Spiritual Psychology of Work

Robert Sardello, Ph.D.

I. The Symptomatology of Work

A. The Difference between work and a job

We live in a peculiar time with respect to the question of work; while there seems to be fewer and fewer jobs available, at the same time there is more work to be done in the world than ever before. If you look in the OED, a striking difference between the words – work and job – is immediately apparent. Work is something whole; it refers not only to the act of doing something, it also refers to the product of what is done, such as a work of art, or a work of architecture; the word, work, also carries a moral connotation, such as good works. While one can also do a good job, that simply means that the specialized operation was carried out in such a way that it was brought to successful completion. The word job is defined as a part or a piece of a work, particularly a part that is done as one’s specialization or profession. We see immediately that a job can quite easily lose its connection with work; one can easily get lost in the specificity of what one is doing so that it loses imaginative connection with the whole to which it rightly belongs.

B. Work and Life

Very few people today feel that they are involved in a work. Why is this the case? In order to come to an understanding of your relationship to work, it is necessary to look at the influences of the past in your life. The particular aspect of importance is the extent to which you were absorbed into the influences of others and the degree to which you were able to remain relatively independent of your surroundings – not isolated from them, but affected by them while not becoming united with them. In order to experience being involved in a work, it is necessary to be united with life, not someone else’s life. Work concerns the acts that one does in the world that are united with one’s life. A job concerns the acts that one does that require that one becomes forgetful of their own life and labor that serves someone else’s interests – whether this be an individual, a business, or a large corporation. This distinction can quite readily become blurred. It is not likely that having a job at the local Burger King is an expression of doing something in the world that brings the fullness of one’s life into the world. However, having a job at the top local law firm does not necessarily fully express one’s life in the world either. The distinction becomes blurred when one’s talents and abilities are called upon for a task, but these talents and abilities are harnessed to accomplish what someone else wants in the world rather than what is demanded by your life. A job originates from and intensifies a one-sidedness that often requires relinquishing the true creativeness that characterizes spirit and the true depth of individuality that characterizes soul. Receiving a salary is the compensation for forgetting who you are. Work, on the other hand, comes from and intensifies the labor involved in becoming a complete human being.

The difference between work and a job has been drawn in this rather exaggerated manner in order to help us in our task of re-imagining work. I am not saying that this opposition is always present. If the distinction were as clear as that pictured above, the answer would seem to lie in the necessity of working for oneself rather than for others if one really wanted to stay in connection with the unfolding of life. However, working for oneself can just as easily become caught up in the desire for external rewards. In addition, being involved with others in work offers the promise of doing much more in the world than could ever be accomplished alone.

The conditions of work have changed radically since the 15th century. Before that time, in whatever one did in the world, there was some connection with the whole of the cosmos. What to do in the world came from a larger connection that was maintained with the cosmos. The evolution of humankind since the 15th century has to do with gaining independence from the larger cosmos. In the domain of work, this gradual independence concerns work becoming more and more bound to the physical world. In work, maintaining a connection with the larger cosmos meant that a person could find in his vocation the connection between what he/she was producing and what this meant for the world. One therefore, took an interest in the shaping of his product because he/she saw clearly what a production would become in life. What one made and what one did helped the world retain an imagination of the larger cosmos – because what one made and did was always in the image of the larger cosmos. This way of imagining work is no longer present. And, as can be easily recognized, the future evolution of vocational life will consist in the ever increasing differentiation and specialization of vocation. People will increasingly lose interest in the work that occupies the greater part of their lives.

C. Soul and Work

I am maintaining this distinction between work and a job as a way of first approximation, a way of getting close to what seems to be missing in our labors in the present world. It seems to me that it is not by accident that when something whole and beautiful is made in the world, we speak of that thing as a work of art, a work of architecture, a work of literature, music. For this reason, what we do in the world, I want to hold, deserves the name work, only when it involves the full participation of our being in body, soul, and spirit. When the word, work, is used in present times, it really refers to being worked rather than being creatively engaged with our life with something that is larger than someone else’s self-interest. As David Whyte points out in his recent book, The Heart Aroused – Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, a job does not ask enough of us, and yet it exhausts the narrow parts of us we do bring to its door. For Whyte, preserving soul means coming to recognize, honor, and foster the presence of some sacred otherness in our labors; then, preserving soul, for him means secondly, preserving the desire to live a life a man or woman can truly call their own. It is these two essential dimensions that are fast fading in vocational life.

