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Monday, April 02, 2018

The Eternal Soul & the Illusion of Individuality

According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, the definition  of 'soul' is, primarily, 'the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life'. Secondarily, according to the same source, it refers as well to 'the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe'. Other such sources do not stop with humankind, saying that the soul is 'the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.' Whether or not one agrees with these definitions, they would have to go to great lengths to even challenge the prevailing notion of the immortality of the soul!

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28

The English transliteration of the Greek word translated 'destroy' in the passage above, 'apollymi', simply means 'to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to, ruin'. Many people in today's theological landscape, believing in the immortality of the soul, seem to also think that even though, according to the verse above, God can destroy the 'soul' in 'hell' ( gehenna-referring to the Valley of Hinnom, Jerusalem's garbage dump ), yet still, when the 'soul' is in 'hell', rather than being destroyed, it burns eternally. There are other passages in the Bible, admittedly, that seem to indicate that these 'souls' will suffer eternally. Passages like Revelation 20:10, 'The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever', torn from the 1st-century context in which they belong, seem, in our Western mindset, to say that such a concept  ( as 'eternal conscious torment' ) actually has a firm foundation. For this reason, among others, there are some that, while not necessarily rejecting Christianity in whole, have distanced themselves from orthodoxy, making such sensical statements as, 'a loving God would never punish one of His creatures for eternity'.

Of late, on this blog, we have explored, to whatever extent, the fact that we are 'spiritual beings having a physical experience'; in essence, that our innermost being, at the heart of the matter, one might say, is One with the Universe, the Source of all, or, as most people put it, 'God'. Being what we are, the physical bodies that make up our humanity, our biology, are simply manifestations of that Spirit, or Essence. Now, before we travel too far here, let me just reiterate that I'm not suggesting that the skins we wear are simply manifestations of our individual spirit, for that is what might be called 'the Illusion of the Ego'. No, the biology we are ensconced in, while affected ( to whatever extent ) by the Illusion of Ego, is the product of the Intelligent Being that stretched the canvas of the Universe, the Intelligence which, in effect, might well be equated with the Universe itself ( as a physical manifestation, of course ).

The Universe, about which there have been many postulations, is limitless, at least as far as finite human beings are concerned. To my knowledge, no telescope has ever been produced ( probably never will be ) that can explore the farthest reaches of Space. For that matter, scientists have only ever been able to theorize about Deep Space because no one, not even the best, farthest-reaching telescope has ever been able to really search out its great reaches: the most we've been able to accomplish, maybe ever WILL be able to accomplish ( as mere humanity ) is to view it at a great distance!

The point is, as much as Science has theorized, however correctly or incorrectly, about the nature of the Universe, so has Religion about the Creator, or Source of All! As Science is the study of physical manifestation, so Religion, True Religion, is the study of the heart of the matter, the ( Spiritual ) Source of it all. Every religion around the world, in particular, those most affected by the illusion of ego, has a doctrinal statement, or theory, about the nature of the Source of All. Depending largely on the corner or the world ( culture? ) that one calls 'home', our perception of the nature of this Source could be anywhere from a pantheon of gods to one mean, vindictive son-of-a-bitch!

The God of Creation, also known as the God of the Bible ( Hebrew & Greek Scriptures ) is a Spirit. As Christians, in particular, we are used to referring to 'Him' as the God of Creation because 'In the beginning God ( 'elohiym )  created the heavens and the earth.' ( Genesis 1:1 ). In orthodox terms, 'He' is referred to as 'Father, Son & Holy Spirit', or what is called in our Bibles, the Godhead. Whatever the case may be, this 'God' is our perception of the True Nature of the Source, which, one might say, is Pure, Intelligent Energy. This is not, of course, to say that the Source of all is merely the manifestation of our ( individual? ) perception; It is what It is, no matter our ( limited ) perception!

The Ego, the individual mind, while itself divided, is a manifestation of the ( individual ) soul, though it is an illusion; it exists, though it is not real, if that makes any sense! The corporate nature of humanity is such that the individual soul has become attached to the idea that we are individuals, rather than being of One Essence & thus, through the Politics of Religion, we have accepted the notion that the variety of the Ego is our true nature, when in actuality, it is the Mind which accepts its Oneness with the Universe that is the manifestation of our true nature, our true Self.

The Illusion of the Ego, or our individual perception of what IS ( real ), has convinced us, to whatever extent, that what we as human beings perceive ( with the physical senses ) is what is real, therefore, because there are as many perceptions as there are ( individual ) people, we are divided in mind because everyone thinks that what they perceive is reality, when in reality, the true nature of anything cannot be perceived with the five senses: it is only when one realizes their own true nature ( spirit ) that one is able to correctly perceive ( spiritually ) the true nature & thus usefulness of anything.

The Immortality of the Soul is a doctrine that, in one form or another, can be found in every corner of the world! Anything from, in today's vernacular, especially, being equated to what might be called the spirit, to its biblical reference, in some cases, to the whole being, including the person; the soul, while seemingly getting a lot of the attention, has really, thanks to religion, not really gotten enough! The focus, not just relegated to Christianity, has been on what is usually called the afterlife ( 'saving souls for the afterlife' ) so that the true nature of the soul has almost escaped the notice of orthodoxy. Being what it is, the Soul ( Spirit ) or Essence of Humanity, speaking perceptively, has in essence been degraded, being viewed as simply the manifestation  of some outer influence, rather than that which in reality moves us. As the Scriptures say, 'It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and [ they ] are life' ( John 6:63 ) Of course, traditionally we interpret Jesus here as speaking of the Holy Spirit, also called the Third Person of the Trinity, but upon further investigation; we should understand that He was referring to the Spirit which gives us all life, though in context, we might extract other meanings from this passage.

The Reality is that the Soul IS immortal! It is what drives us all, whether we're in Blessed Communion with our Heavenly Father or not. Though not all acknowledge it, even biological life ( existence? ) would be impossible with some sort of covenant, even some sort of communion with the Source of All. One might call It 'God', another 'the Great Spirit', while yet another calls this Source 'the Universe' ( or simply chalks it up to Darwinistic evolution ), but whatever one's perception, all acknowledge this necessary tie, even if it's simply by existing!

Charles Haddon Shank

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