by Jayaram V
Spiritualism deals with everything concerning the spirit
or the soul: its nature, existence,
mediums, ghosts, afterlife, spiritual
powers, healing, angels, gods and goddesses, self-realization God and
so on. In the religious scriptures such as the Upanishads a soul is
described variously as the innermost self, the highest self, the
deepest self, the real self and the immortal self. Atheism does not
recognize the existence of soul. The Charvakas of ancient India
believed that beings returned to their elements after death and that there
was nothing beyond death. They exhorted people to make the most of
their lives upon earth without a care for afterlife.
Different Beliefs About The Soul
Most religions believe in the
existence of the immortal self and its close affinity with God. Buddhism is an
exception. It abides by the concept of anatma, or the non-existence of
an immortal and pure soul. It is however wrong to assume that Buddhism
does not believe in any kind of soul at all. It simply does not believe
in the kind of soul (atman) described in Hinduism and Jainism as pure,
immortal, universal, highest etc. In Buddhism the soul is more or less
a physical and mental entity or the individuality of a being, brought
together by the aggregation of various elements through chance into the
whirlpool of existence and perpetuated through desires and actions till
it achieves nirvana or complete freedom from change and suffering.
Some religions believe that plants, animals, humans
and even inanimate objects like stones, elements, planets and other
celestial objects have souls, and that all souls are the same in their
essential nature. According to them plants and animals have the potential to
evolve into human beings through their good karma or good actions.
Human beings may also potentially degenerate into lower life forms, if
the indulge in evil actions and mortal sins. Practitioners of occultism describe the soul as having made of
the finest particles of energy, finer than the subatomic particles,
which resonate at a much higher frequency and radiate higher energy.
The fifth element ether (the other elements are fire, water, air and
earth) is associated with the soul. Its physical
manifestation is the sky or the space and it acts as the medium for
sound. Hence many religions rely upon prayers, mantras and other sacred chants to reach out to
God or gods.
According to the Hindu scriptures, atman or the soul is smaller
than the smallest and the larger than the largest. It is essentially
same as Brahman, the highest Universal Self. It exists in human beings like a flame of the size of the
thumb somewhere in the heart region. It
cannot be grasped by the mind or the senses. It is swifter than them
and always ahead of them. It is also described as the subjective
consciousness or witness consciousness, different from the body and the
mind and the egoistic self. By meditating upon it one gains immortality
and union with the the Highest Self. In human beings we can see
its reflection in the buddhi or conscientious intelligence. Knowledge
of the self is considered the highest knowledge, which liberates as
well elevates the individual beings from bondage to the earthly life.
Soul and God
According to most religions, the soul is a
representative aspect of God, having or reflecting all His essential
qualities and powers. Some schools of Hinduism believe that God created
numerous individual souls at the beginning of creation. According to other schools, the
individual souls have never been created. They are without a beginning and without
an end and exist along with God eternally. Their number is believed to
be fixed. More or less, a similar
concept is held by other religions like Jainism, Zoroastrianism,
Christianity and Islam. There are believed to be different types of souls, depending upon their level of awareness and
nearness to God. The deluded souls are bound to the cycle of births and
deaths and liberated only when they become aware of their true nature.
According to Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism, after death the souls live
eternally either in heaven or in hell depending upon their actions and
allegiance to God. According to Hinduism,
Jainism, heaven and hell are temporary residences for souls in their
long journey towards liberation. Till they are completely liberated they keep returning to
the earth from these worlds after exhausting their good or bad
What Does the Practice of Spiritualism Mean?
The practice of spiritualism means many things to
many people. It covers a broad range of practices of which some are
intensely evil and some are radiantly divine. Like any other branch of
knowledge, spiritualism can be used both for good and evil purposes.
Many people are drawn into it because of the immense powers and
miraculous experiences it promises to bestow upon its practitioners.
The truth is one should become involved with spiritual life for exactly the
opposite reason. Spiritualism is for those who want to transcend
the physical, the mental and the material things so that they can fix
their minds upon God or their inner selves. It not for those who
want to use it as the means to enhance their own power or prestige or amass more
wealth or attract men or women or harm others. Through spiritualism we come
know our true
nature, transcend our individual egos and selfishness and find our
ultimate connection with the rest of creation. This is
possible only when we learn to control our minds and bodies and become
detached from the objective world.
A Truly Spiritual Person
The thought of a spiritual person conjures up in our
of gurus, saints, yogis, mendicants, rishis, Jinas, Sufis, fakirs,
monks and so on. While this is true to a great extent, what is
more important for the
practice of spiritualism is moral purity and the attitude of inwardness
rather than obsession with the outward rituals or physical appearance. A person may wear orange robes but
inwardly may be hankering after worldly desires. Another person may be
living like an ordinary householder and yet may be virtuous and deeply spiritual.
So one should not be deceived by outward appearances or the mere words
and speeches of spiritual gurus. One should look at their general
behavior and what they are trying to do. A truly spiritual person is one who:
1. Believes in the existence of Soul or innermost
2. Accepts it as his true Self.
3. Identifies himself with it all the time.
4. Lives and acts as if he is the Self, not his mind
5. Dwells deep within himself to understand the true
nature of his existence.
6. Does not see any difference between himself and
the rest of the creation.
7. Is morally pure.
8. Disinterested in showing off his spiritual powers
for personal popularity.
A spiritual person does not have to believe in God.
But he should believe in himself and his spiritual nature. He
should lead a virtuous life. He should know how to control his mind and
body and remain free from the temptations of life. He should know how to
withdraw from his senses and remain
centered in his self all the time. He should remain mentally stable
under all circumstances by cultivating detachment from the
things and attractions of the world. He should learn to overcome the
limitations and weaknesses of his lower nature, by practicing virtue
and identifying himself with his inner Self. If we set aside all the
complexities and dogmas associated with the subject, spiritualism
is simply believing, thinking, acting and living like an immortal
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