exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity
Soul & Spirit
"... a dividing asunder of soul and spirit ... a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." the apostle Paul, Hebrews 4:12
I can still see myself in second grade in parochial school, the day Sister attempted to instruct us on the meaning of the soul…
She drew a stick-man on the blackboard but then enhanced the hapless figure with a small oval overlaying the mid-section. The oval, she said, was man's soul.
Well, it's not so easy to offer description of the elusive soul, even a metaphoric one, and hers is not a bad start; but let's investigate further.
Editor's note: As advocate for my teacher of ancient times, let us consider that both Plato and Dr. Campbell have employed the circle to denote the soul - but, with a difference:
from the book, “The Power Of Myth,”
a discussion with Dr. Joseph Campbell
Moyers: I remember a lecture in which you drew a circle, and you said, "That's your soul."
Campbell: Well, that was simply a pedagogical stunt. Plato said somewhere that the soul is a circle. I took this idea to suggest on the blackboard the whole sphere of the psyche. Then I drew a horizontal line across the circle to represent the line of separation of the conscious and unconscious. The center from which all our energy comes I represented as a dot in the center of the circle, below the horizontal line… Now, above the horizontal line there is the ego [the thinking mind, the chattering in the head that won't shut down], which I represent as a square: that aspect of our consciousness we identify as our center. But, you see, it’s very much off center. We think this is what’s running the show, but it isn’t.
Moyers: What’s running the show?
Campbell: What’s running the show is what’s coming up from way down below…
the battle to define reality
At the time of this writing, I have recently completed a survey of the 500 Leslie Flint tape recordings; 500 testimonies from people on the other side concerning what life is like there. As I’ve discovered, there are so many opinions, even in Summerland, on the meaning of life and how to live it. It’s a “wild west,” a motley congeries, of all manner of philosophy and viewpoint. Just this morning, I thought, “How can I offer summary of such a vast panoply of diverse thought?” But, then it occurred to me, there is one unifying element in all this mayhem:
All egos want something from you. All egos are trying to “sell you something.” Most of the people over there, as I will be explaining in the Flint summary, are not that advanced. And this lack of evolvement is reflected in what they say and what they’re trying to do. All egos want something from you; in this world, often, it’s your money or allegiance. But the cravings of the needy ego might take on more subtle forms in its efforts to find existential significance. When gross material wants are met, the dysfunctional ego will try to “sell you an idea,” a view of life in which the ego might exercise power and control over others. It’s a battle to define reality.
every ego is selling something
But let’s apply this to our present discussion of soul and spirit. There are tens of thousands of different religions in the world (in Summerland, too, but not in the "better" neighborhoods), and even tens of thousands of competing sects within Christianity. Each of these “isms” will tend to proclaim that it alone has a “red phone hotline” to God; that its teachings, solely and exclusively, constitute the “one true infallible” way. And in all of this doctrinaire “true believer-ism,” each religion or denomination will tend to define “soul” and “spirit” a little differently in order to support a narrow ecclesiastical party-platform. This is why there’s so much confusion attached to the terms “soul” and “spirit” - everybody’s selling something, they all want to define reality, but not to your advantage.
Editor’s note: Here’s one example of how the definition-game works. If a church believes in the “seventh trumpet” with graves opening and newly-animated bodies floating upward to meet a returning Christ, then it will feel threatened by information relating to post-mortem survival of consciousness. If the departed faithful languish in some sort of cold-storage cosmic warehouse awaiting a golden crown from a conquering savior, then what need have we of ideas like “there is no death”? In such case, the church might define “soul” not in terms of “cosmic indestructible essence” but as gossamer ephemerality. In the older translations of the Bible, the term “soul,” which might offer scores of nuances throughout the massive book, is sometimes given to mean “creature,” “mortal body,” “person,” and sometimes the translators even applied “soul” to the bodies of animals. Churches that wish to play down the immortality of man will point to these “creaturely” references to “soul” and in so doing will piously proclaim, “The Bible says that the soul is mortal and dies.” All this is just dishonest handling of the text, just fake news, as there are plenty of cases in the scripture indicating a much wider view for “soul.” See Bible scholar F.F. Bruce’s article on how Paul changed his mind regarding the “last trumpet” and adopted a new theological position, right in line with the scientific evidence for the afterlife.
