Mending the Past and Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval
By Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D
(Published by Hay House)
Commentary by Gayl P. Woityra
What is meant by a “soul retrieval”? I was curious to know more about this
shamanistic practice. That curiosity drew me to a new book by Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.: Mending
the Past and Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval. The author is a psychologist
and medical anthropologist who has studied the healing practices of the Amazon and Inka
(Villoldo’s spelling of Inca) shamans for more than 25 years.
Readers may be aware
that most authors of books on the shaman wisdom techniques and practices are anthropologists
and also, often, psychologists. One could name Michael Harner, Ph.D., author of The
Way of the Shaman, and Serge Kahili King, Ph.D., author of Mastering Your Hidden
Self, and Earth Energies. Villoldo also described his experiences in
the Andes and Amazon basin in his earlier books, such as Shaman, Healer, Sage.
Villoldo explains that destiny-retrieval practices have long been practiced in aboriginal
societies, but even there such practices have been largely lost. Some, however, are still
practiced in Native American and Hispanic communities.
This book represents the author’s “contemporary
reinterpretation of ancient healing practices.” He says, “I’ve adapted
and translated those practices within a modern scientific context.” Most contemporary
readers, however, largely lack knowledge of shamanism, sometimes linking it to witchcraft
or some other such “magical” practices.
Clearly, this book helps to clarify
shamanism for the average reader. Those who pay attention to the work are likely to discover
parallels to other quite acceptable healing practices, ranging from general psychiatry
and psychotherapy to past-lives therapy, meditation, visualization exercises, and positive
Villoldo’s early study of the human mind and its connection to health led him to
seek “experts who could provide (him) with insights into how we humans could train
the mind to heal itself and to transform the body.”
Ultimately this led to “25
years of research and training with the shamans of the Americas.” Among his most
significant work, he has studied for many years the ancient practices of the Inka (Inca)
shamans who live in remote villages high in the Andes Mountains of Peru.
keepers, known as the Laika ... still practice healing techniques cultivated
and handed down for thousands of years within their medical societies.
Shamanism uses a technique called journeying to connect with what might be termed
archetypal or energetic domains. Whether these journeys are astral, out-of-body trips,
or clairvoyant distant seeing as practiced by various governments during the Cold War,
or imaginative visualizations---I can’t say.
What Villoldo has done
in his book, however, is to adapt the shaman’s journey into guided visualization
meditations that could be used by readers. Since the shaman’s journeys are usually
to the Lower or Under World and the Upper World, the scripts for these meditations may
seem strange, at first, for many readers. Those who may not choose to try an actual “journey” may still find excellent elements in these scripts that could prove useful in meditations.
Early in the book Villoldo explains the Lower, Middle, and Upper Worlds. He says, “these
aren’t physical places, but rather archetypal and energetic domains.” All three
places make up the collective unconscious of all humanity. The Middle World is the world
we live in; “the Upper World is the invisible domain of our destiny and our spirit;” and
the Lower World is “where the record of all human history is held, the realm of the
Villoldo guides readers through journeys to the Lower World “where your childhood
and your former lifetimes reside, to recover lost parts of your soul.” While there
you learn the story of your “buried” soul parts, heal their wounds, and “write
new soul contracts to free them from their burdens.”
Then you’ll “retrieve
these healed soul parts and bring them back to the present.” Admittedly, this all
sounds quite fantastic at first. But psychological truths abound here. It is well known
that human beings bury trauma (physical and emotional) deep in their psyches. That which
is too traumatic at the time to process, or the individual is too young to understand,
gets hidden away from our consciousness.
It manifests often in vague fears or anxieties,
phobias, obsessions, physical illnesses, or even split personalities. Psychologists literally
try to find all the hidden “pieces” in order to bring the person back into
health. This is a close parallel to what the shaman does with “soul retrieval.” wherein
he/she seeks out the missing, hidden, or buried pieces of the soul so that the person can
Villoldo describes four parts (chambers) of the Lower World and provides meditations to
guide readers to each one. The first is the Chamber of Wounds where you find the “original
wounding that caused a part of your soul (or self) to flee and thereby to “derail
the course of your destiny.”
