Category Archives: Other Relevant Teachings
“The Three Faces of Spirit is one of the most important insights that Integral theory offers to the field of spirituality. All human approaches to spiritual practice and mystical realization can be seen to fall into three broad categories — First-Person Spirituality, Second-Person Spirituality, and Third-Person Spirituality.
The Mystery of existence, the matter of ultimate concern, is the ultimate profundity. No perspective can possibly capture it. By its very nature, Spirit itself, the great Mystery, transcends all perspectives.
But human nervous systems are perspective-making machines. We can’t help taking perspectives. And thus, since the most ancient times, our spirituality, and our descriptions of it, always make use of our fundamental perspectives. The structure of language gives us a hint to the deep structure of our perspectives and our spirituality — we organize our speech in three broad categories.
The first-person. There is “I” or “me” the first-person perspective; from this vantage-point I can explore the rich depths of interior experience, of what it’s like inside me, of my consciousness, my intuitions, my thoughts, my experiences, and my feelings. In language, the first-person is the one speaking.
The second-person. When I am able to connect with someone, that one goes from being (for me) an “it” to becoming “you.” We connect. There is at least the most basic kind of communion. We are able to understand each other, reach mutual agreements, and a culture can arise. And in any kind of inter-subjective connection, a “we” arises. In language, the second-person is the one spoken to.
The third-person. When I contemplate anything or anyone, or when I act upon anything or anyone in my world, whatever I contemplate or act upon is the object of my attention or action. I can see it, observe it, examine it, sense it, and affect it. This is the domain of objective information and experience. Herein lies all objective knowledge, including all our sciences. In language, the third-person is the one spoken about.
Based on the distinctions between the first, second, and third person perspectives, we can see three distinct “families” of spiritual experience and practice. We’ll consider third-person spirituality first, then first-person spirituality, and finally second-person spirituality.
Third-person spirituality often involves contemplating the mystery of existence (“looking at it.”) This can take a wide variety of forms; two of the most important and familiar expressions of third-person spirituality are (1) nature mysticism, and (2) philosophy or theology. Nature mysticism is found in all spiritual traditions, and it is important in the lives of most post-postmodern practitioners. It involves contemplating the natural landscape, light, sky, sun, moon, stars, and creatures, seeing them, in a sense, as the body of the Mystery of existence. In reading, writing, or discussing philosophy, we contemplate existence, noticing the abstract patterns that connect and underlie our world and experience. Philosophy and nature mysticism are entirely different undertakings, but they both involve “contemplating it,” looking at aspects of the Mystery, and letting that process transform us. In Integral Life Practice, the core third-person spiritual practice is called Kosmic Contemplation.
First-person spirituality involves awakening to the unchanging IAMness that is always present as the still and silent Witness of experience. This IAMness is the pure consciousness that is present during every experience, every sound, sight, smell, taste, sensation, thought, or feeling, however pleasant or unpleasant. Such pure consciousness is often described as the ultimate realization, the goal of Eastern mystical paths. It is experienced when eyes open after meditation, and there is an experience of Oneness with all existence, of Union, of non-separation. And long before we achieve any ultimate nirvana, we can experience a glimpse of IAMness (also called Suchness) via meditation, inspiring conversation with a spiritual teacher, or spontaneously, as a graceful accident. The paths that focus on first-person spirituality usually focus on meditation, on transcending our “monkey mind” tendency to be absorbed in our constant stream of thoughts, and on the open field of consciousness that naturally arises when the mind relaxes. In Integral Life Practice, the core first-person spiritual practice is called Integral Inquiry or Integral Awakening.
Educated post-postmodern Westerners tend to feel a natural openness to both of these forms of spirituality. Modern science questions the idea of personal identity and validates the inherent oneness of the cosmos. Both first-person and third-person spirituality make sense to a contemporary worldview. The Western discovery of Eastern spirituality has primarily sparked trans-rational explorations of first-person, and to a lesser degree, third-person spirituality.
Second-person spirituality involves communion with the Mystery of existence as one’s universal beloved intimate. It is a direct relationship between the individual “I” with the “you” of Spirit, turning directly into feeling-contact with the universal beloved. It can be expressed through prayer, and through a devotional life of worship, service, and celebration. Second-person paths usually begin with insight, the acknowledgment that the heart tends to close, cutting us off from others and life. On that basis, there is practice, the intention to open the heart, loving surrender to the source of grace, and devotional enjoyment of intimacy with Spirit.
