Souls?

I might as well continue on with this train of thought, right?  I mean, I already started writing about it, and everything.

When I was about 23, I was looking around online for people talking about what I’d, by that time, only heard about in my own family, and/or — possibly, it was a decade ago — either the Library at my then-University, or my World Religions class (if I’d taken it by that point; I can’t remember the year offhand).

The terms pantheism and panentheism, I came across while looking for sites on paranormal phenomena.  Pantheism (All-God-Belief) basically states that the Universe itself is Divine, but also implies that there is no God beyond the natural Universe.  Panentheism (All-In-God-Belief) states that the Universe is Divine, but that there may be something more to it than we can comprehend.  At least, those are my understandings.  Last time I checked, there weren’t that many books out on the latter topic, either — except for two highly academic works focused around Christianity, which were too dense for me to take in at the time.

Aside from an ill-advised pledge to a friend’s church at a wedding when I was about 4 years old (promptly forgotten except for the hell-and-brimstone threat which I thought would curse all of us unless I did so and everyone I loved did so as well), a fairly frightening time with a Children’s Bible (same friend), and celebration of the holidays (which I’m sure the big two of which — Xmas and Easter — it’s known are co-optations of pagan holidays [Yule and Ostara]), I haven’t really been Christian.  And, actually, given my experience, it isn’t surprising.

So, when I started looking for information to explain what I was going through, I wasn’t really looking for Christian sites or anything remotely having to do with Christianity (my experiences later in life via religious conservatives preaching hate against everyone who could have been mistaken for gay [with nearly no resistance or contest from any church I could see except Glide Memorial], drove me away from that possibility).

So, after I returned from my first University with a pretty severe illness (which the widespread hate was instrumental in triggering), there was some kind of exchange between myself and M where she told me to figure out who or what “God” was to me.  At that time, I was fairly mixed up, because I had a good Deity figure who I called God, but I was getting that figure confused with the Christian “God,” which (based on my experiences with his followers), I really did not like.

It took me at least three years of trying to consciously separate the two, before I was able to refer to my own Divinity as the Divine, and not have the Christian element being called in because of that deity’s title.  I’ve kind of grown out of it by now, but usually when you see me say God, it means my personal God (more than likely, not yours); when you see me say “God,” in quotations, it usually means the Abrahamic god (which I don’t capitalize as an honorific, because that god isn’t my god).  I’m more likely to say Deity or God/dess, though, than God; because of the loaded state of the latter term.

Doesn’t mean I have anything against people who follow any of the Abrahamic religions; I just don’t follow any of those religions.  It’s like calling myself a woman — it confuses and hurts me more than it helps, but that doesn’t mean being a woman is in any way objectively bad in itself.  I’m just trying to make subjective sense out of my life, and maintain my own boundaries.

Anyhow — I relate all of this because, when I was younger, the site that I found really spoke to me in some manner was a Spiritualist sect somewhere in New England…it was so long ago, though, that I’m pretty sure the page is either gone or has changed hands.  Doubtless, if it even still exists, the content has changed.

The significance of this is that it did start me off on a kind of psychic bent in my explorations.  It also let me know the only face of the Christian God that I connect with — a Universal Spirit.  When I use the term Spirit, I’m referring to a Spirit of Life, which in my mind is directly responsible for my (and everyone else’s) ability to be self-aware.

I have my own thoughts on the Council of Nicaea (which started Catholic doctrine, including the doctrine of the Trinity), but I really don’t have enough information yet to make any kind of informed claim about it.

I’ve learned from the leg of the journey that finding that one (small) Spiritualist website spurred off in me, but I wouldn’t at this point consider myself confidently “psychic” to the point of selling my skill to anyone, or showing off anywhere.  So, I guess it could be like the time in self-defense class when the sensei told us not to tell anyone we practiced, because then we would get people challenging us and wanting us to prove ourselves — which was antithetical to the reasoning behind taking self-defense!

Particularly, since I’ve really settled in with this last medication, I’ve been having less mental noise and variation than usual; plus, more control over my own mental state.

I’m fairly certain that brain chemistry does have something to do with psychic sensitivity, and may account for some having intuition come more easily to them than it does to others.  Having lived with a brain which was overtly ill to the point that I couldn’t care for myself, and one which is mostly well-adjusted, the difference is apparent.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of those “Sacred Madness” things (to the brink of death and back), only I’ve had outside help in getting it in hand.  I do kind of wonder what would have happened if I’d been in a society where there were shamanic practitioners who could have helped me (as versus psychiatrists to medicate me into a more normal brain activity pattern and teach me better how to think), though I’m sure it would have been much harder.

