Rosicrucian Writings Online

The Spirit of God

Some Helpful Thoughts for New and Old Members
By Royle Thurston
[From The Mystic Triangle July 1929]
OCCASIONALLY one of our members asks the old question, in the classroom of his lodge or writes it in his correspondence when making his reports to the Supreme Lodge, which is usually phrased something like this: "Why do you attempt to make a distinction between spirit and soul in the teachings when the most universal impression or understanding is that spirit and soul are the same? Your use of the term spirit to signify a universal essence existing in all matter and not solely in the human being seems to rob spirit of its holiness, and to make it less Divine than the holy spirit in the Bible."
We realize that the Rosicrucian teachings were the first, in America at least, to generally promulgate the idea that spirit, as used in the sacred teachings of the Master mystics of the past, signified a universal essence radiating from the Divine source of all creative energies and powers, permeating all matter, and giving all matter its vitality. How well we remember the first classes of the Rosicrucian work held in New York many years ago, when this unique use of the word spirit was first presented. Many questioned its use at the time, and long and interesting were the discussions which followed. I think that I am safe in saying that the Rosicrucian literature of the present cycle in America was the first literature of a metaphysical or ontological nature using the term spirit in the sense in which the Rosicrucians use it. I have been pleased to note in the past ten years that quite a number of other religious or philosophical movements have come to use the word in the same sense, and that even many of the prominent clergymen of the country make a distinction between spirit and soul. However, as I have said, many of our new members and some of the old ones still ask the question given above, and are undoubtedly puzzled by the use of the word spirit as it is used in our lectures and lessons.
First of all, we must note that the misunderstanding, or shall we say concern about the use of the term spirit is due to the fact that the Christian doctrines have used the word spirit in so many different ways and with such liberal interpretation of its real meaning, that these doctrines of the Christian Church are responsible for the miscomprehension of the true meaning of the word spirit. In very few of the sacred writings of other denominations or other religions of the world is the word spirit used as a synonym for so many other terms or attributes of God's powers. I believe that this is due wholly to errors on the part of the translators of the Christian Bible; and I believe also that the reason that so many of the clergymen of today are using the word spirit in a different sense and more in keeping with the Rosicrucian interpretation is to be found in the fact that more recent translations or versions of the Holy Bible have been more careful in presenting the exact shades of meanings of many of the words that were used with confusion in the earlier translations.
In America, many of our members are accustomed to thinking that the word spirit is a synonym for the word soul, and in nearly every instance we find that they have arrived at this conclusion as a result of its use in this way in the Christian writings. Furthermore, in the English language the word spirit has lost its original root meaning, but among foreigners and especially those of the Latin tongue, the word spirit immediately brings to mind its original root with a meaning quite different from the English interpretation or application.
I may say in passing that the use of the word spirit in the Rosicrucian teachings was not arbitrarily adopted, nor was it selected by the American jurisdiction as a distinctive word having a very definite meaning for English students, but comes into our teachings through a literal translation of the term as found in all of the foreign lectures and lessons of the Rosicrucian work; our organization in America would not be warranted in changing such terms as it has in its official vocabulary simply because of a misunderstanding among persons who are of the English tongue. In other words, it would be inconsistent with truth and with the principles of universal thinking and comprehension to change a term in the English lectures and lessons simply because the English mind has a different and erroneous comprehension of the meaning of some foreign words. Just because we have misunderstood the meaning of the word, in the English countries, is one excellent reason for its continued use in the Rosicrucian teachings, so that we may change our thinking, correct our errors, and learn an interesting lesson.
There are many instances where the use of the word spirit in the Holy Bible, especially in the older versions, clearly shows that the translators were very indifferent or unmindful of the real significance of the word, and were more or less careless in the use of synonyms for spirit and soul. The idea that is prevalent in the Christian minds that spirit is something holy and found only in connection with the soul of human beings is due to the use of the term "Holy Spirit" or "Holy Ghost," in connection with the trinity of the Godhead. The doctrine of the trinity was adopted long after the Christian church had been founded, and the use of the term Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost was an arbitrary one and should not have been used to imply what is really meant. When the words Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost as used in the English Bibles are translated into the Latin or other foreign languages, the readers in those languages receive a different idea of what is meant than English students do, for they cannot help but associate the original root meaning of the word spirit with the term as used in the Bible.
In the first chapter of Genesis, we read, for instance, that the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. In older versions and in other sacred writings telling the story of creation, the idea presented is that in the beginning everything was without life or animation, chaotic, disorderly, uncontrolled, and did not have creative or constructive essences of any kind. This condition of affairs was changed by the spirit of God, moving from God into all that He created, which animated, at once, all matter or all things created by God with a creative force and energy, and immediately this brought about system and order. The alchemist writing on this point in ancient times would have said something like the statement made by Dr. John Dalton, the famed Rosicrucian physicist in later centuries, which was "Until the spirit of God entered into matter, matter was uncreative, unproductive, and unsystematized. Its existence atomically was a result of the creation of the atoms and the molecules through a Divine decree, and all that existed was stationary, without motion and fixed in crystallized form without the power to grow, change, or reproduce. It was then that God moved His spirit into all that He had created, and the creative powers of this spirit not only gave animation to the crystallized cells and the group formation of atomic structures, but caused them to proceed in an orderly manner to extend their motions and vitality in accordance with the law of the angles of their form, and the rate of vibration of the spirit in them. Thus the atoms continued to grow in accordance with the law of their angles and the axes of their bodies and reproduce themselves in the distinct classifications in which they were originally created. Thus chaos was turned into order, and lifelessness into eternal animation."
