In his book Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche, Bill Plotkin writes, “There is a great longing within each of us. We long to discover the secrets and mysteries of our individual lives, to find our unique way of belonging to this world, to recover the never-before-seen treasure we were born to bring to our communities. To carry this treasure to others is half of our spiritual longing.
The other half is to experience our oneness with the universe, with all of creation. Soulcraft focuses on the first: our yearning for individual personal meaning and a way to contribute to life, a yearning that pulls us toward the heart of the world — down, that is, into wild nature and into the dark earth of our deepest desires.” Piggybacking off this idea I offer in this article what I think are the four essential tools that must be in a soulcraftsman’s (someone who practices soulcraft) toolkit.
“Once one has said yes to the call to adventure, the ego is securely in the grip of the soul, and the soul serves notice that the ego will not emerge unchanged.” ~ Bill Plotkin
Let me make this clear: Ego is not the enemy. It’s actually a very important tool for soul work. In fact, it’s the most important tool in the soulcraftsman’s toolkit, as the other three tools cannot even be actualized without it. Ego, as it pertains to soulcraft, seeks a healthy transformation from ego to soul.
The problem with the majority of people in our egocentric culture is that they have become tools of their ego, instead of using their ego as a tool. You can no more have a butterfly without a caterpillar than you can have a soul without an ego. You can have spirit, but not soul.
Most people in our society are walking caterpillar-egos, uninitiated in any type of soulwork. They are spirited egoists hell bent on self-gratification and self-comfort at the expense of others and the environment. Some are even trapped in the cocoon of transformation, fumbling between being a god and a worm.
Very few of us are initiated butterfly-souls content with the struggle of god and worm inside us. Those of us who are have clearly transformed caterpillars into butterflies, and worms into gods. Like Bill Plotkin said, “The caterpillar is to the butterfly as an uninitiated ego is to an initiated one. The imaginal buds are to the caterpillar as the soul is to the uninitiated ego.”
“Look back, and smile on perils past.” ~ Walter Scott
This is an essential tool for all Soulcraftsmen, as it allows for the transubstantiation of all things. Humor gives us the power to perpetually overcome ourselves. It allows us the freedom to laugh at our own mistakes while accepting the fact that we are a fallible and insecure species. It helps us to laugh at the inherent hypocrisy of the human condition instead of cringing at it in abject futility.
Like Francis Bacon said, “Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” A good sense of humor puts things into perspective like nothing else can. It all at once transforms small mind into big mind.
A joke or quip or satiric pun can, in one fell swoop, transform small-picture thinking into big-picture thinking. It is often the bridge we cross while going through the motions of transformingwounds into wisdom and pain into strength. It can even help us to see how things are necessarily interconnected and to perceive common sense in uncommon hours.
Like William James said, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.” And it is essential that all soulcraftsmen dance lest their soulcraft become decadent, banal, and/or empty.
“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie –deliberate, contrived and dishonest- but the myth –persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought” ~ John F. Kennedy
Courage is a fundamental tool for all soulcraftsmen because it stretches comfort zones, breaks mental paradigms, and flattens status quo boxes, all while questioning authority and outdated systems. It is the key to all healthy transformation, from personal improvement to full-on social revolution. Courage forces the soulcraftsman’s hand. Hero or coward? Tourist or adventurist? Armchair quarterback or sacred activist?
Fragile or antifragile? Invulnerable force or vulnerable power? Hard-earned open cell or closed-in golden jail? A decision must be made. Decidophobiacs do not make good soulcraftsmen. Courage is just the tool needed to leverage healthy decision making. A true soulcraftsman stands on high, fist splitting unjust air, declaring to the world, “The corrupt will fear me. The honest will support me.
The courageous will join me.” Courage is the tool that a soulcraftsman uses as an alarm clock and wake-up call for any and all unhealthy systems and the unhealthy agents they’re made up of. Like George Bernard Shaw said, “Disobedience, the rarest and most courageous of the virtues, is seldom distinguished from neglect, the laziest and commonest of the vices.” Soulcrafstmen can distinguish between disobedience and neglect with uncommon efficacy, and they use this ability to change the world.
“And God said “love your enemy,” and I obeyed him and loved myself.” ~ Khalil Gibran
Love is arguably the purest tool in the toolkit. What use is the ego without something to love? What use is humor without something to be happy for? What use is courage without something to die for? But here’s the thing about love: it’s not something to seek. It’s not something we need to find “out there.” It’s inside us. It’s all around us, in abundance, like the force in Star Wars –may the Love-force be with you.
Love is less like a tool and more like a magic wand that a Soulcraftsman wields like a magician. It is the accumulation of a soulcrafstman’s genius. It brings light to the darkest places. It even brings dark to the brightest places. It is the ultimate equalizer.
It is the perennial leverage of the universe, vibrating on a frequency that subsumes all frequencies. When we perceive the world through a place of love, the world is transformed. The interconnectedness of all things becomes self-actualized and empathy, compassion, and forgiveness for all things becomes manifest.
Like Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” And if we are coming from a place of love, then everything is love, or can be transformed into love. Love is the “yearning that pulls us toward the heart of the world.” And the closer we are to the heart of the world, the closer we are to discovering our own personal meaning and a way to contribute to life our unique gifts.