Soulcraft Musings 22/12/17 – A Few Sketches of Soul

A Few Sketches of Soul   
 This is the seventh part of a fourteen part Musing (one per week) (reproduced from the Animas Valley Institute
Friday, December 22, 2017

The Song of Wandering Aengus

 I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
– William Butler Yeats
 Some examples of mythopoetic identity might be helpful, even though it’s impossible to communicate the numinosity of the human soul in a few words. Much better would be an intricate story or poem, something there’s not space here to include. (The single best way to understand a person’s soul purpose is to live in community with them and experience them in action.) That said, I’ll offer here a few linguistic sketches with the hope this will at least convey a feeling for the difference between a social-vocational identity and a soul identity.
There are a great number of people whose mystical encounters with soul I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to learn about and to witness the embodiment of. The following are four exceedingly brief word portraits that embody the wild mysteries of such encounters and how they’ve been communicated mythopoetically, each of these examples being mere intimations of the genius and destiny of these four individuals:
  • the overseer who guides others into the oceanic depths of the psyche
  • the one with a sparkling heart who walks the path of the bear
  • she who generates perception-expanding images and identity-destabilizing questions
  • the one who dances the earth and dreams song to feed the longing
 Despite being so brief, you can sense how these soul-infused identities and purposes contrast with middleworld cultural roles. These are not job descriptions you’ll ever see advertised. They are not the kinds of recommendations you’ll get from a vocational guidance counselor. They are of the dreamtime or the mythic. And they are the kinds of purposes utterly core to our deepest, innate human identities.
Another example: The preface to my book Soulcraft recounts my own story of how I received, on my first vision fast at age 30, an initial glimpse of my soul identity or ecological role as the one who weaves cocoons of transformation.
Three more: Malidoma Somé , the West African elder and teacher, identifies his destiny, his place in the world, as “he who makes friends with the enemy/ stranger,” something revealed to him (by Mystery) as a young man during a month-long initiation process.[1]
Joanna Macy, the North American ecophilosopher, spiritual activist, Buddhist scholar, and Earth elder, experienced a life-shifting numinous image during a meditation session in the early weeks of her Buddhist practice, while living in India, at age 37:
To my inner eye appeared a bridge, slightly arching, made of stone. I could see the separate rocks of which it was built, and I wanted to be one of them. Just one, that was enough, if only I could be part of that bridge between the thoughtworlds of East and West, connecting the insights of the Buddha Dharma with the modern Western mind. What my role might be — at the podium of a college classroom? at a desk in a library tower? — was less clear to me than the conviction possessing me now: I would be a stone in the building of that bridge.[2]
Irish poet William Butler Yeats, in his mid twenties, discovered that his destiny or soul-calling was to
… pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.[3]
In Soulcraft and Nature and the Human Soul, you’ll find much more elaborate accounts of soul encounters and identities.[4]
Now that we have a better feeling for how our mythopoetic human psyches experience soul and communicate it to our conscious minds — by way of numinous images — next week we’ll consider the vital difference between our soul images and what we do to embody those images, which is to say the difference between our soul purpose and our delivery system for soul.
To read part one through seven click here.
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