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                                        In Search Of The Soul

 

                                                                 - by Alan - 

       

                                             1) General Considerations

 

             The Soul, in most cases, is "sensed" or "felt" as an observed presence, rather than  directly registered by the physical senses in sensory perception. The Soul exists in a realm of manifestation above and beyond the physical/ material plane, and determines everything and process on that plane, while simultaneously superseding them. The Soul controls all destiny everywhere on the physical plane - WE do not.

          The Soul is the spiritual essence of conditions on the physical plane. A sufficiently sensitive observer can learn to perceive its presence through reflection in the environment as instances of Soul-to-Soul identification. The more work done in developing the personal Soul presence (the Jivatman in Sanskrit terminology), the more attuned to the additional Soul "vibrations" in the environment one becomes.

          The Jivatman is an expression of a much more extensive condition - (again in Sanskrit) the Mahatman, or Great Soul. In this context, the entire universe has the Mahatman as its Soul, again existing beyond the physical plane of that universe and superseding it. Since it is not a fundamentally physical form, the Great Soul is not bound by the "rules" of physical activity - it is not trapped in temporal, liner, causal, or logical relationships. It is not bound by logic, ethics (although it remains SUPREMELY ethical), or human moral or social considerations and understanding. It is eternal and omnipresent, perhaps even extending beyond what we experience as "this" universe into all other conceivable universes. The Great Soul is FREE in the most literal sense, as is it's personal form, the Jivatman. On the Soul level, and ONLY that level, we are truly free beings!

          This freedom carries with it a profound responsibility to focus awareness on the greatest, highest, best level of consciousness available. Because we have limited free will, we can choose to ignore this responsibility and remain fixated on material living, but this choice dooms us to live in the condition of physical vulnerability, scarcity, and (ultimately) mortality evidenced by physical sensory perception. Thus, embracing the Soul on all levels is the only hope of attaining any freedom anywhere from the condition of material bondage on the physical plane. This includes the Ultimate Freedom - immortality following the death of the physical organism and accompanying cessation of sensory experience!

          In the context of the preceding paragraphs, it can be asserted that the best hope for the preservation of consciousness following death is the development of the Jivatman during life. This can be very problematic, because the traits best suited to enhanced Soul development are antithetical to the traits required for survival and material gain on the physical plane! Material prosperity as a goal forces the focusing of awareness on the sensory condition as a means of manipulating that condition for the outcome of perceived personal advantage. This, in turn, grounds awareness in and on the body, not the mind - and certainly not the Soul - the most rarefied, ethereal region of that mind. This is the reason why sincere spiritual practitioners throughout history have pursued lives of poverty, austerity, and humility - they directly perceived the profound threat of materialism and sensual gratification to higher consciousness and the development of the empowered Soul.

          In this vein, a discussion of some of the traits of an empowered, developed Soul follows in the next series of paragraphs. Since this area of endeavor is (as far as we can know) most available during the span of this life, the reader is encouraged to ponder the material next presented deeply and sincerely as the best chance at post-mortem survival in the afterlife, and genuinely moral living while still in this one...

 

                                             2) Characteristics Of The Soul...

 

                                                                    Purity

 

          Although the Soul traits listed here are not given in any particular order, this trait is perhaps the most characteristic and defining! An expanded discussion of this matter follows in the next paragraphs...

          I have noted in the preceding arguments that the Soul as an entity in consciousness is not to be considered in the same "sense" as other mental manifestations. It is certainly of a significantly more rarefied character than physical sense impressions, and additionally more rarified than the emotional responses linked to those sense impressions. The Soul is also more rarefied than ideas, no matter how subtle they may be, because these are utterly associated with the ego, which is in turn a mental extension of the central nervous system, itself an extension of the physical body on the material plane.