We can begin to see now even more clearly the difference between work and a job. Soul refers to the inner qualities of life. When what we do has inner qualities that are brought to expression in what we do in our labors, when those inner qualities are birthed into the world, as the word labor suggests, then we are engaged in work. When we are only pushed from the outside, made to do things that fulfill a needed function, then we are doing a job.

II. Reading Job Symptoms

A. Job Addiction

The right relationship between work and life is by no means simple. Since a true imagination of work is more or less absent in the world, for most of us, our jobs are considered as separate from our life; when we go to a job in the morning, we put our life on hold; and when we come home in the evening, life resumes. Whether this characterization is true or not, it is true that this is what we feel. I remember when I was young, in my twenties, trying to decide on a career. At the time, I was seriously considering becoming a geophysical engineer. I distinctly remember a moment of true horror when I imagined what that career would actually be like. I had a terrible premonition of sitting in a large room with row after row of drawing tables and desks, working on some small problem, seeking for a solution to something, the significance of which would be completely unknown to me. I imagined doing this day after day, year after year. The imagination made me nauseous. Even though I had a strong attraction to the study of the earth and of minerals, it was very clear to me in that moment that I could never do this kind of work. I could simply not work in that kind of situation, and something within me made that very clear. What I most feared was that my life would be separated from my work, and I could not stand such a thought. Thus, I began a long search for a vocation, a search that is still in process, a search that has become increasingly more clear only in the past few years. But even now, I cannot say that I know what I am doing, primarily because there is nothing outside of what I am doing that from day to day affirms that the work I do belongs to the world. I make no salary, have no retirement plan, am not on a career ladder, am not covered by any benefits, do not work regular hours, do not have a daily place to go to work, do not get raises, have no title. At the same time, I work virtually all of the time. If I had a job, I would definitely be called a workaholic. Yet, I am not addicted. What is the difference?

Let us look for a moment at job addiction. Matthew Fox has recently written a fine book on work, The Reinvention of Work. He indicates that the difference between work and job addiction revolves around whether the burdens that accompany our work are greater or lesser than the joy that results from it. If the burdens of work do not result in joy, then we are on the way to job addiction if the line between job and life become blurred. Notice, Fox does not say anything about external reward. Taking on the burdens of a job without joy may result in external rewards such as increased salary, advancement, and praise by the employer. These external rewards, particularly salary advancement, may seem to make it possible to buy more of life, but this false view of life takes one even further into the circle of job addiction. One learns to work harder, rewards oneself with material things, which require more work to sustain and increase. While it is possible for one’s work to be fully the same as one’s life, it is not possible for one’s job to be one’s life in a healthy way. Fox then specifies three soul qualities that comprise joy in work; delight, creativity, and transformation. Job addiction lacks these three qualities. One cannot make their job their life; one can make a work their life.

Let us look for a moment at job addiction. Matthew Fox has recently written a fine book on work, The Reinvention of Work. He indicates that the difference between work and job addiction revolves around whether the burdens that accompany our work are greater or lesser than the joy that results from it. If the burdens of work do not result in joy, then we are on the way to job addiction if the line between job and life become blurred. Notice, Fox does not say anything about external reward. Taking on the burdens of a job without joy may result in external rewards such as increased salary, advancement, and praise by the employer. These external rewards, particularly salary advancement, may seem to make it possible to buy more of life, but this false view of life takes one even further into the circle of job addiction. One learns to work harder, rewards oneself with material things, which require more work to sustain and increase. While it is possible for one’s work to be fully the same as one’s life, it is not possible for one’s job to be one’s life in a healthy way. Fox then specifies three soul qualities that comprise joy in work; delight, creativity, and transformation. Job addiction lacks these three qualities. One cannot make their job their life; one can make a work their life.

