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Image by Veronica Marr

“The old soul that dwells at the core of each person has a tolerance for chaos and an instinct for survival. Not in the simple biological terms of survival of the fittest, but a complex involvement with hidden aspects of creation. We can only come to know our soul when the chips are down, when there’s nothing else to do but take on a bigger imagination of the cosmos and of our place within it. The return of cosmic order and cosmic sense always happens at the edge of the abyss, on the brink of disaster where life and beauty and meaning are snatched once again from the teeth of chaos.”
— Michael Meade, “Awakening the Soul”


Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: “From what you say, I feel that you also have heard “the cry of the Earth,” and the real need of the moment is then how to respond. How can we help to bring our world back into balance? Spiritual ecology, which has been the focus of much of my work over the past decade, explores the need for a spiritual response to our present ecological crisis. Yes, we are facing “two existential crises developing with terrifying speed, climate breakdown and ecological breakdown.” But the Earth is not a problem to be solved, but a living being in distress, needing the help of both our hands and hearts.

If you’ve ever been defeated, if you’ve ever lost everything, you know what Michael Meade is talking about. We do our utmost to avoid appearing in the world without our costumes and accoutrements. Facing the cruel world without our persona to hide behind is what we wish to avoid at all costs. The last thing we want is to be stripped bare right down to the essential self, the part of us we keep hidden — the part of us we call Soul.

If the collective follows the same path as the individual does, we can expect to lose a lot our culture is proud of. Loss of negotiating power, of military might, of financial and economic resources, of reputation and status would be the cultural equivalent of what happens on an individual level. There may be no other way to progress. It’s easy to accumulate comforting defenses but it’s traumatic to have to drop them.

The social upheaval involved in a big cultural shift like that will require new energies, things like kindness and generosity. Maybe when fewer people are protected from the vicissitudes of life on this planet they’ll start to realize how important a soft heart is.

Maybe people have to experience for themselves the cruelty of indifference in order to grow their own sense of empathy. How society is put together, what we imagine is normal is also our personal template of how our own hearts and minds are structured.

Humans appear to be approaching a catastrophe on a global scale. The hubris of our modern industrial society is choking the natural world, and because our human lives are so choked with diversions from the sacredness of everything, we are due a comeuppance. We participate in the collective drift but we experience our lives individually. We suffer personally. Being stripped bare is painful but that’s how we grow.

For many of us, finding love comes after living the barrenness of a loveless life. It comes after seeing how it feels to always live in a defensive posture and how much kindness changes everything.

Nobody wants to go through the ringer but the experience called “the dark night of the soul” is needed to burn away the dross and help us evolve. We can’t get that same effect from an easy life.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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