This has come up a few times today. Okay, it came up once and then I brought it up again, but I'm going with it (and apparently this will be more rambling than usual). It seems to me there is an importance to the integration of spiritual work with our everyday lives. I've haven't always looked at it this way. A decade or so ago I would have gone in for the "magical schizophrenia" approach, keeping my mundane and esoteric lives strictly separate. Today, not so much. True, not all magical traditions are also spiritual traditions, but where they are, it seems that our spiritual work should have a practical effect on our lives. That is, doing the Work should change us.
Change us into what? Well, ourselves, I guess. That’s the carry water, chop wood part. Except, it sort of isn’t. According to Iamblichus (you knew I’d bring him up eventually), all souls have free will, and as such, may project any life into generation they choose. The thing is, often, they choose poorly. The later Platonists, with possibly the exception of Plotinus’ school, held the soul was in a somewhat messed up state. This is for two reasons: 1) it is ontologically posterior to Nous, and so must participate Nous for intellection, and 2) its “fallen” state makes that hard.
So, the soul, which might be in the series of Aphrodite might pick a Hermetic life. For reasons. Or, rather, due not fully participating Nous, without reason. So, unless we’re one of those really cool sage-type people whose souls do not identify themselves with their projected lives in any way, and are perfectly in line with their series, what we start out as might be us, but it is not representative of the soul as itself.
So, we might be carrying water and chopping wood, but we’re pretty much doing it wrong. So, the Work, from this view anyway, is supposed to get us to be more in line with our soul rather than the life it has decided to project. So, slowly, we begin to carry water and chop wood more like ourselves. But this is a result of the Work. Not necessarily in a “poof now you’re perfectly you” sort of way. Rather, in a slow, hard to see if it is the work or just growing up (I’m not done growing up yet, either) sort of way.
But if our spiritual lives don’t lead to this, then what are they doing and how do we know they’re doing it?