It could be an injury or trauma from early in your life,
but it often is “a traumatic experience from a former lifetime.” Here again
it is easy to see parallels with some current psychological therapies that include past-life
The second chamber is the Chamber of Contracts. Here you “discover
soul promises that you’ve made.” They may be “obligations you agreed
to before you were born” but of which you have no conscious knowledge. Or they may
involve your reaction to the “fear and stress of your original wounding.”
example, you might have responded to treachery with the vow, “I will never trust
a friend ever again!” That vow, buried in your unconscious, could be playing out
in this life causing you great loneliness or lack of trust in others, thereby giving you
great, unreasonable distress. In this chamber you can renegotiate the terms or agreement
that “has sentenced you to a life of repeated suffering.”
The third room is the Chamber of Grace. Here you find your healed
soul part and bring it back into conscious life along with all the unique gifts of your
soul. The fourth chamber is the Chamber of Treasures wherein
lie a soul’s great unexpressed creative and artistic gifts. Here one may also find
one’s “power animal.
Later we will continue describing the journey as it moves to the Upper World. First, let’s
examine some of the author’s discussion about journeying itself. He explains
it as a kind of time travel: “a unique state of consciousness that you enter through
guided meditations and breathing exercises.”
He notes that “Quantum physics
has shown that the past and the future are connected in a . . . meaningful way.” He
explains that such journeying allows deep healing to “occur in the space of days
and weeks rather than months or years.”
For example, at one point Villoldo says, “Although
I’m trained both in psychology and the traditions of the Laika, I’ve found
that one soul-retrieval session can accomplish what may take many years to heal employing
Villoldo is specific in his point that “healing” is different from “curing.” He
says, “Curing is the business of medicine and it involves eliminating symptoms,
while healing is the crafting of a healthy life style (and it) attends to the
soul and spirit.”
Villoldo notes that the process he provides in this book “may
be very unsettling at the beginning” as the person brings up forgotten or repressed
wounds. But he offers the technique as a proven method to integrate all aspects of the
In order to most effectively use the meditation scripts, Villoldo recommends reading
each exercise into a tape recorder and then playing them back when one is ready to journey.”
Villoldo’s soul-retrieval technique clearly goes beyond past-life therapy. He consistently
points out the need in the process to “renegotiate obsolete soul contracts” and
to discard “limiting beliefs;” hence, the importance of the later stages of
the journey--those to the Upper World.
The author refers to noted Austrian psychiatrist
Viktor Frankl, who “grew to understand that humans’ deepest longing is to discover
the meaning and purpose of life.” Villoldo says that “healing our past simply
means that we’re no longer reliving old hurts.” For deeper healing we need
to know and to live our destiny.
He defines “fate” as that which is “predetermined
by our family, history, genes, and emotional wounds.” “Destiny,” however,
is our purpose and calling in life. Knowing your destiny, “you can participate consciously
in your own growth.”
In one later chapter Villoldo explains how we can influence
our future, supporting his discussion with various principles of quantum physics, such
as “the observer influences the outcome of events.”
Villoldo identifies the Upper World as “where you attain your divine nature (and)
where you discover the beautiful agreements you made with Spirit before you were born.”
can “only reach the peaks of the Upper World in a healed state,” which explains
why the journeys to the Lower World have to come first. “The Upper World,” says
Villoldo, “is what psychiatry refers to as the superconscious.”
the meditative journeys to the Upper World, the author guides readers through various planes
to ultimately meet and hold a dialogue with their “celestial parents” who know
the answers to their destiny and life’s purpose.
His book is a fascinating work, different in many ways from the usual Western approach
to spiritual growth. It provides a unique perspective. For example, he says, “In
the West, we believe that all life is predetermined by genetic inheritance from past generations.
For the Laika (the Inca wisdom teachers), evolution is journeying into the future to see
who we’re becoming so that we may bring that knowledge back to the present.” That
idea clearly gives readers something new to ponder!
Villoldo, the anthropologist, provides some other similar thoughts to consider. “As
we heal, the world will heal; as we change, the world will change.” Native shamans
meditate, “envisioning the world they want their grandchildren to inherit...
sages of old called this ‘dreaming the world into being.’” The author
says, “When we track our destinies, we can be who we’re becoming, not who we’ve
Not all readers may be ready to actually do the journeying described in this book all
by themselves. Even so, this book is highly useful in so many ways. Many of the meditation
scripts could be adapted for general daily use. The text itself is filled with a broad
range of interesting information.
Villoldo also directs The Four Winds Society where he trains individuals throughout
the world in the practice of energy medicine and soul retrieval.
A new program is in the works to certify soul retrieval practitioners.
For further information, check the Website: www.thefourwinds.com.
To purchase a copy of Villoldo’s book from Amazon.com