Anyhow!  I started out thinking about this idea of “souls,” right?  Do souls exist, does a lack of soul exist, is this even the right question to be asking to get a productive response…

When I was working my way through my upper-division credits at University (my second University), I often would take time to go to the Religion/Spirituality/Parapsychology/Occult section, browse, and do some reading.  (I’m really not sure that these topics were all in the same place, but I did seek out these books when I had extra time in between classes.)  I recall doing a lot of reading on Buddhism, because one of my aunts is Buddhist, in the Pure Land tradition in my country (she doesn’t mention it at all, though) — and I figured, why not learn more about my family and roots?

So, first two books on Buddhism down, and I’m thinking to myself, “it can’t be this bad.  There must be cultural issues (e.g. exoticization) in translating the concepts.”  Today, I am thinking that those books which I read first, which were all older texts…were not on contemporary Buddhism.  Nor were they on any complex kind of Buddhism.  When I look around at most books on Buddhism today, just about all of them start out with the story of Buddha’s “enlightenment”…quotes because we don’t really know what that means or if his ascent into nirvana from parinirvana happened, or if his enlightenment is or will be the same thing as your or my enlightenment…

At this point, a bit over a decade in time has passed between now and the time I first started researching Buddhism.  I do get weary of the Buddhism 101 books…though I suppose they are so popular because how are you going to learn about the more refined doctrines if you don’t know the basic foundations of all of the Vehicles…

…but once you do know the basic information, it isn’t so easy to net all of the dogma and trash it so that you can get to working on yourself.

I mention Buddhism because it is a key element of Buddhism that everyone does descend from the same source and that underneath everything, all of the natures of all of the beings in all of the realms are the same:  “Buddha-nature.”  (Quotes, because I hate this term and hate to use it, but then as people-who-might-be-Buddhists go, I’m not one who jives well with doctrines of metta or karma at this point.)  Because all our differences are at the (supposed) end (of samsara) immaterial, it is said that there is no essential self.  Kind of like I mentioned, in the last post — we’re at core, all the same.

I’m not entirely sure I buy into this, though, as it is admitted that something does carry on from one life into the next, though in strictest definition, this is just the net effect of past actions (karma).  This gives one the sense that they were other beings in the past, but it actually wasn’t them in the past, apparently — it was someone else who gave rise to one.  Therefore, the actor is mortal, even though the person they birth will think that they used to be said actor.

Given that I haven’t found a definition of karma that I can accept or fully grasp yet, and given that it differs from its original version in Hindu belief…(it seems to have morphed within Buddhism)…this kind of throws a wrench into the works of my totally accepting this doctrine, which means I can’t accept the entire system whole cloth.

My own experiences, as well, do not point to the nonexistence of spirits (small “s”; not the same as the Universal Spirit [who is the totality and essence of Life], but a piece or fragment of it with its own energy, potential personality, and volition).

I don’t know enough about any variant of Hindu belief to be able to guess about the specific beliefs in soul, other than the doctrine of atman (personal essence) in what I know about Hindu belief and anatman (no-self) in Buddhism.  So…given that atman exists in astika (orthodox) Hindu beliefs (there are a number of them), it would seem like transmigration or reincarnation of a pre-existent soul would happen between lives.

Given anatman in Buddhist beliefs (which, by the way, happen to be nastika [unorthodox] in reference to the Vedas — that is, they do not consider the Vedas [one body of Hindu holy texts] true), we have rebirth, but not reincarnation.  Death of the personal self is final in Buddhism, although something of one does continue on.  Whether that would be the same as one, in some way other than history and karmic transfer, is unknown.  It’s possible that when the texts say that death is final, they are referring to death of the personality and not of the essence (Buddha-nature) carried within one.

Gah.  Okay, I’m tired.

If anyone wants to help me hash this out, I’m open; but right now I’m going to bed.  🙂

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paintedstone

Haru ("Codey") is a second-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

One thought on “Souls?”

  1. I know that In taoism, death is not rebirth or reincarnation but rather continuation of spirit. But this spirit isn’t the “spirit” of the conventional sense. I can liken it to the type of spirit as when someone says “That’s the spirit.” Anyways, the continuation of such is through “change.” I suspect buddhism might have some similarities with the taoist understanding if one were not to take buddhist rebirth/reincarnation literally.

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