Nov 26, 1995 06:09 PM
WAKING UP TO LIFE
or It may not be Auntie Lulu
The Human Trinity
We all tend to think of ourselves as single unique individuals
and essentially this is true. What we may be mostly unaware of
is that our human nature during our passage through this world
of time and space is a composite of three basic natures only one
of which may be regarded as the essential "I" for each one of us.
Religion has classified this threefold nature as consisting of
body soul and spirit which is as convenient a way as any to
think of it. The way in which these terms are used here may not
coincide with the orthodox religious view but it is one which
may be verified by experience whereas much of the religious
thought properly belongs in the realm of philosophy which in its
practical expression is more concerned with ideas and hypotheses
than with verifiable experience.
Firstly then let us consider each of these three categories
separately. The human body is an incredibly complex mechanism
and modern science has discovered things about it and its compo-
nents which make miracles look like party tricks. This has led
some people to regard the totality of the human being as no more
than an incredibly complex and wonderful expression of our multi-
miracled physical nature.
Body is composed as most of us know of this extraordinary
complicated arrangement of flesh bones blood and nerves all
of which are fed in various and often subtle ways. Mostly
however it is self-regulating and once we have taught it to
walk and talk we can safely rely on it to take us to and from
the places we wish to visit be it the kitchen or some far
country on the other side of the globe.
Stop for a moment and consider your own body. Are you your legs?
Your arms? Your liver? Hair ears eyes? Very simple observation
makes it immediately apparent that you are none of these things.
Are you any two three or four of them bundled together? Clearly
not. Why then should we suppose that however we add up the
various physical components of the human body its totality of
parts adds up to being you or me or anyone else?
So though we may each individually be genuinely unique in that
I am not you and you are not me we are clearly not our bodies.
We have bodies it is true and perhaps because no two bodies are
identical in every respect not even in the case of "identical"
twins we tend easily to identify with them. When a friend or
loved one dies we speak of their remains being disposed of in
personal terms. We say that so-and-so using his or her name has
been burned or cremated but this is not true it IS only their
REMAINS that have been so treated. They are demonstrably no
Body then may be regarded as an incredible and wonderful
machine by means of which we are able to move about and experi-
ence the world but that is all it is. It is not us but a
valuable possession which serves us as well as it can but only
for our natural life span in the world. To use a modern term its
"shelf life" rarely exceeds a hundred years.
Soul is often regarded as being the essential immortal or
eternal part of our nature which we can clearly and truly
identify as "I". Unfortunately the term "Spirit" is also used in
the same way by different people so that it is essential to
understand the way in which the use of the word soul is employed
Mystics psychics and others have for a long time spoken about
a second "body" of an "etherial" nature which has also been
given various names such as the "astral" or "etheric" body. That
such a FORM to distinguish it from our use of "body" exists is
virtually undeniable. To people who have had conscious experience
of it its existence it is totally undeniable!
Quite ordinary people have had what is called the "Out of the
body" experience so our testimony does not depend upon the
witness of mystics and psychics alone. Under ordinary circum-
stances this subtle form may indeed be regarded as analogous to
a second "body" but there is more to it than just this function.
In appearance it is often described as a kind of misty replica
of the physical with which it normally coincides and
interpenetrates. The out of the body experience occurs when
someone wakes up in this subtle form at a time when this
coincidence of place is not happening. The most startling
experience to have is to be in this condition and from it to be
able to look at one's own physical body lying asleep in the bed
breathing away as usual - snoring even - and to realise that you
are not in it but somewhere outside it in another state of
This other state of being where we exist in this subtle form in-
dependently of the physical is what is meant here by "soul". Or
rather the subtle form itself is "soul". Because of the confusion
in many people's minds between the terminology of soul and
spirit we shall use a term which is in fact found throughout the
Hebrew scriptures the "Old Testament". The reason for using
this term NEPHESH is that this seems to have been precisely
what it meant to the ancient Hebrews. When we read the English
word "soul" in our translations of the books of the Hebrew
scriptures we are almost certainly reading a translation of this
This subtle form this Nephesh or soul appears to subsist for
a time after the death of the physical body but is essentially
linked to it during earthly life and is possibly another energy
source for the physical. This subtle form the Nephesh separates
from the physical to a greater or lesser degree during sleep.
When a person separates some distance from the physical in this
state and then wakes up then this is when we experience one
form of the out of the body experience. Under normal everyday
circumstances however the two "bodies" - the physical and the
Nephesh - clearly work in tandem. The Eastern system of "chakras"
or "psychic centres" relates to the Nephesh and we shall return
to this later on. To be more accurate it is not a "system" at
all but a description of psychic fact. It is interesting to
observe that the word psychic also concerns the "soul" as it
derives from the Greek word PSYCHE also translated as "soul" in
the scriptures. It is also the root of the word "psychology".
Spirit as used here actually does refer to the essential
immortal eternal human essence which each one of us IS. For the
moment there is little more to be said about it except to say
that it is the Spirit which HAS a Nephesh and which HAS a body.
The Human Animal
That's what the body is - an animal a beast or creature among
the other mammalian creatures such as apes dolphins and whales.
Furthermore our bodies have a limited intelligence of their own
an intelligence which is of a very basic nature. Its main
requirements are simply food warmth shelter and sex.
Without the animating Nephesh which actually makes it both alive
and human it is no more than a collection of meat bones blood
nerves and so on. In a sense it might be said that we as human
beings are parasites living within this animal host. Clearly we
have to treat it with a reasonable amount of care and respect
as without it we cannot function in this material world at all.
At the same time it quite clearly has a will of its own as well
as needs desires and functions which can more often than not
be a definite nuisance in our attempts to follow our own will in
preference to its. Even astronauts exploring the glories of space
have to make provision for urinating and the passing of excre-
ment! Such is the paradoxical grandeur of the human race and its
However provided we make suitable and sensible provision for the
body's needs it makes little demands upon us and we are free
to use it to explore the wonders of planet Earth. And it is our
temporary stay upon planet Earth which is the main concern of
this treatise. We may well - and do - speculate on where we were
before we were born or where we will be after death but in the
meantime there is plenty to do a great deal to explore exciting
and not so exciting things to discover and learn. Discovery and
learning - are these not the main preoccupations of all of us?
Did you ever meet a human being who did not want to know about
The animal creature with whom we have a sometimes uneasy alliance
may share a certain amount of this curiosity with us but its
version is severely limited to those basic needs mentioned above.
Ours is far more complicated and ingenious. Let's put it this
way: the animal will be content to discover the nearest corn-
field grab the husks of wheat just as they are and stuff them
into its mouth. The human soul or Nephesh dwelling in and along-
side it will in the course of the same discovery eventually go
on to invent the pop-up toaster.
The greater part of our human existence therefore is clearly
determined by the needs and curiosities of the Nephesh or soul
nature by means of which we are able to co-exist in a uniquely
human way with the creature.
By and large then the human body can safety be left to take care
of itself sending us appropriate information as and when it sees
its needs as being neglected as in the need for food and warmth
for example or if it is a state of disorder when it sends us
signals of pain or distress. Because we spend our lives surround-
ed by the manifestations of material existence we fondly sup-
pose that we live in the "real" material world. All we ever see
however is the outward appearance of things their surfaces.
When we look at a tree we do not see the inside of the trunk
or the sap - the life blood of the tree - rising and falling; nor
do we see the internal workings of the other human bodies among
which we pass from day to day.
Obvious as this is it is true to say that even if we could we
would still be seeing only yet another surface appearance for
science has demonstrated that in the material world even within
the surface of the immediately interior object - such as the
ordinary human heart - there is a material activity of molecules
and atoms which can only be seen with the aid of another
material mechanical device such as a microscope with its
interior molecules and atoms.
What we are most unlikely to see in any of these things is the
life-energy which gives those same molecules and atoms their
ability to function. What we have been able to discover is that
all these things are subject to laws each according to its kind.
cf. the Creation accounts in the Book of Genesis. Essentially
therefore the human body with its incredible complexity is a
mechanical device animated by - WHAT?
How much of the "real" world do we actually see? Very little
most of the time unless perhaps we are in a strange place whose
surroundings are unfamiliar to us. In our own neighborhood are
we normally aware of the local tree with or without its sap or
is our attention elsewhere? It is elsewhere invariably occupied
with thoughts and images circling round in the mind.
The Human Mind
What is this mind? It is clearly more than the aggregate of human
brain and nerve activity though damage to these areas can
seemingly affect its ability to communicate quite seriously.
However it has been established that people who are physically
paralysed or otherwise disabled and unable to communicate because
of such damage are likely as not as lucid and intelligent -
sometimes more so - as anyone else. We have all seen television
programs which demonstrate this where someone with an apparently
crippling complaint has been able to demonstrate that there is
nothing wrong with their minds whatever once we have been able
to provide them with mechanical or electronic aids which
compensate for their disability.
Mind then is clearly not dependent upon totally efficient
physical mechanisms in order both to function and to exist. Mind
is a function of Nephesh or soul; and because most of our waking
lives - and probably a large part of that one third of our lives
we spend sleeping - are spent engaged in mental activity the
living human being is in fact not a physical creature at all
at least not as ordinarily understood.
Anyone can easily demonstrate this fact for themselves. When we
are on our way to the local shopping mall passing trees and
other familiar landmarks our attention our thoughts our
imaginings - these are ahead of us already at the store buying
various items debating which ones to get picturing ourselves
actually taking items from the shelves calculating the cost
etc. The existence of the local tree occupies only a minimal part
of our attention and then only in passing.
In short we are not in the ordinary course of events fully
aware of our material surroundings at all. We live as the
popular saying recognises "in a world of our own."
What we perceive as mental activity be it thinking in words or
imaging imagining in pictures is an activity operating within
the soul the Nephesh and it is this activity which "animates"
When we are very small babies we have no control to speak of over
our bodies. As we learn by responding to the various stimuli we
receive from our parents guardians and surroundings we are
receiving information directly into Nephesh and are able to form
images and sounds to imitate. Thus we become able to walk and
talk and increasingly to think to reason and calculate. For
example by watching the way in which other people walk the
child takes the image of this into its mind; the immediate result
of this is translated directly to the body which attempts to
duplicate what the image has informed it. Gradually the body
learns and we begin to take our first wobbly steps in the
material world. The same process is repeated for all other human
activity increasing in complexity and subtlety for all of the
necessary activities of everyday life as we grow older.
The innate human curiosity which in many ways actually
identities us as human beings rather than some other species
does from quite an early age begin to use its imaging facility
for speculation and becomes able to do what we ordinarily call
imagination whereby we are actually able to postulate images in
the mind/soul/nephesh of objects and scenarios which do not and
possibly cannot exist. Imagine a pigeon with a cow's head -
anyone can do this. Imagine winning the lottery or inheriting
a fortune - easy fun - but unlikely.
A little intelligent observation will soon show us that the first
kind of thought we have is in fact an image a picture in the
mind. Once we have learned to talk using language to describe
the picture that we image we have discovered a kind of shorthand
labelling method. For example the word "pigeon" used above calls
up from memory the whole bird complete with feathers stick-like
legs beak and funny walk. Substituting the cow's head for that
of the pigeon involves a whole series of complex imagining but
we can do it using the same basic mechanism provided of course
we already have images of pigeons and cows in our memories.
As we grow older the use of this language shorthand becomes
second nature to us so that the transition from image to
"thought" is so fast as to be imperceptible. What we mostly
perceive as first thoughts are in fact second thoughts!
Making an Impression
While the body provides us with the means of moving around in the
world the nephesh-soul-mind activity provides the means of
identification and communication concerning what we discover in
it. There is a definite and clear sequence to this activity which
fairly simple observation of our own behaviour will soon
Whatever we encounter in our experience of the world makes an
impression upon us - we actually use this expression to describe
this activity in common speech though only when the impression
made seems to us to be particularly striking. It is worthwhile
reflecting on the colloquial use of language which often seems
to instinctively describe quite accurately what is actually
Making an impression in another context is as when for
example we leave our fingerprints in a piece of wax or similar
material. Later we can re-examine the wax and find the record we
have left there.
So it is with the multitude of impressions we receive every day.
It seems that in a quite literal sense all the objects and
people we encounter leave an impression in the subtle "body" we
have called Nephesh. This is the basis of recall and the ability
to remember things and people.
Here is another everyday term with which we are all familiar.
What happens with "first impressions?"
In basic terms a simple process immediately ensues. Under
average conditions we encounter an object or person sound or
sensation which on making its impression causes an immediate
reaction in us. The essential quality of "first impressions" that
we are all familiar with is summed up in sayings such as:
"My first impression was that I didn't like the look of them."
"Something about them didn't feel right."
"She gave me a good feeling."
The impressions events and people make upon us are received by
us in the first instance as a feeling or feelings. Basically
our reaction is invariably a greater or lesser degree of "like"
or "don't like." At the same time this feeling is translated into
an image which approximates to the nature of the impression.
Consider that the Nephesh is something like the wax: in making
the impression there is a direct reaction from the wax to the
pressure we have placed upon it with our fingers. Any impression
we receive acts in a similar way - it "makes a dent" in the
Nephesh. We are to use another well-known phrase "impression-
The most important thing to note however about these first
impressions is that of "like" or "dislike" - a reaction which
does not depend upon reason or logic. This is because the first
part of the impression process goes directly to our memory store
of images for immediate comparison. If for example we have been
hurt whether physically or emotionally by something in our
experience which merely resembles the image of the impression we
are receiving then our "first impression" will be one of
dislike. Similarly if the memory store comes up with pleasantly
similar images then our reaction will be one of liking.
Only after this process has taken place - which takes minute
fractions of a second - do we refer the impression to the
ordinary intellectual mechanism whose principal function is to
search its memory store for suitable labels with which to name
the impression. If for instance the impression is that of a
person whom perhaps we have not met before the label that may
be delivered to our awareness may be something like "similar to
Auntie Lulu." BUT - and this is an important "but" - the label
we receive will have already been conditioned by how we feel
about Auntie Lulu in the first place.
Only after the like/dislike mechanism has operated and a
tentative label has been assigned to it will we actually do
anything. The basic process then is "Impression - like/dislike
- label identify - act."
It follows that in the example above we will recognise that the
person from whom we are receiving is not actually Auntie Lulu
but someone who resembles her. But "Auntie Lulu" is an emotional-
ly affected label and in consequence our behaviour towards the
strange but similar lady will be affected accordingly and we
will suspect that she will have some of the attributes which we
have assigned to Auntie Lulu.
If we like Auntie Lulu we will tend to act in a friendly manner
to this lady as if we expect her to behave in a similar manner
to Auntie. If otherwise we shall be more cautious about her and
we dislike Auntie Lulu intensely we may even avoid her complete-
ly. It is of course highly unlikely that this lady will
resemble Auntie Lulu anything like as much as we imagine or even
It is however extremely probable that given the above scenario
- which we can investigate and verify by observing our own nature
and behaviour - that we rarely see the "real world" as it
actually is at all; that we rarely relate to other people as they
really are in their own true natures; that all we see and
experience is interpreted by the mechanism of the human personal-
ity in terms of our previous experience and acquired pre-
judices. In short we are living in a world of imagination
endowing our environment with attributes it may or may not
possess and even if it does probably not in the way we imagine.
In short we spend most of our lives daydreaming; we are in a
manner of speaking "asleep" but believing we are "awake" - an
approach used by the philosopher and esoterIc teacher
If then I say that under these circumstances I am "asleep" then
who is this "I" who sleeps? It is not the "I" of the personality
ego-mechanism but the "I" of the soul. In short Nephesh sleeps
and I am in a large measure a walking living breathing
automaton. What price "choice" and "freedom" if these are
exercised under such circumstances? Clearly we have little of
either. The remedy is simple - we must discover how to "wake up"
as Nephesh as "Soul". Only then do we have the chance to make
real choices and exercise genuine freedom.
This is where we come to the practical side of this study and
this work with the emphasis on work. Most things worth achieving
require effort - it is necessary to put the theory into practice.
There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. You will recall that
earlier on it was said that all that has been described may be
verified by experience. This experience however does not come
for the askIng - it is necessary to go and get it.
In this section and by way of a temporary conclusion we shall
describe the first steps that anyone can take on their own to
put the theory to the test. When the preliminary work has been
begun and has become a natural activity which can be undertaken
at any time simply by remembering to do it then it is possible
to move on to a deeper understanding leading to a greater know-
ledge of one's true nature and identity. This next level of
working is by its very nature not something that can be written
down as a simple set of instructions and needs to be followed
under supervisIon In company with others who are travelling on
the same road which is why we can only reach a temporary
Like most disciplines the practice which can be given here
begins with learning how to quieten the ceaseless mental activity
of the labelling mechanism which is chattering away all the time
like a monkey in our heads.
The first step
Choose a quiet time where you can feel and be relaxed. If
possible sit upright on a straight-backed chair and let the
eyes close. Give your attention first of all to your body. Feel
its weight on the chair the texture of your clothing under your
hands wherever they are resting and be aware of the sensation
of your clothing touching your body underneath. Feel the floor
beneath your feet - maybe you will want to take your shoes off.
Once you have established a clear awareness of your own physical
nature then relax as much as possible. Take two or three deep
breaths to help the relaxation process. Now let the eyes close.
This is a subtle but useful point: do not positively shut the
eyes but simply allow the lids to gently lower themselves.
Now - listen. Just that: in the very ordinary way just as you
might when enjoying a piece of music allow the various sounds
in the room - a clock ticking perhaps to take your attention.
Extend this hearing activity to include as much as possible of
whatever sounds there may be within earshot - traffic outside in
the street perhaps a bird singing a dog barking - whatever
there is physically to hear.
Very soon you are likely to find yourself having various thoughts
about the sounds you hear and quite possibly wandering off into
the daydream we spoke of earlier so that you stop being aware
of the sounds around you. Whenever this happens and however
often it happens STOP IT. Start again from the beginning
although it is not necessary to open your eyes again and give
your attention to the physical sensations and then the sounds
It is important to note that the purpose of this practice is not
to achieve an immediate objective such as remaining fully aware
of your physical situation and the sounds round about without
interruption for as long as possible. Indeed the main value of
this practice is to become familiar with the way in which the
intellectual labelling mechanism keeps taking you over and
causing you to slide unconsciously into daydream and to learn
to stop it from doing so when you wish to.
Every time you notice this has happened you have woken up for
a moment and in so doing you very quickly become aware of your
own situation and the noises in your vicinity - the genuine "real
Practice this exercise about twice a day if you can for about
ten minutes at a time. Gradually you will become more proficient
at catching yourself "falling asleep" and going into daydreams
and every time you do this you will have woken up a little more.
The same but different
Another way of practising what is essentially the same technique
is to apply the same principle to the ordinary activities of
everyday life. This at least to begin with is more easily done
out of doors. There are several ways of applying this technique
of which we shall give two. With practice you will begin to
discover other ways of applying it that are suited to your own
situation and temperament.
First then find a suitable outdoor location - it can be almost
anywhere so long as you can find a suitable place to sit down.
A park bench perhaps a low wall even a seat in the local
shopping centre. Practice the same exercise as you did and are
certainly still doing when indoors except that this time you
keep the eyes open while listening and at the same time give
your attention to what you can see around you as well. Again
whenever thoughts intrude and begin to take over STOP THEM. You
will have woken up again. If the place you have chosen has a good
view then extend your visual awareness as far as the eye can
see and endeavour to visually take in as much as possible all
at once. Do not let your attention fasten on to any specific
sound or object but without going off into a daydream keep the
attention as wide as possible. Once again but this time more so
you will find yourself wide awake in the real world!
The second form of this exercise is essentially the same as the
first except that having grasped the basic practice through the
previous listening and seeing exercises you learn to open your
attention up as wide as possible whilst walking to or from a
place which is a regular destination in or out of doors though
like the previous version it is more effective outside than in
as there is more to see and hear more to be aware of.
Gradually or even not so gradually you will appreciate more and
more the joy of simply being alive and present! You are awake!
Having experienced this you will readily appreciate that there
is one thing that no book no lecture can ever do: it cannot
tell you what it feels like for that is something that can only
be experienced. It is a subject for doing not for talking or
thinking about. It is a waking up to life.
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