1968: Elisabeth Samnøy (later Nordeng) was born.
1971: Märtha Louise of Norway was born.
2002: Princess Märtha Louise’s status was reduced by royal edict from “Royal Highness” to “Highness.”
2007 (July): Astarte Education was founded.
2012 (May): The school’s name was changed to Astarte Inspiration.
2014 (August): The school’s name was changed to Soulspring.
2014 (September): Soulspring hosted a seminar by British medium Lisa Williams.
2018 (September): The Norwegian press announced the closing of Soulspring for May 2019.
2019 (May): Princess Märtha Louise announced through her social media that she had found her “twin flame” in Shaman Durek.
Märtha Louise of Norway (b. 1971) is the only daughter of King Harald V of Norway. [Image at right] Although the Salic Law was abolished in 1990, constitutionally granting primogeniture regardless of gender, the alteration was not made retroactive, so that Märtha Louise is still preceded by her brother Haakon (b. 1973) and his children; however, she does have the right to succession. She is a Rosen Method therapist (i.e., a practicioner of an alternative physiotherapy invented by Marion Rosen, 1914-2012), having studied at the Holistic Academy of Oslo (now defunct) as well as in Maastricht, Netherlands. However, she was never professionally active in such fields. Having started her own business in 2002, her status was reduced from “Royal Highness” to “Highness,” and she began paying income tax. In 2002, she married author Ari Behn (b. 1972). The couple had three daughters. They divorced in 2017. The princess is a patron for several organizations; most notably, she is the chairperson of Her Royal Highness Princess Märtha Louise’s Fund, a charitable fund created in 1972 that supports activities carried out by NGOs helping children and youth under the age of sixteen with physical disabilities. The princess is also an experienced equestrian, having been a member of Norway’s national showjumping team for several years (The Royal House of Norway 2018a; The Royal House of Norway 2018b; Soulspring 2019b).
In 2007, the princess announced the foundation, together with her friend Elisabeth Samnøy (later Nordeng, b. 1968), of a center in Oslo called Astarte Education, eventually changed to Astarte Inspiration (2012) and finally to Soulspring (2014), popularly known as “Angel School” (Norwegian: engelskole) (BBC News 2007; Soulspring 2019a). Nordeng was trained to become a ship mechanic (Soulspring 2019c).
Both women claimed that they had paranormal experiences, [Image at right] including communication with angels since childhood (and, in the case of Princess Märtha Louise, with horses). This is how the princess and her partner describe their affinities and their encounter:
[W]e had very similar experiences of feeling different growing up because of our spirituality. Both of us were highly sensitive, taking in everybody else’s emotional and physical tensions. We saw energies around people, we could sense the unspoken truths, and we both had healing hands. To us this was normal; we thought that everybody could sense the same. The shock hit us hard the day we realized that this was not the case.
Trying to adjust to the intellectually steered society surrounding us, we started closing off our sensitivity as much as possible. In this way we turned off our inner navigational systems and started losing our Spiritual Password. We felt disconnected, alone, different, insecure, and energetically drained. Our intellect did not fully satisfy the underlying questions that kept reoccurring with more and more intensity throughout our youth: Is there something more to life than the physical plane we all agree exists? If there is, how do we connect to it and for what purpose? Why do I sense things while others do not?
Trying to get closer to the answer to these questions, we both signed up for the same clairvoyance course, where we participated for two and a half years. To be honest, we did not ‘click’ straight away. We did not click at all, actually. There were fifteen people at the course, and we can remember (with horror, we might add) the three times we tried to strike up a cordial conversation. It was not until the course had ended and we continued doing energy readings with the group that we struck up a conversation one day on the topic of angels and our contact with them. That is when the angels removed a veil between us, and we suddenly saw that we possessed the same humour and had the same dreams of working as spiritual teachers. Going from not managing to complete a sentence to finishing each other’s sentences from one moment to the next was nothing short of a miracle. We understood that we had been prepared for this moment all our lives” (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2013a).
Further details on their encounter are provided in a later piece:
We both met at a clairvoyance course where we learned meditation in the traditional sense, using the seven chakra system. Sitting there, closing our eyes trying to focus inwardly, connecting to the root and crown chakra, we both discovered that it didn’t really work for us. We of course assumed that something was very wrong with us, since it seemed to work for others. It was not until later that we discovered that there are more than one chakra system and that we didn’t have seven chakras at all… (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2013b).
