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CHAPTER THREE - THE NATURE OF THE SOUL

CHAPTER THREE

THE NATURE OF THE SOUL

"Philosophers say the Soul is double-faced, her upper face gazes at God all the time and her lower face looks somewhat down, informing the senses; and the upper face, which is the summit of the soul, is in eternity and has nothing to do with time: it knows nothing of time or of body."

MEISTER ECKHART

[49]

IN DETAILING the technique whereby it is claimed the educated intellectual can become the intuitional knower it might be well to state the hypotheses upon which the science of meditation is based. In the process the various aspects (in nature, or of divinity, whichever is preferred) of which man is the expression have to be recognized, but the basic connection which holds him together as an integrated unity must never be forgotten. Man is an integrated being, but existence means more to some men than to others. For some it is purely animal existence; for many it connotes the sum total of emotional and sensory experience; for others, it involves all this, plus a mental awareness which greatly enriches and deepens life. For a few (and those the flower of the human family) Being stands for a recognition of ability to register contacts that are universal and subjective as well as individual and objective. Keyserling says that:

"When we speak of the Being of a man in contradistinction to his ability, we mean his vital soul; and when we say this Being decides, we mean that all his utterances are penetrated with individual life, that every single expression [50] radiates personality, and that this personality is ultimately responsible." [xxvi] 1

It might be stated here as sine qua non that only those people who are responsible thinking beings are ready for the application of those rules and instructions which will enable them to make that transition and to come to that consciousness which is the hallmark of the illuminated mystic and the intuitional knowers. The beautiful lines found in Dr. Winslow Hall's Illuminanda point the goal:

"In all men lurks The Light; yet, in how few

Has it blazed forth, as rightfully it ought,

Illuming, from within, our fleshly lamp,

And kindling cosmic time in nigh-brought souls!

Splendour of God, how few! And ours the blame;

For, ever, crassly, by routine and wrath,

We undiscerningly damp down and choke

The spark of God that glints in every child.

All children are, by nature, bits of God;

And God, if they but had their freedom, would

Unfold himself in them, would burgeon forth

Tinting and moulding, till, as perfect flowers

They bloomed, fulfilled of loveliness unveiled." [xxvii] 2

This is the goal of the meditation process — to lead men forth into the Light that is within themselves and enable them, in that light, to see Light. This work of revelation is based on certain definite theories as to the constitution and nature of the human being. The evolution and perfecting of the mind faculty in man, with its keenness and capacity for [51] concentration gives the West at this time the opportunity to put these theories to the test. An intelligent experiment is now naturally in order. "The new synthesis of mind and soul," Keyserling says, "must originate from the mind, on the height of supreme intellectuality, if something decisive is to happen." [xxviii] 3

But to do this, there must be a clear understanding of three points upon which the Oriental position is based, and which, if true, validate the entire contention of the student of the Oriental technique of meditation, never forgetting, however, the proverb of the Chinese which says that, "If the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way." These three premises are:

First: There is a soul in every human form, and that soul uses the lower aspects of man simply as vehicles of expression. The objective of the evolutionary process is to enhance and deepen the control of the soul over this instrument. When this is complete, we have a divine incarnation.

Secondly: The sum total of these lower aspects, when developed and co-ordinated we call the Personality. This unity is composed of the mental and emotional states of being, the vital energy and the physical response apparatus, and these "mask" or hide the soul. These aspects develop sequentially and progressively, according to the eastern philosophy, and only on reaching a relatively high state of unfoldment does it become possible for man to [52] coordinate them and later to unify them, in consciousness, with the indwelliug soul. Later comes control by the soul, and a steadily increasing expression of the nature of the soul. This is sometimes symbolically expressed as a light in a lamp. At first the lamp gives forth no radiance, but gradually the light makes its presence felt, till the meaning of the words of the Christ becomes clear. He said, "I am the light of the world," and enjoined upon His disciples to "let your light shine that man may see."

Thirdly: When the life of the soul, acting under the Law of Rebirth, has brought the personality to such a condition that it is an integrated and coordinated unit, then there is set up between the two a more intensive interaction. This interaction is brought about though the processes of self-discipline, an active will towards spiritual Being, unselfish service (for that is the mode in which the group-conscious soul manifests itself) and meditation. The consummation of the work is the conscious realization of union — called, in Christian terminology, the at-one-ment.

These three hypotheses must be accepted, at any rate, tentatively, if this process of education through meditation is to be rendered effective. In Webster's Dictionary, the soul is defined in line with these theories, and the definition runs as follows:

"An entity conceived as the essence, substance, or actuating cause of individual life, especially of life manifested in psychical activities; the vehicle of individual existence, [53] separate in nature from the body and usually held to be separable in existence." [xxix]4

Webster adds the following comment which is appropriate in its application to our theme that "some conceptions, such as that of Fechner, that the soul is the whole unitary spiritual process in conjunction with the whole unitary bodily process, appear to stand midway between the idealistic and materialistic views." [xxx]5 The strictly Oriental position is given us by Dr. Radhakrishnan, of the University of Calcutta, as follows:

"All organic beings have a principle of self-determination, to which the name of 'soul' is generally given. In the strict sense of the word, 'soul' belongs to every being that has life in it, and the different souls are fundamentally identical in nature. The differences are due to the physical organizations that obscure and thwart are the life of the soul. The nature of the bodies in which the souls are incorporated accounts for their various degrees of obscuration....The ego is the psychological unity of that stream of conscious experiencing which constitutes what we know as the inner life of an empirical self.

