Neurology & Soul: The Shamanic Interface
– Peter McLellan
“The soul is that transcendent force that innervates us, allows self definition; our uniqueness that drives us to individuation. It is the glue that binds us together, the vessel that contains our spirit & guides us on our journey towards enlightenment. The soul is our unique resonance & its true purpose is to seek union with the divine. It is the landscape for our neurology and neurology is the landscape for the expression of our soul. It is the language, expression & poetry of our inner life”.
If we start with the premise that healing is essentially an integrative process then true integration must occur on all levels of our being. Healing without the mention of soul is anathema to true healing. Often the enormity of what the soul has to bring through is expressed in an inadequate landscape, ie, our neurology or the structure & function of our nervous system. So much of the ‘new age’ is fashioned on spirituality with its plethora of definitions & extraordinary range of healing options but rarely, if ever, is there an explanation of technique & its effect on neurology & soul. It is this combination of awareness, affect & outcome that gives shape & definition to our total humanity & the joy of full expression & self-actualization. If the body, soul & spirit are expressed fully in a balanced neurology then we can access our full potential & we are drawn inexorably, and without impediment toward self-realization.
Kinesiology, testing muscles that relate to & access internal function & neurology, can provide a profound insight into the functioning individual & how their body, mind & spirit are travelling. The shaman, steward of the soul, can view the soul in the form of the individual totem and what needs to be done to orchestrate healing at the deepest level of our being. Visionary Practice by a skilled practitioner is the interface between neurology & soul. It must be supported with an understanding of both. We can deepen to spirit with or without changing function. We seek depth, resonance & texture in our existence. Another take on this theme is that without the confluence of neurology & soul we lack that union we sorely desire. We may remain separate from “that” which is “I”. Our connection with the divine may be hazy, distorted or in some way inhibited or impeded if our neurological landscape is not optimized. To quote a client who succinctly expressed his life thus far: “It’s like looking through the wrong end of a telescope”
Hillman speaks of a profound juxtaposition, “The terms psyche & soul can be used interchangeably although there is a tendency to escape the ambiguity of the word soul by recourse to the more biological, more modern psyche. Psyche is used as a natural concomitant to physical life, perhaps reducible to it. Soul, on the other hand, has metaphysical & romantic overtones. It shares frontiers with religion”. The integration of psyche, soul & neurology removes the veil to that which is sacred in us. The Promised Land is in the heart, not in some far away place on some distant shore. When we go in search of the centre we navigate the physical landscape but this is only a reflection of our inner life, our personal mythology & nature. Life throws us around like a tumbleweed, models & shapes us, gnarls & strengthens us drawing us forward, our inner landscape & our outer world become one. The soul can only rest when it is fully integrated within the landscape of our dreams, our waking consciousness & all aspects of our divinity. Living a soulful life, a mindful existence fully embracing the inner & outer worlds is not only possible, it is desirable & essential for us to evolve & prosper in this incarnation. Once the path is clear at least then the search for meaning will make sense. To reinforce the basic premise: our soul, the wonder of our existence, our ‘being’ in the world is expressed through our neurology. Therefore our experience is mediated through the wonderment, complexity & beauty of our neurology. The Creator at ‘his’ most splendid and sublime, avails a numinous bequest bestowed on all who seek..
The Native Americans recognised the duality of soul. “The Life soul is the body motor which controls respiration, heartbeat, pulse & muscle movements”. (Hultkrantz; p 49). This may incorporate the Breath-soul or what the Greeks call pneuma or the sacred breath. Consciousness, God, Spirit, Creator is found in the “gap” or space between breaths. “The ego soul is an heterogeneous & sometimes obscure body-soul which provides a foundation for stream of consciousness & centre for thought, will & feeling, in short, the mind”. (Hultkrantz, p 78). The Free-soul is the soul that transcends physical or bodily death. It is more tangible in altered realities such as dream states or trance.. Hultkrantz also states: “The capacity to see the soul in the waking conscious state belongs only to the shaman”. (p 96) Often this representation appears symbolically and in the form of the personal totem. The totem travels with us, & can be seen in the outer world as well as in the inner landscape. Therefore when working at the soul level in healing it is essential to assess the state of the totem of the client.
