What is the Soul – Part 8 – Finding the ‘third thing’ of our existence

Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
We keep living anyway
We rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive when so many have died
I’m willing to….

Wait for it”
Miranda, from Hamilton

The most important lesson Trickster has to teach us is that Human life is not just a pass-thru. We need to be Human, not just go to Spirit (if you need to recognize your spirit side more, embrace that – but not at the expense of thinking you can leave your human side behind)

If we want wholeness we need to bring the two-halves of ourselves together, or better yet – find the ‘third thing[1]’ of our existence; as humans – we are neither spirit nor body, but embodied spirit and that is more than the sum of its parts.

After all, Trickster’s home is the road – and a road is both a divider and a joiner.

Once we start down this path, however, we’re bound to start wondering – why we are here on Earth at all? If the soul is pure conscious energy – why incarnate at all? I can’t say I’ve found the answer, but I’ve found my answer.

At heart, I believe that God is everything – which is why I usually write ‘God / The Universe.’ For me, one does not exist without the other. If we allow that it might be true that God is everything, we could conclude that God is also made up of both matter[2] and energy. In fact, we might look at a line from the bible, “God made man in his image” and interpret it just this way – God made man to be, like God, both matter and energy.

If so, as wonderful and beautiful as our energetic spirit is, we may actually be closer to understanding God in our human, corporeal form then in our disembodied form.

Almost twenty years ago, I picked up a small graphic novel called Hope for the Flowers at a used bookstore. I do believe in accidents and natural coincidences, but I don’t believe everything that ‘feels’ like an accident or a coincidence really is that. I felt incredibly compelled to buy this little book – but after reading it several times I was perplexed – the book’s message just didn’t resonate all that much.

Twenty years later I finally understand why I bought that book.

The story is essentially about two caterpillars, named Yellow and Stripe, who meet and become friends. All around them are towers of caterpillars stretching to the sky. Periodically caterpillars fall from the top to their death, speaking only about the beauty of what they witnessed at the top in their final words to caterpillars on the bottom. This served to only strengthen the resolve of the caterpillars at the bottom to keep climbing the towers.

The two caterpillars start their ascent of the cater-pillar, which requires jostling for position to climb higher and higher.  Yellow decides that the atmosphere inside the cater-pillar doesn’t feel right and isn’t for her, she makes her way down the pillar. She is very sad to leave her friend, but is determined to honor her own intuition.

As she wanders about, missing Stripe, she meets another caterpillar who is doing something rather strange – climbing up a plant and turning into something new. She walks around and sees more of these little ‘house-type’ structures. She watches in amazement as a beautiful winged creature emerges from one.

Meanwhile, Stripe is making his way to the top of the pillar. When he finally reaches the top he sees what all the caterpillars are marveling at; the beautiful butterflies flying around. Stripe is lucky though, because he meets his old friend Yellow as a butterfly, and she explains the true nature of caterpillars to him.

Instead of climbing pillars to see the butterflies, the caterpillars should have been becoming butterflies.

All of these pieces came together – God / The Universe as both matter and energy, humans as both matter and energy, the disembodied spirit’s experience of a corporeal form, possible reasons for creation / existence, and Hope for the Flowers (which I “found” again recently in my home) to inspire the thought;

Maybe what God wants is more butterflies.

Instead of reaching for the sky to ‘witness’ God – maybe we should be embracing and developing our own God-like nature; and existence of both matter and spirit.

The butterfly is an especially interesting metaphor, because caterpillars essentially dissolve to become butterflies. A caterpillar doesn’t “grow” wings on top of its caterpillar body – its cells completely break down and create something new.

So how does all this relate to the Trickster? If we were to act like Alchemists and distill this character to his essential essence, we would find it to be one that is constantly creating something new by breaking down / through / up the old.

If, as argued in the post Echoes of the Soul <insert link>, the Trickster is a projection of our ambivalence towards incarnated life – maybe it’s time we use our understanding of this character to take a close and compassionate look at that emotion. Maybe it’s time we take an awakened look at incarnated life in both its ugliness and glory.

Hyde titled his book Trickster Makes This World – partly based on creation stories which feature the Trickster, surely, but also referencing how Trickster creates a new world out of the old one just by applying a different perspective. It occurs to me how well that fits with the argument that, at heart, the Trickster represents us – as our fully human selves – because truly we make this world.

Trickster makes this world because we do. Whether you believe in co-creation or you just want to stick to regular cause and effect; the world we live in now is a world of our creation. We make this world of war, strife, hunger, etc. But we ALSO make this world of generosity, love, family, and abundance.



[1] Concept from Lewis Hyde’s book Trickster Makes this World expanded on in the post Trickster Makes this Road.

[2] Matter – as we’ve discussed elsewhere on the blog (namely, the Double Agent of Change) is just a more dense form of energy. But, if we think about the concept from the Dao de jing – in the beginning there was the Dao, then it split into the yin and the yang – I think we can see Matter and Energy that way – as part of the very early distinction of the nature of the Universe.

What is the Soul? – Part 7 – What the Trickster Can Teach Us about Us

I’ve titled this series “What is the Soul?” but, at heart, the whole series is based on the question, “How does a disembodied existence [the presumed soul] feel about / adjust to / come to terms with an embodied existence?”

In last week’s post, we discussed the Hero and the Trickster as split-personality projections of the soul. We considered that the Hero could be a projection of what the soul wishes for itself out of incarnation and the Trickster could be a projection of how the soul actually feels about dealing with incarnated life.

In this final post of the series, we look at what we can learn at a deep soul-level, by understanding and embracing the character of the Trickster. One day I hope to write a book about the Trickster and the Soul. For now, this series and this post are the distilled version.

Lesson #1 Engage with your dirt

It may seem like a stretch to associate the Trickster with ‘dirt,’ but the Trickster has a close association with the gut and hunger as discussed in the post Trickster Makes this Road.   Lewis Hyde, author of Trickster Makes this World notes that, “‘dirt’ washed from the dishes was ‘food’ not long ago and we sat around putting it in our mouths.” (Loc 3072)

It is an important lesson that the very things that nourish us as food, in excess or not-well maintained can themselves become dirt-like. Old food goes to rot. And yet, dirt, itself, can be tremendously nourishing.

