The soul is a tangible but invisible object. Is soul really so?
Yes, it is like that. The soul is not just an abstract theological idea but something concrete as well. But, the concrete object cannot be detached, traded, divided, or transplanted. It cannot be passed on to someone else. Yet it is like a living thing, which can grow or evolve, and also mutate into something different.
Isn’t that interesting? No one as yet has made such a claim. Here and right now I am making this claim, and I will explain it. I am not imagining a new theory, but explaining it from what is already known and well established in spiritual science and occultism.
Is soul really something concrete like a physical object?
Let us begin with the simplest explanation of the soul. We will then see whether it is really an object – a tangible thing – or just a theological hypothesis and an abstract idea.
Each one of us, you and I, are aware that we are living. This awareness or consciousness with which you and I identify ourselves during life continues to remain, though in a different form and type, even after death. That is, even after death I know I exist. This feeling of existence after death is very different from the feeling we have when we were living. During life we have a physical body and also an identity. After death, the physical or terrestrial identity is permanently lost, but there is a feeling or sense of awareness that we still exist. This continuity of the consciousness (though in a different form) happens because our awareness. Consciousness was residing in “something” when we were living, and this “something” continues to be present even after death. Our consciousness clings to this “something” as if it exists just because of the “something”, and the consciousness thinks or imagines that without the “something” there would be no existence at all. So we think, consciously or subconsciously, that we are that particular “something” which survives after death and is born once again in a different body in a new life.
This “something” is known as the soul. It is the God-self in man. The same “something” (soul) is called Ego in Theosophical terminology. Soul and ego are one and the same thing.
So, soul is the inner-most “something” possessed by our consciousness. This innermost “something” knows or “contains the information or memory” and therefore a sense of awareness that we are living (when we live a terrestrial life) and that we are still living after we die (non terrestrial life). That is, the soul is a memory bank too. The closest analogy though an inaccurate analogy is the brain. In just the way the brain is a memory bank and a seat of discrimination and judgement for a living person, soul (the “something”) is like an eternal (or longer lasting) memory bank and seat of discrimination and judgement for consciousness.
As the “something” is possessed by the consciousness (the real you), the particular consciousness begins to believe or takes it for granted that it is that “something” and not different from itself. This is actually an illusion because the consciousness is not limited or bound by the memory bank called “something”. It is free to explore and go beyond the “something”, and can actually discard the “something”. But, until this understanding or intelligence dawns in the consciousness, the consciousness continues to reside inside the “something”. It is so very intricately integrated with the “something”, it feels itself to be a result of the “something”. In reality, the consciousness (the real you) is different from the “something”. When we are living we think we exist because our brain exists and imparts us the feeling of being alive, but actually we are different from our brain; our brain is just a biological organ. In just this way, the consciousness (the real you) is different from the “something”. So, consciousness is actually different from soul.
I am trying to explain something extremely complicated, and I have to go slow. It sounds complicated because the fact which I wish to bring to you is something with which you may not be familiar. I have said that soul and consciousness are two very separate things and not one, and that consciousness resides in the soul and thinks itself to be the soul. The soul in turn is a bundle of memories with some properties of its own. First, understand this. It is a fact!
Let us now begin to look at the soul as a nucleus of some kind. It is actually a nucleus with certain properties or certain characteristics. These same characteristics (of the nucleus) is present in every human soul, though the content of the soul may be different depending on what memories it has stored, how matured it is, and the content of its accumulated karma.
The property of this nucleus is to grow and become better, stronger and bigger. Its property is to acquire, to accomplish. And when it acquires, its core, its centre, becomes stronger. That’s how it is. As a result, the nucleus forces the consciousness (the real you) to be satisfied or happy with acquisition, with growth, and the tendency to become more and more powerful over time. But, these are the properties of the soul, and we involuntarily follow the tendency of the soul just because the consciousness is identifying itself as a soul.
It is imprisoned inside the soul, and lost all its freedom. Therefore, it continues to grow as much as the nucleus grows. When this happens, new memories, new experiences are stored in the nucleus, and the nucleus or soul becomes more capable. But, all its capabilities are self-centric as at the very core is a nucleus which acts like a sun forcing all its planets into an orbit around itself. It is self-centred and therefore imparts the properties and feeling of a separate being. The consciousness feels likewise, because of the soul, because it has become a prisoner of the soul. The soul in turn is just a bundle of life-after-life memories.
