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.
Inevitably, all who embark upon this journey are confronted with mystery, as reflected in Saint Francis’ paradoxical allusion to the soul as both that which is searching and that which is being sought. The true nature of the soul, which Plato called “a divinity,” has been shrouded in mystery for millennia and remains so, despite the recent outpouring of popular books on the subject. What informs most of these books is a consensual reality based on material science—a form of science that recognizes only the tangible, measurable, visible, concrete dimensions of existence.
A century ago, a new kind of science came into being—a “science of the soul.” Though little known in mainstream culture, it has served to fuel the spiritual awakening now occurring around the globe. Esoteric in nature, this new science has furthered human understanding of the invisible, subtle, spiritual dimensions of existence that lie behind the dense material world. It has been put forth in a set of teachings known collectively as the Ageless Wisdom, a blend of truths from East and West. These teachings form a body of wisdom that holds keys to many of the great mysteries that continue to surround the human 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.
In Plato’s understanding, the soul was “the divinity of each one,” the part of us that linked us to the realm of divinity. Every human being was innately endowed with a rational soul, but this divine endowment did not automatically reveal itself. Each individual was destined to engage in a struggle for the rational soul (the highest of three aspects of soul) to control the lesser, more animal-like aspects of our 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.
Beyond simply perceiving this purpose, humanity has a unique role to play in its fulfillment, a role that reflects our place in the scheme of planetary life. We are poised to become mediators in a great chain of being—between the three lower kingdoms in nature (mineral, vegetable, and animal) and the next higher one, the spiritual kingdom. Our ultimate purpose, in the coming era, is to infuse the concrete world of form with Spirit by embodying spiritual awareness. When the soul awakens collectively and we begin to live as souls, aware of our inherent relationship to all lives, we will create a bridge in consciousness between higher and lower kingdoms—a process that will be increasingly stimulated as our planet comes more directly under the radiatory influence of the constellation Aquarius.
Before looking ahead to the future, however, it may be useful to take stock of where we are now and from whence we have come. In the course of our long journey of unfoldment, covering many millions of years, we have been cycling into incarnation in order to evolve consciousness. At certain points along this evolutionary trajectory, the expansion of consciousness has been accelerated by the planetary Logos—the intelligent, animating force of our world. This acceleration coincides with periods of great transformation within the life of our planet. We are now living through such a time, and all kingdoms within the One Life are simultaneously being affected.
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.
Awakening experiences are as varied as the individuals who have left records of them. The more dramatic ones, involving awe-inspiring visions of light and awareness of divine presences, are those that have traditionally been labeled “mystical.” Yet breakthroughs to the realm of Spirit commonly involve experiences that are less sensational though no less convincing: recurring awareness of an inner voice, repeated messages from diverse sources, “coincidences” that cannot have been mere happenstance. Whatever forms such encounters take, they shatter the notion of who we are, derived from outer appearances, and propel the seeker further in the direction of what is Real.
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.”
For incarnate souls who awaken to their true spiritual nature, the memory of having lived before gradually seeps into conscious awareness, though details of previous existences may not be recalled. In presenting his arguments in support of reincarnation, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), the British writer, mentioned “vague recognitions and memories which are occasionally too definite to be easily explained as atavistic impressions.” In answer to “the natural question ‘Why, then, do we not remember such existences?’” he wrote:
We may point out that such remembrance would enormously complicate our present life, and that such existences may well form a cycle which is all clear to us when we come to the end of it, when perhaps we may see a whole rosary of lives threaded upon one personality.
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.
From one angle, what transpires on this path can be explained through the language of science. Keeping in mind that spirit is matter at its highest rate of vibration and matter is spirit at its lowest rate, the soul on the path is actually learning to raise the vibrational frequency of his or her human mechanism to the point where it becomes resonant with the frequencies of the spiritual kingdom. Finding this resonance is what makes possible the soul’s conscious interaction with the next higher kingdom.
And yet, notwithstanding such rational explanations, the process of spiritual transformation is permeated by Mystery. The entire process involves dimensions of consciousness that are, by their very nature, beyond the cognitive powers of the mind—our most advanced, strictly human attribute. It is the Soul, born of spirit, that becomes our guide on the journey between kingdoms, utilizing the two dimensions of mind as needed, but also superseding the mind. As the soul gains access to the plane of higher intuition, it develops the capacity for gnosis—direct spiritual perception—which had always been called “ineffable.”
