Another rambling post…
In reading The Void by A. H. Almaas, my curiosity about the relationship of soul and spirit comes up again.
Soul, as that part of us that continues between human incarnations, the F7 and F8 levels in Wilber’s framework. Bringing this level into awareness gives a sense of richness, fullness, meaning, direction, joy, bliss and so on – all causeless, or more precisely not dependent on conditions apart from bringing the soul level into awareness.
It is individual, seems to evolve, yet also has the same essence across individuals. It has many names, such as essence and being.
Awakening to or glimpsing the soul level opens for nature and/or deity mysticism experiences. It allows for experiences of intimacy with all there is, of everything as God, of oneness and unity, of no separation. Yet, there is still an I and Other here, even within the unity. There is an I placed on the soul level.
And Spirit, as the Ground of it all, Big Mind, the nondual level in Wilber’s framework. This is the completely detached view, completely impersonal, allowing it all to be as it is. It is a shift in context, from a sense of I to a clear absence of I anywhere.
Soul, then Spirit, and the other way around
As Almaas mentions, some traditions – such as Buddhism, focus on nondual awakening and then bringing in the soul level. And other traditions – such as Sufis, focus on bringing in the soul level, and then nondual awakening.
Either is of course fine. And as this differentiation appears to us, it is just about inevitable that different traditions will approach the two in a different sequence and with different emphasis.
This is clear in for instance Breema, which clearly emphasize the level of soul, essence, Being, and briefly and indirectly acknowledge the nondual. It certainly makes it more accessible for more people, and the benefits are immediate and clear.
Soul awakening vs. nondual awakening
Yet, any awakening to soul level is bound to be temporary, unless eventually grounded in clear nondual awakening.
A soul awakening not (yet) grounded in a nondual awakening seems similar to the god realm as described in Buddhism – wonderful, possibly long lasting, yet eventually leading to a fall. Some of us learn that the hard way…!
If our sense of identification, our belief in the thought “I”, is placed on the soul, it seems wonderful for a while. Until there is a fall. Until that too goes away. And then it can lead to a suffering that easily matches any other form of suffering. We have lost that which was most beautiful to us, most meaningful, most blissful.
Only a clear nondual awakening is “stable” because it does not rely on any conditions within the world of phenomena. And the soul level seems very much within the world of phenomena, just as everything else. Bliss comes and goes. Causeless joy comes and goes. A sense of connection, fullness, meaning, direction and guidance comes and goes.
A Ground or nondual awakening allows any content to come and go. Bliss and boredom. Joy and sadness. Meaning and absence of meaning. Fullness and void. Guidance and no guidance. Everything is clearly revealed as absent of any I. There is an absence of any final or absolute identity.
Soul and Spirit
So bringing the soul level into awareness is more accessible and easily enjoyable than working on the nondual awakening. Yet, it is also incomplete, temporary, inviting to a fall – if a nondual awakening is not also present.
Working on a nondual awakening is certainly more difficult, maybe less appealing, yet also the only lasting awakening. And the soul awakening and development can – and will? – certainly continue within a nondual awakening.