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Protoplasm

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Protoplasm

Analogy of the Soul with the Body

When we think of the soul as analogous to the body, consciousness corresponds to protoplasm. Thus the soul is an organism of consciousness, just as the body is an organism of protoplasm. The consciousness or presence of the soul differentiates itself into many dimensions of increasing complexity and organization. (See appendix B for a discussion of the Yogachara system of consciousness.) Each dimension possesses many facets, each with specialized functions. All the dimensions and facets are organized holistically and synergistically to function as one organism. This organism is all fundamentally consciousness, but in its differentiated manifestation as soul this consciousness can know itself not only in direct perception of its fundamental nature as consciousness, presence, and Being, but also it can know all of its differentiations and manifestations. The soul can know its various qualities and structures directly, as well as reflectively and conceptually. The higher organization of the soul gives her the ability to perceive and experience complex events, but also the ability to reflect on her experience and perception, to think, imagine, remember, feel, will, decide, choose, and so on.  

Analogy of the Soul with the Body is Limited

However, the analogy with the body is limited. For the body, the differentiation of protoplasm and the resulting structures of organs and systems, with their functions, are relatively stable and fixed for the duration of one’s life. Not so with the soul; her organization is extremely more plastic than the physical body. The differentiation and organization are in constant states of shifting, change, and transformation. It is inherent to the soul that no organized structure is fixed, or needs to be fixed. This is partly because the differentiation and organization of dimensions and functions do not develop as stable and localized fixed structures, like the anatomical organs or physiological systems of the body. All the dimensions, facets, and functions of the soul are coextensive with all of her presence, and thus any region of the field of presence possesses all these dimensions and faculties. To know the soul directly we begin to see that our mind is not only in the head. All of the medium of the soul, any part and all parts, has the capacity of mind. We normally experience mental activities happening in our heads, mostly because of a particular connection between cognition and the brain. This connection does not dictate that mental events happen in the head, but rather that some specialized mental functions require the operation of the brain.

Experiencing the Soul with No Structure

Sometimes, however, the soul can lose all structure, and appear as an undifferentiated blob of protoplasm. It is as if the amoeba sheds its nucleus and membrane and becomes just a puddle of protoplasm. At such times, the individual feels no sense of psychological structure, no definition, no form or shape, no identity, and no firmness. When there is no understanding that this is simply the soul with no structure, this state can generate fear or panic, for it may indicate to the individual not only absence of identity, but also no functionality. When there is understanding, as in the orderly investigation of ego structure that leads to a relaxation of holding on to it, there might arise this condition of structurelessness, soul without fear but with relaxation and surrender.  

Soul Seen as a Protoplasmic Presence

This is an interesting fact. It shows an isomorphism between the soul and the physical body. Just as the body is basically protoplasm, the soul is basically a protoplasmic presence. Presence here is still a field of consciousness, but lacks clarity and discrimination. It is like a somewhat dull consciousness, just as protoplasm is dull in luminosity in comparison to light. It turns out protoplasm is the quality of the soul’s presence that indicates the state of the soul before evolution. It is not exactly primitive; it is just the basic substance of the soul before she begins her journey of maturity. However, this does not mean that there is a time when the soul is in this condition and then must evolve to experience her more evolved forms of experience. The soul always has the infinite potential of all her evolutionary stages, but that her most dominant condition is one of the stages. Therefore, we cannot say that human beings in their infancy have only a protoplasmic soul. Far from it; their presence is frequently delicate and luminous, but sometimes dull like protoplasm. This seems to depend on the particular infant. 

The Soul is an Organism Constituted of Consciousness, Like the Body is Constituted of Protoplasm

The soul is not only this homogeneous medium constituting a field; it is an organism constituted of consciousness, like the body is constituted of protoplasm. Just as the body, even though it consists entirely of protoplasm, is differentiated and organized into various organs, systems, and functions, the soul is also differentiated and organized into various qualities, properties, and faculties. The body’s organization is generally fixed for relatively long periods of time, but the soul is much more fluid and changeable. We will discuss thisin detail in the next few chapters, but now we will continue our discussion of the soul as a field of consciousness. We brought in the question of structure and organization merely to point out that even though consciousness is the ground and substance of the soul, the organism that is constituted by this consciousness is what is structured; that is, the substance is consciousness, and the form the substance takes is the organization of systems, functions, properties, and qualities. 

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