Thursday, December 13, 2012

Human soul: The ultimate enigma of spirituality

While the concept of God is distinct and clear to most of the minds, that of human soul is entrenched in serious confusions. At surface, the concept of soul  too may appear a distinct and clear idea, but when one goes deep to the task of defining it by a relation to God, serious confusions come to surface.This is an attempt to discuss the various questions around the definition, role, relation between the soul and world, and that between soul and God etc.

Every religion, as well as all spiritually oriented men unanimously agree that man indeed has a soul, a secret or hidden extra entity besides his empirical self (social entity) that he lives with, in the objective world. Most religions think that man turns into his pure soul after death,though soul is sublimely present even when man is alive.When alive, the soul is trapped in the world, or in the human body, and with death it gets free, and enters its own other realm of existence. It is a part of, or at least related to God, or to the supreme creator in some or other way. 

The purpose of this study is to bring out and analyze the most difficult aspects about knowledge, or plain questions about human soul:

1)  ie .whether it has a stand-alone substance of its own destined by God, and if yes, its exact relation with the ultimate essence of existence,God. Is it what people usually seek to know through various meditation techniques?

2) what entity of man actually lives in the world, whether as his soul dressed-up as the ego immersed in the Maya (illusion of the sensory world) always NOT knowing who he is

3) OR whether the soul of man is an independent,standalone phenomenon that emerges to play his role only after death,

4) OR, whether his body-mind entity that meant to live its life here in the world is really his soul, that his EGO is quite unaware of, but can come to true senses, or SELF-AWARENESS ( spiritual awareness with methods like meditation etc) during the life span it self !

5) Is soul is an entity associated with human-being preceding his birth, and also surviving his death. If yes, is it not necessary for man to have at least vague consciousness about its existence as his own original substance,separate from his ego ?

6) Finally, and most importantly, what entity of man out of all the above  that is now engaged in this act of social communication, as the empirical entity that you know as me and I know as the other to you and all others.: is it exclusively my social self, ( the ego) or my secret self- the soul- also is there in the picture, mixing certain degree of non-worldly wisdom also in the act?

Let us take-up the above questions and dilemmas one by one for some sort of elaboration, so that we gain more clarity.

1)Whether it has a stand-alone substance of its own destined by God, and if yes, its exact relation with the ultimate essence of existence,God.

The superficial consciousness of every person about himself is restricted to his consciousness as a member in society, or world ,like everyone else around. At rare intervals, it is not ruled out that every person suffer from the pricks of his 'inners' about the actual 'substance' if any, other than that of his social identity. He at times feels that his ego entity is a temporal affair, and he belongs to somewhere else beyond the obvious world,where he is destined to go after the death.

But despite the many number of times he gets this feel of an ethereal reality beyond his ego, he is not able to know of any extra entity beside him living with him as a separate spirit, distinct from his ego. He simply gets aware of the existence of ethereal forces controlling his thought, behaviour and destiny. He is never able to transcend himself as any other entity, and look at life and world from the different platform of a different being. Even if some spirit, which is a soul, exists with me as a separate entity, it is not me, but a parallel entity other than me, as I could never enter its shoes and feels like a different entity.

Or, is it that the subtle close relation every human-being feels towards his life as a metaphysical entity as referred above, independent of any society, and independent of even his close human relations in life, the one who travels from birth to death solely and lonely, is the SOUL ?  At this mode of consciousness,man is face to face with the eternal truths about life and existence ! He feels an utter responsibility towards his existence that he is not able to wish away on account of any external influence and temptation. Here his sense of responsibility to make or break his life, a free-willed entity, is complete.

If we consider the above mode of consciousness as man's SOUL, the question that we raised at the para-heading above rises-up: what is the relation this soul or spirit is expected to establish and maintain with God, or the center of existence and meaning ?

The most relevant aspect of  this 'center' of consciousness also is that, it (the soul in this meaning) does not feel that it is an independent substance of self-origin. It only feels an inseparable relation with everything else around him, including with the Center of everything that caused its being here in life, with his ego, with a society around him, and with the existence of a physical and biological special surrounding also around him. He feels like having a root, and some sense in life and existence as a whole.

