The quest for knowing our self is our soul's quest. The soul's quest is to know thyself, evermore deeply. Our soul is our real self seeking to know who this is. This is not a quest motivated by a desperation for survival, nor is it a quest invented by society. Rather, this quest for self and life understanding is one of the primary motivations of life Itself. It is one of the Great Reasons for Life. The soul is here, being alive, in life, incarnated, in order to know itself. One who is not in this quest, or not motivated by this Primary Question, is not conscious in their soul.
Many teachings speak of the soul. Yet a simple definition of the soul is not so easy, because the soul has a number of aspects. So for understanding let us begin with one aspect, then gradually add others to complete the understanding. First, a soul is on a quest, which is a quest for self-understanding and truth. The soul is also on a quest for relationships with love and for harmony and beauty. In simple summary, every soul has within it a questing – for self-knowing and understanding, and for self-expression of the love within, and for creatively participating in bringing more love and harmony into the world.
We can also say what the soul is not. It is not a physical body, nor an emotion, nor a thought, yet it is certainly possible that the soul is related to the body, emotions and thought. So the soul is not, essentially, a physical thing, nor is it merely an emotion, nor a belief or faith. Yet, the soul has the power to incarnate into the physical, into the emotions and into the mind. The soul is an incarnating consciousness, as well as an incarnating motivation, and we can also think of the soul as a power to incarnate, or bring into life, its divine-knowing and its motivating quest to discover even more of what is latent within.
Thus, we can understand the soul in its aspects of questing – to know, to express, and to manifest. These aspects of soul transcend the body, the emotions and thoughts, but are not unrelated since all of this has to work through the mind, emotions and physical body.
Our average life is an experience of body, emotions and thoughts – what are known as the three aspects or three 'bodies' of our personality. But a purely soul experience is possible which transcends those 'personal aspects'. This pure experience of soul is a pure consciousness without thought. As well, it is a deep questing motivation that is not merely a conditioned or reactive emotion, and it is an inner creative power that is not just a power of the body.
In these teachings we say that certain aspects of the soul can be experienced through the mind, through the emotions, and even through the physical body; while the soul itself exists beyond those three aspects of the person. Because people are usually just in an experience of their physical body or reactive emotions or worrying thought, there is the need to transcend these personal aspects, through meditation, in order to experience qualities of the soul-life. This is why spiritual teachings and methods have evolved to transcend and renunciate the usual experience of life.
These methods can be appreciated and used, but their over emphasis on transcendence has neglected a very important truth of the soul-life which is that the soul is here and motivated to incarnate and experience itself in the three personal aspects of mind, emotion and body. The soul is here to experience itself in this three-fold world of physical matter, sentient feelings and mental understanding. As already said, one of the soul's primary quests is to Know Thyself, which means also to know others and the world around, since all life is relational. The soul's quest is not just to know thyself in its pure essence, for the soul is already in this pure consciousness. The soul's quest is to know and experience thyself in these three bodies and in this three-fold world.
The spiritual search is so often explained in relation to God. Mystics are searching for God, or for an experience of God or oneness with God. Another topic of discussion is about finding the Truth, the Real, and again this can be explained in relation to God or the Reality of Universal Being. We also speak about how the little ego-self, or individual self-consciousness, can lose itself or dissolve itself in the Universal Being, which we are calling God. All of these related themes can be explained with greater elaboration, but let us consider a different way of understanding the spiritual quest – which is just as important as the above.
Let us consider that we are in search of Truth, or on a path of discovering Truth, and that this is extremely important to us. But understand this Truth as yourself. You are looking for the truth of yourself. It would seem that this quest would be common to every person, if they considered it honestly. That is, we all want to know the real truth of our-self. We ask, who am I really and truly?
We shouldn't be merely trusting someone else to answer this, because each of us must finally discover by ourself the truth of ourself. A spiritual teacher or book might give some suggestions or help one look at certain possibilities, but the real discovery and verification of the truth of oneself can only be from the person inquiring. We are each in this unique situation. Yet because we are each in this situation, we can help each other in this quest and share our insights, though whatever is heard from others can never be a substitute for the most important experience which is to know directly the truth of oneself by oneself.