          Although the Soul is certainly a mental concept, it has no material referent on the material, physical plane - hence its existence is frequently denied by even psychological science, and is not treated in the physical sciences at all. For these reasons, the Soul can and should be regarded as a PURE mental condition - its lack of physical referents literally renders it immune to the material influences that effect other mental manifestations, such as greed, fear, lust, selfish love, apathy, loneliness, anger, and so on. In either the personal (Jivatman) or collective (Mahatman) expression, the Soul exists beyond ideation, but NOT beyond perception, although we must be willing and able to focus consciousness entirely away from lesser levels of perception to experience it's manifestation. As I said, a PURE condition…

        

                                                               Innocence

 

          Allied to Purity is the trait of Innocence. Because the Soul is dissociated from the physical, material plane, it is not subject to any form of temptation that might conceivably lead to its Fall from Divine Grace. The Soul has no material needs or shortcomings: it is complete in its condition of Radiance and Splendor before God! And Inasmuch as its "needs" nothing, everything "needs" it to exist! The Soul exists at the center and foundation of consciousness and drives ALL other conscious processes into being, including sensory perception on the physical plane (or state, if you will) of being. This unique spiritual status "allows" it to exist in a state of Pure Innocence, devoid of any malevolent, hostile, or selfish motivation. Like God, the Soul Is Pure Love.

 

                                                           Vulnerability

 

          This is one of the most difficult Soul traits to understand and work with, threatened as the human ego is by all manner of menaces and perceived deficiencies, great and small. It seems from the egoic perspective that we can never really have ENOUGH - enough love, enough possessions, enough security, enough health, enough power and influence, and so on. Due to these fundamentally illusory deficits, we always want MORE - the ego is never satisfied for long!

          Because of the threat conception (known in psychology as the Catastrophic Expectation) that lies at the foundation of the ego, we are driven to construct elaborate systems of manipulation to protect our perceived vulnerability. This frequently occupies enormous amounts of mental time and energy to the detriment of all else as the highest mental priority, and any form of vulnerability is seen as supremely dangerous.

          Let us examine this state of affairs in more detail, beginning with a cold, hard look at the reality of  life in the body on the physical plane. The ego has what is essentially an impossible task - the safety and security its seeks can only be transitory at best when faced with the fundamental state of the universe, which is CHAOS of all forms and expressions. In this foundational context, life really IS dangerous, unstable, and unpredictable. This is reality on the physical plane.

          What matters is what we DO with that reality. Certainly some effort expended for the sake of security is justified - the question is how much? Since this is a game we all must lose eventually, what are the alternatives? Why is Vulnerability considered as a Soul trait? In a way, it comes down to priorities...

          If my priority in life is Spiritual Rectitude, then the Soul, as the focus of spirituality and spiritual living, must come first, above and beyond all other considerations. This essentially means that I must accept that the vulnerable, transitory, chaotic nature of physical existence is intentional, not accidental, and reflects the Divine Will. From the perspective of God and the Soul, existence is perfect, and as it should be! This is why Vulnerability reflects the Soul - we suffer in life as an opportunity to Realize the Soul and Higher Conscious Perception. Rather than resist this condition of suffering, we should embrace it as the true path to Salvation by living in utter vulnerability and defenselessness! Only in this way can we know the blissful release from the ego and be FREE beings as God intended.

 

                                                                 Radiance

 

          The Soul exists in a state of permanent spiritual Radiance - a superluminous internal and external condition that pertains to the Biblical observation that "The Kingdom of Heaven lies within you, and all around you!" In truth, there is only one condition that is an exception - the human body and sense perception! The "container" of awareness blocks the experience of the full radiance of the Soul by focusing attention on the physical plane and survival.

          This Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung discovered at least a partial revelation regarding this in his Theory of the Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. Briefly, he defined the Archetypes as existing in a fundamentally chaotic realm (in the genetic structure of the brain, perhaps?) beyond direct observation, but postulated that they exerted psychic "pressure" on the mind that resulted in the formation of Cultural Archetypal Symbols that could be observed, albeit usually only as the result of therapeutic intervention. These symbols are always culturally specific, but Jung was able to generalize them with cross-cultural labels. The Soul is one such label, and there are at least hundreds of others which he cataloged over the course of his life.