coming to terms
Allow me to offer words and phrases, germane to our discussion, which might begin to clarify this unwieldy issue. The following represents my best understanding gained from the afterlife reports:
essential deeper person versus animating principle
soul: The real you, the individual nature, the deeper person, the “true self”; one’s link to God, to Universal Consciousness, but also to everyone else and all creation. The soul is not the thinking mind, not the chattering "voice in the head," but the silent, wordless, background, monitoring "presence," a pure awareness, the part of us that knows and witnesses that we are thinking. As Dr. Campbell put it, "this is what's running the show."
spirit: The animating life-force, the vivifying principle, that which makes us "alive." Sometimes “spirit” is used as a synonym of “soul,” but most often “spirit” is used in the sense of underlying “essence” or “substance.” We will be looking at several examples to make this clear.
An analogy to the three states of matter will help us here. Matter exists as a solid, liquid, or gas; the atomic and molecular makeup in each state remains the same but the space between particles is different. Let’s also recall, as we’ve discussed in other articles, only consciousness, that is, Universal Consciousness, is real. Consciousness is the ground of all being. We, and all elements of the three-dimensional universe, exist within Consciousness. This means that everything, in this world and the next, lives and exists at the pleasure, and derivation, of Consciousness. It means that matter is an expression of Consciousness; we might think of matter as a form of “frozen” Consciousness, just as a block of ice is frozen water, which might also issue as a liquid or gas at higher temperatures. Let’s continue with this line of reasoning and posit that “spirit” is akin to matter in that both derive from Consciousness, are forms of "solidified" Consciousness, but spirit is more rarified, the component elements of which are vibrating at a faster rate and higher frequency than the "heavier" matter of our world.
the world of spirit: “Spirit” does not mean, has no necessary link to, being “holy” or “religious” or the like. For example, the phrase “the world of spirit” should not, does not, indicate “a place where everyone is holy” or some such platitudinous notion because there are a lot of bad people, even criminal minds, over there; in fact, there’re probably more bad ones in “the world of spirit” than good. The phrase “the world of spirit" stands in contradistinction to the world of gross matter, that is, the Earth-world. What we call “spirit” is an essence or substance, a form of rarified matter-energy, vibrating at a higher rate. It is not subject to decay or dissolution, to death or damage, as is our world of mortality. This is why the dysfunctional spirit-persons inhabiting the Shadowlands live on and on, endlessly, just as the "good guys" in Summerland; longevity has nothing to do with moral rectitude but just part of the standard package of having been created "in the image."
Spirit speaks to us: “Spirit” in this sense might refer to the inner promptings, the “still small voice,” of Universal Consciousness; in other words its a synonym for "soul"; or it could refer to inspiration offered by Spirit Guides.
Spirit Guides: Again, “Spirit” in reference to the Guides does not mean that they are “holy” or better than we (which might be denoted if they were to be called "Spiritual Guides"), but only that they are inhabitants of another world, with bodies inviolable, the substance of which vibrates at a higher rate than earthly matter. The spirit-bodies of the Guides are composed of this higher-grade, more rarified, form of matter -- as solid to them as our bodies are to us -- as such, their outward forms enjoy the benefit of indestructibility.
spirituality, spiritual person: I would direct you to my three articles on the essence of spirituality. But, essentially, the spiritual person is one whose soul, with awareness, is aligned with, is attuned to, the promptings of Universal Consciousness. Good works per se do not make a spiritual person but, instead, naturally result from seeing life from God's point of view.
save my soul: Big Religion invented the fake news that you were made in a defective manner. This is not true. Your soul doesn't need saving. It needs to "wake up" to the reality of its perfection, to what it is and what it has. All human beings were "made in the image of God," meaning, the inner riches of human potential constitute a staggering treasure-trove of talent and ability.
sell my soul: Great themes in world literature address this concept. But it's mythology, it can't happen. For one thing, there is no Satan to "buy" the soul. Moreover, the soul is not something for which we can surrender title deed. It doesn't work that way. At the core of being we are linked to God. We're not "Lone Rangers" gallivanting around the universe all by our lonesome. Our personal consciousness is part of Universal Consciousness. In order to "sell our souls" we'd have to sell God as well, and good luck to us with that.
