Please listen to the module introduction.
Please read through the entirety of this module before engaging in the practices. You will see sections that are copied from Module 6 on the preparation phase of the ceremony, and new material regarding the Threshold part of the ritual. Please don’t just skim through the repeated material – the preparation exercises are well worth thinking through a second time.
This module is the 2nd of 3 modules devoted to the Soul Quest weekend:
- Part 1 – Soul Quest Preparation (Module #6)
- Part 2 – Soul Quest Solo Time / Threshold (Module #9)
- Part 3 – Soul Quest Incorporation (Module #10)
Why go on a Soul Quest?
We’ll begin with a short review of Part 1 – Soul Quest Preparation. During the Preparation Phase of the Quest, one core inquiry is “Why do I want to go on a Soul Quest?” Recall this quote from Soulcraft:
“At some point in your life, you began to wonder if perhaps there is more to life than another round of success (or failure) at the Standard Game of Security Building. We may begin to wonder: What is the core of us? How can I have a more soul-rooted identity?”
You have chosen to walk the Soul Quest path because safety, security, belonging, and esteem (while important) do not feel like the telos of your life. You don’t want to find yourself on your deathbed not having discovered what is at the core of your being. There is a pressure or tug, longing or ache, coming from deep inside you that pulls you toward this Quest. You are ready to find a place in wild nature, where you will make a stand for your purpose.
In a traditional Quest, the Preparation stage is referred to as “Severance” and begins the moment you feel the call to quest. You are preparing for your Quest by severing from the old way you relate to yourself and to life. You leave behind your old way of being to make space for something utterly new and generative to come forth.
The Threshold (a.k.a. Solo Time)
Soul Quest has three distinct stages: Severance, Threshold, and Incorporation. We have already explored the Severance/Preparation phase of the Quest. Now let’s look at the second phase of the Quest: the Solo Time. Why is the Solo Time referred to as the Threshold period in traditional Quests?
A threshold is the place of a new beginning, as in “crossing the threshold into a new life”. In Quests, the Threshold indicates the time of your fasting solo period that takes place between the old life and the new life, when you shed your old way of being but have yet to find the new. The Threshold period is the time between the death of your former way of knowing yourself, and the rebirth into a soul centric way of living. The Threshold refers to the crucible of transformation that takes place during your solo time that occurs between your former life and your soul-centric life.
The threshold period is a minimum of eight hours in wild nature. and up to four days long. The Threshold refers to the duration of your solo period when you are fasting and praying in the wilderness to learn about your purpose. During the Threshold period, you engage in practices with the intention of receiving glimpses of your soul’s purpose.
Note: if you’d like to do a longer quest (a traditional Quest is 3 or 4 days in length) please speak to your mentor before planning out your ceremony. Purpose Guides Institute (PGI) is not able to offer students the full support for a lengthy Quest, especially if the student is unfamiliar with wilderness camping.
During your daylong Soul Quest, you will wander in the wilderness until a place calls to you. That place will be your “sit spot”, your “place of power”. At this spot, you will construct a circle with stones and sticks, usually by marking with a stone each of the cardinal directions, and with two sticks the entranceway to your circle. Your circle need not be large, it can just be large enough for you to sit in (and possibly lie down in). You will commit yourself to sit in this circle for the entire period of the Threshold time (except to go to the bathroom). This place becomes the inner container of your Quest. This spot on the earth will be the place where you take your stand for living a soul-centric life.
Your intention during the Threshold period is to receive gifts from Soul. Soul may speak to you about the facets of your purpose through images, symbols, nature itself (animals, insects, trees, plants, etc.), words, sensations, shifts in consciousness, etc. Your intention is this: to bring the gifts from your underworld journey into your (middle world) everyday life as a gift for your people.
Prayer is the core practice of Solo Time. Prayer is the mode of being where you touch the core of your longing to live your deepest purpose. Prayer is connecting with your longing at such a depth and intensity that Soul can’t help but respond to your sincerity. The foundational practice of the Threshold is experiencing your longing at such a depth that the Mystery is touched by your dedication. Augmenting the raw power of simply abiding in your longing, you can also add these to the mix for the duration of the Solo period: trance drumming, trance dancing, the PGI meditations (Evolution’s Purpose, Entelechy, 10 Years Process, Ocean Cave, Animal Guide), etc.
Threshold Gateway #1
There are two physical gateways to cross. The first gateway may be only a few hundred yards from where you parked your vehicle or disembarked from another kind of transportation. This is the place where you will officially start your Threshold journey. You might choose two trees to act as the gateway between your daily life and the underworld journey. You can stand silently at this first physical gateway and ask for permission to cross over. Take your time. When you finally cross over, you will be closing the door on the months of preparation/severance time and entering into the concentrated time of the Threshold period (at least eight hours). Once you cross over, you are a “ghost” to your daily life: you are a more imaginal creature than a flesh-and-blood person.