Further, Trickster is associated with hunger, hunting, eating, food, digestion, and also defecation. Is there anything we consider dirtier, really, than poop?

Engaging with our ‘dirt’ on a metaphorical level allows us to see ourselves in a morally complex way. We need to be willing to look at the unsavory parts of our character with a compassionate but unflinching eye. Acknowledging our shortcomings is not a weakness, but a strength. The real value comes from seeing our real dirt which is often not what we think. Finding the deep dirt that gets in our way takes self-reflection, attention, and hard work.

Even more, we need to be able to look at the qualities we think of as strengths for ourselves and be willing to see the dirty aspects of those as well. If I’m honest am I a ‘straight-shooter’ with whom you ‘always know where you stand’ or am I ‘rude’ and opinionated’? If I’m constantly going out of my way to help people am I a ‘selfless, people person’ or a ‘weakness enabler’ secretly seeking to gratify my own inner desire to feel needed?

Only when we can see the negative aspects of what we consider our strengths and positive qualities and recognize that even those qualities may have unintended impacts on those around us – can we transform ourselves into something new.

Lesson #2 Recognize Opportunity

Trickster is associated with the ‘lucky find.’ In the Homeric Hymn of Hermes, Hermes finds a turtle outside his cave and turns it into a lyre with which he charms Apollo. Perhaps any number of others would have let the turtle walk away without seeing what it could become;[1] But Hermes, the Trickster, recognized the opportunity and ‘seized’ it.

We often unintentionally block our own opportunities in life. We may not even recognize opportunities when they walk across our path. Several weeks ago I wrote a post on “allowing,” a concept that applies well here. We can become so attached to a particular outcome or path forward that we close our minds and hearts to other possibilities.

There is an excellent quote from the Alchemist, “..when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” This is true. However, there are two complicating factors; one is that we don’t always know what we really want. Deep down we may want something general (love, fulfillment, self-worth), but we attach it to something specific. Thus, when the Universe shows up with a perfect solution to our heart’s desire – we don’t even see it.

The Trickster encourages us to take a wider view of our situation when we are looking for solutions, opportunities, and answers. We may sometimes need to go in a direction that seems like the opposite of where we want to go to end up where we want to be.

Lesson # 3 – Truth May Not Be Relative, But It Isn’t Absolute Either

It is perhaps his association with lying that earns the Trickster the lion-share of his bad reputation. However, it would be a great misunderstanding to limit the Trickster’s association with communication to lying.

Hermes’ gift of language is to be ‘clever-tongued’ or ‘tricky with the oath’.  Coyote often secures his prey with a ‘trick.’ It is rarely an outright lie, but instead a type of verbal maneuvering that trips up those who aren’t paying attention.

To truly understand the Trickster’s association with communication, let’s reflect on how this aspect of the Trickster relates to our overall discussion of the difference between the embodied and disembodied existence. According to the Newton dialogues, in an energetic ‘soul-state’ communication happens via a type of telepathy. Essentially, in such a state there is no difference between thought and speech.

From one quote, “It is impossible to hide anything” in the disembodied state.

So while in some ways we are less vulnerable in an energetic state – free from fear of death, pain, loss, hunger, strife, etc. In terms of our personal weaknesses we are actually more vulnerable – our soul wounds and flaws are essentially visible for all to see.

Contrast that with the embodied state where we find an incredible amount of complexity between what we think and feel and how we might actually express that in words. If the Newton dialogues are to be believed, lying only becomes possible in the embodied state. Despite all the vulnerabilities of the human body, as humans, we actually are able to hide the vulnerabilities of our soul.

Noting that difference – Trickster’s association with communication (and, yes, lying) aligns very well with the interpretation of Trickster as a divine representation of humanity. And perhaps – if you can allow that that interpretation might be true – it helps you understand Trickster’s association with lying, and by extension our human relationship with communication, with a more heart-felt compassion.

Understanding this about the Trickster and then holding up the mirror to ourselves, the lesson here is to explore our own relationship with communication. Is there a giant gulf between what we feel and what we speak? Do our emotions sneak out in snarky comments or loaded questions?

If we allow it, the Trickster can teach us about both cleverly and effectively crafting our own communication and listening for the truth in others speech.

I had hoped to make this my last post in this series, but the last lesson I want to cover on the blog is simply too big to ‘tack on’ to this post after all I’ve written about the first three, therefore I will cover it in it’s own post next week…which should be the last one.



[1] of course, that future was fairly negative as far as the turtle was concerned – but implementing true inspiration often requires transformation and some sortof sacrifice.

What is the Soul – Part 6 – Echoes of the Soul

“Let me tell you what I wish I’d known when I was young and dreamed of glory…

you have no control – who lives, who dies, who tells your story” – Washington, History Has Its Eyes on You from the musical, Hamilton

If you’ve read any of my posts so far this year, you might notice that I’ve developed a Trickster fixation. Three years ago when I picked up Lewis Hyde’s book Trickster Makes this World, I felt a powerful resonance with the subject.

Early in 2015, when I returned to Trickster Makes this World in hopes of finding a quote[1] – I found, instead, a new level of understanding.

I realized then that there was nothing more important for me to cover on the blog than the topic of the Trickster. The very name I had given the blog when I started it – Standing Stones, referred to the stone cairns that provide direction on a path through the wilderness. Cairns, I learned in the book, that originated as ‘alters to Hermes’ – that didn’t feel like a coincidence.

After re-reading Trickster Makes this World, I wrote what I think is my best work to date in the post Trickster Makes this Road. After publishing, I thought, okay, now that that craziness is over, I can move on.

Except the craziness was only beginning.

