Nicholas
Nicholas at Treryn Dinas

The Challenge for the Soul in the Sixth Great Extinction of Life on Earth

 

 The Soul can never be cut into pieces by a weapon, no fire can burn it, no water can moisten it, nor can any wind wither it… The Soul is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable – eternally the same.

Bhagavad Gita 2:23-24

 

As we enter the sixth or possibly the seventh great extinction of life on earth, as species from the smallest insects to the largest vertebrates disappear at alarming rates due to our destructive behaviour, keep in mind that the universe or cosmos is infinite; the dimensions we see with our senses and detect with our instruments do not limit it.  The great spiritual traditions of the world do not limit our existence to earth evolution and the body; they say we are souls and belong to an eternal dimension. For many of these traditions, the journey of the soul is not limited to one lifetime and one evolutionary pathway. The soul has many lives, not just in this world but in the multiple dimensions of the cosmos.

If we accept the infinite nature of both the cosmos and the soul, then we are in a better position to understand and find an appropriate response to the part we play in this mass extinction event.  As we accept our share of responsibility for the loss of the environment upon which we depend and feel all the pain and sorrow that comes with that, ultimately this is a lesson for the development of the soul.

It is possible we have done this before: that is, forgotten our soul nature, identified with the body and pursued our physical desires until reaching ecological limits, so destroying ourselves and our environment. Our myths of previous worlds, of Atlantis and great inundations, may represent dim memories of these occasions. Perhaps we will undergo similar experiences many times before we learn the lessons of living in balance with life and with compassion for each other. The soul will grow, however long it takes.

The notes that follow glean knowledge about the soul from the great spiritual traditions of the world.

The Soul

The soul is the cause or source
of the living body.

Aristotle, De Anima II, 4

As we are alive and have a body, we also have a soul, an 'anima', a vital force.  But it is far better to say, along with our many spiritual teachers, that we are a soul who has a body rather than we are a body who has a soul.  The soul in its highest form is the primary anima.  Aristotle points out that it defines the ability of the body to live; without it, the body cannot metabolise, the heart cannot beat, the lungs cannot breathe and the brain cannot function.
 
Despite physical mortality, the soul, pneuma, psyche or anima never dies.  Of whatever subtle substance the soul is made, it is immortal.  It does not die.  As soul we pass through life again and again until we remember our origin and final destination in the Eternal Soul, the Divine or Supreme Being.  But bear in mind that in this unique moment of the continuum of time, the Earth in all its beauty, complexity and power, is the current ground of our being.  It provides us with the body whose development is an intrinsic part of the evolution of Life on Earth.




The Divine Mother
 

This world is a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence... a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.
Plato, Timaeus 29-30

 

An academic asked Ramakrishna,
“What are knowledge, knower,
and the object known?”
To which he replied, “I do not know these niceties of scholastic learning. I know only my Mother Divine, and that I am her son.”

 
We are one with the Divine Mother in her universal manifestation and in her manifestation as Life on Earth.  As the minerals of the body will return to the Earth, so our thoughts, egos and personalities will dissolve back into her.  Because we do not create ourselves—we only shape what we have been given—we have no real substance, no real self-existence.  We are like a wave moving through the waters of a sea.  Whatever self and substance we have is a gift from that which we are a part.  Although the Divine Mother carries natural, ancestral and karmic patterns of great complexity, beauty and power that can inspire wisdom, she also carries human made patterns, beliefs and behaviours that keep the soul identified with physical existence.  The task of the soul is to awaken while in the body, and remember its true consciousness, home and origin in the Eternal Soul.
 
                                                                                                       Anandamayi Ma, an incarnation of
the Divine Mother
 


The Eternal Soul
The Soul (Atman) is one, ever still, quicker than the mind.
Though motionless it outruns the devas who move and run the world.

Isha Upanishad 4
 
The Eternal Soul, the One, the Supreme Divine, God or Spirit, unconditioned by the body soul, the ancestral or karmic soul, the ego, the World Soul and the mind, is ‘other’ than the soul in the sense that we are always subject to its object, never vice versa.  It is the absolute cause of all.
 
The Eternal Soul has no object of awareness, nor does it not have any object of awareness.  The prime Islamic axiom, la’ illaha illa’ Allah ‘there is no god but God’, shows that the Eternal Soul cannot be framed by words.  We must perpetually remove any mental conception we have of it and be prepared to accept its ever new, ever changing play in manifestation.

Buddhism says that as all words and concepts are essentially empty it is beyond our ability to describe the Eternal Soul.  Taoism states ‘the Tao that can be named is not the Tao’.  It seems we may only know the Eternal Soul after the death of the body soul or indeed after many lifetimes; but dedicated spiritual practice and the guidance of a teacher can open us to the Supreme Divine, and some become enlightened in their lifetime.



Three-fold Soul
Man is a soul, and has a body.
Swami Sri Yukteswar

The soul, while ultimately indivisible or whole, can be described as having a tripartite form or appearance in at least three realms.
 
The first realm is that of the life, ego or body soul as constituted by the information, intelligence, codes, proteins, enzymes and cells of the universe.  Each unique, three dimensional body, mind and ego incarnates within the greater four dimensional body of the Soul of Life on Earth, according to the natural cycle of birth and death.  Although the mind and egoic self-awareness are the creation of the one Soul of Life, as it grows the body soul mistakenly sees itself as an independent physical entity.  It is encouraged to develop a strong sense of self-identity and separateness.  In most societies today, a strong self-image, ‘I’ or ego, is upheld, a culture of individuality prevails, and consciousness is seen as a function of the brain rather than of the soul.
 
Upon reincarnation therefore, and the dawning of egoic consciousness, we habitually fail to realise, firstly, the inherent emptiness of the self and its concepts, secondly, our dependency upon and existence within the Soul of Life, the Divine Mother, and finally, the derivation of our ultimate consciousness and being in the selflessness of the Eternal Soul.  We live in an unhappy state of unfulfilled and unfulfillable material identification, egotistically follow our physical impulses and desires, and believe that this is all there is until we die.  The soul can live a happy and fulfilling life on Earth, but because of the trauma of birth, human attachment, ignorance, desire and the changing nature of material existence, more often than not we suffer and cause others to suffer.
 
The second realm is the Divine Mother.  According to this terminology, the Divine Mother draws out from the ineffable Supreme Being the multi-dimensional body of the universe.  She forms the sum of the living organisms of the Earth’s evolving biosphere as well as the information-bearing forces of the five dimensional Cosmos: that is, light, sound, the elements, amino acids, genetic codes, subatomic particles, protons (each with the lifetime of a universe), gravity, geometric structure, celestial cycles, consciousness and so on.  As the Cosmic Vibration, She is the Holy Ghost, Aum, Prakriti, Shakti, the cosmos and material world.  Accounts of Her generative forms, root-causes or principles, known in India as tattvas, gunas, devas or devatas and in Buddhism as skandhas, reveal their direct dependency upon a supreme causal source.  As giants (Gaians) and angels in the Western world, these powers are the agents of and in undeviating service to the Eternal Soul.
 
The devic principles function according to the law of karma, that is, action, with its chains in time and space of cause and effect.  Scientists describe these in terms of their cosmological models of general relativity, quantum mechanics and the laws of conservation and thermodynamics.  Devic information as elemental, atomic and genetic encoding is embodied and imprinted by the actions of souls to produce a particular ancestral inheritance—an evolutionary karma existing over time.  Each body soul acquires aggregates of this ancestral karma from the Divine Mother, which therefore can be said to have reincarnated within the body soul as the ancestral karmic soul.  As this four dimensional information is so highly definitive it raises the question whether the body soul has any independent existence.  Although this information can be transformed by souls who live under Cosmic Law and realise their true self within the Eternal Soul, it is ultimately subjective and thus, in a sense, it is empty and is therefore often known as Maya or ‘illusion.’