"The empirical self is the mixture of free spirit and mechanism, of purusa and prakriti....Every ego possesses within the gross material body, which suffers dissolution at death, a subtle body, formed of the psychical apparatus, including the senses." [xxxi] 6

This soul, we are told, is a fragment of the Oversoul, a spark of the one Flame, imprisoned in the body. It is that life aspect which gives to man — as to [54] all forms in manifestation — life, or being and consciousness. It is the vital factor, that integrating coherent something which makes the human being (composite, yet unified, as he is) a thinking, feeling and aspiring entity. The intellect in man is that factor or quality of soul-awareness which enables him to orient himself to his environment during the stages in which his personality is under development, but which later, through proper meditation, enables him to orient himself towards the soul, as detached from the mechanism, and thus, therefore, towards a new state of awareness of being.

The relation of the soul to the Oversoul is that of the part towards the Whole, and it is this relation and its consequent recognitions, which develop into that sense of oneness with all beings and with the supreme Reality to which the mystics have always testified. Its relation to the human being is that of the conscious entity towards its medium of expression; of the one who thinks, towards the instrument of thought; of the one who registers feeling, towards the field of sensuous experience, and of the actor, towards the physical body — the sole means of contact with that particular field of activity, the world of physical life. This soul expresses itself through two forms of energy, that which we call the vital principle or fluid, the life aspect, and the energy of pure reason. These energies are focussed during life in the physical body. The life stream centres itself in the heart, utilizing the blood stream, the arteries and the veins, and animating every part of the organism; [55] the other stream, of intellectual energy, centres itself in the brain, and utilizes the nervous apparatus as its medium of expression. In the heart, therefore, is the seat of the life-principle; in the head is the seat of the reasoning mind and of the spiritual consciousness, which latter is attained through a right use of the mind. Dr. C. Lloyd Morgan says in connection with this word, "soul:"

"In any case what is currently understood by 'the soul-theory' has its roots in dualism. And what some people mean when they speak of 'a psychology without a soul' is a psychology other than dualistic....There is, however, a sense in which he may, under suitable definition, speak of the soul as distinctive of that level of mental development at which a concept of Spirit is within the field of reflective reference." [xxxii] 7

Earlier in the same book he says that:

"Each of us is a life, a mind, and Spirit — an instance of life as one expression of world-plan, of mind as a different expression of that world-plan, of Spirit in so far as the Substance of that world-plan is revealed within us. The world-plan, through and through, from its lowest to its highest expression, is manifestation of God; in you and me — in each of us severally — God as Spirit is partially revealed." [xxxiii] 8

It is this revelation of Deity that is the goal of the mystical endeavor and the object of the dual activity of mind — God as life in Nature, God as love, subjectively, and as plan and as purpose, and it is this that the unification, which meditation brings about [56] reveals to man. Through its ordered technique, man discovers that unity which is himself. Through it, he later discovers his relation to the universe; he finds that his physical body and his vital energies are part and parcel of Nature itself, which is, in fact, the outer garment of Deity; he finds that his ability to love and to feel makes him aware of the love that pulses at the heart of all creation; and he discovers that his mind can give him the key which unlocks for him the door of understanding and that he can enter into the purposes and the plans which guide the Mind of God Himself. In fact, he arrives at God and discovers God as the central Fact. Knowing himself to be divine, he finds the whole is equally divine. Dr. F. Kirtley Mather of Harvard University has said in a most illuminating article:

"That there is an administration of the Universe cannot be denied. Something has determined and continues to determine the functioning of natural law, the orderly transformation of matter and of energy. It may be the 'curvature of the cosmos', or 'blind chance', or 'universal energy', or 'an absentee Jehovah', or an 'all-pervading Spirit', but it must be something. From one point of view, the question: Is there a God? is promptly answered in the affirmative."

Thus, through finding himself and understanding his own nature, man arrives at that centre within himself which is one with all that is; he finds he is equipped with an apparatus which can put him in touch with the differentiated manifestations through which Deity seeks to express itself. He possesses a [57] vital body, responsive to universal energy, and the vehicle for the two forms of soul energy to which I referred above. The subject of the vital body, its relation to this universal energy, and its seven points of contact with the physical organism are covered in my book, The Soul and Its Mechanism, and will not be enlarged upon here, beyond quoting one paragraph.