Job addiction may be looked at from yet another viewpoint, from the viewpoint of the doubles of delight, creativity, and transformation. An addiction of any sort occurs when something external produces sensations that resemble those brought about through development of inner capacities. Since these sensations, however, disappear when the external means of generating them are not present, we become addicted to those external things. Thus, job addiction produces certain sensations that resemble delight, creativity and transformation, but in fact are doubles of these qualities. I suggest that the three doubles of delight, creativity, and transformation are pleasure, power, and accomplishment. Job addiction carries with it a certain sensation of pleasure. It is the pleasure of repetition and sameness, of doing the same thing over and over, which gives one the sense of being in control, while in fact, one is being controlled. It is the pleasure of feeling that one is the master while in fact one has been mastered. Power is related to this sensation of pleasure. While it is tremendously important to take true hold of one’s power, in the instance of job addiction the power is completely illusory. Rather than allowing a sacred power to enter into one’s work, producing unplanned-for transformations, in work addiction, one needs to feel a sense of power, of control, usually over a very very small domain that nonetheless is exaggeratedly imagined as being of tremendous importance. Thus, people who are work addicted set up their own little kingdoms. And then, rather than transformation, instead of finding oneself continually changed by what one does, a person addicted to work lives in the illusion of having accomplished something in the world. What is accomplished, however, cannot be anything really new, but is only the imposition of a form on others.

B. Job Boredom

If one’s job becomes fairly completely separated from the sense of belonging to one’s life and one also determines that their job will not take over their life, then one becomes condemned to job boredom. Boredom occurs when one cannot let go of what he/she is doing, but at the same time refuses to fully become engaged in what is being done. Only two possibilities present themselves as way out of job boredom; the first is to quit the job; the second is to find a new relationship to what one is doing. The first alternative will probably result in boredom in a new job, once the nature of what is required is mastered. The second alternative requires more than deciding to put oneself into what one is doing. If the situation in which one works does not look favorably upon those who bring their full individuality into their work, then one’s relationship to work must change in a more subtle way. The Bhagavad Gita speaks of the necessity of finding the inner life in work:

“What is work? What is beyond work? Even some seers see this not aright. I will teach thee the truth of pure work, and this truth shall make thee free. Know therefore what is work, and also what is wrong work. And know also of a work that is silence; mysterious is the path of work. The person who in her work finds silence, and who sees that silence is work, this person in truth sees the Light and in all her works finds peace. One whose undertakings are free from anxious desire and fanciful thought, whose work is made pure in the fire of wisdom: that one is called wise by those who see. In whatever work she does such a person in truth has peace: she expects nothing, relies on nothing, and ever has fullness of joy…”

Here we touch upon a very deep mystery of work. What we think we are doing in a job is not the true work. Further, we must also begin to see that if one feels that the drudgery of a job has been avoided and one has had the fortune to be engaged in a work rather than having a job, there are still much that we have to understand concerning work. One must not be bound to work any more than one is bound to a job. For work to work in the world, it is necessary to be able to let work work; this means the work of work is letting go of our work. Paradoxically, letting go as essential to work doing its mysterious work (more about which we will speak later), is more difficult to do when one’s life is their work. The Bhagavad Gita here speaks of the essential quality necessary in order to let work do its work – it is the quality of silence; this means inner silence of soul; this means letting go of all desire of a personal nature in what one is doing; this means work is actually a spiritual path; the path of work. It is easier to see that indeed work is a spiritual path when our life and our work cohere. On the other hand, when one has a job, it is somewhat easier to get out of the way and let what one is doing work because the personality is not so involved. We must avoid the nostalgia of trying to reinstate the imagination of work as participation in the Great Work of creation. If one has that particular karma, then one must in the present world work with all the difficulties that brings – the possibility of pride, egotism, specialness, inflated significance, and so on. If one instead has a job, then that too brings with it particular things that need to be worked with – the tendency to become automatic in what one does, the tendency to see a job as meaningless except as a source of money and other rewards, the tendency to seek other things in a job that have nothing to do with the job – power, prestige, acknowledgement, advancement.

