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Not believing in souls myself, perhaps I am a bit naive about the subject. I tend to assume that ensoulment is a pretty sweeping kind of project. Everyone either has one, or they don’t. That’s my usual sense of the issue anyhow.

Lately, though, I’ve been reading up on this thing, exploring the works of an obscure theologian (Theodore Nuge) who has a great deal to contribute to our understanding of the matter. You see, it turns out that although people in general may be thought to carry something along the lines of a soul, it turns out that many people are actually without a soul. Seriously! Soullessness, would seem to be a big thing. It’s actually rather common. Just who laks a soul and how they came to lose it, now that is indeed a very interesting question. I’m still learning this subject, though, and the Nuge seems to understand it much better than I do. So, let me share with you just a few of his insights into the nature of souls and soullessness.

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On the subject of soullessness, Nuge’s most accessible work would seem to have been about a musical exposition once scheduled at a Native American business venture. When the exposition was called off, Nuge is said to have remarked that those responsible lacked proper hygiene, and that they were in fact people without souls. Just how to account for their lack of souls remains a matter of some dispute. Nuge was thought originally to have ascribed this status to them on account of their indigenous nature, though he later suggested the individuals in question had become soullessness on account of political activities. It is possible that Mr. Nuge’s later comments reflected something of a shift in his thinking, however, as the intent of his first comments on the subject would seem to be less than clear. Not everyone agrees with Nuge;s self-exegesis. Subsequent attempts to clarify Nuge’s relationship to the Native American community has been preserved in obscure digital source material.

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Some scholars find Nuge’s proclamations of affinity for indigenous peoples a bit hollow, given the ease with which he dismissed Native American activists, but we must consider the intersection of indigineity and disensoulment carefully before moving on to the rest of his work. Far from a flippant comment, it would appear that Nuge’s appropriation of indigeneity is actually part of a much larger theme in his works. Even Theodore’s musical performances are said to have incorporated native, or at least faux-native themes. Nuge’s interest in Native American themes would seem to contain a number of clues into his thoughts about disensoulment. Let us consider one of the most interesting features of Nuge’s work, his ideas about spiritual hygiene!

It is not simply the case that can souls be lost, according to Nuge, they can also become quite dirty. Indeed, a soul according to Nuge is in constant need of a bath, except that a literal bath doesn’t seem to do much to cleanse a soul. No, to cleanse one’s soul, a person must go into nature, preferably with the intent of killing something. Consider the following texts:

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QED?

Having established that souls can indeed be cleansed by nature, we should perhaps add that they can be be healed by nature as well. So, we might be inclined to think of Nuge’s comments as indicative of a state which is generally inimical to good spiritual well-being, one which is akin to sickness as well as lack of hygiene. Although Nuge himself never committed this notion to a single lexical item, it may be productive for us to adopt a technical term for this state. Let us call it the state of being ‘yucky’!

Now let us move on to the importance of hunting practices. Although Nuge does seem to attribute soul-cleansing and healing power to nature in general, he ascribes its full healing power to the pursuit and killing of animals. Consider the following passages:

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Last but not least…

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So, you can see, there is special cleansing power in the hunting and killing of animals. It’s like the super-soap of soul-cleansing wilderness spirituality. Indeed the very moment of killing an animal would seem to be the best agent for eliminating any yuckiness that has attached to the soul.

With all this attention to hunting, it should be said that there is at least one other soul-cleansing agent in life, at least according to Nuge.  He also finds the power to cleanse a soul in one other thing, music.

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Near as I can tell, these two sources constitute an exhaustive list of soul-cleansing/healing agents in the work of Nuge. If he acknowledges this power in any other activities, I have yet to find a discussion of it in Nuge’s work.

So, what does all this have to do with Native Americans? Well, to answer this we must consider some of the Nuge’s experiments with Native American dress and neo-primitivism! Nuge seems to credit Native Americans (along with sundry friends) with guiding him through the soul-cleansing process. Often, he suggests, they are their with him when the Nuge cleanse his soul by killing animals and/or playing music.

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All of this would seem to add up to a kind of neo-primitive shamanism. Whether hunting or playing his music, the Nuge is connecting with the spiritual power of primitive people, and with the souls of loved ones lost. It is this connection to primitivity which cleanses the soul, either by releasing an arrow in the direction of Bambi, or by whaling away on a guitar. In each case, the sould-cleansing power stems from the return to primitive nature, the escape from civilization into a more basic form of existence.

