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While reading Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma mysteries, I came across a Celtic Catholic concept called "anmchara", soul-friend. This idea is expounded on in Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, and it's one that makes sense to me. Let me give you the way Cahill explains it:
Though one's confession was made to a human being, he or she was chosen by the penitent for qualities of true priestliness -- holiness, wisdom, generosity, loyalty, and courage. No one could ever pry knowledge gained in confession from such a priest, who knew that every confession was sealed by God himself. To break that seal was to imperil one's salvation: it was practically the only sin the Irish considered unforgivable. So one did not necessarily choose one's "priest" from among ordained professionals: the act of confession was too personal and too important for such a limitation. One looked for an anmchara, a soul-friend, someone to be trusted over a whole lifetime. Thus the oft-found saying "Anyone without a soul-friend is like a body without a head," which dates from pagan times. The druids, not the monks, had been the first soul-friends.
I find myself particularly privileged. I have not one, but two people who I count as soul-friends, both of whom are posters here, WHKeith and Polycarp. That one is Wiccan and one Anglican doesn't matter to me; they are both my brothers in spirit and have served as my confessors at times.

What do the rest of you think of this concept, and do you have people in your lives who you count as soul-friends? I'm interested in your opinions and in any more information you might have on it.

Hi, Siege. I am honored to be your soul-friend.

A very close, perhaps identical, concept is the old one of soulmate. As usually expressed, the ideas is that two souls, one male, one female, are always looking for one another and, when they find one another, that life becomes one of bliss and contentment.

The earliest expression of this may be seen in a Greek myth that reports that the gods first made Man as an odd ball-like creature with four legs and four arms and two heads, but that these creatures made such a clamor rolling around all over the Earth that the gods ultimately divided each man into two halves, with the idea that the halves would be so busy chasing after one another, trying to find their "missing half," that they would no longer bother the gods.

That also echoes a very old European goddess-worship tradition, by the way, that the Creator began as a genderless entity that divided into two halves, male and female, which subsequently mated as heaven and earth to produce all the rest of creation.

The idea also is expressed in studies of the Qabala, where the divine inspiration of Kether, the first and highest sephira, divides into Chokmah and Binah, representing male and female.

In my religious tradition, which includes a belief in reincarnation, there is also the concept of soul GROUPS. The idea is that groups of souls, numbering, oh, anywhere from a half dozen to a couple of dozen or so, tend to work together over many, many lifetimes. You were my sister in a past life, my husband in a life before that, my nemesis before that, the guy who gave me some good advice when I needed it before that . . . and so on and on. Hypnotic regression repeatedly brings out the idea that the subject's friends and relatives appeared in close but different roles in previous lifetimes.

If we accept the idea that our stay here on Earth is essentially a semester in a rather tough private school, it makes sense. Individuals within soul groups work together to help one another advance, to learn the lessons they need to learn in order to progress.

Personally, I don't accept the idea of soul MATES as popularly expressed, though that sort of thing may happen occasionally. I do believe in the soul GROUP hypothesis. Work I've done personally with autohypnotic regression suggests the people closest to me have been around me before. (My teacher in Wicca likes to say that when she first met me, her first thought--unspoken but VERY loud--was "Where the HELL have you been?" She'd been waiting for me to show up, you see. . . .

And I definitely accept the idea of soul FRIENDS . . . like Siege.
How do you recognise someone particularly as a soulmate or soulfriend as opposed to a good friend?
I'm outwardly very outgoing and sociable, but I actually make very few real emotional connections with people. There are some I like to keep track off, but usually it seems as if I'm flowing downstream too fast to keep in touch with them. Not sure what that means in terms of soul groups, soul friends, or soul mates.

Never felt like a soul-mate with anyone, and term seems to have strong undercurrents of romanticism. Soul group I believe was mentioned under the past lives thread and is interesting, makes sense, but I don't know enough about yet. As to soul friends...perhaps I have none? Or perhaps soul friends in this life relate specifically to past live associations, or soul groups implicitely? Not sure. Maybe I'm just a cold-hearted cad? :)
Namaste all,

ah, another great thread topic...

looks like i'll have to start spending more time here :0

i once held a belief simliar to that of a "soul mate".. a matched pair of souls wandering the earth in search of each other... then, once found, true love and intimacy ensues.

of course, in the popular myth, soul mates are always of opposite sex, eh?

i no longer have that sort of outlook.

though i think that the idea of "soul friends or soul mates" is still, if not more, valid.

as a Buddhist we conceive of all sentient beings being of a kind, the same flavor, if you will. as such, each sentient being, in our view, is our 'soul mate' and deserves love, compassion and respect.

now... the analog in Buddhism would be the concept of "karmically linked" sentient beings. this would allow for humans and so forth to feel special feelings towards another and allow this same thing for all sentient beings, though not all can express feelings in the same fashion, of course.

so, saying in the Buddhist way, yes... my partner and i are karmically linked sentient beings.. and we knew it from the moment our eyes saw each other.