Recently, I was reading some of Yogananda‘s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (the Song of God, a key section of the Mahabharata where Krishna teaches Arjuna about the ways of action, yoga, etc.)
In it, Yogananda refers to the seat of the soul:
“The soul makes its entry into matter as a spark of omnipresent life and consciousness within the nucleus formed by the union of the sperm and ovum. As the body develops, this original “seat of life” remains in the medulla oblongata*. The medulla is therefore referred to as the gateway of life through which King Soul makes his triumphal entrance into the bodily kingdom…”
He goes on to describe the “palace of King Soul” as being the medulla, the frontal brain (seat of the third eye) and the top of the cerebellum, the crown chakra. Their awakening culminates in Cosmic Consciousness.
I found this quite interesting as it’s not the way I use the term soul. I would certainly agree that the “thread” or sutra that connects the body with the divine comes in through the crown and connects with the spinal cord there. The area is known to control the various functions described by the pranas. (breathing, swallowing, etc.) Thus we can see that it is clearly the seat of life, as he describes.
(As an aside, this is not what would be called spirit. That is indeed omnipresent and thus unbounded and infuses all of the body, heart, and mind. We can connect to it at any point and anywhere. Soul is the spirit, collapsed to a point, a place of strongest connection.)
From my perspective, the brain is not the seat of the soul. What I call the soul is the divine spark in the heart, where we have the descending thread (above) meet a more direct connection. That point where infinity collapses into this localization we call a person.
What makes our body different from a table or a rock is of course life. Life is the flow of awareness. In flowing, it enlivens awareness and makes us conscious. The descending thread brings us that life. The subject enters into the object to make it aware.
But the uplink places us many layers from the divine. It’s a long way up. The “doorway” in the heart gives us a much more direct route to the divine. That’s why I call it the soul. But that’s just semantics. I’m sure Yogananda has another word for the seat of the divine in the heart.
Further on this, he describes superconsciousness and Krishna/Christ Consciousness as occurring before Cosmic Consciousness. Superconsciousness sounds similar to what I’ve called soul awakening. But KC sounds like the celestial perception of God Consciousness which puts his use of Cosmic Consciousness different than Self Realization. I’d have to read more of his take on this to align his definitions with mine, like I did with Genpo Roshi‘s.
I find it very rich to explore other perspectives. They offer another vision of the whole and tickle that liveliness, increasing awareness. A good tickle is always fun. 😉
* The medulla oblongata is a ‘swelling’ at the top of the spinal chord, under the brain. It is said to control unconscious processes like breathing. Everything associated with prana. It’s about level with the bottom back of the skull.