BECK index
THE SOUL: Contents

The Soul in Human Consciousness

Soul and Body
Levels of Consciousness
Functions of the Psyche
Soul and Mind
Cause and Effect


Since the soul is a spiritual entity not crudely perceived by the senses as are physical objects, it is difficult to pin it down and objectify it or classify it. For this reason philosophers and psychologists often are not able to recognize its existence as a subjective reality. Nevertheless those who are spiritually perceptive or intuitive do recognize it subjectively as our inward beings the source of our consciousness and experience.

It is not possible to reach to god and set him before our eyes, nor to grasp him with our hands - and that is the broadest way of persuasion leading to the minds of men.
Empedocles, fr. 133

Neither have I seen even my own soul and yet I honor it. Thus then with respect to the gods, from what I constantly experience of their power, from this I comprehend that they exist and I venerate them.
Marcus, Aurelius Meditations, XII:28

Her immortality is demonstrated by the previous argument, and there are many other proofs; but to see her as she really is, not as we now behold her, marred by communion with the body and other miseries, you must contemplate her with the eye of reason, in her original purity; and then her beauty will be revealed, and justice and injustice and all the things which we have described will be manifested more clearly. Thus far, we have spoken the truth concerning her as she appears at present, but we must remember also that we have seen her only in a condition which may be compared to that of the sea-god GIaucus, whose original image can hardly be discerned because his natural members are broken off and crushed and damaged by the waves in all sorts of ways, and incrustations have grown over them of seaweed and shells and stones, so that he is more like some monster than he is to his own natural form. And the soul which we behold is in a similar condition, disfigured by ten thousand ills.
Plato, Republic, X 611

To attain any assured knowledge about the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world.
Aristotle, On the Soul, I:1

Jesus said, 'The images are manifest to man and the Light which is within them is hidden in the image of the Light of the Father. He will manifest himself and His Image is concealed by His Light.
Gospel According to Thomas, 83

What causes many, however, to persuade themselves that there is difficulty in knowing this truth, and even in knowing the nature of their souls is the fact that they never raise their minds above the things of sense, or that they are so accustomed to consider nothing excepting by imagining it, which is a mode of thought specially adapted to material objects, that all that is not capable of being imagined appears to them not to be intelligible at all. This is manifest enough from the fact that even the philosophers in the Schools hold it as a maxim that there is nothing in the understanding which has not first of all been in the senses, in which there is certainly no doubt that the ideas of God and of the soul have never been.
Descartes, Discourse on Method, Part IV

He that considers how hardly sensation is, in our thoughts, reconcilable to extended matter; or existence to anything that has no extension at all, will confess that he is very far from certainly knowing what his soul is.
Locke, Concerning Human Understanding, IV:iii, 6

Four thousand volumes of metaphysics will not teach us what the soul is.
Voltaire, "Soul," Philosophical Dictionary

I know my soul only as an object of inner sense, by appearances which constitute an inner state, and the essence of it in itself which lies at the ground of these appearances is unknown to me.
Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, 49

The soul is the aspect of ourselves that is specific of our nature and distinguishes man from all other animals. We are not capable of defining this familiar and profoundly mysterious entity.
Alexis Carrel, Man the Unknown, p. 118

Whatever the unconscious may be, it is a natural phenomenon producing symbols that prove to be meaningful We cannot expect someone who has never looked through a microscope to be an authority on microbes; in the same way, no one who has not made a serious study of natural symbols can be considered a competent judge in this matter. But the general undervaluation of the human soul is so great that neither the great religions nor the philosophies nor scientific rationalism have been willing to look at it twice.
Jung, Man and his Symbols, p. 102

Though we do not possess a physics of the souls and are not even able to observe it and judge it from some Archimedean point 'outside' ourselves, and can therefore know nothing objective about it since all knowledge of the psyche is itself psychic, in spite of all this the soul is the only experient of life and existence. It is, in fact, the only immediate experience we can have and the sine qua non of the subjective reality of the world. The symbols it creates are always grounded in the unconscious archetype, but their manifest forms are molded by the ideas acquired by the conscious mind.
Jung, Symbols of Transformation, p. 231-232

Even modern psychology has the greatest difficulty in vindicating the human soul's right to existence, and in making it credible that the soul is a mode of being with properties that can be investigated, and therefore a suitable object for scientific study; that it is not something attached to an outside, but has an autonomous inside, too, and a life of its own; that it is not just an ego-consciousness, but an existent which in all essentials can only be inferred indirectly.
Jung, Symbols of Transformation, p. 77

There is some justification for the old view of the soul as an objective reality - as something independent, and therefore capricious and dangerous. The further assumption that this being, so mysterious and frightening, is at the same time the source of life is also understandable in the light of psychology. Experience shows us that the sense of the 'I' - the ego-consciousness - grows out of unconscious life. The small child has psychic life without any demonstrable ego-consciousness, for which reason the earliest years leave hardly any traces in the memory. Where do all our good and helpful flashes of intelligence come from? What is the source of our enthusiasms, inspirations, and of our heightened feeling of vitality? The primitive senses in the depths of his soul the springs of life; he is deeply impressed by the life-giving activity of his soul, and he therefore believes in everything that affects it - in magical practices of every kind. That is why, for him, the soul is life itself. He does not imagine that he directs it, but feels himself dependent on it in every respect
Jung, Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, p. 347

Looked at historically, the soul, that many-faceted and much-interpreted concept, refers to a psychological content that must possess a certain measure of autonomy within the limits of consciousness. If this were not so, man would never have hit on the idea of attributing an independent existence to the soul, as though it were some objectively perceptible thing. It must be a content in which spontaneity is inherent, and hence also partial unconsciousness, as with every autonomous complex.
Jung, Psychological Types, p. 247

We must understand that the reactions of the human soul are not final and absolute: every response is but a partial response, valid temporarily, but in no way to be considered a final solution of a problem
Adler, Understanding Human Nature, p. 32

