Soul, Spirit, Heart, and Mind

“The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance on the strength of his own resources, to the physical and moral sway of the world. For this man needs the evidence of his own inner, transcendent experience…” –Carl Gustav Jung from one of his last major works, “The Undiscovered Self: Present and Future”

union of spirits2a

Those who have followed along with me here over the past few years know well that my writings often cross over a variety of boundaries between ideas, thoughts, feelings, and considerations of phenomena, all of which surround the central issue of the nature of human consciousness. While acknowledging the challenges represented in the many complexities of the subject, and striving always to illuminate them in as comprehensible a manner as I can, there are often times when even the most earnest and heartfelt intentions invariably result in the inclusion of my personal bias toward a spiritual or transcendent energy at the heart of it all. I do not shrink away from this acknowledgement, nor do I focus solely on this aspect of the subject to the exclusion of all the wonderfully illuminating science and scholarly treatments available in the general scientific, philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific literature of the day. It has been my goal all along to present as broad a range of information and theory as I am able, in the interest of contributing in a positive way to the worldwide effort to explain and understand consciousness.

The image above is a starting place for anyone genuinely seeking a greater understanding of the nature of consciousness, and the idea of “namaste,” can initiate the conversation in a most helpful way for anyone who might need a place to begin a serious contemplation of their own inner experience. Nowhere else is the concept of a transcendent aspect to consciousness so vividly alive and accessible, especially to those unfamiliar with such ideas, than in the awareness of a place where all souls are recognized as being one. That place in you, your innermost self or soul, when it encounters the same in someone else, can be a profound recognition of an existence beyond temporal, subjective experience. In the weeks to come, I will begin in earnest, the introduction of my own expression and synthesis of years of contemplation and study, in the service of examining and discerning the true nature of human consciousness, as I have come to understand it.

In a previous post, I wrote about how scientists at the forefront of modern physics seem far more willing to tolerate ideas of unobservable phenomena, inaccessible dimensions, and multiple universes, than they are to even entertain the existence of a transcendent aspect to our experience of the world. And yet, my own experience of the world points to the very real possibility that many such non-physical layers exist. Philosophically speaking, what seems possible isn’t much to go on, and actual subjective confirmation of my personal intellectual and philosophical constructs is only truly subjectively available to me, but even the most extensive and illuminating progress in the scientific realm has clearly required venturing, at some point, into the infinite realm of possibility.

William Blake Soul

“We are led to Believe a lie when we see (with and) not Thro’ the eye, Which was Born in a Night to perish in a night, When the soul slept in beams of light.” — Auguries of Innocence, 1803, William Blake

There are various interpretations of the four words chosen for the title of this posting, and while I do not wish to suggest that my own interpretation might be more or less correct than those preferred by others, I felt that it was important to express my view of what these words imply for me, in order to understand better how I formulated my conclusions. There is plenty of room for a variety of ideas in the world, and my intention in presenting my view is explanatory, and not intended to limit what these terms might mean to others or imply generally.



“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.”–Victor Hugo, “Les Miserables, 1862

Throughout recorded human history, regardless of the region or culture or time-frame, the notion of the existence of a connection between the events in the physical universe to a source beyond or outside of our direct perception and full understanding has appeared in their various mythologies, and also informed, to some extent, the whole spectrum of religious rituals of the world. Ancient mythologies and the earliest primitive shamanistic cultures devised elaborate explanations for temporal events that were clearly beyond their abilities to comprehend or explain otherwise, but even in the 21st century, where sophisticated scientific instruments, space travel, and astonishing technologies have informed us in ways they could not have imagined, we still have a sense of something beyond it all; the notion of a connection to some intangible, inscrutable, and ineffable existence that is at the heart of life everywhere. Not everyone feels this way today, but one need only observe the numerous philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and existential musings available today in every corner of the world to see that this idea is still very much alive.

Even when we examine the ideas being investigated in the world of modern physics, we see evidence of a context, within which a non-materialist view of consciousness might be formed. Quantum theory, which posits among other ideas, that the very act of observing quantum events alters the outcome of those events, might be a vitally important aspect of comprehending them. Indeed, if consciousness is supported by activity on the subatomic level in the micro-tubules of our brain cells, as proposed by Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose, then the appearance of and access to consciousness in humans may be a fundamental consequence of quantum effects, supporting the idea that our intentions, and the subsequent manifestation of those intentions in our conscious acts, may indeed have their foundations in the non-material or “spiritual” realm. Where most of the trouble occurs is when we use the word “spiritual,” or “divine,” to describe these non-materialistic aspects of our existence as temporal beings. In a most profound way, the very intangibility of matter in this context, is the very underpinning of physical reality.

