A New Logos
In 2012 Rob Burbea began intensively exploring, experimenting, discovering and creating what would become the Soulmaking Dharma framework, or logos. Soulmaking initially emerged organically out of Rob's own deep Dharma practice - specifically from his understanding of emptiness. Knowing that everything is fabricated, dependently arisen and therefore empty of inherent reality or existence, one is free to play and fabricate in ways that are beautiful, meaningful and soulful. The work of archetypal psychologist James Hillman, particularly his 1975 book Re-Visioning Psychology, catalyzed and influenced Rob's early thinking on the imaginal. Rob also had an important ongoing practice and teaching partnership with Catherine McGee from 2014. Together they experimented, developed and refined the Soulmaking logos, and jointly led many soulmaking retreats. Since Rob's death Catherine is carrying this work forward, together with Yahel Avigur.
Caring for the Vessel
Rob wanted it to be obvious and clear that all Soulmaking teachings and practices form part of a coherent framework and body of work - that a guided meditation for instance belongs together with other teachings, ideas and practices as part of a larger integrated structure. Only with and in the context of that larger integrated structure do the teachings and practices really have their proper power. Rob was also fully aware that these teachings are vulnerable to misunderstanding, misinterpretation or 'watering down', and understood early on that they would require certain protections if they were to survive and develop after his death. He specified relevant practice 'prerequisites' for those applying to sit soulmaking retreats, including mettā, some degree of skill with emptiness practices, and an understanding of ways of looking. From The Path of the Imaginal course (2015) onwards, Rob placed precisely written caveats at the beginning of each soulmaking talk and series of talks that he recorded. These were variously worded but all make it explicit that the material presented would only be properly comprehended if there was already some basis of preparatory experience and understanding.
A Flowering of the Dharma for our Times...?
Soulmaking Dharma sets out to restore, expand and deepen our senses of sacredness, and re-enchants a cosmos which in the modern West has become flat, literalist and largely secular through the dominance of scientific materialism and other modernist and post-modernist paradigms. Embarking on this journey of re-ensouling has wide-ranging and important implications for ethics, values and our work in the world.
In the arena of Soulmaking Dharma, imaginal perception is key. An ‘imaginal image’ or sensing with soul may arise through any of the internal senses or in relationship to the material world. Working with imaginal images is not just a conventional use of the imagination, but is fed and supported by twenty-eight elements of the lattice or aspects of the imaginal (graphic below), including dimensionality, grace and autonomy. While an image or an object in the world is not inherently one way or another, the way of looking at and relating to that image or object is what allows it to become more or less fully sensed with soul.
Where love and beauty are sensed in life, there the imaginal is already operating; where dedication and devotion are present, there the sense of soulfulness and eros (the desire for more connection and contact, in its smaller definition) is present too. While these senses may initially be truncated or limited by more commonly used ways of practising meditation, Soulmaking Dharma offers a conceptual framework for expanding them and giving them space to grow through the ignition of the eros-psyche-logos dynamic. Widening the range of what practice is for, infinite possibilities open to consciousness, the heart, the being, life and soul.