A friend (though we have never met) asked me, out of his shamanistic experiences, about the soul. I answered with a little help from my friends, and asked his permission to reprint the correspondence here, which he graciously gave.
> I’ve been thinking about soul. In one of your fairly recent “knowledge” blogs, the Guys defined soul: the local manager, recording every moment. Add an endowment at birth, and I buy that, building our soul through experience.
There is also a nuance that you probably see but just in case I will mention: The soul is a particular gathering of threads – many more threads than we can ever possibly express (wherein inheres our freedom of choice) – that shapes itself by its choices throughout a lifetime. That shape – that habit-of-being, perhaps we can call it – remains when it returns to the other side, and thus remains as a resource for the other side to see this world through. I am sure it has other uses – oh yes, let me try again, letting them come through as cleanly as I can:
Souls are formed in the physical world because only there can such disparate threads coexist in one limited being. Threads that have very different vibrational levels (an analogy, but a necessary one) cannot easily mingle on the non-physical side; they are too far from each other. But a soul, once it returns to this side, functions as a junction, a Union Station to use your old railroads as an analogy, a place where threads that cannot otherwise coexist, do. Think perhaps of how knots make macramé. This explanation is hampered because it is crammed into the time-space way of seeing things, but we can’t really avoid doing that. Still, perhaps you see between the lines the richness that is added to the non-physical side by the knotting that goes on in the physical side.
> In shamanism, there is the concept of soul loss, a fragment of soul has been stolen, given away, or wandered off to find a place with more beauty. The shaman finds a representation of the fragmented soul, and returns with it. This piece of soul carries both memory and vitality. It’s sort of the shamanic version of dissociation or repression, and recovery, with the addition of the vitality gained through making whole. I’m witness to the process, and know it often works. But I have to say that sometimes people want it to work and find reasons why it didn’t. I wonder if the model is partly at fault.
Yes, partly a problem of definition. Which “I” wants it to work? The conscious mind is the driver, and has the right to make choices. Whoever is driving has the rights, you know? And the other attached portions of the soul – threads leading from and to “other lives” for instance, do not have the right to choose though they do have the right and necessity to influence if the driver is willing to be influenced.
At a conscious level, the driver (we mean here merely the personal consciousness living the life) chooses; yet life is not that simple, obviously, or there would be less pain and debility, less disease and suffering, because few would choose them on a conscious level. The driver, you see, is not only the conscious level. You know that, but may not have thought of it in this context.
A particular consciousness may wish with all its heart that a given affliction were removed, yet the pattern of the life (we know no better way to say it) may insist for larger reasons on laying down conditions that would seem to the consciousness to be restriction, perhaps unnecessary or even malicious restriction. Such restriction cannot be removed by better shamanic technique any more than by the latest wonder drug, and if it could, the overall pattern would then have to work to restore the restriction in some other form, which would happen “inexplicably.”
> I’m concerned with knowledge here, not just to think things out like a puzzle, although that can be enough. I’m looking at models of consciousness because models increase Potential, give people more possibility to guide the view of life. The larger the View, the more possibility.
> So, is the soul this amorphous ether energy that comes into the body at birth with a certain karmic genetics and potential, and grows with the experience of the individual, an energy that also contracts with soul loss. I’m not satisfied with that.
No, there’s no implication of it contracting with soul loss. And soul loss itself is an inaccurate concept. You might do better to think of it as loss of access to part of the soul. This is not strictly accurate either, but may send your thinking in new directions. There can be no “soul loss” any more than in a real sense there could be memory loss. The memories are all there; they are all attached to the soul forever (else what is the akashic record, pray?) but that doesn’t mean that the driver has (or necessarily needs) access to them.
> Somehow, I feel soul are localized threads, connecting personal experiences with the larger aspects of being, that which is the accomplishment of a life. I don’t see us loosing soul so much as loosing the thread, the connection (sometimes that’s a good idea, and yet we still feel the loss).
That’s right, except you don’t actually lose even the connection, only conscious access to it.
> There is a woman in our shaman group who retired after many years being a professor at University. She was really looking forward to leaving, but experienced great loss when it finally happened (as psychology would predict). No one was suggesting soul loss, but you know, it was like soul loss. We have a great many losses in the course of a life, but when we are younger, we embark on a new relationship, new threads. The old ones can be catalogued and stored by the soul. But so much experience at an older age is not so easily replaced.
> I’m looking for synthesis. The shaman in me doesn’t give a hoot about explanations, only results. In this case, recapitulation, going back over the previous threads was one RX. Grieving (learning how to give up threads when the time has come) was another. But the soul driven part of me cares deeply about explanation. Perhaps soul as experiential threads comes closer to reality. If that is so, the exercise in loss is to reconnect the vital links, whether those links are connected toward or away from the loss, to reach out for the larger whole.
What’s so wrong with loss?
> Do you or the Guys have any thoughts on this?
This is the best I (we) can do at the moment, Jim. Many thanks for the provocative questions. Does any of this resonate?