Exploring the Soul’s Journey
This new section shares some of my exploration about the idea that we each have a soul whose journey continues before and after this human lifetime. You may find this a useful change of perspective as things keep getting more confusing.
If you’d like to share your experiences or questions around the soul’s journey with me, just use the contact form.
Need a new angle on life? Try the soul’s journey
Would your situation make more sense if you know you’d chosen it?
If you share my belief that there’s an upside to most problems, where’s the gift in the way life is getting ever more confusing, and reliable information is harder to find? Maybe it’s prodding us to see life from a quite different perspective: as the soul’s journey.
It can be illuminating to imagine that we have a soul which exists before us and chooses this human lifetime, and the family we’re born into, to provide experiences and learning which it needs. Believing that the challenges in our life have a positive purpose has helped me hugely, and stops me feeling like a victim of circumstances. However, finding the positive aspect can be tricky!
The word soul is used with lots of different meanings. I’m using it in the same sense as several writers I respect, who see the soul as a living spiritual entity whose life may continue for thousands of years, which chooses a series to incarnations to learn and grow.
Some teachers believe these incarnations are always in a human body: some believe a soul may incarnate in a ‘simpler’ life form, like a cat, before human lives. And some believe souls may also incarnate on other planets in forms of life we can scarcely imagine.
This may all sound a bit far-out: it can certainly expand your horizons beyond the daily grind! I have been consciously exploring my soul’s journey for the past few years, and I’m getting quite practical insights from doing so.
Whilst it probably takes time, practice and patience to start a dialogue with your soul, it is worth persisting. I feel I have quite a clear sense of what my soul wants me to learn or change in this current lifetime. And the idea that positive steps I take now will benefit my soul in the longterm future makes those steps more worthwhile.
You’ll find more blogs and resource listings in the Soul’s Journey section of blogs on www.alanheeks.com
MAIN SOURCE BOOKS
The Soul’s Journey by Hazrat Inayat Khan. This is a fascinating and lucid exploration of the topic, by one of the leading Sufi teachers of the early 20th Century. He believes that each soul has a life which extends far before and after a human incarnation, and he offers many valuable pointers on how a soul in a body can make the most of this experience. He challenges the idea of reincarnation, but believes that souls coming into human life are guided and influenced by departing souls.
Testimony of Light by Helen Greaves. Is there an afterlife beyond this human one? What is it like? If we knew more about the afterlife, could that guide our human life here and now? This book offers some of the most convincing answers to these questions that I have found.
There are two voices in this book: the writer is Helen Greaves, but she is transcribing the voice of her dead friend, Frances Banks. Both were Anglican nuns, colleagues and friends: the book is written in the mid-1960s. Soon after Frances’ death, Helen started to receive a series of messages from her, describing her experiences in the afterlife. For a two page blog on this book see: http://www.living-organically.com/book-blog-testimony-of-light-by-helen-greaves/
Desert Wisdom by Neil Douglas Klotz. This book is a treasure house of key texts from the Middle Eastern spiritual traditions, restored to their full depth by Neil’s beautiful retranslations from the original languages. The book also includes commentaries, body prayers and meditations. It includes a variety of texts relevant to this topic, for example, some of Jesus’ teachings, and parts of Genesis.
OTHER RELEVANT BOOKS:
Healing into Life and Death by Stephen Levine. Stephen has done pioneering work with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Ram Dass and others with hospices and other projects connected with death and dying. Whilst this book is not about the soul’s journey, it offers excellent insights and resources for anyone with a life-threatening illness, and those who support them. It includes some excellent guided meditations.
Die Wise by Stephen Jenkinson. With lyrical prose, deep wisdom, and stories from his two decades of working with dying people and their families, Stephen Jenkinson places death at the centre of the page and asks us to behold it in all its painful beauty. Die Wise teaches the skills of dying, skills that have to be learned in the course of living deeply and well. Dying well, Jenkinson writes, is a right and responsibility of everyone. It is not a lifestyle option. It is a moral, political, and spiritual obligation each person owes their ancestors and their heirs: how we die, how we care for dying people, and how we carry our dead.
The Warmth of the Heart Prevents your Body from Rusting by Marie de Hennezel. A compassionate exploration by a French doctor of the perils and pleasures of aging. Very helpful about the positive opportunities of late old age and infirmity, and how to complete one’s life narrative. For a blog on this book, see www.living-organically.com
The Art of Dying by Peter Fenwick and Elizabeth Fenwick. This book was recommended to me by a hospice nurse. It is a guide to the dying process, with a focus on what happens to our consciousness during and beyond death, drawing on both structured research and personal accounts of both dying and near death experiences. They conclude “all the experiences we have been told of point to death being part of a structured and supportive process.” Peter is a leading neuro physiatrist, and his wife has written several books on health and family issues.
Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. Written by one of the most warm and engaging Tibetan Buddhist teachers, this is a relatively approachable way into the deep and complex Tibetan teachings about conscious dying, the life beyond, and how this can enrich life now.
All in the end is Harvest edited by Agnes Whitaker. This is a lovely anthology of writings, poems and prayers to support those in bereavement and other grieving situations.
Dying Into Love: This website offers some powerful wisdom from teachers with a lots of experience in this area, such as Rumi, Ram Dass and Joan Halifax. See www.dyingintolove.com
Dying Matters: A UK website raising awareness of dying, death and bereavement. It encourages people to talk about dying, and offers useful practical advice, contacts for support and links to other useful organisations. See www.dyingmatters.org
Conscious Ageing Trust: this offers compassionate conversations about death and dying via a growing network of Live Groups, a web-site with a members-only forum, and open access areas for resources and essential information about death and dying. Set up by Max Mackay-James. See www.consciousageing.org Stephen Levine: useful material on his website, www.orphanwisdom.com and some excellent videos of talks by Stephen and Ondrea Levine are on www.levinetalks.com.
Note: this is the resource list developed for the Souls’ Journey workshop in 2015.
Testimony of Light by Helen Greaves
Is there an afterlife beyond this human one? What is it like? If we knew more about the afterlife, could that guide our human life here and now? This book offers some of the most convincing answers to these questions that I have found.
There are two voices in this book: the writer is Helen Greaves, but she is transcribing the voice of her dead friend, Frances Banks. Both were Anglican nuns, colleagues and friends: the book is written in the mid-1960s. Soon after Frances’ death, Helen started to receive a series of messages from her, describing her experiences in the afterlife.
Reading this book made me realise that my dominant images of the afterlife are quire flimsy and simplistic: a Heaven and Hell, loosely derived from the Old Testament and a lot of medieval art. Plus a bit of karma dogma from the East. Whereas Frances Banks describes a more subtle, encouraging afterlife, much closer to the original teachings of Jesus as explored in the work of Neil Douglas Klotz.
After death, Frances joins the team in a sort of Rest Home:
“Souls are brought here from earth and from other places… when they are ready…”
“Many who arrive here are either completely overwhelmed by the fact of a further existence, or disillusioned because … they have envisaged a heaven … (where) henceforth no efforts would be required from them.”
An example of this further work is “to right the wrongs they have done in their earth lives by concentrated thoughts of forgiveness and compassion.”
What we might call Heaven is not a static condition, but a long, exciting process of expansion:
“Our ‘inner eyes’ are opened gradually or swiftly to the errors of our old patterns of thinking and acting. We are allowed to progress into such experiences as will help us to put right these errors.”
“There are no tenets, no hard and fast rules… All is individual, yet all is for the good of the whole.”
“Each soul and each group moves onward towards greater expansion… Yet all the same time… directs ‘backward’ to the plane below,… the fruits of its knowledge.”
Her experience supports the idea of the soul’s life before and after human form, and of reincarnation. She believes there is “a Pattern and a Plan”, and that “the soul needs to ‘project’ some part of itself back into the denser environment of earth in repeated attempts to master the trialsand stresses of those vibrations.”
And she believes a soul chooses the key events of its forthcoming life, to give it the experiences it needs.
She reports a conversation with Pierre Curie who says: “Mankind… learns slowly and such slow progress with many mistakes brings pain. But if you regard life from the angle of an eternalprocess you get a different feeling about it. The Life Force is not expanded on only one terrestrial globe.” (p54)
Frances finds thatSoul Groups are an important part of the journey: “We are members not of one group but of many…”theseinclude our Family Group, and Groups of Interest, such as the arts, education, social service. Typically these groups will include souls in a human life, and souls in the afterlife. These groups will include people we know in earthly life, possibly those we find repellent, as well as those whowe feel strongly drawn to.
The form of “hell” she describes is far more encouraging than the archetypal pit of flames. She writes about the Shadow Lands, but explains that people can move beyond them when they choose to turn to the “Light of Love”, and many helpers visit to help souls make this change.
So what can we learn from all this to guide our life in a body? Firstly, the idea that we are part of Soul Groups who want to share their wisdom with us, and learn from our experience. Secondly, that “the great purpose of life in matter is to illumine matter with Spirit”, and “the great secret of finding that Spirit was the ‘letting go’ of self.” Thirdly, that “the inner life of the soul within the body-mind on earth decides the first future ‘home’ on this level.” Fourthly, as one of her mentors says, “Prayers and good thoughts for those who have left the earth life, by their fellowsstill in incarnation are a great aid to our work here.”
Her experiences give a great sense of continuity and scope for progression. For example, there are the chances to understand much more deeply what happened during ones earthly life looking back at it, and actually to rectify mistakes one made. She also comments “That much of what we thought praiseworthy on earth is mediocre to us in the Light of wider knowledge, and conversely much for which we blamed ourselves and were blamed by others, is viewed here from a wider angle and even becomes merit!”
These are only brief fragments of a really fascinating narrative: worth reading from cover to cover.
Testimony of Light by Helen Greaves is published in the UK by Rider: ISBN1-8441-3135-1