifestation teachings have essentially been fused with the dominant North American individualist lifestyle. Again consider titles like “Think And Grow Rich”, “The Power of Positive Thinking”, and so on.

Now someone might well say, ‘what’s wrong with healthy relationships, financial stability, personal health and creative meaningful work?’

Nothing obviously. Those are good things. But why is it that manifestation teachings focus on those? Well in truth it’s basically because for middle and upper class North Americans those are essentially the only things they have in their life–along with, for some, a desire for some kind of spiritual life however they define and practice it. Oh and nowadays a very reeved up sexual existence.

Most manifestation teachings assume the culture of North American individualist consumerism. They then try, within the bounds of such a culture, to help people make the best of their lives.

But what if the cultural pattern itself is sick? What if individually adjusting well to a maladjusted reality isn’t really health?

It’s worth saying that it would definitely be easy to dismiss that entire tradition of manifestation work. There’s no lack of room for criticism of positive thinking and the damage it can do to people (especially ones with low self-esteem). It has no real understanding about what would be a just distribution of goods creatively manifested. It basically assumes the dominant capitalistic model of North American society with its so-called free-market bias. The winners have earned their spoils and deserve them. And so on and so forth.

Now while it would be easy to simply stop there, the reason these teachings continue to persist is that, in their best moments, they are actually onto something. They are (partially) right. That partial right-ness however is wedded to a series of very problematic elements. From within the world of such manifestation teachings, the problematic elements are rarely, if ever, exposed and critiqued. From outside that world, the problematic elements are criticized, but the partial truth is then ignored or denied (goodbye baby with bathwater).

What I’m interested in is the possibility of incorporating the valid aspects of these teachings but placing them within a very different cultural, political, economic, and social framework. (Or at least for now imagining how that could be achieved).

To get to the partial truth though we need to proceed by a process of elimination–getting rid of the problematic elements.

Manifestation teachings always begin with the notion that Consciousness or Mind or Intelligence is the primary reality and materiality is only a secondary outflow of Consciousness. (It’s biased towards the upper left hand quadrant in integral terms). In other words, material reality has no agency of its own–it’s simply the result of consciousness, particularly thought. Hence New Thought.

Given that bias, these teachings have no real understanding of the material, structural reality of money. For manifestation teachings money, like any material reality, is simply the inevitable outcome of thought and consciousness. Money is often described (in manifestation works) as simply a neutral energy. In and of itself it is neither positive nor negative. It is what we do (or don’t do) with this energy of money that is positive or negative.

Money however isn’t entirely or even predominantly neutral. And it’s not simply an energy. There is no room within the teaching itself to view money from its actual historical, structural history. How it was created, how it functions, how it replicates itself (hint: it’s not by people meditating on the energy of money and imagining more of it coming into existence).

Consequently, these teachings are, for example, radically naive about the ways in which our current dominant money system creates debt–not as a bug but as a feature. They can’t point to the work of say a Thomas Piketty who has shown that absent a collective political will installed in the legal system, investments and financial instruments always increase at a higher rate of return than income, leading inevitably to massive wealth inequality and social injustice in capitalist societies.

That occurs not because a bunch of people lack abundance consciousness but as a consequence of the social structure of money within a capitalist system (Lower Right Quadrant).

Again, I’m not saying these teachings have nothing to offer. It’s just that they are missing hugely important elements.

Money consciousness teachings of whatever variety place the emphasis on connecting to the consciousness or money through individual meditation. They deal with individual beliefs around money. They emphasize individual behavioral practices, e.g. paying oneself first, paying down debt. They suggest ways of functionally adapting and fitting within the existing structural channels of moneymaking (e.g. internet marketing, online courses, global trade, etc.).

What I guarantee they never do is show you the history of currencies. It won’t cover the history of state domination or colonialism. It won’t bring up the realm of ethics or norms. To do so would upset the apple cart.

The advice in such works is simply and always to charge for your services what the market will bear, never asking if that is a just thing. Recent economic research has shown that markets aren’t inherently always so intelligent and all-knowing as they were made out to be in modern Western economics (i.e. the so-called invisible hand.)

But nobody seems to want to focus on that. That’s seems so mental and judgmental and spirituality is all supposed to be about how I feel inside (again a modernist value). When we deny the intersubjective, we deny the fact that we have responsibility to one another. We deny that we are alive through what Thich Naht Hanh calls inter-being. We inter-are.

Culture and society is not simply what happens when we add up all the individuals. Culture (Lower Left) and Society (Lower Right) are intrinsic aspects of being-in-the-world.