Nordeng narrates about her own experience:
I asked many existential questions from an early age like; What is the meaning of life? Where do I come from? What happens when I die? I never found the answers in my surroundings. Nobody I knew wanted to know the answers to these questions. I felt different and became insecure. In rediscovering the language of my heart through the Spiritual Password, I managed to receive the answers to my questions, I started receiving universal information and inspiration and felt at home and safe in the world, part of a whole” (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014a – original text entirely in italics).
This was Princess Märtha Louise’s experience in her own words:
When I started incorporating the Spiritual Password into my life and actively listening to my heart, it changed my life considerably. From being a full-time equestrian at international level, I became a spiritual teacher and author. The steps I was asked to take were always within what I could manage, although the change was considerable. I now know that when I dare to listen to what my heart tells me, I will always walk my spiritual path, be safe and have immense fun… and just enough challenges along the way.” (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014a – original text entirely in italics)
Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng published several books together (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2009; 2012a; 2012b; 2014f; 2014g; 2017a; 2017b; 2018) and gave readings the world over (TheLocal.no 2015).
According to an entry in the school’s website, the name Astarte (referring to an ancestral Middle Eastern goddess) was received as a form of sudden inspiration by Nordeng during a visit to Medjugorje in spring 2007 (Soulspring 2014).
The shift to the name Soulspring (2014) was explained by the “energy shift on earth after 2012” (Soulspring 2014). The scholar Asbjørn Dyrendal also hypothesised that the change may have been aimed at underscoring the distance with some former students who had come to the fore in the Norwegian conspiracist scene (Bigliardi 2015).
In 2015, Princess Märtha Louise and Elisabeth Nordeng featured in a British TV program alongside with the Pakistani activist, Peace Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014e).
In fall 2018, the press announced that the school, having experienced financial losses, was closing down, and that the princess was about to start a new business enterprise related to horses (Berglund 2018).
In May 2019, Princess Märtha Louise announced through her social media that she had found her “twin flame” in Shaman Durek (b. 1974), Los Angeles based spiritual guide and healer with whom she also embarked on a tour in Norway and Denmark on the same month (Linning 2019).
The official web page of the school presented it as a “playground” for self-development with a spiritual dimension, emphasizing that Soulspring was not aimed at providing answers but rather at developing the ability to find one’s own truth. Angels were conceptualised in terms of “energies.”
In the book Meet Your Guardian Angel, the princess and her business partner claim that everything in the world is composed of “energy,” as well as of “physical substance.” They back up their position by referring to Niels Bohr (1885-1962) and Albert Einstein (1879-1955), but also to Bruce Harold Lipton (b. 1944), a controversial American cellular biologist and author who claims that one’s beliefs can influence their genes and DNA (Bruce Lipton 2019). Princess Märtha Louise and Elisabeth Nordeng make reference to various concepts such as prana, chi, reiki, as well as to chakra and auras, and they contend that traumas can take the form of muscular tension. Angels are (somewhat elusively) described as manifestations of “universal love” that can take many forms; they communicate differently with different individuals and they are characterised by a certain “frequency” and “force.” The book illustrates meditation techniques and it also contains recipes for dishes, such as lentil soup (Princess Märtha Louise and Elisabeth Nordeng 2009).
While drawing upon concepts, typically encountered in spiritual and “alternative” systems, the Princess and Nordeng also seem to use them according to a personal reinterpretation:
[W]e are seeing more and more indigo children – three chakra systems – or crystal children – one chakra systems – in the world. The term children is not adequate as it refers to grown-ups as well. We would like to rename them indigo people and crystal people. These people are the bearers of the new era and their frequencies. The information on these chakra systems is new and revolutionary, and delving into the information simplifies the understanding of the new times approaching.
Many people who believe they have a seven-chakra system actually do not. Because the indigo and crystal children have such a strong intuition and can sense more than most people, this may frighten people around them” (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2013b).