It’s unclear exactly when the realization crystallized, but suddenly whatever I was reading, whatever I was writing, I kept bumping into the Trickster. Oh… not by name or in so many words… but he showed up in the pages of Sonia Choquette’s book Walking Home and Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s Thanks for the Feedback. I even found him in Michael Pollan’s Cooked and the recent scientific focus on the influence of the gut on the overall health of our body and mind.

As a result, he showed up in my posts about those books[2] and a half dozen other posts besides – it turns out the Trickster was key to completion of a piece I’d been working for years on Free Will vs. Fate (The Double Agent of Change).

The last major time this happened was twenty years ago when I ‘accidentally’ started reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces and The Hero Within simultaneously. The former emphasized the cultural confluence of the story of the Hero in world mythology and its significance as an archetype. The latter focused on, as clearly stated in the title, the ‘hero’ transformation of the individual.

At that time, my meditation and reading of those books (as well as copious time spent in the sun, no doubt) triggered a mystical experience that had lasting effects on the subsequent decade.

So, in this similar experience with the Trickster, I recognized that I was now operating out of a new personal paradigm and I wondered – why do I suddenly see the Trickster everywhere? What could the significance of this character be?

Trickster is a divine character, but usually he’s not exactly on par with the other gods; both the Greek Trickster figure, Hermes and the Norse Trickster, Loki are of questionable parentage, for example. Nevertheless, he is one of the oldest and most written about characters in Native American folklore and is a key member of the pantheon in the Greek (Roman) and Norse traditions.[3]

However, unlike mythological stories that feature the other gods as grounded in their own power and authority (think of Thor or Apollo), many Trickster stories feature or at least reference very human aspects of existence; the gut, defecation, sex, age, appearance. In many stories, Trickster’s hunger starts the whole adventure – and in at least one story Trickster’s hunger essentially creates the world.

The “primitive” focus of Trickster stories have led prominent academicians such as Jung to categorize the Trickster as the product of a “primitive” human consciousness.

Perhaps, this is because they are juxtaposing early human life with that of other animals, and noticing that Trickster most closely resembles the animalian aspect of human existence.

But what if we made the same comparison that Trickster himself often makes? What if the comparison is instead between Trickster and the other gods?

When we orient the comparison in such a way, we see that among the pantheon, the Trickster most closely resembles the embodied human, corporeal existence.

But if Trickster is a portrait of humanity, it’s not a very flattering one. Which raises the question – whose portrait of humanity is this?

To answer that question we need to return to the two oppositional figures of Hero and Trickster.

Based on my understanding of these two characters from a mythological perspective, combined with what I have learned about the soul through reading, study, and my own self-reflection; the Hero is our spirit’s self-portrait.

The Hero represents how our eternal soul sees itself (like Trickster, the hero is also usually looking to reclaim or find some sort-of godhood) – the Hero is what the spirit wishes for itself out of incarnation – to face the challenges and lessons it was born to conquer and learn from them, emerging triumphant.

So if the Hero is the Soul’s self-portrait, who is the Trickster?

Building on the arguments I’ve laid out thus far in this post series, it is my belief that “The Trickster” is the eternal soul’s projection of how it feels about actual life on Earth. Contained within the projection of the Trickster are all the mixed emotions our spirit-self has about what it is actually like to be human; the ambivalence our divine selves feel towards embodied life.

When we look at the situation from this angle, it makes perfect sense that Trickster has sometimes been associated with our ‘Shadow’ or ‘The Devil.’ Is there anything that our religions – constantly striving towards the light – are more averse to than the human body?

Gluttony, Drink, Sloth, Sex – our demonization of these things, our consideration of them as sin is a reflection of our eternal soul’s discomfort with the needs, wants, and urges of a corporeal body. As souls, we think we are incarnating into a life that is going to go one way – the Hero’s path – and when we get here we find that the constant urges and distractions of the human body get in the way.

Thus we have, collectively, created the Trickster; the consummate wise fool. Sometimes easily tricked, sometimes the most cunning of hunters, constantly doing seemingly stupid things to get fed or have sex or gain status – because this is how we really see ourselves.

But just like all disowned aspects of the self – there is much to be learned from understanding and embracing what the Trickster can teach us. We’ll talk more about what we can learn from the Trickster in next week’s post – the last installment in this series.

[1] Read about this in the post Trickster Makes this Road

[2] Note: I did not write a post on Michael Pollan’s work, Cooked.

[3] There are examples of African Tricksters that Hyde certainly discusses in his book and perhaps Trickster could be found in the Mezo-American figure of Jaguar, but I do not have as strong a background in those traditions so I will not use them as examples.

What is the Soul – Part 5 – Projection

“Wherever known reality stops, where we touch the unknown, there we project an archetypal image.” Marie -Louise von Franz

After reading quite a bit of Jung, I’ve felt that an important piece of understanding the soul is the concept of projection. However, Jung’s work is vast and I wasn’t keen on sifting through it merely to unearth some quotes about projection for a blog post. I briefly ran into this concept again (although not in the precise words) in Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen’s book, Thanks for the Feedback; still I held back.

But when I heard Dr Libby Weaver talking about projection as part of the 2016 Hay House World Summit and associating it with the Reticular Activating Center (RAS) in the brain, I felt we had to cover this topic before going further.

When we think of projection, we tend to think of it in a negative way, as in, “don’t project your insecurities onto me!” But, in my experience, projection is something we all do all the time. Projection is a big part of how we interact with our world. It is, actually, how we create our world. We can try to avoid projecting, but the practice is so engrained that we might have better luck if we start with identifying our projections and trying to understand them.

So what exactly is projection? It’s a very flexible word – the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary has no less than 9 different ways to define it. Definition #3 from a Google search seems to fit what we’re talking about in this post best; “the presentation or promotion of someone or something in a particular way;” with sub-bullet points, “a mental image viewed as reality,” and, “the unconscious transfer of one’s own desires or emotions to another person.”

