Is Consciousness The Same As Soul?

Plate from The Song of Los, by William Blake

Is Soul the same as consciousness? No. What is consciousness? It is the state of being aware. Soul encompasses both unconsciousness and consciousness. What is the origin of consciousness? How do we become aware of
unconscious things? First of all, we must not reify consciousness. It is
a state, not a Being in and of itself. It is a quality of Being. Many
times, we tend to talk about “the unconscious” and “consciousness” as if
we were referring to Beings. They are not. Rather, they are qualities
of Beings. The avoidance of anthropomorphism is the best route to take
when thinking along these lines. On the other hand, the unconscious is
populated with living Persons who should be taken very seriously. This is where Soul becomes crucial.

For many years, it has been very common to hear talk of “Souls” being immaterial, as if a Soul were a wispy spirit floating about. There is nothing that is immaterial. These people have a confused idea of Soul. It is quite common in new age parlance to identify the “spiritual life” and “consciousness” with archetypal ideas of Soul and depth psychology, in general. Granted, Spirit is a very important idea, but it is not the same idea as Soul. There is a clear distinction between these ideas (for that is what they are), which you can read about in my article, Distinguishing Between Soul and Spirit. They are perspectives on life, not entities that float around and clothe themselves with suits of flesh.

I made a statement in the previous paragraph that I should further explicate. I said, “There is nothing that is immaterial.” No, I am not a positivist or hyper-materialist. I adhere to a philosophy known as Animaterialism. According to Animaterialism, all matter is Soul and Soul is matter. Soul is not an invisible phantom living on the inside of matter. This is dualism. I am affirming the monistic unity of matter and Soul. The phrase, “inanimate object” is an oxymoron. There is nothing inanimate because all things are Soul-Matter, or, as I call it, Animatter, one reality.

The Catholic Encyclopedia claims this kind of monism as a reduction of Soul to matter. Actually, the Roman Church, following Aristotle, maintains that matter represents decay and imperfection, while the Soul represents life, energy, and perfection. Perhaps this is where people confuse Spirit and Soul; Spirit is more acquainted with light, energy, and perfection, while Soul is sometimes associated with darkness, decay, and imperfection. Soul lives close to the Earth, with all its imperfections and entanglements of everyday existence, while Spirit wants to soar into the heavens and be perfected. Matter is not death, as the Church seems to think. Matter is just as much life as is Soul. This idea of matter being evil, having its origin in negative Gnosticism, is what caused acts of self-flagellation and other strange practices by members of the Catholic Church. Viewing matter as evil is simply bizarre, in my opinion. This is why our planet has been treated harshly by Western culture. In their eyes, since matter is viewed as evil, it is something to be subdued and ruled with an iron fist.

Human existence is not a neat little tripartite box of body, soul, and spirit that we can precisely define. A human is more of a polytheistic amalgam of images and ideas. We are many persons in the same animaterial locale we call a body. Every one of our atoms is teeming with Soul, both consciousness and unconsciousness. We are of divine design and divine origin. Our land of origin is a mystery that we will not know about until we experience death. In dreams, we have a foretaste.

It is image that gives birth to matter. All material things are provided their form by the Cosmic Mind, which in my thinking, is the fusion of the Anima Mundi and the Spiritus Mundi. In our Universe, there is, for want of a better word, a Force that creates and continuously brings into being new forms of matter. At this point, I’m not sure if this Force is part of our universe, which would make my philosophy pantheism, or whether it is paradoxically separate, which I suppose would be a form of panentheism. I dislike labels like these, however. I simply write what I see in my imagination.

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The Underground River


Our little terranean Egos are perched high above an immense underground river. Few realize the mighty current that flows beneath us. Most of us in the West have lost our Souls because we have forgotten this river. The river of which I write feeds into the ancient ocean of unconsciousness, bearing along all possible images of creation. Images are the irreducible elements of human being. It is not subatomic particles, as scientists believe, but images that drive life in our universe.

Our very essence is governed by the subterranean river of imagination. The current of images that flow in this river directly influences our daily lives. The systolic and diastolic of Soul are managed by how we interact with it. If we pretend it is not there, it’s raging torrent will engulf us. If we interact with it on a regular basis, it will enrich our lives beyond our wildest dreams. It is truly a river of life, but it can also be a river of death.

Many are terrified of it. A few hearty individuals will be quite comfortable swimming in it. Those who are most at home possess shamanistic gifts. These persons spend their lives navigating the river. Shamans regularly swim in the river of imagination. Of the shaman, Mircea Eliade writes,

He commands the techniques of ecstasy – that is, because his soul can safely abandon his body and roam at vast distances, can penetrate the underworld and rise to the sky. Through his own ecstatic experience he knows the roads of the extraterrestrial regions. He can go below and above because he has already been there. The danger of losing his way in these forbidden regions is still great; but sanctified by his initiation and furnished with his guardian spirit, a shaman is the only human being able to challenge the danger and venture into a mystical geography” (Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy).

The subterranean river of images is an integral part of the “mystical geography.” As rivers on the surface wander through many different topographies, so this river meanders through the topographies of the Underworld before emptying into the Great Mother, the ocean of the unconscious. As it moves along, it gathers more and more images along the way. Sometimes, images are washed up along the banks. These are images which are no longer viable for human experience and must needs be discarded. Heraclitus said no one can enter into the same river twice. The flow is constantly changing. If we refuse to at least wade in its shallow places, we will be cut off from the flow of images. Our dreams are our built-in way of wading in the shallows. If we desire to venture further into the current, something like active imagination would be required.

Rivers are usually seen as boundaries. The river of imagination is no different. It is the boundary between soulfulness and soullessness. If we regularly wash ourselves in this river, our Souls will be nourished and properly cared for. If we ignore it, our Souls will wither away to the point of non-existence. Having dreams is not sufficient for the Soul’s nourishment, although it does help somewhat. If we want to partake of what the river of imagination has to offer us, we must choose to participate in its imagery.

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