Once you cross over, you have entered a new reality: the Imaginal Realm (see Module 5) From the first step you take into the Threshold time, your footfalls are no longer landing (merely) in a regular forest but are, instead, steps on a journey into the depths of the Imaginal Realm itself. A bird isn’t just a bird… it’s a bird of the Deep Imagination. A tree isn’t just a tree… it’s a tree of the Imaginal Realm. The cold isn’t just an earthly air temperature… it’s a figure in the Imaginal Realm of your Underworld Journey. Things are “seen twice”: you see the object, but you also see its Imaginal Realm counterpart. There is a “hidden” wilderness that is capable of communicating with you about your purpose. Here is an example from Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin:
“There, frolicking among dark green branches, I could make out the sprightly movements of a large yellow butterfly. She flew toward me in a flutter-by-spiral dance. She flew right to me. With her wing, she touched my face – my cheek – and said my name in the same moment: “Cocoon Weaver”. That’s all she said. And flew off.”
In this example, we see the Quester “see things twice”. In the physical realm, a butterfly touches the Quester’s cheek, in the Imaginal Realm, the butterfly is the conduit by which Soul shares the Quester’s true name. Butterflies don’t have lips, nor vocal cords (nor do they speak in English), and yet… in the Imaginal Realm, which is where Soul can most easily communicate to you, butterflies can (and do) speak the truth at the center of our being.
Threshold Gateway 2
Once you have found your sit spot and laid out the stones in the four directions, you can take a moment and speak (once again) your deepest intention for coming to this spot to take a stand for your life. Recall that Gateway 1 is the place not too distant from your vehicle where you cross over into the Imaginal Realm. Gateway 2 concentrates/distills the experience of the Imaginal Realm inside your sit circle. As indicated above, after you create your sit circle (with the four stones, one for each cardinal direction), you will also use two sticks (or something else indigenous to the environs) to act as your entry/exit to the circle. You will use this gateway entry/exit when you first enter the circle and when you leave the circle at the end of the Solo Time. Upon first entering your circle (and every time you exit and reenter after going for a bio-break), you are invited to make a ceremonial gesture at the gateway, paying respect to the crucible that will hold you as you pray for soul-encounters.
There is a paradox at the heart of the Threshold Itinerary. On the one hand, you want to allow the Mystery/Soul to guide the unfolding of your Quest. Holding rigidly to any timetable constructed during the Preparatory phase is counterproductive. On the other hand, many Questers have gone out to their sit spot and simply spun their wheels trying to remember what to do during their Solo Time. For this reason, I suggest you create a tentative itinerary during your Preparation time. Below, reprinted from Module 6, is some fodder for creating your own tentative itinerary for your Solo Time.
The Soul Quest
The Soul Quest is a self-designed ceremony for finding/embodying your Soul’s hidden purpose.
Seeker of Mythopoetic Identity
Sacred ceremonies have a structure. This worksheet is designed to help you give form and shape to your ceremony. We recommend printing out the PDF of this Soul Quest section and bringing it to your Soul Quest.
- Preparation (weeks or months)
- Crossing the Threshold (10 minutes)
- Threshold/Underworld Journey (8 hours)
- Recrossing the Threshold (10 minutes)
- Incorporation (1 year)
A sacred ceremony provides a container for your commitment. For example, a wedding ceremony formalizes a couple’s commitment to each other; an inauguration formalizes a person’s commitment to their political office. A Soul Quest is a ceremony of commitment to your soul’s purpose. A Quest’s steps/rituals enable the Quester to have a framework for exploring the meaning of their life. Like an elaborate multi-course dinner, your Soul Quest ceremony will have a number of stages.
Salutation/Crossing the Threshold
This is your warm-up, a calling in of your body-heart-mind-soul to your quest. You gently wade into the ceremony with rituals that draw you into the underworld journey.
- Finding your sit-spot (then ritually creating your purpose circle)
- Making an offering to the natural world (song/poetry, praising the natural world)
- Getting out of your mind (singing/chanting/rattling, and silent meditation to still the mind)
The intensity of your longing is beginning to build. Start swimming towards the deep end of the pool by addressing Soul.
- Calling in your allies (cosmic power of the universe, wild earth, evolution, entelechy, ancestors, etc.)
- Stating your wish: Tell Soul what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Be specific! For example: “Dear Soul – I wish to receive my deepest calling. I wish to receive images, symbols, words, sensations, intuitions/hunches, and signs in nature about what my purpose is.”
- Telling your story / Talking across the species boundary: Out loud, tell the story of your deep ache/longing to live your purpose.
