SPIRIT: The Added Dimension


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SPIRIT: The Added Dimension

We're told that we're composed of a body and a soul. Then we wonder if the soul is immortal. In personal terms, this becomes, "Will I live forever?"

Maybe we're selling ourselves short.

That may be the wrong question, wrong because it frames the question in too-narrow terms. Centuries ago, the Neo-Platonic philosophy (Plotinus, Augustine, etc.) maintained that we're not composed of two parts, but three: Body, Soul, and Spirit.

We all know that the body dies, rots, and crumbles into dust. But what about the soul? Soul we think of as Ego and Mind. The ME-ness of me. And maybe that doesn't survive either, or if it does, not for very long. Ancient Hebrew literature had the concept of Sheol, a place where ALL the dead go. It's kind of like Hades as depicted in THE ODYSSEY. Not a very attractive place, but one where souls wander around moaning. But the writers had a sense that there might be some kind of survival.

So maybe we shouldn't WANT the soul to survive. But there may be another part of us. I think that certain religious leaders were in touch with Spirit, at least at times. Probably the people around Jesus felt this in him. The incident of "The Transfiguration" in Matt & Luke may be a memory of this phenomenon.

I think that people like Siddhartha, Martin Luther King and William Blake were also frequently in touch with Spirit. And I think Zen is an attempt to bypass our ordinary Ego-consciousness in order to get in touch with Spirit.

Spirit is available to everyone, by virtue of being human. Therefore, since each person is an actual, or potential, bearer of spirit, each person has infinite worth. A crime against a person is a crime against Spirit.

The problem is, the Ego gets hold of the insights of Spirit, and immediately degrades them. The Ego sets up religious organizations with their strict creeds, their intolerance, and their exclusivity. But as the Bible says (I forget where), "The Spirit blows where it lists, and no man knows the movements thereof."

The religious person may be denied any meaningful contact with Spirit, and it may be granted to the pornographer, or the prostitute, the corrupt official, or the homeless person, or the outcast (or even conceivably, the banker). Jesus seemed to know this, and the religious people of his day were shocked that he associated with such people.

The Spirit is a haunting presence, not in the sense of being a ghost, but in the sense of being something just beyond the reach of consciousness. Consciousness is really self-consciousness, our own self-awareness of ourselves in relation to our environment. The Ego sits at the center of consciousness like a spider in his web. It becomes aware of the slightest opportunity to enhance itself, and is immediately conscious of any threat. Jacques Lacan said that the Ego is paranoid in its essence.

To put this in terms of modern psychology, I think the distinction that Carl Jung makes between the Ego and the True Self is useful. We could think of Ego as soul, and the True Self as Spirit.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), there is no prescribed way, no official program or course of action to get into touch with Spirit. I don't know much about the Hindu religion, but I understand that they have the concept of Atman. Atman is at the same time both the deepest part of ourselves (the Spirit)_and also the Universal Spirit. It is when we get in touch with our Spirit that we are closest to all other people, not in their everyday lives, but in their Spirit.

Soul is temporal, the Spirit is eternal. (NOTE: Eternity doesn't mean a long, long, time, but just the opposite: no time at all)

Bottom Line: The soul may not survive, but the Spirit almost certainly does. Spirit would be the deepest Self.

(NOTE: As Aquinas said, all living things have souls, even plants. This is true by very defintion, since the soul (acc. To Aquinas) is the “principle of life.”