- a collection of essays on Neodruidic Studies
- a journal of Post-Reconstructionist Neopaganism

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Modern Druid in Search of the Soul

- Rembrandt, (modified by EoP)

                 I possess virtually unlimited freedom-
                  but I do not realize it.

                  I possess virtually unlimited joy-
                  but I do not realize it.

                  I possess virtually limitless inner strength-
                  but I do not realize it.

                  I possess virtually complete satisfaction-
                  but I do not realize it.

                  I possess a virtually boundless capacity to love-
                  but I do not realize it.

                  I possess the absolute capacity for forgiveness-
                  but I do not realize it.

                  I possess virtually absolute self control-
                  but I do not realize it.

                  I am loved by many-
                  but I do not realize it.

                  I have valuable friends-
                  but I do not realize it.

                  The future is full of wonders-
                  but I do not realize it.
                  I can find the way-
                  but I do not realize it.

Over the years I have sensed an agency of my being which I can only try to describe with terms such as "higher-self" or "over-soul", etc. It seems to be the part of me which gets better every time that I gain life-experience or further expand my perspective. Somehow though, it is separate and "above" the complexities, the ups and downs of my situationally-bound day to day life. Nonetheless, it is when I am most subject to that mundane, situational life (i.e. subject to my own subjectivity,) in the times of greatest need that I can sense its immanence. . . and it speaks to me. This poem I believe captures that inner dialogue: each first line is like an instruction from the higher, timeless self and each answering second line ("but I do not...") a sort of mea culpa* from the profane self trapped in the subjective realm.
- Earrach, April 1990
* "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa." :
    Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.  
- from the Confetior in the Roman Catholic mass.  

I have presented this old Affirmation "poem" of mine first... 
since I feel it best sums up my own experience of what many folks call (among other things) the Higher Self. The relationship between It and that which we call a "soul" interests me and in this piece I'd like to invite you along in a mutual process of discovery, both discoveries of mine and those of your own...

Now certainly, as we all do these days, you can jump right to the Wikipedia webpage for "Soul" and do so again for help with each of the Annoyingly Ambiguous Terms we will encounter ahead. In one sense I feel that yes you should but on the other hand I would ask you to wait and set that aside for later since I feel that assessing your current notions, uncolored by encyclopedic distillations first may present a much more valuable path for us initially.

Remember, so far, I have spoken only of my own experience, and for me, those encounters were of an unsolicited nature. I did not seek them out; they simply "happened" and left a subtle but lasting impression on me. Only years or decades later did I start finding labels to hang on it, conventional or exotic. Likewise, you now may be searching your own spiritual history, since what I have described seems somewhat familiar to you. Perhaps you can recall something exactly like what I described; or, even although you don't immediately recall such experiences, something about it is strangely compelling. Perhaps it is as if you may have "been there" at times - - but would have described it in different terms than I have.

II.    Hunting "it" down... "OPEN SEASON" on the Soul ?

Casually seeking direct guidance from your Higher Self may not prove itself an easy task since we find "It" typically speaks to you only when you most desperately need its help - and often that may come only on the far side of some very difficult territory. Thereby one may only "qualify" for its help by struggling through some great hardship first. Although it may have been giving you regular guidance unconsciously all along - when we pursue it actively, rarely do we sense it as an autonomous being conveying to us any sense of separation from our ordinary consciousness. But then. then there are those times that it does...

I personally do not believe it when someone says they have a comfy and immediate form of access to this agency. We must recall the advice of the ceremonial magicians who warn us that the world is full of spirits who will come and represent themselves as "the one upon whom you called" - and simply are not who you called. "Discernment" is one of the hardest won yet most valuable tools in non-passive spiritual work. In seeking to acquire this skill we begin by listening for, and learning to recognize, authenticity... 
Many of these impostors are benign, and some may be less than such  - - so be careful. This work is one of the primary goals of post Golden Dawn ceremonial magicians. The Thelemites consider it one of the most serious undertakings in their craft and refer to it as attaining "Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel" - - and we hain't talkin'bout two little Hummel kids on a rickety bridge over a waterfall !


"Me" / " I " / Self       Personality      Persona      Higher Self      SOUL

ID / EGO / SUPEREGO      Anima / Animus      Shadow      Oversoul

And, if so, to what degree do you feel these definitions "overlap"? 

(Making a Venn-diagram of this can be fun...)

Well, as I suggested earlier, seen as a group these really are "annoyingly ambiguous terms"... Having spent most of my adult life deeply immersed in the informal study of world religion, mythology and spiritual aspects of psychology, in my humble opinion, a sizable proportion of religion, and particularly Western Abrahamic Religion, is utter rubbish. So there; I've said it. It seems like evvvverybody has to come up with a different set of terminology for basically the same aspects of human experience and then on top of that they throw in endless truckloads of, well... crap. Crap comprised mainly of the shards and tailings from eighteen centuries of pounding so many square pegs into so many round holes. Not to mention the framework of outright lies holding it all together.

("Yes, tell us what you think Earrach, don't hold back"... )

Ok, ok, too much opinion, grouchiness and generalization; let's get back to specifics... Honestly, this all leaves me tempted to take that whole list and stuff it all into the same single sack; a sack tagged with one label (you guessed it...) "soul".

