I wrote a few days ago about the autumn stirring up an inward turning. That is certainly happening for me lately; the season is steadily moving toward darkness, but the inner light just keeps shining brighter. There is a sense that I have shed, for now, the distractions and stress of the last couple of seasons (wonderful-but-intense travel, family health issues, day-job changes that have demanded mental and emotional energy). One never knows what psychic adventures and karmic accidents might await, but circumstances are such that I seem to have an opportunity to move my own work forward this next little while, and my intention is to take advantage of it.
Most concretely, I have scheduled another four-week Soul Cartography series beginning February 7. preceded the previous week, January 31, by something new: a joint presentation with Victoria to provide a context, some theoretical background and stimulating visuals to help guide students and prospective into a deeper process. Details about all this here.
I completed the most recent Soul Cartography class in August; since then I have been reflecting on the process, how I hold the space, and how it can all be made better. This reflection is happening on many levels, but here's what's rising to the surface:
- Feedback from both internal and external sources are calling me to be direct and explicit in my calls to action during the class. My upbringing in a strongly evangelistic church with a salesman for a father makes me instinctively averse to talking anyone into doing anything! But I believe the time has arrived for me to overcome that, and really tell my students what I think is best for them. Trust your inner guidance! Trust your imagination! Act on your intentions so they can come to beautiful manifestation! Alfred K. LaMotte's poem "Message From Your Ancestors" (which I wrote about here) says: "The past is vanishing smoke; the flame is now. Be christened with this breath: name yourself." When I started this website last summer I gave myself the name Joseph Hakim Anderson, seeking to grow into a vision of myself as a wise teacher and healer. I want to continue to embrace that naming, and I intend to make that more evident in this next set of teachings I offer.
- What led me to the teaching of Soul Cartography, and the call to do healing work was my experiences of practicing shamanism. It has been a colorful, mysterious, nonlinear, and highly poetic journey, involving many visions of animal spirits and otherwordly teachers. It has not been a highly verbal or discursive experience: much emotion, imagery, body sensations, and wordless chant, occasionally ascending into poetic speech. I adore these experiences! And I love the healing work that comes from it, love the continued sense of connection and insight that comes to me all the time from the spirits of nature and other sources of transcendent wisdom. But there is a different kind of call emerging: what seems to be asked of me now is to be articulate: to use my very human but very useful capacity to say what needs to be said with clarity and thoroughness. My guides seem to be leading me into service as an agent of this clarity, a translator of the world of Spirit for the everyday world. It's something I've been training for in many ways, for quite a long time (in my various roles as teacher and communicator in different contexts); and in the nine months that I have been writing this blog, this calling as a communicator about the world of Spirit has been getting clearer. This next class is a way for me to focus that articulateness, bring it to bear on all the rich possibilities that the phrase "soul cartography" offers. I expect some of that material to show up on this blog as it comes into being over the next few months.
- There has been a call for me, coming from a friend I've had for many years, to offer more concrete teaching of wisdom as part of the class. To this point the work has been assembled and offered on a pretty intuitive basis. That has merit, but it's beginning to feel like it's lacking a grounding in theory, a set of more specific models that students can use as inspiration and guidance as they work on exploring the purposes and dimensions of their own souls.
And so, without any hint of mistrust of my own rich internal sources of wisdom and inspiration, without forgetting for a moment that the divine light shines inside me as it shines inside all of us - I have begun a search for materials that will help me to strengthen the directness, clarity and concreteness of the class. I want to share with you where it has led me so far.
For reasons that weren't entirely clear to me at the time, I began incorporating a bit of Tarot work in the Soul Cartography class from the outset. In practice, there was something there but it didn't quite seem to be enough. As it happens I have on my shelf two unread books that I acquired years ago: Tarot: History, Mystery, and Lore, and Tarot: Methods, Mastery, and More by Cynthia Giles. I have been put off by the titles, but I was so pleased to discover that they are very thoughtful and well-written books: wonderful, balanced studies of Tarot's historical background and practical possibilities. But what makes them real gems for me right now - what really made me sit up and pay attention - is that Giles returns repeatedly to the central role of the imagination in understanding and working with Tarot, and indeed in spiritual work of any kind. This sings to my heart as I think particularly of how shamanic practice has opened up my own imagination as a vehicle of spirit, and my passion for helping others to do the same. It remains to be seen whether or how Tarot as such will find its way into the Soul Cartography work, or other work I do - but it has been a doorway lighting my way to what lies beyond it.
The Giles books make reference frequently to the work of the psychologist C.G. Jung as an interpretive key for the contemporary understanding of Tarot. So the real impact of this exploration for me has been to open my eyes to the ways a Jungian framework can support and guide an articulation of the "theory" behind Soul Cartography. So I am also taking a closer look at Jung's work, and also that of one of his more eloquent recent disciples, James Hillman. I'm reading The Soul's Code, one of Hillman's main texts, and finding there pages and pages of wonderfully relevant wisdom about the soul. Phrase after phrase leapt up at me out of the introduction alone, all pointing directly to what I've been trying to say about Soul Cartography but didn't have the framework or the language to share.
He begins by saying:
Sooner or later something seems to call us onto a particular path. You may remember this "something" as a signal moment in childhood when an urge out of nowhere, a fascination, a peculiar turn of events struck like an annunciation: This is what I must do, this is what I've got to have. This is who I am.
We dull our lives by the way we conceive them. We have stopped imagining them with any sort of romance, any fictional flair. So this book also picks up the romantic theme, daring to envision biography in terms of very large ideas such as beauty, mystery, and myth.
Hillman refers throughout the book to "the acorn": that core part of ourselves that seeks expression in the specifics of our lives (he equates the acorn with "image, character, fate, genius, calling, daimon, soul, destiny"). Identifying that deep sense of calling, recognizing the drama and romance rooted in our lives, tracing the patterns by which the acorn in each of us finds its manifestation: these are the ideas I have been longing and struggling to articulate as the aim and intention of Soul Cartography. And what you do know: here they are.
Tarot, and the archetypal psychology of Jung and Hillman, and...I'm don't know what else will arrive on my doorstep as I continue to explore resources that will help me deepen and strengthen the Soul Cartography work. I am just beginning to take a closer look at what "cartography" can mean and...there is literally a whole world, and worlds, to explore.
Full as I am of the energy of this exploration, I am also grateful to have the new and deeply wise voice of the poet Alfred K. LaMotte in my ear too. Here is a bit of "Wanderer's Song" (from Savor Eternity One Moment at a Time) that helps me hold all this with lightness and a sense of humor. Just a bit of context to explain: the poem begins with a quotation from the Gospel of Thomas: "Be a wanderer."
Keep searching till you're
good and lost like Jesus.
Then take off your shoes and call it home.
With every barefoot step the earth says,
"Welcome!" You never even get close
to where you were going!
I begin this next and so far most delightful stage of my journey with this song on my lips!