in integral

Integral Soul

Maps feed our minds, poetry feeds our souls, and in all the feasting and fasting Spirit is forever adance.

Today has brought a facinating confluence of thought on the soul in integral theory to the fore for me. I’ve been rereading Ken Wilber’s One Taste, while reading some compelling takes on the role of soul from William Harryman’s Integral Options Cafe and Joe Perez’s Until.

William’s take on integral in “Soul in Intergal Theory” is that it neglects Soul in favour of Spirit. He associates Spirit with agency and Soul with communion, among other distinctions.

Integral theory, in my experience, is heavily biased toward Spirit at the neglect of Soul. Lately, I have been feeling the need to have a more balanced relationship with the world — I want transcendence and translation, agency and communion, autonomy and interconnectedness, knowledge and experience, and so on.

Soul seeks communion, interconnectedness, experience, inclusion, and darkness. This is what Jung called the anima, which is the original Greek word for soul.
Spirit seeks agency, autonomy, knowledge, distinctions, and light. This is what Jung called the animus, the original Greek word for spirit.

In William’s experience, if I understand him correctly, integral theory, as a map of reality, is too rooted in intellectual, transcendential, non-experiential and non-sensual approaches.

Joe responded to William’s piece with “How We Care for the Soul“. Right away he reminds us that the map is for the mind and then goes on to encourage us to include soul as we include mind and body, but to not limit ourselves to soul when Spirit and our true identity awaits.

Theology feeds the mind, not the soul. It’s silly to try to get nourishment from theology. Theology will not give us a sense of being grounded and alive to the harmonious rhythms that unite our bodies and nature. But the silliness of the enterprise doesn’t mean it’s not tempting.

The soul defeats attempts to break it down into modules and transcend its messier aspects with the neatness and purity of spirit. So let the soul defeat us. But let us not wander forever in the realms of the psychic/subtle, for this is not territory that most of us will want to spend the rest of our lives traversing! Let us come to the fullest possible understanding of our true nature, a sense of identity that enfolds the soul, but one that allows us to choose whether we allow ourselves to descend into the soul’s muddy waters or whether we choose to live from a wider sense of identity. I believe in the great “I AMness” that we are, the great Everyness of each moment, there is a self-recognition of Spirit. There is possible the realization of our highest and widest identity in the unborn spirit, existing outside of Time yet one with all levels of our individual and collective beings. I believe proper caring for the soul can mean giving our psychic/subtle self a rest, and not always placing the entire burden of our existence on so fragile a peg. So let us choose carefully how we engage our spirits and souls, for this passion play of a world very much needs us to bring all of who we are to the drama.

Joe is framing soul, I believe, as a manifestation of Spirit, an aspect of our Self that follows body and mind in the holarchy of our being. Here I think the two diverge in a way that has more to do with definition than outright disagreement. William seems to be addressing the difference between involution and evolution (understandably wanting more of the former in his life), while Joe is addressing an aspect of our selves that is immersed in the involutionary and evolutionary currents.

In One Taste, Ken Wilber writes poetically about both the involutionary and evolutionary plays and the manifest layers it has in soul, mind and body. I find his description of personal involution from Spirit to be beautiful.

Once you find your formless identity as Buddha-mind, as Atman, as pure Spirit or Godhead, you will take that constant, nondual, ever-present consciousness and reenter the lesser states, subtle mind [soul] and gross body, and reanimate them with radiance. You will not remain merely Formless and Empty. You will Empty yourself of Emptiness: you will pour yourself into the mind and world, and create them in the process, and enter them all equally, but especially and particularly that specific mind and body that is called you; this lesser self will become the vehicle of the Spirit that you are.

My take on Ken’s work is that he deftly balances involution and evolution, experience and theory, agency and communion, style and subtance, mind, body and soul. But I sympathize with William’s stance and understand that spending too much time exploring the map leaves us longing for adventures in the territory.

I have a huge sense of admiration for both Joe and William, and enjoy the genuine dynamic that is formed when sharp minds go exploring in this space we are moving into. William’s call for inhabiting our lives with embodied, connecting grace is vital, as is Joe’s reminder of just what’s behind the masks.

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  1. Hey Apollo,

    Thanks for adding your voice to the convseration. I think you provide a good bridge between what I am saying and Joe's take on it — as well as adding from Ken's own words.

    My main complaint is that in Integral Theory and its ILP experiential product lacks much emphasis on working with the Soul part of our lives — the part that is grounded in the earth, the seasons, the senses. If I believed in astrology I would think this was my sensual Taurus nature showing through.

    Peace,
    Bill

  2. Hey Apollo,

    Thanks for adding your voice to the convseration. I think you provide a good bridge between what I am saying and Joe's take on it — as well as adding from Ken's own words.

    My main complaint is that in Integral Theory and its ILP experiential product lacks much emphasis on working with the Soul part of our lives — the part that is grounded in the earth, the seasons, the senses. If I believed in astrology I would think this was my sensual Taurus nature showing through.

    Peace,
    Bill