The key wisdom of the intersubjective is profoundly missing from the manifestation world which is simply a reflection of the larger cultural problem of our contemporary age.

Manifestation teachings typically spend a great deal of time focused on what an individual’s authentic desires truly are. It turns out that framing the search as one for authentic personal individual meaning is a cultural trope. I’m not saying it’s inherently wrong as a cultural form but it is a cultural form. It’s a cultural form that’s not recognizing itself as a cultural form. That’s the problem.

As a result a bunch of individuals think they are simply meditating and connecting into their individual personal inner space and finding their truest most authentic desires and wants. And those authentic desires and wants, it turns out, look pretty similar to everyone else’s. Because after all it’s an unconscious cultural pattern.

Just a reminder I’m not saying all manifestation teachings are bunk. Or that the practices in those teachings aren’t valid. It’s just that they need to become conscious of their cultural setting.

Once we highlight the Lower Left, the cultural intersubjective sphere, then we can start to inquire into what kind of culture we want to participate in creating. Without making the intersubjective conscious we have (collectively) no choice nor responsibility. When we do make it conscious, we make such conscious creativity and responsibility possible.

In sum, then before we even get into the manifestation teachings themselves we need to first acknowledge major foundational flaws intrinsic to them. These holes I believe can be patched up leading to the possibility of their wisdom becoming more readily available in a much healthier form. Nevertheless that change isn’t possible until first there’s an honest recognition of the flaws.

17 Feb 2015 1 comment / READ MORE

Money, Ethics, and Healing: An Ambivalent Brew

Introduction: Money and Healing Arts

Recently I was asked to speak on energy healing at a bookstore here in Vancouver. In the discussion period a gentleman asked me about my sense of how money relates to energy healing (or healing modalities in general). He wanted to know what were my ethics around energy healing–do I charge? If so, how do I decide what is a just exchange?

It’s an important question, one that too often is either not asked or dismissed altogether. It’s a complex topic to be sure, yet I find myself frustrated when it comes to this topic by what I perceive to be two dominant extremes.

One extreme basically equates being wealthy with higher consciousness (so-called abundance consciousness in a lot of New Age spirituality). In that camp, one should charge whatever others will pay. Anything less is to somehow be infected with the dreaded virus of “poverty consciousness”. I interact with folks advocating some version of this view very frequently. While there are more sophisticated and more gross versions of this one, the same basic philosophy underlies them all, i.e. the philosophy of capitalism. Namely individuals acting in their own perceived highest self-interest intrinsically leads to the best outcome for the common good. Unfortunately history has shown this view does not lead to the creation of just societies. There’s a great deal of shaming that goes into this approach since all the responsibility is directly laid at each individual’s feet. In other words, if you’re poor, it’s your own fault. This spiritualist view also holds a deep misunderstanding of the structure of capitalism as well as how money operates as a debt instrument within capitalism. It too easily denies the reality of material causality in favor of the notion that everything is about consciousness first and materiality is just simply the outward expression of intentionality and consciousness. As a consequence it’s views on politics, economics, and history are naive at best, oppressive at worst.

As but one example of how multifaceted a topic this is, consider the case of spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson. She recently ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives. One of her key criticisms was of the corrupting influence of unchecked corporate money in the US political process (she’s totally on target with that critique btw). At the same time however she published a book on Money, Work, and Consciousness that is oblivious to the similarly corrupting influence of excessive unchecked wealth in the North American consumerist spiritual scene. She failed to articulate (or perhaps see) how the spirituality of money she articulates in her book can easily co-exist with and even give support to the political and economic ideologies that create the destructive political and social situation she so rightly criticizes. (On the other hand she did take the piss out of some rich techies).

So the uncritical view of wealth = abundance consciousness really needs to be critiqued.

The other extreme, however, is to see all forms of specifically monetary exchange as inherently corrupted. This is not really the helpful critique it may look like at first. (These are the kinds of people the first camp always points to as a way to justify their own position). I encounter these folks from time to time in my work–they either explicitly or usually more implicitly criticize me (or others) for charging money for my work. Doesn’t matter the amount–it’s the belief that all healing or spiritual work should be free. In the worst of all cases, this is really just a spiritual rationalization for the fact that they don’t want to properly acknowledge and pay for the skilled work of another. They feel entitled to receive for free without any requisite reciprocity (i.e. they are being deeply unjust). Lot of self-righteousness in this camp in my experience, though a very different kind than the first one.

