Notes on the Practice of Soulwork
A ) “Uniting the one to the One" is a phrase that was used by the late Reverend Frida Waterhouse to indicate the sacred marriage of one's human consciousness—with its vital underpinnings in the psyche and body—to universal divine consciousness. It represents the merging of the personal self with the spiritual Self, or Soul. Before I go further, I want to acknowledge with love and respect the debt of gratitude I feel
toward my mentors Frida Waterhouse and Harvey Grady in the study and practice of spiritual psychology. Frida introduced Three-Self Work—meaning the coordination of the (1) instinctive, (2) conscious, and (3) divine realms that comprise the human spirit—to the Sufi community in the early 1970s. More recently, Harvey Grady's discovery of the Astral and Mental Judge Selves has added a crucial dimension to the mapping and understanding of the human psyche. Although they never met, Frida and Harvey both
studied with Drs. Wayne Guthrie and Bella Karish of the Fellowship of Universal Guidance in Los Angeles, where they learned the basics of Three-Self Work. Each in their own way, Frida and Harvey expanded the scope of what they learned with Wayne and Bella. Harvey now calls his work Self Integration.
I refer to my practice as Soulwork because it takes the myriad forces projected by the Soul into the human psyche, body and personality and melds them into a functioning unity or whole. This constitutes the first stage of Soulwork: to integrate the various conscious and subconscious aspects of the personality into a harmonious family of 'selves,' which in devotional practice becomes a prayer circle.
The second stage of Soulwork is to coalesce the integrated personality self, or prayer circle, with Higher Consciousness. In other words, to repeat Frida's maxim, To unite the one to the One.
In brief, Soulwork is Three-Self Work, plus acceptance of, and work with, the Judge Selves. In my experience, the befriending of each of one's subconscious selves is essential in Soulwork. It is the Bodhisattva ideal transposed to the world of one's own psyche.
Along these lines, Hazrat Inayat Khan says, "Psychology is the higher alchemy, and one must not study it only without practicing it. Practice and study must go together, which opens the door to happiness for every soul" (Gatha 1, Series II, Insight) Image Wildwood tarot
B) Perhaps the best way to proceed would be to share my personal experience with the Soulwork process. It began in the fall of 1980 when I entered my fifth year of hemodialysis due to end stage renal disease. Illness and debility had convinced me that I would soon die. I had undergone a kidney transplant operation earlier that summer, but my body rejected the kidney and after a week the transplanted organ was removed. On top of my health problems, I was going through a painful divorce. I was deeply depressed and emotionally numb; it was a time that felt marked by an absence of hope. (image tarot of transfromation)
Curiously, a part of me must have held some hope because I had taken the initiative to move from my home in Petaluma to the Palo Alto Khankah to receive thrice-weekly inputs of X-radiation at the nearby Stanford Medical Center over a period of three months. My transplant surgeon believed that a radical protocol involving massive doses of X-radiation would render my immune system incapable of rejecting a new kidney. The doctor, so sure the protocol would work, told me I would be at the top of the list when a kidney became available.
In December 1980 toward the end of the three-month protocol, I returned to Petaluma to spend Christmas with my children. On my desk was a letter from Frida Waterhouse. In her inimitable concise style she had written:
It is my reality that each of us has a Male Basic Self and a Female Basic Self, as well as an Inner Child, that live in the psyche. These Selves can, and often do, cause difficulty in our lives—especially if we don't honor them and give them their due. If the neglect is pronounced, the Basic Selves can cause illness.
Please consider the possibility that you have neglected to acknowledge and honor your Basic Selves, and that this may be why you are having such a hard time.
I offer myself as an instrument of the Most High, and am willing to help if you are interested.
Something in those light-filled lines caused a stir within me. I returned the letter to the envelope and made a mental note to read it again after my protocol and transplant operation were over.
