The view of Theosophy on Atman or Spirit
“As a single sun illuminates the whole world, even so does the One Spirit illumine every body.”
– Krishna, Bhagavad Gita chapter XIII
“You consist of spirit and soul and body.”
– The Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:23
Spirit is who and what you really are. Pure eternal Spirit is your real Self, your essential nature, the highermost part of your being. Spirit is impersonal, formless, and not an individualised thing. There is not a different spirit for each person. Spirit is ONE and shines over all, just as the one sun shines over everybody on this earth. My spirit is the same as your spirit. In fact, there is no such thing as “my spirit” or “your spirit” because Spirit knows no separateness. It is what Hinduism calls the Atman, the Self, and it is literally one and the same in essence and identity as the Supreme Spirit, the Supreme Self.
Just as a multitude of sparks are sent forth from a blazing fire, so countless “sparks” of the one Supreme Spirit were sent forth into this manifested universe an immeasurably long time ago and will eventually return to the One. Each Divine Spark is one and the same in essence and identity as the Divine Fire but it has to evolve through the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the animal kingdom until eventually – at the end of its journey through the animal kingdom – it gains and acquires for itself a SOUL.
The soul, unlike the spirit, is an individual thing. It is a permanent entity (after it has been unfolded out of the spirit) and is the self-conscious individuality or Ego which incarnates and reincarnates in the human kingdom and beyond. It is the “I” of our being. It is the Consciousness Principle, the Mind Principle, in man. The soul is actually the same thing as the mind.
We should not make the mistake of thinking that the mind and the brain are the same thing because they are not. The brain is simply a physical organ and the mind is the individual soul which thinks and expresses itself through, and with the aid of, that organ. We have a different brain in each lifetime because we have a different physical body each lifetime but the mind is the same each time. The mind/soul can never express itself in its fullness and entirety in one of its incarnations. It can only express itself partially and the extent to which it does so is determined by its Karma and level of evolution and development.
The soul reincarnates but the spirit does not. Souls are many but spirit is essentially ONE. No spiritual philosophy in history has ever claimed that it is the spirit which reincarnates. Spirit never has any direct connection or contact with the physical form. One reason for this is that it is so subjective that it can have no direct or tangible relation with the objectivity of matter. The spirit is never within the human being but is always above him and “overshadowing” him, as his Real Self…as the ONE Self…as the Divine Allness itself.
It is the task and mission of the soul to learn and realise that in its highermost being there is no individuality or separateness but just the ONE UNIVERSAL SELF, which we call Spirit or Atman. To rebecome this in consciousness, to consciously merge and permanently unite the soul with the Spirit, is to achieve and attain Yoga (Union) and this is the great goal of all. This has been the goal and achievement of all true mystics and esotericists throughout the ages, both in the East as well as in the West, where this has sometimes been called the “mystical marriage.”
There is no excuse in this day and age for our confusing soul and spirit when the difference and distinction between the two has been so clearly and definitely explained and shown in the esoteric spiritual teachings of the world and more recently in the teachings of Theosophy, particularly the writings of H.P. Blavatsky. Once we cease to confound the two but comprehend more clearly the true nature of both, we can appreciate more deeply these beautiful and inspiring words from Sir Edwin Arnold’s poetic translation of the Bhagavad Gita, titled “The Song Celestial”…
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever;
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!
This is a copy from the article of the Blavatsky Theosophy group UK