Editor’s note: “Spiritual leaders answer” is a weekly column inviting Kaua‘i’s religious and spiritual leaders to share their doctrine’s perspective on a suggested subject. Every Friday a topic is printed inviting a response. Submissions are edited for content and length. Thoughts or suggestions for future topics are always welcome. Next week’s topic is nature. The topic at the end of the column is for the following week.
Baha’is of Kaua‘i
The soul comes into being at the time of conception and begins its journey towards God through eternity. Though some of God’s other creations also possess physical bodies, only man possesses a soul. The soul, however, is undeveloped and utilizes his time on earth to gain heavenly attributes.
During the soul’s sojourn on earth, it gains perceptions from two planes. The first plane is attributed to a heavenly source. The soul gains intuition, inspiration, creativity and “aha” moments that unravel some of the mysteries of life from this source. This plane of perception does not depend on the individual’s relationship with God, nor does it affect the progress of the soul.
The second plane of perception depends on the experiences and behavior of the individual. This earthly source can cause the soul to progress or remain remote from God. If a soul does not develop and progress towards God then his physical or animal self dominates his existence and his soul stagnates.
The following Baha’i writings provide explanations to help us to comprehend, to some degree, this most complex subject:
“If man does not become the recipient of the heavenly bestowals and spiritual bounties, he remains in the plane and kingdom of the animal. For the distinction between the animal and man is that man is endowed with the potentiality of divinity in his nature, whereas the animal is entirely bereft of that gift and attainment. Therefore, if a man is bereft of the intuitive breathings of the Holy Spirit, deprived of divine bestowals, out of touch with the heavenly world and negligent of the eternal truths, though in image and likeness he is human, in reality he is an animal; even as Christ declared, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ This means that if man be a captive of physical susceptibilities and be lacking the quickening of spiritual emotions, he is merely an animal. But every soul who possesses spiritual susceptibilities and has attained a goodly portion of the bestowals of the Holy Spirit is alive with the divine life of the higher Kingdom. The soul that is portionless and bereft is as dead. Therefore, He said, ‘Let the dead bury their dead.’ Just as the physical body of man is in need of its force of life, even so the human soul is in need of the divine animus and vivification emanating from the Holy Spirit. Without this vivification and sustenance, man would be an animal, nay, rather, dead.”
“The first condition of perception in the world of nature is the perception of the rational soul. In this perception and in this power all men are sharers, whether they be neglectful or vigilant, believers or deniers … the power of the rational soul can discover the realities of things, comprehend the peculiarities of beings, and penetrate the mysteries of existence. All sciences, knowledge, arts, wonders, institutions, discoveries and enterprises come from the exercised intelligence of the rational soul. There was a time when they were unknown, preserved mysteries and hidden secrets; the rational soul gradually discovered them and brought them out from the plane of the invisible and the hidden into the realm of the visible.”
Pastor Wayne Patton
Anahola Baptist Church
The first man Adam was personally designed and created by the hand of God, who formed him of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul (Gen. 2:7). A focused study on the most definitive biblical descriptions of the soul tells us several things about the soul.
First, we are immortal living souls. There are two realities in the universe: the unseen spiritual realm and the visible, physical world. The soul does exist and, in fact, we are living souls. We live even when our bodies die. (John 11, Matthew 10, 2 Corinthians 5). Second, souls return to God. The moment we are not living in the physical world housed in our bodies, we will be living in the spiritual world with God. (Luke 16 and 23).
Third, souls animate bodies. While the soul obviously lives without the body, the body cannot live without the soul. When a soul returns to a lifeless body, the body is said to “rise from the dead.” We are living souls, and our souls are “seen” in this physical world when they are united with, and animating, our physical bodies. (1 Kings 17). Fourth, souls are active. In the time between our physical death and our resurrection at the Second Coming of Christ, we will not be in a state of dormancy. We will be active and available to God. (Ecclesiastes 12 and Matthew 17).
Fifth, souls interact. Souls are aware of each other in the spiritual realm. They are able to fellowship and communicate with each other. (Luke 16). Sixth, souls have experiences. The soul is described in such a way that makes it clear that it is living, and for this reason, it shares some traits commonly held by physically living persons. It is possible, for example, for the soul to experience great joy and great torment. (Luke 16). Finally, souls are subject to God’s judgment. Physical death does not end our life. God has complete control over our true life (as a living soul), and our final death is not dependent on our body, but is dependent on our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. (Luke 23 and John 11).
It was God who gave us a life unique to mankind. Especially noteworthy is the fact that man did not get a soul but he became one, that is, he became a person made in the image of God.
Lama Tashi Dundrup
Kaua‘i Dharma Center
The idea of a self or a soul is maintained by the five aggregates of conditioned existence. They are a form body, five senses, consciousness and emotional reaction or involvement with these first three, which cause inclination or propensity to action.
All of this is the drama of karmic tendencies and the results of this activity of body, speech and mind is rebirth in the spirit world or as an animal or human. This relative or temporal involvement with one’s self or soul, with others and with the natural world is a loop.
The only way to move outside of this loop is though spiritual training of one’s mind as to it’s ultimate timeless blissful nature and discipline the body and speech so as to be totally positive. This state of awareness is our inherent wisdom quality, it is totally outside the loop of emotional involvement with what we think or believe and emotional involvement with our form body whether it be in the human or celestial realms.
Relatively, we are caught in this loop of painful rebirths. Ultimately we are not. The practice of a human bodhisattva is to apply these two truths relative and ultimate to all of the pain and suffering of beings caught up in the idea of a self or soul who insists on staying in this loop of karmic cause and effect. From heaven to hell and in between, and all of this is just drama.
Being outside the loop is called enlightenment or buddhahood. Try it, you’ll like it. the Dalai Lama does.
Rev. James Fung
Lihu‘e Christian Church
The “soul,” in the Christian view, is often spoken of in poetic and metaphorical terms because it eludes clear description. Yes, it is inseparable from the physical, emotional, intellectual part of what it means to be human, and yet it is the part of us that does not perish when our bodies die and return to dust. The soul is immortal. In death it continues, in a way that we’re not sure of, to exist in the presence and safety of the God that we worship.
We speak of the soul or the spirit of the person as the “real” person, the part of us that is our essential self — the deep, secret, mysterious part of us that is connected to God’s spirit. It is the soul that animates the person. It is the soul in which God has breathed life.
The soul of the person is the most precious side to our being. To relinquish our deepest values, to intentionally turn aside from truth and to do what we know to be morally wrong, to trade our allegiance to God for worldly treasure is to lose our soul. And to lose one’s soul is to be eternally lost. Nothing would be more lonely, isolating and devastating than that.
On the other hand, a person can suffer with declining health, experience professional failure and have not a penny to their name, be a failure in the eyes of society, but if their soul, their inner heart is pure and if they live in humility before God they will receive the blessings promised to the faithful. As one of the teachings of Jesus puts it, “They shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Topic for two weeks from today
• Will you speak to us on community service?
• Spiritual leaders are invited to e-mail responses of three to five paragraphs to afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.
• Deadline each week is 5 p.m. Tuesday.