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The High Self or Spiritual Centre by Raynor Johnson

The High Self or Spiritual Centre

In the opinion of those who have explored most deeply, there is a Spirit beyond the soul. Various terms are used to describe it—the High Self, the Oversoul, the Divine Spark, the true unmanifested “I”. I shall quote A. E. again.

“I am a far exile from that great glory, and can but peer through a dusky transparency to a greater light than the light of day. That greater light shines behind and through the psyche. It is the light of spirit which transcends the psyche as the psyche in its own world transcends the terrestrial ego. The psyche has a dual nature, for in part it is earth-bound, and in part it clings to the ancient spirit . . . While I could comprehend a little about the nature of the psyche, I could not apprehend at all the spirit which transcends the soul, for, as the seers said of it, it is eternal, invisible and universal . . . We cannot say that it is more within the heart than it is in air, or sunlight, rock or sea, or that it is more in heaven than earth. It is within us and without us. When we love we are really seeking for it, and I think our most passionate kisses are given to that Lover who will not surrender to us. It cannot be constrained. But there are enchanted hours when it seems to be nigh us, nigher to us than the most exquisite sweetness in our transitory lives.”

In Christian teaching no clear distinction is made between soul and personality, presumably because the need for it only becomes apparent when reincarnation is recognised. A distinction is, however, made by St. Paul and others between soul (psyche) and spirit (pneuma).

The Buddha, whose teaching has frequently been misunderstood in the West, denied the permanence of the personality (with which most men identify themselves), but most definitely affirmed the High Self or Spirit. He said little about the individual soul, but implicitly recognised it when he gave it the advice, “Be such as have the Self as your lamp, Self as only refuge.” “For one who has attained there is nought dearer than the Self.” He was not prepared to discuss Nirvana, but it seems probable that it is just this attainment of the High Self that it refers to. The extinction or literally “blowing out”, which term Nirvana means, refers to the transformation of the finite soul which disappears in Enlightenment into the great Self.

Hindu thought also makes a sharp distinction between the finite self in space and time, and the one true Self (the Atman) which is said to be the same in all and not divisible. The highest affirmation of Hinduism is that the Atman and the Brahman (the Supreme Being) are identical. The recognition of a lower and a higher self is expressed picturesquely in the Mundaka Upanishad: “Two birds, fast-bound companions, clasp close the self-same tree. Of those two, one eats sweet fruit; the other looks on without eating.” Strictly speaking, Hinduism would affirm that it is only illusion (maya) which leads us to recognise two birds: the first is illusory while the second alone is real!

There appears on the surface to be a difference of viewpoint between Christianity on the one hand, and Hinduism and Buddhism on the other. Christianity lays emphasis on the value of the individual soul as being dear to God. Hinduism and Buddhism ascribe no final reality to the soul, but only to the One Self manifest in all. Defenders of the first would say that to them it is incredible that the whole process of evolution could produce such noble souls as were obviously manifested through the personalities of Gautama, Lao-Tse, Socrates and St. Francis, only that their distinctiveness as finite centres—observing or observed—should be lost in the One. Why all the travail of aeons of time? Why, indeed, the process of becoming? Is it only for the expansion of the One? If this is seriously maintained—that there is only one Reality—then the world in which many seem to exist must be an illusion or unreal. On the other hand the defenders of Hinduism and Buddhism who defend the One Reality from which all things proceed, by which they are sustained, and to which they return, are in the strongest of all philosophical positions, provided Reality is not merely contrasted with unreality, but is recognised as existing in different degrees.

I do not think these two apparently conflicting viewpoints are really at variance at all. One is stressing the “form” aspect of existence and the other is stressing its essential nature. One is stressing the idea of the Many, and the other is stressing the idea of the One. I shall not pursue this theme further at this stage; it is dealt with in Chapter 8. The truth, I believe, rests not in the recognition of a One and a Many, but in the recognition of a One-Many.

This profound truth is reflected on many levels of the world, and when we rise above the physical level we must be prepared to encounter great Beings who are at the same time One and Many—to whom the term a One-Many can rightly be applied.

In the diagram I have represented spiritual centres to which souls are united as expressions of the one Spirit. Here we have one example of a Group-being or a One-Many. It might be described as a fellowship if this word were given much deeper content than in ordinary use, where it is synonymous with a free association of individuals having a community of interests. Here, the relationship is organic, and the souls are created and nourished by the one central sustaining spirit of the Group. If the reader asks what evidence there is for such Group-beings, I shall refer him to communications which I believe to come from F. W. H. Myers through the sensitive Miss G. Cummins. I quote below two passages which I think provide a guide to right thinking in this field:

“A spirit . . . which nourishes a number of journeying souls with its light is a thought of God. This thought is individual in that it has a certain apartness from its Creator, the apartness of the created thing from the One who gave it birth . . . These myriad thoughts, or spirits, differ from one another; many of them, nearly all, before they control and manifest themselves in matter, are crude, innocent and incomplete embryos. They must gather to themselves numberless experiences, manifest and express themselves in uncountable forms before they attain to completion, before they may know perfect wisdom, true reality.”

“A spirit manifests itself many times on earth, and it is the bond which holds together a number of souls who, in the ascending scale of psychic evolution, act and react upon one another. So when I talk of my spiritual forebears I do not speak of my physical ancestors, I speak of those soul-ancestors who are bound to me by one spirit. There may be contained within that spirit twenty souls, a hundred souls, a thousand souls. The number varies.” I have confidence in these scripts, for reasons which I have discussed elsewhere. A communication which came to me from another source has strengthened my belief in the conception of the Group-soul.

My communicator said:

“The souls of human beings travel in groups, and members of each group are inter-related and make a pattern. Discarnate and incarnate souls belong to a group. Though individualised on the earth-plane and seemingly isolated units, on the deeper level they share a common unconscious. In this sphere I am a member of the Group-soul to which belong [names mentioned], and in its higher centres certain mystics. These latter are no longer concerned with the world of men. But those I have mentioned are still passionately concerned with it. On the incarnate level you [names mentioned] and others belong to this Group-soul. When the time is ripe there has to be a move forward in the design or pattern.”

The Spirit which nourishes a Group is finite, but possesses great wisdom and knowledge. To its original treasury, potential or actual, it has added much that its member-souls have gathered through ages of time. Perhaps it is true to say that it has actualised potential knowledge which its souls have awakened through their experiences. When all the related souls have reached a certain high level of development the Group is a mighty being, a minor god, a mature One-Many, which can take its place in the Divine Society which governs our world-system. It is interesting to notice that A. E. supports this by his statement, “I have no doubt there are beings as far transcending us in wisdom and power as we may transcend the amoeba.“1 Few of us ever speculate upon man’s higher affiliations, probably for the good reason that our knowledge in this field is exceedingly meagre. Furthermore, it is only when we begin to think about mystical experience that we are driven to consider such possibilities.
The religious outlook, naturally enough, has to be related to everyday living, and it therefore easily makes the assumption that man—this aspiring little creature on a wayside planet—is the crown of creation, and of peculiar, if not unique, interest to the Maker of endless galaxies. The mystic, when he philosophizes, is driven towards a broader view in which the universe is seen as a living hierarchy, sustained and nourished by the Supreme Imagination.

Its divine life flows outward through innumerable great beings and lesser ones, finally reaching to the smallest and remotest sentient “particles”. This divine life is flowing forth, to return again ultimately to its Source in fully conscious, perfect beings, beyond our highest conception.

“The High Self or Spiritual Centre” is an extract from Watcher on the Hills by Raynor Johnson published by White Crow Books.

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