“If the soul were material and had magnitude, it would be difficult, indeed quite impossible, to make it appear to be immune, unchangeable, when any of such emotions lodge in it. And even considering it as an authentic being, devoid of magnitude and necessarily indestructible, we must be very careful how we attribute any such experiences to it or we will find ourselves unconsciously making it subject to dissolution. If its essence is a Number or as we hold a Reason-Principle, under neither head could it be susceptible of feeling. We can think only that it entertains unreasoned reasons and experiences unexperianced, all transmitted from the material frames, foreign and recognized only by parallel.” ~Plotinus
By Harold Boulette
First, we have to understand that there are really two souls that are with us, or attached to us. One is the mundane soul that is a part of the world of matter, the other is the divine Soul that is not. The world of matter is completely foreign to the divine Soul. It knows only spiritual things since it is pure spirit. It may recognize a dog, but not as a material animal, “seeing” only the animals spirit. So before we can say that the soul has some attribute or another, or behaves in a certain way, we need to know what soul we are talking about. When spiritual writers talk about the soul, they are almost always talking about the Divine Soul, and that is certainly true of Plotinus.
Souls and Emotion
Many people get confused about whether or not the soul has emotions or behaves in an emotional way. We will here people say, “Have you no soul?” to the person who shows callous disregard for the suffering of another person or animal. In doing so, they are correct, but only if they are talking about the mundane soul and not the spiritual Soul.
The mundane soul, being part of the world of matter, part of the brain-mind actually, does have feelings, and is affected by the things that happen in the world of matter. It is this soul that we often think of as our conscious.
The Divine soul is quite different. Only spiritual things concern it, and only in certain ways. It is the real stranger in a strange land and once awakened, it wants to leave as soon as possible. It doesn’t like being in the world of matter any more than your physical self would like living in a place where there is no air to breathe. This Soul may be affected by emotions and material things, but only as they affect the spiritual levels of reality. We can express this allegorically with this tale. A person who knows nothing about electronics is listening to her favorite song on the radio. Suddenly, the radio breaks. She is not concerned with the radio that doesn’t belong to her, and isn’t part of her, her only concern is that the song was cut off. Likewise, the Divine Soul is affected when emotions cause us to shift to harsh frequencies that are like static to it.
Even then, however, the Divine Soul does not “feel” anything such occurrences. It recognizes what has happened, it sees the obstacle in it’s path and goes around it, or over it, but it’s response is entirely without emotion. The one emotion that can be assigned to this Soul is Love, but only Love of God and a great desire to return to the world of God.
The Soul Being
Plotinus mentions the Soul as an “authentic being”. This is an intriguing thing to say. Most people tend to think of their soul as a piece of them like a finger or a liver. It isn’t! It is an entirely different being, fully capable of existing on its own. Using the terminology of science, we might say the Soul is a symbiotic being because it benefits us by existing within and around us. That is not really accurate, however, since the soul doesn’t benefit in any way from its attachment to us. Which may be why the spirit and soul are dormant when we come into this world. However, once we have fully awakened and developed our spirit self, it will live in a symbiotic relationship with the Divine Soul that benefits both.