Through the Eye of the Soul
The purpose of this page is to expand our understanding of common terminology used to describe the spiritual path. We will explore the deeper and wider meanings of everyday words in an attempt to shift perspective from the view of the personality to the eye of the soul.
The worldview of the modern age has served to narrow the meaning of terms such as "spirituality," "church," "sacrifice," "love," and "wisdom." By redefining them in the light of the wisdom teachings, our hope is to recapture lost meaning and to reveal, in some measure, the deeper significance of language related to the journey of transformation. Placed in the context of the Path, ordinary-seeming words can expand our perspective on the world of the soul.
Below is an initial set of definitions. We will add to this list periodically in the goal of building, over time, a deeper under- standing of the soul’s inner world of meaning.
Ever since the new wave of spirituality surfaced in the 1960s, people have wondered about the difference between religion and spirituality. The fundamental difference can actually be found in an ordinary dictionary. Religion is defined as a set of beliefs and practices, whereas spirituality is defined as the state of being spiritual. Thus in common language, spirituality is a state of consciousness. It can exist either within or outside of a religion.
In the Ageless Wisdom teachings, the state of consciousness called spirituality is linked to the soul. The soul is viewed as a dimension of consciousness. The soul, whose essence is spirit, perceives that spirit is the divine substance of all life. From the soul's perspective, spirituality is the state of consciousness in which one recognizes the divine life infusing all forms, and seeks to bring that hidden divinity into outer expression.
Spirituality becomes a conscious state when the soul awakens to its true nature. The awakened soul experiences a sense of connectedness with all living beings. This sense of connectedness, which leads to a concern for the welfare of the whole, brings about a reorientation in the individual's life. This reorientation proceeds by treading the spiritual path.
The spiritual path is, in essence, a universal path. It exists at the esoteric core of all religious and spiritual traditions. Though practices and disciplines differ from culture to culture, they generally include three fundamentals: meditation, study, and service. According to the wisdom teachings, these three elements are the sine qua non of the spiritual life. Together they strengthen the soul's awareness of its intrinsic connection with the universe. All who tread the path are thus serving the evolutionary goal of our time: expanding human awareness of the oneness of life.
Spirituality can be expressed in any field of endeavor—from religion to education, to science, business or politics. A scientist working on a new vaccine is expressing a spiritual impulse, as is an economist developing an understanding of living systems, or a political leader seeking to alleviate human suffering. Every activity that contributes to creating a more just, peaceful, and harmonious world is inherently spiritual.
In many dictionaries, a church is defined first as the building in which public Christian worship takes places, next as a body of worshippers proclaiming the Christian creed. Within Christianity itself, a more mystical definition of Church is “the Body of Christ.” Members of the church are viewed as members of one body, of which Christ is the head. In this framework, individual members are seen as unified with one another through their inner union with Christ.
The Russian ideal of sobornost, born of the Russian Orthodox tradition, adds another dimension to this more mystical definition. Sobor in Russian means cathedral; sobornost literally means cathedral-ness. The word conjures up the unity of spirit experienced by a community of worshippers, sensing their brotherhood in the fatherhood of God, while seated together under a cathedral dome. This idea also shifts the notion of church from the world of form to the realm of the soul.
In the Ageless Wisdom, the soul exists in a realm that transcends any outer form, including religion, although individuals may be drawn to a particular religion. The soul is a state of consciousness that is often described as inclusive love, a dimension of love born of the perception that all of life contains the same divine essence. The soul’s consciousness is often equated with “Christ consciousness” and also “Buddha nature.” Both terms signify that within the human being there is a divine spark lying in potential until the time of awakening and emergence of the higher Self, which is the Soul.
The esoteric meaning of church is grasped when this inherent spiritual potential is realized—when consciousness shifts from the persona to the soul. The “church invisible” is understood as the confluence of awakened souls—all individuals who recognize their shared divinity, and their spiritual responsibility to one another and to the world. Through direct inner experience, “members” of this invisible church come to realize their identity as souls and their unique place in the divine Plan now unfolding on Earth. They are, in effect, citizens of the kingdom of souls or the spiritual kingdom that is destined to become manifest on earth in the new era.
The most common definition of love is: a feeling of deep affection or personal attachment. In the wisdom teachings the meaning of love is transformed through the attainment of higher dimensions of consciousness. For the personality, love is experienced as affection for and attachment to an intimate circle of friends and family. But as the soul awakens and consciousness expands, the meaning of love expands as does the capacity to love.
Prior to awakening, human love is personality-based and often governed by desire. Born of the experience of the separated self, its motive is generally selfish. The circle of those whom we love, as personalities, is usually limited to those from whom we receive or desire love. As consciousness expands and awareness becomes centered in the soul, the personal love of the lower self gradually gives way to inclusive, brotherly love born of a realized connection to others as souls.