Hundreds of nations live in peace. History does not and cannot take note of this fact. History is really a record of every interruption of the even working of the force of love or of the soul.
Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance, p. 16

What we really know of the soul and its conditions is of and for ourselves, and not for bruiting abroad. The concept will not admit of being rendered sufficiently objective to be told by one to another. Hence, while those who possess the assurance of actual knowledge of the truth are at perfect rest upon the subject; they find it hard, if not impossible outright, to convince others who have not their perception. The mystics used to say that what was a revelation to one was not necessarily on that account a revelation to another. It is the beneficial result of this paradox, that the truth is thereby rescued from the danger of profanation. Wisdom is really for the wise alone.
Wilder, "The Soul," p. 460

Soul and Body

In human experience soul and body are combined together. However, at death and sometimes in sleep or mystical experience, the soul is able to free itself from the limitations of the body. The soul is immortal and divine, while the body is mortal and earthly. Soul is not the result of a body; rather the soul has made the body and entering into it rules over it. In using the body as its instrument to function in the physical worlds the soul demonstrates its power of will. When soul and body interact together, then imperfections and mistakes do occur because of the limitations of the body and its functions. Nevertheless the soul itself cannot be corrupted by the body, even though the intervening psychological functions may be deluded. Although soul and matter appear to be quite different, they are the two opposite poles of energy in the universe.

Descartes and others located the seat of the soul in the pineal gland, the "third eye" in the middle of the head. Yet others have centered it in the heart. The soul can manifest its energy through various centers, though the head and the heart are used primarily as expressions of intelligence and love.

As a heavily loaded cart goes creaking, just so this bodily self, mounted by the intelligent Self, goes groaning when one is breathing one's last.

When he come to weakness - whether he come to weakness through old age or through disease - this person frees himself from these limbs just as a mango, or a fig, or a berry releases itself from its bond; and he hastens again, according to the entrance and place of origin, back to life.
Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad, 4.3.35-36

Let us believe with Pindar, that -

All human bodies yield to Death's decree,
The soul survives to all eternity.

For that alone is derived from the gods, thence comes, and thither returns; not with the body, but when most disengaged and separated from it, and when most entirely pure and clean and free from the flesh: for the most perfect soul, says Heraclitus, is a dry light, which flies out of the body as lightning breaks from a cloud; but that which is clogged and surfeited with body is like gross and humid incense, slow to kindle and ascend.
Plutarch, Romulus

For it is not our blood, he says, nor the blending of our breath that produced the essential principle of soul; rather from these ingredients the body is molded, which is earth-born and mortal. Since the soul has come hither from elsewhere, he euphemistically calls birth a sojourn abroad - the most comforting of all names; but in truth the soul is a fugitive and a wanderer, banished by the decrees and laws of the gods.
Empedocles in Kirk and Raven, The Pre-Socratic Philosophers, p. 359

Timaeus: Now God did not make the soul after the body, although we are speaking of them in this order; for having brought them together he would never have allowed that the elder should be ruled by the younger; but this is a random manner of speaking which we have, because somehow we ourselves too are very much under the dominion of chance. Whereas he made the soul in origin and excellence prior to and older than the body, to be the ruler and mistress, of whom the body was to be the subject.
Plato, Timaeus, 34

For some say that the body is the grave of the soul which may be thought to be buried in our present life; or again the index of the soul, because the soul gives indications to the body; probably the Orphic poets were the inventors of the name, and they were under the impression that the soul is suffering the punishment of sin, and that the body is an enclosure or prison in which the soul is incarcerated, kept safe, as the name soma (body) implies, until the penalty is paid.
Plato, Cratylus, 400

Socrates: The soul in her totality has the care of inanimate being everywhere, and traverses the whole heaven in diverse forms appearing - when perfect and fully winged she soars upward, and orders the whole world; whereas the imperfect soul, losing her wings and drooping in her flight at last settles on the solid ground - there, finding a home, she receives an earthly frame which appears to be self-moved, but is really moved by her power; and this composition of soul and body is called a living and mortal creature. For immortal no such union can be reasonably believed to be; although fancy, not having seen nor surely known the nature of God, may imagine an immortal creature having both a body and also a soul which are united throughout all time.
Plato, Phaedrus, 246

Socrates: And the user of the body is the soul?

Alcibiades: Yes, the soul.

Socrates: And the soul rules?

Alcibiades: Yes.
Plato, Alcibiades, I, 130

When the soul and the body are united, then nature orders the soul to rule and govern, and the body to obey and serve. Now which of these two functions is akin to the divine? and which to the mortal? Does not the divine appear to you to be that which naturally orders and rules, and the mortal to be that which is subject and servant?... Then reflect ... that the soul is in the very likeness of the divine, and immortal, and intellectual, and uniform, and indissoluble, and unchangeable; and that the body is in the very likeness of the human, and mortal, and unintellectual, and multiform, and dissoluble, and changeable.
Plato, Phaedo, 79-80

And were we not saying long ago that the soul when using the body as an instrument of perception, that is to say, when using the sense of sight or hearing or some other sense (for the meaning of perceiving through the body is perceiving through the senses) - were we not saying that the soul too is then dragged by the body into the region of the changeable, and wanders and is confused; the world spins around her, and she is like a drunkard, when she touches change?
Plato, Phaedo, 79

I will explain: every soul partakes of understanding; none is irrational or unintelligent. But the portion of the soul that mingles with flesh and passions suffers alteration and becomes in the pleasures and pains it undergoes irrational. Not every soul mingles to the same extent: some sink entirely into the body, and becoming disordered throughout, are during their life wholly distracted by passions; others mingle in part, but leave outside what is purest in them. This is not dragged in with the rest, but is like a buoy attached to the top, floating on the surface in contact with the man's head, while he is as it were submerged in the depths; and it supports as much of the soul, which is held upright about it, as is obedient and not overpowered by the passions.
Plutarch, "On the Sign of Socrates," 591