I’ll return to a study quoted in my post 5 Habits to Make you Happier Now;

A study from the Netherlands, as referenced in a Psychology Today article from Dec 2012 asked subjects to “identify happy and sad ‘smiley icons’ while listening to happy or sad music. Music turned out to have a great influence on what the subjects perceived. Interestingly, even when a ‘neutral face’… was shown, the subjects often thought they recognized a happy smiley when listening to happy music and a sad one when listening to sad music.”[1]

The participants projected their mood onto the neutral smiley faces. Whenever we find uncertainty, vagaries, empty space, we project into it. We don’t usually notice that we’re doing this because it is seamless with our engagement with the world. It is only when we pull back and really try to notice projection that its ubiquity becomes apparent.

However, the fact that we project does not make our projections ‘untrue’ – they represent deep truth, our truth. We need to recognize that a projection’s primary value is not what it tells us about the other person or the outside world, but what it tells us about us.

If we look at the world through the lens of very defined categories where thoughts are nebulous ‘fluff’ and matter is physical and corporeal, then projections seem like nothing; only a mental interpretation displaced to an outer source, right?

But, as argued in the post Thoughts on Co-Creation, if everything is energy at a root level – then projections become as much a part of world creation as everything else.  If we view everything from the energetic perspective, we might ask what the real difference is between a mental image made up of energy and a corporeal element made up of energy. It raises interesting questions about reality.

But why does projection matter to this discussion on the Soul?

It is my belief, based on my informal study of mythology that our souls have projected our deep truth of discarnate existence into myth. I don’t think this is that far from what a Joseph Campbell or Jung would say – only they would be hesitant to use a term with such a heavy religious connotation as “soul.”

Regardless of the name we call it – the perspective that projects a pantheon of immortal, deathless beings is one that understands such an existence.

However, as we discussed in the post Orbiting, our memories of such an existence become unmoored when we incarnate and thus this soul-level (or subconscious) understanding has to manifest through the context of the time – in stories and myths.

If this only happened in one place, it would be easy to dismiss – it would be easy to say “Well this is one person’s deep truth they’re projecting.” The fact that we see so many similar fundamental themes in mythology, though; the fact that many of these stories still captivate us and resonate on a deep level, suggests that this represents our truth as a species.

In the next post we’ll talk about a mythological figure that may have started out as the ‘dumping ground’ for our feelings about incarnate life, but who has grown and evolved to take on a life of his own.

[1] Quote from psychologytoday.com article The Neuroscience of Music, Mindset, and Motivation, Christopher Bergland, Dec 29 2012

What is the Soul – Part 4 – I vs. I

One of the things I found most disconcerting in reading the Newton dialogues was a tendency (especially on the part of Newton, himself) to draw a line between the soul-self and the human-self as if they are two different entities. Consider the below from Newton;

“It is an open question whether a soul should be held entirely at fault for humanity’s irrational, unsocialized, and destructive acts. Souls must learn to cope in different ways with each new human being assigned to them. The permanent identity of a soul stamps the human mind with a distinctive character which is individual to that soul. However, I find there is a strange dual nature between the soul and human brain.” (loc 679) – Journey of Souls, Michael Newton

What is the soul, then to us – to our human existence? This subject troubled me long after reading Newton’s books. Although he approaches the subject gingerly, at times the book seems to suggest that the soul is almost an ‘alien-like’ presence in a human host. Interestingly enough, though, much of the material from his dialogues suggests a far different picture;

“Dr. N: I think of the spirit world as a place of supreme all-knowing intelligent consciousness and you make it appear that souls have moods and vanity as though they were back on Earth? [Subject]: (burst of laughter) People are people no matter how they look on their physical worlds” (loc 529) Journey of Souls, Michael Newton

Or consider the following three quotes from various places in the books,

“Dr. N: Are you saying the ravages of the physical body and the human mind leaves an emotional mark on the soul after death? [Subject]:…who I am as a being – was affected by the brain and body I occupied. Dr. N: Even though you are now separated from that body forever? [Subject]: Each body leaves… an imprint… on you, at least for awhile. There are some bodies I have had that I can never get away from altogether…” (loc 696) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

“As I have said before, soul contamination does not only come from the physical body. Certainly, the energy damage described in the last two cases indicates that souls themselves are impure beings who also contribute to their own distress.” (loc 1873) – Destiny of Souls – Michael Newton

“The concept of souls having fallibility comes as a surprise to some people. The statements of Case 8 and all my other clients indicate most of us are still far from perfect beings in the spirit world.” (loc 540) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

We can feel in these quotes the desire to believe in an infallible, perfect spirit, and yet the dialogues themselves suggest that such an idea is incomplete. If we look at this last quote below, we can see that there is a strong desire to distance the spirit from the negative aspects of the self.

“I’ve been told that in every era of Earth’s bloody history there has always been a significant number of souls unable to resist and successfully counter human cruelty.” (loc 613) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

Interestingly enough, though, from what I know of animals they are rarely “cruel” – especially unprovoked – meaning that there is nothing inherent in having a physical body that would cause us to willfully cause pain and suffering to others without concern.

Maybe we should ask ourselves if ‘human cruelty’ doesn’t come from the human body itself, but rather as a result of the combination of a ‘disembodied’ spirit existing in a physical body. Could cruelty be the worst parts of our souls coming out when we feel disconnected from divine love and unclear on our place in the universe?

We want to take the things we don’t like and say that’s our “ego” and separate that from our “infallible” spirit, but maybe we should take a closer look.

As spirits we probably feel pretty cut-off from our spiritual home while we’re here on Earth.  Do we really believe there is no subconscious resentment that builds from the continuous cycle of birth and death?

We probably don’t feel any resentment or shame when we’re back in the place of our birth as spirits, basking in divine light and love, but it’s possible that shame-resentment cycle resurfaces with the ‘environmental conditions’ of incarnation; the way an old broken bone, healed long ago, might still hurt before it rains.

As a result, I don’t believe the “ego” is created by our ‘human self,’ but that it is one-half of the split personality our soul creates because of the ambivalence it feels about being in a physical body.

