The Development of the 3 Cores
TriCultivation focuses on balanced development of your three spiritual cores. As it turns out, balance is your best friend in the realm of spirituality. There are many spiritual technologies, such as yoga, that focus on dividing up and cultivating various aspects of our spiritual experience. For example, in classical tantra yoga these are discussed as five sheaths of consciousness (koshas), one nested inside the other like a set of Russian dolls. At the same time each progressively more subtle sheath is understood to permeate the outer, less subtle ones.
There are many other ways the human consciousness has been divided up throughout the history of world spiritual traditions. Usually this was meant as a practical help in understanding and cultivating each division of life, to strengthen and brighten each one individually as a way to ultimately develop the whole being fully.
Many Eastern systems are based on the Yogic and Ayurvedic knowledge of chakras and the various pranas or on the Chinese system of meridians and types of chi. Others in use are the Lata’if of the Sufi tradition, the Skandhas of Buddhism and the Centers of Gurdjieff. Within world indigenous traditions there are also many ways of dividing human experience into individual areas of focus. Ones that I have learned something about are the Directions of the Medicine Wheel and the Upper, Middle and Lower worlds of Shamanic work. Also used are the Mineral, Plant, Animal, Human and Spirit realms which speak to aspects of our own being. Psychics often think of Body, Mind, Soul and Spirit as way to understand the many aspects of a human being.
These practical divisions are very much appreciated because they all point to different qualities of real human experience which can be developed and used in helpful ways. They are quite different from abstract cosmologies or philosophies simply because they are practical and useful. They are based on much experience, trial, error and experimentation. They are completely subject to modification and updating as new information comes through and is tested out. A modern analogy might be the knowledge of human nervous and circulatory systems developed by modern medicine. These might seem like ‘just a theory’ to a non-medical outsider but are time tested and practical bodies of knowledge which are continuously helpful to all of us.
Connection, Meaning and Luminescence
TriCultivation uses another way of dividing up human spiritual experience, in this case into three main divisions. These are your three spiritual cores of Connection, Meaning and Luminescence. In this article I will try to explain why I felt it necessary to develop and use these three divisions of our spiritual core, as well as where and when they might come in handy.
Please understand that these simple divisions of human spiritual experience are meant to be practical and helpful for you, as well as easy to learn. I have no intention of promoting an ideology or dogma that only fits for some people some of the time, is arcane and esoteric, or one that requires unique circumstances even to apply. These three cores are experienced at all times by all people, completely independent of anyone’s philosophical orientation, culture, language, homeland, or religious or other personal beliefs. In fact, they are based on the differing functions of the human brain(s).
If you have ever felt confused by all the many spiritual beliefs and teachings out there, often contradictory to each other, you might find the information in TriCultivation to be a breath of fresh air. It is meant to be a simple structure to help you understand them all, to see your own spiritual life in a new and practical way and to allow you to create a healthy balance and flow of true spirituality in a way that works specifically for you. Even if you have a spiritual or religious tradition now, TriCultivation can help you enrich it further in ways that you personally choose and control.
The 3 Spiritual Cores as a way to Create Balance
An analogy that works is to think of TriCultivation as the spiritual equivalent of physical exercise. There are three broad divisions of pure physical exercise: Cardiovascular Development, Stretching and Muscular Strengthening. You can do a lot of different movements to develop each category. Some exercises will even work on more than one area at a time.
It has been found that a balanced development of all three physical areas leads directly to greater physical health and emotional happiness for everybody, regardless of their personal philosophy or life circumstances. But leave out any of the three and you will not be as comfortable or live as well. Over time, you will deteriorate physically due to the undeveloped and unused area that is now decaying. Your life slowly begins to get worse because you are not paying heed to a natural law of being human: You must regularly exercise your body in each of these three ways to live well. By contrast, when you start putting a little attention into each of these three areas your physical health and by extension your life starts to get better. You might not notice it on the first day or the first week, but it is unavoidable that things will soon be noticeably better for your physical body, and this affects every other aspect of your life.
TriCultivation works in much the same way. Put attention into each of the three human spiritual cores of Connection, Meaning and Luminescence and you will begin to thrive spiritually. Your particular philosophy or tradition is immaterial. Grow each of these spiritual cores and you will flourish at your deepest levels. You will live a life of extraordinary meaning and beauty. By extension, it will affect all areas of your life in a major way. But if you leave out any of the three, you will not be as happy or feel completely fulfilled. You won’t be thriving in your life.
