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On Prophecy and Time

A Trialogue: Part Two

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, David Spangler, and William Irwin Thompson

Dear David,
In response to our phone call conversation yesterday, I  have just re-read your chapter on “the Pit Crew” in your new book, Subtle Worlds: an Explorer’s Field Notes.

Yes, I would say that my concept of the Entelechy is different. I see my daily yogic practice of an invocation of energy in the movements of my morning pranayama as a meditation that constellates (literally!) the five or six pointed star as a fractal of the Cosmic Mind. You could also call it, in Jungian terms, an “active imagination” of the Vitruvian Man of Da Vinci. Vitruvian Man

As I begin these movements that are like the movements of ch’i in Chi Gung, I envision “God the Father” above and outside the physical body, the Divine Mother or Holy Spirit over the brain in the sahasrara or crown chakra, and the indwelling Cosmic Christ within the third eye or ajna chakra. At the left extended hand I envision the stellar angel, and at the right extended hand the Jinn of the lunar sphere. At the left foot I envision the earthly Angel of protection, the protective atmosphere of energy, air, wind and weather; and at the right foot, the elemental, the primordial spirit of the geological and geomantic forces of Earth itself. And in the center, behind the heart, as Sri Aurobindo would say for the locus of his “Psychic Being,” or in “the cave of the heart” as it is described in the Upanishads, is the Socratic Daimon, the being of all one’s incarnations and not just the personal ego of only one. This is the icon of the winged heart of the Sufis. So the day begins with a focus of attention on the self as microcosm, but a microcosm of interpenetrating dimensions and worlds and not just a hunk of meat in space as a container. And, as you can see, a planetary syncretism is my daily fare, as I draw off more than one tradition of spiritual practice. I do not invent this stuff; I receive it in the form of a Daimonic teaching, as you describe it in your book.

But, David, I do agree with your presentation about the Soul in your Field Notes—from your experience as a child of seven in the Sufi lands of Morocco—that the Soul is vaster even than the Daimon. I see the Daimon as a meta-personality, a vehicle created and projected by the soul for a whole cycle of incarnations into a particular world or solar-system. In the terms of the Egyptian esoterism I discussed in “Civilization and Initiation in Ancient Egypt” in The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light, I would say that this vehicle is a temporal function that lasts for one Magnus Annus, the Great Year of the precession of the equinox, or 25, 920 years. Rudolf Steiner says somewhere in one of his numerous books of lectures that the being takes on the male sex for half of that rotation, and the female sex for the other. But I wonder now days if it is that neat. Given modern “gender-bending,” I would think the circle is more like the spirals and leaps an Olympic figure skater would make around the oval ice rink.

In my imagination, I see angel, daimon, jinn of the moon, angel of the earthly atmosphere of wind and weather, and elemental or primordial spirit of Earth like the mitochondria, plastids, nucleus, and cytoplasm of the cell. So for me this Entelechy is an emergent evolutionary form and is a vehicle of incarnation for a new civilization that we have not yet created but are invoking. Your “pit crew” I see as a team now assisting in one person’s incarnation, but the Entelechy is preparing for a new kind of incarnation, a new kind of cell or organism in the Cosmic Mind—sort of like Lynn Margulis’s laboratory films of the protist inside the gut of the termite.

Does this make sense to you, or am I being too fanciful?

Yours in the Fellowship of Lindisfarne,


Dear Bill,

I’m appreciating very much that you are enjoying Subtle Worlds, my first new book in some years and one close to my heart.  I have for so many years kept the details of my interactions with the non-physical and spiritual worlds close to my heart, sharing their effects through my teachings and outer work  and with a few close friends such as yourself, but reserving the deeper sense of partnership to myself. This was never through any sense of wishing to possess secrets, but only through shyness and self-protection. Having come out of a scientific culture in University, where I was training to be a molecular biologist like Tim Kennedy, I knew that in that environment my converse with spiritual  beings would not be accepted and would lead to being ousted—in those days at least—from the fellowship of scientists. And I had professors in those days who were outspoken in their intent to strip away from their students all “illusions” and “delusions” pertaining to any kind of spiritual life. “If you believe in anything when you are done with my class,” one professor told us, “then I will have failed in my duty.”  So I held my inner knowledge sacred and secret, and in the end took myself out of that fellowship myself in answer to a larger calling from the subtle worlds.

But even in the metaphysical and New Age movements where I found my first audiences, I discovered that being open about my inner experiences and contacts led to unwanted projections and glamour which only hindered my work.  Ironically, I found that I needed to be as discrete and reticent around my putative allies as I was around my former classmates and professors in the science departments of the University.  So I have a history of holding my cards close to my chest. The book Subtle Worlds represents for me my first attempts to begin laying my cards on the table.