Perhaps the soul splits off the piece of itself ‘closest to the ground,’ so to speak, which we consider the ‘ego,’ and then creates a space – the piece closest to our connection to source, let’s say – for the other half of itself. Maybe it tries to keep that space close to the light as ‘free’ from the ‘dirt’ of incarnated life as possible.

If this is true, if the soul creates the ego, then the ego is actually part of the soul, and part of achieving wholeness is not to ‘disown’ or ‘push aside’ the ego, but rather to rejoin these two parts; to bring the soul and the ego closer together.

I want to take a moment here, because this is really important, to note that when I say all this about the soul, it comes from a place of compassion and love, not condemnation. It comes from a longing for healing and a longing for a whole self that can live fully and happily here on Earth.

It comes from trying to look at our Earth experience from the perspective of a being who was born into a disembodied experience before being born into an embodied one.

When we view the Earth experience through this perspective, taking into consideration the accounts in the Newton dialogues, we begin to see a picture of our soul – not as shining and infallible, but as – well – human. But maybe the word we really mean when we say “human” is vulnerable. The soul is vulnerable.

When we live too close to the ground, in the place we associate with our ego, we are constantly buffeted about by the circumstances around us – we feel disconnected, lost, and unfulfilled. When we live too close to the light, sequestered in that space the soul-self has carved out, we feel peace, happiness, a sense that all will be okay no matter what happens here on Earth… it’s truly a wonderful feeling and I don’t blame people who want to stay in that place forever.

In fact, I probably spent about ten of my twenty year (thus far) journey on the Spiritual Path trying to get ‘back’ there, BUT at some point I felt that I couldn’t fully experience my life on Earth from that place. I had a harder time relating to people, a harder time understanding sadness, death, loss (why was everyone so sad at a funeral? The soul was returning home!), and most importantly – I wasn’t really doing the work I came here to do.

We didn’t come here just to find our way back home – we’ll all get back home – we came here to do other things (we’ll talk more about what in the last post in this series). This isn’t to minimize the importance of connecting with our spirit – we do need to connect with our spirit, but finding our spirit isn’t the end of our journey as incarnated beings, it’s the beginning.

It is only through seeing both sides of our existence that we can start to deeply explore what we’re meant to do here.

In the next couple posts we’ll introduce a place, or better – a figure, where we find evidence of the subconscious ambivalence I’ve been talking about in the last few posts. We’ll also discuss how understanding, acceptance, and love (yes, love!) for this character can help us all reach for real, true wholeness in ourselves.

What is the Soul – Part 3 – Our Dual Nature

Now that we’ve contrasted our Earthly experience of existence with our spiritual one, and discussed why we might not remember our disembodied experience, we might wonder how our soul-self feels about incarnated life.

I use the term soul-self to refer to the long view of the self – the part of us that persists through the cycles of birth and death. There is no difference between your soul-self and “you,” but your soul-self carries with it the deep understanding of this “other” existence, something your conscious mind (heavily influenced by empiricism and the scientific method) will deny or, at least, doubt. We’ll talk more about this split a little later in the post.

When I first read the Newton dialogues, the language was sometimes disconcerting for me. Our Soul-selves seem to have a real ambivalence towards life in a physical body. Some of Newton’s subjects spoke of incarnation as something to look forward to and relish, but many expressed anxiety and regret over their experiences on Earth. They incarnated to accomplish certain goals, but once in a body they couldn’t remember what those were.

The glittering distractions of today’s world are a far cry from the dawn of human existence where mythology and ritual ruled the day. Although the embodied spirit can create amazingly beautiful (and terrible) things, most rational society today is so entrenched in the primacy of embodied existence it refuses to seriously consider the possibility of a disembodied one.

Thus, we incarnate with the best of intentions, but when we’re on-the-ground we are convinced by everyone else to ignore what’s in our hearts and follow what’s in their heads. We strive to achieve someone else’s definition of success, yet even when we do we find ourselves feeling bored and unfulfilled, depressed and lonely (even when we’re in a relationship).

We find fulfillment when we return to our spirit – and that is a wonderful experience, but even that is not always enough. As human beings we live in the corporeal world, not in the spirit world, so we must find a way to find lasting fulfillment in this aspect of our existence.

Our Soul Self’s Perception of Life on Earth

Although there is a wide range in the reports from the Newton dialogues, in most cases there seems to be a huge disconnect in what the soul goes into a new life expecting to be able to do and what they are actually able to accomplish. The case below represents an extreme;

“Dr. N: Shabez, now that you have died and returned to the spirit world, tell me how you feel? S: (shouts) Cheated! That life was so cruel! I couldn’t stay. I was only a little girl unable to help anybody. What a mistake! Dr.N: Who made this mistake? S: (in a conspiratorial tone) My leader. I trusted his judgment, but he was wrong to send me into that cruel life to be killed before my life got started. Dr. N: But you did agree to come into the body of Shabez? S: (upset) I didn’t know Earth would be such an awful place full of terror – I wasn’t given all the facts – the whole stupid life was a mistake and my leader is responsible. Dr. N: Didn’t you learn anything from this life? S: (pause) I started to learn love… yes, that was wonderful… my brother… parents… but it was so short…” (need loc) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

Newton presents the above case as a ‘newly incarnating’ soul. Another subject had this to say about returning to the spirit world;

“Dr. N: What else are you feeling at this moment? S: Peace. There is such peace you never want to leave again.” (loc 947) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

The stakes are different for us in a disembodied existence versus an embodied existence. By all accounts, we are much more connected to each other in the disembodied state. Without the heavy constraints of physical matter we can move faster, feel freer, be more connected with others and with the Universe at large. Without the constraints of a body such as hunger and decay, the stakes for every interaction are much lower. Our relationships seem to be more free and less contentious;

“Dr. N: What is the major difference in your interactions with other souls, compared to being in human form on Earth? S: Here no one is a stranger. There is a total lack of hostility toward anyone… We recognize a universal bond between us which make us all the same. There is no suspicion toward each other… Dr. N: Living on Earth must be difficult for souls, then? S: It is, for the newer ones especially, because they go to Earth expecting to be treated fairly. When they aren’t, it’s a shock. For some, it takes quite a few lives to get used to the Earth body.”[1]

With our spiritual existence virtually unknown to us, (and even for those who feel a deep knowing that it does exist, the actual experience remains largely elusive) the stakes for our embodied self are very high indeed. Isolated in a solitary body we are lonely, afraid of death, we feel a drive to attain earthy success, we care very much about the attractiveness of our body to others and leaving a lasting imprint on this world.

