The Path of the Non-Dual Shaman
Part 3: What is the Soul?
In Non-dual Shamanism (NDS) we often refer to the concept of the soul.
In order to make sense of that, I'm going to explain, essentially, the cosmology, or the structure that we've inherited from Freud, Jung and Assagioli.
Basically, the idea is that we have a self; we have a personality, and that is at the center of our consciousness.
Then we have what Freud discovered: this vast, unconscious material; all the stuff that we're not aware of that's going on underneath our visible life.
Then we have stuff that comes up from the unconscious on a regular basis. It may intrude on the self and we have to then pay attention to it. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by some of that material that comes up.
One of the best ways to perceive or think about the soul is in the way that Assagioli described it. He said to think of the whole thing as like a giant egg. I'm going to give you two images. One is of an egg, and the other is of a diamond.
The egg is your whole soul. Your sense of consciousness or awareness is at the center of that egg. The bottom of the egg is the unconscious. According to Assagioli's great insight, the top of the egg is what he called the superconscious. At the very, very tippy-top of the egg is what he called the higher self.
The whole entire egg is the soul. It contains everything.
Essentially we have these levels of being;
The higher self
The self and
The unconscious, (later described as the shadow.)
The shadow is the collection of material that has been suppressed throughout life as we become socialized. Examples include things like:
“Don't spit at people,”
“Don't pull their hair,”
Aggressive tendencies, etc.,
They coalesce into a sub-personality or alter ego. Undoubtedly, you've heard that term before. Sort of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing.
So we have self, shadow, and higher self.
This giant egg of the soul that contains all this material, and that higher self, which I also refer to as the soul self, acts as a pilot for life, giving us intuitive nudges; giving us direction. It becomes the source of our inspiration.
The soul is the source of inspiration.
If you're a poet, it's often called the muse. As we grow, we learn to listen to this pilot of our life.
Why is this important?
Basically, it's because life breaks out into two big chunks.
Think of them as mountains.
The First Mountain:
The first mountain of life, you're a baby and then you head out and you become a self. You get grown by your parents and your siblings and your schools. You're developing this egoic structure, this personality that needs to survive in the world.
You're largely formed by a combination of material that comes from the soul's inclinations, as well as the material that comes from your parents and your community and your family and your culture. That's all well and good, and the job of the self is to grow up and be able to manage itself in the world as best as possible. That includes things like getting educated and finding some career or a way in which you can contribute to society so that you can be paid for it.
Unfortunately, our culture stops there and says, "You should be happy when you achieve all those things."
The unexpected challenge we face is that there's another mountain:
The Second Mountain.
It usually shows up in the second half of life. It might be brought upon by the death of a parent, illness or divorce, or it could be something as simple as, "I've been doing this career for 25 years, and now I just don't like it anymore. I really don't like it."
It can just be this sense of discontent.
The second half of life can actually come very early in life. Some people go through it quite early and the second half of life. The second journey is not to build the self, it is to become aware of the wider you, the deeper soul, the pilot that has actually been behind the scene the whole time.
The soul's goals and the soul's inclinations lead you to a more authentic life.
What sounds like an easy process is not, because, often, the soul gets your attention and gets you to move towards things by generating suffering in your life. That suffering might be things like discontentment with your job or family life, or it may manifest as an illness of some kind.
The point of the work we're doing in this particular NDS path is to do part one of the journey while simultaneously engaging with part two as well. We're going to actually inherently start looking at and listening to the soul. That's the art of it all.
We develop the techniques of NDS and the attitude of the poet, and with that is an attitude that looks towards depth.
One kind of psychology that ultimately developed out of Freud, Jung and Assagioli is called Depth Psychology. It arose fundamentally because there are many people who become very successful in life, yet end up being unhappy and can't figure out why.
For example, you might say
“I climbed the first mountain.”
“I won the Academy Award.”
“My business is successful,” or
“I've become the famous creative artist I wanted to be.”
“So, why am I not happy?"
It is because there's something more there, something beyond the first mountain.
Carl Jung called this second process of deliberately engaging in Depth Psychology, Individuation.
Essentially, this is the process of truly becoming an individual; a self that merges with the soul, that awakens to it and learns to listen to it.
There are many different ways of doing that.
One way is listening to your dreams.
Another one is called active imagination, (which is one of the essential foundational practices of the NDS pathway that we're walking here.)
In fact, in the NDS tradition, it is called Pathworking.
This means going into and deliberately creating a dream in which we follow along and engage with elements in the inner-world to integrate aspects of our larger soul.
The second image that I want to give you for the soul is that of a diamond. We're using the diamond because within it is an underlying symbolic understanding that a diamond is indestructible and it has many facets.
The beauty of a diamond is the idea that it has an almost magical energy source that radiates light. Thus, it's a beautiful image for the soul. The idea is that the soul is this beautiful, immortal diamond that exists in the universe outside of time and space and that it really sits at the center of your heart.
Through the different facets, the soul projects energy into your life. It communicates with you. It gives you patterns that you can work with. You metabolize those patterns and live out those patterns as you engage with each facet.
Jung called these master patterns archetypes. He found them all over the world in different cultures and myths. The primary archetypes are things like:
Then there might be:
The old wise woman
The old wise man
The wizard, etc.
There are all these different archetypes, or master patterns, that humanity has lived through and essentially metabolized time and time again. The soul has access to all of those facets that it can shine out into your being. When one of them is active in your life, it helps orient what you're experiencing at that time.
For instance, for most young people, one of the primary archetypes they're interacting with is the student, which is really an aspect or a reflection of another one called the seeker.
People in the last decades of life are working with the archetype of the elder.
In the NDS path we are regularly looking for how the soul is manifesting the archetypes into our life, helping us find the pattern we need to use to travel up both mountains of life at the same time in any given period of life.
We are also working to master these patterns so that our personality has access to the powers and abilities of each archetype and avoids the pitfalls specific to them.
Increasing awareness of the archetypal patterns active in our life will help us determine the best course forward.
Here’s an ongoing Exercise for you:
1)Throughout the days of the coming week, pay attention to the patterns emerging within you.
2)Take note of them.
3)Keep a journal of how the archetypes are being expressed, both inwardly and outwardly.
4)After a week of this, look back and see if you can identify any recurring patterns.
Engage more deeply with archetypes that are nurturing and life-affirming.
Disengage with archetypes that create additional strife, burden or suffering.
Enjoy exploring the concept of the Egg, the Mountains, and the Diamond.
Next we will explore: “What is Realness?”