Fortunately my sense of the man asking me the question was he was sincerely asking. I felt like I had some space to explore this question. The honest truth is I haven’t yet found a way of being in this process that feels completely aligned for me. It may be that I never will reach that place. Perhaps at best I’m angling closer and closer to that mark.

Hell, there may not even be such a place. I think it’s a question those of us creating our own work and businesses in the world in the realm of spirituality, energy healing, coaching, personal development, etc. need to continually be asking. My experience is most folks actually fall somewhere along a spectrum, often an uneasy fluid space, realizing however implicitly, that both extremes are deeply flawed but not entirely sure what other options are available.

Over the course of the last year I’ve developed a diverse set of models that I deploy throughout this work. My hope in so doing is that I’m creating a practice that is balanced in terms of exchange and overall is a just one. Though as I said, it’s definitely a work in progress and I would never claim I’ve solved this conundrum (the more I delve into, the less convinced I am that there is a perfect solution).

Here are the different models I use. But more than anything if this serves any purpose, hopefully it will encourage dialogue on this important topic among practitioners.

Models

Set Energetic Exchange
This form is the most common one I employ. In other worlds it would be considered a fee or the price. I prefer the term exchange. There is a just reciprocity between one who offer gifts with their talents to another and that other then giving back proportionally in response. In this version that exchange comes through money. (Though as you’ll see I do include other forms of exchange in my work). Over the course of the last year I’ve increased the rate of energetic (i.e. monetary) exchange a number of times. I purposefully set the rate initially on the low side in order to gain a sense of facility with the process I was developing. Now that I’ve worked through that process for nearly two years and feel very confident in its beneficial effects, I feel it’s appropriate to set the scale of exchange at a different rate.

Pay What You Can
I’m experimenting with this model in terms of small group work. I learned about this model through a few articles on restaurants where customers can pay whatever they can (or in some versions what they feel the meal is worth). There may be a suggested rate but no one is turned away. Clients with more material means are encouraged (assuming they enjoy the service and meal) to consider giving a larger amount than the suggested rate, knowing that in so doing they are covering for others who can’t afford the suggested rate, thereby allowing the restaurant to pay its staff properly and to maintain itself as a business.

Donation (aka dana)
This one’s straightforward. From the Latin donatio (gift), donation is a pure free-will offering (sometimes with a suggested donation) but ultimately each person makes up his/her mind and makes a monetary offering (or none at all). When I worked in churches this was the dominant form of exchange. In my work now I incorporate donation typically for evening lectures, one off events, or open gatherings.

Gifting
I seek to give out gifts from time to time. I don’t take applications for this one. I simply make a choice depending on the situation or as I desire. The concept derives from the Latin word for grace (gratia, like gratis meaning free of charge), which has its roots in pleasing, favoring, good will. I find it a helpful experience to remind me of the feeling of giving on its own terms.

Barter
Barter is typically in my world called a trade. Trading one’s skill set and sessions for another’s–usually another practitioner of a different healing modality. I have related in that way in the past. I’ve also found alternative forms of trade, e.g. individuals cooking me meals (only really good chefs though quality for this category though!).

Service Tithe
This one is sometimes referred to as the sliding scale, though I don’t agree with that term. What it means in practice is I’ve set a certain number of spots in my work that are available for the right clients who have challenging circumstances around paying the full exchange. Someone very motivated who would connect well with the work but for whom that level of financial contribution is simply not feasible. Those spots only open when one of the individuals currently going through the process under this provision finishes.

Implications

I deeply value the notions of commerce, artistry, production, creation, exchange, currency. I even love the word economics, It was a word used in Christian theology to describe God’s saving relationship to creation. It’s root meaning is the system of fair and equitable distribution of food in an ancient household system (called an oikos). In fact many economic terms have their roots in theology (or alternatively, much of theology has its roots in economics). Words like redemption, which only remains in English in terms of redeeming coupons, originally meant buying the freedom of a slave.

Even the word business itself. Etymologically, it refers to one’s care. It connotes a sense of diligence, occupation. It has a historical meaning of ‘what one is about at the moment’, i.e. one’s business.

I’ve created a business as a means to enact this work in the world. I chose this path over my previous ways–employment in the non-profit sector and my earlier years as a monk with vows of poverty, living in a setting of communal property ownership. The business I’m creating and the revenue it is designed to generate is a means to facilitate the work I want to do as well as the way I am able to provide for the needs of myself and my family. The various models are simply various strategies of trying to balance a sense of personal well being, proper energetic exchange, and justice in an unjust society.