The experience on Earth is so intense and overwhelming that, “…most all returning souls will continue on to some sort of healing station before finally joining their groups.”[2]

It sounds rather like getting off some kind of wild ride. Here is another example,

“S: Giles [subject’s spirit guide] has made me look upon my lives as a chess game with the Earth as the board. Certain moves bring certain results and there are no easy solutions. I plan, and then things go wrong during the game in my life. I sometimes think he lays traps for me to work through on the board. Dr. N: Do you prosper with this technique of your advanced guide? Has Giles been a help to your problem-solving during the game of life? S: (pause)…more afterward… here (in the spirit world)… but he makes me work so damn hard on Earth.” (loc 1419) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

This theme is repeated over and over in life-between-life dialogues. We incarnate, we don’t anticipate the level of struggle we will have in a matter-dominant world and we (often, though not always) come out of a life feeling somewhat remorseful or resentful that we couldn’t accomplish as much as we planned.

It aligns perfectly with the comment that Esther Hicks-channeling-ABRAHAM made in Anaheim, “We don’t understand why it takes you so long.”

You may be able to see at this point how this might lead to a great deal of ambivalence on the side of our soul-selves towards the incarnated self. It is my belief that the result of this ‘orbiting’ state is much of the deep self-loathing we have as incarnated beings.

We dress that feeling up in many forms, give it many names, and project it into the circumstances of the current life to explain it – but this ‘orbiting’ existence, our inability to clearly see our being and all that contributes to who we are as one cohesive whole, might be the real root cause of our self-loathing, shame, and self-disconnection from divine love.

In next week’s post we’ll talk about ‘that pesky Ego’ and how it relates to all of this.

As an aside – I was initially going to try to take on this subject in four posts – but given this is the 3rd and it’s a lot of writing with miles to go… it looks like it’s going to be six, maybe seven.

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[1] (loc 969) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

[2] (loc 1641) – Destiny of Soul – Newton, Michael

What is the Soul? – Part 2 – Orbiting

What the conscious mind can’t remember, the subconscious never forgets…

In last week’s post we speculated on the existence of a disembodied self (or soul) and wondered what such a ‘self’ would be like. If we allow that our memories might persist into our disembodied existence we might wonder why we don’t remember our disembodied existence while we are incarnated on the physical plane. According to Mary B. Howes in her textbook, Human Memory: Structures and Images,

“Probably the most influential development in memory research across the past half century,.. involves the notion of cues, If I am consciously thinking, say, about houses, this information will make contact with house representations in my memory. The idea ‘houses,’ in my awareness at the moment, is a cue. It has been found that success in recall depends in major part on the relationship between operating cues and the target memory content. It is not the case that you can either recall a memory because it is adequately strong or cannot recall it because it is weak. Success can depend on what you are thinking at the time you make the attempt at recall. Some psychologists believe that this relationship completely determines whether (any) memory will be recalled. Others think that cues are only one determining factor. This debate reflects one of the most important issues in the field of memory research today.”

There are a great many songs I learned as a child which I can honestly say I never think of. In the last thirty years they have not once been called into my conscious memory. Yet, I hear my three year old daughter sing “Hey, my name is Joe.” And I hear myself automatically responding, “..and I work – in – a button factory.” And suddenly the song is right there for me.

If we discard memories long unused – one would think I wouldn’t remember the song at all, for I haven’t accessed that memory in over thirty years.

Although I had worked eight of those thirty years at a company that was primarily a box and paper factory and I had even, during that time, been in a few of those factories, only the specific cue of the song verse retrieved the song from the deep abyss of my long memory.

We may not consciously remember our disembodied existence because it is so different from our embodied experience that we don’t have anything to cue a memory of its existence.

The below quote from the Newton dialogues suggests that when we’re back in a disembodied state we do recognize the experience, “S;,,,I’m relieved to be away from Earth. I just want to stay here always. There is no tension, or worries, only a sense of well-being. I’m just floating… how beautiful… Dr. N: As you continue to float along, what is your next major impression as you pass the spiritual gateway? S: (pause) Familiarity.”[1]

If we allow that this account may reflect a true feeling, and there are a number of other accounts like this one, it seems that when we witness, even through hypnotic regression, the space we go to in-between lives it feels natural, right, familiar so that those deep memories are able to be recalled.

On a personal note, a couple years before I was even aware of Michael Newton’s books (or any other material) on the ‘life-between-lives’ concept, I had a personal experience that corroborates this argument.

At the time, I often meditated on the train into work in the morning. I can’t remember if I was meditating on the morning of this particular day, but it’s likely. In other words, it’s possible I was, at this point, highly in-tune with my energy body. As I exited the train and headed for the central station, music playing through my headphones, I felt the oddest feeling of familiarity.

I watched the hundreds of other people doing the same thing; coming off my train, coming off other trains, all heading towards the same central station like the spokes of a wheel and I had the strongest feeling that I’d done this before. Now, my first thought was of course I’ve done this before, I do this every day.

The feeling persisted, though, and even increased in strength. I puzzled over it because the ‘deja-vu’ feeling didn’t seem to be related to doing the action before in this body, and even more mysteriously (since I’ve had a few past life memories surface) it didn’t feel like I had done this in another body, it felt like I had done it before on an energetic level. The best way to describe it was that the feeling of the movement, and the crowd, and the music all together was familiar to my energy field separately from my body.

Although I’d been conscious of my own energy field for years by this point, this was the first time I ever felt like my energy field was recalling[2] an experience that didn’t involve being in a body at all.

This incident stuck in my conscious memory because of it’s singularity, but without supporting context, it soon dropped off the radar. I found the Newton dialogues a year later and, although I have been a firm believer in reincarnation since I was about five, I hadn’t given any thought to what happens between lives. Imagine my surprise, then, when I ran into some very similar descriptions for the soul’s return to the spirit world over a year later

“[Subject]:,, it’s as if we start in a stream and then all of us returning from death are pulled into a great river together,,, we are gathered into … a sea… where all of us swirl around… in slow motion. Then, I feel as though I’m being pulled away to a small tributary again,,,”

Or this observation from Michael Newton, “One of my clients described the staging area as resembling, ‘the hub of a great wagon wheel, where we are transported from a center along the spokes to our designated places.”

It’s possible my energy-body was recalling some sort of energetic travel because the circumstances acted as the right ‘cues.’ It’s possible we could all recognize memories of this aspect of our existence given the right cues and support.


We can’t remember our disembodied life (or barely and with zero scientifically acceptable evidence) while we are incarnated. Conversely, according to Michael Newton’s subjects, once we return to a disembodied state we tend to lose the immediacy to make sense of our incarnated experience;

“S: Sometimes I like to wait until after my council meeting [to take in new, healing energy] because I don’t want the fresh energy to dilute the memories and feelings I had in the life ‘just lived.’ If I did infuse myself (by taking in reserve energy), that former life would be less real to me… I want to retain every emotional feeling I had of these events as they occurred so I can better describe why I took certain actions.”[3]

Memory is probably strongest at the boundaries – when we are first born (and inconveniently can’t communicate much) and when we first cross over to a disembodied existence – or die. The longer we persist in each existence, the more remote the other becomes. As a result, neither existence can fully relate to the other and we end up with two experiences of existence ‘orbiting’ each other instead of witnessing our existence as one cohesive whole.

The 2015 Hay House World Summit featured a video of a conversation in Anaheim between Esther Hicks (collective consciousness known as ABRAHAM) and Dr. Wayne Dyer. It was a fascinating discussion, but one particular part of that exchange started me down this entirely new way of thinking.

Esther channeling ABRAHAM made a comment about how we would all eventually reach soul fulfillment or completion (or whatever – I can’t remember the exact term), and then followed-up with, “We just don’t [know or understand] why it takes you so long.”

The audience laughed.

Esther’s head swiveled towards the crowd – but there was no trace of humor on her face. I found this intriguing… because… it wasn’t a joke.

It wasn’t a joke.

The disembodied (such as ABRAHAM) really don’t understand why it takes us so long. We tend to believe that this is because the knowledge and understanding of the disembodied is superior to our own. But what if we were to shift away from the word superior and instead consider the word different?  As in – their understanding of existence is different.

Maybe the disembodied don’t understand the challenges of incarnated existence because they’re not embodied.

Apart from the immediacy of incarnated experience, how could it be completely understood?

Those of us who place an emphasis on the spiritual side of our nature (and I count myself among this number) – especially during or recently after the thrill of a mystical experience – can tend to view the spiritual or disembodied experience as more ‘real’ than the embodied experience as in, “We’re not really this human existence, we’re actually spiritual beings.”

Certainly we can understand the appeal of such an existence, free from the weight of a body and its requirement for eating, sleeping, pooping, and – of course – death. Free from the seeming-isolation of the human brain and our restricted forms of communication; it must be a very peaceful and liberated experience indeed.

However, I’m not sure that it’s helpful for us to champion one facet of existence over the other.  Instead we might benefit from viewing the two experiences (embodied and disembodied) as equally real and relevant.   These two parts of ourselves are never completely disconnected or conjoined, which is why I prefer the term ‘orbiting.’

In next week’s post Our Dual Nature we’ll talk about how this ‘orbiting’ state – just might be the key to understanding who we are, collectively, as human beings and why at the deepest level and we’ll touch on why it may be helpful to avoid thinking of one experience as superior to the other at all.

If you’re interested in reading more about why we don’t remember our past lives specifically, I’ve written a more detailed post called All Alone in the Moonlight that does a deep dive on how human memory works and makes several arguments for why we don’t remember our past life memories.



[1] (loc 405) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

[2] So technically, in the field of memory there is recall and recognition. If I were to use the technical terms correctly for this experience I was feeling familiarity. Familiarity is a sub-category of the recognition experience which is weaker than recall. Recall, as technically defined, would have meant that I had the information of exactly when and where I had experienced this before. I use recall because, colloquially, these terms are often interchangeable and I had already used the word familiarity a bunch of times, so for literary flow I wanted a different word.

[3] (loc 2226) – Destiny of Souls, Michael Newton

Check out Biddy Tarot and my Guest Blog!

Are you interested in learning more about Tarot?  If so, there’s absolutely no better place to go then Biddy Tarot!

Brigit makes Tarot normal, approachable, and fun!  I have especially enjoyed the Soul Meditations Program and Tarot Foundations 1

While you’re there, check out my guest blog on using music to connect with the cards!

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The Magical, Mystery Tour with Elizabeth Louw



What is the Soul – Part 1

“A child’s heart is broken by misfortunes we consider trivial. It identifies completely with each incident, being unable to see it against the backdrop of a whole, variable lifetime.” Huston Smith, The World’s Religions (p25).

Myth and Existence

Sometimes there is so much in a subject we have to try several different ways to approach it before we find one that allows for ease of explanation and has wide resonance. Understanding the dual nature of the soul and how it impacts our embodied existence on Earth is one of those subjects. This subject is too full to cover in one post, and probably in a thousand posts, but I am going to try to do the subject some justice in four.

For me, mythology is a natural starting point for this exploration since it represents the earliest stories we’ve told ourselves about existence.

