from When the Soul Awakens
“What you are searching for is what is searching.”
~Francis of Assisi
The opportunity now facing us is a spiritual one, involving a shift to a higher dimension of awareness. With the daily shattering of illusions about the material world, growing numbers of people around the globe have felt impelled to search for higher truth. For many, this search began in the 1960s and 70s, with the first wave of spiritual awakening sparked by the energies of Aquarius. But events unfolding since 2001 have accelerated and intensified a collective search for what is genuine and real. Millions of people are now engaged in a spiritual quest that is, at its core, a quest for the Soul.
Chapter I: The Real Human Being
“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky;
There is one spectacle grander than the sky;
That is the interior of the soul.”
~ Victor M. Hugo
Anyone who consults a text or reference book to learn about the nature of a human being will discover that we are large-brained primates capable of creating and using complex tools. That is who we are from the perspective of science. But who are we really? What about hopes and dreams? What about the spiritual dimension of ourselves? How do we account for inspiration and imagination, forgiveness and love, courage and altruism, compassion and empathy? Do such qualities derive from the physical brain, as most scientists still believe, or do they have a different origin?
While pondering such questions, it is instructive to recall that there was a time, not all that long ago in the scheme of things, when the greatest thinkers of our world held a far more wholistic view of the human being. The philosophers of ancient Greece believed that human beings were composed of body and soul, and they attached the greatest importance to the soul. Plato (427–347 BCE), called the “determiner of Western thought,” viewed the soul as the supreme feature of the human being.
Chapter II: The Higher Self
“The Soul has two eyes.
One looks at time passing,
The other sends forth its gaze into eternity.”
The wisdom teachings tell us that God, in whose life we exist, has a definite purpose. Life on earth is evolving in accord with an evolutionary plan that is held in the “Mind of God,” the One Life. Moreover, the human soul is said to have the potential to apprehend the next evolutionary goal in the divine Plan and to cooperate in its attainment. As we progress from self-consciousness toward its higher octave, Self-consciousness, we gain the ability to discern the outlines of divine intent. At present, for the first time since the appearance of the human beings on Earth, numbers of spiritual seekers are becoming aware of participating in a greater Life whose purpose we are capable of knowing.
Chapter III: Awakening
“Lead us from darkness to light,
from the unreal to the real,
from death to immortality.”
~An ancient prayer
This prayer, said to be the oldest prayer known to mankind, finds special resonance with all who awaken spiritually. Piercing the illusions of the world of form, seekers find themselves in a foreign realm, in need of guidance on the path from the unreal to the real. What awaits them is a journey through stages of consciousness leading from the unreality of the limited mortal self to the reality of the eternal Self that knows it is part of the One Life.
Like a dreamer awakening from a long sleep, the soul, as it nears the end of the path of human evolution, breaks through the veil of illusion and penetrates the spiritual plane of reality. Until that time, the individual perceives life through the lens of separateness, experiencing isolation from other people, from nature, from the world, and from the spiritual Source. With awakening comes an unalterable awareness of being part of all that is, an atom in the ebb and flow of a divinely ordered universe.
Chapter IV: Rebirth
“The body is merely a garment.
Go seek the wearer, not the cloak.”
In the days of ancient Rome, Cicero (106–43 B.C.E.) recorded his observations of the signs of reincarnation in children. After citing “the ancients” who believed in rebirth, including Pythagoras and Socrates, “the wisest of men,” he wrote:
It is again a strong proof of men knowing most things before birth, that when mere children they grasp innumerable facts with such speed as to show that they are not then taking them in for the first time, but remembering and recalling them.
There is a logic to the theory of rebirth that makes sense of otherwise inexplicable differences between human beings. Science cannot explain, on the basis of genetics and environment alone, why there are both serial killers and saints among us. Nor can it account for the extreme differences that exist between siblings—why one is a prodigy and another an ordinary student; why one is a materialist and another is drawn to spirituality. Even among twins, there are marked differences in interests and capacities that can only be explained if we allow for the possibility that their souls have had different “histories.”
Often the question arises as to why, if we have lived before, most of us have no memory of previous lives. The answer seems to lie in the very workings of the laws of conscious evolution. The fact that awareness of past lives is connected to spiritual awakening suggests that a degree of wisdom is necessary before such memory can serve a useful spiritual purpose. Plato hinted at this in his “Myth of Er,” which portrays what occurs after death in “the other world,” as souls choose their next life and prepare for rebirth. Before returning, all souls had to drink from the river Lethe, the Forgetful River, “but those who had no wisdom to save them drank more than the measure.”
Chapter V: The Path
“Soul unfoldment is...but one of the great processes of nature.”