It was only recently, with the approach of the Aquarian Age and the publication of the wisdom teachings, that “the ineffable” was made, to a certain extent, mentally comprehensible. Previously, with few exceptions, humanity was deemed unprepared to learn the “secret doctrine.” And thus the evolutionary journey of the soul and the nature of the path of transformation remained shrouded in mystery. It was only when a significant number of individuals began to demonstrate a readiness to accept responsibility for the soul’s unfoldment that the Guides of the Race decided to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the origin and destiny of the human race.
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.
Pain is viewed as a caustic agent for removing that encrustation. If allowed to seep into our consciousness, without being suppressed, suffering can serve to loosen the layers of debris that build up around the individual who has become thoroughly identified with the threefold personality existing in the world of form. The Tibetan master explains its salubrious effect: “Pain has always been the purifying agent, employed by the Lords of Destiny, to bring about liberation...it tends to focus humanity’s attention upon the life aspect and not upon the form.”
Whether pain is experienced physically, emotionally, or spiritually, it has the effect of shifting one’s gaze away from the outer world and turning it inward to “the life aspect”—the spirit, the part of our being that is independent of the phenomenal world. When suffering is acute, conditioned reflexes and routines of daily living give way to a deeper, more reflective mode of consciousness that allows the Self to emerge into the foreground and with it, the aspect of mind that relates cause and effect in the light of truth. “The uses of pain are many,” the Tibetan master states, “and they lead the human soul out of darkness into light, out of bondage into liberation...”
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].”
Emerson sharply contrasted the soul’s perception of reality with the kind of ordinary knowledge that is obtained through the physical senses and the rational mind. “The soul’s scale is one,” he wrote, “the scale of the sense[s] and the [logical] understanding is another.” Calling the measurements of time and space “but inverse measures of the force of the soul,” he lamented the influence of science, which in his view had “in most men overpowered the mind to that degree that the walls of time and space have come to look real and insurmountable.” He reflected:
We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE... We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul.
What enables the soul to see the whole, Emerson asserts, is its oneness with the invisible life force that vitalizes all the separate forms. By contrast, the unillumined concrete mind can perceive only the outer sheath of those forms. The lower mind, looking outward upon the world of time and space through the physical senses, sees only individual forms, including that of its own body, which appears to end with the contours of its skin. By contrast, the soul, perceiving through a higher sense, looks inward to the world of spiritual reality and recognizes that its being, along with the inner being of all forms, is inseparable from the seamless web of Life in our universe.
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.
In the coming age, the wisdom teachings say, the universal truths of religion will be embraced globally while sacred customs and rituals rooted in different cultures will continue to be practiced locally. The oneness or sameness of the path leading into the Kingdom of God will be accepted along with celebrations honoring each religion’s history, traditions, prophets, saints, and avatars. In essence, the soul of religion—all that constitutes its inner core—will be widely acknowledged, while the outer forms will continue to be clothed in robes of many colors.
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.
Saints have appeared throughout history in virtually all cultures, as a source of inspiration and hope for humanity. Having transformed themselves by the power of spiritual aspiration and the force of self-discipline, they emerge as links between the human and the divine. Still human, they have been cleansed of the baser nature of our species, imbued with sacrificial love, and endowed with superhuman capacities. Such holy beings have been viewed by other human beings, depending on their own stage of consciousness, as objects of worship, of veneration, or of emulation.
In our postmodern Western culture, it would be easy to dismiss the notion of a saint as anachronistic and anomalous. Despite the fact that the late pope John Paul II canonized more saints than had been canonized by all previous popes combined, the image of our species reflected in the mass media leans conspicuously toward the “sinner” side of the human polarity. When saintly beings do appear on our television screens, such as the late Mother Theresa of Calcutta or the Dalai Lama, they come across to many viewers as fossils of a distant past, if not members of a different species.
And yet, to the seeker on the Path of Return, saints are actual role models. Both individually and collectively, alive and dead, they stand as beacons of light at the end of the road that lies ahead for us all. Esoterically, they represent the outcome of the soul’s natural progression from the human kingdom into the spiritual kingdom. Genuine saints are individuals who have reached the end of the cycle of human lifetimes—the chain of incarnations into the physical world necessitated by karmic debt. Though still in human form, they have evolved to the point of being able to demonstrate aspects of divinity.
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.
In recent times, traces of this new consciousness have surfaced at the United Nations. Despite the member states’ habitual clinging to sovereignty, there was an event in 2006 that signaled change. Quietly, unnoticed by the media, the idea of one humanity was officially given voice in a program entitled “Our Common Humanity in the Information Age.” Its central message was “the global community is one family with common values.” Like the muffled sounds of church bells floating above the cacophony of a busy marketplace, new voices are arising at the UN, particularly within the community of NGOs—deemed the most trusted institutions in the world. Their recognition of the oneness of humanity is a notable sign that the soul of our species is awakening.