Sadly all of these processes–commerce, trade, exchange, production, artistry–have become funnelled through a very distorted and distorting reality known as capitalism (and money as a debt instrument within capitalism). In its globalized form, capitalism (on the large scale) it seems to me is increasingly driven to a vision of plutocracy–to the desires of simply generating more capital itself. Under the ruling economic ideology (neoliberalism), humanity is choosing to take off the restrictions on capitalism. Capitalism however has no mechanism within itself for the just distribution of the wealth it generates. The evidence is clear that without a contravening process (e.g. high taxation and strong social safety net) capital inevitably becomes massively concentrated by a minuscule percentage of human beings. That this massively unjust distribution and inequality occurs is not primarily due to the fact that the ultra-wealthy have higher consciousness than everyone else and that the masses are unenlightened in their poverty consciousness. Contrary to the New Age ideology, money is not a neutral energy. Everything is not simply a product of your thoughts and actions creating your reality.

It’s taken me a long time to separate out the business, commercial, production, and exchange side from the mechanism of the exchange (namely capitalism). Doing so has allowed me to redeem (there’s that economic/theological word again) a sense of business. But it does mean I do so with full recognition that my business and my service exist within a wider network of injustice.

So while it would be easy for me to rail against them out there, whoever they are, the truth is is that I’m implicated in what I criticize as well. I’m not immune from it. I have seen the enemy and he is me. (At least in part).

How to live with that dual recognition of the inherent goodness of what I seek to offer in this world and the natural reciprocal process of occupation that enables it (also good) along with the intrinsically destructive platform by which and through which it occurs?

Because the honest truth is that I’m not interested in these challenges slowing me down to a place of inaction. I do want to make a significant impact. But I do carry a grief within me–one that I think all of us do if we become sensitized to the injustices of the world. If we don’t cut ourselves off from our natural empathy and horror in the face of such wanton historical and present-time cruelty and brutality. At this point the New Age traditions would advocate that I shouldn’t go down this road because I’m attracting bad things into my life by thinking negative thoughts. But I’m not interested in a spiritual version of anesthesia, to numb out economic, political, and social reality.

So for now this concatenation of models is the best I know how to do. I will continue to seek to evolve those processes and move (hopefully) to a place where the business itself generates new forms of creative expression that instantiate the values I hold dear and reveal a different mode of being, one more aligned to the wisdom of life than our out of alignment and distorted reality known as capitalism.

08 Feb 2015 no comments / READ MORE

Dissolving Pain: Or Spiritual Practice in Tattoo Chair

Posted by Chris Dierkes in Emotions, Healing Arts, Philosophy

tat

Last week I got a tattoo (my second tat, pictured above). This one is much larger and more intricate than my first so consequently I was in the chair much longer. All told it was about 3 1/2 hours for this one (in one sitting).

I mention this because it gave me a great opportunity to practice experiencing sensation. The tattoo artist repeatedly told me I was “taking it like a champ”. And while it is true I do have a high threshold for pain—I spent a lot of my youth getting pocked and prodded with needles as well as various painful medical procedures–I wasn’t just grinning and bearing it.

What allowed me to work through the experience was something more than just a high threshold or tolerance for pain. It’s one of the fruits of a kind of conscious bodily practice.

What do I mean by conscious bodily practice?

In order to answer that let’s start with clarifying a couple of terms: suffering and pain. For this context I would define suffering as what we do to avoid pain. It is what we add onto pain itself. (This isn’t always true but in this case I think this definition holds and it holds in many many other contexts as well). In this understanding suffering is more optional whereas pain is inevitable. In other words, one can experience pain without necessarily suffering.

This is a good first start but it’s not the final step because pain as it turns out isn’t as simple as pain.

Pain is itself (in many cases) an interpretation. What I mean is that it’s possible to get underneath pain–to befriend pain as my friend Irene Lyon would say. Pain can be broken down into constituent micro-sensations.

And this is what I did while being tattooed.

Pain is a word we have for a series of various sensations, mostly unpleasant sensations. If a person senses into the experience itself and takes off the interpretive filter of pain then it is possible for the pain to shift into other sensations.

So while I’m sitting being tattooed there were times where it was painful. There were plenty of other times where it was not.

Sometimes I would simply acknowledge I was experiencing pain and that was about that. I could still be talking to the tattooist, the other guys in the shop, listen to the music that was playing, or be working through something in my mind. A bit of pain but nothing overwhelming or particularly concerning.

Other times I wanted to explore the sensations I was calling pain. In those moments I felt into the sensations and then they stopped being pain.