II. The Mythic Background of Work and Jobs

A. The contrast we have been developing between work and job has come to the point, where I hope you can see that the point of making this contrast was not in fact to put forth the view that work is superior to a job. In the present time there is great danger that an imagination of work could be lost, and that would be disastrous. For that reason, I have put a particular emphasis on work, primarily by showing that mere jobs increasingly bring symptoms to the human being. But, a fuller understanding of the relation between work and job needs a picture, an imagination, that shows we are here dealing with an archetypal reality, a reality consisting of a polarity of work and job. If either side of the polarity is forgotten, then tragic consequences follow for the future of humanity.

A. Cain and Abel

An archetypal picture of the relation between work and job can be found in many myths. We could, for example, work with the Prometheus myth. With this myth, however, only one side of the polarity is really clear – an imagination not of work, but of the job of transforming the earth through technology, a job that comes about because of the gift of fire, that is, technology,(as well as the arts and the sciences) given to humankind by Prometheus which makes possible independence from the divine realm. The other polarity, that of work, is given as well in this myth, but it is not as clearly pictured as the myth I am going to explore with you. In the Prometheus myth, the other side of the polarity, is pictured through the figure of Pandora. Pandora, you recall, was a gift given to Prometheus’ brother, Epimetheus. In accepting this gift, all the ills and woes of humankind were bestowed upon humankind from out of Pandora’s box. The one gift retained in the box is hope. Prometheus brings to humans the capacity to plan in advance, to have foresight, to progress, which makes technology of all sorts possible. But, at the same time, along with the capacity to make progress in transforming the world, the related aspect is that the world acts on one and one thinks about it afterward- the Epimetheus aspect. Along with progress, there is always the very deep feeling that everything is getting worse. This feeling is actually the feminine soul gifts, working as yet more or less in a background way, continually reminding humans that something needs to be taken into account besides progress, namely soul transformation must accompany world transformation.

The polarity of work and job, however, is much more clearly presented in the legend of Cain and Abel. We are told this story in the Book of Enoch, an Apocryphal (that is, officially doubted) book of the Old Testament. This myth was further elaborated by the Rosicrusians. Here is the myth:

There was a time when one of the Elohim created a human being called Eve. That high spiritual being united with Eve and she gave birth to Cain. After this, another Elohim created Adam. Adam united himself with Eve and from this union came Abel. Adam and Eve united again, and from this union came Seth. The sacrifices Abel made to the divine world were pleasing to the gods because his birth came about in the way ordained by the divine worlds. But the sacrifices of Cain were not acceptable by the gods because his birth was not to have happened in that way – that is, the union of a spiritual being with a human. Cain, out of anger that his sacrifices were not accepted, while those of his brother were, killed Abel.

Among the descendants of Cain are all those who are creators of science; for example, Methusala is the inventor of script; Tubal-Cain taught the use of metal ores and iron; and most important, Hiram, who was the inheritor of all that had been learned by others concerning technology. Hiram was the most significant architect that ever lived. Cain himself was said to have ’tilled the ground’, meaning that he produced something from the physical world out of his own efforts. Abel, on the other hand, ‘tended sheep’, that is, he worked with the natural order of the world – it does not say, for example, that he cultivated sheep. Thus, the difference between Cain and his descendants and Abel and his descendants is that the line of Cain is concerned with the transformation of the world through science and technology using their own efforts, while the line of Abel is concerned with maintaining connection with the great work of the universe.

From the line of Abel-Seth came Solomon, who approached everything with clear, calm, objective wisdom. However, he was unable to produce anything of a technical nature. Solomon wished to build a temple and called upon Hiram, the descendant of Cain to be his master builder. At that time, Balkis, the Queen of Sheba, was visiting Jerusalem because she had heard of the wisdom of Solomon. When Solomon made love to her, she consented to be his bride. She heard about the building of the temple and wanted to become acquainted with the builder. When she met Hiram she was captivated by his glance. Solomon thus because intensely jealous of Hiram, but was dependent upon him to build the temple.