But one thing we must notice here: this secondary, or root consciousness could emerge as a result of the primary origin of the ego as man's elementary self. If ego was originated from external world, the deeper self,  was originated from the turmoils of the life experience of the ego.

Whatever we have observed above about the probable 'soul' of man points out to the fact that this 'soul' originated as a bye-product of man's life process. Soul in the sense that we have seen above has not preceded man's birth. It was not a God sent spirit merging with man's human spirit, or that exist as a parallel spirit along with that of the human spirit. These should have been central questions for our major religions, as many of these religions assert that it is a God sent spirit that lives parallel with the worldly spirit of man.If this was true, important questions arise here: Would such God sent spirit that merge with, or exist parallel with the human-spirit, keep a separate and independent 'consciousnesses' ?

If yes, then such spirits can not be considered as the 'soul' of man, as the man has no awareness of such spirits travelling with his spirit as a part of his deeper self.

If such God sent spirit does merge with the man's spirit and becomes one with it, giving him spiritual insight and guidance during his lifetime, matters become more sensible.

But this arrangement won't be anything different from man's own worldly spirit attaining closeness with God, and internalize His spirit, as it is usual with every other human relation.As every one knows, when someone enters into a deep human relation, the spirit of both the parties gets merged, each internalizing aspects from other's spirit and character. Considering the above basic nature of relation between any two spirits, it would be sensible to conclude that in case of human soul also, the truth would be the merging of God's spirit with man's spirit when the latter relentlessly seek Him,and wish to remain in close union with Him during his lifetime. Such human spirits indeed might be TRANSCENDING their human spirit to a true ethereal spirit, that might survive beyond death too, and join abodes of existence beyond life !    

It would be appropriate here to quote what St.Paul, the spirited Apostle of Christ, had referred to the subject of soul in the most specific terms: ( His letter to the Corinthians-3, God's Wisdom) ' the wisdom I proclaim is God's secret wisdom, which is hidden from mankind,but which he had chosen for our glory even before the world was made....the spirit searches everything,even the hidden depths of God's purposes. It is only a person's own spirit within him that knows all about him;in the same way,only God's own Spirit knows all about God.We have not received this world's spirit, but the spirit sent by God,so that we may know all that God has given us'.

Though St.Paul gave us lot of hope about great knowledge coming from him when he had mentioned that what he was going to reveal is God's secret wisdom, he had not made it clear as to what was the nature of relation between man's spirit and God's spirit that he refers as having sent to man.When he mentions about a spirit within God too, that knows all about Him, what he refers as Spirit could be One that dwells within us even without our least awareness during our lifetime, or even after death, as It lives within us as a separate entity, without ever merging with our worldly spirit. Or, probably, this God sent spirit might be what gets merged with our spirit when we enter into the intimate kind of union with God as referred in the above paragraph. This might have slipped the Apostle's attention while drafting the letter under discussion.

There are of course some differences among various sects of Hinduism with regards to the nature of soul. The dualist tradition says that the soul will not merge with, and become one with God after the culmination life cycles, but it remains in a different realm of 'being' as distinct entities/souls,enjoying the bliss of the eternal proximity to God. Here, our above nagging enigma will haunt us; how to define,or understand the soul's relation with God while on earth in the realm of life, and also at the end of the cycle of lives, in the special company of God.

Whereas the 'singularity' (advaita) tradition of Hinduism states that the human soul (atman) and the cosmic soul ( Brahman) are not different, except that the 'atman' is finite.'Shankara clearly says that Jivo Brahmaiva naparah., that is, the individual self (jiva) is non-different from Brahman. The individual self is limited, finite whereas Brahman is unlimited, infinite' (source: 

Obviously, in both Christian and Hindu traditions, one can not plainly infer a clear answer as to what SOUL really is, and what relation it maintain with the ego and God during the lifetime.

Our task is to arrive at some sensible conclusion. 

It is quite possible that when ardent seekers abandon their egos after a certain point in the journey of seeking, the God's spirit might be virtually replacing the self of man(ego) and then remain in the ethereal realm (that actually is the world - - -and the corporeal reality simply is an illusionary realm (maya) of the ego !) every moment of his/her remaining life ! At such a stage, there are no two entities, as God's spirit is what thereupon live in the world, occupying the vacuum that ego had created by its exit. This seems to be the best and the last explanation that fits the depiction of human soul ! It is some-kind of a total surrendering of the self to the subtle ways of God !

