The Seat of the Soul

The Seat of the Soul

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.

Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Davidya

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  5. Jake

    Hi David!
    So if what you call God-realization is what Yogananda calls Self-realization/Christ consciousness, then where would his description of Cosmic Consciousness fall under your stages of consciousness? Brahman consciousness?

    1. Hi Jake
      Well – as I mention in the article, I saw his references to the stages but didn’t read an overview so am not exactly sure. But he was not using Self Realization and Christ Consciousness as equivalent.

      My model is based on Vedic sources but is verified by many peoples experiences in the current time. They were quite a bit more rare in his time.

      In this 8 year-old article, I used God Realization interchangeably with God Consciousness but now distinguish them as I use the word “realization” more consistently now. I edited the word accordingly.

      Most descriptions of the key first awakening use the term Cosmic Consciousness or Self Realization. Some people do shift into an ongoing witness prior to this, which might be called a soul or jiva awakening.

      The awakening of celestial perception is a separate but parallel process. It’s entirely possible for it to begin prior to the above shift but it’s not until one knows the Self that we can really begin to know the Divine. Then God Consciousness can unfold.

      When the same Self within is recognized in the world, Unity unfolds. He may be using “Cosmic Consciousness” to describe Unity. But again, I’ve not seen a full description so I’ve not aligned the terminology.

      It’s also possible he had an especially rich unfolding so his use of the term “Cosmic Consciousness” is similar to mine but he had a highly enhanced version.

      1. Jake

        Thanks for the reply.
        Well he describes Cosmic Consciousness as God the Father, or “Knower” remaining beyond all creation.
        Would your description of Unity or God-realization have anything to do with “beyond creation” or would that be the stage of Brahman?

        1. Jake

          He describes them as follows:
          “Christ consciousness (union with God’s omnipresence in all creation) and Cosmic consciousness (union with God’s omnipresence in and beyond all creation).”
          But then he also explains how Spirit is the creator of God. Here I’m just going to post his description of it. I’m just curious to where this fits in with your model as in the stages of God realization and Brahman/ParaBrahman
          “Spirit signifies the unmanifested Absolute present in the darkness dark and the lightless light. Even the categories of space, time, and dimension are non-existent. The word “God” means the manifested, transcendental Being beyond creation, but existing in relation to creation. Spirit existed before God. God is the Creator of the universe, but Spirit is the Creator of God. Spirit is not the universe; Spirit is that which was and will be whether the universe does or does not exist. Spirit includes everything.
          Spirit is motionless, vibrationless, both in thought and energy. It has no dimensions, no relativity, it is like nothing in creation. It knows neither pleasure nor pain. It is beyond the relativity of the four ordinary states of human consciousness—pleasure, pain, indifference, and temporary peace.

          The triune division of Spirit into Knower, Knowing, and Known was accomplished by the law of relativity (cosmic delusion or maya). Spirit, being one and indivisible, had to imagine and will Itself to be many.

          Expressed another way: Spirit divided Itself into — God as the Father, the Cosmic Consciousness or “Knower” remaining beyond all creation; — and into God as the Son, the Christ Consciousness or cosmic intelligent subjective “knowing” power in creation; — and into God as the Holy Ghost, the Cosmic Intelligent objective creation itself, the thing known.

          Manifesting in creation, Spirit divided Itself into subject and object—the Knower and the Known. What is the difference between Spirit as subject and object? Spirit as God in the aspect of Christ Consciousness manifests subjectively in creation as the power of perception of thoughts and feelings; and Spirit as God the Cosmic Intelligent Vibration manifests objectively to produce the universe.”

          1. Ah, I see. Thanks, Jake.

            He’s not used the words the way he seemed to be. These are not terms for stages of human development but terms for stages of becoming or creation.

            Spirit sounds equivalent to Brahman. (not consciousness, just Brahman itself)

            He then speaks of transcendent Being as God, what I would consider an expressed value even if not yet expressed. Relative to creation as mentioned.

            He then talks about the triune “division” of consciousness, although from another perspective those dynamics are undivided – one consciousness in 3 aspects. I would disagree this division is caused by maya but rather is the cause of maya.

            What he means by Cosmic Consciousness is the witness or observer value of consciousness, Shiva. We can equate the other 2 to Vishnu and Brahma in a similar way to how he’s evoked the Christian trilogy.

            Christ Consciousness isn’t a human embodying that, it’s consciousness knowing that aspect of itself.

            In other words, what I call Self Realization, God Realization, and so forth are not relevant to this. He may have a list of realizations of these processes but that’s also different from stages of awakening.