~Alice A. Bailey
One of the names given to the Ageless Wisdom is the “science of the soul.” Unlike physical science this science, paradoxically, is riddled with mystery. Like quantum physics, it deals with subtle dimensions of reality that we cannot see or touch. But in contrast to quantum physics, which has physical instruments to register the subtle physical dimension, the science of the soul teaches us to become the instruments for registering the spiritual dimension. The means by which we evolve to a stage of consciousness at which we are sensitive enough to discern spiritual energies is the path of transformation.
Chapter VI: The Fruits of Suffering
"Call the world...‘the vale of Soul-making’
Then you will find out the use of the world."
Buddhism grew out of Hindu philosophy, yet the Buddha claimed to teach one thing only: “suffering and the end of suffering.” His blinding insight had revealed to him the underlying cause of all suffering: tanha, usually translated as desire. A more precise definition of tanha, according to Huston Smith, is “dislocation,” the result of selfish desire or self-seeking at the expense of others. Acting instinctively, impulsively, and out of alignment with the natural order, one fails to recognize others as “fellow facets of the same Reality” and thus creates karma. The Buddha’s antidote was the Eightfold Path, a path of intentional living aimed at reaching the state of selflessness that leads to Nirvana—the extinction of the separate self in the ocean of Supreme Reality.
Universally, in all major world religions, the root cause of all our woes is living in a state of consciousness in which we are separate from God or Supreme Reality. In the New Testament, a sinner is one who is “cut off from the living God.” The wisdom teachings echo this idea, stating that the only real sin is the sin of separation, as all sins or errors spring from that single all-encompassing error. In the Hindu Upanishads, this separative state is likened to a single grain of sand so encrusted with debris that it is oblivious to the infinitude of grains of sand in which it is immersed.
ChapterVII: Soul Awareness
"All are but parts of one stupendous whole
Whose body nature is, and God the soul."
In the modern West, there are few individuals other than poets who have written lucidly about the nature of the soul. One who did so, on the basis of inner experience, was Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), the American transcendentalist. Though Emerson was quick to acknowledge the “residuum” of unresolved mysteries surrounding the soul, he had come to view the world through the light of the soul. The oneness of all human souls was a basic truth for him, attributable to “that Unity, that Over-Soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other[s].”
Chapter VIII: The Soul’s Religion
"Mankind comes to me along many roads,
And on whatever road a man approaches me, on that do I welcome him,
For all roads are mine."
One of the most extraordinary witnesses to the universality of the spiritual path was a Hindu saint seen by many as a “prophet for the new age”—Sri Ramakrishna (1836–1886). Ramakrishna’s search for enlightenment was deeply rooted in the Hindu tradition, yet he openly explored the path to God in other forms. For a time he became immersed in the Sufi tradition; years later he had a mystical vision of the Christ, whom he came to revere as a divine avatar. Reflecting on his experience toward the end of his life, Ramakrishna said:
I have practiced all religions—Hinduism, Islam, Christianity—and I have also followed the paths of the different Hindu sects. I have found that it is the same God toward whom all are directing their steps, though along different paths... Wherever I look, I see men quarreling in the name of religion... But they never stop to reflect that He who is called Krishna is also called Shiva, and bears the name of the Primal Energy, Jesus and Allah as well.
Chapter IX: Saints and Masters
"When all the race...
As man...has tended to mankind,
...in completed man begins anew
A tendency to God...
For men begin to pass their nature’s bound."
In these few spare lines, with the poet’s magic, Robert Browning (1812–1889) describes the origins of a saint. The journey toward holiness begins with a “completed” human being—one who has surpassed the bounds of “animal-human” nature, or human nature circumscribed by physical reality. As the soul of such a person awakens, there begins a new cycle of lifetimes impelled by “a tendency to God.” When that tendency flowers into a full-fledged union with God, a saint is born. Abilities to heal the sick and “read” souls, to change hearts and shape human events, signal this attainment.
Chapter X: The Soul of Humanity and the Divine Plan
"First we receive the light,
Then we impart the light,
Thus we repair the world."
The promise of the coming age lies in the evolutionary emergence of the soul. In the new world order, as awareness grows of the consciousness within the form, freedom will be understood in spiritual terms. The vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.—that human beings would some day be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin—is a vision of spiritual freedom. The soul sees past the outer “cloak,” as Rumi put it, to the inner being wearing that cloak, sensing that all of us have worn an array of different cloaks—black and white, male and female, rich and poor, Jew and Muslim, Christian and Hindu—in the succession of lifetimes that have led to the present.
And thus, another kind of freedom struggle looms before us. Although the battle to overcome external oppression is far from being won for most of humanity, another battle lies ahead for those who are awakening spiritually: an inner struggle for freedom from imprisoning personality patterns and attachments. This is the heart of “the difficult path.” Also known as the Path of Liberation, the transforming power of this path will bring into manifestation “the one humanity”—the divine idea for the Aquarian Age. When this idea flowers into expression at a higher turn of the spiral of consciousness, individuals will find freedom within the context of community, as the part recognizes its place within the whole.