There is a general feeling that through meditation techniques, one could get awareness of the soul within. Upon close analysis we will realize that what happens under meditation is the TRANSCENDING of our selves; during meditation, we succeed in weeding out the 'world' and our ego identity from the mind. Naturally we achieve a transcended state of our selves. It calms the mind and entire body-mind system. 

When such synergy takes place between man's spirit and God sent spirit,the duality between mans spirit and God's spirit ends. Some special features of this TRANSCENDED stage is that, the multiplicity of objects and events before the ego vanishes. Life as a whole presents itself as the one and only event for the new entity. It simply undergoes the event of life, with the firm consciousness of its integral relation with God. It could be said that such a life is a walking 'samadhi' stage: the physical entity is only namesake for such enlightened souls ! Though he is fully into life, it is with certain sense of detachment. This detached stage of existence is familiar to all the religions. 

At this stage, though he is an ordinary entity in life for others, for him and for nature/God, he is already existing in the ethereal world, with firm awareness that what he undergoes is a dual-entity existence. 

The relation of such a soul with God has no parallel in the realm of human experience. We could only assume that it was the best of best arrangement of nature/God for getting LIFE and EXISTENCE experienced by some sensible entities ! Life not experienced by someone is a VOID, that is against the very tenet of BEING !

There is a real danger when man decides to abandon his ego self and gets united with the ethereal spirit within.(if any?) Here ego, who has to live in the world with all its world-oriented paraphernalia of senses and drives, tend to lose its consciousness of itself, and gets boasted and inflated with its new exalted sense of self ! The ethereal soul is a passive and silent entity within, and it is the responsibility of the ego to keep its thoughts and deeds in check, in order NOT to wither-away into world's wayward ways. It is an extremely hard task, and often ego fails in the task, and man ends-up lost into spiritual wilderness again ! 

2) What entity of man actually lives in the world, whether his God sent soul dressed-up as the ego, immersed in the Maya, (illusion of the sensory world) always NOT knowing who he is? 

From what we have seen from our discussions at point Srl-1, it is quite obvious that man lives in the world only as his 'worldly spirit', the ego. It is primarily and predominantly a social product, emerged on the principle of 'you are, therefore I am'. Everyone is compelled to wear the mantle of a self because the other person already has one such entity. Before him, I do not have any other form of entity than as one like him. Like heavenly bodies are there in their assigned places and orbit due to the gravitational pull of other bodies around them, man is also compelled to be egos on account of the way society has been made of many individual units, with no escape route for anyone. Our blog: illustrates how does this scheme actually work.

This scheme was the most smart and the cleverest ploy of God/nature to achieve her existential necessity of having KNOWERS , or EXPERIENCERS of life !

Here, it seems Nature/God has certain very specific pattern of development of EGO into spiritual ways. When ego blindly dwells in the world for considerable time periods, succumbing to the inbuilt DRIVES, urges and instincts of human-nature, a certain trend of tiredness of the world usually grips ego. It shows a tendency to withdraw from the world and from its ways.It had enough. It wants to search for higher realities and at least different realities. Everyone who has been in life for 3-4 decades of spirited activity and indulgement might be familiar with this definite pattern. He seeks his roots.

It is quite usual that after such temporary stages of withdrawal, ego gets back again to life with the same vigour as before. But this call for withdrawal can be attributed to human life as a routine experience for most of the people.

A few among them permanently withdraws from life, and take-up institutionalized or individual SPIRITUAL life and ways.

But our question no.2 can be confidently answered that what lives in the world is a totally blind ego, in the vacuum called world, where mostly sense provided knowledge only prevails.It is a totally cut-off realm from every ethereal realities, and what man individually and collectively builds-up are realities.

3) Or, whether the soul of man is an independent,standalone phenomenon that emerges to play his role only after death ?

From what we have seen and discussed above, it does not seem a possibility. A soul that never made its presence felt to the human entity during his lifetime, but claims being his soul after death does not make sense at all. What was the role of such a soul in the scheme of life ? Noting, in the above sense and meaning. 