I would like to also thank you, Bill, for your description of the role of the Sufis in the opening of the Western mind and heart that we call the Renaissance.  As you said, I was raised in Morocco, which has always had a special place in my heart.  I have felt for many years that my childhood there, which saw my awakening to my own soul and the true beginning of my spiritual work, was a recapitulation of at least one other life in that land, very likely as a Sufi or certainly as someone engaged with the esoteric and mystical pursuits of the winged heart.  There were many times as a child when I encountered echoes and “ghosts” of past associations with that land and, I think, with my former self or selves.

This had an interesting result in this life.  When I left college and went to Los Angeles in 1965 to test the waters of spiritual teaching to see if I could swim in them and not drown, I was assisted by a wonderful gentleman who was in many ways a Sufi himself, though not in any organizational sense.  It was his organization that sponsored me in the City of Angels and gave me my first speaking gigs.  I was visiting him in his apartment one day and found Idries Shah’s book The Sufis lying on a table. It had just been published the year before.  I was immediately drawn to it and looking through it, I felt a jolt of recognition that said to  me “I am a Sufi.”  Then, years later, at a college in England where a group of spiritual teachers had been gathered for the making of a television show, I met Pir Vilayat Khan for the first time. We felt a spark together, a bond that later grew into a treasured friendship.  My association with the Sufi Order International began then as a partnership that I have always appreciated.

But I am not a joiner, and it has not been my path in this life to become part of any organization.  I’ve had my own work to pursue, a task given to me from the subtle worlds, but I’ve been honored to follow that pursuit with such good friends and colleagues as I have found the Sufis to be.

So, Bill, about your Entelechy.  You are correct that this is a very different phenomenon than that of what I call the “Pit Crew.”  This latter is made up of those subtle beings, both human and otherwise, that for any number of reasons act to support and further the incarnational aims of this one particular life.  Those who are part of a Pit Crew in one incarnation may not at all be involved in a subsequent one.  My mentor and non-physical friend, John, was part of my Pit Crew but he said that at another time, I had been part of his when he was in embodiment and I was not.  Tit for tat!

But the Entelechy is indeed something else. I see it as a geometry of forces that promotes and structures  or shapes an incarnation rather than simply assisting or accompanying it.  In this regard, if I look at it through the lens of my own cosmology and experience, it is akin to what I think of as the “incarnational system.”

One of the main elements in my teaching on incarnation is that we incarnate into systems, that only the geometry of a relational field can hold the higher-order energy of the soul in contact with the world.  Your Entelechy seems to me to be an expression of such a system.

What I call the “incarnational system” is a process within each of us that enables incarnation to occur.  It posits a set of connections that make it possible for the higher-order nature and energies of the soul to engage in a stable manner with the differently-configured and lesser energetic state of the physical world.  I might picture these as the guy wires that hold a radio tower erect or as the stakes in the ground to which the support struts or ropes of a tent are fastened.

This incarnational system can be fairly complex, its geometry depending on the nature of the particular soul, the nature of the incarnation which it is attempting to manifest, and the particular work it wishes to accomplish, among other things.  It can also change during the incarnation itself, so it is not totally fixed.  For simplicity’s sake in my classes, I portray it as having a four-fold structure, and for me, this is the basic structure, to which more can be added.

In describing this structure, I use the term “connection” to refer to two of its components.  In effect, these represent the connection of the Incarnational Soul (and the newly emerging incarnate life) and its participation in larger, collective fields. These fields are that of the planetary Soul, which may be called Gaia, and which includes both the forces of the land and of the biosphere, and that of the collective Soul of Humanity.  These “connections” can legitimately be seen and experienced in different ways. They can appear as actual beings—angels, devas, or elementals, depending on how you conceive of such things—connected to us and to some extent residing in us or alongside us, or as beings who are representatives of much large entities and collective forces.  They can also be seen as functions and activities, living principles, within us, rather like organelles in a cell. Or they could be seen as subtle energies that we take on and hold as a means of connection to the aspects of the world to which they are related. I have experienced them in all of these modes.

In my classes I also discuss these elements using the metaphor of the plastids, mitochondria and other organelles within a cell, and in fact they behave somewhat like that. I have found there are a number of parallels and similarities between incarnation as a process and manifestation and cellular life and biology. Of course, that may simply be because my early training in college was in cell biology and chemistry.  

This four-fold structure includes:

•   The Incarnational Soul.  This, I think, is my term for what Bill calls the Daemon. It is the part of the Soul that undertakes and focuses upon the incarnational process itself, relating the Soul as a hyperdimensional intelligence to the earth itself.

•    The World “connection.”  This is a portion of the World Soul (or Gaia) that we take on or that becomes part of us—it could be seen, as I said above, as a being, such as a deva,  an energy state, or a function or activity within us.  It connects us to the physical, chemical, biological processes of the earth and to the energies of the land and of the biosphere, making us one with and part of the world and of nature.

