Mallard, Spar Kill, NY
Some masters would hold that the soul is only in the heart. That is not so, and some great masters have erred in this. The soul is whole and undivided, at once in the foot, in the eyes and in every member.
—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, P. 341
A reader asks:
I was wondering; what is the connection between this, and when one says that we need to sense every atom of our body? Also, what is the connection between soul, Real I, and essence?
This reader asks many deceivingly simple questions that often lead into rich and complex territory.
We'll need to examine what Meister Eckhart says in detail to expound on the exact meaning of his words.
First, Some masters would hold that the soul is only in the heart.
This is a common error, probably stemming from the fact that heart practice is so powerful and can lead to such a direct experience of rapturous joy. Since the universe is created from the cosmic substance of Divine Love (which is, painted with the broadest brush strokes, Gurdjieff's ethernokrilno), and since the energy of love itself is the power whereby the engine of the universe derives all its force and momentum (see Chakras and the Enneagram) the receiving organ of this force in the body (the heart) can be easily mistaken for the "location" of the soul.
The understanding is akin to Yoga formulations which locate particular powers in particular organic loactions (chakras) and ascribe many and various specific actions to them.
There is truth, indeed, in these formulations insofar as they go; and yet Meister Eckhart draws us towards a much greater understanding, which transcends the divisions of the mind and all the human hierarchies we wish for; I'm sure one of the reasons Gurdjieff abandoned yoga terminology was that he understood how these very colorful and attractive limitations seed many mistaken beliefs in people.
The heart is the nexus of the soul; that is, it is the seed of the soul within man's body, but being the seed does not make it the root, the branches, or the tree.
The interesting thing about this particular seed is that it remains forever a seed even as it grows its roots, trunk, branches, and leaves, because it is one of the principle—yet not the only—source of the divine inflow. Just as a plant initially draws all its sustenance (water and minerals) into the sweet heart of the seed, so, as the plant grows, does the plant extend its ability to draw in sustenance from all the parts of its Being; the roots and leaves grow and receive according to their abilities and nature. The soul grows with this receiving, and it grows in all the parts. I have made this point many times while writing in this space; one receives God—through the soul—throughout the body entire, not through special locations.
I cannot emphasize it enough.
Each part of the body is capable of receiving the Lord according to its own abilities; and anyone who receives the Lord daily will soon come to know that the soul is present in all the physical parts; yes, and even beyond them, although this is a greater mystery.
The soul cannot be only in the heart, because the soul (as Meister Eckhart reminds us) touches God directly, and such intimacy cannot possibly be limited to one location or part. The Lord, when He touches us, touches all of us; and when so touched, even through the least part (for example, the right temple, or the little finger) all of the parts are instantly informed, inwardly formed, so that they know the Presence of the Lord without fail.
In this way one knows the soul through the little finger; and one knows the Lord through the soul. All is of one fabric, one substance; and when the Christian Nicene Creed (which is in fact an extraordinarily high teaching) speaks of Christ being of one substance with the Lord, from whom all things are made, this is one precise meaning of the phrase, expressed on this level. (It has other, higher meanings we cannot go into right now.)
Just as God is in all parts of things, the soul is also in all parts of things; and one of the great truths and mysteries of creation is that even as God is in all things, insofar as man is in the soul, and the soul is in God, so the soul is in all of man, and, touching God, the soul joins all things: which it cannot deny, because it is all things, just as the Lord is in all things.
In this way, one can know everything one needs to know of life and the Lord, in a single instant...
just through the little finger.
Tomorrow we will take up the second line of Eckhart's comments.