The idea of soul was intuited by Plato, the Greek philosopher and mathematician born in 427 BC. Plato made the distinction between the duality of the physical body and the mind as separate entities, declaring that the soul was immortal and the directing force of the body, unchanging and pre-existing the form. Plato’s perception of the soul was embraced by the radical thinkers of ancient Greece. It was a time when the impulse of the emerging western civilisation was to question the mythic origins of cultural traditions; and to formulate an intellectual understanding of new ideas relating to the natural world and cosmos. This was the accepted school of thought in philosophic enquiry for the next two thousand years.
The next significant evolutionary step was Christianity’s emotional embracement of the soul, with all its connotations of the sin and suffering of the individual seeking redemption in some future heaven. In modern times the word ‘soul’ is broadly used in terms such as ‘he was the life and soul of the party’, or a ‘tormented soul’, to describe the essence or underlying characteristic of an individual. The word is also used to describe artistic qualities such as a musician having ‘soul’, meaning the ability to connect with an audience to invoke a deeper significance to the performance. And that’s about it as far as the meaning of the word as it is used today.
Ideas released as higher knowledge relating to the spiritual well-being and advancement of the human race have been realised throughout the ages (and continue to be realised) by various men and women. From such insights and realisations have emerged the great religions and spiritual traditions – and even the idea of soul. The realm of ideas was intuited by Plato, who perceived that everything in existence was a lesser reproduction of that perfect ideal preserved in higher mind. Thus, for example, every chair created is an endeavour to produce in existence the perfect idea of chair; every lion (or any life form or species) is the movement of life towards the manifestation of the ideal lion. This creative energy from the realm of ideas is the impulse behind changing fashion and cultural preferences that ultimately shapes the face of the world.
When an idea is brought into existence it is either validated by the recognition of others or it is discarded and fades into obscurity. ‘Soul’ was seized upon by the human intellect as an adequate explanation of an otherwise hidden aspect of the mystery of life after death. As a consequence of the affirmation of the idea of soul by countless generations, it now occupies a permanent place within the human psyche. So what is the truth of soul?
The soul is doomed to suffer because it exists. As long as souls exist (and they do because we have acknowledged and cherished them) there will be moments of unity with the passion of life; but there will also be misery in the seeming distance between me and my love. The spiritual unity that was the original state of the principle of Man and Woman had been prized apart as time and the past accrued from increasing pressure within the human psyche. The soul, in other words, is the distance or time gathered in existence that continues to separate the individual from love and the totality of life. It was an understandable error of perception that unfortunately gave rise to a whole religious tradition, based on the ignorance and excitability of the human mind. I say “unfortunate” because the idea of soul is one of the main impediments in finding the truth and being liberated from the religious idea.
Here are my observations of the reality of soul. Deep within the unconscious of every man and woman there is a radiant light that is unified with the lights of the eternal mind of God or reality. This is the divine element or aspect of God that supports and influences the individual throughout the traumas of existence. It is there, but unable to be realised as completion while there is distance or self to distort the simplicity of its truth and glory.
The light of consciousness, although constant and unwavering, varies in radiance and illumination in everybody. This is because each individual is at a unique point of evolving intelligence. The degree of intelligence is measured through self-knowledge and the level of detachment from the psychological and emotional constraints of existence. Sometimes, when the light is perceived as a direct communication, there is no doubt as to the authenticity and grace of being in a privileged and supremely beautiful state. Then, what often happens is that the light can fade or sometimes appear to vanish. The movement of the mind, which fails in its endeavour to keep pace with the ever-changing moment, creates the impression of a separate entity, independent of the natural state of being. This is the realm of the ‘wandering soul’ that sometimes is in heaven and sometimes in hell.
Which brings me back to the question: do animals have souls? No, thank God – nobody told them. Animals do not have souls because they experience existence as instinctual creatures and not as self-conscious beings. Only human beings, through the creative role of Mankind in the evolution of life on earth, are imbued with the ‘I’ point or individual consciousness. This enables man or woman to consciously participate in the mystery of life.
There are two aspects to the animal’s life after death process. Without a self-conscious mind, the after death experience of the animal’s life is registered unconsciously. However, the psychic form of the animal retains an immortal presence within the psyche during this process. Part of its essence contributes to the evolution of the ideal of that particular species. The other aspect is measured through the pleasure and pain experience accrued through the organism’s living life. This part of the animal’s essence is absorbed into the reservoir of re-circulating life, which includes the totality of humanity’s past experience. In this way humanity is ultimately held accountable as sovereigns of the earth. Each act of human cruelty, indifference and ignorance afflicted upon the life forms of the earth, as well as the love and gratitude for the natural world, is apportioned to the man or woman’s next recurrence on earth. This will manifest as events and circumstances to rectify any injustice or transgression or, alternatively, bring about a deeper realisation of the beauty and wonder of life.
Lance Kelly 2012