SFG 1 Resources – Ideals Exercise

The Ideals Exercise

The Cayce readings included numerous examples of how to work with ideals in an organized manner that has become known as the “ideals exercise.” The exercise serves two main purposes: Self-analysis (“know thyself”) and reality creation (“manifestation”).

The initial phase of working with the Ideals Exercise involves identifying and writing on a piece of paper what your current ideals are. These may be entirely or partially unconscious. This is the self-analysis or "know thyself" phase.

The second phase of the exercise is to adjust and change your ideals based on a spiritual premise – the spiritual ideal. It is a triune model: spiritual, mental, physical as exemplified in the saying, “spirit is the life, mind is the builder, physical is the result.” This is the reality creation phase. Thus the Ideals lesson bridges between Know Thyself (lesson 2) and Faith (lesson 4, with its emphasis on Reality Creation as faith in action).

Wtih this resource exercise, we will be focusing on one of the best examples of the ideals exercise in the Cayce readings – a case involving a forty-three year old woman seeking guidance on how to live her life. Here is an extended excerpt from her reading that we will be using as a template in doing the ideals exercise:

     In choosing and in analyzing self and the ideal, do not merely carry these in mind but put them, as it were, upon the paper in a manifested form.  Write PHYSICAL.  Draw a line, write MENTAL.  Draw a line, write SPIRITUAL.
     Put under each, beginning with the spiritual, (for all that is in mind must first come from a spiritual concept) what is thy spiritual concept of the ideal, whether it be Jesus, Buddha, mind, material, God or whatever is the word which indicates to self the ideals spiritual.
     Then under the MENTAL heading write the ideal mental attitude, as may arise from concepts of the spiritual, in relationship to self, to home, to friends, to neighbors, to thy enemies, to things, to conditions.
     Then write what is thy ideal spiritual, mental, material. What is the ideal material, then?  Not of conditions but what has brought, what does bring into manifestation the spiritual and mental ideals.  What relationships does such bring to things, to individual, to situations?
     Thus an individual entity analyzes itself.
     Then set about to apply the knowledge ye have attained, for ye will get ideas and that ideal.  Ye may change them from period to period, as ye study them over.  For as ye apply them they become thy ideals.  To be just as theories they do not belong to thee, they are still theories so far as thy personal being is concerned.  It's the application of same that counts.  What do they bring into thine experience? These are well if ye will apply them.   (5091-3)

Now let’s break it down and look closely at each of the major concepts presented here.

analyzing self

As has been noted, one of the major benefits of working with ideals is self-analysis – “know thyself”.  Many readings that discuss working with ideals point out that what you are really doing is becoming clear about what you believe. 

upon the paper in a manifested form

Moreover, in addition to self-analysis, working with ideals and the ideals exercise is a form of conscious reality recreation or “manifestation.”  Many readings that discuss working with ideals insist that you have to get it out of the mind and onto paper in “manifested form.”  In doing the ideals exercise you attune within to identify a spiritual ideal – that which moves you and motivates.  You then use the mind to form that motivation into ideas and thoughts.  The final step is to actually write it down and make it physical – manifest in a material way.  Thus you have done the three-step dance of conscious reality creation – manifestation.  Writing down the exercise is application.  You have to apply it to “bring it into thine experience.”  Writing the exercise down is the first step in a process that you will be doing over and over in your life if you choose to follow this spiritual path.

spiritual concept of the ideal

Spirit is the basis and beginning of all things mental and material.  Don’t let the word “concept” fool you.  This is not simply a matter of mind or mental process.  Mind bridges between the spiritual and material.  So we are using the higher mind to recognize our spiritual ideal.  We will consider the distinction between ideas and ideals shortly.  Do take note of the list of spiritual ideal examples of what you may already be using as a spiritual ideal or what you may strive for in the future.  Keeping in mind that these are just examples and that there are many other possible spiritual ideals that we might choose to work with, let’s focus on each in turn for what it can reveal about doing the Ideals Exercise.

