The spiritual Hierarchy includes all souls; it is the Hierarchy of the human souls of our planet. This Hierarchy exists in what could logically be called the dimension of souls, but this is also called the plane of Intuition which is a dimensional level just 'above' the thinking mind of thought-forms. This intuitional-soul dimension interpermeates the physical space of our planetary atmosphere. And because this realm is not really separate from the space of physical reality, and does not a physical locality as it were, each soul is in the Hierarchy, whether physically here as well, or not. The name, Hierarchy, means that human souls are in various levels of advancement; so the more advanced souls are higher in the Hierarchy, and they help the progress and work of lesser advanced souls who are at lower levels. This is the general idea of the Hierarchy, which one needs to know in order to understand anything further about this topic.
Most theosophical and esoteric writings about the Hierarchy are about the great Masters, Teachers, and Guides, who reside in the upper levels of the Hierarchy, also known as the Halls of Wisdom. So when teachings usually speak of the Hierarchy, they usually mean just the higher levels of Hierarchy. But the great Hierarchy, overall, includes all souls of the Earth, each soul in one or another level. At each level-higher are souls with a more expansive consciousness and being, and a greater comprehension of the highest spiritual Purposes. Then, at the next level lower will be souls who are, in a sense, enfolded by those above and potentially guided by them.
A soul’s existence begins at the bottom of a great hierarchy of potential. Each soul begins at the bottom, then rises up level by level, towards the one final Goal which is a realized Oneness with all, or oneness with God. The goal or purpose of the soul is actually two-fold. One is to rise up, which is its evolution. The other purpose is to guide and manifest in the realms of mind, emotion and physical reality. Not all souls are equal in the hierarchy, in terms of intelligence and expansiveness. Some souls are young, still learning and expanding, though each soul has a spiritual vibrancy. Some souls are more mature - with greater overall intelligence, love, and mastery. The highest souls are often called masters or saints.
Souls learn from and receive higher influences from souls above them in the hierarchy. In this way each soul ascends higher in the hierarchy. Souls-above emanate higher energies and higher spiritual influences to those below. They emanate greater love and wisdom. So each soul, at whatever level it is, receives from those above and emanates to those below. The highest master-souls in this planetary sphere emanate to all humanity higher love, wisdom, enlightenment, and spiritual will. They help guide humanity and set into motion spiritual plans for a more loving, cooperative, and beautiful world. Yet such higher guidance and plans cannot be forced upon the free will of people, so this all depends on people becoming receptive and willing to make choices and action based on their inner love-intuition and higher guidance – which is how the master-souls help influence us towards greater wisdom and good.
Each soul is on an upward evolutionary ascent in the hierarchy. Yet this ascent very often depends on choices and experiences in earthly life. Soul expansion requires life experience and working with life energies. Therefore, this life is truly significant for the soul’s evolution, though usually a soul has to incarnate again and again until there are nurturing circumstances and a personal vehicle develops sufficient receptivity.
When higher souls incarnate there is a greater chance for spiritual work and evolution, because higher souls have greater spiritual power. But when newer souls incarnate they often do not have enough inner power to influence the personality vehicle. So most personalities, most people, necessarily need outside help along the spiritual path because their own souls lack sufficient power as yet to reconcile with the often negative influences of society and ego development. However, even higher souls reach difficult challenges within themselves, which are like giant steps or hurdles to overcome. Every person will have something, as it were, to work on.
It is also possible to listen to and communicate with other souls. These souls might look like people, but the form-appearance of a soul is most likely a product of one's imagination. Souls in their essence do not really have physical-like appearances, so our imagination will often create a person-like appearance for a soul. But in essence, souls are spheres of consciousness composed of the three rays of intelligence, will, and love. 'Soul masters' can project an appearance, often as how they once manifested physically, but even so, the one who sees a master in vision or in meditation will also provide their own projections. Of course though, many souls do have physical bodies, and each of us are those. Yet there are also great souls not in incarnation at this time. These higher beings are the ones we need to communicate with in the soul realm, because from them we can receive blessings and guidance.
