The Soul-Synthesis Hypothesis
(adapted from Chapter 1)
One hot and humid summer day in 1962 in suburban Cincinnati, I was engaged in aimless play at our neighborhood pool like any other nine-year-old boy. At one point, I jumped into the kids’ end of the pool. Or so I thought. Instead of gently hitting the bottom four feet down, I was now lost in ten feet of water. I was so startled by the unexpected depth that I began to panic, for I had not yet learned to swim. I struggled and churned, frantic to get my bearings. In a flash, time slowed down as I entered a place of sheer terror, which suddenly crossed over into a timeless paranormal state. But before I could inhale a gulp of water, I was pulled free by a vigilant lifeguard.
In the few moments before the rescue, I had a near-death experience (NDE), including what is now called a “life review.” I saw my short life pass before me in a complete review: scenes of parents, siblings, school chums, teachers, our cat, my bedroom, me riding my bike—an explosion of distinct images of encounters with each important person or thing in my young world. And each scene that paraded through me had an aura of truth and light around it. The feeling associated with this instantaneous experience was rapturous, even though my body was paralyzed with fear. I now believe that this experience provided a rare glimpse of the actual contents of my soul.
I have gone on to discover that NDE life reviews are well-known in scientific literature; indeed, my own mini-life-review is just one minor example among hundreds of spectacular NDE life-review accounts now documented in numerous popular books and websites. Reading these accounts today easily leads me to the conclusion that they offer paranormal proof of the existence of the human soul. In addition, my initiatory childhood experience led me, just a decade after it happened, to an amazing paranormal source, The Urantia Book (or UB)—which offers systematic revelatory teachings about the reality of the soul among many other things. And now, four decades later, I have authored a book, Your Evolving Soul, which is the fruit of a life of reflection on the nature of the human self and soul. It this work, I explicate the Urantia Revelation through the prism of teachings about self and soul found in all of the world’s wisdom traditions, with special emphasis on Buddhism, esoteric Christianity, and Ken Wilber’s theories of integral psychology and spirituality.
I’ve refined those insights that I have carried with me ever since that day in 1962. I now believe that we all carry within us our life-story-as-a-whole—and further, that our soul contains our essential personal experiences that are somehow cumulatively stored up within us, which on a daily basis evolve and expand through a process I like to call soul-making. This corpus of experiences can suddenly disclose itself when we face mortality; and I believe the wondrous and numinous quality of these memories must be evidence of an immortal pedigree.
Further research, much of it inspired by the Urantia Revelation, builds on this foundation. According to what I call the soul-synthesis hypothesis, the human soul consists of the sum total of the energetic record of all of our worthwhile life experiences. In addition, these poignant moments of spiritual significance also have what the UB calls survival value beyond this life and may even contribute something unique to universal evolution. In fact, our evolving soul is our most precious asset by far, as well as being invaluable contribution to cosmic evolution.
And there is much more: As I see it, our evolving soul is a living, growing, shimmering entity of light, but its luminosity differs from the pure and extremely rarified light of the “spark of God” that—according to poets and Gnostics and mystics—also indwells us. I have come to see that we should never conflate these two very different entities: the soul and what some call the Indwelling Spirit of God.
Instead, the evolving soul should be seen as a psychic product of an alchemical blend of widely divergent elements that, in certain moments of daily experience, get “blended” behind the scenes in our deepest interior. This process of soul-synthesis occurs when worthy impulses, intentions, or mental states—especially when these are linked with reflective moral decisions—rise above the instinctive or reactive level of mind to what one could call the mid-mind. There they engage with the indwelling God-self (aka the atman or Buddha-nature). This Higher Self within reaches down from the higher mind, and its nature is to always seek out an energetic resonance with our more meaningful thoughts and feelings. These factors—a resonating mental content combined with its sublime acknowledgment by our inner divinity—meet, merge, and dissolve, so to speak, into one another, creating a mixed substance of the subtle realm whose luster is unique. It should also be understood that this God-self functions in such a way as to catalyze these more worthy mental events in the first place.
In essence, then, our spirit-self works to inspire, and then select and highlight those mind-moments it deems worthy of immortality, and deposits these in and as our soul, as potentially eternal memories.
It does so even if the immediate experience involved is painful or disturbing or even seemingly ordinary. Our afflictions and predicaments and our sincere efforts to adjust to such difficulties—as well as our aspirations and our efforts to attain worthy goals through steadfast decisions—are especially soul-making.
Even a child has such a psychic repository of such soul-making memories constitutive of a young soul, as I discovered. But to gain any direct awareness of the soul’s subtle content is no small matter. The evolving soul seems to divulge its secrets only when we are in deep and sustained reflection and meditation—or else suddenly in dreams, epiphanies, or calamitous events. But it is especially revealed in NDE life reviews, as I explain in Your Evolving Soul.
The most potent soul-making situations, I believe, are those in which we wrestle with challenging dilemmas with an attitude of faith and hopefulness. We especially grow and stretch the soul when we are tested by demanding situations that summon creative choices among competing values. And if such choices and the resulting actions are infused with our highest consciousness of truth, beauty, and goodness, then our soul growth is all the more accelerated. As I see it, our true purpose in life is to make such soul-making choices, which prepare us for the eternal life ahead and contribute something unique to the evolution of the Oversoul of the universe.