Recently I placed a tape recorder next to Francis a Catholic priest friend. I then questioned him about “The Soul.” Here are his annotated answers …
I’ve been a Catholic priest for many years. I know about souls as a practical thing; I know that as a priest I can remove the black strain of a mortal sin from a soul during confession. Small sins, what are called ‘venial sins’ only leave little marks the soul and do not preclude one from going to Heaven.
You have challenged me to give you a definition. I’m not sure I can, but I certainly will try.
From my experience, in practical terms, the soul is the spiritual part of ourselves on which our activities in life are engraved. Consider it a passport that we take with us to the pearly gate – and what is written in it determines our eternal future.
This was implied in the Catechism classes we had in school. But really very little is said about the soul in any of the theological material I’ve encountered. It seems the idea of the ‘Soul’ is taken for granted within Christian religions – it is not even a question of belief or faith – rather the ‘soul’ is presented as a given – an a priori premise.
Your question is difficult and confusing, I don’t think anyone has attempted a definition, which is strange considering how central the idea of the immortal soul is the very purpose of religious activity.
So you have given me a real challenge – the best I can do is to make the following propositions …
1 The soul is not integral to one’s body. Rather it is connect to the spiritual side of one’s being.
2 The soul is more than just the spiritual side of us – it is also our essence. It encloses and permeates the body. Consider Jung’s definition of the self as against the ego – that’s a good place to start. It is the comprehensive part linked to everyone’s reality – maybe you can call it the eternal part. Being spiritual it is intangible, but it has, to something to do with the self – with the essence of ourselves.
3 The soul needs nourishment. It is feed, it lives off, all that is ‘real’… everything that has a spiritual element – art, literature, music and (very much) the truth.
After a little reflection Francis went on.
Jung that there are two centers of the personality. The ‘Self’ which is the center of the totality of a person – including the consciousness, the unconscious, and the ego. The Self is both the whole and the center. And inside, and a little to one side of the Self is the Ego – the part of us that contains the conscious awareness of all our mental and social interaction.
I’ll now add some of my understandings to the discussion
Jung’s two ideas of self and ego is often represented as … 1, large circle (the self, embracing the whole totality of the person) and … 2 a smaller circle jutting out from the larger one (the ego, inside the totality of the self and also outside in the world of social interaction).
Jung considered that from birth every individual has a self – a personal feeling of wholeness.
Is self another word for soul? – is this inborn personal feeling of self our soul? The obvious suggestion is that we are indeed born with a soul and then as we grow we add to this personal feeling of self with an ego. This happens because we live in a society with people and become socialized by adding behaviors and understandings so creating and strengthening our ego. Jung suggests that this process of ego development occupies the first half of our life.
While in the second half of our life we learn that the ego (with its associated persona) is not the total reality of ourselves.
The realization that our total self exceeds our persona and ego can cause a personal breakdown; a crisis that needs the help of a Jungian Psychologist so that we can accept and cope with this uncomfortable reality.
So to use Jung’s concepts and terms … at death we leave behind the persona and the ego taking just the self – the soul – through the gateway of death.
(If you are armored with Jung you may feel that I’ve been a bit free with Jung’s concepts. But I don’t think so given Jung’s Christian childhood with its ghostly communications.)
Now all the above is fine and dandy, but what has it to do with the concept of the “Double”?
Is the Double the soul?
No, no that’s not possible! The soul is the goody, good part of us, the spiritual part that we take to the heaven. The spiritual part – it is made from ‘sugar and spice and all things nice.’
And surely the Double is the part of us that is open to the vales of the devil – undoubly made from ‘puppy dog tails.’ *
* The Australian Aboriginal concept of the Double needs much description. (coming up). The totem (animal group to which one belongs) is connected to individual inside the mother’s womb at the Devic location of the quickening. Not quite ‘puppy dogs’ but certainly animal, bird or fish.
But we still lack a definition of ‘soul’.
The absurdity of the situation was brought home to me when I looked up ‘Soul’ on the web.
There are many misunderstandings and bad definitions on the web … here are two from Wikipedia …
The Ancient Greeks used the same word for ‘alive’ as for ‘ensouled‘, indicating that the earliest surviving western philosophical view believed that it was the soul was which gave the body its life. The soul was considered the incorporeal or spiritual ‘breath’ which animates (from the Latin, anima, cf. animal) the living organism a concept of the soul that stands up to a little investigation.
“The Soul” in the discussion above is a circular definition and once the body is dead, the soul dies. So this definition is useless when it comes to considering an ‘afterlife’.
Many of the other arguments in favor of the soul are similarly circular.
From Thomas Aquinas … the soul was definitely not corporeal: for, if it were corporeal when it knew what some corporeal thing was, that thing would come to be within it. Therefore, the soul had an operation which did not rely on a bodily organ and therefore the soul could subsist without the body. (Thomas Aquinas is a prime Catholic Theological source. No wonder that Francis, my Catholic priest friend, had troubles defining the Soul.)
At this point the discussion on the web gets complicated.
Maybe the simplest explanation is that we have two souls.
One is the Double – the Body Mind – and the other is the Spirit Mind … In modern parlance, the so called Higher Self.
Spiritualist people – who believe (or is it understand) that mediums actually connect between our daily world and the world of the dead – consider that the souls of dead people continue in a parallel existence near to our lives … share a to and fro, conversational communication with us in our world through people with mediumistic talent.
Spiritualists do not consider that the Soul has a Double and a Higher Self aspect that separates shortly after death. The belief that the Soul stays as an integrated personality after death is common in Western culture. Many Asian and primitive cultures believe in a gradual desolation of the Soul after death. I have a similar view myself.
It seems to me that the ghost that Mediums contact in the “Worlds of the Dead” are just left over Doubles that haven’t dissolved and so bother the living for energy to continue their existence in the World of the Dead.
Having attended about a dozen spiritualist meetings I developed the insight that what is coming through the medium was really from the World of the Dead but contained nothing of real value. I was constantly reminded of my aged and increasingly senile mother who could recall but was totally unable to integrate new ideas or develop new insights. Her Higher Self had departed and all that was left was the Double – the animal part of her personality.
Here is a cut from Colin Wilson’s book “The Occult”; it is from page 651, I have slightly annotated it for readability.
There is a basic question, “Does the soul – the personality of a person continue after death?” raised again in the year 1970 by appearance of an extraordinary recording entitled ‘Rosemary Brown’s Music’…
Rosemary Brown was a London housewife and a medium. In the 1960’s she began to hold spirit-conversations with an elderly gentleman who introduced himself as a musician. In 1965 she became aware that he was the composer Liszt.
Mrs. Brown could play the piano, although not particularly well, and knew a little about music. At Liszt’s dictation she wrote down a few pieces in his style. Then Liszt brought other composers, including Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Brahms and Debussy. Mrs Brown was soon taking down music as fast as she could write.
Some of the pieces she transcribed were considered to be practically first quality by the particular composer; all were could be considered very good.
But let’s consider; if Beethoven or Brahms agreed to compose music so as to convince us that they are still alive, we immediately anticipate something totally convincing, something that startles the listener with its power and audacity … as the opening bars of the Fifth Symphony startled Beethoven’s’ contemporaries.
And there is nothing of the sort in what Mrs Brown collected. In fact, all of it could have been composed by any skilled musician. Mrs. Brown is not a skilled musician; she does not even have a gramophone in her house. And so the balance of probability is on her side – she was indeed receiving the music from outside of her own personality.
Yet the question remains, “If the great composers wish to convince us of life after death, why do they not do it by composing a masterpiece?” That would be the most overpowering evidence. If the spirits could add one poem or symphony of genius to our present stock, it would be influential evidence of continuing life after death.
My answer as to why the dead List, Beethoven or Brahms didn’t write a great new piece was because there was only a Double left, the Higher Self having long since departed. Their ghosts behaving like my senile mother.
This assumes (of course) that the left overs of List, Beethoven or Brahms really did come to Mrs Brown and communicated through her. I have my doubts about that – but let’s leave this aside for the moment.
To use Jung’s terms Self = Higher Self and Ego = Double … this is not a perfect conceptual fit between the two concepts but it is adequate for this discussion.
This may be a good place to look at what happens at death and at funerals. Back to Fr Francis …
Working as a funeral celebrant I came to the conviction about the endurance of the self. When people celebrate the funeral of a person there is something profoundly true about making a fuss about the person who died, about the life of the person who died.
My response to this was …
That’s because ‘The Soul’ of the dead is around and assessing his or her life. Remember that the body is present at the funeral and so the Soul can readily find itself at the funeral.
Below I’ll add a dense summary of my personal wisdoms (such as they are) and a chapter from a ‘faction’ novel that I wrote a couple of years ago. As you will see I’ve abandoned the discussion of soul and have moved on to death, funerals and the afterlife …
After the funeral the Soul leaves (and if all is going well) journeys to another location in the Cosmos. People with different beliefs, who participate in different religions apparently go to different locations. All these locations are ‘real’ places created from ‘thought matter’. On arrival the Soul is greeted by St Peter or a similar guardian entity. Once there help and solace seems to be provided by people who have died. This eases the transition to the bodiless situation the Soul now experiences.
Western spiritual seers call this location as “Summerland” (a perpetually flowering park). Chinese Buddhists describe a similar location as “Western Heaven.” Here, over time (maybe years) the Double – the Body Mind – dissolves. When the Double (the Body Mind) has lost its body it cannot maintain its identity for long; it disintegrates and to once again becomes part of the earth.
If the Double aspect of the Soul is afraid to leave its life on earth (perhaps because of an unconfessed moral sin) it hangs around as a ghost. To manifest, as ghost it needs energy; this can be geomantic earth energy but human energy gives the clearest manifestations.
Once the Double has separated from the Soul the Higher Self aspect can move to locations beyond Summerland or Western Heaven. Where to? For how long? And even why? These are questions that which I can only make half plausible suggestions … eternal heaven, nirvana, rebirth, existence on another planet? You may have other ideas.
For a change of pace and style I will add a piece I wrote a few years ago. It is a chapter in my unfinished Book “Message Stone in France”. The chapter describes a funeral ceremony in a small town Catholic Church. It describes my visualization of what occurred; how there was a separation of parts. I guess in the end there is no, “one path” to death and separation of the ‘Soul’ … and there is no simple answer to what happens after life.
Message Stone in France.
Chap 5 “After Death”
“How old are you?” asked Rosline.
“Getting interesting. Getting nearer, it about time to experience death.” Seeing Steven’s startled response she added, “No I don’t mean you are going die today or tomorrow.”
“Good, I think.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s about Jean Pere. I knew him a little; he is having his funeral today at 14.00. He was died last week, at 52 with cancer – the doctors where looking after him and he didn’t see a Priest. Still, that makes no difference everyone exits through the church up on the hill.”
“The Barbezieux church that I visited two weeks ago?”
“It’s the only church in town; this is a Catholic part of France.”
“That’s the church with the giant?”
“He may have changed shape again. You’ve digested your lunch – take the stone and walk up slowly. Sense the old town, feel the hard stones under your moccasins, smell the musty air, hear the twittering French voices”
“You mean get into a meditative mood?”
“Yes, become a pilgrim to the door of death. They have Saint Peter up there, he’s lost his hand and with it the keys. But he is still there watching over funerals.”
“And deciding who he lets inside the Pearly gates?”
“No Steven, it’s not like that at all. You’ll see – use the stone to gain your meditative insight – only if you have to.”
“It’s in my pocket, wrapped in the scarf.”
Arriving at the church at ten minutes before 2 there were clumps of somberly dressed men.
I, Steven, dressed in a white jacket taking tourist photos became invisible. Sneaking into the church he had a distant view of the white robed old priest pacing around the altar, swinging censor on a long chain.
Moved to bless himself to clean the town’s vibrations from his clothes Steven used the holy water in the font to the left of the door to bless himself, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.” The simple ritual elicited a response from the Deva of the church. No longer a giant it was once again the ball of light that Steven had first perceived. It sent out a little hallo of greeting, the French touching of two cheeks.
Left, over his head, an ugly plaster cast of an angel was holding a censor on a chain. The old priest walking towards Steven was swinging an identical censor. From it issued a wift of pine essence. Ignoring Steven, the priest continued to purify the church with slowly moving lips and a limping walk. Finished, he left the censor in a nitch at the angel’s feet and returning to the altar, dragging a stroke effected right leg.
Steven photographed St Peter’s keyless hand and moved quietly into a pew. Sitting he noticed that there was no kneeling board. “Churches have become theatres,” mused Steven as he waited for events to unfold.
Moving back up the aisle the Priest greeted an old woman, Jean Pere’s mother? Behind her many others slowly streamed in the church to find places in the front rows.
Steven tried to reduce the size of his aura to help ensure his invisibility. He felt the weight of the stone in his pocket and moved it into a more comfortable position. Removing the tape recorder from his right pocket, he hid it in his hand. The Organ music started … dark, somber notes that quickly washed away the lingerings of pine. Starting the recorder Steven noted is impressions.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have touched the stone. The giant is gone, the big round deva that I first saw is in the church, it’s edges are softening as people arrive and sit. The priest says a few words, the Deva firms up its outer edge. The onion Deva underneath, becomes attentive. The huge spinning energy cylinder over the church – the spire deva? It tries to vibrate in time with the music …. All three become one and try to vibrate with the music – a lady sings, a good voice but, the church’s shape, the organ, the singing and the amplifier are out of harmony – terrible, again I want to leave the church.
The priest goes to bless the coffin, the altar boys move around. A light forms above the coffin a white ball of light; it expands to 10 meters across. The lady continues to sing, the organ makes musical noise. People sit down. The lady’s voice talks through the amplifier. She speaks about Jean Pere.
Ah, a shape arrives; four, five meters tall. It must be Jean Pere. He’s standing, no he’s held up by two beings. Angels, I guess I have to call them; he is held up because he doesn’t have the strength to stand. He seems to have brought here, lifted out a deep sleep by the angels … Jean Pere stands loosely, puzzled about being here.
The priest at the altar – old tired, perhaps wondering if he will be next. He speaks of Jesus, a marvelous old voice full of effort and force.
It looks like JP has collapsed, his head hangs down, he is being held by Angel hands clasped around his biceps; he looks like an image of Christ on the cross. – Limp, head down, dead.
JP has been brought here – he didn’t expect to be here – or want to be here … brought to his own funeral to meet his dead body.
The priest keeps speaking, the story of JP’s life echoes electronically around the church. JP looks around startled, as if expecting something. His body shape is separating from him, curling up downward, rolling off in curls like a croissant. Flame, no some energy is rising – but it still attached to the body as it curls downwards. JP’s soul is that what the angels are trying to pull away from the downward curling blackness? The soul, the energy body, ghost of JP – I don’t know what to call it – is trembling with the priests words … shaking, vibrating, enlarging, changing colours … blue, flecks of red, orange, yellow, green, green, orange, blue. The ghost grows in strength and intensity – are the colours the outward expression of the memories of JP’s life?
The ghost retreats into the curled up shape that rest on top of the coffin. The shape changes into a fetus – like a baby curled inside a womb. Light again builds in the space over the coffin, it is flecking colours and rebuilding in size … the large devic energy ball of the church is holding all this inside itself. It looks almost like an image inside a crystal ball
… the top of my head is getting sore, the area between my eyes is hot …yawn…
The image in the crystal ball sharpens … I must relax my body … yawn. The space above my head is vibrating – that’s why my head hurts …yawn, yawn.
The ghost, or soul, – or whatever it is – is going into the head of everyone here up front … maybe me too … which may be why I’m yawning. It seems to be balancing on people’s heads…
The colours – the spread out ghost of JP – are being pulled through the roof of the church – whisking upwards into the spire deva on top of the church. Yes, JP’s old memories – the energy patterns of his life are moving upwards through the roof.
People stand, move towards the altar, dark colours and shapes fall from the bubble into the clumped mourners; they look like tadpoles – moving, swimming around the coffin, dark and cold, attached to the underworlds … The music matches the people – tadpoles in the coffin’s pond.
The priest stands at the altar, he looks into the church, his hands open, palms facing each other … he is standing within the bubble of light generated by the marble relic slab on the altar. That’s why he is safe from colours and shapes falling into the bodies of the congregation … What are they? … They travel through people into the onion under the church.
Is it happening to me too? No I don’t think so, I’m safe back out here … why did I yawn?
JP is half in the church, half in the spire above, half in the mourners … confusion indeed.
The black dressed morticians walk down the aisle, 1,2 …1,2 …1,1 walking in pairs they march towards the coffin – dog spirits, no hennas they are here to collect their bones. The music gets louder, ominous…
The coffin rests on a wheeled platform, rolling silently down the aisle towards the door. Followed by old, by young, by flowers and the priest. Candles are extinguished. People walk past, I remain unnoticed. The plaster angel watches from the door unmoved. Soon the church will be empty.
“What happened,” asked Rosline?
“Confusion. The way of death is complicated. I’ll play you the tape. But first I have one question. Why did I get a hot head and yawn and yawn?”
“Jacob’s ladder, back at the Druid glade last week – remember we swapped places and then you stood there in the hole between the earth and sky and felt the energy rushing through you? That was the job there, to keep the earth feed and healthy. We humans are Jacob’s ladders – living energy links between above and below.”
“Ok, understood, so why did I yawn?”
“Because – like everyone else there – your body energy was being used to make the funeral work. Our body’s yawn when they move energy about, taking it from our kidneys to where ever it’s needed.”
“But I feel fine now, not drained.”
“Because you are a Druid in the making! Energy flows easily through you and you can pick it up again – the walk back from the church would have been enough.”
“And the others there?”
“I think that the church … the energy Deva in the church is more than capable of protecting people. That church is good place, copied from the Dolmans around here.”
Steven cut in, “The church is copied from the Dolmans? Are you kidding?”
“No, it’s so, Romanic churches use the same energies as Dolmans – and some of them were designed to help people die.”
“I did say confusing!”
“It all hangs on your idea of death. My experience at funerals – I’ll tell you about it – tells me that the good part of the soul leaves and travels to heaven. While the heavy, earthly parts of the dead get dumped into the earth.”
“And people are needed for the dumping?”
“Yes, the Jacob’s ladder works up and down. We live on, above and below the earth.”
“Confusing; well complicated.”
“Stop and think, tell me about the old ways in Australia, you must have read about them in your work.”
“That’s easy; tribes differed lots – but only in the details. Their first big problem was that nobody died without bad magic being put on them by someone. So revenge killings between groups were a constant daily threat.”
“I hadn’t heard about that.”
“Babies were and exception to that – because they died so easily, but otherwise the literature … Oh what else happened? Lots of noise and people hit themselves so lots of blood spilt on the ground. Pretty ghastly. Then when it was all over they left the camp where the death had occurred and didn’t come back. There are advantages to being nomadic.”
“The blood on the ground was to help the dead’s soul separate, the good parts going up and the bad going down. From what I’ve seen it’s the same here now. But the church – and before that Dolmans made it easier on people.”
“No Dolmans in Australia. But now that you’ve pointed it out I’m sure that Aboriginals really feared the negative parts of the dead, the parts that didn’t get to ‘heaven’- to use your words. That explains why they hammered their heads and cut themselves up – they wanted to make sure the dead had enough energy to get away and so didn’t become a menace in the worlds of the living.”
“You are right, the dead can harass the living, it happens here too. If people don’t want to die, or aren’t ready for it they hang around, call for attention and try to get into peoples’ minds and bodies.”
“Is it common?”
“In the old better parts of Europe, unfortunately, yes. People have been living and dying here for hundreds of thousands of years, not all have gone for a good rest, it infests the soil … but we’ll talk about it some other time. Can I hear your recording?”
“You had a complicated one. JP was a good man but a materialist. It sounds like he was surprised, no better unprepared for what was happening to him. Poor guy. What usually happens is better than that, surrealistic no doubt, but not so complicated.”
“You mean materialists have problems when they die.”
“The word you were using, ‘complications’ is the right word. The church helped, the angels helped, the priest helped – and maybe you helped.”
“Yes your yawning shows you were involved. You supplied energy to let it happen. Usually not so much is needed, not for old people, they usually are happy to go.”
“Tell me about it.”
It is surrealistic. People in the church are sad and crying while the departed stand, as a noticeable ghost, next to the coffin trying to make themselves noticed. They try to reassure the living that not gone and there is no point in crying.”
“The energy in the church works to separate the bodies of the dead – the lower parts and the higher parts … the physical, the etheric and the astral bodies get taken apart.”
And that’s separation the stone helped me experience?
“Yes, but it’s usually not so dramatic, the energy of the church does most of the work – as I said, churches have been built to do that work. The earth energy from underneath – your onion – works with the energy from above to pull the dead apart. With old people it’s usually quick and easy. I’ve seen an old priest just give a swirl, almost a wave and head off into the sky.”
“Was what I saw unusual?”
“It was good that it worked. Young people often don’t separate. There is too much energy left in their body – they hang around the coffin, they come with it and go with it. Cemeteries are not nice places, so they return to haunt their house, their wife, their girlfriend.”
“That’s an interesting thing about aboriginals, they say when children die they don’t go, they hang around with the parents.”
“Not only aboriginals, it’s common for all people, miscarriages and abortions stay next to their mothers.”
“And the church does all this by itself.”
“That’s why there is that angel statue in the church, it helps people realise that the church is a special place.”
“Did I really see angels?”
“It will all become clearer when we visit some Dolmens.”
(Steven Guth 2014)