“The most important experience of this or any individual entity is to first know what is the ideal—spiritually.”
—Cayce Reading 357-13
Merriam Webster Dictionary defines an ideal as: “The most perfect type or example; Someone of such unequaled perfection as to deserve imitation; Some-thing that one hopes or intends to accomplish.”
Edgar Cayce’s readings discussed ideals in a much more specific and deep way, detailing a process of ideal-setting that was, as the quote above states, “the most important experience” of an individual—one that could have profound effects on life decisions and our whole life journey.
Reading 270-48 gave detailed instructions for ideal-setting: “...Know the ideals—spiritually, mentally, materially. Write them down. Alter them from period to period of real study and meditation...Let each question be answered by determining what thy ideal should be respecting same.”
Ideal-setting, according to the readings, was not something to be done once and set in stone—but a process to revisit from time to time as we grow spiritually. It is not just an intellectual exercise. When difficult life issues arise, they can be addressed by determining how our ideals apply to each situation.
Another reading, 3800-1, further described the pro-cess: The first step is to arrive at a spiritual ideal. Next, make a list of the “mental ideals”—the thoughts, attitudes and intentions to be nurtured. These are to be in harmony with the spiritual ideal. Finally, the ideal-setter creates a list of “physical ideals”—actions that put the spiritual and mental ideals into application, actions that can become positive habits reinforcing the spiritual life. This reading, too, emphasized that the ideals will change over time as we grow and come to know ourselves better. “Have a good pencil rubber [eraser], then, if ye would study thyself,” the reading says.
But what about that first step? What is a spiritual ideal? How do you choose or decide on one?
The spiritual ideal is usually a word or phrase that describes what our soul is seeking to express in our lives. It is not a purpose or goal but the reason we pursue that purpose or goal.
An example: Suppose you want to become a doctor. That’s your goal, but what motivates you to that goal? Do you want to become a doctor in order to have social status and make a lot of money? Or do you want to become a doctor because you want to be of service—to express compassion or love? If money and status are your goals, you may not be working with a spiritual ideal at all in pursuing your goal. “Service,“ “love,” “compassion”—these are all words that might be spiritual ideals.
The word or phrase chosen for a spiritual ideal should have an emotional resonance for you—and it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. At an Ideals Workshop I attended at A.R.E. HQ years ago, a young man came up with the word “frog” as his spiritual ideal. Why? He explained that he had been meditating next to the pond in the meditation garden behind the A.R.E, Conference Center. In meditation, he had, for the first time, come to the expansive state of feeling his oneness with all things—with the Universe. Just at that moment, a frog jumped into the pond with a splash. The word “frog” recalled that ecstatic experience for him.
Some people immediately have a clear knowledge of what their spiritual ideal is—but for most of us, it takes some effort to make that ideal conscious. Over the years, Ideals Workshops have typically included meditations, reveries and a variety of other exercises to help participants attune to their spiritual ideal. Such workshops can be extremely helpful but it’s also possible to do your own “ideal work” at home. Usually, it helps to give your subconscious/superconscious mind some time to work on this before sitting down to put your spiritual ideal in writing. You can pose the question to yourself in meditation and then watch what arises in meditation, dreams and daily life, before you sit down with pencil and paper.
What about the mental and physical ideals?
Once a spiritual ideal is set, the next step is to consider what thoughts and attitudes would be helpful in living that ideal. It’s useful to think about this in terms of the different areas of our lives, whatever those may be—self, home and family, work or school, volunteer work, community life, etc. These will differ for different people.
The final step is to consider what actions in the material world would express those attitudes and that spiritual ideal. What would you actually do to make the ideal part of your life?
An excellent illustration of how this works was given by the late Jim Dixon, onetime head of A.R.E. HQ’s Search for God Study Groups Department. The spiritual ideal Jim had set for himself was Peace.
A very important aspect of Jim’s life was his marriage. What attitude toward his wife would promote peace? Jim concluded that an attitude of Appreciation toward his wife would express his spiritual ideal in their marriage. Having decided that, he considered what physical action would express that ideal and attitude.
He concluded that a fine way to express appreciation to his wife was to wash the dishes! Evidently his wife did most of the cooking. (As a wife who does all the cooking, I have no doubt that Jim’s decision to wash the dishes helped create a peaceful marriage!) The spiritual ideal Jim set for himself resulted in a very down-to-earth, practical action that promoted a peaceful relationship.
Ideals work involves applying this same process to all the important aspects of our lives, finding ways to make our spiritual ideal an active force in our lives.
Although the Cayce readings spoke of writing your ideals out in “lists,” along the way, some innovative A.R.E. folks came up with the idea of using a chart with concentric circles for ideal-setting. (See chart at left, click on the image to get an enlarged image.)
In this approach, your spiritual ideal is written in the inner circle (or oval). The next circle is for the mental ideal and the outer circle for physical ideals. The outer two circles are divided into “pie” segments which you can designate for the important aspects of your life: self, family, work or whatever is meaningful for you.
Whether you use a concentric circle chart or another approach, ideal-setting can be a life-changing experience.
According to the readings, our entire body, every cell, is re-created every seven years. Also according to Cayce, when we meditate, whatever we hold as our spiritual Ideal is raised up with the kundalini forces in our bodies and that vibration is disseminated throughout our bodies—and is built into our very cells as our bodies are re-created. No wonder Cayce says ideal-setting is the most important experience a person can have.
Not just individuals, but couples, groups and organizations will find it enlightening to set ideals. The ideal of the A.R.E. of NY Center is “To Manifest the Love of God in Service to Humanity.” This is adapted from the ideal the Cayce readings recommended for the national A.R.E.: “That We May Make Manifest the Love of God and Man.”
Ideals@Work, a non-profit educational organization formed by A.R.E. Members, Jane Buyers (of our A.R.E. NY Community), Mary Elizabeth Lynch and Wendy Rains, offers the following as “indicators that you have touched upon your ideal”:
- You have a sense of expanded awareness that brings with it a deeper sense of wonder—you feel a magical quality in your life.
- You have a feeling of deep connectedness first with yourself and then with others, nature, all beings – and from that you feel a creative urge to contribute to the world in a positive way.
- You have a greater sense of wholeness, of being more complete and being able to “relax” into that wholeness. You may experience that wholeness as a Presence that “fills you” where you had before felt empty. For example, confusion moves to clarity; loneliness to divine companionship; fear to courage
- You have a deeper insight into the purposefulness of your life and of Life. You sense the underlying reasons for what is happening in your life.
- You have an abiding feeling of joy—a joyful attitude toward life, which results in a deep sense of peace and a feeling that everything is unfolding as it should—and you are a part of the unfoldment.
Ideals work is work—but the rewards for your life can be extraordinary!
Following are two downloadable formats you can use for you Ideals Work: The concentric circles format and a list format. These may help you get started but you may need more space. Feel free to create any format that works for you.