- Belief Removal Ceremony: Address the ways that your fears/resistance/reservations have gotten in the way of your hearing your soul’s calling. One by one, describe each fear in detail (out loud), and then (only if it’s true for you) commit to releasing this impediment from your life.
- Journal: Write about the stage of life that is ending, then write about what you most deeply ache for. Next, compose a personal myth.
You are near (or at) your limit of longing. The depth of your prayer is surprising (even to you!). You are in the deep end of the pool. Start swimming! There are many strokes (soul-encounter technologies) to choose from.
- Moving in Nature: Breaking, piling, tying, burying, being naked, bathing, smashing, aligning…
- Art: ecstatic trance dance, drawing, poetry, singing, rattling, drumming, chanting…
- Inner: changing names, being in silence, journal work, storytelling, observing the natural world, Dreamwork, death lodge ceremony.
- Natural World: observing the natural world, seeing signs (events in nature that follow our request for help/vision), talking across the species boundary.
You’ve been swimming in the deep end for hours. Now it’s time to dive where the longing is greatest. The crucible is the time of absolute focus and total effort and total letting go. The depth of your prayer and longing is surprising to you… you are surpassing what you dreamt you could do.
- Prayer: Cry, scream, whisper your prayer to Soul. Express your longing, your ache, your passion to know your true purpose. Beseech, beg, cry out for a vision for your life. Don’t hold back, pray like your life depends on it (because it does!). Note: rattling, dancing, and praying out loud are all very helpful during this intense prayer phase.
- Grace: Efforting, while important is only half of the Quest. The other half is grace. At some point, when you feel you’ve prayed, lamented long enough, cried out hard enough, you let go completely to grace in the hopes that your sincerity, devotion, and passion are met with grace. Grace can come in many forms. Be open… you don’t know the form or way through which grace will bless you.
Completion/Recrossing the Threshold
Spend some time in contemplation of the experience you’ve just had before readying yourself for your return. Make a few notes in your journal and/or use the worksheet below to record some of your experience. Thank your allies and reverently dismantle your circle, leaving the space as you found it. Don’t forget this step. Answer the questions in the Soul Quest Incorporation Worksheet in your journal before your return.
Note: This is a tentative itinerary, and is NOT meant to supplant your listening and following where the Mystery naturally leads you during your SoulQuest. Remember, this is a self-designed ceremony, within the millennial ceremony that includes: wilderness, solitude (from humans), fasting, and prayer.
Soul Quest Incorporation Worksheet
Please print out the PDF: SoulQuest Incorporation Worksheet
For reference here are the prompts to write about in your journal.
- Symbols or Images I received during my Quest
- Plants, animals, or elements that spoke to me during my Quest (and what they said to me)
- Physical sensations, bodily “knowing” I experienced on my Quest
- Feelings, emotions, sensations that I experienced during my Quest
- Words received directly from Soul that I experienced during my Quest
- Insights, understandings, that occurred during my Quest
- Directions, directives, advice, pointers that I received on my Quest (especially from Soul)
Module 9 Practices
Practice 9:0 – Re-Reading and Contemplating Practices 6:3 to 6:6
Now it is time to revisit each of the practices from Module 6 and deepen your relationship/understanding with each of them. By attending to the severance dimension of your quest you increase the potential for soul-encounters during your Solo Time.
Note: practice 6:1 & 6:2 are not included below. You need not revisit them.
Reread what you wrote in Practices 6:3 to 6:6. You are being asked to simply take some time to re-contemplate the questions/practices. That’s it. You needn’t do anything else unless you feel moved to, other than to spend some time (again) with these questions. We know this might feel like a repetition but we’re not sorry about asking you to repeat these contemplations! On the contrary, we deem them so important that we feel excited for you to take these contemplations to a deeper place in your psyche.
Revisit Practice 6:3 – Why Quest Now?
Go back and spend 30 minutes with what you wrote in Practice 6:3. One of the keys to a profoundly transformational Quest is to enter the Solo Time (aka, “Threshold Time”) having deeply contemplated these questions:
A) Why is this the right time in your life to seek an encounter with your soul?
B) What phase of your life is coming to an end?
C) What new phase of your life is in the process of being born?
Revisit 6:4 Simplifying Your Life
Recall this quote from Bill Plotkin, when he writes:
“What leaving your summerhouse (your provisional/first adult identity) does require is that you surrender what no longer supports your exploration of your deepest nature. You will discover soon enough which roles, relationships, activities, and possessions get in the way of that exploration: you are being asked to radically simplify your life.”
It’s important to realize that a Soul Quest is as much subtractive as it is additive: subtractive of parts of your life that have become too small for you and additive of the information you will receive from Soul.