So our Quest is for the truth of ourself. This is what we want to know. We want to know this truth and live this truth. Now one might argue that this is too easy a quest. Well, it probably ought to be easy, but so often it isn't. This is because our ordinary self-identity and thoughts about ourself is often riddled with false ideas and delusions. Much of our self understanding is fixed and limited, sometimes even distorted or false. Many times we are not even honest about our own feelings. So the real truth of ourself is often hidden or veiled by false and limited self understanding. With meditation or self-contemplation, upon the truth of oneself, we may actually come to know our true self. This is a self-discovery process which can go deeper and deeper, as well as expand in true self knowledge. It is a continuing process of self-discovery, learning the truth of oneself.
Then, as we learn better the truth of ourself, we learn more about God – the Only Real Being there is anyways. This because the truth of ourself IS God. The true qualities of ourself are the qualities of the Universal God-Being. Our true qualities are universal qualities. Our true self is the Universal Self. God is the deepest reality and truth of our being. This is who we really are, but we each have to discovery this truth in our way and in our own process. Thus, the process of self-discovery, the quest for the truth of ourself is actually the same as the spiritual quest for God. For in finding our true self, we are finding God. For the Universal Self is at the heart and essence of each person; it is the deeper Truth of each person. Then we realize that God always wanted to be known.
In attitude and with purpose, we could be looking for our real self, our real energy, the divine truth inside us and emerging from within. This is our soul emerging from the gestational core of our being. It is our soul 'coming out' and 'ex-pressing'. Yet even deeper than our soul is the One Self, also translated as God, that is 'coming through' our soul and then through our personal experience. So the direction of Divine emergence is from within to outer, from hidden to expressed, from potential to actualized. This is the Divine Light, Love, and Creative Will emerging through a human being, then 'working out' into the world. This is how the 'Hand of God' (as it were) or the 'Being of God' comes into manifestation, from Divine Potential to actual becoming.
This does just automatically happen, though. There is some degree of 'natural influence' from the Divine to the world of persons and action; but this natural divine influence will often be countered or resisted by spiritually unmatured self-egos and other spiritually-countering forces of one's social world and its institutional structures. So the Divine emergence, or manifestation of Divine Will, requires a cooperative and encouraging attitude by the receiving pole – which is us. Yet remember that our needed receptivity, openness, and allowing is in relation to what is already within us - seeking to be realized and to come forth, which is our innermost truth, our soul within.
The terms, soul and true self and deepest truth and true heart and true being all mean the same. We can also call this our divine self, because our true self is a divine self. Once again remember that we are divine beings. Our everyday actions and personality patterns may not be a first-rate representative of the greater Divine; nonetheless, who we are most truly and deeply is a divine being, or divine soul, which is like a greater potential of love and goodness within. This divine soul of love and goodness is seeking to come out of its shell to be known and expressive in the world through the particular medium of our body-mind-heart. The soul is seeking expression and maturation through this vehicle of self. In other words, the inner divine potential within, like a seed, is seeking to break out of its shell and grow outward. Thus, the innerness of self is meant to mature outward into the outerness of self.
This inner self, or soul, remains in a shell if the physical body-mind remains unconscious of it. In many cases of life, the inner soul is never felt or realized, and thus it remains in a shell as mere potential, and never known by the outward oriented person. In order to free the soul and allow it to grow, some awareness and love needs to be given to it. Awareness or attention or contemplation needs to go inward, rather than remain stuck in an outward habit. The soul needs to be felt or recognized, to at least some degree.
Our soul, our divine inner self, also needs some love; our soul needs to be loved. In other words, we need to love our self, not in a narcissist way, but in a compassionate and caring way. It is healthy and needed to be caring and loving towards oneself. But if one is worried about becoming narcissist or egotistical in this love, then focus this love on the divine soul within, one's inner divinity of self-goodness and good-will, the true self. For this inner divine self needs love, caring and recognition, in order to grow out of its protective shell, from potential to expression, from being hidden to being revealed, from being neglected to being loved.