I don't mean to dwell on my past medical history, but to use it as an example to illustrate how a medical or other personal crisis can precipitate needed life changes. Many of us 'plateau out' at levels comfortable to us, which can result in stagnation and lack of growth. When such a status quo persists for too long, High Selves will graciously provide stimulation, whether we like it or not, for further learning and growth.
C) As I read this section I contemplated how much my male self has created a driven life with not enough value on relationships and being! What is the balance like for you? Image: Intensity from Osho Zen Tarot
After the Christmas holiday, I returned to Palo Alto to conclude the weeks of the X-radiation protocol. Toward the end of 1981, I received a 2 AM telephone call from the University of San Francisco Medical Center saying that they had a kidney for me. A few hours later, I received a kidney from a twenty-two year old female student who had died of a brain aneurysm.
With the introduction of the new kidney my body experienced a dramatic improvement. But my mind, which faced a divorce upon my return home—not to mention the challenge of having to learn how to live instead of die—began to disintegrate. While in hospital, I experienced several episodes of psychogenic distortion and breakdown. My surgeon attributed the episodes to the effects of the X-radiation combined with powerful immunosuppressive drugs.
One night in early February 1981, as my mental condition worsened, I believed I was descending into madness. What I was actually descending into was the chaotic state of my own psyche. At the moment I was about to give up hope of ever being sane again, a remarkable thing happened. Frida Waterhouse appeared to me in vision. She didn't say a word, she just walked, putting one foot in front of the other. The rhythm of her walk set my whole being in order, and the mental chaos disappeared—temporarily.
Over the coming months and years, I would be forced to deal with the painful realities of a shattered mind, a broken heart, and a grief-stricken spirit—all housed within a fragile body that was now destined to stay alive. Like the jumbled pieces of Humpty Dumpty after the Great Fall, these were the elements that would require more grace and healing than "all the king's horses and all the king's men" could muster.
My Male Self, with whom I was primarily identified and who had been running the show for the first 40 years of my life, was now utterly broken. He had believed himself capable of Olympian feats, especially in the spiritual realm. But he had forgotten how to willingly surrender his ego, so now the Universe was graciously crushing it for him.
He had also forgotten the importance of the Feminine Principle in his life: a loving presence rooted in connection to all of Life—"Thy Light is in all forms, Thy Love in all beings." She would prove to be a nurturing, healing presence, a presence whose very vulnerability would confer a strength and resilience that my Male Self, in his arrogance, could never know.
"All the king's horses and all the king's men" were going down to defeat. The death-knell of the patriarchy and its one-sided imperatives was tolling, the funeral procession was trooping through my psyche. It was the end of the world as I knew it.
It was also a revolution. The inner voices that had been suppressed for ages, beginning with the voice of my Female Self, would now speak. Not only would they speak, they would be heard. No longer would they be taken for granted. And as is typical of revolutions, the 'good' would be thrown out with the 'bad.'
This thoroughgoing psychic purging was a necessary prelude to the slow, laborious and painstaking process of grace and healing that must come, that would come. Indeed, grace and healing came through Frida, my teacher and friend, and through Mei-Ling Chang, my life partner. Grace and healing also came through my own need to be an ordinary human being—not special but just ordinary—replete with faults, feelings, lusts and longings.
As Hazrat Inayat Khan declares in Gayan, "Hail to my exile from the Garden of Eden to the earth! If I had not fallen, I should not have had the opportunity of probing the depths of life."
Inayat Khan's tale of Usman Haruni Chisti and his mureed, Moineddin Chisti, bowing before the image of Mother Kali influenced me powerfully during this time. Equally important in my healing process was the myth of Isis journeying through Upper and Lower Egypt, collecting the various parts of Osiris's body that had been butchered and hidden by Set. Isis gathered the scattered body-parts and breathed new life into them, and made Osiris whole.