Also, souls do not have any particular gender, because sexual gender is only a physical trait having to do with the kind of emotional and physical body a soul incarnates as. Gender manifests in our physical world, but it is immaterial in the soul dimension. Therefore, a particular soul may manifest at different times as either male or female. For example, we think of Jesus as male, but the soul of Jesus, which we could name as Christ, is neither male nor female. It might help to understand that each soul carries all of the potentials for both gender traits, and thus we can develop balanced gender traits with greater receptivity to our soul. Some people ask why so many masters are male and so few female. As explained above, the real master-being is a genderless soul, yet this soul manifested as a male, probably because the social circumstances for it were better. Also remember that many great souls were female, but religious histories tended to neglect them in favor of male incarnated masters.
At the lowest level are the less advanced souls, or we might say the younger souls or beginner souls. Yet do not confuse this with physical incarnation. For a little baby might be an incarnation of a very advanced soul; while a grown man might be an incarnation of young soul. These younger, beginner souls do not teach and guide humanity, as do the advanced souls. They are too inexperienced and less mastered to be true teachers and guides. They are the ones needing help and guidance. They can learn from those higher to them in the Hierarchy. They also learn from the experiences and lessons of incarnation. In fact, their main learning is from incarnation, because at this level of consciousness and mental sensitivity, they can mostly only learn from concrete, hard experience, rather than from more subtle levels of sensitivity.
The process for younger souls is to learn and to develop their inherent spiritual qualities from world experience. This is how we must all begin, and it is how the present Masters had to begin. All souls learn and advance from the lessons and challenges of world experience. Additionally, the process of development is about waking up - waking up to one's loving qualities and other spiritual qualities of one's being. It is also to do with an ever increasing expansion of consciousness (which is not merely an increase of informational knowledge) and also an increase in their spiritual power (which is not merely a power to achieve or obtain whatever).
Eventually, with learning and development, a soul progresses through an initiation, which means its ascent into the next level of souls. And from here, there can be more initiations and ascents. So at each higher level of the Hierarchy are higher Initiates. It is only at the fifth level that one is esoterically referred to as a Master, while at the third and fourth levels one could be called a Guide or Teacher. At the second level are souls who have some degree of expanded consciousness. While at the lowest level are souls not yet awakened and therefore still in a state of potentiality; these are souls but not yet knowing.
Souls, then, are in a process of awakening, realization, and development. This is parallel and related to its reflection in the physical living world. Above the lowest level, souls already have some degree of awakened soul-consciousness, so there is already a realization of there being a spiritual search, a journey, or a path. Help and wisdom from above can come to any soul, but each soul must also work through its own process of learning and development, and most of this will have to come from the learning and challenges of actual world experiences. For it is in this world of living experience that a soul can further awaken and develop its latent spiritual qualities and powers.
But at this point in considering about soul, let us not forget that we are these souls. Those who read and study these spiritual subjects are, most likely, people with an awakened soul to at least some degree. So we should not think of our self as separate or different from our soul. It is only when our mind is so preoccupied with 'practical' stuff and our heart is so clouded by trivial desires, that our soulness gets lost underneath everything else and thus disassociated from our everyday consciousness. Yet our soul is the deeperness of our being. It is our true heart in search of greater spiritual awakening. For our spiritual search and the spiritual journey itself is from our soul.
This body and mind, which we know of as our self, is really the body and mind of our soul. Yet in many instances and at many times, our soul is forgotten. Our personality mind, in its engagement with phenomena and issues of daily living, forgets its relation with the soul, and thus we have a temporary disconnection between soul and personality consciousness. Therefore, the need for soul awakening, or spiritual awakening, is right here in this life. It is a lot to do with our regularly working mind remembering or waking up to our soul, or re-connecting, or returning to being at the level of soul consciousness.
Because of these problems of disconnection, of forgetfulness, and of distraction, our personal vehicle of mind/body has to continually work at being soul-receptive and soul-conscious. The personal mind has to work at coming into right relation with the soul. Then, only after this is accomplished, is the soul able to work consciously and effectively through the incarnated person and thus being effective in the world. For otherwise, the divided split between soul and personal life will mean that the soul remains latent in relation to the living person.