A common mistake first time Questers make is to skip the subtractive element of the Quest. This rarely works. You cannot just add insights from Soul to your preexisting life, no matter how much you wish you could. You cannot become a butterfly if you refuse to relinquish the life of the caterpillar. The caterpillar begins with the call to transformation—the severance time—and relinquishes its former identity to make space for the new. So too it is that clearing a space for the relationships, activities, roles, possessions, that you have outgrown, is a dimension of the Quest that cannot be skipped. Remember, the traditional name for this stage of the Quest is Severance. With this in mind, contemplate what you wrote in exercise 6:4 and edit the paragraphs if needed.
- What relationships or parts of relationships get in the way of my exploring my deepest nature?
- What activities get in the way of my exploring my deepest nature?
- What roles get in the way of my exploring my deepest nature?
- What possessions get in the way of my exploring my deepest nature?
“What’s involved is both a surrender of and a surrender to: first a surrender of your beliefs about how you were supposed to be and how the world was supposed to work, and then a surrender to your deepest and wildest passions.”
- Surrender of: What beliefs about how I was supposed to be and how the world was supposed to work do I need to surrender?
- Surrender to: What deep and wild passions (buried as they might be) do I need to surrender to?
Revisit Practice 6:5 Reduce/Eliminate (Preparatory Pathways to Soul-Encounter)
Reduce or eliminate: TV, sugar, junk food, alcohol, drugs, gossiping, heavy meals, online addictions (e.g., email, Facebook, web surfing, constantly checking your phone, porn, YouTube, Netflix), lying, workaholism, caffeine, and other “addictions”.
Revisit Practice 6:6 Fasting and Cleansing
Purification is an important part of your preparation. Re-read this section from Module 6. You are likely less than 6 weeks away from the Threshold period… It’s time to really dive into this essential feature of the ceremony.
If you haven’t already, consider reading Chapter 10 in Soulcraft (Bill Plotkin); “Stage 4” in Nature & The Human Soul (Bill Plotkin); and Trail to the Sacred Mountain (Steven Foster and Meredith Little). The readings will help you orient to the unique ceremony that is the Soul Quest. If you don’t own these books presently, don’t worry about it.
Practice 9:1 – Compose a “Letter to the Mystery/Soul”
Compose a letter explaining why you are questing, what kind of support/help/understanding you are seeking, and what your concerns and fears are.
Practice 9:2 – SoulQuest
Perform a two-day quest (with the first day in wild nature and possibly also the second day partially in proximity to nature). Day 1 is the wilderness Threshold Ceremony. Day 2 is more of Incorporation. Note: if Soul moves you to stay in the underworld Threshold ceremony, by all means, you do not have to quickly transition to the Incorporation phase. Use your own (and Soul’s) best judgment.
Practice 9:3 – Debrief your Soul Circle #3 & #4
Once you’ve completed the Soul Quest and have had your Soul Circle meetings, please write about your experience with your Soul Circle and any highlights from your Threshold ceremony that you care to share. Email your guide/mentor a condensed version of your experience. Complete before the Module 10 meeting.
Module 9 Summary
9:0 – Re-Reading and Contemplating Practices 6:3 to 6:6 – Reread what you wrote in Practices 6:3 to 6:6. You are being asked to simply take some time to re-contemplate the questions/practices. That’s it. You needn’t do anything else unless you feel moved to, other than to spend some time (again) with these questions. We know this might feel like a repetition but we’re not sorry about asking you to repeat these contemplations! On the contrary, we deem them so important that we feel excited for you to take these contemplations to a deeper place in your psyche.
9:1 – Compose a “Letter to the Mystery/Soul” – Compose a letter explaining why you are questing, what kind of support/help/understanding you are seeking, and what your concerns and fears are.
9:2 – SoulQuest – Perform a two-day quest (with the first day in wild nature and possibly also the second day partially in proximity to nature).
9:3 – Debrief your Soul Circle #3 & #4 – please write about your experience with your Soul Circle and any highlights from your Threshold ceremony that you care to share.
You can find all the needed information on the Soul Circle page. Soul Circle meetings are very important. Make sure you schedule them within the suggested time frames.
Soul Circle Meeting 3 – Schedule this meeting in the week prior to the Soul Quest (December 12). You can schedule it all the way up to the day before your Threshold ceremony. Look for the meeting Theme suggestion on the Soul Circle page.
Soul Circle Meeting 4 – Schedule this meeting the next day, or soon after the Threshold ceremony (December 13).
Soulcraft – Read:
- Chapter 10 – The Vision Quest and Soulcentric Ritual
Nature & The Human Soul – Read:
- Chapter 7 – The Wanderer in the Cocoon: Late Adoleswcence (Stage 4)
Trail to the Sacred Mountain – Read:
- Read the entire book