lose my soul: You can lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are. The soul is not something that you have, it's what you are. You are consciousness itself. That's the real you. You are part of God, of Universal Consciousness. Neither the material body nor the thinking mind is the real you.
spiritual music/prayer/works/movie/retreat/book/church-meeting/marriage/etc.: The following comments also apply to the closely related "holy mountain/day/ritual/conclave/water/ground/etc." All of these phrases, the "spiritual music," the "spiritual book," the "holy day," the "holy ritual," on and on, are part of common language, the way people talk. However, I would suggest that there's less here than meets the eye.
What is the problem with god-talk about "spiritual" or "holy" this-or-that? Is it not true, for example, that certain music might help one to feel "closer to God"? that a weekend retreat featuring insightful speakers could help us to overcome personal problems? and if a church ritual puts us in a prayerful frame of mind, isn't that a good thing? and, therefore, shouldn't all of these avenues toward the divine rightfully be labeled as "spiritual" or even "holy"? There's nothing wrong with these things is there?
To borrow a sentiment expressed on John and Mary's wedding day, no, there's nothing wrong with any of this; we are free to do or not do. However, there's nothing particularly right with it, either.
All of these items -- the music, the ritual, the meeting, the day -- are, at best, sign-markers pointing the way to a larger destination and reality. Nothing wrong with sign-markers, unless people fall in love with the sign-marker, find comfort in the form and shadow, and fail to arrive at the good stuff. A sign-marker won't take you to where you want to go and will leave you empty and unfulfilled.
And what is that larger destination and reality indicated by the sign-marker? The term "spiritual" in all of these contexts is but a synonym for matters relating to the soul. In other words, the whole point of engaging in this-or-that activity is, or should be, that of entering an enhanced state of consciousness, of aligning ourselves more closely to Divinity, of allowing us to see life from God's eyes, so to speak. The ritual, the book, the music, are all fine to sample, but none of it, of and by itself, will take us to what we really want. Stated another way, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a "spiritual book," "spiritual music," "spiritual conclave," and all the rest. If these elements of externality are to be purveyors of the sought-for spirituality, we'll have to bring it to the party and supply it ourselves.
This is a very large subject, and just now I am regretting opening this can of worms as too much needs to be said; many of my writings address these issues at length. However, allow me to state that nothing in the external world can induce, prod, or cajole the inner "true self," the soul, to evolve itself, which means, align itself more closely to the mind of God. The external "sign-posts" might help at times -- or not. The soul has its own timetable for "awakening" and no amount of "trying very hard" to open one's eyes will avail a whit of success if it is not one's time to "come alive"; and if it is your time, you won't need the so-called spiritual or holy book, day, ritual, and the rest. The truth is, once the "awakening" starts in earnest, you won't be able to stop the "germination" process. It will run right over you, upend your well-ordered life, smack you so silly, ready or not, with or without the so-called "spiritual" books, music, or rituals.
I don't like using myself as an example, but since I seem to be presenting myself as one who knows something about this, then maybe I should put up or shut up. About 25 years ago something happened to me. A mystical experience. It virtually jerked me into a higher level of awareness, even against my will. I was angry with someone; a long-standing point of antipathy. I had gone out of my way to speak with this person, not to make amends, not to forgive, but to rid myself, once and for all, of the influence of this person. I was not in a "spiritual" or "holy" frame of mind; quite the opposite. I cannot speak candidly about this experience at the moment, but suffice to say, during the conversation, my "eyes opened" to things previously unknown. It was like being reborn. I sometimes refer to those moments of revelation as my "spiritual birthday" because, ready or not, even against my will, I found myself thrust into a process, from that time to this, of becoming more and more open and aware to all that is wonderful in life. No sign-markers, no "holy" rituals or "spiritual" music, were required to effect this wonder nor could have meant my dear Uncle Bud's "tinker's damn." Once it starts, you can't shut it off, you can't go back to not knowing. And this is why the great teachers say that an elevation of one's consciousness becomes a permanent feature of one's life, unlike ersatz and evanescent brain-chemical induced states of seeming well-being.