For me, the soul remains the absolute description of and reference to the transcendent aspect of our existence, and describes that aspect of our existence as best as we can as temporal beings.


crisis apparition

According to the empirically-minded amongst us, now that we have finally progressed to the point where we can resolve many of the questions regarding how the Universe came about and to comprehend reasonably well the underlying principles of the physical laws which govern the universe we observe, whatever value the contemplation of other realms might have is interesting to discuss, but unlikely to yield much in the way of explanation of our fundamental character as cognitive, sentient creatures. Those whose emphasis is concentrated in the ineffable or spiritual realms tend to dismiss the idea that the scientific view could contain anything more than the physical facts unrelated to the transcendent. However, it seems likely to me, that a comprehensive theory of consciousness surely must include elements from both ends of the spectrum of ideas in this matter. Transcendence as a concept seems beyond empirical scrutiny, and the astonishingly complex workings of our cognitive capacities requires us to acknowledge that there is a fundamental connection to cognitive functioning with our experience of consciousness. That consciousness requires and utilizes a functional and timely integration of the various regions of the brain, providing a distinct and identifiable neural basis for its perception of the world is a fairly straightforward assumption that can be stated without much dispute generally.

However, No matter what arrangement of brain regions and neural networks result in the integration that causes particular conscious states to exist or to be perceived, and no matter what degree of neural functioning might be said to be the basis for gaining access to consciousness generally, all such states are accompanied by a subjective experience of that existence, and no explanation of a neural basis alone will be completely satisfactory in presenting a comprehensive theory that explains consciousness.

“Man has been robbed of transcendence by the short-sightedness of the super-intellectuals. Man’s task is to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious. The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” — Carl G. Jung from his autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections.”

What I have often described as “the Human Spirit,” is, for me, the juxtaposition of the transcendent with the temporal, beautifully expressed in its manifestation as human consciousness. This distinguishes spirit from soul, inasmuch as the soul is what is being manifest through the human spirit, and the spirit is the expression of the soul in human experience. They are, at once, separate and inextricably linked. “Spirit” is an abstraction which alludes to the soul, but which is merely the focal point in the temporal world for the expression of the soul.


heart and mind struggle2a

“The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.”–Blaise Pascal, in Pensees, 1670

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”–Leonardo da Vinci, from his Notebooks, 1508

The simultaneous possession of the qualities of fragility and fortitude, perfectly represented by the human heart, has always seemed to me to be a metaphor for the body and soul of humanity. For centuries it was believed that the heart was our center of gravity; the location of our intelligence; the place where all our choices were made, hopes created, and emotions experienced. It was also the repository for all our negative feelings, and where bitterness and disappointments could be found. Modern science has, in a funny way, reaffirmed these ideas, since we know now that there is an absolute connection to our feelings and states of mind with the heart, and unfortunately, it is also where the consequences of modern stress are often manifested. The heart is not a logical organ, but it is also not where choices are made, where hopes are created, nor where emotions are experienced. That is what we now know all takes place in the mind, even though each of those experiences, as ever, are felt keenly in the heart.

For most of us, at one time or another, we find ourselves filled with mixed emotions and confusion, and during these times, we often scarcely know where to begin to sort out our lives in the middle of it all. As I ponder the questions that face me, I can’t help but recall moments of serenity in the now non-existent past; its fleeting moments, its ecstasy, its believability, its brevity, and above all, its qualitative difference from the present. My mind slips easily into memory, pensive recollection, representations and demonstrative echoes of an abstraction more real than the moments of realization which dart in and then out of my daily life. More often than not, it pleases me to remember the moments gone by, though I dare not deliberately dwell on them. It is often in retrospect that I see what is held from my eyes now.

What compels me now to express these thoughts? I believe the answer can be stated this way:

I am seeking peace. My heart and mind and spirit and soul are seeking something inwardly peaceful. Until I succeed, it is as though there was a haze hanging over me, obscuring my vision, but not entirely dulling my senses…

….more to come…

27 thoughts on “Soul, Spirit, Heart, and Mind

  1. I love the meandering way you express very rich movement of soul here.
    As I age, I can’t help but feel that I am right where I need to be. For me, that is peace and contentment.