So the first spiritual step is for this living person to discover, receive, and allow their soul to live in consciousness and in life, through oneself. The second step is for the soul and the personal life to gradually merge into one unified soul-conscious person. The third step is for the soul to now consciously make decisions for this personal life, and to consciously make good use of this life for further spiritual learning and development, as well as for helpful service in life to make the world a better place. A very important purpose of life, and thus of every conscious soul, is to improve the quality and circumstances of life, to make this life evermore beautiful, loving, harmonious, and reflective of spiritual understanding.
Thus, the progress and advancement of a soul will depend on its experiences and learning in the living world, relating socially with others and physically with nature. This social and physical world is the learning ground for every soul. But the learning is very slow if the personal vehicle (of mind/emotion/body) is predominately acting in a mechanical and worldly conditioned way, without any real connection or relation with the soul. For then, the soul is merely akin to being a distant observer of this life and of its personal mind/body - which holds the soul in its heart essence but does not bring it into living experience. Thus, in this situation, the soul is not able to make an intentional learning adventure in this life, but instead can only observe and learn from a kind of distance and un-involvement. The souls still learns and grows some from this, but not at all as much as when it can consciously and intentionally participate in the adventures of life.
Even the more advanced incarnating souls will have this existential situation to get through, which is for the growing living child, the person, to somehow discover the inner soul, or to realize/awaken to who he/she really is in soul. This can be understood in two ways, both legitimate. Either, the personality awakens to their inner soul, or the inner soul awakens in the person. Both really occur simultaneously. But none of this is guaranteed. An advanced soul can intend to be incarnated in a particular child, but there are existential steps necessary before this is successful. That is, the existential situation surrounding this child needs to be favorable for the child/person to awaken in their soul. Yet there are many possible distractions and unfavorable circumstances that could prevent this person from their possible auspicious awakening.
The greater Masters will have enough spiritual power to favorably influence these existential circumstances and to make a greater spark in the personality life that will inflame a personal soul-awakening. Thus, the greater is the Soul, the greater is their soul-power to awaken the personality vehicle from within.
But with intermediate advanced souls, who do have this extraordinary power, there is much dependent on the existential circumstances and on those living persons who can help the child (or person) awaken. This is why most of us need living teachers and guides, as well as soul-nurturing parents and a soul-nurturing environment; in order that our personality vehicles might someday awaken to the inner soul. For there is always the unfortunate existential possibility that the soul will not successfully connect with its intended incarnated life, due to the many social and physical forces of distraction.
The more advanced Souls can incarnate at various times in order to enact a certain kind of work that is more effective if in a living vehicle and thus relating with others and the world more directly. These higher Souls will have more spiritual power, more spiritual flame, to awaken the personal vehicle that they chose to incarnate through, and thus be more successful at avoiding the potential hazards of unfavorable circumstances (physical or social) surrounding its incarnation. It is even said that the highest Masters have the power to just show up in the physical world, anytime at will.
But the intermediate-level souls will have to contend with existential circumstances and forces, both physical and social. And thus, each incarnation is a but a possibility of success; meaning that sometimes it all works pretty well, but other times it does not. For the personal vehicle itself has to somehow awaken to its soul and thus make a sincere connection. Otherwise, the soul never gets known, and as such, never gets to consciously live in the world; instead, it has to remain in the background and in the realm of latent potential, observing but not able to participate.
This existential problem, overall, is most extremely exasperated in the situation of younger, beginner souls. For in this case, the beginning soul has no developed soul-power to inflame an awakening in the incarnational self. The advanced soul has a good degree of power, the intermediate soul has some power, but the beginner soul has almost none. So in this case, everything depends on the existential circumstances. That is, because the beginner soul has so little power or flame to ignite any spiritual awakening in the person, the person's possible spiritual awakening must depend solely on the people and culture around. And as such, the worldly forces (dominated by those who have no real spiritual connection or those who have disconnected themselves from the inner spiritual wisdom of their heart) have most of the influential power in a person's life. Unless, by good fortune, there is a genuine spiritual teacher or spiritual teaching that somehow enters into this person's awareness.
