Today is Saturday, May 4, 2013.
A spiritual partnership is between people who promise themselves to use all of their experiences to grow spiritually. – Gary Zukav
This photo illustrates clearly what I have come to believe about spiritual partnership. Notice that the stones on each side must be carefully balanced in order to get close enough to join with the other. The golden capstone in this bridge symbolizes what we can achieve together with a spiritual partner.
The other day a friend of mine commented that she had realized that she may never have another long-term romantic relationship, but that her life seems to be moving toward a series of Platonic partnerships or collaborations, instead. I have come to somewhat the same realization in my own life. Neither my friend nor I wish to close the door on the possibility of a significant other coming into our lives, but we – and many others – are in the process of expanding our personal definition what it means to be a partner.
In his book, Seat of the Soul, which I have read and re-read many times, Gary Zukav put forth the idea that the traditional archetype of marriage is slowly giving ground to a new archetype, which he termed "spiritual partnership." From the outside, the relationship may look the same as an ordinary marriage, but its underlying purpose and mode of operation is vastly different.
Historically speaking, when two human beings mated, the object was physical survival and propagation of the species. As human civilizations grew and matured, and life became less precarious, marriage transitioned into an institution whereby the partners' emotional and social needs could be met. This is the traditional idea of marriage today, and that includes not only heterosexual unions but homosexual ones, as well as both monogamous unions and so-called "open" marriages. As long as the purpose of the relationship is to meet emotional and social needs, it is basically traditional in nature.
The understanding is that the partners have specified roles within the relationship, and that the relationship must necessarily last for the remainder of the partners' lives. The roles are that of "husband" and "wife." The ideals and expectations for these roles have undergone a great deal of change over the years, but they are still the mainstay of modern marriages, with the "husband" being the male partner and the "wife" being the female partner. Same-sex marriages challenge the gender identity of the roles, but it seems that even though both partners are the same sex, physically, there seems to be a division of labor within each relationship whereby one partner tends to take on the yang role traditionally associated with males, while the other partner assumes the yin or female-oriented role. Still, the gender association with the terms "husband" and "wife" are so strong that we term a man's male partner as his "husband" and we call a woman's female partner her "wife."
The roles and the time-frame of traditional marriages are so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that the roles we undertake in marriage govern our behavior with respect to the partner. Fortunately, these roles are changing toward an awareness of inherent equality of the partners and flexibility in the division of labor within the relationship. Still, there are men who are uncomfortable with the idea of staying home to raise the kids or accepting the fact that the wife can be the main breadwinner for the family. Similarly, there are women who are uncomfortable being "the strong one" in the marriage, or being the sole breadwinner.
Spiritual partnership operates on an entirely different premise. In a spiritual partnership, the partners both identify themselves primarily as Soul, and they recognize that the purpose of life in a human body is for Soul to learn and grow. Gary Zukav says, "The underlying premise of spiritual partnership is a sacred commitment between the partners to assist each other's spiritual growth." In practice, what this means is that the partners must attend to their own growth as a top priority, because it is impossible to assist others in their growth if you are not growing, yourself.
When I read Zukav's book, Spiritual Partnership: The Journey to Authentic Power, I noticed with some relief that Zukav's definition of spiritual partners no longer seemed to be limited to relationships with a sexual component. The term now includes all types of platonic relationships, as well, including family relationships, Platonic friendships, and working relationships such as business and creative partnerships. As well, since spiritual partnerships can be Platonic, where the partners are not sharing a living space, we can have more than one spiritual partnership in our lives at any given time.
How do spiritual partnerships differ from traditional collaboration? In collaboration, the end goal is some sort of product or service. In spiritual partnership, the goal is spiritual growth of the partners, regardless of whether or not the partners "produce" anything. It is worth clarifying, here, that spiritual partnerships in this expanded sense can include groups of three or more.
Whether the partnership is between two or shared by many, the goal is spiritual growth, and this must be done consciously, or else it will be a hit-or-miss effort at best. Everything that happens in the relationship must serve the growth of both, or all, of the partners. Issues are worked out consciously, at the spiritual level, rather than unconsciously, at the emotional level. The partnership is constantly re-evaluated to ensure that both, or all, of the partners are pulling their weight – attending to their own growth.
Since the commitment is to one's own and one's partner's (or partners') growth, there is no particular time-frame. If the partnership for any reason no longer serves one or both/all of the partners' growth – and assuming that both, or all, partners are functioning at a spiritually mature level – the partnership can be dissolved without drama or animosity. In the case of a group, the one whose growth is not served may opt out of the partnership. If I (or we) see that the partnership that I (we) have with you no longer serves your growth, I (we) can release you from your commitment, realizing that my (our) original promise to you – to encourage and support your growth – will continue to be upheld.
With respect to roles, in a spiritual partnership, since the commitment is not to the roles, per se (as in "I promise to be your lawfully wedded wife, etc.), the partners are free to take whatever actions are necessary to maintain their own growth and to encourage the growth of the partners. Whatever works, in other words, without respect to gender roles or social hierarchy.
As my friend noted, spiritual partnerships and collaborations are the wave of the future. Zukav has said this as well, adding that even the most modern of traditional marriages will very soon be no longer totally functional, because traditional marriage will no longer meet the needs of Souls who are now being born into human bodies. These newly-arriving Souls are coming here in great numbers in order to grow consciously, and they will chose to enter into conscious, rather than unconscious, partnerships. :-)