The living creature ... consists of soul and body: and of these two, the one is by nature the ruler, and the other the subject. But then we must look for the intentions of nature in things which retain their nature, and not in things which are corrupted. And therefore we must study the man who is in the most perfect state both of body and soul, for in him we shall see the true relation of the two; although in bad or corrupted natures the body will often appear to rule over the soul, because they are in an evil and unnatural condition.
Aristotle, Politics, I:52

Some hold that the soul is divisible, and that one part thinks, another desires. If, then, its nature admits of its being divided, what can it be that holds the parts together? Surely not the body; on the contrary it seems rather to be the soul that holds the body together; at any rate when the soul departs the body disintegrates and decays.
Aristotle, On the Soul, I:5

When I reflect on the nature of the soul, it seems to me by far more difficult and obscure to determine its character while it is in the body, a strange domicile, than to imagine what it is when it leaves it, and has arrived in the empyreal regions, in its own and proper home.
Cicero, Tusculanarum Disputationum, Bk. I

Jesus said, 'If the flesh has come into existence because of the spirit, it is a marvel; but if the spirit (has come into existence) because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels. But I marvel at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty.'
Gospel According to Thomas, 29

Jesus said, 'Wretched is the body which depends upon a body, and wretched is the soul which depends upon these two.'
Gospel According to Thomas, 87

For it is the God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?
1 Corinthians 6:19

As was the man of dust, so are those who are of dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
1 Corinthians 15:48-50

At feasts, remember that you are entertaining two guests, body and soul. What you give to the body, you presently lose; what you give to the soul, you keep for ever.
Epictetus, The Golden Sayings, CLXXVIII

But since these two things are mingled in the generation of man, body in common with the animals, and reason and intelligence in common with the gods, many incline to this kinship, which is miserable and mortal; and some few to that which is divine and happy.
Epictetus, Discourses, I:3

Next for the suggestion that the Soul is interwoven through the body: such a relation would not give woof and warp community of sensation: the interwoven element might very well suffer no change: the permeating soul might remain entirely untouched by what affects the body - as light goes always free of all it floods - and all the more so, since, precisely, we are asked to consider it as diffused throughout the entire frame.
Plotinus, First Ennead, I:4

As long as we have agent and instrument, there are two distinct entities; if the Soul uses the body it is separate from it. But apart from the philosophical separation how does Soul stand to body? Clearly there is a combination. And for this several modes are possible. There might be a complete coalescence: Soul might be interwoven through the body: or it might be an Ideal-Form detached or an Ideal-Form in governing contact like a pilot: or there might be part of the Soul detached and another part in contact, the disjoined part being the agent or user, the conjoined part ranking with the instrument or thing used. In this last case it will be the double task of philosophy to direct this lower Soul towards the higher, the agent, and except in so far as the conjunction is absolutely necessary, to sever the agent from the instrument, the body, so that it need not forever have its Act upon or through this inferior.
PIotinus, First Ennead, I:3

Let us consider a soul, not one that has appropriated the unreasoned desires and impulses of the bodily life, or any other such emotion and experience, but one that has cast all this aside, and as far as possible has no commerce with the bodily. Such a soul demonstrates that all evil is accretion, alien, and that in the purged soul the noble things are immanent, wisdom and all else that is good, as its native store.

If this is the soul once it has returned to its self, how deny that it is the nature we have identified with all the divine and eternal? Wisdom and authentic virtue are divine, and could not be found in the chattel mean and mortal: what possesses these must be divine by its very capacity of the divine, the token of kinship and of identical substance.
Plotinus, Fourth Ennead, VII:10

In the first place, we must know that man is composed of soul and body; but of the soul is that (nobility), as we have said, which is as the seed of the Divine virtue.
Dante, The Banquet, IV, xxi, 2

That we cannot doubt our existence without existing while we doubt; and this is the first knowledge that we obtain when we philosophize in an orderly way....

This furnishes us with the distinction which exists between the soul and the body, or between that which thinks and that which is corporeal.
Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, I:6, 7

And since all the same thoughts and conceptions which we have while awake may also come to us in sleep, without any of them being at that time true, I resolved to assume that everything that ever entered into my mind was no more true than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately afterwards I noticed that whilst I thus wished to think all else false, it was absolutely essential that the 'I' who thought this should be somewhat, and remarking that this truth 'I think, therefore I am' was so certain and so assured that all the most extravagant suppositions brought forward by the skeptics were incapable of shaking it, I came to the conclusion that I could receive it without scruple as the first principle of the Philosophy for which I was seeking.

And then, examining attentively that which I was, I saw that I could conceive that I had no body, and that there was no world nor place where I might be; but yet that I could not for all that conceive that I was not. On the contrary, I saw from the very fact that I thought of doubting the truth of other things, it very evidently and certainly followed that I was; on the other hand if I had only ceased from thinking, even if all the rest of what I had ever imagined had really existed, I should have no reason for thinking that I had existed. From that I knew that I was a substance the whole essence or nature of which is to think, and that for its existence there is no need of any place, nor does it depend on any material thing; so that this 'me,' that is to say, the soul by which I am what I am, is entirely distinct from body, and is even more easy to know than is the latter; and even if body were not, the soul would not cease to be what it is.
Descartes, Discourse on Method, Part IV

If there are finally any persons who are not sufficiently persuaded of the existence of God and of their soul by the reasons which I have brought forward, I wish that they should know that all other things of which they perhaps think themselves more assured (such as possessing a body, and that there are stars and an earth and so on) are less certain.
Descartes, Discourse on Method, Part IV

