by William Bezanson
Our biggest responsibility of all is a spiritual one. We have many responsibilities: personal, family, civic, social, employment, spiritual, and others. The most important one is spiritual.
We are not physical bodies with souls dwelling in them. We are soul beings dwelling temporarily with physical bodies.
This is a very important point. It is difficult to prove it for you; only you can prove it for yourself. But it can illustrated.
Consider what our physical body is. It is a collection of chemical elements, configured as molecules, cells, tissues, fluids, bones, and so on. The scientific community generally agrees that every one of the nearly ten thousand trillion trillion atoms in a typical human body, comprising around one hundred trillion cells, gets replaced over the years—often cited as seven years. But at the very least, we know that skin can be scraped off and it regenerates, hair drops out and more grows back in, blood may be lost and it gets replaced, and so on. Yet, through all of this physical change, we still maintain a sense of self; indeed, we know our identity and we know that it persists over many changes over many years. We are still ourselves.
So clearly, we are not our physical bodies. Even if a leg or arm is amputated, we still know that we are the same person. Our memories reach in one continuous sweep back to childhood (and sometimes earlier, to previous incarnations) even though our physical bodies have undergone many changes.
So what are we? If we are not physical, then we must be non-physical. Such a state of being or form can be described as spiritual. We are spiritual beings. Our essence is often referred to as the soul, or the spirit, or the spirit body, or the psychic body, or other such terms. As C. S. Lewis wrote: “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”
My own preference is the term “soul personality”, following the Rosicrucian teachings. I am a soul personality. So are you. So is everyone.
As mentioned, it is difficult to prove any of this for you, but I have proved it for myself to my own level of satisfaction. And we each can prove it to our own level of satisfaction if we really want to do so and are willing to make the considerable effort that is needed. But for the purpose of this article, let us accept it as a fact: we are soul personalities temporarily living with physical bodies. I say “with”, not “in”, because the soul personality not only permeates the body, but also surrounds it. In a sense, the body is in the soul personality.
Spiritual responsibilities transcend the others mentioned earlier. For example, personal responsibilities are a small subset of spiritual ones. Indeed, any personal values or actions are always shaped by one’s spiritual responsibilities. Thus, personal responsibilities are smaller in scope and impact than spiritual ones. Similarly for family, civic, employment, and so on. They all fit within the context of spiritual responsibilities. Since we are spiritual beings temporarily living with physical bodies, our spiritual ethics and characteristics will override any personal, family, civic, and other matters. Thus, spiritual responsibilities are the most important of all the responsibilities that we have.
So, with this in mind, it should be clear that the notion of personal, civic, and other responsibilities extend beyond a caring for our mundane physical bodies and environment, to caring for our soul personalities and our spiritual environment. Ordinarily, religious institutions and their associated clergy have been entrusted with those matters in our society. However, in the same way that our physical matters should not be entrusted to others, such as governments, teachers, or leaders, our spiritual matters should not be entrusted to a religious hierarchy, such as priests, scriptures, or institutions. As modern, educated, mature persons, we should entrust only ourselves, our inner selves, our inner spiritual guides, with such important responsibilities.
We need to accept personal responsibility for our spiritual welfare. We should not abandon or ignore it, as if it were a throwaway item. We should study for our spiritual development, research it, honour it, and work on it, to the point that we can detect tangible spiritual growth, new understanding of Truth, and sublime inner contentment. Further, we should experience an enhanced sense of personal, civic, family, social, and other responsibilities as our sense of spiritual responsibility develops.
William Bezanson is a regular columnist for OMTimes, and he has written six books on world stewardship and spiritual development. His most recent book is I Believe: A Rosicrucian Looks at Christianity and Spirituality. He lives with his wife in Ottawa, Canada. His website is www3.sympatico.ca/bezanson1 .
(Adapted from an earlier article, which was submitted to OMTimes in June 2012. but not accepted for publication. This version is enhanced from that earlier version.)