•    The Human “connection.”  This is a portion of the Soul of Humanity as a single collective Being but as shaped its by current incarnational status. The same applies here as with the World connection:  this may be experienced as a being, such as an angel, an energy state, or an activity within us. It connects us to the collective energy and purpose of incarnate humanity (not to Humanity as a cosmic Being), and thus to whatever challenges and opportunities humanity is facing at this moment of history.  I might think of this as the Zeitgeist or the Spirit of the Age as manifested through humanity at any particular moment.  So, generally speaking, if I were incarnating right now, I would take on the energies relevant to 21st century Humanity, not the energies that defined Humanity during the Age of the Pharaohs or during Imperial Rome or the Renaissance.  But whatever the Soul of Humanity is facing within a particular historical moment, it also has universal qualities and tasks, and this connection enables me to participate in those as well.

•    The Personal Soul.  This is the specific Intelligence, a fractal of soul paired usually with a body elemental, which oversees and patterns the specific individual life. It holds the “I”  that gives the flame of individuality within the incarnate personality, and holds as well the matrix of karma and potentiality that affects the development of this personality.  In many ways, this is an emergent condition rather than a fixed or given one, so that the Personal Soul at the end of the life is not the same, or I should say, in the same condition, as when it began the life.  In the Post Mortem Realms following death, the Personal Soul reintegrates with the Incarnational Soul and then eventually with the Soul itself, at least as I understand it.

One of my projects this year is to write a book on what I call “incarnational spirituality” which will go into all this kind of material.  These topics are not really part of the Subtle Worlds book or of the new book, Facing the Future.
Anyway, I can certainly see parallels between my incarnational system and your Entelechy.

However, there are other “incarnational systems” —other geometries of subtle connection and invocation—that can be deliberately shaped and invoked by a person during his or her life.  A person would do this to invoke new energies or open up new potentialities in his or her life, thereby transforming the incarnation.  From what you describe, Bill, this sounds a bit like what you’re doing with the Entelechy attunement and exercises you are doing.

And there are also “connections” or “elements”—guy wires or tent stakes—that stay in the background until invoked by the personality. For example, there are solar and stellar energies to which our souls are connected but which may not play a role in the individual incarnate life unless proper conditions are created for them to do so.

I also understand that there are new patterns of incarnation—new kinds of incarnations—taking shape in our time.  This may be a process that is always going on as far as that goes. But at this time in human history, a Gaian Human is a necessity;  I see such a being as having a new subtle body or inner configuration, and I’ve always seen my own work as involved with this process. It could well be that the configuration you feel and describe is part of that process as well.  The kind of beings you describe are certainly among those who would be involved in such a new birth.

Love to you, my brother, and all blessings to your life,

Dear David,

I enjoyed Subtle Worlds immensely.  I admire your knack for expressing the most delicate perceptions in ordinary workaday language.  Subtle Worlds is a book that people of all spiritual traditions, and those of no tradition, should be able to appreciate with equal relish.

I understand William’s Entelechy as the constellation of presences whose interactions establish the human being as a microcosm of the whole.  The function of these interactions, I think, is the “circulation of Light and vital energies” that you describe in your book.  Subtle Worlds is really a wonderful account of how the ecological principles of interdependence and circulation extend beyond the visible world into the unseen.

You and William have spoken of how mitochondria and other microscopic symbionts have their counterparts on other levels.  At the psychic level, the Sufis call these animalcules muwakkals, which means literally, “commission holders.”  They are called this because they receive commissions from the heart that is awake to its own life, knowledge, power and desire.  One finds an allusion to this in the legend of Solomon when he built the Temple of Jerusalem by commanding the djinn.  In other words, the awakened heart establishes sacred space by appealing to the best instincts within the myriad entities that populate its mindscape.  

I agree with you both that the Entelechy is not the same as the Pit Crew.  The Pit Crew, as I understand it, is a being or group of beings that guides the human soul in the course of its journey.  Sufism posits the existence of a “spiritual hierarchy” (your holarchy is a better word!) made up of incarnate and disincarnate masters, saints, prophets and angels whose task is to consciously mediate between the visible and invisible realms of being.  Ibn ‘Arabi uses the term wiratha (“heritage”) to describe how different prophets shine their light on the mystic’s path at different stages.  Though Ibn ‘Arabi remained a Muslim thoughout his life, he came under the esoteric tutelage of Jesus, Moses, Hud and other prophets at various periods.  Ibn ‘Arabi’s prophetology breaks open the horizon of what we call interfaith.  Recognizing the validity other faiths is just the beginning; the real work is accessing the living guidance of the prophets through inner initiation.  I think your concept of the Pit Crew is an excellent articulation of that opportunity.

