Sometimes ideas take wing and become important in everyday culture, often losing context in the process. Somehow we forget that words are symbols, fingers pointing to the moon and not the moon herself. That may be the case with the concept of soul retrieval. Following are my thoughts on this.
Everything has spirit; that is, every tree and atom in the cosmos is connected to the consciousness that underlies creation. In addition to spirit, many beings have soul, an animating principle that seems to accompany one from life to life. Soul seeks balance and expression, and may fragment when the individual, family, or community is stressed or traumatized. I use the terms spirit and soul to point to living experiences rather than as the concrete objects; both remain, ultimately, a mystery.
Traditionally folks were very cautious not to offend the spirit of things. The idea is that the collective spirit of a species or community has consciousness and volition and is best treated with respect. Spirit has a long memory, so when one takes an animal or plant for food or other need, the need must be strong and the taken one must be acknowledged and thanked. It’s best to ask permission of the being before we take it. Otherwise the individual or collective spirit of that being may turn vengeful.
Souls seem to move along from one life to another, although all lives may be viewed as concurrent. To make things even more complex, some souls may return to the Creator and no longer reincarnate. Additionally, when in a body, soul appears to occupy multiple dimensions of experience. Souls may lose cohesion when under extreme stress, and aspects of soul may leave the body, taking refuge in alternative dimensions. Such fragmentation can be brief or chronic, individual or collective. Soul retrieval is the process by which fragments are returned to the body.
I believe soul retrieval is most effective when the person or community is ready to welcome the returning “parts”. This is tricky, for returning aspects of soul may well bring memories of traumatic events with them. Thus, there must usually be considerable preparatory work prior to the retrieval. Self must be ready to accept the returning parts and their suffering, as failure to do so may create a deeper rift between Self and parts, and make future repair more difficult. Yet there seems to be an idea in the culture that soul retrievals are a cure in themselves, requiring no preparation on the part of the participant.
I like to think of soul retrieval as a ceremony, requiring considerable preparation, careful attention to intent, and lots of post care. It is a good ceremony, powerful and profoundly healing when timely. It is also a ceremony that demands much of the participant. Like many ceremonies, soul retrieval is a metaphorical garden, requiring much preparation and tending to producing an abundant harvest, then tender care to assure future abundance. Maybe we do ourselves a collective disservice when we focus on the brief ceremony and ignore all the work that makes the ceremony effective.