The natural response of the divine soul to any situation is love, caring, and compassion. This is our true and deepest response to situations involving suffering. Love is also our natural response to situations of beauty and harmony. If we can respond to every situation and every person with love and goodness, then we are bring forth our true self and expressing the Divine. This is one of the greatest spiritual practices – to respond with love and goodness to any situation or person we encounter. This is being at our highest self, in our highest truth, and expressing the Divine in life. If we can keep this aim in mind and practice this, then we are growing spiritually and the Divine is expressing more completely.
Within each of us is an inherent divinity, a spiritual essence. This is our soul. If we did not have this inner essence, then we would essentially be un-spiritual beings -- we would be animals with no spiritual essence or potential in us. Some people believe this; they believe that humans are essentially beasts, or even maybe essentially evil or sinful, such that each person requires a religious conversion or redemption from sin. It is true that everyone needs spiritual help at times, and it is true that religious contact can give some people an important connection with divinity; but, in an absolute sense, we don't need anyone or anything extra to be spiritual, because we each already have our own inner spiritual essence which is our connection with God. We each have a spiritual essence, or seed, or what is called soul - which can then be our guide.
This is our true authentic self, rather than a made-up imagination of who we are. It is not an idea about our self that we got from media, nor from religion, and it is not merely an imitation of other people. Our soul is our true authenticity, our true self; it is who we really are in essence. But we cannot know this unless we are completely honest inside, and open to the feeling and the knowing of who we really are. It is not enough to merely be told about what the soul is or about what our spiritual essence is. We need to actually experience. On our own, we need to actually discover who are.
Our soul is our inner core nucleus. It ought to be as obvious as the sun is to the earth. Our soul is our inner realness deep inside, our innermost essence. This is what we can trust; because ultimately we must trust ourselves. Hopefully we have some people whom we can trust, but ultimately we have our own self to trust... if we can. But there is much to be cautious about and even sometimes self-critical about, regarding our personality patterns and habits. Yet there is one central part of our being that we can most sincerely trust, which is our inner soul.
Our personality is a triad of physical, emotional and mental aspects. Through these aspects (or 'personality bodies') we experience (and know) our self and the world. Through these we also express ourselves – physically, emotionally and with ideas by way of speech.
Yet also within this personality is our soul, which is the seed-fire of our divinity, the carrier of divine light, love and will. Every physical living body has a soul as its core-essence, carrying the seed of its potentials, its possible capacities and abilities, and the design for its possible destiny, its completed actualization. As our emotional and mental fields develop out from the physical, these too have the same soul in their core. So the soul is this core-essence and potential within our personality, and the soul is composed of divine light, love and will. It is the individualized Divinity in us, which holds our possibility for completed actualized spiritual being. The personality can seek guidance from the soul and be inspired by the soul. It can also discover and realize its soul.
When soul is discovered or realized, it is known in itself. The soul in itself is an individualized capacity to know and actualize Divinity. This soul aspect of our self can realize Godness directly and actualize the divine qualities. Of course, though, the actualization of divine qualities must occur through the personality – through physical, emotional and/or mental expression.
The human soul is the light, love and spiritual will in the personality. In other words, whatever of these Primary Qualities are found in a personality, a person, this is the divine soul expressing through. All higher qualities found in any human being, those qualities without self-interest and self-vanity at the core, are in fact soul qualities inspiring and expressing through that person. So in addition, the human soul is the container or seed or source for these Primary Qualities of light, love and spiritual will. The soul contains these Qualities awaiting dormant in our Unconscious, until there is an opening/opportunity to reveal itself and express through the mental or emotional body, and then into physical manifestation.