There are many different practices you can use to grow each spiritual core area. Over time we will talk about lots of them; how they work, what areas they cultivate and the basics of how to do them. You probably already know many of these. Use them! Come alive! TriCultivate!
Origin of the 3 Spiritual Cores
To understand the three spiritual cores used in TriCultivation, a brief bit of history will be really helpful. I worked for years as a staff therapist at an acute care psychiatric hospital. All the psychiatrists, social workers and therapists there would perform a quick assessment of new people coming in for treatment by using what was called the “Bio-Psycho-Social Model.”
With my usual mild skepticism, I began using this model myself, first to be able to communicate to other clinicians, but also to evaluate whether I thought it was useful. To my surprise I found it to be one of the most helpful things I did. I began to see this model as a way to understand the three irreducible realms of human functioning. I suspect the other clinicians felt similarly.
The Bio-Psycho-Social approach was simply used by asking each person about their social relationships, such as family, partners and friends, by assessing their psychological issues and by looking for problems they were having that were directly attributable to medical, biological, or genetic weaknesses. With a fairly brief interview a skilled clinician could use this model to get a thumbnail sketch of how well each person was doing in each of these three main areas of human life, and what kinds of help might be useful in each area.
Until the late 1970’s psychiatrists and other doctors tended to view patients only in regard to their biomedical situation. Dr. George Engel and Dr. John Romano developed a new Bio-Psycho-Social Approach which they thought was sorely needed in the medical world. For possibly the first time Western medical doctors began to systematically integrate evaluation and treatment of the whole person by looking at more than just their biomedical problems. This approach overtook the medical world by storm due to its usefulness and practicality. Today it is one of the most widely used ways of evaluating the whole person to prepare helpful treatment plans.
Since my training and practice was in Transpersonal or Integral Psychology, which is psychology with a spiritual dimension, I began to wonder how this Bio-Psycho-Social approach would apply to human spirituality. I began to see that these three realms of human experience are universal and irreducible. They are the three interlocking worlds where all of us live, simultaneously. This is a basic human reality.
Over time I came to understand that the spiritual aspect of life has its own rules and its own version of these Bio-Psycho-Social cores. The understanding of what applies and what doesn’t is quite different in the spiritual dimension of human life. The three Bio-Psycho-Social areas still apply to our spiritual lives, they are just different.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
I have found Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” to be really helpful in understanding human spirituality. We will go into this categorization of the various types of human needs in a different article But basically people need different kinds of things at different times in their lives. Some just need physical nourishment and warmth to survive right now. Others want social acceptance and prestige. There are five classes of needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy, and each has naturally different rules of operation and different realities. A person trying to get enough food and be physically safe operates in a very different way than a person trying to achieve social status.
Maslow’s idea was that these need proceed in a step-like fashion. Once we satisfy the first level of physiological needs, we naturally move on to the next level of safety needs. The last priority for most people is the need for what Maslow termed ‘self-actualization.’ This is the realm of spiritual experience and expansion.
TriCultivation is the study and practice of what works and is useful for us in the realm of spiritual expansion. Because it is attuned specifically to this spiritual part of life, it will not help you much with the other areas. If you are trying to find work, build a career, build a family, etc., you will want to use other strategies. But when you arrive at the strong desire for more personal fulfillment, more ‘self-actualization,’ TriCultivation will speed and balance your growth.
How Understanding the 3 Cores Helps You
Your three spiritual cores are the cores of connection, meaning and luminescence. Throughout the world, all spiritual and religious traditions have accessed and used these three realms of human life to gain a bigger experience of a person within the vast, multifaceted universe. They are nothing new. But each core has its own flavor, its own rules of what works and what does not work.
Once the world started to become smaller with the rise of easy global travel and communication, the awareness of all the many ways of accessing and working with these three human spiritual cores became a confusing mix. Without a clear understanding of what areas of spirituality belonged to which core, people who happened to understand one core aspect of spirituality were trying to jam information and practices into it from a completely different core spiritual realm. The result is the confused mishmash of information and guidance we have today about how to lead a spiritual life.
