THEOSOPHY, Vol. 33, No. 8, June, 1945
(Pages 304-307; Size: 13K)
THE GROWTH OF SOUL(1)
FOR many centuries man has gone on in this Western World with no understanding of his own nature and no idea of his real responsibility, because he has been taught to a greater or less degree that he is a created being, and whatever soul he may have was donated him by the Creator. He has been given fear on the one side, and on the other the promise of reward for what might be called good conduct. The ancients, however, held quite a different idea of soul, and regarded man not as a creature but as himself a creator, with the power to make his instruments better, with control and guidance over the events of his life. They held that all beings spring from the same boundless, omnipresent Source, which is the root and essence and cause -- the One Spirit, the One Consciousness, the One Power to grow, without which at its root there is no form, however high or low.
So Theosophy teaches that behind man and behind all beings is the immortal part, known to us as Spirit. That immortal part is the moving power; that immortal part it is which requires experience. That immortal part provides all the powers, and in it lies hidden or inherent the law of expanding. The power to perceive, to act, to grow, is latent in every form. Whatever may be the nature of that form, and however low to our perceptions, we should know that it could have no existence except for the One Source, the One Power, the One Life within it, which causes its growth through the perception of external things and external contacts. The true meaning of evolution is the unfolding from within outward. It is through the acquisition of knowledge gained by experience that a greater desire for a better instrument appears to the perception, and then the soul -- of whatever quality -- moves on.
Even in the mineral kingdom are forms of many kinds with different qualities. The Spirit is within each form -- each expression indicating a certain degree of intelligence, and the intelligence of one kind differing from the intelligence of another. That intelligence has been gained, but let us remember that the root of all gaining on every plane of being is the power to perceive, the power to act, and the power to feel the reactions. In the vegetable kingdom, this power approaches a greater expression. The forms show very clearly a different texture, and in the higher grades even the rudiments of a nervous system. The many different kinds of expression in this kingdom represent a different kind of intelligence; every flower, every plant, every tree is soul in embryo. Coming to the animal kingdom, we find forms there expressing certain qualities gained through right or wrong impulsion, because in this kingdom are forms inimical to mankind as well as those that are beneficial.
Looking now to the human kingdom, we find something of the same qualities belonging to the three lower kingdoms. There are those beings with the static, immovable perception of the mineral, with a small round of perception and just as small a round of action. Others are of a vegetative character in their attitude of mind. Then there are those of a higher intelligence, a more open mind, a more unveiled spiritual perception. All these are growths of soul. If, as we now stand, having contacted many different kinds of thought and religion in our search for an explanation of the nature of man, his present condition and his destiny, we are prepared to consider any question whatever upon its own merits, apart from any prejudices or predilections we may have, our souls are in the process of further growth. True understanding requires an open mind; it requires that belief and preconception should be thrown entirely out of the mind and replaced by an accurate and intimate knowledge of self-evident truth, before the soul can grow from its present limitations into a wider and deeper atmosphere, a wider range of thought, and a deeper understanding. True knowledge is soul power, pure and simple. Even false knowledge pertains to soul, but it is not of the spiritual nature.
Now we can see the necessity of making a distinction between soul and spirit. Saint Paul makes that distinction in the New Testament, but it is lost to orthodox religions because any concept of an external God destroys the whole idea of Spirit. It is the Spirit that makes the form of the mineral, of the vegetable kingdom, of the animal and human physical existence; it is the same perceiving Power, grown higher with a soul that ranges far above material things, that has been through all our present experiences and passed on to higher planes of being, carrying the knowledge forward without a break. The Spirit in man is the Real part of him. All the rest is due to externalities and to impermanencies. All that can ever be kept is the knowledge which he acquires, and that alone is knowledge which proceeds from and is related to his own spiritual perception. The Perceiver is the Real in man. That is not the soul. That is the Spirit. Then there are those acquisitions of knowledge, of perception, of understanding, of wisdom which the Spirit assimilates to itself; everything that we perceive, every experience which we go through, all the knowledge that we may gain, is not Spirit. It is the Spirit which is the Knower; the things known are the soul. Spirit is the Seer, not that which is seen. Spirit is at the root, but observation and experience give us a greater and greater realization of the Spirit which we are. Soul is the ever-increasing perception of the Reality of Spirit.
