[Trigger warnings for physical and emotional abuse.]
I picked this book up for research purposes, since I thought the concept–that souls have different types that can affect who we are and how we do things–would be an interesting one for a story, and I wanted to familiarize myself with the system presented in this book to avoid unknowingly plagiarizing from it.
I’m kind of a sucker for typology type things in a never ending quest to find out whether I’m “something cool” (ie. not boring Capricorn). I’m also the type who likes to quiz everyone I know, because, let’s face it, it’s part of the fun even if no one takes it seriously.
In a nutshell, the theory behind Soul Signs is that every soul has a, well, sign. Every soul on Earth draws from five energy groups: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Sulphur, and these groups dictate what sort of energy drives us and affects how we relate to others:
Fire signs are driven by passion and emotion.
Earth signs are driven by strategizing and planning.
Air signs are driven by passivity, and dislike conflicts.
Water signs are driven by the need to compromise.
Sulphur signs are driven by the desire to corrupt.
Each energy group (apart from Sulphur) has three signs and each sign has a different energy flow: introverted (directed inward, at the self), extroverted (directed outward, at others). or centered (balanced energy, flowing in either direction).
As is typical for books like this, once you’ve figured out your exact sign (and it takes a few chapters), Altea moves on to discussing compatibility, including which souls are your “ideal match” because no one ever reads these things to discover anything but whether they and their S.O. are perfectly 100% compatible, amirite? There’s also a chapter on pet soul signs (yes, all animals have signs too) and a chapter on evil and how good souls can do bad things.
One thing I did like about this book is that it tried to step away from the quiz format. So many books of this type are all like “Take this quiz and BAM! We’ll tell you which type you are!” Soul Signs straight up asks the reader “What type of person are you?” and while there are some quiz type questions that can help you figure it out, there aren’t many, and once you figure out which energy group you are, it’s a simple matter of reading the descriptions to find your sign. I identified with both Air and Water groups, but in reading the descriptions for the individual signs, ended up with the Watery Seeker Soul, characterized by a need to compromise and a great hunger for knowledge.
This wouldn’t be Sturgeon’s 90% without some harsh criticism, so here it is. To some extent, my issues with this book are the same issues I have with other “compatibility” books in that the descriptions for each sign are very general (which is, I suppose, a necessity of books like this).
No book of New Age weirdness would be complete without some dualism thrown in, so we have the Sulphur signs. Sulphur signs are, in a nutshell, Always Chaotic Evil, and they only have one type: the Dark Soul (not to be confused with the game Dark Souls of course). Sulphur signs are your serial killers, your Hitlers, because even bad people have souls. Oh, and by the way, you have the same soul sign in all your previous lives and every life after, so if you had the misfortune to be born a Dark Soul, you’re SOL. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure no one reading Altea’s book would identify as one anyways, and for the most part she just mentions them and then ignores them.
By the way, even the author herself doesn’t know where a Dark Soul begins and a “good soul that does a bad thing” ends.
The other major gripe I have with this book (which is something that, to be honest, is pretty standard thinking in the New Age movement) is how people “can’t help who they are” because soul signs. “Oh. she may be controlling, but it’s because she’s an Earth sign!” “He might be a doormat, but that’s his Air sign passivity shining through,” and she basically says at one point. “If only we could all know our Soul Signs, our relationships would all be fantastic!” (Except, she notes, in the obvious cases where family members have different signs.)
And then there’s the part where she talks about abusive relationships (using personal anecdotes) and, given what I’ve discussed, you can guess where it goes. To be fair, she does say that there are aspects of ourselves we cannot change, and upbringing and environment also play a role in how we relate to others, I can’t help but sigh in exasperation when a concept like soul signs is trotted out to explain shitty behaviour. Is your partner a commitment phobic? Don’t worry, he’s just a Traveler soul, and they don’t like to be tied down! Does your girlfriend always want to be in the spotlight? Don’t worry, she’s a Bright Stat soul, they crave that sort of thing. And then there’s the standard New Age thing that “we choose how our lives unfold” that just becomes so much victim-blaming, and, yeah.
In other words, it’s a typical pile of New Age talking points with a half decent personality type thing that isn’t a rehash of Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram.
Unless you really have the urge to quiz all your friends or you’re doing research like me. yeah, just get it from the library or something.