Despite the secular nature of modern society, millions of people lead
a spiritual life, and more of them than ever want to strike out on
their own. The notion of self-exploration isn't novel, threatening, or
forbidden anymore. Yet how many seekers are certain that they are
making progress? Doubts and backsliding are common, because living in
modern times doesn't negate the age-old difficulties of navigating the
hidden recesses of the self. Distractions and false trails abound. I
would define progress more simply and clearly, however. You are moving
ahead spiritually if the following conditions are met:
1. Your soul becomes more real.
2. Your soul becomes more useful.
3. Your vision of transformation is coming true.
These conditions must be met in order to avoid self-delusion. If
spirituality exists as little more than a nice add-on to material
life, what real purpose is being served? Nice add-ons are seductive. If
you get to spend the winter in Florida instead of Minnesota, the
experience brings a glow of satisfaction, and much the same can be
said of attending a splendid Christmas service with its warm glow of
worship, ritual, and spectacle. But eventually Florida is over, and so
is Christmas. The soul, if it isn't to be a nice add-on, must be the
opposite: something permanent, practical, and necessary. As long as you
can do without your soul, it will remain vague and inert.
What this implies is a shift of allegiance. Your mind starts looking
for spiritual clues all the time. The soul hypothesis becomes a
critical experiment that leads to results. What results are we talking
about? The answer is a bit tricky, because there is such a strong
temptation to try and imitate someone else's soul journey. Millions of
believers model their spiritual life on Jesus or Buddha, ignoring the
obvious fact that life happens here and now, in very unpredictable
ways. Yet there is an answer. The results you are looking for consist
of anything that is the opposite of ego. At this moment, your
allegiance is to "I, me, and mine," and shifting your allegiance to
the soul must replace ego demands with something new.
Here is the basic contrast between the ego's agenda and the soul's:
1. The ego seeks temporary satisfaction, the soul offers permanent
2. The ego seeks happiness through externals, the soul through inner
3. The ego wants constant sensation, the soul provides silent peace.
4. The ego desperately wants to survive, the soul knows it will never
5. The ego competes, the soul cooperates.
6. The ego sees a world of lack, the soul a world of abundance.
7. The ego struggles, the soul awaits.
8. The ego seeks protection because of its deep insecurity, the soul
needs no protection because it is secure already.
9. The ego knows how to take, the soul how to receive.
10. The ego feels separate and alone, the soul identifies with
11. The ego longs for love, the soul is love.
12. The ego puts the material world first, the soul puts consciousness
These conditions for making progress spiritually aren't religious. They
represent a natural, time-honored process of growth. Many people who
have no religious convictions achieve some of these goals on their own
simply by wanting to mature and by going about life soberly and
seriously. They work on themselves without any outward show and over
time see results.
The soul is just a collective word for results achieved over such a broad spectrum that the effect is totally transforming rather than piecemeal. In every epoch of human existence transformation has been the goal, and contrary to cynics, skeptics, and
arch materialists, transformation has been achieved. This is true because the subtle domain of consciousness is real and accessible. But opening the door and gaining access can only be accomplished one person at a time. Nothing can be gained second-hand or by using ego tactics. We began this series of posts with a simple proposition: if you test
the hypothesis that you have a soul, you will be able to prove that the hypothesis is valid. The possibility for this experiment is open to all and closed to none. The choice that must be made belongs to each of us, and no choice is more important.