Soul, essence, and consciousness. All terms that create quite a bit of confusion. Let’s explore our hidden nature!
I avoid the term soul in teaching at first as the soul is a very overloaded term. Too many different definitions over time have been collected for the soul. Whenever I come across a term which is overloaded like this, my reaction is that various definitions are not the root but rather interesting leaves of corollary truths. So at this point, I get dirty to dig for roots.
For the case of the soul, a good root definition becomes: Soul represents what something is, the base quality that transcends the actual object in question. But even that is too complicated, so I simplify the core definition of the soul to be: The base quality of what you are.
This definition takes a person pretty far. In Taoist thought (actually in many traditions) a person is composed of multiple aspects of life. This creates an interesting insight. We are comprised of several different souls working together in tandem. Our physical body has a soul (Po Soul), and our mind/spiritual form has a soul (Hun Soul). Depending on the Taoist tradition there can be multiple Hun and Po Souls. These souls merge up to create a person as a whole. This concept is important for later.
The place where I like to start is Essence. Essence is our style, personal style that transcends all of our stories. In some respects, essence and soul are almost the same things. The terms can be used interchangeably for much of dialogue. I prefer to use essence more than soul because it doesn’t come with as much baggage as the term soul does.
Like the soul, we have multiple essences. These essences roll up into an amalgam that ensures each living being is unique.
For instance, we have our essence as a Homo Sapiens: the collection of our instincts and we have our essence as a Human Being, how we act against each of our stories. So our essence of being a smart ape is rolled and mixed into the essence of being parent, child, spouse, worker, seeker and all the other stories we energize.
Under all of that, we have a base essence also. Our body and mind are each a lens. When you combine the mind and body together those multiple lens work together like a spiritual telescope. What are they focusing upon? Well at this point you can say they are viewing the universal light around us. As the larger spirit / universe gets focused thru our mind and body, it gets twisted around uniquely thru this telescope of mind and body. It’s that twist of the light, which gives each person their unique essence. No two combinations quite add up the same way. Even twins, focus the light down with uniqueness to each person.
Essence vs. Soul
If there is a difference between soul and essence it’s this:
Essence doesn’t animate the body.
Rather Essence is the quality of how you animate yourself which transcends all the stories you live through.
Soul is often considered to be the spark that animates a person.
This is a pretty interesting distinction. I could argue that soul is the word we use for the special kernel essence which contains our spark. In other words, a base essence which we call in Taoism the Hun or cloud soul: the spiritual / story soul we hold within ourselves. The soul (spark) that returns to the light.
Consciousness is a mysterious process. What quality of our life is it that makes us self-aware?
Science used to think that consciousness was rooted in mind. This view point hasn’t been working out very well. Now many Scientists are beginning to ponder maybe consciousness is something outside the mind. I suspect Science will look outward and get equally as confused. Sometimes focus leads to the wrong answer.
I suspect something different. Perhaps just perhaps consciousness is a bit of both.
Our consciousness could represent the point in between. The place where we are looking up through the telescope to the universe and where the universe looks back to us > merging in the middle to spark up that special self-awareness we call Consciousness.
This is the sparking point of self-awareness. Like a spark, this also merges back into the point where Hun our cloud soul resides.
Conscious Conclusion Regarding Our Soul’s Essence
I will take this to a different conclusion than you might have been expecting.
That to be alive means:
Don’t stop striving and reaching out lest you lose touch to yourself and your awareness of being alive.