Credit: ISKCON

” If the soul could have known God without the world, the world would never have been created” – Meister Eckhart, sermons.

This is an amazing quote from the great 13th century controversial Christian mystic and theologian which is so relevant to the subject of my post. Was the world then created so that souls could understand the problems of an earthly existence and thus graduate to a level bringing them closer to God?  The concept of the soul and its purpose in embodiment on the physical plane has been discussed at length in Hindu scriptures also. The soul is said to be a fragment of divinity embedded in the body and obliged to remain entrapped for successive rebirths until the personality-ego-body complex shrouding it evolves to perfection, It is only then that it gets released from captivity to merge back into its divine origins.

Meister Eckhart echoes this Hindu assertion of the presence of God in the individual soul and its divinity, when he says: ” man should consider the great aristocracy which God has set up in the soul, such that by means of  it man may wonderfully attain to God”, He goes on to say :” there is something in the soul that is so akin to God that it is one with Him…. it has nothing in common with anything created.”

New Age thinkers have also examined the concept of the soul and sought to give their own interpretations. Their inspiration comes from the emerging mysteries of Quantum Physics which has transplanted the Newtonian world of mechanical certainties on which science heretofore relied. They have also been influenced by the investigation of paranormal phenomena outside the framework of orthodox religion by the scientific establishment and reputed institutions of learning in the West. Their views formulated on the soul are pretty close to that of Hinduism though with some unique and far-reaching modifications in the concepts. The Hindu view and the New Age view agree that the experience of material existence is important for the soul and for achieving its purpose and it is for this reason that it gets embodied.

An ethereal eternal entity of light and energy, the soul is too boundless to have limitations. Experiencing the limitations, confinement and mortality even through the proxy of the personality-ego-body complex becomes essential to understand the ethical secrets that the physical plane holds. Restricted mobility, imperfections, disabilities, disease, consumption, renewal, reproduction and competition can only be fully understood from within. This then is Earth School where souls get educated on need and want, competition, confrontation, or conflict invoved in survival, all manner of inter-relationships and the complex ethical issues thrown up. The soul also acts as a compass on the ship of life providing guidance and direction to the personality-ego-body it is attached to, helping it to evolve. In some unexplained manner this experience in the Earth School  also serves to help in the evolution of the soul. This is not clearly mentioned anywhere but it appears as Meister Eckhart explains, that the experience is a ticket so to speak for being ushered into the divine fold or presence, which the soul yearns for. This needs further research for confirmation whether the soul is there to help only or to get help as well?

The concept of the soul however gets modified by New Age thinkers and answers  the second part of the question. It is no longer as distinct from the personality as conceived in Hindu scriptures. While the Hindu view is that the soul is a fragment of divinity, perfect, eternal and unblemished, the New Age view is that while the soul is eternal and ethereal it is capable of developing negativity and blemish. It is like a radiant sun that can develop sun spots and in order to heal it chooses to incarnate into a personality of its choosing to undergo a physical experience which would heal it. This descent to the physical plane through a massive reduction of its unlimited power and force into the incarnated personality is for the purpose of healing itself.

The term Earth School where the healing through experience takes place has been coined and used extensively by Gary Zukav in his book ‘Seat of the Soul’, which I consider the New Age bible on the soul. Thus we see that New Age thinkers have made a fundamental modification in the concept of the soul and its purpose in incarnation. The other major modification which follows is that of choice in reincarnation as opposed to the premise that the Law of Karma leaves no choice and the soul willy-nilly has to inhabit the next incarnation determined by the Law of Karma based on the actions of the personality in the just completed life. This modification with far-reaching implications I shall seek to examine in the next post.

The foregoing may appear esoteric and academic but is important for researching the theme of my blog. Furthermore, concepts as they evolve, in my view, begin to have a fundamental effect on human behaviour and thinking.

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