The Soul Apart From the Body

"He attains to the knowledge of Forms in their purity who goes to each of them with the soul alone, not allowing when in the act of meditation the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the soul in her clearness penetrates into the very light of truth in each Form. . ."


"Come, my soul, depart from outward things and gather thyself together into a true interior silence, that thou mayst set out with all thy courage and bury and lose thyself in the desert of a deep contrition."


"If we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body--the soul in herself must behold things in themselves; and then we shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers. . . .

"True philosophers. . . are always occupied in the practice of dying. . . ."

"Do we believe there is such a thing as death? . . .

"Is it not the separation of soul and body? And when the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul--death, surely, is nothing else than this?

"Just so, he replied. . . . "Then must not true existence be revealed to her [the soul] in meditation, if at all?

"And meditation is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her--neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure,--when she takes leave of the body, and has as little as possible to do with it, when she has no bodily sense or desire, but is aspiring after true being?

Plato, Phaedo

The Highest Mysteries

"When the Egyptian Book of the Dead speaks of the deceased, it really refers to the living-dead--men entranced as profoundly as in death, with bodies still and motionless, with souls loosed into another world. It refers to Initiation.

"Although this process of initiation bore all the outward semblance of expert hypnotism, it was something that went far beyond the entrancement methods of our modern experimenters, who tap the subconscious mind of man but who cannot make their subjects conscious of still profounder planes of existence."

"What were the greatest secrets that the successful candidates learned in the Mysteries ?

"That depended on the degree through which they passed, but all their experiences could roughly be condensed into two results, which formed the core of the revelations they received.

"In the earlier degrees, the candidates were made acquainted with the human soul, pictured as a little bird-man in the system of hieroglyphs; they solved the mystery of death. They learned that it was really disappearance from one state of being, only to reappear in another; that it affected the fleshly body, but did not destroy the mind and the self. They learned, too, that the soul not only survived the destruction of its mortal envelope but progressed onwards to higher spheres.

"In the advanced degrees, they were made acquainted with the divine soul; they were brought into personal communion with the Creator; they stood face to face with the Divine. They were first instructed in the true explanation of the Fall of Man from his original spiritual state. They were told the inner history of Atlantis, a history so intimately associated with the history of the Fall. Then they were lifted up, sphere beyond sphere, until they found themselves in the same highly spiritual consciousness as Man had enjoyed at the beginning. Thus, while yet on their pilgrimage in time, they had gathered the spoils of eternity."

"Moreover, to confuse such a sublime experience with the mental handiwork of the modem hypnotist would be a grave error. The latter plunges his subject into a strange condition which neither fully understands, whereas the hierophant of the Mysteries was in the possession of a secret traditional knowledge which enabled him to exercise his power as one fully armed with complete understanding. The hypnotist taps the subconscious mentality of his entranced subject down to a certain level, without himself sharing the change of condition, whereas the hierophant watched and controlled every such change by his own percipient powers. Above all, the hypnotist is only able to elucidate from his subject such matters as concern our material world and life, or to perform abnormal feats with the material body. The hierophant went deeper, and could lead the mind of the candidate step by step through an experience involving the spiritual worlds--a feat beyond the power of any modern hypnotist to achieve."

"There existed an exalted and final degree of initiation where the souls of men were not merely freed temporarily from their bodies in a condition of simulated death, in order to prove the truth of survival, after the great change, but where they were actually carried up to the loftiest spheres of being, to the realm of the Creator Himself. In this marvellous experience the finite mind of man was drawn into contact with the infinite mind of his superior divinity. He was able for a brief while to enter into silent, spell-bound communion with the Father of All, and this fleeting contact of incomparable ecstasy was enough to change his entire attitude towards life. He had partaken of the holiest food that exists in life. He had discovered the ineffable ray of Deity which was his true innermost self, and of which the soul-body which survives death was merely the intangible vesture. He was, in verity and fact, born again in the highest sense. He who had thus been initiated became a perfect Adept, and the hieroglyphic texts speak of him as one who could expect the favour of the gods during life and the state of paradise after death.

"Such an experience came with an entrancement which, although outwardly similar, was inwardly completely different from the hypnotic entrancements of the earlier degrees of initiation. No hypnotic power could ever confer it, no magical ceremony could ever evoke it. Only the supreme hierophants, themselves at one with their divinities, their wills bent with his, could by their astonishing divine force arouse the candidate to consciousness of his superior nature. This was the noblest and most impressive revelation then possible to Egyptian man, and still possible, albeit through other ways, to modern man."

Paul Brunton (1898-1981), A Search in Secret Egypt

"In consequence of this divine initiation we became spectators of single and blessed visions, resident in a pure light; and were ourselves made immaculate and liberated from this surrounding garment which we call the body and to which we are now bound like an oyster to its shell."


