Midwifing Soul

prenatal tree poseArt by Susan Williams, MSW, RCSW
Salish Sea Counselling

Are You Ready For Your Third Birth?

I have resonated with the concept of the Third Birth ever since I first heard it from Virginia Satir during my studies with her at the Haven Institute.

She spoke of the first birth as conception, when sperm and egg unite; second birth is when we emerge from the womb.

Our Third Birth , which sadly many people never experience, is when we blossom into full autonomy as awakened, conscious beings, free from being driven by fear and unconscious limitations.

Another perspective on Virginia’s Third Birth is that our First Birth is when we emerge from the womb.  Our Second Birth is when we separate from our parents as we develop into adults — we begin to see them as individuals rather than “parents.”  Our Third Birth is when we claim and integrate the unique characteristics and multiple dimensions of our whole self.  We are able to see others, as well as ourselves, without blame and become active participants in the evolution of consciousness.


‘Maieutic’ education is based on the idea that our deepest wisdom lies dormant and unexpressed unless consciously awakened by engaging with challenging questions and problems. ‘Maieutic’ is derived from a Greek word pertaining to ‘midwifery.’  A midwife is a woman who assists in birthing, a skilled assistant in bringing forth. The preposition mid, in its early origins meant “together with.”    Being a midwife for the soul is a privilege and a responsibility that entails a vast range of skill and flexibility to face the unknown together with the Being in the birthing process.  The midwife for a Third Birth teaches, guides and assists through very personal and sometimes delicate, sometimes vigorous engagement — presenting challenging questions, potent insights and illuminating growth experiences with strength and wisdom.  


Ah, now here is a word that you may find beneficial to define for yourself!

Dictionary definitions say things like this:

  • a person’s total self
  • an active or essential part, a leader – as in something that leads, such as a primary or terminal shoot of a plant
  • the immaterial essence, animating principle or actuating cause of a life

Here is a description that I like from Coleman Barks’ Rumi — The Big Red Book, p. 9:

“Plotinus has a wonderful metaphor for the predicament of human consciousness:  a net thrown into the sea.  This is what we are with our longings, our works of art, our loves.  We are the net.  Soul is the ocean we are in, but we cannot hold on to it.  We cannot own any part of what we swim within, the mystery we love so.  Yet the longing we feel is there because of soul.  To some degree we are what we are longing for.  Some part of the ocean swims inside the fish.  In Plotinus’s view the visible universe — the entire cosmos, nature, ourselves, and all that we do — is a net thrown into the ocean of soul.

The cosmos is like a net thrown into the sea, unable to make that in which it is its own.  Already the sea is spread out, and the net spreads with it as far as it can, for no one of its parts can be anywhere else than where it is.  But because it has no size, the Soul’s nature is sufficiently ample to contain the whole cosmic body in one and the same grasp.
~ Ennead IV, Section 9

James Hillman, Psychologist, author of  The Soul’s Code, has spoken of soul as being the spark of divine light that lays hidden within the human personality, and refers to soul being at the heart of the world.

He describes the nature of the soul as

  • making all meaning possible
  • turning events into experiences
  • involving a deepening of experience
  • communicated through love
  • having a special relationship with death (because we recognize we are finite, therefore we have imaginations that conceive of possibilities which may or may not be realized.)

Hillman talks of our soul as ordinarily laying hidden behind our routines, dogmas and fixed beliefs.  In the chaotic, less controlled moments when our beliefs, values and securities are challenged, our soul emerges.  At these times our imagery, emotions, desires and values are heightened bringing our fullest awareness of the psyche in its essential form into the foreground.   Hillman sees the soul at work in imagination, fantasy, myth and metaphor.


The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
~ Marcel Proust


Most of my patients knew the deeper truth, but did not live it.
~ Carl Jung


The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice
there is little we can do
to change
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds.
~ R.D. Laing