All of this is quite fascinating, to me anyway, but of course it is merely one half of the coin in Nuge’s work on souls. You could think of it as the heads side of having a soul. The tails side is that you can lose it.

Who doesn’t have a soul? Well,Pimps, whores, and wellfare brats, for one.

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Now that might seem like kind of a random list, but it would seem the Nuge assumes these people share a common political agenda.

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Indeed, Nuge would seem to suggest the success of that political agenda, namely the campaign to elect Barack Obama as President of the U.S. had dire implications for the soul of America itself.

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…and of course, this trend only got worse in more recent elections!

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Journalists, it would seem, have no souls.

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During the last election, even Fox News seems to have suffered a loss of its soul.

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Some might find it odd to think of a news station as something that could possess a soul in the first place, but this should really come as no surprise. Corporations are people, according to SCOTUS. It shouldn’t really be all thatinteresting to find one has a soul.

…or that it lost it.

Other candidates for soullessness?

The Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Those who oppose voter identification.

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People who disarm citizens cops.

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Critics of the Nuge.

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And of course, animal rights activists.

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In one of his more ideosyncratic passages, the Nuge even suggests that anyone who doesn’t think Theodore supports ‘allthings LGBT‘. Some might consider this an odd basis for disensoulment as it’s tough to imagine how the very existence of one’s soul could be contingent upon recognition of another person’s, but the more difficult theological questions here probably have to do with the unusual construction of LGBT rights. It way well be that Theodore’s rather ideosyncratic construction of G in particular is the key to the addition of creepery to the status those disensouled on account of their agnosticism regarding Nuge’s political stance on LGBT issues. It’s a very difficult thing. Some say God works in mysteries ways. Nuge talks in them.

So, as you can see the list of people lacking a soul is rather long, according to Theodore Nuge. The list may seem rather haphazard, but a few common themes can certainly be found in his work. Democrats and liberals are two overlapping-but-not-quite-synonymous groups that lack souls, according to Nuge. Also, Media. Given the importance of hunting for spiritual hygiene, it probably makes sense to find that those opposed to hunting lack a soul.

Also, those who don’t Like the Nuge’s music.

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So, what to make of it? As I mentioned before, I am new to the subject of soulology, but on a more serious note, I do think talk of souls can be very meaningful. The question I would ask is what are the metaphors? What does all this talk of souls really mean to those producing it? maybe, we can’t get far if we expect a literal answer, but we get a lot further if we ask what personal values are expressed in such talk.

Nugent’s talk of the soul-cleansing power of nature would make sense to a lot of people. Hell, it makes sense to me. While some might object to the role of hunting in this approach to life, it does express something found in few modern means of interacting with the natural environment. It provides someone with a definite role in nature. A tourist hiking a nature trail is, at best, someone who will take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints. He doesn’t belong in nature and he knows it. A hunter, on the other hand, is part of it. He is, for that purpose anyway, as much a part of nature as the game he tracks. More to the point, he knows it. So, Nugent’s comments on the cleansing of the soul during a hunt may not square with some people’s thoughts about animals, but they certainly do strike me as an authentic description of his personal experience.

What seems most objectionable in all this is the growing sense of personal pettiness in all this talk of souls. How quickly the profundity of nature turns into a spiteful outburst against those who could interfere with it! How easily, Nugent’s personal associations with Native Americans turns to license taken against other Native Americans. Nugent’s talk of soullessness enables him to dismiss an awful lot of people. I don’t believe in a soul myself, but I have to wonder at the soul of someone who does believe in such a thing but seems so ready to say that others don’t have one. It’s a metaphor, of course, but a rather double-edged one at that. Can someone who so often finds no meaningful life in others really find much meaning in his own?

I’m old enough to remember when Ted Nugent was mostly a guitar sound coming through my speakers. Tastes vary, of course, and some of his lyrics are more than a little questionable, but I really did like the sound of that guitar. Listening to it now, I can almost sense that soul-cleansing power Nugent locates in nature and in his music. (Many will disagree, I know) The thing is, after listening to him talk about the soullessness of others, I usually feel like I need some of that power. I just wish he’s produce less of the one and more of the other.