A main theme of The Ascent of Humanity is an Age of Reunion that is to follow the Age of Separation whose end we are witnessing today. In this transition, the converging crises of the planet are the birth pangs. Like a newborn coming to the breast, our species will experience a Reunion with each other and with Nature, yet at a new level of consciousness. We will recover the harmony and authenticity of the hunter-gatherer era—the womb of our species—at a higher level of organization and awareness.
Part of this organic transition is the emergence of new modes of human relationship. The Age of Separation progressively dismantled the ties of tribe and village, clan and kin, replacing them with the distant, anonymous relationships of a money-based machine economy. Hence, the loneliness and alienation of consumerist society.
But even as the alienation reaches its maximum, new modes of human relationship are born. Some of these spring from the very technologies—computers and the Internet—that simultaneously threaten to complete the conversion of unique human beings into standardized datasets. But I am thinking right now about a deeper shift. I am thinking about the possibilities of human relationship that are emerging as we put aside the foundational myth of our civilization—the myth of the discrete and separate self.
The discrete and separate self—the skin-encapsulated ego, the Cartesian “I am”, the soul-trapped-in-flesh of religion, the rational actor of economics, the competing phenotype of biology—is a relatively new concept. Before the Age of Separation neared its climax, the ego was but a survival program and the self was not a discrete entity but a set of relationships, to other people and to nature. Today, having reached its extreme, Separation is almost at an end. We are beginning to experience a collective shift in human consciousness, away from the discrete and separate self toward an organic interbeingness.
And so, the lonely, alienated modern self, its former wealth of human and natural relationships reduced to the extremes of lawn and nuclear family, is beginning to loosen and expand its boundaries, seeking out new relationships to replace those that were lost. In other words, we are reuniting with nature and each other in new ways, some of which hark to a shamanic past, others of which are wholly new. It is into this context that the new-agey concept of soul families fits.
Soul families are actually not new. They have always existed, but in the deep past were more or less congruent with biological families. This was before modern technology and culture connected the myriad human universes that once comprised planet earth into a single global culture. As this happened, biological families and soul families diverged and the latter were scattered across the earth. It is a gorgeous irony that the agent of this scattering, technology, is an agent as well in the reuniting of our soul families.
Some of you reading this essay may be my soul kin. You will know that if you feel strangely compelled by the ideas of this website and the personal energy behind them; if you feel like you are coming home; if you feel that I am giving voice to something important that you have always known. For you, I am not saying anything new, nor do I claim ownership over these ideas; I am merely bringing them out into the open so that this part of our soul which we share might become the basis of relationship. But this intellectual/spiritual kinship makes us but distant relatives. There is much more.
Of course, the feeling of homecoming we have upon reconnecting with one of our soul family can go much deeper than an exhilarating resonance of thoughts and ideas. First, why homecoming? The reason is that the others of our soul family are more than mere others, they are lost parts of ourselves, lost portions of that organic interbeingness that we truly are. In reuniting them we therefore become more. This stands in sharp contrast to ordinary relationships in consumer society, in which we hide most of our being behind masks and roles and only present for view a limited, safe persona. In other words, polite society requires that we make less of ourselves, not more. True, this constraint is an illusion, and when we allow ourselves to fully be ourselves there are usually no untoward consequences other than a little awkwardness, or at worst ostracism by people whose opinions matter little anyway; sometimes there is even a breakthrough.
But it is different between members of a soul family. In these relationships we find it natural, effortless to “be ourselves”. Hidden, vulnerable parts are invited out; we discover new and unsuspected talents; we feel finally to be among our tribe. Therein lies the sense of homecoming—to emerge at long last into our true beingness. It is the feeling, This is who I really am.
To connect with our soul family means to recover the fullness of ourselves. And what stands in the way of that recovery? Mostly, it is fear. It is the fear of transcending the narrow selves of modern definition, the fear of the unknown, along with all kinds of associated emotions such as shame, guilt, and doubt.
Fear after all is the primary motivator of that beautiful, necessary, but very small figment of ourselves known as the ego, whose original purpose was to ensure the survival of the body. Notice how all the versions of the separate self listed above (biological, economic, religious, etc.) are defined by survival—security and competition, reward and punishment. This tiny part of ourselves has grown in our perceptions to usurp other functions of the self, perverting them to the service of a very limited and limiting self-interest. The very concept of self-interest and physical security presupposes a discrete and separate subject, a competitor, a survivor. Such a self is inherently cut off from the rest of the world, and its security involves bringing more and more of the world under control, making more and more of it mine. To recover the rest of our true selves, to come into relationship with the rest of the world, and to reconnect with our soul families, necessarily demands releasing control, releasing fear, and opening up.
Soul families gather, then, as a result of a path of personal transformation. At the same time they help quicken that transformation. Sometimes they come into our lives as a catalyst, giving us a taste of what we can be, but that relationship cannot blossom into fullness until the transformation has progressed further. We cannot truly come into the interbeingness that is the soul relationship until we open ourselves to it. Will I be okay?
The deepest soul relationships, especially those we call a soul brother, a soul sister, or a soul mate, call upon us to face our deepest fears, release our deepest wounds, and take an awesome leap of courage into the unknown.
Our true selves, shut down and boxed in by the structures of civilization, are yearning to break free. The lesser life becomes increasingly intolerable, as the possibility of fullness, freedom, and joy grows more and more believable. Dare we step into it? Dare we accept it? Our paths have taken us to the very brink. We see outrageous exuberant joy, impossibly distant, closer than close. Dare we believe in it? Dare we cross that threshold? At the brink, the ground crumbling behind us, finally we can do no other. Wonderingly, we take that step and call our soul families to us.
— Charles Eisenstein, 2005