The Contemplative Companion for Thursday, May 4, 2017

God has given life to our souls,
and has not let our feet slip. – Psalm 66.9

A beautiful shock! Life to my soul!

If you are like me, then  you probably thought that the soul was in some way your life, or an expression of your life. Many assume that if our soul “went away” that would be the end of our life as we know it.

In Hebrew, the word here translated as soul is nephesh. This important Hebrew word is also used in Genesis 2.7 to describe God’s creative activity of “breathing life” into the clay substance, and behold – there was a nephesh – a living soul, an alive person.

Notice the subtle distinctions:

First, there is God, Source of Life.

Then, there is this Gift and Reality called Life, which God bestows.

This Gift of Life is received and contained by a nephesh. A nephesh is literally an embodied-soul-being. But notice, that a body only becomes a nephesh when it receives the Gift called Life from God.

But there is also something more than just the Astounding Gift of Life. There is also the Gift of the Spirit – that is to say, being “born from above” (John 3.3).

Thus, there are levels of being:

First Order: Physical –

The created state of matter with unlimited potential for development.

Second Order: Relational –

Which is a result of the gift of Life to a body transforming it into a living being – a nephesh. To be a nephesh is to have the potential to become a more and more conscious relational self.

Third Order: Spiritual – 

Which is the pure gift of  God in-filling a living being (a self) with more than itself – with Life from Above: the Logos-Wisdom-Spirit of God, which shapes and participates with a self and all it’s particularity and uniqueness so to develop and transform that self (nephesh) more and more into Love; more into the Life “hidden with God in Christ” (Colossians 3.3).

Paradoxically, this process requires a transformation of the self (the Second Order content) so to transcend and integrate the relational (psychological) level of personality with the Spiritual level of Essence.

Some refer to the Second order and Third order as the distinction between the false self and the true Self. That terminology works. Yet, I tend to think of a human being as just a self – in the process of being transformed more and more into love. That is to say, on the journey from just being an embodied personality (second Order), to also becoming a Being of expanded Essence (third Order). Where Essence “consumes” personality and where Spirit “consumes” self. St. Paul put it this way – “I, not I, Christ in me” (Galatians 2.20). Personality, not personality – Essence in me. It’s not that we are divided into compartments: on one side True Self, on the other false self. It’s more like we are a soup – all mixed together – getting reduced down to Essence by the heat of the Spirit and the fire of life.

So, do you know where your edge(s) of transformation are? Are you full of your self or are you in the process of being transformed from self to Essence? Is your me-dynamic decreasing or increasing? Is your nephesh self awakening to the Life from above and not just caught in the pleasures and pain of life here below?

It appears that for a while a nephesh/self can reject this Third Order Spiritual gift of transformation. But not for long. In the end, everyone consents to Spirit, just in different degrees, at different times and in different ways.

The big Gift revealed by Jesus is that we can be on our way to becoming women and men of the Spirit. We are invited to not just be a body that thinks, feels and acts. We are here to become something more than just a well groomed, well fed, well pleasured, well comforted body. We are here to become a participant in the Eternal Cosmic Body of Christ – a Mystery of mysteries for sure.

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