Maybe you have come across the idea of "Soul Ages" – the notion that each of us progresses through many lifetimes, learning more each time about how to be a human being. The five soul ages are: infant, baby, young, mature and old. The idea is not unlike the life of a single person as they grow and mature. In the ideal, I am wiser at 63 than I was as a toddler. On the flip side, I cannot expect a toddler to understand or behave by the rules of a 63 year old.
(Once I watched two women approach each other walking their dogs. One dog erupted into barking - leaping and jerking on its leash. The woman yanked the leash and grabbed her dog's face, admonishing it: "Gizzy! What's the matter with you?! You're acting like an ANIMAL!")
For purposes of this writing, I'll shrink soul age down like this: Infant and baby souls, having fewer lifetimes in their tool belt, are more focused on survival. Young souls are more focused on success inside the cultural structures into which they have been born. Mature and older souls turn more attention inward, and place more focus on relationships, with all of their subtleties, grey areas, and flexibilities.
There has been a great amount of writing about how conservatives and progressives occupy actual different realities. A different lens on the world can be how people of different soul ages live in different worlds. A baby soul may see danger in the same place that an older soul sees a curiosity.
Soul Age is a complex set of spiritual ideas that can be helpful in navigating your life, and, like all spiritual frameworks, these ideas are subject to misinterpretation for many reasons. Refrain from assuming a younger soul is more stupid or less compassionate than an older soul. Here is a good article on soul age and the many ways this big idea is misinterpreted.
One way to view what is happening on a global scale is that our species is moving from a predominantly younger soul age into an early mature stage. We are in a time where that movement – centuries in the making - is becoming undeniably visible and palpable, largely because for the first time our species' history, it is so clear that national or tribal boundaries simply cannot protect us from the interrelatedness of all life. There are many more older souls incarnating into the world now. This is driving much of the shifting politics, and inspiring much of the backlash and resistance from the prevailing young soul culture. I find this a hopeful idea, and it speaks to why people who are interested in energy work or shamanism should spend some effort blessing. with prayer and ceremony, those who are coming into the world, to give them strength.
As prevailing structures and institutions are challenged or collapse, younger souls can easily feel a passionate desire to get back to "normal." It's easy for them to see enemies all around them, because the main place they put their trust is in "tradition," which seems under assault. For younger souls, different or new often equals bad.
Older souls may see systemic changes as opportunities to improve relationships between one another, and between humans and all other life. They’ve seen structures collapse many times in their previous lives, and they understand that, on a soul level, there's no stopping the re-shaping of the world, because that is how this universe works. Every re-shaping brings about new structures. As the REM song says, it is never the end of the world, only the world as we know it.
Many dinosaurs never saw a flower, because flowers came after the dinosaurs were extinct. If a dinosaur had preached on a street comer about a world covered in flowers, they may have been called insane and locked up. (This idea is hotly debated, but it's such a good image that fills me with such hope in the future that I use it anyway.)
So, you're living in a young soul culture groaning with the pain of stretching and expanding what it puts its trust in.
As I said earlier, humans absolutely need to have trust in something, or they get crazy. Maybe rather than asking how we can change someone's political point of view, we can try to discover if there is any place at all that people of different political stances can both trust. Maybe we can work to build a new common trust in something.
On the personal level of you navigating this wild sea of change, I offer two practical suggestions:
- Find the biggest thing about existence that you can imagine and put your trust there.
- Identify the most immediate, intimate thing you can trust, and feed it.
Toward the first:
People preach, "Trust in God!" But as every real theologian affirms, the historical problem is that we constantly put our trust in a version of God smaller than the real thing. When people say they’ve had it with religion, or that religion has caused only damage throughout history, what they mean is, religious structures, owned and operated by young souls, have wreaked havoc. This can happen from a huge religion all the way down to an individual teaching workshops.
Young souls are attracted to becoming high-status leaders, and when that happens, the God they talk about tends to get smaller and smaller, and be more and more about status in the culture - about who is pleasing in the eyes of God, and who is not. Shamanism doesn't really have much of this structure in it, and that's one reason I fell in love with this path.
By the way, this is why there is always a conflict between the priests and the prophets, because the prophet's main job is to arrive with a hammer to smash open the institutions that have shrunk God down smaller than God really is in order to serve the culture's self-identity (for example, making Jesus white, or God as loving the rich most). The prophets are always on the losing end in the short term, but ultimately win out as religions crumble.
So, my suggestion is to go as big, and as non-human, as you possibly can in your imagination of Spirit. And using the framework of soul age, think like an older soul: you and Spirit are in a co-creating partnership, not a top-down, judgment-punishment relationship. (I teach about this in my upcoming class on prayer. )
Religions have soul ages, as individuals and cultures do, and if you've left the hierarchical religion of your youth for a more mystical framework, it may be because you no longer resonate with a younger soul religion. (It may also be that the New Age things you gravitated to allow you to activate your young soul with more fun, so be careful about spiritual arrogance. Older soul does not mean more spiritual, it only means a different frame of reference.)
Ask Spirit not to rescue you from fear, but to teach you how to transform your fear that makes you (and everything around you) smaller than is true. Ask Spirt to continue working with you in this lifetime, slowly cooking you and teaching you how to be human, as it has so many lifetimes before this. Put your trust in that Great Spirit, and if you feel ready, ask Sprit directly and unambiguously to step up the work with you, to open new pathways of vision and wisdom in this life because you are now ready after so much practice in previous lives.
Toward the second place of trust:
Look to the most immediate and intimate places in your life for what you can trust without question. For many indigenous people, the sunrise is one source for this. The sun may not seem intimate, but it is with you every day, unceasingly, never abandoning you. It gives life to everything on this planet and will always rise, always bathe you in life-giving, life-healing and life-transforming love of life itself, even if there are clouds or cold air between the two of you.
A simple prayer to the sun every morning can actually do wonders. Ask the sun to help you trust life, to illuminate your trust in life. Make that prayer before you do anything else – before you begin worrying or planning the day. The same can be done with the plants around your house and all the creatures, as well as the love of your partner, children, pet, or the land you live on. If you work with deities form any tradition, remember that deities are not giant humans with powers, but forces of nature dressed up in human clothing so they don't scare us away.
In the immediate realm, put your trust in Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos’s Five Behaviors of Happiness: get social, give thanks, be in the moment, rest and move, be kind.
May 2021 offer you kindness, rest, movement, presence, gratitude and communion.