Second-person spirituality is a difficult sticking-point for many Westerners. One reason is that Western culture was long dominated by Christian second-person religion with a dogmatic mythic conception of God. When Western cultures made their transition into modernity, they (rightly!) rejected mythic religious conceptions of God. But they threw out the baby (second-person spirituality altogether) along with the bathwater (a mythic version of God.) It can be especially difficult for Westerners to accept trans-rational prayer, since they often imagine that communing with the Mystery must inherently presume a metaphysical conception of God. (“First, tell me exactly who I would be praying to?”) But that dogmatic skepticism fails to notice that we can relate to Spirit trans-rationally, as the graceful nature of reality, the universal “other-ness” implied by the experience of “me-ness.”
But second-person spirituality is essential—and it’s one of the most transformational opportunities opened up by an Integral view. Human brains and nervous systems evolved in hunter-gatherer bands, and therefore we are mentally and emotionally structured for relating to others. Those relational capacities are not engaged by first-person awakening to IAMness or third-person contemplation of nature or philosophy.
A love relationship with existence is the essence of second-person spirituality—and love enables us to access tremendous power and energy. Second-person spirituality implicates us personally, revealing our closed hearts and contraction for what they are—a violation of our inherent love-relationship with the Mystery of existence. The universal drama of a love-relationship with the universal Beloved quickens our blood and brings us alive. Love is what unleashes the power of our whole being. And what is spirituality without love? In Integral Life Practice, the core second-person spiritual practice is called Integral Communion.” -Terry Patten
For more from Terry check out: http://www.integralspiritualpractice.com/
The body is the vehicle for the soul… It houses the awareness of the soul. Without the body the awareness/the soul would remain ephemeral, it would remain as merely a dis-embodied “spirit” trapped in the “spirit world”. The body is what allows the soul, spirit, and G!d to be manifest on Earth in materiality. It is in fact the entire purpose of creation… And as humans (and especially as Jews) it is our role/job to help actualize this manifestation, to be co-creators at this point in the process of creation.
We do this by grounding our spiritual awareness’ in our bodies, and this is the point of wrapping t’phillin, of doing an yoga asana practice, of blessing food before and after eating it, of washing our hands in the morning (n’telat yadaim), of wearing tzitzit and so on. The main point: Unite the soul with the body.
When the two seemingly opposite poles of heaven and earth, soul and body come together there is an indescribable enlightenment and bliss which occurs and this is the purpose of creation.
How many of us when we come to a red light while driving in our cars get annoyed at having to stop? I for one have been among that group for many years, and have just begun to realize why.
With the help of a friend I recently came to notice that I get visibly annoyed when I come to a red light while driving my car. I have this burning desire while driving to not have to stop, and when I am forced to… it pisses me off. This friend helped me see that instead of getting mad, I can use this moment as a time to connect with G!d and bless all the people around me. For some reason, in that moment her words got through and literally my vision of the outside world changed, my soul became awakened, and became the driver of my body-vehicle which was driving this car-vehicle. In that moment my vision expanded, became much wider, and I was able to truly send love and blessings to all the people around me. After that I was actually looking forward to the next red light and gave so much thanks when it came because it brought, again, the ability to stop and connect with G!d and send love and blessings to all the people around me.
This deep teaching showed me how our “triggers” – the things that get us annoyed, or cause us to “react” in any way – can most powerfully serve as our greatest tools for awakening and self transformation… And the bigger the trigger, the bigger the transformation.
But this also brought about another understanding… That actually it’s this society and culture based on productivity, on moving forward, and not on stopping which causes the annoyance at having to stop. Our whole psyche is imbued with the imperative, the directive, to continue moving forward, and it’s not just coming from our culture, it’s a deeply programmed biological and evolutionary response of nature. The nature of evolution is to move forward, to progress, and this has been strongly – and most of the time unconsciously – embraced by our culture and society… In so much that there is actually a physical aversion to stopping.
But stopping is exactly what is needed to tap into the spiritual dimension of life, to feel the beauty and amazement of existence… Stop and smell the roses. Stopping is also the essence of meditation. when we stop we have a chance to remember what we are and where we came from, and to live and act from there, instead of from the biologically mechanical imperatives we are driven by throughout our fast paced, “non-stop” day.
This also happens to be the essence of most – or even all – the Jewish practices, mitzvot/halachot, they are systematically set up as times to stop and remember Source, to remember our selves, our divine nature.
So, next time you’re stopped at a red light, or waiting in a line at the post office, or suddenly get triggered by something, see if you can use it as a chance to stop and remember G!d, to remember that you are a beautiful divine soul, surrounded by love and other beautiful divine souls. It’s a hell of a good practice : )
Check out the Universal Stages of Evolution Article:
The future is very bright!