 
Clear of ancestral karma and aided by a spiritual teacher who shows us how to control our desires and mental restlessness, we can, however, realise our true soul nature and experience the ecstasy of living within the many dimensions of the Universal Divine Mother.  When we act without identification with the ego and without attachment to the result of our actions in the material world then we are truly free.  The blissful sensation of unity with all life on Earth and the quieting of the thoughts, desires, delusions and material attachments of the body soul can allow us access to the divine sources of inspiration, wisdom and love, not just in the fourth, but in the fifth dimension and beyond.
 
Soma, Rita, bodhicitta, manna, 'honey', enlightenment are the gifts of the third & final realm of the Eternal Soul.  Following this terminology, the Supreme Divine as the Eternal Soul through Its manifestation by the Divine Mother, Shakti, or whatever name we call Her, is the potential of all the dimensions of being.  The Eternal Soul is the mathematically incomprehensible infinite of infinites—the causeless cause.  It is the undifferentiated, unconditional, creative consciousness beyond time, space, light, sound, action and karma.  Although nameless, it is known as Sat, God, Allah, Para-Brahman, Para-Purusha, the One, the Tao or the Great Spirit; it is the Divine Source, Divine Power, or Infinite Love.  Devotion to the Eternal Soul, and the teacher who reveals It, promotes love, compassion, knowledge, discipline, morality, ethics, and ultimately, complete happiness, self-realisation and liberation.
 
The Eternal Soul, is ultimately, the source of our true soul self - Para-Atman.  It is our true, spacious, loving, peaceful, ecstatic, wise and everlasting soul nature: the Eternal Soul beyond human consciousness.  It is consciousness—perpetual, cosmic, wise and creative—of a far higher power.  Uncreated, formless and thus indescribable and indestructible, the Eternal Soul is the origin of all: the Divine Mother.  One taste of its infinite presence and we begin to remember our formless origin and spiritual nature.  As we learn to love the Divine Mother, endure the suffering of reincarnation and karma, and start to understand our undying relationship with the Eternal Soul, we can open further and bring their power into our lives.  At this point a teacher can appear and guide us to enlightenment.


 
Soul Realisation or Enlightenment
 
The Soul (Atman) is everywhere, all pervading, whole,
indivisible, pure, sinless, resplendent, immanent and all transcending—
giving the devas their duty of ordering all things in time and space.

Isha Upanishad 8
 
Enlightenment is the most peaceful, calm, compassionate and powerful state in which to be.  As we cultivate concentration and dedication, come to understand the impermanence of the body soul and our ancient, ancestral and karmic path through the universal and terrestrial Divine Mother, so we realise our origin and true soul nature in the causal, undying and selfless nature of the Eternal Soul.  We begin to clear conditioning karma, follow the great moral teachings, become free of attachment to concepts and the results of actions, end identification with the ego, and are in loving communion with the Divine.  We have awoken and come home.
 
Yet, in a sense, enlightenment never comes.  It is neither won, nor is it achieved.  It is the only constant, yet it is never still.  Being self-existent it has no cause.  Being causal it appears to act from another dimension; but being dimensionless it has neither beginning nor end, neither origin nor consequence.  Enlightenment is unconditional, spacious, ‘empty’ and thus free of karma; yet its streams of spiritual wisdom, healing, kindness, love and compassion can be aspired to, and, when carefully cultivated, can fill us with the results of good karma.  Although heaven can never be established upon the Earth, it can, at times feel like it is!
 
Enlightenment is in each breath we take; for breath is the microcosm of the great pulse of the Cosmos.  The words for the life principle in many languages: pneuma, chi, qi, prana, lung, mana and so on, mean ‘breath’ and ‘air’ as well as ‘soul’.  The inbreath follows the outbreath and the exhalation follows the inhalation in the same way as the created world gives itself to the Divine and the Divine—pure, vast, unconditioned, selfless, loving, yet invisible and indecipherable to us—gives itself to the world.
 