The divine and earthly Feminine Principle was being restored to my psyche and personality . The mystery of healing and the magic of feeling were becoming paramount in my life. Darkness was discovered to be the sacred soil for learning and growth; and my grieving process was a potent compost. I was being reborn. Now, how does all this relate to the specifics and practice of Soulwork? Let us return to Frida's letter. What was it that she said? Oh Yes, I was interested. I was more than interested. My life and sanity depended upon Frida's wise help. Her inner plane appearance to me in the hospital was a clear confirmation of that. After years of avoiding and resisting her, I was now surrendering to her.
My first Three-Self session with Frida took place in her San Francisco home in the fall of 1981. She began with her usual Kabbalistic Invocation:
Holy art Thou, O Lord of our Universe;
Holy art Thou Whom Nature hath not formed;
Holy art Thou, O vast and mighty ONE…
Lord of the Light, and of the Darkness—
For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power,
And the Glory forever. Amen.
Frida asked my conscious mind “to place itself in neutral gear, awake yet transparent to the process,” and then proceeded to call forth with love and respect to my Male Basic Self. No response. After three tries, she moved on to my Female Basic Self. No response. Next she called forth to my High Self. No response. My confidence level was rapidly nose-diving. I could not properly surrender.
I had two more sessions with Frida over the next several months, both with the same result as the first session. Was I cut out for Three-Self Work? In my limbo-like state I seriously wondered. Yet there was something in Frida's presence and atmosphere that kept me coming back to try again.
Finally, during my fourth session in late 1982, the opening occurred. Frida had called forth to my Male Basic Self, and from somewhere in my belly region came a timid, frightened voice: "My name is Rutherford." Naturally, my conscious mind was shocked to hear this unacknowledged and fearful part of myself take the stage. In fact, my conscious mind's first reaction was to think, "What kind of weird name is Rutherford? I don't know any Rutherford. And I don't want to know any Rutherford."
Thank God, Frida was more understanding and compassionate than my conscious mind. She accepted Rutherford unconditionally, and stated clearly her appreciation for all the work he had done on my behalf twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year, year in and year out. As Frida continued to treat Rutherford with love and respect, and as her ministering words brought him partway out of his shell, I began to settle down and accept him as a valid and real part of myself.
Yet in spite of Frida's light and kindness, Rutherford was badly damaged. His rage toward me was surpassed only by his rage toward God whom he held ultimately responsible for his pain, fear, and shattered state. He became recalcitrant and vindictive. He shared his hellish reality freely with me, sending suicidal thoughts and repeatedly causing sore throats and other ailments to grab my attention.
Over the next year, it became clear that Rutherford was unwilling and unable to relate in a harmonious way with the other members of his inner family of selves, much less with me (the conscious or "outer" self), despite consistent: and respectful work with him. During my next session with Frida, she suggested to Rutherford that his healing might be better served by a return to an inner plane where he would be with others like himself and where he would receive needed help. She explained that his need for healing was so pronounced as to prevent him from assuming the normal Basic Self responsibilities of serving the development of the personality.
After gentle but firm persuasion by Frida, Rutherford reluctantly agreed to be removed to an inner plane for healing, to be temporarily replaced by a "Missionary Basic Self"—Frida's term—an advanced Basic Self from an inner plane repository whose capability is suited for emergency situations. Frida performed the replacement: through the aegis of my High Self, the guiding Solar Angel in charge of a person’s earthly and spiritual evolution from lifetime to lifetime until one's graduation from the schoolhouse of Earth. She said I could expect to perceive the arrival of the Missionary Basic Self within 24 to 48 hours.
Two days later, I became aware of the presence of an androgynous Basic Self who said "his" name was Gabriel. He located himself just below my heart chakra. Gabriel's presence would harmonize my psyche and stabilize my personality to a much greater degree than I had previously experienced. In fact, I developed a heartfelt friendship with him, and came to appreciate his steady and bright influence. Six months later while doing my spiritual practice, Gabriel said, "It's time for me to leave you now. My work is done." I thanked him from the bottom of my heart and wished him well in his future work. I never saw or heard from him again.
To be continued…