          One of the characteristics of Archetypal Symbols which Jung specified in his therapeutic practice (which he referred to Transpersonal Psychology) was an internal "luminosity" in the psyche (i.e. total mind) which he called numinousity. They "stand out" in the unconscious mind against the general background condition. As one works ones way deeper and deeper into the unconscious, through the Freudian repressed sexual content of the personal unconscious and into the Jungian Collective Unconscious region, more and more intense, numinous, and significant Archetypal Symbols are encountered. At the core of the Collective Unconscious lies a symbol he referred to as the Self, the Jungian analog of the Soul! Hence, the Radiance noted here as a trait of the Soul - this Radiance (intense numinance) is an internal coefficient of the Soul's manifestation in the mind.

         What then of the External Radiance? The perception of the Radiance "outside" is an extension of the perception of the Radiance "inside" - we first must do the very difficult work of Soul Realization on an inner level to recognize the Soul Presence on the outer level - remember that the Soul creates the perceived world, not vise versa. A sufficiently Realized person (an admitted rarity, although such people do exist and have existed throughout history) literally experiences the Universal Presence of the Soul in all things everywhere, within and without, and LIVES in that Radiant state!

          The Sanskrit term for this condition is Samadhi - literally "blending" - in which the personal consciousness of the individual is blended with the Universal Consciousness of the Soul. There are levels of Samadhi ranging from temporary to permanent, culminating in Maha Samadhi - the physical death of the organism! In the practice of Spiritual Yoga, death is seen as a blessing - the ultimate release from worldly suffering and sensory illusion.

          I personally have experienced the first stage of Samadhi (known as Sivakulpa Samadhi) in deep meditation, and have subsequently noted that an enhanced level of Soul "recognition" in the physical world "around me" was the result. We don't go to the Soul - the Soul comes to us when we are ready for the experience, but thereafter we can perceive it much more frequently everywhere. As a partial list, I have sensed the Soul Radiance in a dog (!), a painting,a few other people, a cartoon, a motor vehicle, a lake, on a mountain top, and (most importantly) myself, to name a few instances! Wouldn't trade it for the world...!

 

                                                              Acceptance

 

          We have probably all heard the prayer "Lord, please grant me the courage to change the wrong things in life, patience to Accept those that I cannot change, and wisdom to know the difference!"  This sequence deals with Acceptance as it concerns the Soul.

          I mentioned in previous paragraphs that the Soul determines all events and outcomes on the physical plane, WE do not. I am quite convinced of the accuracy of this claim, as I have clearly seen it demonstrated time and time again over the course of my life. The Soul is in control - WE are not. This condition is nowhere more relevant than in matters of personal spiritual growth and Enlightenment. The Soul determines when, where, and HOW to manifest its presence in human consciousness and affairs.

          Now, it is certainly true that we can prepare ourselves for Soul Encounters through any number of spiritual exercises in an enormous number of traditions. I personally have practiced Yoga (Hatha, Kundalini, Bachti, Raja), intensely studied Cabala (frequently referred to as "The Yoga of the West"), practiced Christianity (I am a Confirmed Methodist and Episcopalian), and participated in numerous Hindu, Buddhist (practicing various types of meditation in both traditions), and Native American rites over the years. Yet I am convinced that my Jivatman, although conditioned by these experiences, has benefited most from patient Acceptance of the need to WAIT for epiphanies of Enlightenment to manifest themselves in my life according to what I now know was/is the Self's/Soul's discretion.

          The spiritual journey on the Path of Enlightenment is long and arduous, with many pitfalls and backward steps along the way, customarily requiring the full course of a life and a lifetime of commitment and sacrifice. There are no shortcuts, no instant illuminations (although there ARE epiphanies - bursts of Enlightened perception - these are far and few between), no magic formulas to circumvent sustained hard work and dedication.

