Religious leaders and seekers of the Truth often speak of spirituality and commonly use the term "spirit". In the various essays of this book, too, readers will constantly encounter the word "spirit" and especially the expression "human spirit", which refers to the real human being and not the physical body.
The word "spirit" confuses many, since it belongs to the realm of the beyond, i.e. the physically intangible. And since everything that belongs to this realm remains only a fuzzy picture, out of which all the distortions in the present day religions have arisen, so also is the very interpretation of just this particular word!
On the one hand, "spirit" is understood as something to be feared, as belonging to the realm of ghosts and demons. Superstitions and myths have thus been built around this particular interpretation. As a result, many now shy away whenever the word "spirit" is mentioned for, in their minds, it conjures up visions of hauntings along with the most fantastic ideas, which have only been further exacerbated by horror stories and films.
Hence the few people who do actually believe in life after death tend to develop fear at the very mention of this word. But fear is unnatural according to the Laws of Creation. It can develop only when a human being has no real spiritual Knowledge of Creation, when his faith in God and His Laws is lacking. Consequently a quite unnecessary burden arises through fostering these unhealthy superstitions.
And yet, on the other hand, we find another totally different interpretation of the word "spirit"! For instance, the expression "to be rich in spirit" is commonly interpreted as having a strong intellect or a high quality of education. Hence those who have had a wide variety of world-experiences and who are well-versed in various professional fields are regarded as being rich in spirit, when in fact many of them are not in any way spiritual.
And finally, the word "spirit" is also associated with "spiritism", with "occult practices", shamanism, mysticism, psychic experiments as well as adherence to a definite religion. Those who dabble in one or more of these fields are considered highly spiritual and advanced, since they are able to access realms that are closed off to those who are more "down to earth".
But the term "spirit" refers to none of these various designations. In order to gain an understanding of what "spirit" refers to, it is important for us to put aside all preconceived notions that we have gained over the years.
In short: spirit is the living, animating core within each of us, the driving force behind all that we think, say and do.
The Sanskrit word "atman" also refers to this same motivating core that drives every one of our actions. But the particular definition given here is explained far more clearly in a very special book, "In the Light of Truth", The Grail Message, which conveys to mankind a new Knowledge of Creation.
Every action, either impulsive (involuntary) or premeditated (voluntary), is first and foremost willed by the spirit before it is channelled through the various connections that allow it to manifest in this physical world (or World of Matter). The volition behind our thoughts, words and deeds originates in this spiritual core of consciousness and not really from the brain, which latter is what science believes. There is not a single thing we do that is not derived from this. We are first and foremost spiritual beings, incarnated on earth for the purpose of learning, maturing and perfecting ourselves.
The spirit within us is our real self! And yet, when confronted with this question, "what is 'spirit'?", very few will think to answer: "it is I, myself, my true being"! However, only this interpretation of the word "spirit" is correct, and it alone provides the answers to all the questions of life. To know that the spirit or the atman is one's own true self is the first stage of spiritual enlightenment.
The spirit dons the body like a "garment" or a "cloak" at birth (incarnation) and lays it aside at death. Hence the spirit works through the physical body during its earth-life, which it needs in order to mature and develop to perfection. Once the spirit has attained this goal, it can then return to its high luminous origins where it continues to work in peace and harmony with others who have done the same.
The ancient Indian people - and the Orientals in general - have long since had the teachings of "karma". These teachings are slowly spreading throughout the Western world, bringing enlightenment to many. Regarding karma, we see its manifestations everywhere, most especially in the nature of the suffering or the blessing that we receive from time to time. And all karma is a consequence of what we have previously "spiritually willed".
Karma therefore has its origin in our spirit and not in the physical body. A part of our karma manifests during our life on earth either directly in the physical body or through the circumstances that we are compelled to live in, e.g. in our families, in our jobs and in our immediate surroundings in general. But despite this, karma is not a physical thing; it only manifests on the physical plane. Its true origin lies in the spiritual core of the human being who forms his destiny through sowing seeds of all kinds in thought, word and deed.
Through the body, the spirit sows those seeds that eventually grow into our karmaic harvest. Therefore it is not the body that makes the decisions. It is really the spirit that does so, and that is why karmaic fruits can return to us even in subsequent earth-lives.