In summary, we have distinguished three levels of soul: advanced, intermediate, and beginner. In reality there are more than just three levels in the Hierarchy, but this triadic distinction is useful to explain important differences.
An advanced soul, residing in upper levels of the Hierarchy, is one who can be a guide, teacher, healer, or master; in order to help the others of humanity and to help bring more Light, Love and Purpose into the world, and to help save humanity from destroying the world with ignorance and selfishness. Advanced souls can work straight from the Hierarchy, without needing to be physical bodies, because they can help humanity directly through mind and thought, and through higher feelings of the heart. Yet at times and for specific work, these advanced souls return to incarnation. Nonetheless, when they re-incarnate, that particular physical body and developing mind will need to 're-member' or re-connect with its soul, because until this happens this mind/body personality is as lost as anyone and is open to whatever social influences are around. However, an advanced soul will have more 'inner spiritual power' to help awaken the newly developing personality.
A beginner soul, or younger soul, residing at the lower level of the soul Hierarchy, can do nothing for humanity and the world, unless it works from a physical incarnation. For it has no effective power, from itself, in relation to the world. So these souls need to continuously incarnate, in order to learn, develop, and serve life. They are like baby seeds, in that they each have divine spiritual potentials but none of this is yet realized consciously or actualized. So these new souls incarnate, then reside within the heart of the living person. Here, within this person, this soul holds spiritual potentials, but these will remain as latent potentials until they are recognized and nurtured into development.
This younger soul itself has no real power to awaken the person (the personality) from within, so the soul must remain as just potential, or as just seed, until the personal ego-power and other circumstances around the person can somehow create success in soul discovery. Basically, these incarnations of younger souls will need 'outside help', meaning that they will need a helpful and nurturing spiritual social environment and also spiritual help from living spiritual teachers.
Once this soul is brought forth into some degree of actualization, then it will have that degree of autonomous power in the future. So then, it will have progressed on into the next level and can now be called an intermediate soul; for this soul is now on a progressive journey of expanding consciousness and actualizing its latent divine qualities. Much can be actualized and developed in this very lifetime, for every lifetime as unlimited possibilities. But even after this particular lifetime, this soul, which has now progressed beyond the beginner level, can expand and develop even further by way of future incarnations. Though, unlike the advanced souls, it is still not developed sufficiently that it can work intentionally from the Hierarchy to help bring further Light and Love to humanity.
Thus, the intermediate souls have to incarnate in order to help the world and also to further expand as a soul. Yet these intermediate souls will also need to be discovered and nurtured by their respective incarnational vehicle. Because these souls can just as easily get forgotten and remain unrecognized by that personality self. And often there will be a struggle between worldly influences and soul influences, upon the personality. So in order for this soul to make real use of this life and to further actualize itself and to be able to serve life in some spiritual way, there will need to be a sufficient cooperation from the personality, ... from this ego-based person.
Therefore, it should be understood from all of this that souls are in a long-term process of actualization, a journey as it were, from being soul potential to being soul actualized, soul realized and soul manifesting. This will be the soul's journey of self discovery and actualization, which will be ongoing throughout lifetimes. Each lifetime presents a new and unique opportunity for a soul to further realize, develop and manifest its divine potentials. Each kind of circumstance is an opportunity for the soul to develop an inherent latent capacity - an inherent ability just waiting to be developed. For it is the circumstances of this world that can bring forth hidden abilities within us. For example, one might be presented with many opportunities to develop patience, or perseverance, or detachment, or selfless caring. But of course, one has to be willing to work on these qualities, and then they can actualize from within.
However, none of these potentials can unfold unless the particular personality (in which this soul resides) makes sufficient effort to discover, uncover, nurture, realize, and bring forth their soul into this living existence; rather than the unfortunate possibility of complete forgetfulness, neglect, distraction, and preoccupation with worldly desires or with low level social influences.