    Namaste, soulful friend!

    1. What a lovely comment, Debra!

      I have been meandering a bit lately, and while I cannot yet report feeling that I am where I need to be especially, it does feel as though my soul, spirit, heart and mind are fully engaged in seeking that place.

      Perhaps, that is all one can hope for…

      Warm regards….John H.

    1. Lynn,

      Thank you so much for your generous comment. I have to say that as I have aged, I have noticed that there is much in the world which seems more beautiful to me in a profound way too. Even the recognition of beauty in places where I already have noticed it, sometimes seems even grander still. I seem to notice more now too, the subtle beauty that often escaped me as a younger person. A long time friend of mine recently sent me a photo of herself in an everyday activity, with no special reason at all for doing so, and I was absolutely overcome by the beauty of the moment and of the image. It seems possible to me, that when we open ourselves without reservation to what we discover within us, we can’t help but see more of the beauty outside of us, and as a result, we are able to recognize better the depth of beauty everywhere.

      I do strive to express this depth in my writing, and to remain open to the profound beauty of life in all of its many manifestations. I feel blessed to have your friendship, and appreciate very much that you took the time to share your thought with me…..John H.

    1. What an unexpected pleasure to receive your kind words! As I wrote this post, you came to mind as one of the more spiritually inclined people I have encountered here, whose spirit resonates well with these ideas.

      In my view, as humans, spirituality is a significant component in the equation of life, essential to our understanding of the world and to our lives, and when we open ourselves to the spirit, amazing things tend to happen.

      Shortly, I will be posting several blog entries that address this attribute, and I hope you will visit again and share your thoughts.

      Warmest regards…..John H.

    1. You are doubly kind for acknowledging my work, and for expressing your appreciation of its gifts. It is my hope always to bestow these gifts enthusiastically upon those who visit here, and your acknowledgement is an affirmation that I have, at least to some degree, succeeded in sharing them. I have struggled a bit lately in my writing, and your kindness has given me cause to reconvene at that place this day.

      Warm regards….John H.

  2. Thank you for your blog. My favorite writers for motivation are Robert Schuller and Og Mandino. If we look for the negative part of life only. We won’t be able to see the positive things.

    1. John,

      Every once in a while, we poets and writers find a way to express our true feelings in a form or manner which resonates with other like-minded explorers. It is a very satisfying endeavor when it results in a shared appreciation like the one that is taking place today. Your generous reblogging and attention to my writing has brought a fair number of the members of the WordPress family to visit here today, and I appreciate your thoughtful invitation to your readers very much.

      There are times when we can lose sight of the value of our own work, especially when we are working hard to create quality content without much response. Your own writing has clearly garnered a degree of attention commensurate with the quality of the rich content contained throughout its many entries, and I am grateful to be among your readers also.

      Warm regards….John H.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. You have an impressive collection of writing in your blog and I appreciate your attention to mine.

      Regards…John H.

    1. Indrajit,

      Your thoughtful response affirms that my efforts to communicate this idea met with a degree of success. What is most central to being alive in the temporal universe, it seems to me, is that aspect of us which is incorporeal, and this recognition is reaffirmed whenever I come in contact with each great soul along the path of life. It is my hope that eventually the great majority of humanity will one day come to recognize this aspect, and that peace will flourish throughout the world.

      If you and I can meet in this way, even being so distant temporally, there is hope that each great soul throughout the world may one day share in this peace.

      Namaste……John H.

      1. Indrajit,

        I think it’s interesting that you are reminded of Clarke’s tale after reading this post, but I’m not sure if the story Clarke wrote could be characterized as a “spiritual romance,” as it seemed more to me to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of advancing technology when it is not accompanied by spiritual awareness and growth, and the “assimilation” of the more advanced and evolved children at the end, spelling disaster for the rest of humanity, always seemed like a pessimistic ending to me.

