I. Hindu/Yogic Perspective
- from The Complete, Illustrated Book of Yoga, by Swami Vishnu-devananda).
“Spirit or soul as such is the whole without any division. Mind and bodies, being the active power of the spirit which springs from it and brings individual consciousness, are parts of that whole. Thus consciousness or spirit, while remaining unchanged in one aspect, changes in another aspect into active power, manifesting as mind and body. In the final stage, the spirit becomes aware again of its real nature through the negation of the veiling principle, the mind-body.” (p. 14.)
B. Anatomical Relationships: the Five Sheaths/planes of Existences.
1. Gross Level (Stula)
a. Food Sheath (annamaya kosha). Earthly existence, birth, physical growth, change, decay. Decomposes after death
2. Astral Level (Sukshma)
3. Causal Level (Karana)
a. Bliss Body (anandamaya kosha): experiences of joy and happiness. Pure, intuitional intelligence.
C. Intercommunication Between Sheaths/Bodies
This is accomplished through chakras, which transmute information from one level to a form that can be used at another level.
D. Human life spent developing powers of each level, gradually moving upward to the state of enlightenment, when the joy and energy of the bliss body permeates the lower levels, and the lower levels function in accord with the Causal Level. Then, the individual realizes his or her oneness with the divine: Atman (Causal Body) is said to be one with Brahman, the Hindu divinity. Hence, enlightenment is sometimes explained as the realization of one’s own divinity. Even so, the individual characteristics realized in the lower levels remain, as does the Ego—only their claims to absolute independence are relativized by the boundless energy and awareness of the Causal Body. If the soul does not complete this journey, it re-incarnates. carrying with it the karmic consequences of its previous life as energies stored in the higher chakras.
II. Scholastic/Aristotelian (e.g., Thomas Aquinas)
- from Occult Phenomena, by Alois Weisinger, O.C.S.O.
“The body consists of both matter and form . . . Matter is an indeterminate substance without extension, it is a real potential which cannot become a concrete body save through conjunction with another principle of being, that of substantial form . . . Man therefore consists of a body and a soul. The body contains the material elements and substances of the earth . . . the soul is the immaterial part, simple, endowed with reason, and active; together with the body, it forms the natural entity man . . . This soul is, though of a spiritual nature, an incomplete substance and is designed for union with the body; it is only through the body that it becomes a complete substance. and it is from the body that it receives the elements by means of which it can develop its own spiritual attributes.” (pp. 4-6)
B. The Body-Soul Relationship
1. Physical Level. The material part of a person. Left behind at death as a corpse, a transient form which will decay.
2. Vegetative Level. Coordinates physiological processes. Mortal.
3. Sensitive (animal) Level. Sense perceptions and orientation, lower emotional drives oriented toward survival. Mortal.
4. Spiritual Level. Contains physical, vegetative, and sensitive levels. It is the source of their life in a human. All levels are interdependent, and are adjusted to each other.
C. Interconnections between various levels are never really explained.
Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that psychosomatic phenomena and somatopsychic phenomena are commonplace. A common scholastic slogan, “Una actio, quando fuerit intensa, impedit alteram” (If one act is intensive, it hinders another.”)
D. The human soul is a created substance.
It is also a fallen creature that has lost consciousness of its “natural union” with God. Consequently, the powers of the soul have been wounded and generally operate in a context of ignorance, illusion. and self- preference. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church teaches that it is possible through the right use of reason and conscience to ﬁnd one’s way back to a right relation with God and an experience of this natural union. These experiences are of a different order than those which come through faith. The latter are considered supernatural, enabling the human subject to know something of the Personal nature of God. and to love God in return. Therefore Christian mysticism generally assumes a relational context, even when the Christian mystic becomes awakened at the level of the apex of the soul, where one’s being is received from God.
III. Similarities and Differences Between Hindu and Scholastic Views
A. Both systems recognize-different levels of activity of the one soul. These levels roughly correspond as follows:
Hindu View Scholastic View
Gross Body Physical Body
Etheric Body Vegetable Soul
Mental/Astral Body Animal (Sensitive) Soul
Causal Body Spiritual Soul
B. Ground of Causal Body/Spiritual Soul
The Hindu sees the Causal Body as consubstantial with God. Hence, to awaken at that level is to realize one’s innate divinity. That art Thou; Atman is Brahman.
The Scholastic view recognizes that there must be a kind of natural union between the soul and God, for the soul does not exist except that it is given existence by God. The “level” at which the soul receives existence is called the ground of being, or apex. Nevertheless, a distinction remains between God and the soul. Hence. the scholastic would never speak of union with the divine as a realization of the soul's innate divinity.
Both systems recognize that distortions exist in all these levels which must be healed if the higher powers of the soul are to be liberated. The Hindu does not have an explanation for the origin of these woundings and distortions. The scholastic speaks of a Fall from an original union with God: an original sin, which is passed on from one generation to the next through non-love.
C. Both systems recognize relationships between the various levels:
The goal of yoga is to develop the various human powers in such a manner that, eventually, the Causal Body can manifest freely through the lower bodies.
The goal of the Christian (in a Scholastic perspective) is to lead one to a relational experience with God which serves as the context for inner transformation. Through grace, the individual comes to participate in the life of God, while remaining an individual human person (theosis).
The Hindu system links the various levels through the chakras, which are energy-exchange centers enabling information to be translated from one level to the next.
The Scholastic recognizes that the different levels are adjusted to each other, that they are interdependent, that they exchange information, but does not explain how this comes about.
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