"By this faculty we find ourselves liberated finally from the dominion of destiny, and we become, as it were, the arbiters of our own fates. For, when the most excellent parts in us find themselves filled with energy; and when our soul is lifted up towards essences higher than science, it can separate itself from the conditions which hold it in the bondage of every-day life; it exchanges its ordinary existence for another one, it renounces the conventional habits which belong to the external order of things, to give itself up to and mix itself with another order of things which reigns in that most elevated state of being."

Iamblicus, On the Mysteries

"Despite the soul's fall there lingers in it, although in a condition of atrophy and enchantment, a residual germ of that divine principle which once wholly actuated it; a germ capable of being so stimulated into activity as to raise the personal consciousness even to the point of unity and identity with the Universal Mind and through the healing efficacy of that principle's transmuting potencies, to effect such an organic change in the psychical, and even the physical parts of our present frail and imperfect nature as will bring them into a divinised condition."

Mary A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy, 1850, 1960

"I have attained the capability of experiencing my own essence within myself, and for me this experience becomes enlarged into another, that in me and through me the universal essence expresses itself, or, in other words, knows itself. Now I can no longer feel myself to be a thing among things; I can only feel myself to be a form in which the universal essence has its life. At any moment I can have the higher experience that I am the form in which the universal essence looks upon itself. Then I myself am transformed from a thing among things into a form of the universal essence--and within me the knowledge of things is changed into an utterance of the nature of things. It is only in creating this higher cognition that man develops his nature, and only through the higher cognition of man does the nature of things come into actual existence."

Nicholas of Cusa, On Searching for God

"Plato said: 'When freed from my body I beheld luminous spheres.' . . . Of himself, Plato said that in certain of his spiritual conditions he would shed his body and become free from matter. Then he would see light and splendors within his essence. He would ascend to that all-encompassing divine cause, and would seem to be located and suspended in it, beholding a mighty light in that lofty and divine place."

Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi, The Wisdom of Illuminism

"It is the life that is lived in accordance with Higher Intellect and that cleaves to spiritual beings that we must train ourselves to live; for this is the only life which admits of the untrammeled endowment of the soul, frees us from the bonds of necessity, and allows us to live a life no longer mortal, but one that is divine and filled by the will of spiritual beings with divine benefits."

Iamblicus, Letter to Macedonius

" One can develop to the point that one can leave one's physical form whenever one wants and go to the world of Divine Majesty, where one's ascent reaches the highest horizons. . . . Then, whenever one looks at one's essence one delights because one sees the light of God radiating upon oneself. This stage, however, is still incomplete.

"When one goes still further one passes beyond even this stage, one becomes such that one does not think of one's own essence and one's consciousness of self is obliterated. This is called Major Annihilation. When one forgets oneself and forgets forgetting, it is called Annihilation in Annihilation. . . . One reaches perfection only when cognition is lost in the object of cognition, for whoever delights in the act of cognition as well as in the object of cognition has, as it were, two objects. One is 'abstracted' when one leaves behind cognition for the object of cognition. When the last traces of corporeal humanity are expended, it is the state of Obliteration . . ."

Shihab al-Din al-Suhrawardi, The Mystical and Visionary Treatises

"Often have I been alone with my soul and have doffed my body and laid it aside and become as if I were naked substance without body, so as to be inside myself, outside all other things. Then do I see within myself such beauty and splendour as I do remain marvelling at and astonished, so that I know that I am one of the parts of the sublime, surpassing, lofty, divine world, and possess active life. When I am certain of that, I lift my intellect up from that world into the divine world and become as if I were placed in it and cleaving to it, so as to be above the entire intelligible world, and seem to be standing in that sublime and divine place. And there I see such light and splendour as tongues cannot describe nor ears comprehend. When that light and splendour overwhelm me and I have not strength to endure it, I descend from mind to thought and reflection. When I enter the world of thought, thought veils that light and splendour from me and I am left wondering how I have fallen from that lofty and divine place and am come to the place of thought, when my soul once had the power to leave her body behind and return to herself and rise to the world of mind and then to the divine world until she entered the place of splendour and light, which is the cause of all light and splendour. Wonderful it is too how I have seen my soul filled with light, while she was still in my body like her appearance, not leaving it."

The Theology of Aristotle speaking of Plato's mystical experiences

"It is ignorance that causes us to identify ourselves with the body, the ego, the senses, or anything that is not the Higher Self. He is a wise man who overcomes this ignorance by devotion to the Unitary Reality."

Shankara, The Crest Jewel of Wisdom

"Plato's is . . . a philosophy of catharsis, ascent, realization, transformation of the way of feeling, of willing, of acting. Plato uses philosophy as a method for raising us above the conflict-ridden and contradictory world of the sensible to the harmonious world of Being, which is our original home."