          And the Soul also mirrors this level of personal acceptance and patience in its Realm of Being. Perhaps the best model of this process (although there are many) is demonstrated by basic Hindu cosmology. Again, briefly, out of a preformative condition known as the Brahmin, the Creator aspect of God, Brahma, precipitates into manifestation, and then performs Creation in consequence. He does not act alone in this, however - he acts in concert with two additional Divine entities - Vishnu, the Preserver aspect of God, and Shiva, the Destroyer aspect. Vishnu sustains Creation following Brahma's initial outpouring. Shiva eventually removes the completed expressions of Creation when they have served their Karmic purpose, and recycles the Cosmic Energy involved back into the Brahmin in an enhanced format that "upgrades" it into a higher state of vibration. This enhanced vibration is then returned into manifest form as Brahma, and the cycle begins again, albeit on a slightly higher vibrational level than before. The reader should realize here that this description is an absolute simplification of a process about which VOLUMES have been written, but it covers the salient points!

          In Jungian discourse, the Self/Soul encompasses the whole process just outlined above, combined within one entity, but the process itself remains relevant. Particularly the action of Vishnu the Preserver expands across time and space on the physical plane we experience as existence. Although we generally think of God/Soul/Self as omnipotent, "He" does, in fact, have a few limitations! He cannot break His own rules. He cannot expand beyond His condition. Since He Is Love, He cannot act out of fear, hate, or resentment. He cannot exceed the measure of His control over Himself. And, in the Aspect of Vishnu, He must ACCEPT Karma (Destiny) as the framework of existence, and work within that framework. Free Will requires no less. And even if we have only limited free will in life, we still make decisions and act in the world as individual fields of consciousness. Thus, even the Soul is constrained by the Acceptance of Free Will as the vehicle of Karma and the measure of destiny on the physical plane!

 

                                                                      Grace

 

          The quality of Grace is predominantly what enables the Soul to manifest the level of Acceptance noted in the preceding paragraphs. While Free Will is arguably the greatest Divine entitlement bestowed upon humanity, Grace is the Soul trait that conveys patience to the Soul and to human beings on Earth.

          Imagine for a moment that the Soul could fall into the Pit of Impatience in a lapse of Grace. What would be the consequences for human beings of this lapse? I must maintain that they would be catastrophic on a world level. Without the Divine Patience of the Soul at the source of Creation, fanaticism would become the rule in Heaven, and reflected on Earth. What if God were to become an impulse-ridden maniac, arbitrarily sowing destruction in Heaven and on our physical plane? The Preservation of Vishnu would become an impossibility, and Shiva's Destruction would reign supreme everywhere! For this reason, Grace is a key trait of the Soul - without it, the entire Cosmic Balance is lost in Heaven and on Earth. Grace is THAT critical!

          Fortunately, the nightmare scenario described in the preceding paragraph is almost certainly never to occur (at least until the End of Time!) - God Is Love, after all, and loves His human children unconditionally, tolerating all but the most flagrant moral failings of the flesh, and sometimes even those, in consequence of His gift of Free Will. Only in the Last Days, when humanity has become incorrigibly corrupt will He wipe the slate clean in the Last Judgment. Until then, the Divine Being, resplendent in the Mahatman, will continue to Radiate Grace and shed that Grace onto the physical plane.    

  

                                                             Compassion

 

          Allied to the trait of Grace is the trait of Compassion. The Soul/Self/God knows how difficult the condition of consciousness embedded in the flesh, and at the mercy of the central nervous system, is and manifests a continuous state of Compassion in consequence. The Soul also extends this Compassion to Itself as it bears the knowledge of all human suffering throughout history - past, present, and future. In fact, the Soul spontaneously and continuously Radiates ALL of the traits listed here (and many more - this list is by no means complete) everywhere and forever in Its Grace and Compassion.

          As the trait of Compassion Radiates onto the physical plane, we are tasked with applying it in our interactions with each other, and to understand the EXTREMELY challenged state of physical, biological awareness. We are ALL so very imperfect, vulnerable, and mortal after all! We are asked by the Soul to at least pause in our daily struggles, rise above our condition, and embrace each other on the Soul’s Plane through Compassion and tolerance. As we all know, this can be most difficult amid the blizzard of sense impressions continuously inundating the central nervous system.

