Interview with Robert Atkinson, author of Mystic Journey

I recently had the chance to interview Dr. Robert Atkinson, author of Mystic Journey: Getting to the Heart of Your Soul’s Story.  Below is the transcript of our interview…

1. Why did you write Mystic Journey?

This is the natural outgrowth of where my work with life stories has taken me. The origin of this book actually goes back to my childhood, when my grandmother came to live with us for part of the year and I became fascinated by her commitment to her daily devotion and reading from Scripture. My 9 year old soul was way ahead of my 9 year old mind then, but from that early experience I came to realize, in my mid-twenties, that the journey of the soul begins whether we are ready for it or not. After more than 30 years of helping people tell their life stories from a psychological and cultural perspective, I love that I now get to focus on the mystic journey of the soul and looking at a life story from a spiritual, eternal perspective, because this gives us our greatest sense of contentment and connectedness.

2. How do you define our ‘soul’ and how can we connect with it?

This is the mystery that is at the heart of all the world’s religions and spiritual traditions. All agree that the soul is the eternal part of us that links us to our Creator. In fact, many say that the soul comes from God and returns to God. This is a perspective that unites the world’s religions. I would say the soul is our infinite aspect, our sacred, divine, nature, one of the signs of God that happens to be with us always, every moment of our lives here and beyond. It is our inner reality. It is what links us to the archetypal world, as Jung would say, or to the universals of life. As the poet John Keats says, the soul is “a spark of God” that needs the conflict of this world to fulfill its destiny. Or, as Marion Woodman says, it is “the timeless part of ourselves.” But our own soul can be extremely elusive as we make our way through this physical world. One way we can connect with our soul is through a regular practice of remembrance, remembering where we came from, who we are at our depths, and where we are going. This is the essence of all spiritual practice and is covered in Part One of the book.

3. Why do you think we are so deeply connected to others or have a desire to be connected to others?

This is perhaps the most important part of our inherent nature as beings created by the one Creator. As “sparks” of God, we all come from a common origin and we all have a common journey to undergo (the journey of the soul) which, with its stages and twists and turns, is designed to lead us back to this recognition of our connectedness and common destiny.

4. How do we balance a desire for unity with other people, our creator or our soul with taking care of our own healthy individual self-concept and/or psychological well-being?

This is always a challenge, and the thing about the journey of the soul, and, as it is referred to in the book, the process of soul-making, is that it consists of the interconnected process of undergoing personal transformation while also contributing to collective transformation at the same time. The journey consists of adopting a personal spiritual practice which, along with the challenges of life, lead us further and further into the process of soul-making, which at the same time brings us closer and closer to a realization that there is a distinct service orientation to the path of spiritual growth. It is our regular spiritual practice, whatever that may be for anyone, that maintains the balance between personal well-being and interaction with or service to others.

5. What is an archetype and how can we allow archetypes to be our guide and comfort us?

A very brief description of an archetype is the original expression of an experience that is universal and timeless, and which is repeated, sometimes very often, in our own lives. Part Two of the book focuses on the archetype of transformation and how we can understand the pattern this process follows and apply it to our own life experiences, thus letting our knowledge of this pattern of transformation inform our own experience of it as it is happening in our lives. This enables us to therefore be more comfortable with what can otherwise be a threatening experience.

6. Mystic Journey reveals how shifting our perspective to seeing life as an eternal journey will help us better navigate these rapidly changing times. How can we balance seeing life as an eternal journey while still taking care of our daily responsibilities and worldly obligations?

One way of looking at this dual task of being on an eternal journey while at the same taking care of daily responsibilities, is to think of the entire process as walking a spiritual path with practical feet. That is, knowing what our ultimate destiny is while also knowing what it is in the present, or the eternal Now, that is most important to get us there. An eternal perspective on life shifts our focus from the mundane, temporal things of life that maybe don’t really matter that much anyway, to what is most important and lasting. It’s like what Jung said, the telling question of life is whether we are related to the infinite or not. And if we know we are, we are really only concerned with “when the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one,” as he said. It’s a matter of prioritizing the daily responsibilities of life according to what will most help us achieve our eternal destiny, while also infusing how we carry out our daily obligations with the virtues and qualities that will assist us in our eternal journey, or taking care of both at the same time. What it comes down to is the mystic saying, “All the way to heaven is heaven.”

7. Where can we get a copy of your book?, or any of the other online booksellers, are pretty quick. It can also be ordered from the publisher or any Espresso Book Machine in bookstores where available.

8. Any closing remarks?

The mystic journey is not just for mystics; it is for everyone. It is to help us remember our true origin and destiny. It is a journey that links individual effort and responsibility with collective progress and advancement. It is the most pressing journey of our time. And, thanks very much for this opportunity to connect with you and your readers.