Yet for many people, their soul is 'hiding', like a seed is hiding in the ground. It is unconscious to the person; that is, the person is unconscious of their inner soul; or we could say that the soul is in the person's Unconscious. Next, when we nurture and feed ourselves with higher quality thoughts and maintain higher quality emotions and also live in a quality environment and also maintain an open spiritual attitude or self-inquisitive attitude; then the inner soul will emerge from the depths of soil into the light of day, into conscious experience. The soul becomes conscious in us; that is, we become soul-conscious. And then, soul is who we are; while personality is now seen as our vehicle for soul expression and practical work.
Each soul an individuated ray from the Divine Light. It is a ray or spark of the Divine Light and Love, which incarnates into this manifest world and into the three 'bodies' of the personality self. When the soul incarnates here, it enters into the existential reality of the physical world and specifically the place of its birth and maturation. It also encounters and involves itself in an emotional reality and a mental world. These three existential 'worlds' (the physical, emotional and mental) create a three-fold personality-self, which is conditioned by the overall existential reality in which it originates.
For example, the physical body is made of the genes and problems of its heritage, as well as conditioned by its physical environment. The emotional part of oneself is conditioned by the emotional atmosphere and colorings of that local social world in which one grows up and also by the general culture of that time. And the mental part of oneself is conditioned by the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of that family network and culture.
All of these three existential 'worlds' then develop the personality – composed of the three bodies (physical, emotional and mental). The soul is then surrounded by this developing personality. The soul is the essential Light consciousness and motivating Love within this personality, but it becomes sub-conscious and hidden from the personality awareness, as this personality-self is totally involved in its uniquely conditioned reality. Personality gets wrapped up in itself and in the world circumstances.
Then too, the soul gets wrapped up in the personality circumstances and all its problems and concerns as well. In effect, the soul gets lost in the conditioned personality. The soul always has the potential within itself to be free of all this and to realize its own Divinity. The soul's divine nature can never be hurt or destroyed; it is independent of personality and world. However, the soul can get wrapped up and lost in the personality concerns and dramas; whereby the soul forgets its divine nature and forgets its freedom. It's like there is so much going on, and so many forces all around, that the little innocent soul child gets overwhelmed by it all and soon loses its own soul-awareness in the dramas of this world.
The soul is like a young, beautiful child of love and light. One sees her beauty of love and light, but all of this is not yet fully expressive and manifested, as it could be if allowed to grow and become strong. So the soul is this child of love and light; but this child can still be pushed around or locked up in a room by the personality ego, or simply neglected because of all the personalty concerns and dramas. Or, the soul might just get all wrapped up in the personality concerns and dramas, just as a child in relation to its parent's concerns and dramas.
And so gradually, this soul child becomes self-identified with the personality; it gradually thinks of itself as being just a personality. It loses its child divinity in its forced intercourse with the world. Still though, the soul retains its inner core divinity and its divine potential qualities; but for now the soul is lost in the personality. Yet the soul can, at some time, awaken from this personality entanglement, this identification, to become free once again and realize itself as transcendental from the conditioned personality. This becomes the first awakening, and from here there will be many more levels of awakening.
At some point we were soul conscious and soul identified, but then our consciousness and identification shifted to the personality, which is when our soul lost itself in the personality and in the world. This is what usually happens. Nothing terribly bad about this; it's just what tends to happen. So then, later on, there might be an inner re-awakening of our soul; like our soul somehow has a sudden remembrance. Or we have an inner spiritual insight as to who we are in essence. This is our first awakening, our awakening to the divine soul within us, a glimpse into who we really are in our core and in our essence. And this can propel one on a spiritual journey, which at first is to discover our real soul and the divine potential within us. This could be called the 'journey back to our soul'. In a some other traditions, this is known as the journey to recover or retrieve one's lost soul.
People often speak about their soul as if it were something other than their self. If one is philosophizing or trying to intellectually understand the soul, one does speak about the soul in a distant kind of way. As well, at the beginning stages of the spiritual path the soul seems to be something other than I, and a person might even speak about hoping to discover their soul, as in 'I am looking for my soul.' But then who is the I looking for the soul? If this I is looking for its soul, then it would be assumed that this is the personality I, or thinking-I, or what we say is the ego-I. But this ego-I should not be thought of in a derogatory way; ego is just the name that psychology gives to the I of oneself. So the personality ego-I is looking for its inner soul. But isn't the soul an I? Isn't the soul a selfness?
