“Anatomy of the Spirit,” by Carolyn Myss

“Where do you get that living water?”

Anatomy of the Spirit, by Carolyn Myss

In John chapter 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well about “living water.”  She responds, “Where do you get that living water?”  He never answers the question, which doesn’t surprise me much in John.  But that’s much how I felt myself, after reading this book:  my questions were not answered.

Unsought, Carolyn Myss developed the ability to intuitively “read” a person’s physical health, diagnose any illnesses present, and identify situations in the person’s life that were affecting such illness.  She perceives the person’s body as an energy field, involving not only the flesh but also thoughts and feelings.  She became aware almost at once of seven “energy centers” in the body, widely known as “the chakras.”  In this book, she describes how the whole system works.

In that it is a description, it’s a “what is” rather than a “how to.”  I came in with questions: How do I develop courage?  How can I become more manly?  What to do about this discomfort that comes at a certain place, whenever I approach the state I call “peace of mind?”  What keeps me from advancing The William Tell Show?  These “how to” questions did not find answers.

On some points I agree with her, or easily accept her teaching; on others I disagree, or simply fail to understand.  The book may be more useful for someone who is not yet familiar with the chakras or holistic medicine, than it was for me.  On other points, she may have been talking over my head, or simply using a different paradigm than mine.  This leads me to consider how my own writing may be helpful to some folk and not others.

For those who have no familiarity with them, the chakras are seven places in the body where the physical body is thought to be particularly connected with the soul; where the life force enters the physical body, from the soul.  I show them in the chart below.  Myss attaches a “sacred truth” to each one, and I have included them in the chart because I think she is correct about each one.  She always italicizes them, so I have, too.

Location Sacred truth
Seventh chakra Top of the head Live in the present moment.
Sixth chakra Middle of the forehead Seek only the truth.
Fifth chakra Throat Surrender personal will to divine will.
Fourth chakra Heart Love is Divine power.
Third chakra Solar plexus Honor oneself.
Second chakra Midway between the navel and the privates Honor one another.
First chakra Tailbone All is One.

She further relates each chakra to either one or two of the sephirot of qabala.  (“Sephirot” is a Hebrew term, plural; the singular is “sephira.”)  Qabala is a system of Jewish mysticism; the central concept is that there are ten dimensions (my term) through which the life force expresses itself in the world.  Those dimensions are the sephirot.  I agree with her correlations of the chakras to the sephirot.

Points of disagreement, or of failure to understand

Illusion.  This is a concept in various Eastern religions; that the material world is an illusion.  The illusion itself is commonly called maya.  I’ve researched the concept as much as I could afford to, and I either just don’t get it, or have no use for it.  I could understand if someone has the illusion that the material world is all there isThat certainly would be an illusion.  But that the material world itself is an illusion?  Nah; not for me.

Conscious.  She speaks numerous times of the process of “becoming conscious.”  I just don’t understand this, either.  My suspicion:  there is no process for me to go through; I’m already conscious.  Have been for years.  In particular, it may be that “unconscious” persons never engage in self-reflection, going through life robotically, as if on autopilot.

Identity.  “Creating an identity for ourselves is based upon self-discovery and not upon biological and ethnic inheritance. This first stage of self-discovery.” — There’s another term I don’t understand, “creating an identity.”  Maybe I’ve forgotten what my college psychology courses taught me.

Guidance.  At or about page 207, she says, “For the most part information that is accessible to intuition makes its presence known by making us feel uncomfortable, depressed, and anxious.”  For those unfamiliar with the term, “guidance” refers to information, or a hunch or nudge, presumed to come from God, or the cosmos, or one’s “guides” — spirit beings analogous to angels, that accompany each of us and are tasked with assisting each one toward one’s goals.  Myss makes several similar remarks, and these do not correspond to what I presume to know about, nor to what I want from, guidance.  From guidance, I look for answers to my questions; affirmations of my goals.  There’s enough discomfort in my world already; I do not need any more.

Issues with the qabala

Myss really doesn’t delve much into the qabala.  She merely associates each sephira to a given chakra, and that’s about it.  This may be an occasion, though, to share some of the work I’ve done, issues I’ve had, and points of agreement or disagreement with this author.

The qabala is a Jewish system, and each dimension (as I call them) has a Hebrew name.  Each dimension is presumed to relate to certain specific emotions and certain specific facets of life, but from the Hebrew names it’s singularly difficult to tell what those are.

The two dimensions Myss associates with the third chakra, counterparts of each other, are Hod, translated “Splendor” or “Glory,” and Netzach, translated “Victory” or “Eternity.”  What victory and eternity have to do with each other is beyond me.  Some years ago, I concluded that Hod really corresponds to gratitude — the splendor or glory one may feel in response to a gift one has been given, and an important feature of anyone’s attitude for finding any enjoyment in life.  And it’s at the solar plexus that I feel it.  Netzach gets a bit more complicated.

The Edgar Cayce literature locates the third chakra not at the solar plexus, as Myss does, but instead specifically at the adrenal glands.  Thus the Cayce literature connects it specifically to the “fight or flight response.”  Myss connects the “fight or flight response” instead to the second chakra.  The Cayce perspective links this chakra to the emotions of fear and anger.

A few months ago, I concluded that Netzach corresponds basically to boldness.  In a confrontation, that person who has ample boldness will be more prone to fight, while the person with inadequate boldness will be more prone to flight.  Boldness is often mistakenly called “pride” or self-esteem; Myss does connect self-esteem to the third chakra, but that’s not quite the same as boldness.

One place we see boldness is in some people’s signatures:  a celebrity or politician is prone to use exceptionally large capital letters.  So also, however, is a thug.  The flipside of what I said earlier about gratitude, may appear in the thug’s pride at taking things away by force from others.

Some degree of boldness is required of a celebrity or politician.

The dilemma of power

“With great power comes great responsibility.”  Spider-Man taught me that.

The book is sub-titled, “The Seven Stages of Power and Healing,” and this may be exactly where she and I fail to mesh.  She is, at least implicity, all about getting folk to own their own power; but talk of power apparently scares me, and it’s something I’ve perhaps never intentionally sought.

Some years ago, I thought about it a lot.  I live among the disenfranchised, the marginalized; and a core trait of these folk is the presumption of powerlessness, as seen for example in black racial ideology.  These folk stay powerless because they refuse to own the power they already have.  Specifically, they refuse to accept responsibility for the results of their own actions.

That I remain homeless and jobless after all these years, reflects my own failure to own my power.  Power poses uncomfortable dilemmas for me: power to heal can also be power to harm.  Use of power inevitably entails taking risks, and taking risks is something I really do not like.  (Myss assigns risk-taking or risk avoidance, to the second chakra.)

Maybe, maybe — at the outset, I asked about courage.  I’m still asking about courage.  Maybe that’s the word I should have heard instead, whenever she spoke of power.

Maybe that’s why I ain’t found the living water.

The next book I mean to read is The Mystical Qabalah, by Dion Fortune.



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