  • Jesus –  Using a notable historical person as a spiritual ideal is very practical because it provides a living example of how to think and act while in living life in a flesh body.  In other words, what would Jesus think and do in any given situation in life.  It is not surprising that this reading put Jesus at the top of the list of possible spiritual ideals. 
  • Buddha – Likewise, this is another historical person whose life can serve as an example of the ideal life.  Interestingly, the Cayce readings insist that Jesus traveled to India as a young man and very likely would have encountered and been influenced by the teachings of Buddha who lived a few centuries earlier.
  • Mind – This can be confusing when discussing spiritual ideals, but many people in the world do hold mind as a spiritual ideal.  It may even be the unconscious spiritual ideal that you hold when you first do this exercise.  This ideal may not be optimal, but if you are one of these people you will probably recognize yourself here.  People who use mind as a spiritual ideal tend to be intellectual with the ability to approach life abstractly (as in mathematics, physics, etc.)
  • Material – Like mind as a spiritual ideal, the world is full of materialistic oriented individuals who center their lives around physical experience.  Whether hedonism or pragmatism, the focus is on matter.  Having a material spiritual ideal is exemplified in people who are “earthy” and “grounded” in life.  The world is full of individuals who have a material spiritual ideal. 
  • God – Rather than focusing on an individual who may have started a religion, some people have God as a spiritual ideal.  A focus on religious practice (rituals, revealed truth in scriptures, etc) is the organizing principle in their lives. 
  • Whatever is the word which indicates to self the ideals spiritual” –  This is a catch-all option, in case you don’t fit into any of the above.  Remember, this exercise has multiple functions, one of which is “self-analysis.”  So as you consider some of the examples above, if you can’t relate to any of them as the spiritual ideal that you are currently using, see if you can come up with a word that does represent your own present spiritual ideal.  You get to change your ideals as you work with them and you get to consciously choose your own spiritual ideal.  There is flexibility and kindness built into this process.

“ideal mental attitude”

Notice that the mental ideal column is about “attitude.”  You can call it a mindset if that makes sense.  This is about mental activities and the thoughts that you entertain about various areas of your life.  Moreover, it is about the “relationship” that one holds towards these areas of one’s life.  Here is the list provided for this individual with some thoughts about how you might adapt these to your unique life situation:

  • Self – Your relationship with yourself matters.   
  • Home – The readings insist that home and family relationships are the best place for soul development.  You may want this category to focus on an individual relationship if you are having problems with someone in particular.
  • Friends – Life without friends is pretty empty.  What is your ideal attitude towards the friends in your life.
  • Neighbors – We all live in proximity to other people, even if the nearest neighbors are miles away if we choose to live in isolated areas.  What is the optimal attitude towards those who share the surface of this planet with us.
  • Enemies – There are always people who we don’t get along well with.  Even Jesus had his enemies, for sure.  What is the ideal attitude and thought processes that we should hold in our minds with regard to people who might do us harm at some level?
  • Things – We do live in a material world in flesh bodies.  The things in our lives do matter.  What is the ideal attitude with regard to the material objects that we require to survive and thrive while living on this planet.
  • Conditions – This is the catch-all category of human experience that might range from war, economic difficulties to climate change.  Or more personally, financial struggles or health challenges.  In other words are there situations in life that need to be addressed on an individual basis.  If you have health issues that require healing, health could be an area of you life in which you need to examine your mental attitudes.  Likewise, if you feel a strong personal need to be responsible about the condition of our planet, you might include ecology as a condition under your mental ideals.

“the ideal material”

The physical ideal addresses overt activities and behavior (not invisible mental processes).  People can see your physical ideals in action, if they are in your presence.  Physical ideals are “not of conditions” mental that we just listed, but are the activities that “bring into manifestation the spiritual and mental ideals.”  In other words, the physical ideals are not the physical or material outcome, but rather the behaviors or activities that lead to or produce that material outcome.  For example, not wealth but working a job; not health, but eating healthy foods and exercising; not having good friends but acting friendly toward others.  It is not the condition that is produced, but the activity that produces same.  That is the physical ideal.  So for each mental ideal there is a corresponding physical ideal that brings it into manifestation. 