When one comes into real soul experience or is in soul consciousness, there is a direct experience of the soul as being I. In other words now, I am the soul. This then is not a mere intellectual understanding. For the true reality of soul is now experienced as I (as who I am). I am the soul. This soul is who I am. Our soul has its own Identification, its own I consciousness, its own I experience. We call this the soul-I, in contrast to the personality ego-I. The difference is that the soul-I is our divine nature and contains all divine potentials; while the personality ego-I contains our world conditioning. The soul is, in fact, one's true self, one's essential self; rather than the conditioned self – the personality self. Our soul is our divine nature, the inner nature of who we are in essence; rather than the personality self that has been molded by world circumstances and influences.
I, the soul, became wrapped up in the personality conditioning and entanglement. I got lost in all that. I first identified with the physical body, then with emotional phenomena, and then with mental stuff, such as beliefs and thoughts. I, the soul, kept getting lost everyday. But now I remember and realize myself, and it could be possible that I remain in this freedom and in this self-realization. The true nature of I, the soul, is freedom – meaning free unidentified consciousness. Yet, I must continually work at freeing myself from habitual identifications and engrossment with the physical, emotional, and mental realms. This is quite a difficult work, because those realms hold powerful energies and so often there is much in those realms to deal with.
In each of those three realms we can distinguish two dimensions, the exterior and the interior. For example, our exterior physical reality is the physical world all around us and which we must live, while our interior physical reality is our individual body and all its needs. We also have an emotional and a mental interior reality, which comprise our own personal emotional and mental reality. Yet, we also live around and relate with other people's emotional and mental realities; so in this sense, we live in a larger emotional and mental world of other people, as well as living in the obvious physical world.
Furthermore, there is much interaction and even blending between the exterior and interior sides of reality. Our personal physical body obviously interacts with other physical bodies and things exterior to it, and it is obviously affected by such. So our physical body is obviously not an isolated entity; for instance, each physical body has to breathe in and out a common shared air. But neither is the emotional part of our personal self is isolated from others. For this part too is continually interacting with and being affected by the larger emotional world around. And the same is true with the mental part of our self, in relation with the larger mental world of our culture and humanity.
Fortunately, though, each personality self has its own degree of autonomy - that is, its capacity to resist or tune out much of the possible influences from the exterior world. Yet, no personality self has complete autonomy, and by the time a personality develops more psychic autonomy in its later childhood, it has already been very influenced and conditioned by its social world. So by the time a personality self even wakes up to its developing autonomy, it must now already deal with the conditioning and introjected patterns from its exterior social world. At any rate, there is a lot of blending going on between individuals and the world around them, such that we are each products of our social environmental context, at least to some extent.
Thus, the soul incarnates into all this, into these worlds, and it invariably becomes lost in it all. Though the inner soul can have some subtle influence, the major influences on personality development are the bigger powers of the social world. The soul is like a constant inner voice in this ongoing drama of life with all its swirling forces and influences, and in itself the soul retains its spiritual purity, but the soul's actual influence on the personal reality can be quite weak since the other forces are so strong. This is why the spiritual path is a lot about returning consciousness to the inner soul, realizing this inner soul reality as truly oneself, and building the soul's strength and continuity of consciousness throughout the whole personality and in regular life.
For along the spiritual path, I, the soul, must develop the strength of transcendence (freedom from personality drama), then, with mastery, work with and through the three-fold personality -- the physical, emotional and mental parts of oneself. The soul, then, becomes the true leader and guide of oneself. I, the soul, will now guide and lead the vehicles of my personal self. I the soul will consciously live and work in this manifest world. For I the soul am now in charge of my life. And I can relate with the exterior world from this inner realization of who I am – a reflected light of the Divine Self.