Enlightenment is the impossibility that breaks the barrier of human possibilities.  It is the power, not of this world, that guides and shapes all worlds.  It is the power, not of the soul, that shapes all souls.



The Soul Journey
 
Neither knowing nor unknowing, nor both together, invisible,
unthinkable, unnameable, Its essence is of its Self, being still, tranquil,
benign, non-dual. That is the Atman, the soul to be realised.

Mandukya Upanishad 7

In sum, the soul is born in the terrestrial forms of the Divine Mother as the body soul: that is, the body, senses, mind, emotions, personality, self-awareness and the ‘I’ or ego.  The body soul originates in, is entirely dependent upon, then dies within the Divine Mother.  The richness and complexity of the body soul mirror that of the Divine Mother, while its ‘emptiness’, apparent free will, consciousness and devotional longing mirror the selflessness and love of the Eternal Soul.  The inability of the soul to escape the consequences of its actions is reflected in the interminable chains of cause and effect among the myriad cosmic forms of the universal Divine Mother, while its apparent ability to choose its actions is a reflection of the infinitely free creative power of the Eternal Soul.  The Divine Mother, the anima mundi, the Soul of Life on Earth and the devic realm—the information and energy holders of the universe which include the planetary, solar, lunar and zodiacal powers—are in direct and dutiful service to the Eternal Soul, the Supreme Divine.  The life of the soul is one with the Soul of Life.  Its task is to awaken while in the body soul and learn to act in harmony with all.
 
At birth, the soul inherits or activates the karma held within the ancestral soul.  This is the pattern of forces and information held in the Divine Mother that are peculiar to humanity, which evolve, and are carried through time over countless lives.  They are the accumulative result of past actions which determine our present and future actions.  Between the karmic soul and the culturally encouraged identification with the body soul—the secular teaching that the ego is all there is—it is very difficult for the soul to remember and realise its true nature, origin and home in the immortal realm of the Eternal Soul and Universal Divine Mother.  The soul is caught in the egoic web of desire and aversion, attachment and indifference; it may not awaken at all during a lifetime and then it is usually the case that it only finds release at the time of death.
Prakriti
(bearing Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva)
 

Yet once we realise the impermanence, inherent emptiness and interdependency of the ego and body soul, become tired of the suffering of the mind and body, as we learn to meditate and begin to clear karmic obscuration, and as we move deeper into awareness of the universal forms of the Divine Mother, then the soul awakens.  From this experience, an appreciation of the gift of life and of the divine presence in all things, sentient and inanimate, begins to develop.  With the realisation of our dependence upon and our fundamental unity with all things comes the beginning of wisdom, love and compassion.  As soul awareness grows, it becomes possible to overcome karma, good and bad, find a spiritual teacher, release attachment to material things, sensory desires and the outcome of our actions, and so quieten and even still the mind.
 
Finally, there comes the realisation or awakening to the transcendent, nameless Eternal Soul, which, in the terms used here, stands to the universal Divine Mother as the terrestrial Divine Mother does to the soul.  As the soul remembers its love for the Divine, both transcendent and immanent, it is able to detach from and be a witness to the limitless wonders of the Divine Mother, and fulfil its duty to serve the increase of the Soul of Life wherever it appears in the cosmos.
 
In this state of realisation the soul understands the ultimate mysteries of God / Goddess, Purusha / Prakriti, Shiva / Shakti, the transcendent and immanent Divine, their combined creative power, and merges with it.
 
As the Mother - the spiritual partner of Sri Aurobindo - said: "Without Him I exist not, without me He is unmanifest."
 
The Divine Mother is the Supreme Divine's infinite being, the Supreme Divine is Her infinite non-being.
 
She draws all creation out from the Supreme Divine and gives birth to the Supreme Spirit within it.
 
She is His immanence, He is Her transcendence
 
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