Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Time for Soul Searching

What, exactly, is our soul? What does it do, and how does it effect our daily lives? Christians think of the soul as that eternal part of ourselves that exists before we are born and lives on after we die. Eastern traditions see the soul as a vessel for karma, our identity, which forms each lifetime as we reincarnate. The Hermetic teachings maintain that through forgiveness, our karmic debt (formed by error and transgression) is released. Through forgiveness, the soul transcends the level of cause and effect and allows the soul to be directed by spirit. This is often achieved after a dark night of the soul, where soul and spirit are purified by facing, embracing and releasing all the good and evil within. What do YOU think?

13 comments:

Lisa said...

My understanding is the soul is who you are your personality. Your
spirit is what existed long before you were born and returns from
whence it came when you die, your spirit incorporates your soul so
that when you die your spirit lives on with your personality and
memories. Your soul contains your compassion and empathy as well as
anger and hate it is your emotions so to speak whilst your spirit is
your intellect. That is why if you were to die as an infant or child
you do not remain an infant or child for eternity, for your spirit has
no age.

Derek said...

The Hermetic teachings seem more in line with the way I think in the way it suggests that sin is not the evil many people take it to be.. i.e. karma or error, meant to be corrected, not paid for by way of punishment.

Zazen (Zen meditation) brings lot of karmic ties to consciousness, and it is quite often painful. In our meditation we breath into the pain, and learn more of its nature and once we become one with it, it can disappear and is reclaimed from the ego-mind by the greater Mind (self, soul or whatever other labels are given it).

Jim Murdoch said...

Actually, there is no one christian view of the soul. My past christian background taught that the soul only came into existance at conception (or at birth). To use the word soul is confusing, some see it as the life force within, some use the word to describe the emotional part of our being. Others will add a Spirit to the soul and body. As for "Sin", look up the meaning of the word and you have the same idea of "karmic debt" mentioned above: SIN = Missing the mark. In other words, "sin" is nothing more than not being on the right path to enlightenment, and the only punishment is the experiences you put yourself through because of your un-enlightened state.

Dorie said...

I think any or all of those are possible aspects of soul. I mean, I always knew in my heart that the individual soul continues its growth quest after death, but now I feel I know it more than the 'knowing' I had before. My husband passed last year, and I swear in some ways we are closer in our relationship now, as we DO still communicate, and he does come to me and gently guide me in my own spiritual quest for understanding and growth. But I also agree, there is a state of forgiveness where we can transcend the karmic cycle. For me it seems to be a spiral - an onion - layers of letting go and releasing and rejuvenation, followed by continued struggle and effort, followed again by release, gradually ascending tossing baggage as I go. :) We can practice being directed by spirit in the here and now though - that is my every moment's quest. But what you say about the facing, embracing, and releasing all the good and evil within is what spurred me to write. That is how we have to do it (in my opinion and experience). We have to allow ourselves to see and face all that is within and only by allowing the full witnessing to take place - allowing the vision of truth to flow through us and fill us, no matter how "ugly" we think it is, we must face everything within in order to be able to release it.
Thanks for sharing.

Molly Brogan said...

Yes, the process can be full of struggle and effort, especially after a big loss. But I think it does become more graceful as time goes on - maybe because we learn to recognize shadow and transform it in the instant, instead of looking away and having it come up unexpectedly at a time when effort is needed to transform it. For me, each layer of the onion is sweeter than the last. The witnessing is more joyful as it becomes the predominate state of mind and I focus on the process of the witness more than what is being witnessed.

Marion said...

Psychological work is soul work.... By soul, I mean the eternal part of us that lives in this body for a few years, the timeless part of ourselves that wants to create timeless objects like art, painting and architecture. Whenever the ego surrenders to the archetypal images of the unconscious, time meets the timeless. Insofar as those moments are conscious, they are psychological — they belong to the soul.... For me, soul-making is allowing the eternal essence to enter and experience the outer world through all the orifices of the body ... so that the soul grows during its time on Earth. It grows like an embryo in the womb. Soul-making is constantly confronting the paradox that an eternal being is dwelling in a temporal body. That’s why it suffers, and learns by heart."

