On The Nature of Human Souls
Here is an interesting question:
Do we have souls?
Like any good spiritual teacher, I should probably tell you that you do. That you possess a higher self, an immortal essence that will continue on, in some form, after you die.
But if you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ll probably already know that my answer will be a little different.
There’s a lot of evidence for souls. Religious and spiritual traditions have been acknowledging the soul for millennia, and modern-day channelers will usually assure you that your soul is a distinct and undoubtable reality. Many people are sure that they have direct, experiential evidence of the human soul.
But we also feel we have a lot of evidence that there is something called ‘me’. And yet, if we look clearly enough, we find that there is no ‘me’ to be found. And surely no one doubts the reality of ‘time’ – that one-way arrow that moves us inevitably toward tomorrow. But again, when we look carefully enough, ‘time’ is not to be found.
Believing in ‘me’ or in ‘time’ seems very natural and intuitive – it’s not until we see the nature of these delusions that we come to understand how very problematic they are. In the cases of ‘me’ and ‘time’, these concepts conspire to create a host of human miseries.
Clinging to Beliefs
Non-dualism is about seeing things completely unmasked. It’s about breaking our habit of blind belief. When we find ourselves clinging to a concept, it’s important to ask ourselves what we’re getting out of that belief – and how that belief affects our lives as a whole. If we observe our beliefs, we’ll invariably find that they bring much more baggage than we ever suspected.
In the case of the soul, we tend to cling very strongly. We want desperately to believe that there is something besides this mess called life, and that perhaps there is a meaning to all this effort we’re putting forth – perhaps the earth is a soul-school, or perhaps we will, indeed, reincarnate in a new form to continue our spiritual journey.
But what is hiding behind our belief in a soul? When we take a look, we might find it surprising.
What Is A Soul?
If we examine our belief of what a soul is, we’ll find that in some way, however subtle, we’re imagining some aspect of ‘me’ that continues on after death. In its most crude form, we imagine that we continue on just like our current selves. When we die, we’ll wake up in a new world, and feel just like our regular ‘selves’. The problem with this idea becomes evident as soon as we begin to ponder it. If we die at age 90 with Alzheimer’s, will we be wandering around in the afterworld not knowing where we are? Or will we be reverted back to our mature and healthy fifty-year old mentality? What if we’re usually happy but we die during a state of deep depression? Do we go to the afterlife depressed? Or do the Powers That Be revert us to our highest emotional, perceptive, and delusion-free state when we die? In short, which ‘me’ is it that will carry on?
More subtle notions posit an essence that goes onward – something disconnected from the normal idea of ‘ego’, but still retaining enough ‘me-ness’ to make the idea of a soul relevant.
Whatever the case, the essence of the idea of a soul is that there is something intrinsic inside us – something that continues, in some form, past the barrier of death.
But what does this belief do to us?
At the core of Awakening is seeing the ego for what it is. Some would call it the eradication of the ego-sense, while others might describe it as a transformation. Here, I won’t say anything about it, since the true nature of the self is not something which can be described in words.
But one thing that is clear is that a belief in a Self is very problematic. In fact, the sensation of ‘me’ is actually the cause of all our human problems.
You see, as soon as I create a ‘me’, I’ve created a rather fixed idea of who I am – and my natural, spontaneous actions are all viewed through the lens of an imaginary ‘me’-idea. Soon we find ourselves angry and frustrated with our own actions. Viewing ourselves in this manner, we soon view others in this manner, and get upset because other people are not behaving according to our ideas of who they are. Then we do the same with the world in general. Pretty soon everything around us is seen only according to our ideas. We lose the ability to see things Just As They Are, in this very moment, and instead lay our ideas over everything.
Because the real world doesn’t always behave according to our ideas of how it should, we find ourselves frustrated.
Seeing The Ego For What It Is
To see the ego for what it is, and to free ourselves to experience this very moment in all of its amazing perfection, we have to examine this ‘me’ we’ve created. Our idea of ‘me’ is very strong, and so ingrained that when we journey down a path toward emancipation from the ego, we can often find ourselves firmly believing that we have left the ego behind, when in reality all we’ve done is find a new and more clever way to cling to it.
One of these clever ways it to believe in a soul. Think, for a moment, what the idea of a soul implies. Not only do we have a ‘me’, but it is a mysterious and unknowable ‘me’! Furthermore, this ‘me’ will continue on past death – in other words, I’ve given it a permanence that goes beyond even the usual permanence we give our sense of self. In essence, the belief in a soul is an ego-strengthening device, and if we hold to the idea of a soul, we eradicate our ability to directly perceive Now.
Believing In A Soul
Does the soul exist? I’m not here to tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’. You are able to experience what is meant by ‘soul’ on your own, simply by Awakening, and no description I give here will equate with the direct experience. Suffice it to say that our usual concepts are pale ghosts of the reality we experience when we encounter our true nature.
What I am here to tell you is that if you choose to believe in a soul, you are choosing to believe in some sort of ‘me’, and if you look with clarity, you’ll find that you are reinforcing your idea of an intrinsic Self – the very idea which causes us all the troubles we’re trying to undo. Our true nature (or the true nature of the world) is unimaginably amazing. In other words, nothing we imagine can ever compare to the reality. But our imaginings can and will serve as blocks to our ability to perceive our true nature.
If you believe in a soul, will it hurt to ask yourself ‘why’? What is it you believe is essential to your idea of Self? What is it that the belief gives you? And what baggage does the belief bring with it?
Experiencing this Very Moment, all of our questions are answered. Our fears of death and life evaporate, because we see what death and life really are. We become ageless, for we see the true nature of time. This is Awakening, and it is available to all of us. But it requires Awareness – and that awareness must be left to apply itself to every aspect of our beliefs. For if we hold the slightest dualistic belief in our minds, the entire world of objects, divisions, and frustrations is created before us. We create a ‘me’, who stands in stark relief to the rest of the universe. We can try to rationalize it, but at our core we’ll feel tiny, insignificant, and lonely. The world will only give us brief moments of pleasure before death claims our loved ones, age steals our beauty, and the life we’ve so carefully built up is threatened with ‘the end’ we call death. Our only hope is to cling to the belief that there is some deeper meaning to it all.
Life doesn’t have to be like this. Stripped of our delusion, the world is vibrant, perfect, timeless, and whole. It’s simply a matter of seeing past the delusions we create for ourselves. We can start with the soul, but we can’t stop there. Everything we hold to be true about the world is in reality a delusion – the true essence of the universe is something we can only experience – something like a taste or the sound of beautiful music – our ideas (the things we hold to be true) can never approximate the true experience. Indeed, our ideas are but stale, barren representations of the beauty of This.
Isn’t it time to stop living in our delusions? The best time to wake up is Right Now.