Regularly in a clinical or healing setting we come across a client who is separate or at a distance from their soul, but they have been physically traumatised through accident, injury or abuse and their pain is separating them from their essence. There is a dissonance of soul & body. For want of a new term lets call this the “structural-soul”. There can be such a disturbance on the physical level that the client can lose any connection with who they are, direction, focus & form. In this scenario it has been my experience that when healing of the physical body occurs; i.e., structural neurology has been re-established, they not only regain physical wellness but also their connection to all those other levels of being. We can extrapolate from this that the symptomology was post-traumatic & more physically manifest. In the case of soul loss or soul damage this will not be the case. Of course there are many situations where all levels of being have been affected. The physical, emotional, mental & spiritual realms need to be attended to as the client may be in grave danger & if the correct diagnosis & treatment are not expedited their ability & will to remain in this world may be lost.
There are those of us who use our intellect to define the nature of reality and others who have a more sensate relationship with the world and their environment. A strong intellect without a soul connection can be even more dangerous or debilitating than those of us who seek meaning from a world where their ego places them in inferior logos. The search for meaning cannot be derived or driven from one centre but from the integration of the many. What Gurdgeiff calls the many “I’s”. If the soul carries our daimon or unique seed it is far better to germinate in a lavish garden than a barren landscape. Our ‘true self’ is so expressed in the mystery of the divine in union with our own heart. In yogic philosophy when the mind is still the soul resides in the heart. This principal also governs shamanism, Ayer Veda & oriental philosophies.
Working with the learning, intellectually disabled and neurologically impaired; Down’s syndrome, epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy as well as many acquired brain injury clients it becomes obvious that a lack of integration, mild or severe can fragment parts of our being, disconnecting the spirit from the body, & soul from neurology. This can create great suffering on an emotional, psychological & spiritual level leading to a lack or loss of identity, difficulty with personality development & crises of being. This separation of the soul is common and without accurate diagnosis & effective treatment can leave the client in the shadows of existence, on the edge and out of sorts with themselves & the world.
Integration of the heart can be viewed as a journey of the soul. This is beautifully depicted in Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. The true self enters the world and in most individuals survives but becomes buried beneath the world of expectation, demand and absorption by a world through trauma, pain & suffering, illness, neglect or abuse it plunges into the underworld. We have all experienced the dark night of the soul, where a veil is placed over our eyes and a web over our bodies to shackle & hinder, to stop us expressing our divine natures. At some point we may seek help. It may appear in the form of another, in revelation, or as an eruption of some yet untapped part of our inner psyche. We discover resources and begin to understand ourselves. And now we may express our true & divine nature perhaps for the first time as a mature human being with the benefit of experience & wholeness. We remember that which was forgotten, reconnect with our true self & the world, atonement. We can be blown off track by the four winds. We can lose our way & fall into the abyss, or we can stand at the precipice with full knowledge of our divine selves. Our cup is full, the grail is ours, the well erupts from the depths at the centre and we become fully present to our own humanity, integrated, whole & replete for the first time, no longer yearning for that which is lacking but tantalised & awakened to whom we have become.
Thou Art That; Transforming Religious Metaphor: Campbell, Joseph, New World Library, California, USA, 2001.
Ego & Soul: Carroll, John; Harper & Collins, Australia, 1988.
Fundamental Neuroscience: Haines, Duane. E, Churchill Livingstone, USA, 2002.
Soul and Native Americans: Hultkrantz, Ake, Ed. Robert Holland, Spring Publications, Quebec, Canada, 1997.
A Blue Fire: Hillman, James, Ed. Thomas Moore, Harper Perennial, USA, 1991.
The Souls Code; In Search of Character And Calling: Hillman, James, Random House, Australia, 1996.
The Body as Myth; Mythology, Shamanic Trance, and the Sacred Geography of the Body: Inner Traditions International, Vermont, USA, 1994.