The Soul Cluster: Reconsideration of a Millennia Old Concept (cont.)
By Ede Frecska, Levente Móró and Hank Wesselman
The soul concept of Classical Greece
Lack of direct experience can partly explain – at least – that in our own time, the concept of the soul is one of the most ambiguous, confusing, and poorly defined of our human ideas. As the antipode of the material essence, it exists as an entity substantially different from the body. Within this concept, the soul is the principle of life, action and thought and in this framework, body and mind can depart from it and go on in separate paths (like in Hindu mythology)… or they cannot be separated but can be opposed to each other (as in the three Abrahamic religions). In other approaches, the soul designates the totality of the self, refers to every level of the individual, and represents both the essence and the wholeness of human nature.
In this essay we are going to refer to it in the latter meaning.
Discovering the “true” nature of the self has always been part of the Great Mystery, for unless one understands who and what we are, one cannot experience the mantle of authentic initiation. In Western philosophy, the Fifth Century BC Ionian philosopher, mathematician and mystic Pythagoras was the first to express his ideas about this during the classical period, proposing that every human being has three principia: a physical aspect (body or soma), an intellectual-emotional aspect (mind or psyche), and an immortal spirit. Pythagoras’ three principia have influenced numerous thinkers and philosophers across time – among them Plato, Aristotle, Galen of Pergamon, and the Renaissance physician Paracelsus. One must also keep in mind the Freudian “Id – Ego – Superego”, or the Jungian “conscious – subconscious – collective unconscious” personality models, both of which converge on this ancient perception.
Yet the tripartite division of human nature was probably recognized far earlier than Pythagoras since we can find its categorical depictions in the many millennia old shamanic traditions of the indigenous peoples. In fact it is conceivable that the Greek philosopher himself was drawing on the shamanic traditions of tribal cultures. Christopher Janaway (1995) wrote: “The body of legend which grew around Pythagoras attributes to him superhuman abilities and feats. Some think these legends developed because it is more likely that Pythagoras was a Greek shaman.” Indeed, Aristotle described Pythagoras as a wonder-worker and somewhat of a supernatural figure. According to Aristotle and others’ accounts, some ancients believed that he had the ability to travel through space and time, and to communicate with animals and plants, all features that link him with the shamanic tradition (Huffman, 2009). Herodotus and modern scholars (Dodds, 1951, pp. 135–178) admit that Greek civilization was greatly influenced by the shamanistic culture of the Black Sea Scythians in the 7th century BCE. Kingsley (1999, 2003) presents evidence through the fragmentary writings attributed to the 6th Century mystic and shaman Parmenides of Velia, a small town in southern Italy, that the shamanistic tradition (iatromantis) actually formed the foundation for Western thought and philosophy, one that Plato did not fully understand. Seen in this perspective, Pythagoras and his fellow ‘Pythagoreans’ were most definitely practitioners and teachers in the shamanic foundation.