It came about that the temple was nearly completed. Only one thing was lacking, which was to be the crowning masterpiece; that was the Molten Sea, which was to represent the ocean and was to be cast in bronze. Three very inept apprentices were to asigned to casting the Molten Sea. Solomon knew they were inept but did not say anything; because of his jealousy he wished to destroy Hiram. The apprentices were angry because Hiram refused to promote them from apprentices to masters. The casting was thus made of the wrong ingredients, and as it was being poured it was disintegrating. Hiram tried to quench the flames by throwing water on the casting, but this made things worse. Just as he was about to despair, Cain, his ancestor, appeared and told Hiram to jump into the fire, that he would be invulnerable to the flames. Hiram did as he was told, and as he entered the flames, he was taken to the center of the earth. Hiram was initiated into the mystery of fire. There he was given a hammer and a Golden Triangle. Then he returned and was able to complete the casting of the Molten Sea.

The Queen of Sheba consented to be Hiram’s bride. However, before the marriage took place, Hiram was murdered by the three apprentices. But, before he died, Hiram managed to throw the Golden Triangle into a deep well. Before he died, Hiram uttered these words: “Cain had promised me that I shall have a son who will be the father of many descendants who will people the earth and bring my work – the building of the Temple – to completion.”

C. Understanding the Myth in terms of Work and Job

It is still the case that those who are concerned with the realm of wisdom are primarily involved with the preservation of soul in the world. Such individuals do not for the most part, come up with new inventions, new devices, new technologies. The whole realm of soul work, of inner work, has a large dimension of holding onto a deep understanding of individual soul and world soul. Increasingly, there is little place in the world for such people. Look in the want ads in the Sunday paper. You will never, never, find there an ad for some business, or even academic institution that says something like:” Needed; a person with a liberal arts education, conversant in philosophy, literature, depth psychology; acquaintance with ancient esoteric traditions a must; experience in one’s own inner development required; meditation skills a help.” The want ads are job ads, not work ads. Thus, in the present world, there is a danger that the Solomon soul will be forgotten as important for the future of the world. And yet, it is quite assuredly so that this line will continue, even if done only privately, by individuals, who do this work along side of, in addition to whatever job they do in the daily world.

The more interesting part of the myth concerns the line of Cain. When Hiram is initiated into the mysteries of fire, this is not physical fire, but rather the realm of wishes, desires, and instincts. Thus, the line of Hiram is capable of showing passion, enthusiasm, interest in what can be developed in the world out of purely human capacities. They are interested in building the temple of the world. But, there is an adversarial relationship between soul work and job work.

The Queen of Sheba represents the soul of humanity. She must choose between a kind of wisdom that does not involve itself in the conquest of the world, and a kind of technical capacity that is capable of transforming the world through human effort. She chooses the latter, and we shall have to try and understand what that means.

The myth also indicates that there is in fact a coming together of these two seemingly opposed tendencies. The Molten Sea is created when the appropriate amounts of water and molten metal are brought together. The apprentices do this wrongly. When Hiram descends to the center of the earth and is initiated into the mysteries of fire, he learns what to do to bring the waters of wisdom together with the fires of worldly transformation. This in turn leads to the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle symbolizes the next stage of evolution of the human being, and is something that will not come about for a very long time. It is the transformation of the human being from a being of body, soul and spirit, to a fully spiritualized body and soul and a fully conscious spirit. We will not here be concerned with the Golden Triangle, but with the question of what can bring about a union of work and job. A union of water and molten metal must be brought about, and it produces something durable and lasting, that is, ‘bronze.”