IV. The Soul as a SENSORY ORGAN...

Some time ago, I set myself to the task of making a guide for explaining our kind of religion to children. Faced with the necessary amount of "compression" of the language necessary for it to be understandable to persons with limited vocabularies, I realized that thinking this way can often improve one's ability as a writer and communicator of abstract ideas. Any person with some familiarity with a subject and a large vocabulary can ramble on and manage to "explain" a concept to someone who possesses a similar set of tools and an adult's attention span. Unfortunately, as we "ramble-on" (as I suppose I am doing right now,) the opportunity to make a direct and memorable impression becomes diffused. Brief, clever (yet accurate), metaphors and other concise descriptive mechanisms often are the ones that make the most lasting impressions. And, working with a child, we must assume that the time-"window" open for targeting their fleeting attention-spans is a tiny and moving target. So there I was, trying to pare-down into a single paragraph an accurate but brief explanation in answer to the heading "What are gods or spirits?", and, it had to be suitable for use with children. The big surprise here was that I ended up actually being able to do what I'd assumed was virtually impossible, and in the process I discovered a number of very useful perspectives for explaining it to anyone, even "me". Here's a sampling; see what you think:

"SPIRITS" ? - "GODS" ?  

Spirits or gods are beings who exist mainly like living ideas; 

we can encounter them with our minds and feelings and through 
the magical stories called "myths" that the people from ancient 
times told about them.


Some objects, like special statues or pictures, can represent a 

spirit to us and in that way help us remember or share our feelings 
with that spirit.  We know that the picture or statue is not really 
"the" spirit itself, no more than the telephone "is" the person we 
are speaking with through it; it is simply a way of coming in better 
contact with them. "
- Earrach, 2006

In my line to kids about "spirits and gods" I describe them as "beings", yet I suggest that we can only relate to them through our minds and feelings. In the next item I bring in the analogy of a special piece of technology (statues/images) that can be used to communicate with them, much like we communicate over a telephone with other people, yet no one thinks the telephone "is" that person. In hindsight, those two turned out to be stepping stones to another hardware analogy which all but solved the very challenge of our whole discussion for me.

V.    Think of it as being like a "radio"...
Radio waves are all around us all the time yet without adequate education we would be like tribal people deep in the Amazon Basin, cut off from the modern world, having absolutely no reason to suspect their existence. Nor would we suspect that these frequencies were being modulated to carry information such as voice, music, telephone, or computer data. All you need to pick up, i.e. "tune-into" those radio signals would be an AM/FM radio, a shortwave, or a cell phone.
Now although I'm suggesting the analogy of a radio-tuner here, I'm not one who would suggest there is some electromagnetic or "bio-electric" field or special "energy" to be tuned-into. Personally, I strongly object to the use of the word "energy" in spiritual or magical matters, its use as the conventional metaphor becomes too easily taken as a definition and thereby brings in all the limitations implied by the actual nature of "energy" found in the natural world. Nonetheless we can get further with our analogies and modeling by sticking to words like magical or spiritual "influence". Yes, the world is full of subtle impressions available for perception by human consciousness, impressions which initially depend on our ordinary senses of vision and hearing. Ultimately it's through these sensory organs that we pick up the "cues" necessary for the perception of ordinary yet very important aspects of our daily lives which physicists and biologists would be hard pressed to quantify or underwrite the "existence" of empirically. The perception of beauty, love, the immanence of another person's anger, our own fear or anticipation - - perceiving these things are not just side effects or luxuries, they have become programmed into us by evolution as means to our own survival. Simply because we cannot fully apply the scientific method to these phenomena does not mean that they are nonsense and to be ignored for the verifiability of phenomena which does allow itself to be factored into an equation or measured by a mass spectrometer.

So, if love, hate, fear, and beauty seem to qualify as "phenomena", do spirits and gods qualify as phenomena too? What if all it took was the right kind of "radio-set" to enable one to allow us to apprehend them? As I often say nowadays, imagine that the soul is an effect of our own self awareness that can be operated like a special radio-tuner by which we can "tune-into" the spirits and gods, constructs that are potentially all around us, just structured into our world in a way that only our souls can perceive or make real...

VI.   Was the Soul the product of an evolutionary process?

What if the same evolutionary process that gave us awareness, and then made way for self-awareness, had in-turn enabled in us at that point the capacity for...

"self - self-awareness" ?

As clumsy as the term "self-self-awareness" sounds, it pretty well concisely describes one of the main functions of a soul or higher self. If it takes an eye to see, and a mind to behold, perhaps then it takes a soul to appreciate the scenery?

It seems to me there's a surprisingly simple hierarchy of cognitive states one can stack up to illustrate this notion:

  • The environment speaks to the...
  • Sensory organs, which speak to the 
  • Nervous system,  which speaks to the 
  • Lower Brain functions, which speak to the
  • Higher Brain  functions ( = " MIND " ), which speak to the
  • Higher Mind  functions ( = " SELF " ), which speak to the
  • Higher Self  functions  ( = " SOUL " )...


  1. Loosing your mind, and soul possession as common as the butterfly that emerges from the lips with the final breath!

  2. Gotcha, Brother B.

  3. Perhaps Soul function is a habit of being?
    like trying to imagine our unborn dreams, or a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning?

  4. "soul as a sensory organ". I like that. The body senses, the mind has a sense, no reason to think that 'sensation' stops there.