Any kind of experience is soul, even though it is embryonic before the stage of self-consciousness is reached; that is, it does not know itself and cannot distinguish between itself and its acquired round of perception. The lower kingdoms have not the consciousness of the soul, and this it is which man has and which makes him different from the lower kingdoms, where perception is only latent. We, as men, can stand apart from ourselves and criticize our own actions, our actions in connection with others, our words, our principles, our natures, or anything else. It is evident that if we can do that, these things are not ourselves. We can criticize that which belongs to us. Nothing which belongs to us is, in reality, ourselves. It is our acquisition. So, looking at the soul as a means, a basis and a degree of knowledge acquired by observation and experience, we can see why we find ourselves in our present position. We have gained knowledge through forms, but all forms decay. This form we now possess had a beginning and must have an ending, will in time pass back to the kingdoms from which it was taken. We are not this form. Nor are we the ideas we have held, are now holding, or will hold. We are the holders of the ideas. All mental conceptions as to ourselves may be discarded. We are not the mind, which we can change. We are that which continually takes another position and makes another evolution. Thus, by realizing all that is not Spirit, we can conceive and understand the Spirit.
There is no beginning nor ending to us, in reality -- no beginning to the power to perceive, the power to grow. It always was and is and ever shall be. Soul-growth is not a material thing; it is a growth in perception, in knowledge, in the realization of the spiritual part of man. The struggles which we go through are all self-inflicted because of the ignorance of our own nature due to the false teachings imparted to us, accepted and maintained by us. We have supposed that we were just our bodies; that some Being gave us a soul; that when the body dies the soul goes back to the God who gave it; that life is a donation; that we are not responsible for our coming into life, for our capacities or incapacities or environments. We like to shut our mental eyes. We try to forget the great facts of existence. We try to live in the present and in our desires and pleasures, while we seek to avoid the evils we have so richly deserved. If life were only this, the only possible clue would be suicide and selfishness. But we cannot, as a matter of fact, think of a time when we will not always "be there" under whatever conditions. And as we always work with others, affecting them for good or evil, we must as spiritual beings make restitution in every direction. No one can do that for us -- not even those great Beings, our Elder Brothers, who know us, who have regarded our ignorance and our thoughtlessness, and from time to time come to awaken us. No savior of any kind can save the world. Mankind must save itself.
Among mankind there are many, many classes. We are not born "free and equal." We are not of the same kind. We are the same in nature, but we differ very much in degree. We may be the laggards of those classes who have existed in many lives with Those who are far, far above us and to whom we were not listening. Having ears to hear, we did not hear; and having understanding, we would not understand. Had we listened and had we understood, we would have already reached the stage of those Beings. They are souls grown to a universal scope. They know that the powers They have realized, in many are merely latent, but the only one to bring about the great perfection -- to finish the task set forth -- is the man himself. All that They can do is to arouse man to a sense of his own nature so that he himself will take action; he alone can do what is necessary to be done. Realizing the integrity of each soul, the laws that operate through all, They know They cannot change the course of man; They cannot interfere. Their souls having grown to the heights of understanding and wisdom, They can help others to see; They can tell men that such a way lies open to them; They can show the same path that Great Ones have always trod.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
MAN AND MATTER
All the facts point in the direction that the Real Man is in essence Spiritual, and has in the immensity of his past accumulated vast stores of knowledge, by means of which He has contacted, and is working with, what is generally called Matter, but which in reality is the intelligence and embodiment of entities of a much lower kind. His object is not to seek and make permanent a perfect physical embodiment for Himself, but by his contact and use of these lower lives to gradually give them the impulse toward self-consciousness, which alone can arouse to action the latent spirituality in all these lower intelligences.
HERETICS AND THE RENAISSANCE
I--CHRISTIANITY AND HERESY
(Part 1 of a 10-part series)
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(1) NOTE.--A stenographic report of a talk by Robert Crosbie.--Editors THEOSOPHY.
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