Christine Vyrnon said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Phillip Pullman's soul descriptions in "His Dark Materials" trilogy. It is 3 books worth of soul description... fantasy... but interesting.

Scientifically speaking, I think the soul is the blood in our veins, the memories in our body on the cellular level. The space between atoms that move through and beyond our body. It is collective and individual.... neverending.

If we bring breath into it, soul can be discussed as breath too.

Jim Murdoch said...

Molly, I can't adhere to your use of the soul. You describe it as a mini-spirit. We are spiritual beings, and as such connected. The "The space between atoms" mentioned by freeatlast is what scientists have long discovered, at least its existence. They call it the "Zero point field". It is that source of energy which gives us all our being and consciousness, for it is everywhere and in all time - some call it God. The rising of consciousness you describe I see as a growing awareness of this connectivity and greater belongingness. The letting go you speak of, is it not the letting go of the proud ego and the grasping of humility as we recognise that our own ego holds us back and only by letting go of the familiar can we ascend to the new and universal?

As I mentioned before, I think most of our misunderstandings have to do with the terms we use and how we interpret them. We have built a spiritual world around our words which no longer represents the Truth. Part of my letting go has involved letting go of the words which before held such meaning: sin, eternal life, damnation, reconciliation, salvation. Sound familiar? Letting go of the traditional understanding of these and seeing them as simple words a new meaning emerges: not doing the right thing, the eternal to which we belong, not accepting our higher belongingness, rising to that knowing of who we are, living our new lives with a new understanding and connectedness to the Source of all power (resp.). Religion has hidden these meanings through ritual so that only the ritual is seen. Remove the religion and the ego and we open ourselves to a new world of endless possibilities.

Well that was a mouthful. This is a very nutritious discussion. Thank you.

Tony said...

This Soul thing is what I call the eternal witness

The Spirit, I guess is something that projects from the void into forever and goes through experiences, changes forms

There'as a similarity there but our naming is in reverse

As for something being created at birth, such as a soul...i'm at odds with that totally. The spirit takes on ( or projects) a garment at birth from the dust of forever and travels in it, but really only in thought. The witness just watches.

Molly Brogan said...

Jim, I don't think that whether you believe that we have a soul the way I understand soul - that part of us that holds our eternal identity and allows multiplicity of spirit - is as important as the fact that we can discuss our views of our eternal aspects. We are all alive. We have different viewpoints about what that means, and yet we all breathe and live. I can respect all viewpoints and see the truth in them. And what a great time to be alive - a time when we can hold daily discussions with folks from around the globe in this way. Jubilation!

The difference between spirit and soul is a subject that has been given much attention over the eons. I see spirit as God, the all of everything that is everything we are and everything we do and connects us all. The oneness. I see soul as that which allows us to be one of the many, our individuality, our sacred commitment (for lack of a better word for all that free will gives us.) But I also think that there is a part of soul that is entrenched in oneness, while providing the instrument for us to relate to group souls on a level transcendent of duality. Integrated soul is both the one and the many.

It was after I could feel this true be true in my life that I became more conscious of the group souls that require my participation. Family, profession, community, race, humanity - all groups that we recognize also have a soul and we are part of that process - consciously and unconsciously - as with our individual soul. To witness this process is also fascinating and quite a blessing.

I think that each of us is an eternal being - that part of us that is the witness, that comes into the world and goes out when the body dies. The creation of karma over lifetimes and the transcendence of karma - all soul function. There is also a part of soul that brings us into the oneness and can integrate with all other facets, allowing us to be creation and the creator, the one and the many. This is where group soul comes into play. When we have released our karmic debt and transcended the soul's duality, we can consciously participate in group soul function - family, community, culture, race, humanity... all the many leading back to the one and bringing spirit back again in the glorious dance of creation. This has been my experience through the unfolding of awareness. I see it differently now than I did five years ago, and will probably see it differently five years from now. I hope we are still talking about it then!