            Thanks for sharing.

            1. Jake

              Alright thanks for clearing that up. I’m fairly new to the path so my experience and understanding of these truths are still in the infant stage.

              I see what you mean when you say how the previous text is more about describing the process of creation versus the stages of human development. However, there are times where he uses the terms “Cosmic consciousness” as an actual stage of human evolution. He uses the term interchangeabley with “God-realization” where the Knower (beyond creation) the Knowing (subject in creation) and the Known (object of all creation) all become One.

              Would this in any way resemble your description of God-realization or Unity?

              1. Not a problem, Jake. This is actually pretty advanced stuff.

                There are some who have listed the stages of experiential unfolding as the stages of enlightenment. For example, recognition of the body as the universe, as the devata body, as cosmic, and as Divine. But because there is such huge variation, that’s not as useful as a model.

                But thinking about it here, he may be using a high perspective for the whole process.

                For example, it is the observer that wakes up to itself in Cosmic Consciousness/ Self Realization. But someone in that stage is not likely to recognize the 3-fold dynamics of consciousness yet. That more typically comes with the Unity transition.

                But what follows isn’t a list of what’s next so this isn’t a map of stages of development. He may talk about it that way elsewhere. And he may well use the same language for the stages of both.

                It was more rare in those days so more difficult to map.

                Some modern teachers do just use their own experience only but he was from a tradition so would have a little more background to draw on.

                1. Jake

                  Yeah that makes sense. Thanks again, David.

                  One more thing then. I was reading your post on “Unfolding God” which I feel like somewhat touches on what we’re discussing here. You say the Godhead is equivalent to God the Father. And then beyond that we “discover all of God embodied.” Would the Godhead then represent the “Knower” beyond creation?

                  Then would beyond the Godhead be stepping into Brahman consciousness?

                2. Hi Jake

                  The tricky bit here is there is no single answer. It depends on where you’re looking at all this from.

                  You can think of Godhead like Father God and Shiva and knower. They’re similar. But in this perspective, God the father is highest.

                  Beyond this would be Brahman. Knowing this directly and ongoing in human form would be Brahman Consciousness.

                  From another perspective, Shiva is the devotee of the Divine Mother. She “resides” beyond Brahman in what is known as ParaBrahman or pure Divinity.

                  Each perspective brings different knowledge.

    1. Hi Jake
      Unity and God Realization are different but related stages.

      Unity is when the Self that’s been realized within (in Self Realization) is realized to be underlying the appearance of the world as well. The division of inside and outside falls away and we become / recognize ourselves as one with all forms and phenomena.

      This matures over time through life experience and a progressive series of unifications that include our past and memories, all the layers of experience, and so forth.

      From that perspective, we are the container of the world. So this becomes a oneness with creation, if there is refined perception and we’re aware of the bigger picture. It’s not yet beyond creation. (Creation is the word I use for what is beyond and inclusive of our universe.)

      God Realization is a climax of the refinement of perception that happens near the end of the Unity stage when we unite with the Divine as well. For some, this completes the Unity process and opens the door to Brahman.

      But if there has not been much refinement underway, there isn’t a God Realization step then. For example, a friend of mine had the Brahman Consciousness shift before the heart opening of God Consciousness began.

      Creation arises in consciousness so when we go beyond consciousness into Brahman, we go beyond creation as well.

      The overall process and typical variations is the main topic of my book. A lot of the content is here on the blog but scattered around. The book brings it together.

      1. Jake

        Alright that makes sense. I’ve been looking at different models lately and have had some confusion along the way, specifically, with the different terminologies being used. There’s just so much information out there, it’s hard to conceptually put it all together. Unless we have people like you.

        I know the truth of all this is beyond logical understanding, but it’s still fun to look into, lol. Recently, I’ve been referring to your site quite often and I have to say, your profound work has really helped me to clear up a lot of the confusion I had. And yes, I’m planning on purchasing your book.

        Other than that, I just want to say thanks, David!

        1. Hi Jake
          Yes. I’ve been looking at models for decades and there are all sorts of variations. Are they driven by concepts or experience? How are they using the terminology? What is the fundamental process they’re basing it on?

          We saw some of this just in our discussion. What is Yogananda describing? Is this stages of experience, of creation, or of development? etc.

          Thanks. The point of the writing is to support the process with a little more clarity. But yes, concepts are not it. They’re just pointers to the actuality, just as a map is a guide for the road but is not the road.

          You’re welcome.

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