The love of the soul includes yet transcends love of one’s mate, family, community, and country, eventually encompassing Life itself. As the life of the Self unfolds, the soul’s love is expressed in ever-widening spheres. In esoteric teaching, love is the true quality of the soul. For the awakened soul, love is a creative force to be wielded in service to other human beings and other kingdoms of life on Earth. Just as the personality is motivated to serve the individual self, the soul is motivated to serve and sacrifice for the whole of which it is part. “The greatest good for the greatest number” is a keynote for the expression of soul love in the world.
Beyond soul love there exists Divine Love—the magnetic, attractive force that holds the manifested universe together and governs all evolutionary progress. Divine love is the cohering, unifying force behind all living relationships. It has been exemplified for humanity by such great Beings as the Buddha, the Christ, Krishna, the Imam Mahdi, and the Masters of Wisdom and Compassion—those who guide human progress and oversee spiritual evolution. Throughout history, such beings have embodied the universal, unconditional, boundless love of the Divine Consciousness that indwells every soul and is the motive force behind all creation.
In a standard dictionary, wisdom is both “the ability to discern…what is true, right, or lasting” and “the sum of learning through the ages.” The wisdom teachings tie these two meanings together. They explain that the ability to discern what is true and right is a faculty of the soul, and that through the ages, many evolved souls have contributed to this enduring body of knowledge and learning.
The wisdom teachings also tell us that knowledge is not the same as wisdom, but is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge attained through “the intelligent use of the senses” produces “food for thought.” That “food,” when assimilated by the soul, becomes “inner knowing.” The soul distills knowledge through a process of “Self-referencing”—by reflecting on life experience in the light of who we are in truth. One aspect of the soul is love. The soul, which is “seated” in the heart, transmutes learning gained from material experience through the instrumentality of love. Wisdom is born, as the Buddhists say, when “the mind drops into the heart” and we become whole beings.
Esoteric wisdom has given rise to a science of spirit, parallel to the body of human knowledge that has produced the science of matter. The science of spirit deals with the subjective world of energies—the inner world of the soul. One of its central principles is the inherent unity of all life. By contrast, the science of matter deals with that which can be observed by the five senses—that which can be physically differentiated. Briefly stated, knowledge (derived from material experience) divides and differentiates, whereas wisdom (derived from contact with spirit) blends and unites.
Wisdom and love are two aspects of the awakened soul. In a sense, wisdom is the practical expression of love—love in living demonstration. Esoterically, love-wisdom is a single spiritual energy that characterizes the Christ or soul principle—the principle that mediates between spirit and matter in all of creation. The human soul, as an expression of love-wisdom, is the cohesive force that holds its physical form together in a unified state. In the fullness of time, this cohesive force makes it possible for the life of God to find expression in the world of form.
In a standard dictionary “to sacrifice” means to surrender or give up something for the sake of someone or something else. Many examples come to mind: parents who work two or three jobs to earn enough money to send their children to college; professional women who devote themselves to their children, forfeiting personal ambition for their family’s welfare; and, of course, the sluggers, the home-run hitters in baseball who surrender personal glory for the sake of the team by making a “sacrifice bunt.”
For the awakening soul, the definition of sacrifice expands further still to include wider dimensions of giving. The soul is impelled to give to others—out of a sense of shared identity with other living beings. The greatest good for the greatest number becomes the guiding principle of life. Just as desire is the primary motivation for the personality (or lower self), sacrifice becomes the primary motivation for the soul (or higher self) as it awakens to its true nature.
The literal definition of sacrifice, rooted in Latin, is “to make holy” or make whole. Individuals who awaken and follow the path of conscious evolution are learning to become whole—to make the self holy. From an inner experience of wholeness, or oneness with all, surrendering personal desires for the good of the whole becomes the natural, vital impulse. As soul consciousness expands and the realization grows that we are one in spirit, it becomes patently evident to the opening “eye of wisdom” that the greatest good for all is the greatest good for each of us.
To the soul, the meaning of sacrifice is transformed from an act of giving up to an act of giving for—giving for the greater good and the higher purpose of the group of which we are a part, be it a neighborhood, a workplace, a nation or the community of nations. Giving of the self for a cause greater than the self becomes the driving motive of our lives. Over time, as the path unfolds, the very reason for living becomes service to others.
Soul sacrifice—giving for—can also be linked to forgiveness. By forgiving others, we bring healing (greater wholesness) to any group of which we are part. At a higher turn of the evolutionary spiral, as forgiveness becomes an engrained way of life, evolved souls are called to the highest purpose of all: to become living embodiments of sacrifice and forgiveness for the elevation of humanity. Enlightened beings such as these are known to us as saviors.
Eye of the Soul