Raphael, Initiation Into the Philosophy of Plato

"Plato yet more plainly declares that to know oneself is Wisdom and the highest virtue of the soul; for the soul rightly entering into herself will behold all other things, and Deity itself; as verging to her own union and to the centre of all life, laying aside multitude and the variety of all manifold powers which she contains, she ascends to the highest watch-tower of beings. According to Socrates, also, in the Republic, we read that Wisdom is generative of truth and intellect; and in the Theaetetus Wisdom is defined to be that which gives perfection to things imperfect, and calls forth the latent Intellections of the soul--and again, by Diotima, in the Banquet, that mind which is become wise needs not to investigate any further (since it possesses the true Intelligible); that is to say, the proper object of intellectual inquiry in itself; and hence the doctrine of Wisdom according to Plato may be sufficiently obvious."

M. A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy

"Man, it says, lives in a transient world of sensible phenomena and of conjecture, or opinion, based on it. But his soul belongs to a higher, truer world which is eternal and immutable. To regain its kinship with that world the soul must purify itself from this world; it must seek to die to this world, to live now the life it hopes it may lead after death. This purification has two sides: moral and intellectual. Moral purification will restore to the soul transcendence over the body; the body will cease to disturb its endeavours after contemplation. Intellectual purification, or dialectic, trains the soul in abstract thought; it weans the soul from dependence on the world of sense and accustoms it to the more austere, but also more real because eternal, world of the Forms or Ideas. When the soul has sufficiently purified itself it may - suddenly and without warning - attain contemplation, theoria, of the highest of the Forms, the Beautiful or the Good, for which it has longed. In this gratuitous act of theoria the whole world of ultimate reality is seen as a single whole, and the meaning even of sensible reality becomes clear. This sudden ultimate act of theoria is experienced as ecstasy: the soul seems to transcend itself, to be rapt out of itself At the same time, this ecstasy is a sort of home-coming. The soul becomes what it truly is in its deepest self; its kinship with ultimate reality becomes something experienced."

Andrew Louth, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition

"Exiled from the true home of the spirit, imprisoned in the body, disordered by passion, and beclouded by sense, the soul has yet longings after that state of perfect knowledge, and purity, and bliss, in which it was first created.

"Its affinities are still on high. It yearns for a higher and nobler form of life. It essays to rise but its eye is darkened by sense, its wings are besmeared by passion and lust; it is 'borne downward until it falls upon and attaches itself to that which is material and sensual,' and it flounders and grovels still amid the objects of sense.

"And now, Plato asks: How may the soul be delivered from the illusions of sense, the distempering influence of the body, and the disturbances of passion, which becloud its vision of the real, the good, and the true?

"Plato believed and hoped that this could be accomplished by philosophy. This he regarded as a grand intellectual discipline for the purification of the soul. By this it was to be disenthralled from the bondage of sense, and raised into the empyrean of pure thought, 'where truth and reality shine forth.'

"All souls have the faculty of knowing, but it is only by reflection and self knowledge, and intellectual discipline, that the soul can be raised to the vision of eternal truth, goodness, and beauty--that is, to the vision of God."

B. F. Cocker, Christianity and Greek Philosophy, 1870

"The subjective mind takes cognizance of its environment by means independent of the physical senses. It perceives by intuition. It is the seat of the emotions, and the store-house of memory. It performs its highest functions when the objective senses are in abeyance. In a word, it is that intelligence which makes itself manifest in a hypnotic subject when he is in a state of somnambulism.

"In point of fact, that which, for convenience, I have chosen to designate as the subjective mind, appears to be a separate and distinct entity; and the real distinctive difference between the two minds seems to consist in the fact that the 'objective mind' is merely the function of the physical brain, while the 'subjective mind' is a distinct entity, possessing independent powers and functions, having a mental organization of its own, and being capable of sustaining an existence independently of the body. In other words, it is the soul."

Thomson Jay Hudson, The Law of Psychic Phenomena, 1892

"We, in our higher selves, are truly that All, but we do not understand the All, Real Being, or Nous till we radically simplify ourselves and turn away from all considerations of space and quantity and from our lower selves and their concerns in the material world."

"This is the soul's true end, to touch that Light and set It by Itself, not by another light, by itself, Which gives it sight as well. It must see That Light by which it is enlightened; for we do not see the sun by another light than his own. How then can this happen? Take away everything!"

"When the soul has good fortune with Him and He comes to it, or rather when His presence becomes manifest, when it turns away from the things present to it and prepares itself, making itself as beautiful as possible, and comes to likeness with Him (those who practise this preparation and adorning know clearly what they are); then it sees Him suddenly appearing in itself (for there is nothing between, nor are they still two, but both are one; while He is present, you could not distinguish them; lovers and those they love here imitate this state in their longing to unite); it is not conscious of being in its body any more, nor does it call itself anything else, human or living being, or being, or all; to contemplate these things does not suit its present state; it has no time for them and does not want them; it seeks the Good and meets It when It is present and looks at It instead of itself; and it has no time to see who it is who looks. There it would not exchange anything in the world for This, not even if you gave it the mastery over the whole heaven, since there is nothing better, no greater good; for it cannot go higher, and everything else, however exalted, only belongs to it when it comes down."