Dave Smith: Soul School…

Excerpted from To Be Of Use
The Seven Seeds of Meaningful Work (2005)

Guy Murchie wrote a wonderful book called The Seven Mysteries of Life, published in 1978 and still in print. Subtitled An Exploration in Science and Philosophy and almost 700 pages in length, it was called by one reviewer “a staggering work of encyclopedic proportions, with a stirring noble vision to match.”

Murchie’s artful combination of scientific explanation and visionary, mystical spirit is both challenging and inspirational. Murchie writes, “The only hypothesis for the nature of this troubled world that fits all the known facts [is] the hypothesis that planet Earth, is, in essence, a Soul School.” He asks us to test that hypothesis by imagining that we are God, intent upon creating a world for the creatures we are creating to live in. Could we “possibly dream up a more educational, contrasty, thrilling, beautiful, tantalizing world than Earth to develop spirit in?” Would we want to make the world comfortable, safe, and free of danger, or “provocative, dangerous, and exciting” — as it is? He then goes on to say that the tests we meet in life are not to punish us but are here to “reveal the soul to itself,” that the world is a “workshop … for molding and refining character.”

Whether you interpret this as allegorically or literally true, Soul School is where mystery, psychology, and spirituality meet. We slowly but surely learn the lessons of wisdom if we are seeking them, or we ignore them at the peril of our own character and life purpose. Our failings have consequences, to ourselves and to others, that are not magically undone through a belief system. As we sow, so do we reap. That is the moral order that we learn as adults to take responsibility for. It is what traditional wisdom, most religions, and Jesus actually taught.

Seeing life as Soul School can also show us how we find meaningful work. Through the knocks and challenges of life, we find out who we are, what we really care about. Each time we pick ourselves back up and start again, we draw closer to our meaning. If we take the scary leaps that are sometimes necessary to do what we are here to do, or to figure out what needs doing that best fits who we are, we are on the mythical hero’s path to find the work that has meaning for us. “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned,” Joseph Campbell said, “so as to have the life that is waiting for us. … [E]very process involves breaking something up. The earth must be broken to bring forth life. If the seed does not die, there is no plant.”
See also In Praise of Horrendously Costly Lessons The feedback of failure, loss and defeat is our most helpful teacher…


thanks!!!!! this needs to be all over the place…. it goes to a deeper root of the crisis we are in…. to see it as a process rather than something that immediately needs to be fixed and put back on the shelf to continue with business as usual.. and its what people are calling the unraveling or the shift or a myriad of other words that may have the similar meaning.. Can you feel it? Deep inside,,, a burgling up of unravelings that are shaking us all up.. So we might as well laugh and shake and sit still and go a bit wild with our lives since if we dont say yes to it…. THATS where suffering is…. thanks Dave!!!!

An especially interesting metaphor, considering we are in a time when even our secular educational institutions seem to have become a dark and dysfunctional parody of themselves. Another example of the old axiom, “As above, so below”? The notion of the world as a stage rather than a school always held a little more appeal for me, but in any event, I’m looking forward to an extended summer break.

It strikes me that “the hypothesis that planet Earth, is, in essence, a Soul School’ is right on. The problem we have is that we’re trashing it every way we can like out-of-control brats and the only punishment we get is that the school becomes dysfunctional. Seems pretty stupid to me. We no longer can “slowly but surely learn the lessons of wisdom.” Time is running out. It’s time to grow up, graduation is here. Alas, I see few signs that that is happening. Please give me solid evidence it isn’t.