“apply the knowledge”

The Cayce approach is an “applied approach.”  It is not something just to pray or meditate about at the spiritual level (although these are an essential part of attunement).  It is not a simple mental process to keep in the mind (although mental activities and attitude are also essential to the process).  The physical ideals have to be lived to get the benefit of the ideals exercise. 

Application

To illustrate how to do the Ideals Exercise as described in reading 5091-3, I have created some templates.  Notice that I have added a fourth column (actually the first in order) which I have labeled “Relationship.”  Thus the exercise form becomes a matrix.  This adaptation is based on the work of Kevin Todeschi in his book, “The Edgar Cayce Ideals Workbook.”  In Kevin’s version he labeled the first column “Situation/Person.”  I have chosen to keep the language consistent with reading 5091-3 (i.e., Relationship), but use whatever makes the most sense when you do the exercise.

I have begun to fill in a couple of the templates to give you the idea of how it works.  You can do this for yourself using one of these spiritual ideals or use a different spiritual ideal if that works best for you at this point in time.

Jesus

RELATIONSHIP

SPIRITUAL

MENTAL

PHYSICAL

Self

Jesus

Obedience (“thy will be done” to avoid selfishness)

I will pray and meditate regularly

Home

 

 

 

Friends

 

Connectedness

I will call or visit my close friends at least once each week.

Neighbors

 

Golden rule

I will be considerate of others.

Enemies

 

Love your enemies

I will speak kindly and respectfully

Things

 

Render unto Caesar

I will pay taxes

Conditions – Work

 

 

 

 

Buddha

In addition to reading about Buddha and Buddhist teachings causally over the years, I studied Buddhism rather intensively for several months while doing the background research for the Searching for God course.  You can read about how this affected my ideals in the article titled “Unconscious Ideals.”  For this exercise, I made Buddha a conscious spiritual ideal, filled in the matrix, and lived it for a period of time.

RELATIONSHIP

SPIRITUAL

MENTAL

PHYSICAL

Self

Buddha

Right Thinking

 

Home

 

Right Living

Right Living

Friends

 

 

 

Neighbors

 

 

 

Enemies

 

Compassion

Right Speech

Things

 

Nonattachment

 

Conditions – Work

 

Right Livelihood

 

Actually there are several ways of working with Buddha as a spiritual ideal.  The Buddhist tradition has encapsulated the practical teachings of Buddha in the Eightfold Path that includes “Right Thinking” and “Right Living.”  Thus you can apply those as mental and physical ideals to each of the categories or areas of relationship in your life.  Of course following all eight of the ideals laid out in the Eightfold Path would probably be an optimal way of using Buddha as a spiritual ideal.

 

Mind

Using mind as a spiritual ideal might be considered the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.  It may involve learning and problem solving by mental or intellectual effort alone. This ideal values intellectual intelligence.  You probably know people who use "mind" as a spiritua ideal to guide them through life.

RELATIONSHIP

SPIRITUAL

MENTAL

PHYSICAL

Self

Mind

 

 

Home

 

 

 

Friends

 

 

 

Neighbors

 

 

 

Enemies

 

 

 

Things

 

 

 

Conditions –

 

 

 

 

Material

In many respects, materialism is the default ideal of much of modern western culture.  There is a strong reliance on science and technology within the framework of secular humanism.  Material reality is ultimate (and really the only recognized reality).  There is room for altruistic behavior in this system of belief, although selfishness is not necessarily regarded as a fault (witness the current popularity of Ayn Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness” and the motto “greed is good” as advocated by many capitalists, including former president Ronald Reagan).

RELATIONSHIP

SPIRITUAL

MENTAL

PHYSICAL

Self

Materialism

 

 

Home

 

 

 

Friends

 

 

 

Neighbors

 

 

 

Enemies

 

 

 

Things

 

 

 

Conditions – Medical

 

 

 

 

God

RELATIONSHIP

SPIRITUAL

MENTAL

PHYSICAL

Self

God

 

 

Home

 

 

 

Friends

 

 

 

Neighbors

 

 

 

Enemies

 

 

 

Things

 

 

 

Conditions – Service

 

 

 

 

Resources

The Edgar Cayce Ideals Workbook by Kevin Todeschi is a comprehensive approach to applying the ideals exercise.

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