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Observations placeholder

Concept - Korean mystic shamanism – Higher spirit, Immortal soul or the Saryong



Type of Spiritual Experience


Dead soul = Immortal soul = Higher spirit

Live soul = Mortal soul = Conscious + subconscious

A description of the experience

Korean Shamanism – Muism – Dr Kim Tae-kon

There are two, separate concepts in Korean Muism which are distinct:

  • saryong (the "dead soul") and
  • saengnyong (the "live soul").

The dead soul goes to the "other world" after the body dies; the live soul resides within a human body only when it is living, and ceases to exist at the death of the human body…………………….

Hereafter, whenever we use only the word "saryong," we are referring to the "dead soul," the saryong, which leaves the body on the death of the body and goes to the Future Life. The "live soul" (saengnyong) disappears when the body ceases to be alive (that is, when the body dies)……………….

How is the soul perceived in Muism? Why do humans think of the soul? Why is the [dead] soul believed to be an immortal and eternal being?

A human being is composed of both a body and a soul. The body has its definite shape, but dies and disappears after a certain period of time; whereas, the soul is formless, never dies (it lives forever), and is therefore considered the “fundamental power" that gives life to the body.

As the body is a visible but "momentary" (lasting for only a certain time) being with a definite form, and as the soul is a shapeless, and invisible, and has everlasting being, it follows that the visible body is momentary and the invisible soul is everlasting. The visible body occupies space, and exists only for a limited time, but while the body and soul are united both exist in time and space……………..

In view of the fact that Muism believes a human spirit lasts eternally after its human death, Muism using that duality, considers the essential qualities of the human spirit remain constant, while only the outward (the body's) appearance changes. Hence, though after the human's death its spirit has no form, yet it lives eternally as a cognizant being. This is the basic cycle; a spirit comes from chaos, goes into the cosmos where it lives in a form (the body), and on leaving that form it returns to chaos where it is formless, as the original concept of nature was of an endless and continuous cycle of being, to and from the eternal (which is chaos).


Korean Shamanism – Muism – Dr Kim Tae-kon

The naesegwan of Muism presumes the immortality and eternal life of the soul. How did people get to believe that souls are thus immortal?

The question of the immortality of the soul is the dominant belief of religion from the time of primitive man down to the "civilized" modern era. In the Negreto tribe, who live on Ahndman Island in the Bay of Bengal, souls are considered something like "breath," a "reflection," or a "shadow."

That tribe believes that souls can leave their living body and travel far away, but after death the soul leaves the corpse and lives forever in a spiritual form in a jungle or an ocean.

The primitive belief of the people of Samoa was similar. They believed that soul leaves the dry land and swims to the Spiritual World.

The Hugulu tribe (Mongolian), who invaded Central Europe, seemed to think of death as a state of sleep, or a return to their pre-birth origin with the Great Mother. Consequently, this included a belief in the immortality of the soul.

Most primitive people, in much the same way, believe in the immortality of the soul, thinking of the body as a “container" in which a soul stays temporarily and leaves it soon.

In the same way, American Indians believe in the immortality of souls, and do not profoundly fear death.

This wide-spread belief, which in this way includes a belief in the immortality of the soul, can be attributed to a division of human life into a "body" and a "soul." In the perspective of this dualism, the soul becomes the main axis of life, with the body as a "container" that hosts the soul. Such a view of the immortality of the soul seems to be at the basis of all human beliefs, in which the worry about the end of human life is negated and rejected, because there is a Future Life.

This view of the immortal soul emerges as the extension of human life after death by the immortal soul.


The source of the experience

Korean mystic shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps