tagReviews & EssaysDivisions of the Spirit

Divisions of the Spirit


My thanks to Sylvia, my dear friend, and Scintillating, my editor.

* * * * *

Last year, I had occasion to discuss the qualities of love with a dear friend of mine, who was online, and to whom I wished to express how much I cared. I did not wish to sound too shallow and not convey what I wanted to by saying, "I really care for you" or "You're special to me." Nor did I want her to get the idea that I was totally overboard, infatuated and without reason by saying, "I love you."

Yet telling her that I loved her would have accurately conveyed the feelings I wanted to express.

With this dilemma, my friend and I, always open for a deep discussion, began to examine the feelings of love (the word, itself, being nothing more than a descriptor, a place holder in the language for the feeling). Discussion, of course, touched on the various forms of love as described by the Greeks and how we, ourselves, feel love. Is there really a difference in the base feeling of love whether it is love for God, your mate or your children or siblings? Or is the difference only in how the love is physically and emotionally expressed? The conclusion we made is that love by any other name is love.

A few weeks later, my friend had responded to a posting in the Delphi Forums about the human spirit and asked me what I thought. In between reading her post and discussing it with her, I thought that perhaps, quite the opposite of what we'd determined about the divisions of love not being necessary, we could, in fact, successfully dissect the spirit. Thus began another philosophical discussion that was started in December 2003 and concluded in March 2004.

The discussion began with a post, by Sylvia on a Delphi Forum on Dec. 9, 2003:

"It is my understanding that the intellect is a faculty of the spirit of human beings. It seems to me that your use of the word "spiritual" is referring more to the differences in expressions of emotions, as well as the degree of expression, than actual spiritual abilities (which encompass intellect, reason, and emotion) in men and women."

Sylvia: Tell me what you think of this, ok? It isn't a great post, but I hope it conveys what I meant it to.

Tom: I'm not so sure that the intellect, emotion and the other thing you mentioned are spiritual abilities.

Sylvia: Yes, I think they are, really. I will have to produce a few quotes from the Writings to make it clear I think.

Tom: I would rather think they couldn't happen without the spirit, but are not necessarily spiritual.

Sylvia: Of course they are... we feel love, yes? We think, right?

Tom: Yes

Sylvia: Is it purely physical, then, or even contingent on a bodily state, what we "feel"?

Tom: No

Sylvia: That is why I said it, because it is our ability to control and understand this that determines our maturity. I am sure though, that this isn't clear in my post.

Tom: But surely you know that there are more than 2 dimensions.

Sylvia: Explain?

Tom: You are saying there is a spiritual and a physical domain and nothing more, and since the emotion and intellect are not functions of the physical domain, then they must be functions of the spiritual. However, you are not allowing for other domains.

Sylvia: No, I am not saying that exactly. In the previous post Sam was saying that women need to allow for more than "just" the spiritual understanding of things, when the spiritual reality encompasses the intellectual and emotional, it is not separate. In the [Baha'i] Faith, intellect and reason are understood to be one of the powers of man, a spiritual power of course. This is the same for men and women, even with their differences. I didn't say it clearly enough though, I think.

Intellectual and emotional "domains" are part of our spiritual reality. The physical "domain" is but a vehicle for the spiritual, yes? Tell me more about what you think about other domains, please? How do you understand our spiritual reality?

Tom: Let's say that perhaps the Spirit is the name of the uberdomain. Then we have within that one, the spiritual domain, the emotional domain, the intellectual domain and the mental domain. Are there more? Think and tell me how you imagine the spirit domain (apart from being superior) is different from the spiritual and how is the intellectual different from the mental. Probably the mental needs another name.

Sylvia: Well, I would call the mental and intellectual domains the same thing, really... and let's say that the spiritual domain (for us) includes every level of thought and mental perception that we know of, ok?

Tom: No.

Sylvia: The physical is obvious, but our mental powers are not always so. [Sylvia reads my "no" reply] Okay, then what? Wait, I missed the second part of what you said above...I meant that we know of that WE possess, not that we know that exists. Okay, let's clarify something first...the Spirit Domain (capitalized for a reason) would be God, or as we know it, the Energy that created and fuels us. Our spirits, "attached" to our physical form until we pass on, or until we know how to traverse time and space (as 'Abdul-Baha also tells us that we can do, in other thread as well being discussed at PB) develop based on our efforts while here, in this "domain" as we know it.

Tom: Yes about the Spirit uberdomain. And the mental domain should change to the physiological domain or mental-physiological domain. That is the part that controls the natural automation of the body

Sylvia: You are speaking of the presence of both physical and spiritual in us, really. I do understand what you're saying, yes. Ok.........go on?

Tom: Yes, so then the spiritual is that which connects to God, the intellectual is obvious and the emotional as well. So what are we missing? Any other sub-domains of the Spirit?

Sylvia: Yes, but God made us in His image, remember? The soul, the spirit is what allows us to connect with the spiritual domains, the "worlds of God" of which we know little. I recall from the Writings that there are four kinds of love: man for man, man for God, God for man, and God for His Image, or for "Holiness" itself. I understand that to be the inherently loving Spirit. What other sub-domains are you familiar with? I see our spirituality as a capacity that we have, and if we nurture it, we are more closely connected to God. If we don't, we aren't. It is for our development that we are here, basically. *listening now*

Tom: OK, so you presume that God has only two layers or because the Old Testament mentions that we are made in the image of God, that (I can't follow this jump) there are only two dimensions? And what the writings say about love was (in the man-man aspect) was what we were discussing weeks ago. One love. You are correct, Sylvia, but it's not deep enough. You might call a table "wooden". But it has shellac, stain, veneer, fiberboard and screws.

Sylvia: What do you mean by dimensions? Yes, very true...so please share with me what you know about these dimensions!

Tom: What I said above. That you've obstinately been denying.

Sylvia: I didn't say that there are only two, by the way. Emotional, mental, intellectual, spiritual, you said above, yes? I'm not denying anything!

Tom: Do you agree that those may be sub domains of the Spirit band?

Sylvia: I do not mean that spiritual is a vague "otherwordly" sense... yes, of course, I do. But I do not use a capital S, because it is so only in us humans. We do not know how many more forms of Spirit there are, really.

Tom: Ahh. Wow, there's a thought. So can you think of any other sub domains?

Sylvia: The spiritual in humans is expressed through our intellectual, mental, and emotional abilities. That is what I mean with spiritual. As far as we know it to be, anyway. And of course, the energy that we know as God is Spirit. Not really no....you? This is like trying to define "soul".

Tom: The Spirit is manifested through spiritual, emotional, physiological and intellectual. That is what I was saying and you still put it all in the spiritual. So you don't agree with what I said.

Sylvia: Yes, I do agree.

Tom: Right, right. Why don't I believe you?

Sylvia: I thought you were trying to go further into our "spiritual" abilities... of course it is manifested through this physical realm as well.

Tom: Yes, our bodies are interrelated, necessarily with the Spirit, so things are definitely intermixed and show as such. Through the eyes...

Sylvia: I haven't actually thought about how the physical is intermixed with the spiritual, other than that it is the tangible vehicle for the development of our other faculties.

Tom: The Spirit. Not spiritual.

Sylvia: Yes, but we don't have dibs on the Spirit.

Tom: Without the Spirit, the body cannot live. And that may not be true either.

Sylvia: It is independent of us, isn't it?

Tom: We have discussed this too.

Sylvia: Not a relevant issue really, I think. Of course the Spirit is there, like the sun shining on us every day.

Tom: A piece of God, the Spirit, is "loaned" to us. My opinion, of course.

Sylvia: I agree, but I think we are using different words to say the same thing actually. Hmm. No, I don't agree there. We are given a spirit of our own, really, but without being connected to Spirit we cannot exist. That is really what you're saying as well, isn't it? And we are connected, whether we know it or not. We can develop that connection, become more spiritual, be closer to God, etc.... What do you think?

Tom: Yes, that is what I'm saying, but that piece of spirit is energy. The energy must be transferred when we die. It has to go somewhere. Yes, exactly.