A good understanding along with some practical experience of the three spiritual cores should clear up much of this chaos. The human brain has specific areas that are specialized. It won’t help you to try understanding a mathematical problem with your limbic system, that’s an area specialized for emotional intelligence. In the same way, it won’t help you to try to grasp the understanding and experience of the pure ground of being with the verbal part of your brain, that is the part that is specialized for interactive communication. In a big way, effective spiritual training is about learning to activate and use different parts of your brain for the functions they actually specialize in, while the other parts are temporarily taking a back seat.
This does not mean that all other parts of the brain go dormant when one area is guiding things. They all ultimately work together as needed in the given situation. For example, when I go for a walk in the neighborhood, the visual and motor coordination portions of my brain are in charge of things. But I can still hum a tune and say hello to the postal carrier. There is almost always a synergy of specialized brain functions going on at the same time. Strengthening the function of any area individually will make things work much better when that area is dominating as well as add to the synergy of the whole brain’s functioning at all times.
Neuroscientists and psychologists are developing ever more clear and detailed understandings about brain functions, which is great news. But from the perspective of spiritual experience and development, there seem to be three major areas of the brain which have been used throughout human history to allow people to lead an extraordinarily beautiful and meaningful life. More details will be worked out over time, but for now it appears that there are actually three almost separate main brains that work together to create our human experience. These are the left brain, the right brain and the body brain.
It is becoming well known how the left brain and the right brain function. What is less clear today is the body brain. This would be the brain stem or medulla, the full nervous system within the body including neurons distributed in various areas such as the heart and gut, as well as many other aspects of the body’s intelligent functioning that we are still only aware of in the most elementary ways.
Where Spiritual Life Resides: Our Brain(s)
What is the relevance of all this brain science to spirituality? Here it is. It is becoming more clear that a crucial core of human spirituality resides in the left brain and is involved with connecting and acting in the world in the most wonderful ways. This is the connection core. Another, second core lives predominantly in the right brain and is responsible for the many qualities of higher personal insight and meaning that we rely on to live a quality life, this is the meaning core. There is a third core, and this one is the least understood at this time. It is the core of luminescence that lives in the body brain. This core is responsible for many parts of human spiritual experience that we take for granted, but need to understand deeply. This is the impersonal, primordial intelligence, with all its huge variety and richness, that is provided through the body brain.
In other articles, we will go into each of these spiritual cores in greater depth. But here I will give you a taste of each one so you can start to understand more of what we are discussing.
The connection core: This intelligence is broadly responsible for showing up in the world, making a difference, and becoming deeply connected to more beings and more kinds of experiences. The intelligent energy in this sphere flows out from us and around and back into us. Spiritual training which focuses on service to others, devotion and good work works primaily with this connection core.
The meaning core: This is the realm of gaining greater wisdom, understanding and insight that goes beyond physical interaction. This is the realm of insight, knowing, higher guidance and seeing/understanding the universal harmony and connection of things. This core operates within the most subtle and profound levels. Intelligent energies have a one-way flow into this area of human consciousness.
The luminescence core: Little understood, this is the core described in depth by great mystics. It is the seat of a wide variety of incredible intelligence, such as the experience of great joy, light, universal beauty and profound ‘fullness of emptiness.’ The intelligent energy in this core is called prana or chi and flows within, around and throughout the body brain. Tantra and physical yogas have focused on this primordial body brain core of luminous spirituality. Spiritual purification practices worldwide, such as fasting and sweats, and the samadhi attainments of mystics and yogis, all live within this core. Great teachers and saints are often shown with a ‘nimbus’ or aura of light radiating around them which is a direct result of cultivating this body brain.
As we go more deeply into each of these spiritual cores, you will come to understand the part each plays in deep spiritual experience, as well as some of the techniques and practices that have been traditionally used, and are currently being created, to further develop each one. Most of us find that we are stronger in one spiritual core than in others, and could use putting some extra attention on the weak spots to create a balanced spiritual life. That means a spiritual life that is fulfilling; one where nothing is left out. Doesn’t that sound great?
I hope you will be able to use the information from TriCultivation to develop simple and practical ways to cultivate each core area, so that they each begin to strengthen spiritually, and synergize together to create an amazing experience of the full spiritual brain. Deeply spiritual people are continuously TriCultivating and growing in all three core areas of human spirituality. They are becoming brighter, more fully alive presences on earth that are creating a planet filled with love, kindness, joy and luminosity. Shall we join them?
Bill Edmiston, TriCultivation.com