Holy Spirit: The so-called divine trinity with its third member, the Holy Spirit, does not exist. Just more fake news. Like Satan, this entity-as-person was manufactured by Big Religion as a power-and-control concept. The "Holy Spirit" should be rendered "holy spirit," rather, in plain English, "the purified consciousness."
life in the spirit: The apostle Paul used many phrases like this in his Letter to the Galatians, the oldest document in the New Testament. "Life in the spirit" essentially means "living in the Consciousness of God." You'll want to read about this in my extended writing, a complete commentary on Galatians.
At a restaurant, it's good not to confuse the menu with the meal; eating a glossy photo of pecan pie just seems to lack something. And concerning forms and shadows, the "spiritual" or "holy" rituals, days, meetings and the like, Paul employs three analogies to warn people about not falling in love with sign-markers, the rituals of legalistic religion as a kind of
(1) nursery for little kids, the spiritually immature;
(2) prison, concerning those who are handcuffed to rules and regulations, believing this to be pleasing to God; and
(3) "A-B-Cs," the rudimentary first teachings of infants, the "training wheels" of learning how to honor God.
God is (a) Spirit: Second only to the writings of Shakespeare, the classic 1611 King James translation of the Bible shepherded the development of the English language more than any other single source. Its influence, however, issued not always as a force for precision and truthfulness. Fifty scholars, teams of translators, each led by personal opinion and prejudice, refashioned New Testament Greek as the King’s English, but with sometimes shocking disparity of result.
For example, in the Gospel of John, the Greek phrase referring to the divine spirit was translated as “Holy Spirit” by one team while another group of translators rendered the same Greek phrase as “Holy Ghost.” Clearly, the process of translation of the Greek manuscripts often became a function more of art than science.
But lack of objectivity and private view become a greater problem when the literal message of the Greek manuscript might contradict established orthodox teaching of the Church of England. We might easily imagine the dilemma for the translators: “What would the King say if we translated the Greek into some heretical idea opposed to what the Church teaches? Good King James has no sense of humor about these things.”
One such conundrum was met in John chapter four, the story of Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. I frequently allude to this pericope as it features Jesus’ comments about the “living waters" – archaic English for an "artesian spring." But here's a new aspect. The woman makes reference to a local temple. Let’s listen in on Jesus’ response, brought to us by another famous translation, The Becker Living Version:
And Jesus said: “Yeah, ok, that’s cool, that’s nice, your temple is an impressive building for sure, and everyone here is so very proud of it, but let me tell you something: A day is coming when people will no longer be worshipping God in temples made of stone, constructed by human hands. In that day people will worship God in spirit and in truth. This is altogether fitting and the most natural thing you could do because God is Spirit and those who worship him must do so in a spiritual, non-materialistic manner.”
The translators didn’t know what to do with “God is Spirit.” Orthodox teaching anthropomorphized God as a stern grandfather-figure in the sky, a humorless old man with a long white beard sitting on a marble throne, hurling judgment and invective at helpless people just for doing nothing. The translators imagined God as a Spirit-being with a human body, not as amorphous Spirit. Their solution was to insert an article, the letter “a,” before “Spirit,” thereby turning God into a Spirit-man. King James would buy this, but the other was a hard sell in his court. (The letter "a" printed in italics in the KJV indicates that the original Greek does not support this rendering.)
Well, we understand the politics of the day and the need to save one’s neck from an orthodox king. The actual meaning of Jesus’ words, however, is not so hard to discern, especially as we consider the context of the entire conversation with the woman:
“God is not a Spirit, God is not a human-figure in the sky; instead, God is Spirit, that is, God is Consciousness itself, Universal Consciousness. God is all and in all, and all things are made of God’s essence. It makes absolutely no sense and becomes the height of folly to think that you can find God -- the one who in habits eternity, the universe, and all dimensions -- in some little church-building with four walls. What a ridiculous idea! Those who understand what I’m saying will worship God – not in a temple or in a church – but in spirit and in truth; that is, by aligning one’s consciousness (spirit) with Universal Consciousness, which is a reflection of reality (truth).”