Thus, a discovery of one's soul is first necessary. And this has to be a real discovery; not merely an intellectual knowledge about the soul. It has to be an immediate knowingness, not just a knowledge-about. In other words, there needs to be a real connection made, and then hopefully a united fusion of soul and personality. So then, how is the soul discovered? Let us not make this complicated at all. Let this be understood very simply (simply in a very good way). Our soul discovered in the trueness of our heart. The inner qualities of our heart are known esoterically as the inner petals of the heart. Discover this, recognize, this, realize this. Find your true self within yourself.
Find the soul in the heart. The wisdom of our soul can also be found in the higher level of mind, the intuitional mind; but the mind can sometimes fool oneself and create glamorous illusions. Yet the sincere heart can immediately know what is truth, so it is best to discover one's soul in the heart. Then the knowing heart, the wisdom of the heart, the soul of the heart, will flower forth. Then from here, true intuition and wisdom will begin to unfold from the mind as well.
Awaken to the soul within. Soul is the intelligence-love at the essence of oneself, at work attempting to guide the personality mind and influence the deep feelings of the heart. The soul’s aims are always for the better good, for love and beauty. Everyone is born with a good soul, but the ego-personality and along with society can squelch the soul’s intelligent loving power. Thus, we have to learn how to listen to our soul and follow this inner truth of oneself.
The Hierarchy of souls is in a different dimension from the physical. It is not physically visible, but it is right here - through our world; just as mind pervades the world, even though it is invisible. So the realm of souls is in a dimension of space that is invisible to our sensory experience, yet this can be known in our heart and our intuitional mind. Souls are not above the head, nor are they hiding in one of our organs. Instead, souls exist in a dimension interpenetrating our whole body and aura, though souls are actually centered in the invisible space of our heart.
This understanding of the dimension of soul existence should not be disassociated from our understanding of who we are right now. For it is possible to be a conscious soul, or to be conscious in our soul.
Some people will not yet have any realization of their soul, in which cases the personal mind and heart are unconnected with the soul, so their soul really has no practical relationship with physical and social life here on Earth. The soul remains in limbo, from the perspective of this present time on Earth, but it nonetheless still exists somewhere in the Hierarchy of souls. These unconnected people will, then, view the Hierarchy as a completely other dimension, like being above and beyond them.
Yet some people are really conscious in their soul, meaning that their personal mind and heart are consciously connected with soul life; maybe not always or every moment, but they are at least sometimes able to consciously connect to or consciously live from the soul. So then, these people can understand that they are souls in the Hierarchy, so they can possibly work consciously in the Hierarchy. This can most easily be understood in cases of living teachers and masters-of-self. For they are living souls, working consciously as souls here on Earth. In between the fully living conscious souls and those unconscious of soul are those of us who are still making efforts to remain soul conscious throughout practical everyday life.
Also, once inside the hierarchy of souls, consciously, one can take on responsibilities of an esoteric initiate. Initiates are conscious souls, who realize their purpose as being emissaries of Light and Love, who realize the Love and Light coming through them, and thus emit this out to others below and around them. Each conscious soul is like reflecting sunlight. Each is like a lantern radiating light in all directions, empowered by the Greater Source.
So right here and now, in this very world existence, we can realize ourselves to be souls. Each one of us can realize that 'I am an incarnated soul'; but only if one is first conscious in the soul. And then, it is also possible to be conscious in the Hierarchy of souls. It is all right here, really. It's just a matter of where our consciousness is tuned in.
Mind is a deeper dimension from the physical, and the soul dimension is deeper than mind. Yet we reach the soul dimension from the mind centered in the heart. One has to go through the mind of heart to reach the soul. The key is to not be content with mere mind, but through mind go deep into the heart of beingness. Finally, by way of a balance between relaxation and perseverance, one may enter into the realm of soul being, or it might be better said that soul is able to come into awareness. This is a heart-mind space, of conscious being.