We will examine some of these concepts in later essays, which will hopefully give a clearer picture of the matter. For now, we should try to intuitively absorb and understand the simple concept of "spirit".
Spirit is of a substance that is totally alien to anything material. The spirit cannot be found in matter, because its inherent nature and consistency are completely different from that of matter. Spirit originates in the higher realms of the beyond; it is pure and immortal in its primeval form.
However, spirit or atman has the capacity to form and shape its material environment by exerting a pressure on it, i.e. through the volition, which may be premeditated or unpremeditated. It is able to direct the process of movement in its surroundings, and in this way it animates the physical body that it inhabits.
Thus, while it may seem as if our physical bodies perform all the actions as directed by the brain, everything really originates within the spirit! Even the brain is merely a "tool" of the spirit, an implement, which the spirit uses to analyse and absorb the experiences of the material world as well as control the body processes in the material world. Yet it is the spirit that makes the decisions, and therefore spirit alone is the source of the much-praised "free will". Everything that is willed by the spirit is channelled to the brain before the latter converts it to deed through the physical body. The brain is merely a tool, an "interpreter" of commands that have their true origin in the spirit.
The preceding words mention the "free will" of man. For thousands of years, man has always wondered what really is this free will, when it appears that so many people are victims of a seemingly unjust fate that they have been unable to control. But those who are familiar with the Law of Karma are more fortunate in this regard, because they are able to recognise the perfect Justice of God operating therein.
The ability to make decisions is given to us in the free will. It is part of the very spiritual core that we bear within ourselves. We can make decisions that influence and direct ourselves as well as our environment. These decisions can be either upbuilding or damaging. But whatever we do in Creation eventually returns to us so that we may fully experience whether what we did was upbuilding or destructive. Hence everything we do only really affects ourselves! Through this mechanism we learn and mature spiritually so that in the future we will do only that which is peaceful and upbuilding. In this way, making genuine mistakes and recognising them aright can certainly help us on our spiritual path, even though the guilt of such mistakes may often bring us some heavy suffering.
To make mistakes and learn from them is not wrong, but an automatic and simple process, which all human beings must follow for the purpose of maturation in Creation. In this lie the answers to all questions, both great and small. Therefore just this level of knowledge is sufficient for most seekers to begin their path towards spiritual enlightenment.
It is only through the process of spiritual experiencing and learning that the originally undeveloped spirit of man becomes a complete personality in Creation, a fully developed being who completely lives in the knowledge of God's Perfection. To attain this level of development, man needs the free will to make the decisions. But when he has reached the highest heights, he will perform only those kinds of deeds that are beneficial to all Creation. At this stage, he has achieved the goal of his existence.
The free will is therefore an integral quality of the spirit. The ability to make personal choices that influence and direct Creation is what constitutes a spiritual being. The animal lacks this ability, because its level of influence is simply within its immediate ecosystem. The animal lives on the impulse, in its struggle to survive. The human being, however, lives and experiences all his personal decisions, of which many are made with every passing hour.
Those who are genuinely striving towards spiritual enlightenment will easily understand what is stated here, because these are simple and quite logical concepts. But as we delve further into these concepts, we will also recognise another attribute that goes hand in hand with the free will as a balancing force for the ability to make decisions.
This balancing force is the "intuitive perception", which ensures that the spirit has all the help it needs in order to make the right decisions in any situation, so that it does not unnecessarily burden itself karmaically through any wrong choices.
The intuitive perception or the intuition, like the free will, is part of the human spirit, and cannot be separated from it! Man is fully equipped to properly choose his path in Creation, as long as he takes the trouble to listen carefully to his intuition. It is therefore important that his ability to make decisions is guided by his intuition and not by his intellect, i.e. his brain, which latter is only meant to be a tool or an implement that transforms what has already been decided by the spirit into a visible deed.
We will shortly examine this working. But, for now, let us simply understand the spirit or the atman as the innermost core within the real human being!
Copyright (c) 2005, R. M. Duraisamy. Reproduced with permission of R. M. Duraisamy. www.indianseekers.com