"Behind the objective body lies a subjective form constituted of etheric matter, and acting as a conductor of the life principle of energy, or prana. This life principle is the force aspect of the soul, and through the medium of the etheric body the soul animates the form, gives it its peculiar qualities and attributes, impresses upon it its desires and, eventually, directs it through the activity of the mind. Through the medium of the brain the soul galvanizes the body into conscious (directed) activity and through the medium of the heart all parts of the body are pervaded by life". [xxxiv]9

There is also another "body" which is composed of the sum-total of all emotional states, moods and feelings. This body reacts to a man's physical environment in response to information received by the brain through the medium of the five senses, and conveyed to it via the vital body. Thus it is swept into activity of a purely selfish and personal nature; or it can be trained to react primarily to the mind, regarding the mind (as it so seldom is) as the interpreter of the spiritual self, the soul. It is this emotional body, characterized by feeling and desire, that acts most potently, in the majority of cases, upon [58] the physical body. This latter is regarded by the esotericist as a pure automaton, driven into action by the desire nature and energized by the vital energy.

As the race progresses, another "body," the mind body, comes into being and activity, and gradually assumes an active and natural control. Like the physical and emotional organisms, this mental mechanism is at first entirely objective in its orientation, and swings into activity through impacts coming to it from the outer world, via the senses. Becoming increasingly positive, it slowly and surely begins to dominate the other phenomenal aspects of man until the personality, in all its four aspects, is completed and unified as a functioning entity on the physical plane. When this happens, a crisis is reached and new developments and unfoldments become possible.

All this time, the two energies of the soul, life and mind, have been working through the vehicles, without the man being aware of their source or purpose. As a result of their work, he is now an intelligent, active, high-grade human being. But, as Browning puts it: "In completed man begins anew a tendency to God," [xxxv]10 and he is driven by a divine unrest towards a conscious awareness of, and a conscious contact with, his soul — the unseen factor which he senses, but of which he remains personally unaware. Now he enters upon a process of self-education and of an intensive investigation into his true nature. [59] His personality, which has been outgoing towards the world of physical, emotional and mental life, with its attention focussed objectively, goes through a process of reorientation, and turns inward towards the Self. Its focus becomes subjective and has for its purpose the emergence into manifestation of that "Deeper Being" about which Keyserling speaks. Conscious union with the soul is sought, and this not only from the emotional and sensuous angle of the devotee and mystic. Direct experience is sought. Knowledge of the divine Self, and mental assurance as to the fact of the indwelling Son of God becomes the goal of all endeavor. This method is not that of the mystical devotee who through the driving love of his emotional nature has sought after God. It is the method of intellectual approach and of the subordination of the entire personality to the drive towards spiritual realities. All purely mental types and all truly coordinated personalities are mystics at heart, and have passed through the mystical stage at some time or other in some life. As the intellect takes hold and the mind develops, this may temporarily fade into the background and be relegated for a time to the realm of the subconscious. But the emphasis is eventually and inevitably laid upon the will to know, and the drive of the life (no longer satisfied with the outer and external aspects of manifestation) is towards knowledge of the soul and the use of the mind in the apprehension of spiritual truth.

The head and the heart become united in their endeavor. Mind and pure reason are blended with [60] love and devotion in an entire re-adjustment of the personality to a new realm of awareness. New states of consciousness are registered, a new phenomenal world is gradually perceived, and it begins to dawn upon the aspirant that his life-focus and his consciousness can be lifted entirely out of all past fields of endeavor. He finds that he can walk with God, dwell in Heaven, and be aware of a new world lying within the familiar outer forms. He begins to regard himself as a conscious denizen of another kingdom in nature, the spiritual, which is as real and as vital, as ordered and as phenomenal as any we now know. He steadily assumes the attitude of the soul towards his instrument, the human body. He regards himself no longer as a man, controlled by his emotions, impelled by energy, and directed by his mind, but knows himself to be the Self, thinking through the mind, feeling through the emotions, and acting consciously. As this consciousness stabilizes and becomes permanent, the work of evolution in his case is consummated, the great at-one-ment is made, and the union between the Self and its vehicle of expression is established. Thus a divine Son of God consciously incarnates.

Through the work of education in all its many branches, the co-ordination of the personality has been tremendously hastened. The mentality of the race is steadily mounting the ladder of achievement. Humanity, through its vast groups of educated and mentally focussed people is ready for self-determination and soul-direction. Now the intensive culture [61] of the individual, as taught in the Eastern system, can be undertaken. The education and reorientation of the advanced human being must find its place in our mass education. This is the plea of this book and the object of its writing. How can a man find his soul, or ascertain the fact of its existence? How can he re-adjust himself to the conditions of soul life, and begin to function consciously and simultaneously as a soul and as a man? What must he do to bring about that union between the soul and its instrument which is essential if the driving urge of his nature is ever to be satisfied? How can he know, and not just believe and hope and aspire?

The experienced voice of the eastern wisdom comes to us with one word: — Meditation. The question naturally arises: "Is that all?" and the answer is: "Yes." If meditation is rightly followed, and if perseverance is the keynote of the life, then increasingly soul contact is established. The results of that contact work out in self-discipline, in purification, and in the life of aspiration and of service. Meditation in the eastern sense is, as we shall see, a strictly mental process, leading to soul knowledge and illumination. It is a fact in nature that "as a man thinketh so is he."