Friday 11 August 2023

More on the Soul

 In the recent essay about the soul and what it is I drew a distinction between the soul and the earthly personality, what are sometimes called the higher and lower self, saying that it is the soul that is our real self and the earthly self is merely its representative in the material world. 

I should emphasise that this is not the same as saying that the soul is a spiritual being which has become trapped in matter, whether for reasons of karma, wrong thinking, some kind of spiritual trauma or whatever, and that the material world is therefore something to escape from. That's the Gnostic view and it is wrong. It has many modern equivalents which are all variations on the theme that somehow the soul is good and the lower self bad. That is not the case. The soul incarnates in matter, which is created by God and therefore good even if it has become corrupted, in order to further its evolution as in unfoldment of its potential. It avails itself of the possibilities of the material world to develop itself. Through separation it becomes more conscious of itself and better able to make positive choices consciously.

Our material self is not evil, illusionary or in any way wrong except when it is seen as an end in itself. It is certainly limiting but that is the whole point of it. Think of it as a constriction which focuses the attention of consciousness on an environment in which God is not obviously present. That gives it the opportunity to develop itself and the greater self from which it derives in a way that would not be possible on more spiritual levels in which conflict and challenge are not present. Through the lower self we become aware of a problem and are given the wherewithal to solve it. Or not as the case may be. For this is also a test. How does the self react to God when he is seemingly not there? This is an examination of the heart. A correctly oriented heart turns to God in some way. One of ill will, and let's remind ourselves that faith is a matter of will not intellect, does not.

The Gnostic view is half right and half wrong. We do have a spiritual self which exists in a higher plane of being but it does not become trapped in matter because of some sin or nefarious activity of evil spirits. It descends to learn, descending meaning accepting a more circumscribed state of existence. Matter is not evil although the material world is not the spiritual which means it is subject to the law of entropy. But it has a function and our appearance in it has a purpose.

While on the subject of Gnosticism I should mention the other main fallacy of that approach to spirituality. The clue is in the name. Salvation for the Gnostics comes through knowledge but no amount of spiritual knowledge will get the earthly human to heaven. Salvation actually comes through grace not knowledge, and grace is bestowed on those who make themselves worthy of it through love. Love means primarily love of God and that comes when the soul truly turns to its Creator, opening up its heart and mind. This, though, is our great problem. Our hearts and mind are closed, and they are so because we are too fixated on the material self.

But the Gnostics were also right. The pre-eminence of love, spiritual love not the earthly variety with which it is often confused by sentimentalists, is no justification for ignorance. Knowledge is also important. In fact, the more one loves God or Truth, the more one wants to understand and to know. We have a heart and mind and there are spiritual correspondences to these two. Both must be satisfied. If spiritual love is missing today so too is spiritual knowledge which is why mainstream religion is so unsatisfactory for many people. Spiritual knowledge is not just facts and figures, intellectual knowledge. It is that but it is more for it derives primarily from the intuition. Esotericists have a vast collection of knowledge about the spiritual worlds, an Alexandrian library's worth, but all this is flat until animated by an individual's own intuition.

Love and wisdom. These are the two attributes of the developed soul. Both must be pursued by the aspiring disciple until he gets to the point where he sees they are actually but two sides of the same coin.

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