In her book A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong says, “… all mythology speaks of another plane that exists alongside our own world, and that in some sense supports it. Belief in this invisible but more powerful reality, sometimes called the world of the gods, is a basic theme of mythology… it informed the mythology, ritual, and social organization of all societies before the advent of our scientific modernity, and continues to influence more traditional societies today”[1]

Thus, from the very earliest, we have evidence of some sort of knowledge of an existence that is categorically different from the Earthly, embodied, existence. Because we have been guided for centuries now by the philosophy of empiricism and the scientific method, we tend to have a hard time accepting a truth we cannot perceive. Thus, instead of seeing this very clear, repeated theme amongst human stories everywhere as evidence of a discarnate world, we look at it backwards.

We consider it a ‘peculiarity’ of the human brain and look to biological processes to help us understand something that has nothing to do with biology. It’s probably the biggest misinterpretation of how things work since we thought the Sun revolved around the Earth. We just don’t understand enough of this process to see it clearly from a scientific point of view.

One of the earliest lines from Armstrong’s book is, “The Neanderthal graves show that when these early people became conscious of their mortality, they created some sort of counter-narrative that enabled them to come to terms with it.”[2] Here the obvious implication is that the Neanderthals couldn’t possibly have had a true knowledge or understanding of an existence beyond the body

The arrogance of empiricism is obvious in this statement. Not that Karen Armstrong, herself, is arrogant, just that the statement itself hides an assumption we’ve taken for granted to such an extent that we don’t even recognize it as an assumption anymore. How do we know that the Neanderthals manufactured a counter-narrative? Perhaps they had a true understanding of the holistic experience of existence which they struggled to express using the tools and communication they were constrained to in a human body.

The truth is that we don’t know, we have no idea what they knew or understood – we can only assume their level of knowledge based on how we think about our own knowledge – a perception heavily influenced by empiricism and the scientific method.[3]

“It is highly significant that these myths and rituals of ascension go back to the earliest period of human history. It means that one of the essential yearnings of humanity is the desire to get ‘above’ the human state. As soon as human beings had completed the evolutionary process, they found that a longing for transcendence was built into their condition.” (27) A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong

But what if we were to flip this idea on its head? What if our mythological stories and the core of our spiritual beliefs do not express merely our ‘yearning’ for some greater narrative, but instead speaks to a deep, subconscious understanding of an underlying truth we can’t consciously make sense of?

In that respect, mythology and folklore could be viewed as the way our subconscious, soul-mind tries to bridge the gap between the long-view of our existence and our current, individualized, embodied, incarnation.

The Contrast – Our Soul Self

For the sake of argument, let’s allow ourselves to accept that this might be true; to consider a ‘long-view’ not just of humanity or society, but of our own, personal existence. Essentially, this would mean we live an incarnated or embodied life on a physical plane (Earth) and then transition through death to a disembodied existence, we then transition again through birth into another embodied life, and so on.

If we can allow for the possibility that we have a disembodied existence in addition to our embodied existence, we might wonder what this disembodied existence is like. In previous posts, I have referenced the Newton dialogues on the life-between-life experience. Although I would stop short of calling these ‘evidence’ because information garnered under hypnosis conditions can be highly suspect, they do offer an example of what a discarnate existence might be like in contrast to the embodied one.

“Dr Newton [“N” from now on]:,,,[4]Will you please describe to me the exact sensation you feel at the time of death? Subject [“S” from now on]: Like… a force…of some kind… pushing me up out of my body,,, I’m ejected out the top of my head. Dr N: What was pushed out? S: Well – me! Dr. N: Describe what “me” means. What does the thing that is you look like,,, S: (pause) Like a…pinpoint of light…radiating… Dr. N: How do you radiate light? S: From… my energy… I look sort of transparent white,,, Dr. N: And does this energy light stay the same after leaving my body? S: (pause) I seem to grow a little…as I move around. Dr. N: If your light expands, then what do you look like now? S: A…wispy…string…hanging”[5]

Contrasted with a “wispy string hanging” or a “radiating pinpoint of light energy,” the physical body must seem a heavy burden to carry. While it’s certainly probable that being a pinpoint of light comes with its own set of challenges, it’s unlikely that our string-self ever has the sniffles during allergy season, or has to throw-up or has to eat at all, or – by extension – poop.

Operating in a physical body must be an unfathomable experience for the disembodied. How would you describe what it’s like to have a body to a being that doesn’t have one?

Some people who champion the hypothesis of a disembodied existence refer to us as energetic beings or beings of conscious thought. Since even the heart of physics supports the idea that everything in the universe, including us, is made up of energy that seems plausible. Conscious thought could be one part of our existence that persists into a disembodied state. But, what about personality? Or imagination? Or memory? Are these qualities intimately tied to an embodied state or could they persist before and after death of the body?

My own experience with past life impacts and the field of past life regression in general suggest that some of these qualities at least carry over from body to body, which suggests they persist into a disembodied state. The Newton dialogues provide some examples that support this idea;

“S [different from before]: I’m hearing sounds. Dr. N: What sounds? S: An… echo… of music… musical tingling… wind chimes… vibrating with my movements… so relaxing.,,, I have a memory of scent and taste, too. Dr. N: Does this mean our physical senses stay with us after death? S: Yes, the memory of them…” (loc 313) – Journey of Souls, Michael Newton

The natural question that arises, of course, is – if memory persists through death – why don’t we remember our past life or life-between-life memories in the current life? It would certainly be a lot easier to accept the existence of a ‘soul’ if we did…

Next week we’ll talk about why we don’t remember our Soul’s existence apart from the body.

[1] A Short History of Myth; Armstrong, Karen; pg 4

[2] (1) A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong

[3] This is not, by the way, an argument that we should go back to the dark ages where we take everything on Faith.

[4] The original text is peppered with “…” ellipses, which makes it hard to use them to indicate that I’ve “skipped” some text not relevant to the discussion for the sake of brevity. Where I omitted text, therefore, I’ve used commas instead and kept the ellipses from the original text.

[5] (loc 180) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton