Unit VIII. Healing the Soul


1.  Soul Loss
2.  Ego and Soul relationship
3. Healing Soul
4. The Native American World View
5. Native American Stages of Journeying
6. Coemergence
7. Triads

Materials needed: Journal, chart paper, ruler

Books needed:

Facets of Unity
Mending the Past & Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval  
Soulcraft (optional)


Living Daylight and Basic Trust
Working with the Holy Ideas
Soul Retrieval
Journey to the Lower World
Journey to the Upper World
Assessing Progress

I have a recurring dream that has been with me for years.  The general plot is as follows.  I have left the University, where I apparently live, and gone down into the city to shop or whatever.  When it comes time to return home, I can’t find my way.  The city is built like a wagon wheel with streets radiating out in every direction.  Some of them go near bodies of water and I’ve tried taking the ferry.  Others go out into the country and nowhere.  Still others go up on hills that surround the city, but none of them go to the University.  Or, should I make it to the University, I can’t find my room though the campus is familiar.  Sometimes I am at the University but on the wrong campus on a different hill.  I am lost in the city.  

This is a dream about soul loss, and it says that I think I live in my mind, but my mind is not my home.  Nor can I find my lost parts in my mind.  It also says that being in the world (the city) is not home.  I am lost in the world and can’t find my way home.  So are most of us though the soul may depict the situation differently in others’ dreams.

Soul Loss

The basic problem we are trying to solve on the spiritual path is to find our way home to the Beloved One where we belong and return to the loving arms from which we are separated.  Our souls know that they are eternal and only here on a visit, and they know the way home if we but allow them to lead us.  However, most of us have lost touch with our souls.  We have a vague feeling that somewhere, inside ourselves, is something valuable and prescient, but we do not know exactly how to approach it or what its parameters are.

Basic Trust  

Fear on the journey comes from the dread that we will lose our individuality, our separate identities.  This is where trust comes in.  Almaas (2002) gives a whole chapter in his book, Facets of Unity, to a discussion of the basic trust with which we are born.  This is confidence in the universe, a feeling that we are safe and secure in life, and that our needs will be provided.  There is an almost childlike quality of innocence in this definition.  And that clues us in to the fact that basic trust is a quality of soul.  We come in with it, and it is not reduced by life circumstances.  It can, however, be disturbed by our experiences as we grow up.

This is where ego enters the picture.  Unlike most psychologists, Almaas (2002) believes that ego is developed because of separation from Being and inadequacy of the holding environment.  In order for soul to grow normally, an infant must feel safe, secure and loved.  It needs to feel like its care is consistent, dependable, empathic and attuned to its needs.  If this occurs, a sense of connectedness to the universe ensues, and the child can open up to experiences in the wider world without fear.

Living Daylight

Living Daylight is a term coined by Almaas (2002).  It means a quality of Being that is full of light and feels like the alive, substance of consciousness.  It may be called Divine Love, Conscious Presence, Universal Love, Unconditional Love, Christ Consciousness or Satchidananda (which means presence, consciousness and bliss).  Almaas says that “Living Daylight is the first of these boundless or universal dimensions, meaning that it is the beginning of seeing that the whole universe is animate and conscious – pervaded by an intelligent consciousness. . . The Living Daylight dimension expresses Being’s goodness, abundance, beauty, and loving quality” (p. 34). The universe is pervaded by Love and its energy is Love.  We are existing in Love as fish exist in the sea.  Furthermore, we can communicate with It if we become quiet enough.    “This universal conscious presence is experienced not ony as loving but also as soft, sweet, gentle, and delicate, giving you the sense that you are held in a loving embrace by the universe” (p 35).  This is exactly how I experience Spirit.  You could think of Spirit as your personal link with the Divine One or the One reaching out to you in love since it is usually described in terms of loving relationship.  

Living Daylight is the essence of the environment we left in order to be born on earth.  This describes an ideal holding environment in which a child could grow and develop into an integrated, loving, joyful adult who is able to actualize his/her gifts.  

Exercise:  Living Daylight and Basic Trust

Read Parts I and II in Facets of Unity by A.H. Almaas.  See how much of your upbringing you can remember that fits with his theory.  Draw the diagram of the the Enneagram of the Holy Ideas.

Ego and Soul Relationship

Due to the need to delay satisfactions and to frame behaviors into socially acceptable forms, we all experience a certain amount of frustration and soul loss in infancy and childhood.  Ego and personality roles develop as structures to help us deal with these negative events.  Distrust and negative emotions develop as our  separation from the Beloved continues to be reinforced.  The ego constructs obstacles and defenses to do its work, and these cloud the otherwise transparent mirror of the soul.  So, eventually, we come to perceive the world and all that happens to us through perceptual filters.  In time, we even come to think they are real.  The soul’s basic nature is awareness, perceptiveness, transparency, luminosity and clarity.  But, by the time we are grown, it is all obscured by ego’s agendas, and we have lost touch with Living Daylight.

Because the ego has reacted against the soul’s natural tendencies, there is a certain amount of antagonism between the two aspects.  The ego uses repression to enforce soul loss and also to maintain separation from the Divine One (Dynamic Ground).  It then protects the repressions with defense mechanisms such as projection, denial, etc.  Consequently, the soul feels as if it has been abandoned and/or rejected.  And, in fact, it has been rejected by the ego rather than some external figure upon which the individual may be projecting the transference.  Finally, because a few pieces are missing due to the repression, the mind begins to do repetition compulsions in an attempt to find the way out of the morass.  This may create a full-blown neurosis if there is additional trauma.  All of this results in a great deal of suffering.

The Wound

The lostness reflected in the opening story is one part of our experience of soul loss.  Another is a primal wound.  This is the most traumatic experience that is associated with loss of soul.  The circumstances that surrounded it tend to be repeated throughout life as if the soul were trying to find the missing piece so it could heal.  For instance, eldest children often feel rejected when a second child comes along, and they do not understand that they must now share the attentions of their parents.  What happens in the child’s mind is an attempt to understand the situation, and the conclusion may be far from the actual truth.  Yet, it is the best the child can do at his/her level of mental development.  “I was not good enough, so they went to the hospital and got another little girl” may give you the flavor.

The Hole

The hole is an existential kind of emptiness at the center of the ego due to loss of contact with Being.  Because it is so often experienced before the advent of speech or imagery, the memory of it may be stored in the body somewhere.  Almaas says it is in the lower abdomen.  A whole structure is put together by the ego to protect the person from suffering this emptiness.  In doing so, it creates a distorted view of reality called a fixation or delusion.  This results in a particular type of reaction on the part of the soul which becomes twisted and thus affects all of our experience.  Following the reaction, is a specific difficulty that reflects the original distortion.  Almaas (2002) goes into this in great detail in his book Facets of Unity.  

Healing Soul

After ruling out physical causes for dis-ease, we would turn to psychotherapy to straighten out any difficulties with the mind and ego.  Although it may seem like a contradiction in terms, we need a strong ego in order to navigate the spiritual journey.  The legitimate function of the ego is to negotiate with the outside world and other people.  What we are dealing with in respect to ego surrender is the separation issue and the need for excessive control.

The spiritual journey is the next step in healing the soul, for the ultimate goal of the journey is to return the soul to union or identity with the One.  This requires acceptance of the necessary changes and of “what is,” allowing things to be as they are, and surrender of resistance to Divine Will.

In Christianity (Roberts, 1985), this is symbolized by the crucifixion and resurrection.  In the Unitive Stage, all aspects of the self are brought together around the stillpoint, then merged into the Christ Self (think of Spirit).  The Christ Self then surrenders to the Godhead in the crucifixion and is resurrected as the Godhead which you will recognize as an identity type of unity.  After that only God remains.

The work that Tolle (1999) recommends has to do with overcoming the resistance to what is going on Now.  We need to relax and accept “what is” because the past is gone and when we get to the future, it will be Now.  The Inner-body is the link between form and essential identification, the threshold to Being.  He encourages us to develop a strong sense of presence because it take strong presence to maintain conscious immortality.  Time or the idea of time is a major obstacle to recovering the soul.

Almaas works with the wounds and the Hole using a process of deep self-inquiry to help us regain the basic dimensions of Beingness that are our soul’s heritage.  He describes nine Holy Ideas based on the Enneagram that are associated with the delusions of the ego when they are distorted.  These Holy Ideas describe reality objectively, and Almaas’s work centers around recovering an objective structure of reality for the soul and ego relationship.  Doing this requires a certain amount of ego destructuring because the unrealistic delusions must be replaced with the truth.

Exercise: Working with the Holy Ideas

Read Part III in Facets of Unity.  Draw diagrams of the three triads and think about which one feels most compatible to you.  Then get some large (around 17"wide) chart paper or tape two pages of notebook paper together, and make 7 columns.  A small one on the left contains numbers of the Ideas.  Use the following headings: “Holy Idea,” “with Basic Trust,” “Specific Delusion,” “Specific Difficulty,” “ Specific Reaction” and “What to Do.”  Then fill in the columns grouping each triad together, i.e., Do #s 1, 7 and 4 along with their sub-ideas on one page, etc.  This will enable you to compare the triads and get a feel for the essence of each one.  It will also help you identify your specific delusion, etc.

This is very deep work, so you may find it necessary to outline the chapters to help you understand them.  I found it useful to make a glossary as I went along, so I could refer back to the initial definitions.  It is also helpful to diagram the whole Enneagram, and then to construct one for each of the triads using a darker line to connect the points that define each one.  Compare these to the diagrams of the specific delusions, reactions and difficulties to get a picture of how the ego constructs the structures that bind soul.

When you are finished, you will have a better sense of the wholeness and unity of the soul with the Divine One.  Prepare to spend a great deal of time on this exercise as it is very demanding.

The Native American World View

Native Americans, and most indigenous people for that matter, hold a world view that is much more empathic to the soul’s pain and suffering.  So I want to go into some detail about the view and also how they view the soul’s retrieval.

The world and all that is in it is alive.  It is all one Being.  And everything in it including the planet itself is ensouled.  That means we must think of the earth as a being who is alive, intelligent, conscious and nurturing.  That is why she is called Mother Earth.  The Father aspect is found in the sky: sun, moon, stars, galaxies, etc.  Notice how this division is similar to the Shiva-Shakti concept.  The earth is closer and more clearly matter than the sky and space, particularly space which is apparently unmanifest.  All creatures on earth are relatives as are all plants, minerals, etc.  Everything is related to everything else.  And all have souls.  This view goes against the scientific view, obviously.  So, if it bothers you, try to keep an open mind and see if you can experience it for yourself.

All of the entities on earth along with our ancestors and celestial guides are available to help us on our journey, and there are rituals to elicit their attention and guidance.  Each of the four directions represents a different form of power that can be called upon for assistance.  The medicine wheel is a diagrammatic representation of the four directions as well as the cyclic form of time.  Wakantanka is the name of the deity in many of the native cultures in the United States.

There are three worlds: lower, middle and upper.  The lower world holds the lost parts of soul, the deep feminine, information about our wounds, contracts we have made in the past even before birth, gifts and tools for the journey.  You could think of it as the unconscious.  The middle world is our daily, conscious life.  The upper world holds information about our destiny, what we have come into life to do, sacred contracts, ancestors, celestial parents and guides.

Everyone has an animal totem that, when contacted, becomes embodied as a helper empowering our instincts and protecting us on the journey.

Daily life for indigenous people is constantly in touch with the other worlds.  Rituals keep the beliefs fresh and intact.  Guidance is sought for all major activities and gratitude is a primary essential practice.  Prayer is a way of life.

Exercise: Soul Retrieval

Read Part I in Mending the Past and Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval by Alberto Villoldo (2005).  As you go along, make notes about things he says that resonate with you.  This book is mainly about journeying in the Inca tradition.

An alternative would be to read Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin (2003) which is primarily about vision quests in the North American tradition.  You may wish to arrange to experience this for yourself.

Native American Stages of Journeying

The Call may come at any time but it is usually at puberty (or young adulthood in modern societies).  It may induce a form of wandering in which the person goes into nature and simply wanders attempting to find his/her soul.  Initially, it may simply be leaving home to try one’s wings in the world.  Or it can take the form of a mid-life crisis during which the individual seeks a teacher and a compatible tradition.   Wandering may be followed by a cocoon stage in which a metamorphosis takes place: all one’s old life is finally discarded,  and this gives rise to a commitment to devote one’s life to the soul’s journey.  This commitment is absolute and life-changing.  To prepare for soul initiation, one must leave home, i.e., say goodbye to the old life and prepare for the new.  This takes time and its duration and feeling tone may resemble the dark night of the soul with which we are already familiar.

Soul initiation involves the tests and trials that determine one’s readiness to continue in the new life devoted to soul’s agenda.  It is a death and rebirth experience as are all initiations.  It means giving up childhood  interests and pastimes as well as the familiar old life in order to recover the image you were born with.  It may involve soul encounters, new teachers,  power animals, inner work such as with dreams and active imagination, communing with others in councils, silence, dance, trance, drumming, sweat lodges, use of signs and omens, and tracking.

The inner and outer worlds can be bridged with ceremony, rituals, symbols and art, sacred objects, stories, myths, listening, mirroring, poetry, music, chant, bodywork and breathwork.

One may go on a vision quest or use shamanic journeying for soul retrieval and to  accomplish ego destructuring. Both involve descent into the lower world to find and reunite lost soul parts.  Upon return one is expected to live his or her soul commitment and share the gifts received during the journey with the whole community.  Henceforth, the world soul becomes our responsibility.

Vision Quest

A vision quest involves going into the wilderness alone for a minimum of four days with only bare survival necessities.  You would be fasting which helps to bring on the vision.  The first few days are spent in lament and emptying of all that is not soul.  Then the ego controls begin to break down because the situation is one in which you feel completely helpless to protect yourself.  Fasting enables you to go into an altered state of consciousness in which you can experience basic paradoxes and overcome illusions of separation.  At some  point, often near the end of the fourth day, a vision will come in which your soul’s destiny is revealed.  You may also receive some gifts and/or tools for the journey, and you may meet your power animal.  Death of the old self results in cultivation of a soulful relationship to life.  This experience is enormously empowering because the individual is legitimately ensouled and rendered whole by the vision of self as part of the Divine One.

Shamanic Journey

This journey can be into the lower world or into the upper world.  Usually the lower world is visited before the upper one because it is necessary to integrate the soul with the rest of oneself before embarking on one’s destiny.  A journey is usually accompanied by drumming which helps to maintain the altered state of consciousness.  It may or may not be supported by hallucinogens (illegal in the US).  I believe there is usually a guide though it is possible to use a recording.

The following information is taken from Villoldo (2005).  One begins by opening sacred space.  Then a special breathing practice prepares the bodymind.  A guided journey follows that is similar to twilight imaging in which we are taken under-ground into a river where we are cleansed, then carried to a meadow where we meet the gatekeeper who will guide us through the four chambers of the soul.

The Chamber of Wounds is where we discover the original wound that initiated all the rest.  This wound is the root of your harmful emotional or recurrent patterns.  Here you discover the story of your wounding, who was responsible, when it occurred and how it is being perpetuated.  All of this is unconscious and contributes to the repetition compulsions we mentioned above.  Here are the origins of the themes and story of your life that you keep repeating endlessly.  In this event, you can dialogue with the characters to get answers to your questions.

Next is The Chamber of Soul Contracts.  These are tacit agreements we engaged in in order to survive as children or in order to survive a crisis in which we felt helpless to defend ourselves.  The tradeoff  was safety and survival.  There may have been no discussion, just enough repetition for a pattern to emerge and a reaction to become formulated.  It may have been a pact with oneself.  These contracts are usually unconscious and, therefore, have not been altered since their inception.  They become the source of our limiting beliefs, fears, and patterns of behavior, usually non-adaptive ones.  “When we don’t rewrite our agreements, we live unconsciously” (Villoldo, 2005, p. 71).  So we have to make these contracts conscious and change the terms of them in order to heal our souls.

The Chamber of Grace is where we retrieve the lost soul part that always remained in grace.  We cannot recover this as long as we are living in fear because fear is antagonistic to grace.  When we retrieve the lost part and renegotiate the contract, our basic trust is returned and we can live life in joy and peace.  This does not mean there will be no problems nor any conflict.  But it does mean that you will deal with them differently in a wholistic, more serene manner.  Integration of the lost part into your whole system is essential.

The Chamber of Treasures is where you will find the tools and gifts that will assist you in the future.  They are called “medicine gifts” because they have the power to help you manifest new directions in your life.  They have a mysterious quality, and their symbolism needs to be studied in order to get the most benefit from them.  This may take time and meditation to be accurate.  Allow the soul and the tool itself to guide you to its best use.

It may be that you will meet your Power Animal on this journey.  If so, you may dialogue with it to discover its gifts.  Then you must embody it.

We return by the same route we entered and, expressing our gratitude for the experience and our gifts, we close sacred space.

Exercise: Journey to the Lower World

Read Part II. in Mending the Past and Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval (Villoldo, 2005) and do the exercises.  There is a CD that accompanies the book you can use.  However, my experience of it was that there was no time allowed for the experience to unfold, so you may wish to use a pause button on a remote.  Or, if you do not have one, you can remember the steps and guide yourself perhaps with the accompaniment of a drumming tape.

Journeying to the upper world is a similar process except that we identify our limiting beliefs and discover our destiny which is what we came into life to accomplish.

Exercise: Journey to the Upper world

Read part III. in Mending the Past & Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval and do the exercises.  Reflect upon your experience in your journal and make a plan to dream a new world into being for yourself.

“The boundless dimensions are coemergent and inseparable, structuring the unity of Being.”
–A. H. Almaas (2002, p. 34)

There is an essential paradox embedded in trying to understand our relationship to the Divine One.  We are both It and not It at the same time.  Swami Radha used to say we are all cells in the body of God.  Sufis say that we were created so the Beloved could learn to know ItSelf.  Spirit says that I can perceive myself as either Spirit or separate from Spirit depending upon how I focus my attention.  So there is some sort of tuning process that allows us to experience ourselves as the One or as individuals.  It is this tuning process that we are tinkering with on the spiritual journey, trying to learn how to tune in to our divine selves. . . to the God within whom we have our being.  Fear on the journey comes from the dread that we will  lose our individuality, our separate identities.

I would like to suggest that our bodies are in our souls, that soul is larger than the body and contains it.  We can connect with it through our hearts.  Some say that there is an eight chakra above the head which is the abode of soul.  You will have to feel into your own soul to discover the truth of the matter for yourself.  This may take some time.


             Plato’s. . . “doctrine of the trinity,” where all monads have inside of themselves
                a manifestation of their own internal Unity in the form of an interconnected and inter-
                dependent triad, and since there only exist monads, all reality is a consequence of the
                inside movement of a triad (the “Law of Three” found in Plato’s Timaeus, the Chaldean Oracles, and                       the Hermetica).  – Ichazo in Almaas (2005, p. vii)

I cannot leave this without commenting on the omnipresence of triads.  We have repeatedly run across them throughout this guidebook, seeing the following:

Passive Active Balanced
Prakrti Purusa Ultimate Reality
Tamas Rajas Sattva
Known Knowing Knower
Seen Seeing Seer
Son Holy Spirit Father
Body Voice Mind
Nature Energy Essence
Calm Movement Presence
Nirmanakaya Sambhogakaya Dharmakaya
Presence Personal Essence Being

Table 6-8.  The Law of Three

In all of these triads, there is: 1) a calm, quiet, relatively stable aspect, 2) an energetic, moving aspect and 3) a balanced, integrated aspect that can either maintain its balance or divide itself into the calm and moving aspects in order to create something.  This suggests we might look at the Law of Three.

The Law of Three

The Law of Three says that every manifestation is the result of three forces: active, passive and neutralizing. Creation requires all three as we saw with the gunas.  Active and passive are the two aspects that produce dualities.  But the dualities need the neutralizing force, rather like a catalyst or director, to join and produce  results.  We met this law in the Kabbalah where Yod plus He led to Vau which, in turn produced He or Kether at the apex of the Tree of Life.  The Tree, in turn, incorporates the Laws of Three and Seven in its ten principles of creation (Sephiroth).  In this case, Binah is the feminine, receptive aspect, Hokhmah is the maculine, active principle and Kether is the balanced aspect.  Binah and Hokhmah together produce the rest of creation in line with the Law of Seven.   

“The Law of Seven governs succession of events and states that whenever any manifestation evolves, it does so non-linearly.  There is an orderly discontinuity in every progression of things, in every series” (Speeth, 1976, p. 45).  The musical scale is a good example.

Gurdjieff (Speeth, 1976) takes this a step further and applies it to dissolution.  The three wishes to return to one [three into one] which, in mathematical terms is 1 divided by 3. That equals .333333, a recurring series.  When the seven returns to one, however, we have 1 divided by 7 which equals 142857142857142. . .  In Gurdjieff’s Enneagram, points 3, 6 and 9 represent the Law of Three and the rest represent the Law of Seven (points 1, 4, 7, and 2, 5, 8).  Note that the number seven appears with regularity in the spiritual literature including the chakras, of course.   

Gurdjieff says that the  Law of Three involves friction between the positive and negative principles which leads to suffering - the neutral or non-dual principle.  We could see this as the struggle between soul and ego which can lead eventually to transcendence if some direction is given to the struggle.  Or we can see it in the Hierogamos, the inner marriage in which masculine and feminine aspects join into  androgyny.  Or Christ and Holy Spirit joining into the Godhead.  Or Purusa and Prakrti dissolving back into the Ultimate  Reality.

If all this is true, we can see that, in order to return to the Source, we must have all our parts.  When pieces of soul are missing, there is a gap in the process that would suggest that we keep recycling in the Law of Seven instead of being able to return Home according to the Law of Three.  You could go back and reexamine Almaas’ Holy Ideas to see if they fit with this interpretation.  In any case, we must do the soul work if we wish to continue the journey.

Practice: Assessing Progress

Find a quiet time and sit for meditation for a while until the mind is quiet and you can contact other aspects of your beingness.  [For ideas, consult the Glossary appended to this guidebook.]  In your journal make notes about the places you find that are still out of balance and that need work.  See if there are any connecting themes.  Then make a plan to address the issues that need attention.

In this unit we have looked at the issues around soul loss and why they need to be resolved in order to proceed on the spiritual journey.  Some  suggestions for soul retrieval were offered as well as some new ways to conceptualize the problems.


Almaas, A. (2002).  Facets of unity: The Enneagram of Holy Ideas.  Boston: Shambhala.  Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., www.shambhala.com.

Plotkin, B. (2003).  Soulcraft: Crossing into the mysteries of nature and psyche. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Roberts, B. (1985).  The path to no-self.  Boston: Shambhala.

Speeth, K. (1976).  The Gurdjieff Work.  Nw York: Pocket Books.

Tolle, E. (1999).  The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Villoldo, A. (2005).  Mending the past and healing the future with soul retrieval.  Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.

This completes Unit VIII Healing the SoulUnit IX. Bindu follows and deals with the gateway to liberation.

Logo   Back to Home