          I have used the practice of meditation to periodically interrupt of stream of physical sensory data during the day to great effect, and this creates more "elbow room" to experience and practice Compassion in consequence. As an imperfect physical being, I know that I will tend to fall back into the Pit of Ignorance (after all, this is the baseline state of human awareness!) and I also extend the Soul level of Compassion to myself as I continue to seek a better way, understanding that I WILL fail and fall down on the Path. But I WILL also get back up and continue to walk forward toward Enlightenment!

 

                                                             Forgiveness

 

          The trait of  Forgiveness is allied to Compassion and frequently even MORE difficult to practice, particularly when the perceived wrong is most grievous in character - and, to be sure, the physical plane is filled with grievous wrongs of every kind on every level!

          As mortal, vulnerable flesh we are continuously subject to injury and injustice - the ONE guarantee of life is suffering. And we have a natural tendency to retaliate against perceived aggression by others as a first impulse - to “shoot first and ask questions later”. So it can be accurately said that we are predisposed to vengeful, intolerant behavior.

          The Soul has none of this - it exists in a permanent state of Grace in which tolerance and understanding are the norm. Forgiveness is the natural condition of the Soul - just as eating and breathing are the natural conditions of the flesh. The Soul/Self/God automatically forgives Itself for the Act of Creation and all its negative consequences, including human suffering, since that Act was performed in LOVE, as an outpouring of Universal Grace. This is why the old expression "To Err is human, to Forgive Divine!" is so literally accurate! And, as has been the case in prior examples, the Soul Radiates this "option" onto the physical plane as the possibility of human Forgiveness, no matter how agonizing its application may be.

          The human reward for the successful completion of this task is the unburdening of the Jivatman of the ongoing burden of anguish and hatred held within it as long as the task remains incomplete. Many people carry lifelong unhealed wounds resulting from perceived wrongs that shape all their attitudes and behavior and can only be released by Forgiving the perpetrator(s) for inflicting the injury(s) involved. Surely the relief experienced through Forgiveness is more than enough reward!

 

                                                            Detachment

 

          This final Soul trait is perhaps the most difficult one for the human mind to grasp - nothing is more central to ego awareness than the attachment to the objects and processes present on the physical plane. Attachment defines human identity. Attachment preserves human culture and, through tools and technology, human life. In reality, we are all natural attachment ADDICTS!

          The Soul, by comparison, exists in a state of, and Radiates forth, Purity and Pure Detachment - It "needs" nothing, as does the ego, which needs EVERYTHING to maintain its illusory manifestation on the physical plane, which is itself another, more complex illusion. In reality, only the Soul/Self/God is Real, and ALL other expressions are outpourings of Divine Love in the Act of Creation - God’s Gift of Love to God. God Is Love, albeit existing in a dimension beyond human comprehension.

          "Beyond human comprehension" does not (paradoxically) mean "beyond human attainment", however. We can aspire to the Soul level of Detachment while still incarnate on the physical plane by learning to recognize the signs of attachment early on, before the related addiction(s) become fully manifest in our consciousness. Any time I find myself becoming overly fixated on ANYTHING on the physical plane (or any other "plane", for that matter) I must carefully examine this fixation for signs of burgeoning attachment. This applies to wealth, sex, food, shelter, clothing, transportation, human love, intellect, and even faith. In fact, belief systems (e.g. faith/political/ethnic) are notorious sources of addiction, that, when practiced en mass can lead to horrific violence, warfare, and chaos on global scales.

          Anytime I find myself liking something too much, the red flags come out, and I know it's time to put the brakes on! It may be OK to love the Soul/Self/God, but it's NOT OK to love anything on the physical plane because everything here is transitory and doomed to extinction. Any emotional bonds formed here are also doomed, no matter how delightful they may seem. A much better idea is to learn to seek personal Enlightenment through Detachment. We were not created to serve the interests of the ego and physical senses (however insistent they may be) but to Know, Love, and Serve the Soul/Self/God - in reality One Being of Love and Light called by many names!

 

                                           - from Alan with Love -