For next to the error of those who deny God, which I think I have already sufficiently refuted, there is none which is more effectual in leading feeble spirits from the straight path of virtue, than to imagine that the soul of the brute is of the same nature as our own, and that in consequence, after this life we have nothing to fear or to hope for, any more than the flies and ants. As a matter of fact, when one comes to know how greatly they differ, we understand much better the reasons which go to prove that our soul is in its nature entirely independent of body, and in consequence that it is not liable to die with it. And then, inasmuch as we observe no other causes capable of destroying it, we are naturally inclined to judge that it is immortal.
Descartes, Discourse on Method, Part V

For while I know, by seeing or hearing, etc., that there is some corporeal being without me, the object of that sensation, I do more certainly know, that there is some spiritual being within me that sees and hears. This, I must be convinced, cannot be the action of bare insensible matter; nor ever could be, without an immaterial thinking being.
Locke, Concerning Human Understanding, II:xxiii, 15

But a soul can read in itself only that which is there represented distinctly; it cannot all at once unroll everything that is enfolded in it, for its complexity is infinite.

Thus, although each created Monad represents the whole universe, it represents more distinctly the body which specially pertains to it, and of which it is the entelechy; and as this body expresses the whole universe through the connection of all matter in the plenum, the soul also represents the whole universe in representing this body, which belongs to it in a special way.
Leibniz, The Monadology, 61-624

The idea itself or the essence of the soul brings it about that all of its appearances or perceptions should be born out of its nature and precisely in such a way that they correspond of themselves to that which happens in the universe at large, but more particularly and more perfectly to that which happens in the body associated with it, because it is in a particular way and only for a certain time according to the relation of other bodies to its own body that the soul expresses the state of the universe. This last fact enables us to see how our body belongs to us, without, however, being attached to our essence.
Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, XXXIII

This life's dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with, not thro', the Eye
That was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the Soul slept in the beams of Light.
Blake, The Everlasting Gospel, d

Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments. Consider the light of the lamp. Though an external object may interfere with its radiance, the light itself continueth to shine with undiminished power. In like manner, every malady afflicting the body of man is an impediment that preventeth the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness.
Baha'u'llah, Baha'i World Faith, p. 120

The same thing that looked at from the outside or biologically is called the psyche, looked at morally from within is called the soul. This change of aspect so transforms the object that it might be mistaken for two separate things, one a kind of physical organization and the other a pure spirit.
Santayana, The Realm of Spirit, p. 16

In no sense is the soul a possession, as apart and distinct from the individual. It is instead the selfhood, including all that is comprised by the Ego. It feels with the sensory nerves, sees with the eyes, hears with the ears, smells and tastes with the olfactory and gustatory nerves, is conscious of weight and resistance, heat and cold, the auras of others, the perception of sex, through the medium of the organs which the body possesses. The logical sequence does not follow, however, that because it thus sees, feels and is otherwise perceptive, these organs of sensibility constitute the soul or any part of it. If the bodily structure shall be deprived of its life, they may remain for a little period of time as complete in their mechanism as before, but they will have ceased to act as agents of sense. This fact is of itself enough to show that the actor is an essence distinct from the organism. We know from simple observation that when the organ of a special sense is injured, there is no corresponding impairment of any psychic or mental faculty.
Wilder, "The Soul," p. 461-462

If there be such entities as souls in the universe, they may possibly be affected by the manifold occurrences that go on in the nervous centers. To the state of the entire brain at a given moment they may respond by inward modifications of their own. These changes of state may be pulses of consciousness, cognitive of objects few or many, simple or complex. The soul would be thus a medium upon which the manifold brain-processes combine their effects. Not needing to consider it as the 'inner aspect' of any arch-molecule or braincell, we escape that physiological improbability; and as its pulses of consciousness are unitary and integral affairs from the outset, we escape the absurdity of supposing feelings which exist separately and then 'fuse together' by themselves. The separateness is in the brain-world, on this theory, and the unity in the soul world.
James, Principles of Psychology, p. 119

There is a difference between movements in nature and those in the human soul life. All the questions about free will hinge upon this important point.
Adler, Understanding Human Nature, p. 29

It was the will to live, and not death anxiety, which produced belief in immortality, and it is the will which creates the dream. The dream seems to prove freedom of will to us as completely as it did to primitive man began to interpret this freedom of the will as freedom of the soul from the body.
Rank, Psychology and the Soul, p. 142

Consciousness is a quality of the sentient principle, or, in other words, the soul; and the latter often displays activity even while the body is asleep or paralyzed.
Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol. I, p. 199

When the body is in the state of dharana - a total catalepsy of the physical frame - the soul of the clairvoyant may liberate itself, and perceive things subjectively. And yet, as the sentient principle of the brain is alive and active, these pictures of the past, present, and future will be tinctured with the terrestrial perceptions of the objective world; the physical memory and fancy will be in the way of clear vision. But the seer-adept knows how to suspend the mechanical action of the brain. His visions will be as clear as truth itself, uncolored and undistorted, whereas, the clairvoyant, unable to control the vibrations of the astral waves, will perceive but more or less broken images through the medium of the brain.
Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, Vol. II, p. 591

Rational Soul is not contributed by the parents nor built within the womb, but is drawn to the fetus to enter the organism upon birth and blend with the somatic pattern, taking up the life in a new enclosure at that time. While the body and Soul are one living whole, the rational Soul may continue as a separate structure from the body.
McDaniel, Lamp of the Soul, p. 259

But by whatever name it may pass, the soul is regarded in the East as a unitary and multi-dimensional consciousness which uses the body as a vehicle or instrument of manifestation in the physical universe. It is distinct from the body. It relinquishes the body at death. But even before death, it may, if it wants, emancipate itself from the limitations of the body by the practice of yoga. The soul is the 'I am,' the man himself; the body is only his garment.
Reyes, Scientific Evidence of the Existence of the Soul, p. 7

Any attempt to consider the two - nature and its essence - as separate, even if only in imagination, is bound to bring in the idea of duality. It is only in terms of this duality that one can conceive of the creation as distinct from the creative principle as being the result of the outer play of the twin forces of spirit, called matter and soul. The scientific investigations too have now come to the irresistible conclusion that all life is one continuous existence at different levels and what we call inert matter is nothing but energy at its lowest stage.
Kirpal Singh, The Crown of Life, p. 10

The soul is life and gives health.
Even though the mental, emotional, and physical bodies
may suffer from tremendous negativity, hurt, and dis-ease,
the soul will continually revive them.
The body is healed by the soul,
when the love of the soul
is awakened in the body.
This love is the perfection of God in action.
When the body becomes useless,
the soul leaves it to its elements
and returns to the other worlds
to continue its eternal life.
Death and birth are Spirit's way
of regenerating life in creation.
Beck, Living In God's Holy Thoughts, p. 17

We must also know that, although the soul is joined to the entire body, there is nevertheless one part of the body in which it exercises its functions more specifically than in any of the others. It is generally believed that this part is the brain, or perhaps the heart: the brain because it is related to the organs of the senses, the heart because we feel our passions as though they were within it. But in carefully examining the matter, it seems to me that I have clearly ascertained that the part of the body in which the soul directly exercises its functions is neither the heart nor the brain as a whole, but is only the innermost part of the brain, which is a certain very small gland, situated in the middle of its substance, and so suspended over the passage through which the animal spirits of the anterior cavities communicate with those of the posterior that the slightest movement on its part can do a great deal to alter the course of these spirits, and, reciprocally, that the slightest change in the course of the spirits can do a great deal to alter the movements of this gland.
Descartes, Passions of the Soul, 31

The seat of the soul is between and behind the eyebrows. This at least is accepted by all yogas.
Kirpal Singh, The Crown of Life, p. 155

Studies at Cornell University seem to indicate that consciousness and the emotions originate in a ring-shaped structure of four parts deep in the middle of the brain near the area regarded by the ancients as the seat of the soul. These four parts, mysterious both as to structure and function, are the hypothalamus, the mammillary body, the gyrus cinguli, and the hippocampus - the latter probably the source of electrical waves, known as the Berger rhythm, pulsing through the cerebral cortex. This structure, however, is only the vortex through which the multi-dimensional energy of the soul pours into our three-dimensional body.
Reyes, Scientific Evidence of the Existence of the Soul, p. 75

In the macrocosmic plan and microcosmic pattern of the Supreme Creator, the transcendental self has been mysteriously focused within each individual human body at a point whose location is within the chest. If we draw a line down the middle of the body, a portion of the physical heart - about one-eighth - will be found to project over to its right side. In this part the spiritual self has its central abode within the human flesh - and yet paradoxically transcends it'

Scientifically stated, the divine atom of the Overself is situated in the right ventricle of the heart, more than an inch to the right of the body's median line.
Brunton, Quest of the Overself, p. 230

The main characteristic of the soul is consciousness. The soul as life is 'seated in the heart,' and as rational spiritual consciousness is 'seated on the throne between the eyebrows.'
Bailey, The Soul and Its Mechanism, p. 109

The soul is always the great reality, the expression of the one life, which is made up of the etheric and dense bodies. It is the soul force playing upon and functioning through the etheric body which evolves the specialized centers in that body, and which in turn acts upon the dense physical.
Bailey, The Soul and Its Mechanism, p. 128

Levels of Consciousness

Different levels of consciousness have specific psychic functions. Consciousness is able to leave the body during sleep, while the life of the body is still maintained. During dreams and mystical journeys one may experience various levels of consciousness.

The soul transcends the qualities of nature, the senses, feelings and emotions, and mental states of the psychic-material worlds. The soul realm is purely spiritual, but below that are the created realms of the unconscious, the mind, the emotions, the astral world of the imagination, and finally the physical world. Linking the soul to the physical body, a person has subtle bodies on each of these planes of consciousness.

In man's life the first transformations are called the earthly aspect of the soul (p'o). After p'o has been produced, that which is strong and positive is called the heavenly aspect of the soul (hun). * If he had an abundance in the use of material things and subtle essentials, his hun and p'o will become strong. From this are developed essence and understanding until there are spirit and intelligence. When an ordinary man or woman dies a violent death, the hun and p'o are still able to keep hanging about men and do evil and malicious things.
Tso's Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals, Duke Chao, 7th year

*As generally understood, hun is the spirit of man's vital force which is expressed in man's intelligence and power of breathing, whereas p'o is the spirit of man's physical nature which is expressed in bodily movements.
Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. p. 12

The vital force belongs to the heavenly aspect of the soul (hun) and the body is governed by the earthly aspect of the soul (p'o). In his commentary on the Huai-nan-tzu, Kao Yu said, 'Hun is the spirit of yang and p'o is the spirit of yin.' By spirit is meant the master of the body and the vital force. Man is born as a result of integration of essence and material force. He possesses this material force only in a certain amount, which in time necessarily becomes exhausted. When exhaustion takes place, the heavenly aspect of the soul and the vital force return to Heaven, and the earthly aspect of the soul and the body return to the Earth, and the man dies. When a man is about to die, the warm material force leaves him and rises. This is called the hun rising. The lower part of his body gradually becomes cold. This is called the p'o falling.
Chu Hsi, Spiritual Beings and Spiritual Forces, 51

