Category Archives: The Soul

The Soul: Epilogue

This concludes our compendium series on the nature of the soul. It covered sundry religious and philosophical motifs ranging from ancient Greek to present-day quantum soul realizations. The one salient theme or thread woven throughout is the principium of the life-force that animates. In Homer, it is the psyche (ψυχή) and shadowy-substance. Plato first presents the immortality of the soul as emanating from the Supernal Realms of Transcendent Forms. Aristotle considered the soul as a mechanism that animates all aspects of lifeforms, thus considered as the Actualized Principle of Animation. For St. Paul the soul is considered in three-fold fashion: a) Soul as vitality, life principle. b) Soul as Spiritual Body and c) Soul as Universal Principle. Gnostic notions continued to expand on St. Paul’s themes, with the added distinction between psychic and pneumatic aspects. Plotinus emphatically taught the idea of the One and Absolute; hence, for Plotinus, the vehicle of the soul is all about a journey home to the One and Unborn. In St. Augustine the soul was subservient to the spirit (spiritus) and he devised a seven fold tier system of the soul. The Byzantine-Orthodox tradition and St. Maximus states that the soul (like the ancient Greeks in our study) is the “Life-Force” that animates the body and its functions. As function it is mostly identified with Spirit and is non-corporal in nature. It is immortal in stature and cannot be soiled by any exterior phenomenal obtuse perceptions. It is a self-moving principle and thus exits the body upon death. Our portion on Christian Mystics and the soul focused on the ascetical theologies of Dionysius the Areopagite, as well as the Carmelite saints John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. Perhaps the most fascinating segment of the series presented the North American Indian Soulology, with its vast network of various soul-extensions. The great spiritual system of Advaita Vedanta measured the soul as synonymous with the Self, or Divine Ātman. The Chinese-Taoist segment considered soul as a spiritual-force, one that is balanced between Yin and Yang energies. Buddhist notions focused on the problem of the theory of Anatman and the realization that it’s a matter of falsely equating the five-skandhas with True Soul or Self. The Quantum Factor brought our series to its mystic climax that asserts its Cosmic-nature: “I don’t see the soul and consciousness as an epiphenomenon, or product, of matter. It’s just the other way around: I see matter as an epiphenomenon of soul and consciousness. The material world has evolved from the absolute vacuum of space—the home of the soul.” (Dr. Fred Alan Wolf) Our series then concluded with the Lankavatarian notions of the no-soul, or personal soul vs. the ultimate realization of the notion of “soulness” that is synonymous with Self and Mind. read more

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The Lanka and the no-soul

In order to have the best overall comprehension of Unborn Mind Zen’s notion of a soul, one first needs to turn to the best foundational source, the Lankavatara Sutra. As we do so keep in mind this question: Does a Buddha have a soul? read more

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The Quantum Factor

The narrative for a Quantum-Soul Factor begins with what are known as NDE/OBEs, or after-death experiences. The notion that conscious activity exists after death has been deeply engrained into the psyche of both Eastern and Western religions throughout the millennium. For example, The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a mystic manual for guiding the soul through a 49 day process of encountering both “peaceful” and “wrathful” deities in the hope of successfully navigating through these illusionary realms that would prevent another womb birth, or if all else fails then a favorable reincarnation. There are some striking similarities between the Tibetan Book of the Dead and today’s contemporary after death-soul experiences that were made popular by researchers such as Dr. Raymond A. Moody and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Further still, significant quantum theories predict that end-of-life brain activity exists independently of biochemical and spacetime geometry. read more

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Dignāga and Anātman

For the Buddhist segment in our series we need to turn to the general father of Buddhist epistemology, and additionally the doctrine of the No-Soul (Self). Dignāga (480-540 CE) was a profound Buddhist scholar and logistician and elucidates in his epistemology that there are essentially only two ‘instruments of knowledge’ or ‘valid cognitions’ (pramāṇa); “perception” or “sensation” (pratyaksa) and “inference” or “reasoning” (anumāṇa). In his magnum opus, the Pramāṇa-samuccaya, he writes: read more

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Chinese-Taoist Soul Structures

Chinese philosophy did not have a dichotomy between spirit or matter, or soul and body as we witnessed in our Greek-thought portions of our series. They are perfectly merged in the Principle of the Yin-Yang constructions. read more

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Advaita Vedanta & the Self

We are now entering into more familiar ground with less emphasis on soul extensions as Advaita Vedanta places them as secondary to the all-encompassing and Cosmic notion of the Self. The Self is synonymous with Ātman or the Absolute Parabrahman. Firstly, let’s break down its etymology: read more

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North American Indian Soulology

Of all our blog-segments for this series the present one is perhaps the most intriguing. For such a primitive culture the North American Indians notion of soul is far from simplicity—indeed, it is rooted in various soul-extensions or soul-pluralisms. Essentially, each tribe has its own soul-system. Different tribes have different notions of soul–hence, no uniformity amidst the tribes. Yet, one renowned scholar in the field, E.B. Tylor, developed and vividly pointed to the understanding of the general perception of this phenomenon by American Indians: “soul is a fine, immaterial human image, something like steam, air or shadow by its nature. It is the cause of life and thought in the creature it animates”. While multilayered, there are two dominant strains in this analysis: soul is formed from a root-verb, sken. read more

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Christian Mystics & the Soul

The first on the horizon to give birth to what became known as Christian Mysticism is undoubtedly Dionysius the Areopagite. He in essence formulated the terminology that Christian Mystics use to describe their experience of Union with the Godhead. Yea, despite the overwhelming influence of Dionysian ideas on writers such as Eriugena, Meister Eckhart, The Cloud of Unknowing and many others, there has never been anything like Dionysian theology—it set the apophatic standard for all that came after it. Dionysius shed illuminative light on the notion of the soul: read more

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Aerial Toll Houses

The phenomenon of what has become known as the Aerial Toll Houses is Eastern Orthodox in origin. It was made popular again due to the efforts of Fr. Seraphim Rose (1934-1982) in his book, The Soul After Death. But it’s an olden belief. Etymologically these “toll houses” are also named “telonia”, from the Greek:τελωνεία / telonia, customs). Not all Eastern Orthodox Ecclesiastical offices are sold on the idea, but the immense literature on the subject by renowned Orthodox saints, theologians, and ascetical personages place it in the category of being a spiritual probability. An immense Volume, The Departure of the Soul, According to the Teaching—A Patristic Anthology (2016), numbering 1111 pages is indeed a vast anthology of the said personages who give absolute witness and credence to the phenomena. According to the literature, once the soul leaves the body it enters an aerial realm that is populated by a denizen of evil spirits that block the passage to Heaven in toll-houses where the demons proceed to accuse the soul of past sins with the intent of dragging it down in the fiery depths of hell. read more

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St. Maximus the Confessor: Premier Ascetical Theologian of the Byzantine Orthodox Tradition

We now turn East in our series and consider the most brilliant Byzantine-Orthodox Ascetical Theologian of them all, St. Maximus (Maximos) the Confessor (580-662). He lived through the most catastrophic period the Byzantine Empire was to experience before the Crusades. He was highly educated and served as the executive chief-secretary of Emperor Heraclius but eventually abandoned this walk of life and became a monk. He wrote voluminous ascetical and theological works. He became a staunch critic of the Monothelite heresy: read more

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