        I think it is completely possible that we can acknowledge and assimilate our spiritual nature into our continued evolution as a species, without having to abandon our humanity completely. As I see it, existing in a physical body does not prevent the development of our spiritual nature, nor does our spiritual nature fundamentally alter our ability to evolve as a corporeal human species. More to the point, it is through our amazing cognitive capacities as sentient beings that we can develop a keen awareness of the existence of a transcendent source for all life and matter in the universe. Our personal humanity–including our astonishing central nervous system, our sensory and cognitive apparatus, and all of the supportive and adaptive systems–could be seen as a microcosm of the universe itself. Consciousness is not generated by our humanity, but it is made available to us through our very human awareness of our true nature as both temporal and spiritual beings. In my view, they are not mutually exclusive and can coexist in harmony if we take the necessary steps to integrate them.

        Since our lives as human beings are finite, we may eventually outgrow our need to manifest in the physical realm, and while our physical and our spiritual natures are both manifestations of a universal nature which we come to know through our subjective experience of consciousness, I think it is important to acknowledge our connection to each aspect of our existence, and to each other.

        Thanks for your thoughtful comment….John H.

      2. I read that tale many decades ago but i do recall the end when all the evolved souls rose to join as one – probably leaving the less evolved behind – for the rest i agree with your thinking.

    1. Thanks so much for your visit and for your comment. I took the opportunity to visit your blog and your tumblr page and your own writing is pretty deep also.

      What struck me about it most of all is how potent your words feel. You are courageous in your expression of your thoughts, and your poems don’t reveal a shy lady at all.

      I’m glad you thought my post was worthwhile reading…John H.

  3. Perhaps the seeking of peace remains forever a journey? Perhaps we get poignant glimpses along the way, but never quite achieve peace as a permanent state. Although…. I am determined to prove the Book of Common Prayer wrong.

    1. It would be presumptuous in my view to suppose that any of us might be able to achieve peace “as a permanent state,” generally speaking, and while there are examples of individuals throughout history who achieved a great degree of such peace, like the Buddha and Siddhartha, most often I think we can really only aspire to such a condition, and to some degree we can approach it with the right attitude and lifestyle.

      I supposed your reference to the Book of Common Prayer meant to mainly infer that the principle of predestination is wrong, the idea that “all events have been willed by God,” and while the chances of locating such proof might one day be possible, it surely begs the question a bit as to how one might go about disproving anything of such a mysterious nature. Forgive me if you meant something else, but there has been a great deal of criticism in recent years of the ideas in that Book, and when it comes to such matters, even with such proof, it seems unlikely that it would be universally accepted, although much has changed since that Book was written, so who knows?

  4. Sadly I do not have my copy to hand but in morning and evening prayer there is a wonderful phrase about being granted the “peace which the world can not give”. I find myself wondering, often, whether that supposition is true.

    1. Some years ago, I listened to a sermon at a memorial service delivered by a family member who was a priest, based on a reading of the Gospel according to John, and afterwards, since we gathered together as a family, I had the opportunity to pose to him a related question to your reference of a “peace which the world can not give.” The reading was from John 12: 20-33…

      “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who hates his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

      I thought it was odd for a bible passage to suggest that we should hate our life in this world, when, from my point-of-view, the creation of life was a divine gift that we should cherish, and also that we should live our lives to the best of our abilities, with gratitude commensurate with the gift itself. Surely, we were granted life for some purpose other than to simply hate it while we wait for the end of it, and my cousin, the priest wasn’t able to explain at that time to my satisfaction, and so I received a letter from him some time afterwards, with a more nuanced response. He explained that the word “hates” when contrasted with “loves,” is a Semitic way of saying, “loves less.”

      “The grain of wheat must be buried in the earth and loses its individual life in order to produce new wheat in abundance. The man whose whole concern is to get the last ounce out of his life here on earth will find that he has ignored and lost the real life which could have been his. The man who uses his life not solely for pleasure but with the future in view will continue to live a much more happy life when he leaves this world.”

      The gist of the passage suggests that we should recognize that our life on earth could not compare to the eternal life which awaits us when we leave this world, and so we should look forward to the afterlife, and want more to arrive there, and “love less” our lives here. I suppose, should that be true, an afterlife would be more peaceful than any life in this world, and perhaps that is what the phrase you cite is trying to suggest.

      I believe that it IS possible for us to achieve a greater degree of peace in THIS world, that would be sufficiently gratifying to us, without necessarily being MORE peaceful than the afterlife, but I understand how you might reasonably want to strive to achieve greater peace in this world, and suppose that it might be possible to achieve a level of peace that would at least APPROACH a better degree, and give us solace to sustain us for the balance of our lives.

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