III. Re-connecting Work and Job

A. What does your Job have to say?

Because work and job are fast becoming separated, there is great danger that building the temple of the world can now go off in a completely wrong direction – and, indeed, it has been going in an unhealthy direction for a long time. In the context of the myth of Cain and Abel, the stream of Cain gives an imagination of the transformation of the earth into a work of art. The earth at this time, rather than being transformed is being turned into a desert of ecological disaster coupled with technological advances that serve only materialistic desires. As a first small step, something each of us can do, to bring closer together work and job, we can bring our job into the imagination, and there let it have a voice. I suggest the following exercise. As all exercises, the aim is to do this small task daily, which gradually builds up the forces of the soul:

Exercise: Picture in your imagination a scene that is typical of your daily job. You may, for example, picture writing at a computer, or teaching a class, or preparing a legal document – whatever your job consists of in its most daily way. Then, when you have this inner picture and have stabilized the image so that it does not disappear or change into something else, dissolve this picture into a ball of light. Then let this light re-form into a figure – a human figure, a man or a woman. Then ask this person – What is your work in the world? Do not be concerned if you feel like you are making up an answer out of your own head. Just let it happen. What does this figure say to you?

This exercise is based upon what Jung developed as the process of active imagination.

IV. On the Transformation of the World into a Work of Art

A. The Soul in our Job

We now want to ask how work and job can come into a new unity. The little exercise merely serves as a small beginning to bring work back into relation with our job. That is still a far way from what might be a unity of work and job. I want to describe something of the tremendous value of what we speak of as a job when understood spiritually. In order to get at this value, we must point out a very large difficulty with inner soul or spiritual work. To embark on inner work of any kind requires a kind of egotism. Some begin inner work because they feel it will be of benefit to them – reduce stress, get to know oneself, take the place of outer religion, etc. Even those who begin inner work from what seems to be altruistic motives – such as being of help to the world, are usually veiling an egotism. Egotism is more or less unavoidable because one turns toward oneself. On the other side, with respect to a job, there is always a strong aspect to a job that is not for oneself but for others. For example, if a person has a job of building houses, he builds them not for himself, but for someone else. The difficulty with a job, however, is that we are now getting to the point in jobs where while someone seems to be doing something for someone else in a job, he/she is really doing it for himself. That is the point at which the job symptoms we spoke of earlier begin to enter strongly. A lawyer, for example, seems to be working for his clients. Part of his work may be selfless in this way, but now even a larger part is his working to earn a living. Even if he is not primarily interested in his own living, he most likely works for a firm which has as its primary aim the making of profits. Thus we see that the way for soul to come to enter into the wider world from out of the individual is in fact being blocked.

The aim of a job, the way in which jobs could bring about the transformation of the world into a work of art involves becoming of service in the world. How does service in this sense bring about such a transformation? We need to look at this questions carefully, and not in terms of vague notions. Look, for example at what happens when stones are made into a house. The stones are taken from a quarry; then they are shaped by a machine, and then they are laid in place by a builder according to a plan. What is happening in this process is that the human spirit is being joined with the raw material. When a new machine is made, in a similar way, the human spirit is joined with the machine; it is there in the machine. It is there in an objective manner. Now the house will eventually wear away, and so will the machine. However, and this may be somewhat difficult to imagine, but in a moment I think it will become even more clear, the atoms which compose the machine have been changed from the atoms of the metal or other material from which the machine is made because they have been united with the human spirit. While the machine may be thrown away and eventually disintegrates, the atoms do not. And these atoms are forever changed because of having been united with the human spirit. (This was known, for example, by the Rosicrucians – the early 15th-16th century Rosicrucians. Present day Rosicruciansism has mostly lost this knowledge).

What is blocked in the way jobs are presently imagined – as a way of making a living, as a way of making profits, as a way to advance, get a promotion, as a way to save for retirement -, concerns understanding that the human spirit that enters into the materials with which we work daily – pens, pencils, computers, paper, iron, steel, wood, telephone, television, etc.etc. The human spirit now does not fully enter into the materials of our jobs and the world is not being spiritually changed; rather, it becomes more and more materialistic. Soul can only enter into the world in a way that actually changes the very structure of matter through relinquishing egotism. Soul is really very objective and does not have to do with our personality or our personal desires.