Editor's note: The archaic "worship" literally means "worth-ship," meaning, ascribing honor and deference to God, but, intrinsically, this devotion has nothing to do with ritualistic church services.
the long dark night of the soul: One of my favorite quotations is from the great writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald: “In the [long] dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning.” This says so much. Three A.M. can be a most miserable time, with no place to run and hide, no artifice available to distract. At three A.M., we are most alone, frighteningly so, with ourselves.
But why should the soul experience a “long dark night,” and what does this mean? In the article on “Repression,” as per the findings of the famous psychologists, we learn that people will do almost anything to avoid meeting themselves authentically. As such, they will fill their lives with all manner of self-beguilement and misdirection. Such obfuscation could take the form of too much mall-shopping, drinking, the incessant sexual conquest, of television as background noise and never turned off, or the inveterate crossword-puzzler, or too much emphasis on sports; on and on.
People hide from life, and primarily from themselves, in all of these pastimes, but not infrequently the repression might take the guise of worthwhile, or even noble, activities, which, if founded upon untoward intent, if used to sedate oneself from the real business of life, then even good things might be tainted with pathology; things like serving others and charitable works, of study and intellectual pursuit, of religious endeavor, of pursuing the arts and aesthetics; and much more. All of these essentially good things can become forms of repression, masks that people wear, roles that people play, in order to hide from their primary existential duties in life, that of coming to know their own souls.
And here’s a very popular mask and role-playing: People talk about the importance of companionship in marriage and the desire to avoid growing old alone. And, of course, people are social animals and require concourse with others, and we’ll always want that, especially with a well-matched mate. But some or many of the people who “don’t want to be alone” are, at the same time, very unhappily married, do not love their mates, and are “counting the clock down” to be released at life’s end.
Why is this? It is so because the unhappiness of joining the ranks of what Ann Landers called the “miserably married” is, for many, preferable to being alone with oneself. A bad marriage is a very good place to hide from oneself, the tall grass covers so much, becomes shelter against one’s true sensibilities. The pressing distraction of all of the negativity in the "miserably married" home is good for that, at least. And so people remain so-called married as the background noise in the household is deemed to be far better than facing oneself, alone, in a quiet room, especially at three A.M.
something I gotta tell you, there'll be no more crying in your lonely room, no more empty nights
Tomorrow's Gonna Be A Brighter Day
"well, I know it hasn't been easy, and I haven't been there to help you when you're down, I know I never showed you much of a good time, but, Baby, things are gonna change, I'm gonna make up for all the hurt I brought, I'm gonna love away all your pain, and tomorrow's gonna be a brighter day, there gonna be some changes, this time you can believe me, no more cryin' in your lonely room, and no more empty nights, tomorrow everything's gonna turn out right, well, I got somethin' I gotta tell you, yes, I got somethin' on my mind, but words come hard when you're lying in my arms, and I'm lookin' deep into your eyes, 'cause nobody ever had a rainbow, Baby, until he had the rain..."
Why is it so hard to live authentically, to meet ourselves? We are afraid. Terrified. Yes, "there is a pain so utter" and "we make inward bedlam and will not come out." We’ve stored up a life-time of “bad movies” in the mind which condemn us for this-or-that word or deed. The dysfunctional ego runs our lives and attempts to convince us that we are no good, unworthy. Led by fear and guilt, we have now become ready candidates, we believe, for future judgment from a hostile god; Big Religion, of course, plays on this to the hilt. We're a mess, an "open eye would drop us," and this is why the majority of the population is on some form of mental pain-killer. All of this, for those who bravely walk the lonely road of the "long dark night," is very difficult, summons to itself heroic stature, and will one day invite great honor to one's life.
I love the above line by Fitzgerald, as well. But why should the soul experience a “long dark night”? When we begin the process of enlightenment, of opening our minds and hearts to life, the “true self,” the source of joy, creativity, and peace, becomes invigorated, but the “false self,” now down for the count and fighting for its disingenuous existence, will work all the harder to keep us on the plantation. All of the “bad movies” will now plague us with a vengeance. And this will go on for a good while, and this is why the soul’s “night” is not only “dark” but “long.” The ego won’t give up its dominion so easily.
