Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's All About Soul

Soul is a feeling, feeling deep within
Soul is not the colour of your skin
Soul is the essence, essence from within
Soul is where everything begins
-Van Morrison
I've been doing some serious soul-searching of late. I do it regularly, about every seven years. I don't plan it that way, I've just noticed that it seems to be at that interval; interestingly, I have heard that the human body regenerates all of its cells in a seven-year cycle. So really, I guess it's like reprogramming the software for all new hardware.

I find "Soul" to be a curious word. Today, when we hear it, we mostly think of "Spirit," like the undying, infinite, eternal core part of us, our essence, which moves on when we die. But that's not what the ancients meant.

In ancient Greek manuscripts, including and especially those of the New Testament, the word that is variously translated as "Spirit" or "Breath" is defined as above, and the word is "Pneuma." (Breath, air, makes sense.) The word that English Bibles usually translate as "soul" is actually the Greek word "Psyche," and meant pretty much just what you'd think.

The ancients who took part in the Mysteries understood these words as two stages of conscious development: Psychic Initiates were those who identified with their minds, their thoughts and emotions, while Pneumatic Initiates held a broader perspective, identifying with their still, essential nature as Spirit. In myth, they are the lower and higher aspects of the goddess, Sophia (which means "wisdom"). In Christian texts, "Sacred Breath" is perhaps a better translation for what we now know as "holy spirit."

They each had an elemental baptism to them; Psychics were baptized in water, Pneumatics in air, or something related, like breath, or a kiss. Of course the other elements had baptisms, too: earth was for the Somatic (body) and the Gnostic (meaning "one who knows") initiation was a literal baptism by fire. In light of this, the many passages in the bible which talk about baptism make a bit more sense, e.g., Matthew 3:11. (Speaking of that verse, and of mistranslating Greek, the word usually translated as "repentance" is the Greek word "Metanoia," which means basically, "a change of mind;" and the Greek word "hamartia," usually translated as "sin," actually comes from archery, and means simply, "to miss the mark.")

So, at 35 years old, I have rejiggered my soul ("psyche") for the fifth time (once every seven years). In other words, I have been once again (as I have done four times before) reprogramming my Self to be the man I want to be. I have been immersed in water (the water, that is, of nous, or "mind") but the time will come when I am filled with Sacred Breath and fire.

And the good news ("gospel"): with the state of the collective human consciousness today, we don't need hard Initiations to rise to the next level; we can do it slowly, gradually, because those who came before paved the way, or forged the path, or burned the neural engram, or however you wish to look at it.

With time and training, we all can become Buddha ("Awakened")! It takes mindfulness, Right thinking and Right action, patience and humility. Simple enough, even if not necessarily easy.

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