It may be said in passing that all of the mystics, alchemists, and philosophers of the past and up to the time of Dr. Dalton, not only considered spirit as motion and motion as one of the fundamental principles of all life and all creative processes, making matter manifest in all of its forms, but most reverently and sincerely looked upon the spirit of motion and the spirit energy itself as a Divine energy having its source in God and its manifestation of God. Therefore, the use of the word spirit in connection with material things, and as a term for the universal energy that is found in all matter, did not necessarily imply that it was without holiness or divinity, as some of our Christian brethren of today believe.
In the same book of Genesis, we find the word spirit wrongly used in one sense, and yet correctly used in another sense, in connection with the creation of man. For here we find that after God had made man out of the material elements of the earth, He breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life, and man became a living soul. The intimation here is that the breath of life was the soul, and that the soul was breathed into the soulless body of man. If our use of the word spirit is correct, then the soulless body of man formed out of the material elements of the earth was already charged and filled with spirit, for spirit was in all of the matter composing the body of man, but the soul was not there and had to be added. My readers will note that the statements do not say that the spirit was breathed into the body of man, but that the breath of life was breathed into the nostrils of man. It is this statement that is used as one of the fundamentals of the Rosicrucian ontology, for the purpose of showing the duality of man's existence; i. e., the body made of mortal matter filled with the essence of spirit, and the soul of man, which was added to the physical part of man, and thereafter man became not a living body, or a living manifestation of earthly elements, but a living soul, giving emphasis to the soul part of man as the primary manifestation of his existence, and placing the physical body in a secondary place.
Now if we go back into the ancient teachings of the Rosicrucians and of the early mystics, we find many interesting points that will help us to understand the use of the word spirit. We find that the Jewish people had three words for the idea of soul. These were "Nefesh," "Neshemah," and "Ruach." All three of these words meant Breath, albeit in different aspects. The word Ruach was generally translated "Spirit," but really meant a rush of wind. In this sense the word Pneuma was used in the Greek language to mean the same thing, or perhaps a rush of air, or air itself. In the Latin languages we find the word Spiritus, which also meant breath, air, or wind; there is no real English equivalent for the Latin word Spiritus. The Greek word Psuche, like the Hebrew word Nefesh, referred to the soul. We find this distinction clearly made in Job XXXIII:4, "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the Breath of the Almighty hath given me life." However, we find through mistranslation another Biblical statement that contradicts the idea expressed in Job. In Ecclesiastes XII:7, we read: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." This latter statement would intimate that after transition the physical elements composing the body of man would have no spirit in them, and that the spirit in matter would return to God with the soul. This is certainly an idea contrary to other ideas stated elsewhere in the Bible. It intimates that spirit and soul are one, and that either word may be used to mean the same thing. Yet in First Thessalonians V:23, we find that man is possessed of spirit, soul, and body. This same idea is expressed in other parts of the Bible. Another interesting Biblical reference to this matter is found in John III:8. Here the original Greek or Hebrew word was translated literally into "wind," adhering very closely to its real meaning instead of using the word spirit or soul as the translators used it in other parts of the Bible. With the Greeks, in their writings, the word Pneuma did not mean soul or spirit, but a breath of life or a vitalizing force associated with the soul consciousness as a separate thing and not the same thing. The Greeks had the word Psuche, which meant Breath and Soul, and never had the meaning of the word Life, or animation or vitality, for they had other words which conveyed the meaning of life and vitality. Therefore, the Greeks could not have made the mistake of using one word that would have meant soul, life, vitality, and breath.
In tracing the meaning of these words in Greek, Latin, and other languages, I find that the adjective Psuchikos, which means pertaining to the soul, appears six times in the New Testament. It is never correctly translated to mean psychic or spiritual, or "of the breath," which would be correct, but four times it is translated as "natural" and twice as "sensual." Here we see the translators adhering more correctly to the real meaning of the word.
Attempting to find a proper consideration of these terms in the official church writings, we note that the Roman Catholics in their official publications candidly refer the investigator to all the early Jewish writings for information regarding the words spirit and soul. On the other hand, the Protestant Christian denominations which have so much to say about the soul in their writings and preachments, and which constantly use the word spirit as a synonym for soul, seem unable to tell what the words really mean, or how they came into use, but merely intimate that they had something to do with the breath. Especially in regard to the word spirit there seems to be no definite understanding except that it is used with the adjective "Holy" to mean the equivalent of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost, on the other hand, in all oriental writings, refers to a special form of Divine Consciousness that descended into the Avatars, Divine Masters, or Sons of God at the time of their missionary work, or surrounded persons who were especially blessed at the time of baptism.
In another article dealing with this subject, which I hope to have ready for the next issue, I will point out the relationship of the word "Dust" to the words, "Soul" and "Body," and we will have a better understanding of the meaning of the three words, "Spirit," "Soul," and "Body," as found in man.
The point to be learned from the foregoing facts is that the word "Spirit" as used in the Rosicrucian teachings to indicate a Divine essence that pervades all space and animates all matter, independent of the soul or Holy Ghost, is correctly used in an international sense, and in a philological sense, and is in accordance with the facts as we find them in Nature. This is certainly sufficient reason for the continuation of the use of the word "Spirit" in the Rosicrucian teachings in the manner in which it is used.

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