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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Spirit

The highest principle or Self in human beings, equivalent to štman in Hindu philosophy. The word comes from the Latin spiritus (meaning “breath”), which in turn is a translation of the Greek pneuma, which also means “breath.”

The basic concept of the Spirit is that there is an element in human beings which is derived from or identical with a divine principle or being. Thus, to the early Greek Stoics, Spirit (pneuma) was the soul of the universe, and the spirit of animals and human beings were but parts of this universal spirit. In Hinduism, štman is a spark of the Paramātman or the universal spirit. In the Old Testament, ruach is the spirit of God (although the usage of this word is not always consistent, for it is used for entities such as “evil spirit”). Another word used in the Old Testament is neshamah, which means “breath.” In the Qur’šn, the word ruh has at least five distinct meanings (the Holy Spirit, Spirit of All€h, a superior angel or messenger, the life given to Adam, the spirit of prophecy). In the second and fourth senses, the divine ruh is breathed into Adam, and thus becomes a human ruh. Buddhism does not subscribe to an enduring Spirit within human beings. One of its fundamental principles is anātman (P€li, anātta) or non-self, although theosophical literature states that Esoteric Buddhism does affirm that there is an štman.

Chinese philosophy has shen as opposed to hun or the soul. In the Jewish Kabbalah, this highest principle is equivalent to the Kether of the Tree of Life, the latter of which represents the different levels of consciousness in a human being.

Theosophy reserves the word “Spirit” to ātman. All the principles or levels of consciousness between štman and the physical body are regarded as “souls” (See SOUL). Helena P. Blavatsky emphasizes however that the štman is not an individual entity but rather a universal principle. It only becomes individualized when it is linked to the buddhi or spiritual soul. As such, the Monad is štma-Buddhi.

In mysticism, the merging of human consciousness with the universal consciousness or spirit constitutes the apex of the spiritual life. It is the “union” of Christian mystics, the nirvšïa of the Buddhists, the moksha of the Hindus, the fanš of S™f…s. As Edwin Arnold wrote: “the dewdrop slips into the shining sea” (Light of Asia).

See also SOUL, SPIRITUAL, HUMAN CONSTITUTION, ĀTMAN

V.H.C.

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