To that part of man which beyond all doubt was believed to enjoy an eternal existence in heaven in a state of glory, the Egyptians gave the name ba, a word which means something like 'sublime,' 'noble,' and which has always hitherto been translated by 'soul.' The ba is not incorporeal, for although it dwells in the ka, and is in some respects like the heart, the principle of life in man, still it possesses both substance and form: in form it is depicted as a human-headed hawk, and in nature and substance it is stated to be exceedingly refined or ethereal. It revisited the body in the tomb and re-animated it, and conversed with it; it could take upon itself any shape it pleased; and it had the power of passing into heaven and of dwelling with the perfected souls there. It was eternal. As the ba was closely associated with the ka, it partook of the funeral offerings, and in one aspect of its existence at least it was liable to decay if not properly and sufficiently nourished. In the pyramid texts the permanent dwelling place of the ba or soul is heaven with the gods, whose life it shares.
Budge, The Book of the Dead, p. lxiv

The place of the deceased in heaven is by the side of God in the most holy place, and he becomes God and an angel of God; he himself is triumphant, and his ka is triumphant. He sits on a great throne by the side of God.
Budge, The Book of the Dead, p. lxxiv

The ancient Egyptians, when they spoke of multiple psychic elements in man (e.g. the ka, the ba, the ab, etc.) were really expressing the same idea; to blanket such intuitive distinctions with a single over-all term is thoroughly to distort the picture.
Gaster, The New Golden Bough, p. 268

The ancient Egyptians believed that every man has a soul (ka) which is his exact counterpart of double,...
Frazer, The New Golden Bough, p. 193

If an animal lives and moves, it can only be, he thinks, because there is a little animal inside which moves it: if a man lives and moves, it can only be because he has a little man or animal inside who moves him. The animal inside the animal, the man inside the man, is the soul. And as the activity of an animal or man is explained by the presence of the soul, so the repose of sleep or death is explained by its absence; sleep or trance being the temporary, death being the permanent absence of the soul.
Frazer, The New Golden Bough, p. 193

Frazer's assertion that primitive peoples believe in a separable or external soul, which leaves the body during sleep, sickness, or stress, and which can likewise be extracted from it by magical means, is gravely misleading. For what in fact the primitive believes to depart or be extracted under such conditions is not the soul - that is, the entire psychic side of the self - but something far nearer what we should call consciousness. What a man is then thought to lose is the normal control of his faculties, not his 'spiritual' being or vitality.
Gaster, The New Golden Bough, p. 268

Often the soul is conceived as a bird ready to take flight. This conception has probably left traces in most languages, and it lingers as a metaphor in poetry.
Frazer, The New Golden Bough, p. 195

The soul is commonly supposed to escape by the natural orifices of the body, especially the mouth and nostrils.
Frazer, The New Golden Bough, p. 194

The soul of a sleeper is supposed to wander away from his body and actually visit the places, to see the persons, and to perform the acts of which he dreams.
Frazer, The New Golden Bough, p. 196

When we sleep the soul communicates with what is external to us; when we awake the body is set free.
Chuang-tzu, 2:2

'But when the sun has set, Yajnavalkya, and the moon has set, and the fire has gone out, and speech is hushed, what light does a person here have?'

'The soul (atman), indeed, is his light,' said he, 'for with the soul, indeed, as his light one sits, moves around, does his work, and returns.'

'Which is the soul?'

'The person here who among the senses is made of knowledge, who is light in the heart. He, remaining the same, goes along both worlds, appearing to think, appearing to move about, for upon becoming asleep he transcends this world and the forms of death.

'Verily, this person, by being born and obtaining a body, is joined with evils. When he departs, on dying, he leaves evils behind.

'Verily, there are just two conditions of this person: the condition of being in this world and the condition of being in the other world There is an intermediate third condition, namely, that of being in sleep. By standing in this intermediate condition one sees both those conditions, namely being in this world and being in the other world. Now whatever the approach is to the condition of being in the other world, by making that approach one sees the evils (of this world) and the joys (of yonder world).

'When one goes to sleep, he takes along the material of this all-containing world, himself tears it apart, himself builds it up, and dreams by his own brightness, by his own light. Then this person becomes self-illuminated.

'There are no chariots there, no spans, no roads. But he projects from himself chariots, spans, roads. There are no blisses there, no pleasures, no delights. But he projects from himself blisses, pleasures, delights. There are no tanks there, no lotus-pools, no streams. But he projects from himself tanks, lotus-pools, streams. For he is a creator.

'On this point there are the following verses: Striking down in sleep what is bodily,
Sleepless he looks down upon the sleeping (senses).
Having taken to himself light, there returns to his place
The golden person, the one spirit.
Guarding his low nest with the breath,
The Immortal goes forth out of the nest
He goes where'er he pleases - the immortal,
The golden person, the one spirit.
In the state of sleep going aloft and alow,
A god, he makes many forms for himself.'
Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad, 4.3.6-13

A man in the night kindles a light for himself when his vision is extinguished; living, he is in contact with the dead, when asleep, and with the sleeper, when awake.
Heraclitus, fr. 26

... the view expressed in the 'Orphic' poems: there it is said that the soul comes in from the whole when breathing takes place, being borne in upon the winds.
Aristotle, On the Soul, I:5

While the actions are being entirely done by the modes of Nature he whose self is bewildered by egoism thinks that it is his 'I' which is doing them. But one, O mighty-armed, who knows the true principles of the divisions of the modes and of works, realizes that it is the modes which are acting and reacting on each other and is not caught in them by attachment.
Bhagavad-Gita, III:27-28

Witness, source of the consent, upholder of the work of Nature, her enjoyer, almighty Lord and supreme Self is the Supreme Soul seated in this body.... He who sees that all action is verily done by Nature, and that the Self is the inactive witness, he sees. When he perceives the diversified existence of beings abiding in the one eternal being, and spreading forth from it, then he attains to Brahman. Because it is without origin and eternal, not limited by the qualities, the imperishable supreme Self, though seated in the body, O Kaunteya, does not act, nor is affected As the all-pervading ether is not affected by reason of its subtlety, so seated everywhere in the body, the Self is not affected As the one sun illumines the entire earth, so the Lord of the Field illumines the entire Field, O Bharata. They who with the eye of knowledge perceive this difference between the Field and the Knower of the Field and the liberation of beings from Nature, they attain to the Supreme.
Bhagavad-Gita, XIII:23, 30-35

Without the conjunction of prakriti, there can be no conjunction of bondage in the self (purusha) who is, by nature, eternal, and eternally pure, enlightened, and unconfined (unbound).
Samkhya-pravacana Sutra, I:19

The body, monks, is soulless. If the body, monks, were the soul, this body would not be subject to sickness, and it would be possible in the case of the body to say, 'Let my body be thus, let my body not be thus.' Now, because the body is soulless, monks, therefore the body is subject to sickness, and it is not possible in the case of the body to say, 'Let my body be thus, let my body not be thus.'