When I really focused and felt and became curious about the sensations I found that what I otherwise reflexively call pain ended up being a much richer series of experiences and sensations.

I would simply become curious and name each sensation as it was occurring, Internally it would go like:
“scratching”
“tearing”
“clawing”
“burning”
“searing”
“oozing” (blood)
“zapping”

Then there was sensations I would describe as:
“throbbing”
“shooting”
“sharp”
“stretching”
“tightening”

I kept going:
“pulsing”
“twitching”
“rubbing”
“numbing”

When there would be temporary breaks in the process I would even feel:
“pleasure”
“release”
“relaxation”

At the most intense experiences during which I focused most deeply into the process, I even began to feel blissful. Blissful in what others would label pain.

I became so intensely focused at points that I actually forgot I was being tattooed (no joke!). I had my eyes closed and became so drawn into the sensations I really for a time lost the world around me or what was going on.

I opened my eyes up and was for a second was pretty startled until I remembered, “Oh yeah I’m getting a tattoo.”

Throughout the 3+ hours in the chair I would never once describe my experience as suffering. I never got caught in a mental whirl about how painful this all was and when would it be over and how much longer and oh god this is terrible and I can’t escape and I’m feeling trapped and please make it stop.

Didn’t happen.

I never suffered. I did experience plenty of pain but without much resistance to the pain itself. A few winches that was it. The most painful place was in the soft tissue on my curving towards my armpit. The second most tender place was along the ridge of my shoulder, where we touched some bone.

At those points especially I went into the pain and pain dissolved into other sensations–plenty of which were uncomfortable and unpleasant in various ways but intriguing and fascinating. Not in a masochistic kind of way but in a clarifying way.

Of course you don’t have to get tattooed to experience pain or more accurately unpleasant sensation. It’s part of our daily lives. Though if you are getting tattooed this is the way to do it trust me.

The good news here is that it’s very simple to reduce our suffering and enter our pain. By welcoming and entering our pain we can find our pain isn’t as simple as pain.

As I was walking home after the tattoo I could tell there were some blocked parts in my arm. Parts that felt as if they had been zapped or poked and had quickly contracted. All completely normal at the time no doubt.

The experience however was over yet these places felt as if they hadn’t relaxed from their contracted state. Like in grade school when kids would fake punching each other in the gut, the stomach naturally caves in as protection. But it was as if part of my arm was still caved in long after I realized the kid was only faking a punch. Or in this case actually sticking a needle into my flesh.

On the walk home, I let my arm start to gently move. It wanted to do this kind of almost popping up motion, with my shoulder raising and then lowering. As I did I began to feel energy and sensation moving and releasing, like electrical charges firing off.

Peter Levine says that pain is trapped sensation. It’s unfinished sensation, a kind of unfinished movement. By allowing the sensations to finish, allowing them to move as they wished–both during the tattooing and afterwards–my healing process has gone very smoothly. Little bits of residual soreness and tightness in some spots (to be expected) but overall doing wonderfully.

Anyone can learn this natural yet powerful way of relating to the sensations we describe as pain. Whether those are chronic types of pain or temporary periods of specific localized pain.

We release suffering by entering the pain (wisely) and the pain then itself dissolves into component sensations. We then learn to follow the impulses of those sensations bodily–flowing, rocking, swaying, loosening, as needed.

Healing results.

* Tattoo courtesy the awesome dudes at Sanitary Electric Tattoo here in Vancouver.

24 Jan 2015 no comments / READ MORE

Male Pain and Male Voice: Part II

Posted by Chris Dierkes in Emotions, Healing Arts, The Soul

[Author’s Introduction]

On Monday I published Part I of this series. It looked at the case of Jian Ghomeshi and the media response to it. In that piece I argued there was a missing element of the pain of men. From there I laid out a vision I hold for a discourse of and (largely) by men that work with in solidarity with many movements, most notably feminism.

The piece generated a firestorm of controversy on my FB page. I’m not interested in re-hasing that entire debate as it was multi-layered. There were a number of criticism of my piece; I thought some of those criticisms were valid and others definitely not. At the bottom of Part I there’s an updated section where I acknowledge the criticisms.

The primary takeaway for me was that I wanted to talk about what I see as a great degree of male pain (that is what this article is focused on) and that the Ghomeshi overlay brought in a very volatile mix of debate around feminism, patriarchy, gender profiling, true solidarity and justice work, men’s rights activism, and so on. I stand by what I wrote in that piece but I also don’t want to needlessly reignite that controversy.