The conversation began again, 14 March 2004 with an email by Sylvia:

"Hi there, have had some simplifying thoughts about Spirit and

our soul/spirit. "Mind" is another name for intellect, really. In my

humble opinion, there is one realm of Spirit (with many further

realms, I'm sure, that we will discover when we get there) which

in our human form is dubbed our "soul". We have "spiritual

capacities", but the soul and spirit of man are essentially the same

thing. In most holy texts it is referred to as the soul, not the spirit.

Let me know what you think. So we do already develop our souls,

or spirits, here, but we are designed to continue that development

after we die, or after our souls are released from our physical forms.

This is the growing place for our soul, or spirit, and that growth is


That evening, the conversation continued.

Tom: Right. So you were simplifying it again. Yes, it is possible, and has been done, to lump all the human aspects together (emotional, physiological and intellectual) and the Godly aspects (spirit and soul) together.

Sylvia: Ok, yes. But we do have both. That's what our "soul" is supposed to be.

Tom: But do you want to simplify it? We were separating them before.

Sylvia: I want to clarify. Emotional/intellectual/physiological is tied to the physical as well as directed by the spiritual. But the spiritual, the soul, is not dependent on the physical. It "separates" at death, and goes on.

Tom: And actually, I think I had said that there was the soul and the spirit, which has the emotional, intellectual and physiological, tied in.

Sylvia: So what is the soul then? If the soul and spirit are two different things?

Tom: The soul is that which is given us by God, the very essence of who we are, that can never ever be taken away. The soul will be us a million years from now; it is the eternal us. The spirit is that authorization (the key, if you want to think of it that way) that starts up the body and keeps it running. It is the spirit that incorporates and allows the energy to run the intellect, the physical and the emotional.

Sylvia: No, I respectfully disagree, and so do all of the Holy Books that have been written.

Tom: Tell me.

Sylvia: It seems that you are describing the Holy Spirit then. That which can infuse people, or the soul that can be receptive to God's energy. I think that soul and spirit, for us, is one and the same thing. But our spirit is set free when we die, so to speak. Then the spiritual capacities that we have developed here can function freely.

Tom: So there is no spark that runs us?

Sylvia: Yes, our soul. Our consciousness, ability to love, to be aware, etc.

Tom: OK, the energy (the spark, the spirit) goes away and the soul also leaves. The soul remains us; the spirit that made our body function is like meaningless electricity. Check it out this way: A CPU has a bios. [the processor] The chip, right? Has a bios. That bios determines the basics of what the computer can and cannot do. But the bios will always be the same. The electricity running through the bios allows the chip to control the computer. If the electricity goes away, the bios remains.

Sylvia: Ok, ok. Yes, good way to describe it.

Tom: Other stuff (body, memory) can be added, but the bios is the same and none of it works without the spirit (electricity).

Sylvia: I don't know if it is accurate, but it does describe the activity and energy of the soul, or spirit. To me they are the same. Different words for the same thing.

Tom: OK, I see your point, and I would tend to agree with you, sure, but I think we can go deeper. Is there an inherent problem with going deeper and possibly thinking there is a spirit separate from the soul? Two different functioning items?

Sylvia: No, of course there isn't an inherent problem. What would the spirit be then, if different from the soul? You've described it in a way, but I guess I've learned differently from the Faith.

Tom: Well, for simplicity's sake the spirit and the soul could be lumped together. However, these times of us are becoming less and less simple. What is it behind your eyes, Sylvia? What is the consciousness? When you lose consciousness, does your soul shut down?

Sylvia: Why does it have to be two separate things? The consciousness is our spirit. No, it doesn't shut down. I'm not so used to the word soul as it is.

Tom: OK, the consciousness is our spirit, right. The soul is still active. Always active. It has to be two separate things, because that is how this discussion is. There is the piece of God (the soul) and there is the life energy (the spirit). Let's look at it another way. Garlic, as I well know and you too, is highly effective in it's natural state. Powdered or processed, the enzyme (the spirit of the plant that authorizes it power) is gone. But plants do not have souls. The thing that grows plants. Spirit, not soul.