Jim Murdoch said...

Molly I am not sure about the term "duality". I only recently came across this. What is your definition? Mostly I agree with what you are saying, but the "part of soul" I am not so sure. As I'm asking for definitions, what is "mind" to you?

Molly Brogan said...

Webster defines duality as "the quality or state of being dual or of being made up of two elements or aspects" The Koran explains duality in the verse 51:49: "And all things have We created in pairs in order that you may reflect on it."

I see any separation from the oneness as the realm of duality. Technically speaking, the level of duality in reference to consciousness is not strictly "made up of two elements" but of any number of elements, beginning with two as soon as they are not seen as one. It is how we learn, reconciling opposites, me/not me. The soul as vessel for karma would have to be dualistic in nature. Karma and karmic debt are governed by cause and effect, dualistic in nature. In our journey from birth to death, we(1)learn who we are individually and separately, (2)join again with the oneness as we clarify our beliefs about god and spirit and are able to experience this divinity, and then (3)tap into our own eternal nature and bring it back into the world in an integrated fashion - the one and the many. We embrace the realm of dualism when we are separate from the one.

The mind - that's a bit sketchier isn't it? I have seen this word used interchangeably with many others. In this discussion, I used it with body - body/mind - to try to describe those aspects of self that are not physical, but are not taken with us after death. I am sure they could be much debate about what this might be - ego, automatic behavioral systems, etc.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thank you. Now it is clear. I know of this concept of duality as the law of opposites. As for the mind, I have heard it said that the mind resides in every part of our being, meaning in every cell of our body and in our thoughts. It is not clear exactly what the mind is, I think. "I think" is the only clue we have to the mind's existence. I remember not too long ago scientists were puzzled when they changed the DNA of a set of cells, only to find that the offspring of those cells reverted back to the original. They didn't know then where this memory was stored. All I know is that our memory, our mind resides in each cell.

We are partaking in this discussion through our minds. We think thoughts and write words to express those thoughts. Where do these thoughts come from? Who is thinking these thoughts? This body? My brain? My soul? My Spirit? You see the confusion here? Even the mind can be seen as the soul, or a function thereof.

In the model we have been taught with (at LifeSuccess) and which I use to teach, we have a large circle representing the head, and a small circle the body, a stick person. The head represents our consciousness, the upper half the conscious mind and the lower half the sub-conscious mind. It is the sub-conscious mind which is the seat of the emotions and feelings. The conscious mind, where we think deliberate conscious thoughts, controls what goes on in the sub-conscious mind, which of itself is incapable of choosing or rejecting what goes into it. This is why it is so important to master our thoughts. Yet this sub-conscious mind is somehow connected to the Greater Mind, the Universal Mind which connects us all.

The ego you refer to, Molly, would seem to be that part of us which has been preprogrammed from our past or pre-existence. This is also in our sub-conscious. The feelings we have, our fears of change, can affect our conscious thoughts. Or we can use our thoughts to reprogram our ego. Through this process of thought control, changing how we feel and how we act, we are in fact connecting to our deeper, inner self. Again what is this "self"? And it is this inner self which is aware of other selfs, you and Tony, and evry other being on this planet. I am sure some even reach the level of awareness in that they become aware of the beings, souls (?), not or no longer on this planet.

So you may be right about "those aspects of self that are not physical, but are not taken with us after death". Our feelings are part of our physical existence. they belong to our earthly, human being. And such feelings have no place in that other realm where we are truly at home. "We" meaning our true beings, without our bodies.

So, that was fun. I am looking forward to more comments here. Have a great day everyone.