So in light of the response I’ve decided to take out the Ghomeshi backdrop for this piece. What I say here are things I’ve been thinking of for awhile now. The Ghomeshi case and in particular the response to it online helped coalesce some of those thoughts and gave me an impulse with which to explore them (for better and for worse it might be said). But my argument here is in no way dependent upon that case (or more the very complex question of abuse and violence).

Hopefully this will allow the discussion concerning this piece to be simply what it is. I don’t claim that this approach is a magical cure all for a whole series of interrelated (entangled?) topics and issues. I simply want to put forward one element I see missing. I think it’s an important one but by no means the only or final one.

So here in Part II what I want to explore is what I see needing to be understood and later communicated by men about their experience. This introduction I’ve written this evening (Wed). The main body of the piece below was written before the response to Part I (in fact before publication of Part I). I’ve mostly left it as is but have made some adjustments.

I’ll be using the term men fairly broadly and by nature stereotypically in this account but please note the specifications given in Part I. I’m also not speaking from a scientific survey or report frame of reference so it will be more anecdotal and general in nature. I’m not claiming to be a social science research authority on the subject.

I see a twin void in the heart of most men in our culture. These twin wounds are deep and pervasive. I call them twin because they are technically separable, especially conceptually, though in practice they tend to overlap and flow into one another.

The first major wounding is shame. Men in our society carry enormous unspoken, unacknowledged, unloved, unreceived, and unappreciated shame. My sense is that many men will not admit this to themselves, much less to anyone else. Part of the reason for this closeted shame is that some men are honest about their shame and share it with others–both to men and to women. They often find their shame cruelly denounced. From there they only go to push the shame down further into some dark corner of their being, there to fester and express itself later in unhealthy (and potentially destructive) ways.

I’ve written before on the existence of healthy shame–a voice of wisdom within us that acknowledges that we are radically free and empowered beings while simultaneously (all of us) being incredibly ill-equipped for life. Forever and profoundly incomplete. Healthy shame is being fundamentally at ease with our inherent weaknesses as human beings.

This is hard enough for anyone. It’s especially hard and especially not allowable for men in our society.

The shame residing in men however is not the healthy kind. It’s the profoundly debilitating variety. Toxic shame as it’s often called. Unacknowledged (or worse suppressed) shame goes rogue in our being. It becomes perverted and leaks out in all manner of harmful ways.

This male shame runs so deeply that even well-meaning attempts to respond to it can often end up unintentionally reinforcing it. I’m thinking of a piece like this one by Thomas Fiffer entitled 6 Things Men Don’t Need to Be Ashamed Of. The intent of the piece of is clear enough–for men to take pride in aspects of their being. Except I would argue this doesn’t work and only drives the shame further down by being told we shouldn’t feel the shame. The shame is there. Telling someone not to feel that way is not going to deal with the feeling. It will only drive it further down.

Healthy shame is the feeling of being exposed, having all aspects of one’s being be seen. More men are going to have to take the courageous stance of saying they are ashamed and hurting not as a plea for someone else to fix their pain or their brokenness or as a legitimation of problematic behavior but as a radical act of strength by revealing the deep wounds.

Shame often is accompanied by grief. Basically no one in our society knows how to grieve and this is most especially true for men.

When I hear people (usually but not always women) in the circles I tend to run in wonder or even complain about men not having access to their emotions I typically respond by saying men’s emotional lives are not safe. The first emotions most men will encounter if they dare dive into their souls are grief and shame. Those are two of the toughest emotions to learn to navigate consciously. These men have been given essentially no tools for acknowledging and working with their emotions generally much less shame and grief particularly. As far as I can tell the only emotion that is generally socially accepted for men is anger which is a beautiful emotion but one with a clearly defined (and limited!) role. Constructive anger is the capacity to (re)establish healthy emotional boundaries when lines have been crossed by another person.

But when anger is set up to be doing the work of grief, fear, sadness, shame, and remorse, as it is for many men, then we have a very serious problem–a problem of rage and self-loathing. (Self-loathing being another way to talk about unhealthy or toxic shame–the belief, the feeling that one is inherently bad, broken, and unredeemable.  Rage is a very complex emotion energetically–in its healthy aspect (very hard to access for the record) rage is a primordial

When I work with healthy rage and when I am able to access it (not always possible in my case)  I feel as if I’m the eye of a hurricane. I become utterly, almost preternaturally, still. I burn blue or white hot. The fire is so intense it’s almost as if it is no longer a fire.

The paradoxical gift of healthy shame is pure liberation. The paradoxical gift of healthy rage is a sense of total (almost newborn) innocence.