Sylvia: Ok, hold on. You're confusing me. I don't want to adjust to how this discussion is; I want to talk about how it really is. The soul is our human, God-given receptacle for the eternal Spirit of God. What we have been given. The eternal part of us. It's called a soul because it is part of us. Our consciousness, our spirit, remains intact even after death. Does the soul still exist after we die then, according to your explanation?

Tom: The spirit no longer becomes necessary, because the soul does not require the spirit. You must, in order to understand what I'm saying, you must slightly change your definition of spirit to not mean soul, but mean spark, or life, or energy.

Sylvia: Yes, I see, but to me they are one and the same. In the Writings the word soul is used, but also the word spirit, such as "the spirit of man" but to denote spiritual capacity, not individual. How can the soul no longer require the spirit? That doesn't make sense to me. Sorry to be difficult.

Tom: Why do they use two different words? What makes you believe that two different words mean the same? Did someone specifically say that in the Writings or in any other Holy work the spirit means the soul and vice versa? Did the authors of the works use them the same, or did they really mean too different things? God is the power of all. The soul is tapped into a higher power than that required to run the body.

Sylvia: Ok, wait a second. The soul is the spiritual connection between the body and the spirit. It is eternal. There is no separate "spirit". I just like to use the word spirit, sounds better than soul. What is spirit then, again? I should look up what it says in the Writings, really. I know that's where I get my ideas from, but am having a hard time being more specific.

Tom: The spirit is the spark that runs the body. The energy for the body, that which fuels the intellect and emotion and the body. The soul is the ultimate controller and the link to God. Plants don't have souls, do they? Yet they have the spirit of life in them the spark of life.

Sylvia: Ah, okay. Now I see what you mean. Ok. The spark of life, in fact. In other writings, it means only the spiritual part of life.

Tom: Simplistically, yes. It is much easier to lump everything together, for sure, but we want to get to the bottom of things. And if you were to go back and read those same writings with the definition of spark of life, I wonder if they would make sense or not at all. And that's where trusting the translators comes in too. So, for the sake of argument, then, we have soul and spirit, right?

Sylvia: Yes, we have a soul, and we are imbued with the spirit of life.

Tom: OK, so shall we continue to discuss the realms that we have figured are controlled by the spirit? The emotional, physiological and intellectual?

Sylvia: Ok. What is there further to discuss, though? They are connected.........

Tom: OK, yes, they are. But, I want to add something else to those three.

What if we added "spiritual" in there?

Sylvia: Well, that's where the soul comes in though. If we are motivated by a higher power, then we are spiritual, if we're motivated by just our physical needs, we aren't considered to be.

Tom: That is where another point I want to make is.

Sylvia: That's what spiritual qualities are for, to develop and learn. Yes, ok.

Tom: The soul knows what is up, don't you think? The soul knows us and knows the truth of God, perhaps. Do you think that is fair to say?

Sylvia: Well, it isn't a separate thing. It's attached to us. It is like the heart, really, made to know, to love, to recognize the truth of God. I still think we aren't seeing it in the same way. This is frustrating.

Tom: OK. I claim the soul knows, you claim the soul has the capacity to know. In other words, you say the soul does not know God unless we teach it.

Sylvia: Unless we direct ourselves to it, yes. It does know, but we have to show that knowledge in action, in life.

Tom: There! Yes, so we must have a spiritual aspect along with the intellectual, emotional, and physiological. Because the soul knows, but WE, the body, the mind, must make its way.

Sylvia: Yes. Definitely. That's what I do think as well, which is why I don't think we have a "spirit" that is separate from our soul, I think it's the same thing. Yes, right, agreed, definitely.

Tom: Oh, no. You just took us backwards.

Sylvia: I know. "The" spirit is our soul. The spirit of life, of God, is what we feel in our souls. Or, you can say the spirit as you say the soul, that consciousness. Damn, I want this clarified. Forget what I've said. Just go on with your thoughts, please.

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