Feeling is soulless ... perception is soulless ... the aggregates are soulless ... consciousness is soulless....

Is it fitting to consider what is impermanent, painful, and subject to change as, 'This is mine, this am I, this is my soul'?

No indeed, Lord.
Buddha, Samyutta-nikaya, III:66

From the organized body and something else, let us say a light, which the Soul gives forth from itself, it forms a distinct Principle, the Animate; and in this Principle are vested Sense-Perception and all the other experiences found to belong to the Animate.
Plotinus, First Ennead, I:7

That Soul, then, in us, will in its nature stand apart from all that can cause any of the evils which man does or suffers; for all such evil, as we have seen, belongs only to the Animate, the Couplement....

Thus in spite of all, the Soul is at peace as to itself and within itself: all the changes and all the turmoil we experience are the issue of what is subjoined to the Soul, and are, as we have said, the states and experiences of this elusive 'Couplement.'
Plotinus, First Ennead, I:9

Now if sensations of the active order depend upon the Couplement of soul and body, sensation must be of that double nature. Hence it is classed as one of the shared acts: the soul, in the feeling, may be compared to the workman in such operations as boring or weaving, the body to the tool employed: the body is passive and menial; the soul is active, reading such impressions as are made upon the body or discerned by means of the body, perhaps entertaining only a judgment formed as the result of the bodily experiences.
Plotinus, Fourth Ennead, III:26

But if Soul is sinless, how come the expiations? Here surely is a contradiction; on the one side the Soul is above all guilt; on the other, we hear of its sin, its purification, its expiation; it is doomed to the lower world, it passes from body to body. 'We may take either view at will: they are easily reconciled. When we tell of the sinless Soul, we make Soul and Essential-Soul one and the same: it is the simple unbroken Unity. By the Soul subject to sin we indicate a groupment, we include that other, that phase of the Soul which knows all the states and passions: the Soul in this sense is compound, all-inclusive: it falls under the conditions of the entire living experience: this compound it is that sins; it is this, and not the other, that pays penalty.
Plotinus, First Ennead, I:12

For heavenly, divine substances possess penetrating judgment, an uncorrupted will, and the ability to achieve what they desire. But human souls must indeed be more free when they preserve themselves in the contemplation of the divine mind; less free, however, when they slip down to the corporeal, and still less free when they are bound into earthly limbs. But their ultimate servitude is when, given over to vice, they have lapsed from the possession of the reason proper to them. For when from the light of the highest truth they have lowered their eyes to inferior, darkling things, at once they are befogged by the cloud of unknowing, they are disturbed by destructive affections by giving in and by consenting to which they strengthen that servitude which they have brought upon themselves, and are in a way made captive by their freedom. Yet that regard of providence which looks forth on all things from eternity, sees this and disposes all that is predestined to each according to his deserts.
Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, V, ii

All the choir of heaven and furniture of the earth, in a word all those bodies which compose the mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind, that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently so long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no existence at all, or else subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit - it being perfectly unintelligible, and involving all the absurdity of abstraction, to attribute to any single part of them an existence independent of a spirit. To be convinced of which the reader need only reflect, and try to separate in his own thoughts the being of a sensible thing from its being perceived.

From what has been said it follows there is not any other Substance than Spirit, or that which perceives.
Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge, 6-7

Think of the Soul; I swear to you that body of yours gives proportions to your Soul somehow to live in other spheres; I do not know how, but I know it is so.
Walt Whitman, "Think of the Soul"

There is a realm of being which interpenetrates, exercises control over, is coextensive with, and of greater potential than either mind or the physical, which we know as Soul Realm. It is sometimes spoken of as the realm of Ineffable Fire, which term is used in an effort to describe the intense and powerful nature of Soul essence as compared to substances below that level.
McDaniel, Lamp of the Soul, p. 256

All souls are alike Soul is life, soul is light or consciousness which is clouded by mind and matter, and darkness does not comprehend it. In the lower forms of creation, the darkness increases and consciousness decreases.
Jagat Singh Ji, The Science of the Soul, p. 173-4

It is customary to speak of man as having a soul. Theosophy, as the result of direct investigation, reverses that dictum, and states that man is a soul, and has a body - in fact several bodies, which are his vehicles and instruments in various worlds These worlds are not separate in space; they are simultaneously present with us, here and now, and can be examined; they are the divisions of the material side of Nature - different degrees of density in the aggregation of matter, as will presently be explained in detail. Man has an existence in several of these, but is normally conscious only of the lowest, though sometimes in dreams and trances he has glimpses of some of the others What is called death is the laying aside of the vehicle belonging to this lowest world, but the soul or real man in a higher world is no more changed or affected by this than the physical man is changed or affected when he removes his overcoat. All this is a matter, not of speculation, but of observation and experiment.
Leadbeater, A Textbook of Theosophy, p. 2-3

All below the soul, even the mind itself, is unconscious, automatic and mechanical in action. In fact, everything in existence is entirely dependent upon spirit for its life and activity. Even the humblest plant or the smallest insect lives and carries on its activities by virtue of spirit, the tiny spark of spirit that gives it being. All else in man passes away or is discarded by him on his upward flight toward perfect freedom. Were it not for the soul's temporary sojourn in these material regions, there would be no need for any of these instruments - these bodies and the mind. Owing to the extreme fineness of spirit, it cannot contact the coarser worlds without an intermediate instrument. Hence it is obliged to clothe itself in some sort of medium of contact. For this very reason the Supreme Being himself cannot manifest on these material planes, or appear to men and give them instructions. A material body is necessary, in all cases. This again is one reason why a living, embodied Guru is necessary. It is the only way the Supreme one can manifest himself to man on this plane.
Johnson, Path of the Masters, p. 321

Now, gross, subtle and mental bodies are nothing but the shadows of the soul. The gross, subtle and mental worlds are nothing but the shadows of the Over Soul (Paramatma).