But these emotions are very challenging to deal with and probably are best dealt with after learning to deal with sadness, grief, anger, fear, remorse, etc.

Perhaps now we can see why it’s safer to distract oneself with video games, porn, alcohol, loveless sexual encounters, or workoholism rather than try to navigate all that emotionally dicey terrain. Diving into those emotional waters without proper guidance and training is actually not safe at all. Grief and shame are very powerful characters in our psyche (as are shame and rage) and if they are not dealt with wisely then can cause significant damage–though dealt with properly they are sources of incredible insight.

So contrary to how these things are often viewed, I see these stereotypical distractions and addictions as imbued with a certain intelligence (if ultimately limited and self-defeating).

As an example of what I mean, take the rise of the so-called man cave phenomenon. I find it a fascinating social expression, full of all kinds of hidden meaning. The first thing I think it tells us is that the home does not feel a safe place for many men (the men have to create a separate space in the garage or basement for their maleness). They do not see themselves as actually in a sense being partners in the home.

Second thing that’s interesting is that caves are traditionally where men and boys (and sometimes women and girls) were sent to go through cultural and spiritual initiation rituals. One went into the cave and partook in the initial and then returned to the tribe changed in some fundamental way. Importantly that change was recognized and honored by the tribe at large.

Since our society has almost wholesale given up such wisdom, the faintest thread of memory remains and we reinvent the thing we long for but in a very unconscious way (the man cave). The cave is a safe entryway in this world to the underworld, i.e. the descent of the soul into it’s pain. Our man caves exist to numb out the pain rather than to face into it. They will remain such until we acknowledge the underlying pain and learn to deal with it in healthy ways.

My experience though is that in order to get a hearing as a man with this kind of pain (and in my case as a white, heterosexual, middle class man) a man needs first to listen and to grow in relationship. If a men’s movement wanted to gain actual legitimacy and truth in life, I believe it would start first with acknowledging the pain of others, i.e. those hurt by the modern era. Children, women, people of color, the poor, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered. Start there. Let their experience break your heart. And then from having listened, speak to one’s own pain.

I’ve spent a great deal of the last 15 years of my life connecting and interacting with people with a different biological sex, as well as gender, cultural, sexual orientation identities different from my own. I would never claim I understand what it’s like from the inside of those worlds. I’m not after all a woman. I’m not after all gay, lesbian, or bisexual. I’m not after a person of East Asian or African or aboriginal ancestry. I have however tried to be as humble as I can and listen. I’ve genuinely try to imagine myself in the experience of these other people and the times when I honestly can’t, I simply acknowledge I can’t really understand what that’s like.

Of course I’m still heavily shaped by my experience and lenses and biases, but those experiences have taught me to try (as best as I can) to imagine the world from a different perspective. To try to honestly take into account the experiences I’ve heard from others, their stories, perspectives, and values, whenever I speak.

There is a lot of male pain and it isn’t being heard widely in society. Still rather than immediately jumping into it–however understandable that is–it’s going to require deeper listening. It’s going to require waiting to speak and in that speaking acknowledging the profound sufferings of others.

When held rightly, pain and suffering, grief and shame are what bring solidarity. We are very different in our different manifestations. We are the same in that we are all hurting, vulnerable, beautiful beings. Including yes men of privilege. Constant fights and divisions over whose suffered more don’t serve us here. Everyone suffers, not all necessarily equally in either intensity or magnitude. But hurt deeply everyone does. Especially in this crazed, insane world we inhabit.

That male pain is going unacknowledged society-wide and its causing enormous damage, internal and external.

Men’s pain does not need to be in competition with the pain of others (especially women’s pain). It should honestly be brought forward as one more valid voice within the litany, the lamentation of our collective sorrow. It’s real. Its not the only form of pain. Yet it’s still real and the fact that it isn’t spoken about or listened to is a cause of even more suffering.

But men’s pain is real. The ultimate shame is that men’s inner lives are not valued in our culture. As a society we don’t care about the inner lives of men–this is the message men receive as boys. They receive that message both from adult men and women. They will hear that message repeated throughout their lives and eventually they will pass it on to the next generation.

Men’s value is in terms of their external productivity (just as women’s values is typically judged by their external looks). Many (though by no means all) women in our society are granted permission, even encouraged to have inner lives–the terrible cost of which is the pervasive belief that therefore others should have a right to judge the inner world of those women (again whether the judger is a woman or man).

Men don’t have so much in the way of judgment of their inner lives. Rather their inner lives are simply of no consequence. And whether a man will admit this or not, he knows it. Deep down he knows who he is as a human being, as a person, doesn’t much count or matter. Not in terms of his emotions, his consciousness, his sentience.

