The ‘soul’ is most likely that which we experience and affirm out of sensation. But what is the soul? Is it not that which is alive in us, that which gives direction to our life? In it dwells an immeasurable greatness, but it is also constricted and driven by desires, attachments and fear. Yet in self-awareness, it searches within itself and asks, ‘Who am I’, ‘Am I eternal’?
Hermetic wisdom tells us that the original soul is an emanation from God, like a ray of the light of lights; a ray that is one with its original, but at the same time, individual. Just as God brought forth the worlds from Himself, so He also gifted the original soul with the ability to experience and participate with all worlds, from the highest divinity, to the lowest of dense matter. This is also why, since time immemorial, the original soul has been called ‘microcosm’, a world in miniature. In his Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, Max Heindel depicted the fields of creation in which the microcosm can reveal itself, and in parallel, its essential expressions of manifestation, which are animated and formed in the process.
When Hermes teaches that, ‘the earthly man is a mortal God, and the heavenly God is an immortal man’, he speaks of the microcosm, showing that man can be both mortal and immortal. If he is mortal and thus bound to earthly matter, then the microcosm moves within the cycle of birth and death in the stratum we currently inhabit, thus in the two densest cosmic regions. If he is immortal then he has freed himself from all ties to matter, and can realise his true spiritual self in freedom. He can then awaken in all cosmic realms, inhabit them, shape, develop and unfold them, in unity with all other immortal microcosms. Then creation is a common recognising, loving, becoming.
These are the souls that have realised that everything that is potentially possible, is laid out both within themselves, and outside of themselves. Devotion and power, tranquillity and agility, freedom and love, resound together: situations that we experience as fundamentally in opposition in our natural state, manifest in unity and are complementary in the new soul state. Yes, the original soul is one with its divine origin, immortal, all-conscious. It does not have wisdom or love, but is wisdom and love.
How completely differently I experience myself in everyday life. There are some moments when the greatness of the soul is hinted at, or figuratively speaking, the original soul takes a ‘breath’ in me. In addition to the expansiveness that feels ‘coherent’, the one soulful breath can bring questions that I cannot find immediate answers to from within my being. And there are many situations, events, and even people, I connect to, believing they may bring me closer to an answer. For is it not the case that we try to answer the great questions of our true being in our daily lives, however unconsciously we may act? And from my point of view, this is not a mistake, for only comprehensive experience can lead to the realisation of the answer.
Within me, entanglements and unconsciousness still prevail. But I am learning that even attachment need not remain an obstacle, but can become a step on the path. I am convinced that everything we encounter in our lives, teaches us something; all these events are connected to us in a profound way. The more important ones happen not only because they are possible, but because they are necessary. Then we see ourselves reflected back from these external events and experiences, because they are confronting us with those aspects of ourselves that we have not yet become aware of, or transformed. But this ‘mirror’ is more than just a teacher. This fabric of interconnectedness, where everyone is not just a companion, but act as teachers and correctors to all others, is a true spiritual unity. For we live in a great, essential unity, and whether consciously or unconsciously, as souls we are constantly learning from each other, as long as we remain open to this unity.
The key to becoming truly aware, is acceptance. When I accept that which I encounter, really accept it, then everything changes. Accepting what we encounter as our own reality, and being open and therefore connected, enables the understanding of all things from within. The boundaries that are erected by the ego, fall away. The soul expands; it begins to recognise its connectedness, its ‘sameness’, to everyone and in everything. Conflicts end, because they can only take root where there is separateness, where there is strangeness and competition.
The soul gradually comes into its true greatness, and many of the fears that once found fertile soil, disappear. One of the greatest of these, the fear of losing the physical existence, can only be shed when the soul releases all identification with its past, its ‘personal history’, and its attachment to the body, the belief that the body is who it is. It can only do this if it turns completely to the Spirit, to its divine calling. This involves a process of sacred solitude and emptiness, but at the same time, a conscious entry into the primordial oneness.
The Renaissance philosopher, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), who was familiar with the Hermetic wisdom of man as a microcosm, captured this in his treatise, ‘On the Dignity of Man’, in which he relates a fictitious discourse between God and Adam:
We have given you no fixed abode, Adam, no appearance of your own, nor any special gift, that you might have and possess the abode, appearance and gifts which you yourself choose, according to your desire and decision. The nature of the rest of the creatures is fixed and limited within laws prescribed by us. Thou shalt determine thine own without any restriction or narrowness, according to thy discretion, to which I have entrusted thee. I have placed thee in the midst of the world, that from thence thou mayest more conveniently look about the things that are in the world. We have created you neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal, so that you, like your own creative sculptor, free to decide in honour, may mould yourself into the shape you prefer. You can degenerate into the lower, the animal; but you can also be reborn into the higher, the divine, if your soul so decides.
Thus, the soul, as a microcosm, can decide whether it wants to locate itself in matter or whether it wants to turn to its origin. If it builds its existence in matter and transience, it becomes like both and suffers the fate of transience in its conscious existence. If it turns to its source, it acquires the conscious reconnection with it and its true spiritual being. After detaching itself from all concrete things, it merges into a state that is all in all.