With heartfelt good wishes,

Dear Zia and Bill,

I’m sorry not to have responded earlier, particularly to your thoughtful comments, Zia. I’ve been very busy as well, and in the process have strained or sprained my hands from typing, so that I’ve had to stay away from the keyboard for a few days—hard to do!—and give my hands a rest.  Well, it’s been a chance to catch up on my reading, particularly W. Brian Arthur’s new book on technology which I’m enjoying very much. It’s interesting to me how the principles of combination he’s describing fit equally well from my point of view in describing the processes of incarnation.  I’ve often said that some of my inner colleagues approach incarnation as if it were a problem in “energetic engineering,” and Arthur’s book just reinforces that image.

I’ve been thinking, Zia, about your comments on the muwakkals or “commission holders.” These sound very much like a class of entities I’ve been whimsically calling “underbuddies,” because on a developmental scale they are “under” us or less evolved that human beings, and I think of them as allies or “buddies.”  You see, this is how profound esoteric jargon develops!  I’ve been aware of them peripherally for years but lately have been giving them a good deal more attention.  They seem to act at times much like subtle world “bacteria,” in that they “fix” subtle energies into the material world in a way that seems analogous to me to how certain bacteria fix nitrogen and other elements into the soil for plants to use.  But they also act in response to our energies and can help carry out intentions, at least up to a point.  But they have no moral sense at all—they will respond to and mimic negative energies as much as positive ones, at least up to a point.  However, I have found that they respond enthusiastically and well to love, which is not at all surprising.

You said, Zia, that “the awakened heart establishes sacred space by appealing to the beset instincts within the myriad entities that populate its mindscape.”  This is exactly the experience I have with the underbuddies, and it is part of what I the creation of “Grail Space,” i.e. a space or field of energy around us in the immediate environment that can hold wholeness and sacredness—using the image of the Grail as the sacred cup that can hold the blood or energy of Christ.

I do not think of the underbuddies as elementals, however, or as beings such as the djinn or nature spirits.  They have a different “flavor” to them. I actually think of them as fellow incarnate beings, residents of the subtle dimensions of the incarnate world.  Perhaps physical microbes are their analog, I don’t know.  But they definitely seem able to help shape and maintain an energetic—and a sacred—space.

There’s more I’d like to say, but I need now to rest my hands again.  If I write in small bursts I can manage it without causing too much pain or continuing to strain the muscles in my fingers and palms.  So I shall write more later. 

Interesting how we began writing about the future and about time but have ended up discussing the ecology of the inner worlds.

Love and Blessings,



On Prophecy and Time: Part One

William Irwin Thompson is a poet and cultural philosopher who has made significant contributions to cultural history, social criticism, the philosophy of science, and the study of myth. Early in his career he left academia to found Lindisfarne, an association of creative individuals in the arts, sciences, and contemplative practices devoted to the study and realization of a new planetary consciousness, or noosphere. Thompson lived in Switzerland for 17 years and describes his most recent work, Canticum Turicum, as “a long poem on Western Civilization, that begins with folktales and traces of Charlemagne in Zurich and ends with the completion of Western Civilization as expressed in Finnegans Wake and the traces of James Joyce in Zurich.” With mathematician Ralph Abraham he has designed a new type of cultural history curriculum based on their theories about the evolution of consciousness. Thompson now lives in Portland, Maine.

Read more about William Irwin Thompson

David Spangler is an internationally known spiritual teacher and writer, and was instrumental in helping establish the Findhorn Foundation community in northern Scotland in the late 1960’s early 1970’s. Since then David has traveled widely within the United States and Canada giving classes, workshops and lectures. His themes have included the emergence of a holistic culture, the nature of personal sacredness, our participation in a coevolving, co-creative universe, partnering, and working with spiritual realms, our responsibility to the earth and to each other, the spiritual nature and power of our individuality, and our calling to be of service at this crucial time of world history. Many of these themes come together in his primary work, which is the development of a spiritual perspective and practice called Incarnational Spirituality.

Read more about David Spangler

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan is a scholar and teacher of Sufism in the lineage of his grandfather, Hazrat Inayat Khan. He received his B.A. (Hons) in Persian Literature from the London School of Oriental and African Studies, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion from Duke University. Pir Zia is founder of Seven Pillars House of Wisdom, and also of Sulūk Academy, a school of contemplative study with branches in the U.S. and Europe. His most recent books are Saracen Chivalry: Counsels on Valor, Generosity and the Mystical Quest and Caravan of Souls: An Introduction to the Sufi Path of Hazrat Inayat Khan, both published by Sulūk Press, an imprint of Omega Publications.

Read more about Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

1 October 2010

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