Mind & Soul

“The question of the soul is obviously important”, JG Bennett states in the excerpt from his book Transformation (a music and voice rendering of which is included at the end of this post.) In this material written near the end of his life, Bennett condenses so much of his experience into a clear prose presentation that it is astonishing to hear it.

Soul, or as Bennett makes clear, the potential for soul, is a human inherency. In life we can work and ask for the help needed to coalesce the fine energies of mind out of which soul is made. These fine substances are scattered about by the chaotic influences of everyday life. However, the effort to coalescence sensitivity in thought, feeling and organic sensing into something that stands independently of the inertia of genetic and social predictive programming is not to be underestimated, but neither is it, as Bennett tells us, “so terrifyingly difficult”.

As a sign of the times, the question of soul is a topic of discussion and study for people well beyond the temple, church, mosque or other place of worship. That soul is not a given raises considerable ire among many. For some, the assertion that soul is not a given is merely a ruse by which “soul merchants” have humans bargain away their precious capital in service to ego-power. No doubt, this occurs under the name of country and corporation as much as it does under the name of gaining self-knowledge. There are no easy answers to be had, and intelligence, spiritual and material, remains a risky business.

If money is a measure of value, then the human “soul-stuff” is most precious. For Bennett, the inherency for soul-making is evidence of a guiding hand in human life just as the entry of responsible young people into adult life who have their thinking, feeling and instinctive brains somewhat in contact with each other owes little to neglect and owes much to an environment, spiritual and material, that has fostered this contact as an important value in human life. As a parallel to the delicate nurture of education, abandoned children who do not learn spoken language from people who already know the language, even though these children have all of the required inherency for it, are not able to become “native” speakers of a language once a certain critical window of development has passed. Thus, even language is evidence of a guiding hand notwithstanding the evidence of so-called natural selection that may account for the machinery of language (tongue position, larynx, genetics etc.).

Bennett tells us that there is a language to be learned in understanding to “organize and consolidate” the energies of mind (not just the thinking part) out of which soul arises. To imagine that the “guiding hand” in soul-making is either somehow remote or that no “guiding hand” is needed goes against our own felt need to organize our inner life. Yet, to encounter the struggle to keep reliable contact with our own essential energies and to not simply imagine that we understand ourselves and others is something that goes against the flow of suggestion that we get from the mass media and from everyday life.

the seed

One practical way of speaking about the “money” of soul stuff is to speak of attention. Thus we say, “pay attention”. But whom or what are we paying? Everyone out to make a buck is vying for our attention. Paying attention to ourselves from the point of view of soul-making does not mean paying attention to our self image, which is certainly a lucrative dollar business. It is more basic and essential and, initially, more boring. What is the quality of my breathing right now? What posture is the body in? What degree of contact is there between my fingers as a physical something and the active sensing of my fingers as they type out these words? Moreover, how can I remind myself that it is important to check-in in this way?

In recent workshops, the idiotplayers have been using this material from Bennett to guide our improv, storytelling and art-making. We’ve been playing games based expressing emotion through character type in search of essence clues for how these manifest (more or less unconsciously) through each of us in everyday life. In general, we are working on material that we intend to bring together as a coherent presentation with several elements.

The attached music and voice rendering was recorded as a “live” performance with the music improvised in parts as the reader delivers the material. As well, the main musical theme is taken from the music for the Gurdjieff movement entitled “Lord, Have Mercy” as composed by Thomas de Hartmann.

A final note: In the attached MP3 reading I chose to omit a few sentences that deal more specifically with Christian theology because it reflects the specific audience that Bennett was speaking to. I can post them or send them separately for those who are interested in the Gospel. You can also purchase the book Transformation yourself from www.bennettbooks.org

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