That’s where his shame comes from.

It’s a secret so terrible and dark he dare never speak its name.

A man who is able to face this truth, to accept his being (warts, glories, and everything in between) becomes a source of grounding. He is one who holds a gentle and persuasive but not dominating form of power. His being is nurturing not because he’s embraced his “inner feminine” but because he’s embraced the inherently nurturing aspect of his male being. He’s not a “sensitive guy” but rather an empathetic man.

That’s one side of the void.

The other side is harder to speak of. It’s more elusive, harder to pinpoint, more challenging to name.

Christiane Pelmas calls this other energy re-wilding; for men she calls it stallion energy.

This energy is a raw male energy put to the good of life. It is male participation in Eros, the warm radiant pulse of creative existence itself.

This side is can be acknowledged (unlike men’s pain) though often only in a negative fashion. Namely it’s criticized as inherently evil*. Or in the rare cases when this energy is acknowledged in a positive sense it’s a very immature, unconscious form of this energy: namely machismo, patriarchal tough guy imagery.

As a result, Pelmas describes this energy as caged and one that lashes out in turn when caged.

If we hold the view that this more primal male energy is not to be trusted, not of life, not to be honored, then it’s clear that (many? all?) men need to be re-educated. They need to be shamed into seeing not simply how terrible certain actions are but also how their desires are inherently disordered. This is the only way you can discipline such men–to use Foucault’s term.

A more honest, a more conscious approach would be to say that he (and by extension men more broadly) have two tasks ahead of them.

  • To acknowledge their grief, their loss, their incompleteness.
  • To learn to work wisely and compassionately with this other aspect of their maleness (call it stallion energy perhaps).

Of the two paths mentioned above–the twin male voids–I’ve largely come to be at peace with the first. I’ve grieved my losses. I’m at ease with the incomplete elements of my makeup. This aspect of me creates trust and a sense of safety for others.

But the second, the so-called stallion energy, is a major struggle for me.

Raised Roman Catholic, a good altar boy with a sincere spiritual impulse, these genuine aspects of myself were at odds with my adolescent and later young adult male energy, particularly in its darker aspects. Darker here not meaning evil, darker simply meaning darker. Of the night. Blackness.

We shouldn’t reduce Eros to sexual energy but there’s no fullness of Eros without it either. This combination of innocence, boyishness, raw primal vitality, spiritualized insight, sexual energy, and even lust is a subtle, confusing, and complex interweaving. it’s generative energy which can either be used for creation or demolition. It’s a clarion call to cleaning up this energy and incorporating it in a healthy conscious way in our lives. Turning it off numbs men down. Turning it on without subtle intelligence is a recipe for potential violence.

I can’t claim to have great facility with what Pelmas calls the stallion energy, or at least significant parts of it anyway. It does show up in my relentless push to work on myself so that I can be as clear and clean as possible in my interactions. It shows up in strong desire to be of service. It shows up in my choice to enter into conflicted territory and often say controversial (but hopefully loving) things.

But there are definitely other aspects of the stallion energy that I’m not skilled in. I suppose energy is the best word for it. It’s not really an emotion. Or at least my own experience, if that’s any guide to go by, tells me that it’s possible to have capacity with a whole range of human emotion (as a man) and still struggle to access this stallion energy. It’s also not really an instinct (at least not totally).

But it is something. It’s an energy if we understand energy in its original root meaning (from the Greek): an activity, action, or operation. It’s something active, a working or work.

So we can see then that these two woundings include a more emotional component and a more energetic component. They intertwine and overlap in myriad ways but I do think (at least conceptually as well as in practice) they are distinguishable from each other. It’s important to distinguish them I believe because when they are all wrapped up in each other and one (or both) are in unconscious or unhealthy form then we are back to some potentially twisted, messed up stuff (yes, those are precise technical terms).

In the spiritual teaching world (where I spend most of my time and activity) this stallion energy would be called the masculine (aka The Divine Masculine). By the masculine is meant a transpersonal essence in interplay with the feminine (aka The Divine Feminine). In Part III I want to explore that particular framework around this energy–how I think the framework of the masculine isn’t the most helpful one to be able to relate to this stallion energy.

* And just for a moment to touch back into the controversy surrounding Part I yes there are some forms of feminism that do precisely this (i.e. equate the stallion energy with intrinsic violence). Not all forms of feminism, not even most in my experience. But some.

06 Nov 2014 no comments / READ MORE