On the other side, without the objectivity that is involved with having a job, inner work of a soul or of a spiritual kind cannot produce anything in the world because it has unknowingly gotten trapped in a veiled kind of egotism. In passing we might note that the monastic tradition is one place we can look where there occurred a perfect balance between inner work and job. For the monastic, prayer or contemplation was absolutely of equal value to working in the garden or in the kitchen and visa versa.

On the other side, without the objectivity that is involved with having a job, inner work of a soul or of a spiritual kind cannot produce anything in the world because it has unknowingly gotten trapped in a veiled kind of egotism. In passing we might note that the monastic tradition is one place we can look where there occurred a perfect balance between inner work and job. For the monastic, prayer or contemplation was absolutely of equal value to working in the garden or in the kitchen and visa versa.

When I mentioned earlier that inner work involves a necessary egotism, I do not thereby mean that it is not to be undertaken. It is absolutely necessary. But, inner soul or spiritual work can never be undertaken for one’s own benefit. And, in our time, inner work must be constantly balanced by some work in the world. Because there is a great decline of soul in the world, much inner work is needed in the present world. Inner soul and spirit work widens and deepens the soul, not for our sake but as preparation for participating in the affairs of the world. Only through inner work is it possible to bring something into the world that is original. But that work must find its way into the world. A very small first step involves trying to bring work into conjunction with soul. This conjunction has very little to do with the content of one’s vocation. Many people today are turning away from their professions – lawyers, engineers, teachers, architects, etc. to enter work which they consider to be more soulful – counseling, therapy, art, massage, wholistic healing, herbal medicine, homeopathy, etc. Little do they know that in fact they are merely changing one job for another. Why? Because in all these seemingly soulful professions are rapidly being turned into jobs – by managed care systems, by regulations, by licensing and accrediting, by the need to make a living at what one does.

B. Thinking, Atoms and Electricity

As the imagination of work diminishes and the unemployed soul left wandering in private fantasy while jobs become more and more specialized functions, a concomitant event is also occurring in vocational life – it is rapidly becoming electrified. Through computers, faxes, copiers, cellular phones, communications satellites, E-mail, pagers, we have entered the electronic hi-way. We must try to enter into this development imaginally to see what is going on there with respect to the human soul and spirit in relation to work. What does it mean, for example, that a person can have a thought in New York and that this can be transmitted virtually instantaneously to London, or any part of the world. In terms of the way we have imagined human thought entering into the matter of the world, what is most interesting about this information revolution is that it requires no work. It is just a part of one’s job. It is necessary to go beyond the surface and see what is involved in this revolution is more than technological advancement. That one can change a thought into a bit of electronic impulse is possible only because the nature of thought is essentially the same thing as electricity! If the two, electronic impulse and thought were not similar, it would not be possible to use one in place of the other. Even more, human thought, in the form of electricity is thus being imprinted upon the atomic world very directly. The entire earth is being turned into a kind of self-functioning electrical apparatus. This electronic apparatus begins even to function on its own, without the need of human thought. For example, when the stock market reaches a certain point of decline, investors do not have to contact their brokers to buy or sell; this happens automatically through electronic sensors. which put into operation buying or selling. Further, almost all that goes on through these electronic means is oriented toward materialistic aims. Materialism thus acquires its own life. A vast web of electronic impulses directly and immediately connected with the atomic structure of the world is transforming the world, not into a work of art, but into the realm of greed.

I put forth this imagination, not as a way of saying that one must stay away from electrical devices; this is impossible, and since we are now surrounded by this web, we are all in any case affected by it. What is important in this imagination is the act of becoming aware that this is going on. The question becomes one of finding the way to meet this circumstance. But first, it is necessary to fully experience the effects of what is going on in this realm of electricity. Keeping this imagination of the web of electronic information that completely encircles us, try to imagine now how this effects soul work. We must, I think, conclude that soul work, the very moment that it enters the world, is subjected to the influence of this invisible electronic web. The result is that seekers keep seeking without experiencing an effect of their inner work. That is to say, inner work may be gratifying to individual life but we are in fact not seeing this have much effect in the world.