The nucleus (soul) has other properties too. It acts like a seed, which draws around itself a body (or a set of bodies) to live a terrestrial life. At the end of each life it discards the bodies, one by one after death until the bare nucleus (the seed) remains. The seed then germinates once again in form of a new life, and gathers around it yet another set of bodies for a new earth-life. This is the property of the nucleus. It has a thirst or tendency for earth-experience and it propels itself into a new life or a new incarnation. In each life it learns and expands. As it is the cause (or hidden source) of all its actions, it suffers karma (law of cause-effect) too. The memories of its actions and whatever impacts it, is stored as a sort of potential energy in the seed itself or in the soul. The consciousness entrapped in the nucleus, in the seed, in the soul, suffers all consequences of karma as it is only the consciousness which has generated all the cause-effect via the soul. Had it escaped from the bondage of the soul, it would be free from karma, instantly. But that doesn’t happen easily because consciousness continues to believe it is the soul.
Now, what is this soul? What is the hardware? That is, does soul have a body?
When we are living we have a physical body, right? We may think we are the physical body, but many of us know it is just an illusion. The fact is, we are different from our body. Today I have a hand. Tomorrow is the hand is amputed, but I still exist without a hand. Similarly, all our organs and our body is different from us.
We have not only a physical body but an astral body and a mental body too. The physical body is for physical purpose, while the astral body is a body for emotions and the mental body is a body for thoughts. The nucleus (the seed or soul), when it is born draws around it these bodies from the environmental substance. It is like a seed germinating and sprouting into a plant.
As there are three bodies (physical, astral and mental), the environmental substance is drawn from the three worlds of nature – the physical world, the astral world and the mental world. The three bodies are made out of substance (lets call them ‘atoms’) of the three different worlds. I am using the term atoms as there is no other term to describe them. These ‘atoms’ are drawn together into a body because of the properties of the nucleus.
It is worth knowing that the presence of different worlds of nature (and that we have three different types of bodies) is well-known and well-established in occultism. Each of these worlds of nature have seven grades of substance or seven dimensions called sub-planes. Even the physical world has seven sub-planes, known to us as solids, liquids, gases, and four grades of etheric substance called the etheric sub-plane (fourth sub-plane), super-etheric sub-plane (third sub-plane), sub-atomic sub-plane (second sub-plane) and the atomic sub-plane (first sub-plane). Each of them serve a definite physical purpose. For instance, the first or highest sub-plane is a medium for mind-to-mind transfer of thoughts. Electricity is said to be a phenomenon associated with the fourth sub-plane.
Similarly, the astral world and also the mental world have their seven sub-planes.
Now comes the interesting part, as learnt from spiritual science. The ego, or the nucleus, the “something” we call soul is actually a “body” made out of ‘atoms’ of the first (highest) sub-plane of the mental world. It is known as a “causal body”. The causal body is the soul!
The soul is therefore a body like our physical body, but without a shape. It is like a seed or essence. Physically or chemically (I don’t know which word to use because it is neither physical nor chemical but something like that), it is like a packet of vibrating atoms. It is the nature or property of this “packet of atoms” which imparts the properties of the nucleus or properties of the human soul. And, this body, the causal body grows and becomes stronger over the series of earth-lives as it gathers experience. It is as tangible as a physical human body, but made out of invisible “atoms” or a substance invisible to the human eye. But, Adepts are capable of “seeing” and distinguishing the causal body. The causal body is the body of our soul, in which our consciousness is trapped.
Do you now understand what a soul is? It does have a tangible existence. It is a packet of vibrations (the word vibrations is inaccurate, but I do not have a better term for it), and the vibrations contain a memory. So, the soul is nothing but a bundle of memories. J. Krishnamurti, when asked, had also said that the Atman is a bundle of memories and there is nothing more to it.
The interesting bit is, consciousness can escape from the bondage of the soul when it recognises the limitations of the soul. When it escapes, the soul dissolves away and the atoms are released back into the environment, into the mental world. This freedom happens upon enlightenment (also called Nirvana or Moksha), and the physical “dissolving away” or dispersing of the causal body into the environment happens after the physical death of the earth-born enlightened person. Until the consciousness learns that soul is an illusion created by itself, the causal body remains and sends itself down for a terrestrial life. The learning comes upon enlightenment, and then the soul dissolves away.
There is something tricky and interesting about consciousness and soul. While consciousness gets entrapped in the soul, it is that very consciousness which is responsible for the very existence of soul. It clings on to the causal body and therefore becomes the energy which binds it as a nucleus. If the consciousness simply “lets go” of the binding force by not accumulating experiences and beliefs (conditioning) and acting according to it, the nucleus can no longer be held together; it disperses.