About the concept of “spiritual password” [Image at right] Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng write:
Each and every one of us comes from the same light where we are all connected, consciously, as part of the Oneness, also described as the Field by Lynn McTaggart [sic – Lynne McTaggart is a US American journalist and author who specializes in “alternative medicine” including anti-vaccinism and “new physics” – Lynne McTaggart 2019]. This experience of Oneness disappears for most people at some point after birth, during their childhood years. The interesting part is that when we let go of it, we are oblivious to the fact that we have lost one of the most sacred and natural connections we possess as human beings: the true connection to the Divine. Through the shutting down of our natural contact to the Divine and our connectedness to ourselves as well as our surroundings, we lose an important key. In this key lies the Spiritual Password; the unique connection to the wisdom of our hearts. The tricky part is that if we realize that we yearn to find the lost key to re-enter the Spiritual Password, thus trying to rediscover our connection to our inner truth, the path seems to be missing. We have lost the way” (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2013a).
Elsewhere they add:
The Spiritual Password is like a language we might not consciously have used for a long time. Using it daily helps us get to the heart of it, and our vocabulary may widen. At first we might get just a slight feeling of peace, for example, when contacting our heart, but when we’ve used the Spiritual Password for a while, it might widen to include a certain color, or maybe an additional message in words or through knowing. The meditation to find the Spiritual Password to the heart only takes a few minutes and can be a great start to the day. The next step is to move from only listening to our heart in meditation to being open to listening to it in everyday life” (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014a).
Other important concepts include self-awareness and mindfulness:
Are there any good tips to help us keep our balance? Think about when you learned to balance as a child; do you remember nearly falling but finding your body’s balance point that allowed you to continue without falling? This is a good way to find peace when juggling everything we have in the air. Breathe slowly, take a step back, find your balance and give yourself a break. Be present in yourself and in the NOW; deal with the life you are living at that very moment. Being you and being present in every situation can be challenging and difficult at times, but it is also an essential element of life (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014d).
Other cultural references on behalf of Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng include African rites and the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014c – see also International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers 2019).
The school offered several courses and “readings” with Nordeng, through which one could get in touch with their “spiritual password.” It organized spiritual travels as well, for instance to South Africa. Online courses were made available and through the web page one could also purchase books and audio books by the founders.
In their writings, Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng placed particular emphasis on individuality:
[W]e will hopefully inspire you to continue on your spiritual path. Because you are the only one who can walk that path. If you don’t, who will? There is simply nobody else who has exactly your experiences and your view of the world therefore no one else can fill your place. You are unique. If you don’t walk your path it simply won’t be used. And we all know what happens with disused paths; they get unrecognizable from all the undergrowth. By being consciously present in your every day [sic] life, you may see your path clearly (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2013a, italics in the original).
This is a process that is different for every person. Usually when we discover the Spiritual Password, it becomes easier to recognize the messages of the heart in everyday life too, though in the beginning, they can be hard to perceive. A feeling, for example, will often be vague, and we won’t recognize it for what it is, because we’ve ignored impulses like this for many years. But if, from now on, every time we get this little nudge we react to it, our heart will know that we’ve started to pay attention and will gradually strengthen the connection. So, the next time we’re in a similar situation, the feeling might be stronger, or we may recognize it more” (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014a)
This may suggest that courses and procedures might have been highly customized and flexible.
Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng also suggest that meditation can be brief and extemporaneous: “Get used to listening to your heart when you have a break during the day, when you’re in the shower or when you’re doing your everyday chores. It only takes a moment” (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014a).
Furthermore, they also suggest an exact prayer:
Here is a little prayer to help you on your way to better communicating with your heart. It is great to say it every morning when you get up, to set the standard — or set the energy — for the day.
Dear heart of hearts,
Thank you for your communication with me.
I am open to listening to you in whatever form you may
communicate, whether it is through feeling, seeing, hearing,
smelling, knowing or tasting. I know communication with you
puts me back on my spiritual path and I thank you for it.
I am safe and dare to be open to my inner light and let it shine
in the world, and I know you can help me with this
(Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014a).
A video is available on YouTube of a seminar led in an auditorium (presumably in Germany, since an interpreter provides a translation in German) by Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng who, speaking in English, encourage the audience (mostly women) to take a deep breath, to let go all expectations as well as “all previous memories of angel experiences,” to be “conscious here and now,” to lay a hand on their heart and communicate with it, receiving the answer “within your own language” [sic]. Eventually, they encourage the audience to ask their guardian angel to appear “in front of [them]”; the Princess specifies “let it come in his [sic] own form”: possibly “a breeze […] or warmth, or cold,” or “a loving presence,” or an “image,” or “some words” or “tones”: they should “be sure that this is [their] way and trust it.” She encourages the participants to see if it changes its “color” and to “ask it if it has anything to tell [them] now.” Eventually, Nordeng encourages the participants to let the “light within [their] heart” meet the light within the heart of the angel. She adds “don’t struggle to make it happen, just allow it to make it happen [sic].” She specifies that “it is happening in the physical body” and finally encourages them to let it go emphasising that it is available for them whenever they need it: “you just have to ask for it.” Both the seminar leaders and the participants are normally dressed and seated (in fact, not all participants seem to follow the instructions) and no special bodily occurrence or physical experience seems to happen when they claim that the contact with the angel has been established (inzaneg 2011).
Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng referred to themselves in terms that do not suggest that a special leadership is attributed to one of them; furthermore, with the aforementioned emphasis on individuality
they steer away from the impression of posing as role models, although their narratives of initial rejection, rebirth and the like were in all likelihood resonating with School’s sympathizers’ and course participants’ own experiences.
A third person, Carina Scheele Carlsen, served as school manager and spokesperson (Soulspring 2019d).
Märtha Louise of Norway has often been perceived as an outsider or a misfit in the royal family, in particular because of her unusual activities, such as her media appearances (e.g., she recited folk tales or performed as a soloist singer in a well-known folk choir on television) or her business, but she contributed to such public perception as well by describing herself on multiple occasions as uncomfortable with her public role:
I want to change the world. I have no idea where this desire comes from, but it has always been there. I was, after all, born a princess… For hundreds of years the role of royal families was to raise and cultivate personalities who would take charge and transform their kingdoms. What was my role in all this, I wondered? […]
I have always been a dreamer. Returning to the real world relentlessly felt like a crash landing; there was so much I did not understand. The biggest challenge was trying to read the hidden social codes — the unspoken rules we are expected to obey. Does society have a place for someone like me, and is there a place for my dreams? The answer is yes. Both inside me and in the world. I felt I wanted to inspire people to trust in themselves, to believe in their dreams and dare to make their dreams a reality changing the world.
Thinking these thoughts is a breach in the social code in Norway. We are breaking the Law of Jante (re: the tall poppy syndrome) which states:
You’re not to think you are anything special. You are not to think you are good at anything. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
We angel-institute-entrepreneurs, know what it is like sticking our necks out founding our spiritual institute, Astarte Inspiration, here in Norway. Many people with new and slightly outside-the-box-kind-of-ideas know it too. If you flag you are different, odds are good you will be chastised, ridiculed, criticized and humiliated by family, friends, co-workers and in the media. People will say your ideas won’t work; they will call you a megalomaniac!” (Princess Märtha Louise and Nordeng 2014b).
The controversy that followed the announcement of the opening of Astarte Education was related to the commercial-cum-pseudoscientific/paranormal character of such an enterprise, and it was criticised as such by skeptics who also recurred to ethical arguments (Tjomlid 2014), but it was also tied to issues at the interface of theology and Norwegian politics (Berglund 2014). The way in which angels were conceptualised by the princess was setting her school apart from Christian/Protestant theology. This posed a specific challenge to the monarchy since the Norwegian sovereign is no longer the formal head of the Norwegian Church, yet he or she is bound by law to be of Protestant confession (Aftenposten.no. 2007; Vg.no. 2007). Märtha Louise was even encouraged in the press to renounce the title of princess (Bt.no. 2007) [Image at right].
Scholars like Asbjørn Dyrendal and Anne Kalvig point out that vocal criticism against both the princess and her business partner, besides being related to the aforementioned issues, may have been fuelled as well by sexist views (Bigliardi 2015).
In 2014, Soulspring hosted a seminar by the British medium Lisa Williams (b. 1973), who allegedly communicated with the dead (Lisa Williams 2019). After some Norwegian religious leaders expressed opposition against Spiritism, Soulspring published the following:
We in Soulspring do not communicate with dead souls in our work. And here is where our work is separate from Lisa’s. To be completely honest, we don’t see the point of contacting the dead. They passed over to the other side for a reason and should be allowed to stay there (TheLocal.no. 2014).
The Royal Family has never commented explicitly or in any detail on Märtha Louise’s angel-related doctrines and activities nor over her performances and enterprises.
Image #1: Princess Märtha Louise.
Image #2: Princess Märtha Louise with Elisabeth Nordeng.
Image #3: Front cover of The Spiritual Password.
Image #4: Princess Märtha Louise’s royal logo.
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