There is an answer to the dilemma just presented. It is an answer that involves a radical change in attitude both toward inner work and outer job. The answer hinges on the inescapable fact that the forces of materialism rely completely on egotism. The change in attitude is this; the primary value of inner work is that it makes possible a direct facing of one’s own egotism. Look and see; what is the aim in meditative work, in dream work, in analysis, in soul work, in shamanism, in channeling – it is all filled with egotism, with saving oneself, with saving the world. Then, look and see what is involved in a job – surviving, making a living, being able to buy things, advancement, titles, saving money for retirement; it too is all filled with egotism.

If we can face the inevitable fact that inner work is just as egotistical as outer job, it begins to be possible to gradually change our attitude toward both. The task involves becoming completely involved in both without expecting anything from them for ourselves. This is the true meaning of service. But, who will enter into this kind of service, once it becomes clear that it requires relinquishing wanting anything at all for ourselves? What is the sustaining force for such service?

C. The Holiness of Work and Job.

In order to get at what sustains real service, it is first necessary to bring to an end the existent strife between work and job. Since the shadow side of work and job are their mutual involvement in egotism, we see that the strife is no more than one form of egotism opposing another form. Work tries to hold fast to an imagined belongingness to the work of the cosmos. Job tries to hold fast to changing the world through one’s own efforts. If we ask – why is there this effort to hold fast, we come to something interesting. Work seeks to hold onto an imagination of the world and of oneself as belonging to the untainted world. Job seeks to hold onto an imagination entering fully into the guilt of having emancipated oneself from the larger order of the cosmos and to create a cosmos independent of any imagination of a divine order. However, as long as the one is in opposition to the other, each is a reaction to the other. And, as reacting to each other, they both become trapped in egotism, which is nothing other than the inability to imagine things in but one way.

In addition to work and job, there must be a third principle, a uniting principle. The uniting principle is life. I do not want to speak the word ‘life’ abstractly, so we must try to see exactly what this uniting principle concerns in the realm of work and job. The myth of Cain and Abel contains an important image that can help us. In the building of Solomon’s Temple, there was to be a main pillar made from the trunk of a mighty tree. This tree had been earlier planted by Adam’s son, Seth, and was actually a shoot from the Tree of Life. But, this pillar would not fit in any way into the temple, so it was laid across a brook as a bridge. When the Queen of Sheba came to the temple, she crossed over this bridge, and immediately saw the worth of this wood. It served as the bridge between the ordinary everyday world and the new world that was being built, the world as a work of art, the world as Temple. This bridge also symbolizes the connection possible between work and job, between remembering the holiness of the earth as belonging to the whole of the cosmos and the possible holiness of the new earth which is a transformation of nature into a work of art. It is of significance that it is the Queen of Sheba who perceives the importance of this tree. Solomon did not see it. When the tree did not fit into the temple, he cast it aside; Hiram did not see it. When the tree did not fit into the temple, he built something else to take its place. And thus, it lay there silently bridging the two worlds. The Queen of Sheba in this myth represents the soul, the soul, not as individual soul, but the soul of the world. She sees that what was discarded by both Solomon and Hiram is Life. Those who side with the realm of work try to hold onto an imagination of the spiritual sense of the cosmos. Those who side with the realm of job hold onto an imagination of world transformation. Both are forgetful of the ground they stand on. The thought that tries to hold onto the past, an imagination of the wholeness of the cosmos, is dead thought. The thought that tries to hold onto transforming the world through technical progress is also dead thought. Only when they both come to the point of serving life itself will both be changed. What would such a new imagination look like in practice?

D. Working at a Job

We are all given life as a gift. We did not create our own life, and thus become forgetful of what we have been given; we merely use it. Some use their life in order to try and find a connection to the eternal world. Others use their life in order to make something in the world, even if this is no more than money. And still others, try to find some semblance of balance between these two. But, what serves life itself does not come either from soul and spirit work alone nor from labor in the world alone. Only what occurs as relationships between people, free and open without the intent of getting something from someone or using them for some purpose serves life. True relationship between individuals serves as a bridge. By this bridge spirit and soul enter the worldly and the worldly enters soul and spirit.

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