Gross, subtle and mental bodies are finite, have forms and are destructible. The gross, subtle and mental worlds are false; they are zero, imagination and vacant dreams The soul (atma) and Over-Soul (Paramatma) only are real.

Therefore when the soul (atma) with its gross, subtle and mental bodies experiences the gross, subtle and mental worlds, the soul actually experiences in reality the shadows of the Over-Soul with the help of its own shadows.
Meher Baba, God Speaks, p. 4

There is difference in the consciousness of souls (atmas); there is difference in the planes of consciousness of souls (atmas); there is difference in the experience of souls (atmas) and there is difference in the state of souls (atmas). Some souls (atmas) are conscious of the gross body (sharir); some souls (atmas) are conscious of the subtle body (pran); some souls (atmas) are conscious of the mental body (mind or mana); and some souls (atmas) are conscious of self - their own selves....

All these souls (atmas) of different consciousness, of different experiences of different states are in the Over-Soul (Paramatma).

If, now all souls (atmas) are in the Over-Soul (Paramatma) and are all One, then why is there any difference in the consciousness, in the planes and in the states?

The cause of this difference is that the souls (atmas) have different impressions (samskaras).

Some souls (atmas) have gross impressions (samskaras); some souls (atmas) have subtle impressions (samskaras); some souls (atmas) have mental impressions (samskaras); and some souls (atmas) have no impressions (samskaras) at all.
Meher Baba, God Speaks, p. 1-2

There is a soul in every human form, and that soul uses the lower aspects of man simply as vehicles of expression. The objective of the evolutionary process is to enhance and deepen the control of the soul over this instrument.... The sum total of these lower aspects, when developed and coordinated we call the Personality. This unity is composed of the mental and emotional states of being, the vital energy and the physical response apparatus, and these 'mask' or hide the soul.
Bailey, From Intellect to Intuition, p. 51

This physical planet, earth, is a negative planet - not necessarily evil, but negative, like the negative pole on a battery. The levels of soul and above are the positive realms of Spirit. The lower levels of physical, astral, causal, mental, and etheric are the negative realms of Spirit. Together they make up the 'experience' of Spirit. Within the human consciousness are the corresponding elements of the negative polarity: the body (physical), the imagination (astral), the emotions (causal), the mind (mental), and the subconscious or unconscious (etheric). The positive element of the human consciousness is the soul. Thus, the archetypes of the outer spiritual realms are repeated within the consciousness of each individual, and it is through knowledge and awareness of the levels within yourself that you move into the knowledge and awareness of the spiritual realms outside of yourself.
John-Roger, Consciousness of Soul, p. 4

The soul has its home in the soul realm. That is the realm from which it has come. In many senses, it is a stranger to the lower realms. And there is always within it the thrust to return to its home, to return to the realm of positive spirit. The soul incarnates in the lower realms to gain the experience of those parts of God. Coming down through the lower levels, it picks up the form or 'body' of each realm. Each form is heavier and denser than the one before. The physical form is the densest. With the physical form comes levels of consciousness that reflect the other negative realms.
John-Roger, Journey of a Soul, p. 5-6

The physical form also comes equipped with a conscious self (which gets up in the morning, drives the car to work, reads the newspaper, studies the reports, talks to friends, etc.), a basic self (which controls the bodily functions, directs the body in well-learned habit patterns, and much like a four or five-year-old child, asserts its desires and wishes upon the conscious self), and a high self (which functions much like a guardian, directing the conscious self towards those experiences which will be for its greatest good, having knowledge of the life destiny of the physical form and attempting to fulfill it). The conscious self is the 'captain of the ship' and can ignore or override both basic self and high self. For the most part the high self will act in the best interests of the soul's progression and evolvement; it will direct the human consciousness into those experiences it needs for its 'education'. The basic self will act primarily to preserve the body. It will resist anything that will harm or hurt the body or cause destruction to itself. The conscious self is the part that is most apt to get caught up in the illusions of the imagination, mind, emotions, and glamour of the physical world, creating situations that delay the soul's evolvement.
John-Roger, Journey of a Soul, p. 6-7

The soul, in itself, is both positive and negative. It is complete in its energy pattern. But, when it decides to come into a physical form, it orients itself more towards one or the other polarity. It may say, 'I'm going to come into the earth this time as a male.' The high self, then, who works with the soul, will go to the repository of basic selves and get a basic self that will be able to bring a body into the correct form. The basic self will begin to form the male body. The soul will embody, at the time of birth, into the form as a male expression, but its energy cycles are still complete within itself because the soul is perfect and complete.
John-Roger, Journey of a Soul, p. 9

The soul is a non-inflictive energy. It won't inflict against its false or lower self; it can't inflict against its true self; neither can it inflict against the false self or the true self of anyone else. The soul is all powerful, a spark of God within. But, paradoxically, it is probably the weakest part of your makeup on the physical level until you realize its true nature and its dynamic power. Then there is nothing to compare.
John-Roger, Consciousness of Soul, p. 3

The Soul in Human Consciousness (Continued)

Functions of the Psyche
Soul and Mind
Cause and Effect