4)Or, whether his body-mind entity that meant to live its life here in the world is really his soul, that his EGO is quite unaware of, but can come to true senses, or SELF-AWARENESS ( spiritual awareness with methods like meditation etc) during the life span it self !

This question does make sense. It was what we have accepted and explained at item No. 1. Ego was only an inevitable primary entity for the soul to evolve from. But those egos who wish to spend the entire lifetime unaware of its real cosmic status will remain as a world being till death, and vanish into VOID even after death. This explanation is our only alternative. 

5) Is soul is an entity associated with human-being preceding his birth, and also surviving his death. If yes, is it not necessary for man to have at least vague consciousness about its existence as his own original substance,separate from his ego ?

As generally believed, or taught by religions, soul is joined with man's spirit from birth. It travels with him all the way his life, and survives even after death. This is the most common concept of soul. 

But when does not experience the presence of such a soul any time during his lifetime, how could such a belief gain rational support ? The christian concept of Guardian Angel is still can make sense, as it has specific role in the life of man, as it safeguards man both from physical and spiritual dangers. 
Unlike the concept of Guardian Angel, such a third party soul does not have any sensible role in the life of man, except perhaps living alongside his spirit as a reflection of his spiritual root. Something beyond man's experience,or consciousness range is difficult to be accepted as true.

6) Finally, and most importantly, what entity of man out of all the above  that is now engaged in this act of social communication, as the empirical entity that you know as me,and I know as the 'other' to you, and all others: is it exclusively my social self, ( the ego) or is my secret self- the soul- also there in the picture, mixing certain degree of non-worldly wisdom also in the act?

This is one of the most difficult of all the above questions. Ego, with its typical life and survival centered concerns and priorities, can not be expected to enter itself into a pursuit of the nature that I am engaged in now; ie. seeking the metaphysical roots of man's soul. It means, there exists some other more subtle and deep self within man who is most concerned about matters of soul. life after death, and moral and intellectual obligations during lifetime. What is there in life that compels many men to engage in such extra-survival pursuits such as art, beauty, literature, knowledge, science,philanthropy etc ? 

It straight away indicates the meaning of life beyond mere physical survival as professed by Charles Darwin.Life is definitely something beyond mere physical survival. It is about man's experiencing LIFE as an exalted event. He effortlessly senses this exalted state of life from his internal sources, that, (such sources) unfortunately modern science does not believe in, or support. For science, mind is merely a by-product of matter and every mental activity is triggered by some or other kind of chemical excretion into the brain.The invisible existential DRIVES that compels man to act in certain ways and manners, like the laws of motion of Newton for physical objects, is not at all in the awareness of science. Our blog link that depicts the working of these DRIVES is:

Here the central fact of 'free-will' comes to picture. The primary 'self' that gets born from the 'sense and world' interaction uses its FREE-WILL to define itself. He can either live in the life sphere as a pure ego
( related only to the world ) till death, and vanish as dead matter, or he could use his hidden sources within to sense his ethereal roots, and transcend his 'self' into a higher being. When one relates himself with total existence and its secret sources, instead of remaining as mere ego, this transcending takes place. From this point, the self starts looking at himself, others, world and life as whole in  very different angle. It is such a transcended self that usually indulge in activities similar to the one that this author is engaged in.

Such 'transcended selves' realizes that what he, as an ego, is not the end thing. He links himself with the hidden source of existence, and live a life of 'duality', as we have seen in one of the above paragraphs. Though he is indulged in all worldly activities with a sense of detachment, his consciousness is centered around his relation with the whole existence, and its source itself . In short, he is living in the world as his SOUL,and might be surviving his death also in his ethereal identity.

As a child can not ever imagine in real terms what would happen to him when he attains youth-hood, his body and mind change, the soul here on earth at the life sphere can not ever imagine what would be he, and where would be he after crossing the life sphere upon death.

The only source to have knowledge on these affairs is man's not yet recognized hidden sense-organ. To know more on such sources, please refer to our blog: ( para; Role of Reason in mind, and its metaphysical links)

Authored by : Abraham J.Palakudy

He is a seeker and researcher in fields like Mind&Reason, soul, and ego, self and world, Spirituality, metaphysics, and finally, Polity of man

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