F. Scott Fitzgerald meant to say that when you begin to open your mind and heart to life, it won’t be a walk in the park on Sunday afternoon. And you’ll have many hours of despair – the proverbial 3 A.M. – in which all might appear rather bleak for you; and you will fail many times before mastery is won. The dysfunctional ego has been gaining strength over us all of our lives, and we should not expect to diffuse, to neuter, to turn that big ship around in one day.
And what is "the real business of life"? as I used the phrase earlier. What is our primary purpose, now, and a million years from now? It is to more fully discover, and bring to the surface of personhood, the "true self," the life within, and to align ourselves with God's mind.
We need to learn to openly and honestly face ourselves, that is, the "false self," the pathological ego. Some of this process will be painful. But much of it, more and more, over the coming months and years, will stabilize us in the knowledge of the life within, a sense of our true identity, the “inner riches” of what it means to have been made in the “image of God.”
This is not an optional project, not an elective; there is no choice about it, that is, if you want to be sane. Every human being has to undergo the "long dark night" if we are to assume a divine sanity for our minds. There will be no true happiness in Summerland, and we will not find our eternal romantic bliss with a Twin Soul lover, until we courageously face the music of what “the ego” has done to us. I speak of this at length in the “500 Leslie Flint tape-recordings, 500 testimonies from the other side.”
Can we know God? Can we know ourselves?
Woody Allen comes close to the truth. These questions might ever remain unanswered.
We don’t know who or what God is, and, since our essential beings are linked to God, there’s a deeper aspect of ourselves which will ever defy exploration.
We can know ourselves somewhat at the periphery of life, our apparent individuality, but at the core of being, that unreachable realm of “the unmanifested,” we must content ourselves, very likely, to accept that we shall never completely know either God or the sacred self.
The divine self, the soul, the "inner cosmos," which is linked to God, part of God's own essence, is too vast to be known, to be charted and mapped, just as God is too vast to be known and "all figured out"; therefore, as the holy prophet Woody Allen rightly suggests, we'll be lucky not to get lost in Chinatown in our quest to know ourselves.
to be a 'spiritual' person is to align one's heart, soul, and spirit with the Source of Spirit
Of course, this has to be the answer - what else could "spiritual" mean?
Editor's last word:
Somewhere in the afterlife testimonies, a Spirit Guide stated that we, right now, are as much of a spiritual person as ever we shall be.
Each of us, right now, has as much opportunity to access the mind of God, Universal Consciousness, as any person living in Summerland, even ones who are thousands of years old.
Our bodies will change when we cross over; then, we’ll be spirit-beings, but we can be spiritual beings this very moment.
And let me say this – an assertion echoing the teaching of some of the best teachers over there – trust yourself concerning what your deepest inner person whispers to you. If you are living from your center, if you have begun to mute and muzzle the egoic “monkey mind,” then trust yourself when Spirit speaks to you. (See a long list of admonition by various teachers, on this page, to "go within" and "trust yourself.")
It is possible to know, to sense, things as they truly are -- here, right now -- even more accurately than some who have been on the other side for a very long time but are still in debt to the dysfunctional ego. Those on the other side will have clearer perception of the bright flowers and verdant meadows, but this more precise apprehending of the landscape won't help us that much. The most important aspects of life are spiritually discerned, that is, brought into clarity via greater attunement with Universal Consciousness -- and we can do this no matter the particular world we happen to be visiting at the moment.
There is a tendency to be intimidated by a report from those over there who claim to be thousands of years old. While respect for ones who have gone before is always in order, merely having lived a long time, or the myth of many lives, is no guarantee of wisdom. Much time, of and by itself, cannot help us and, without a missing element, avails nothing; in fact, more time per se might entrench one in habit patterns of failure and make one worse.
Only an accessing of the life within, Universal Consciousness, will advance us; and even young people can begin to do this. In the kingdom of God, there are no elites, no favorites, no gurus, no "holier than thou," no celebrities, no saints, no "red phone" to highest divinity. You, right now, here, all by your little lonesome, have as much access to the heights of Mount Olympus as anyone who has ever lived.
Editor's note: The references to "here" and "right now" are offered by design. These terms of immediacy are employed in "The Wedding Song," and now you know why. Enlightment will not come to us with "more time"; instead, it's accessible "right now," "here," in the eternal timeless cosmic moment.