To understand spiritual messages another way, we can represent schematically what a message is and how it works on us. We’ll start by depicting the relationship between our consciousness, our brain, and our soul. Although modern science has yet to determine the precise nature of consciousness, we do know that it exists and in some way seems to emanate from the brain, as represented in FIGURE 1. (Figures to be added soon)
To function effectively in everyday life, each of us needs to organize the feelings, fantasies, thoughts, memories, and knowledge stored in our brain’s synapses into a mental model of the world—“the world according to me.” We use this model as a virtual reality in which to imagine the outcomes of the various options available to us and choose the one that gives us the greatest benefit. Whether we succeed or fail at what we are doing, we can use the results to refine our understanding of how things work so that we can do better in future situations. When most situations turn out essentially as we had imagined, we can conclude that we know how things work.
From a spiritual perspective, we are more than a body. We are also an eternal soul, which survives the death of our body. Our soul, according to most religions, is conscious and intelligent. It has its own distinctive consciousness, its own “mind,” which integrates all its feelings, fantasies, thoughts, memories, and knowledge into a coherent whole, as represented in FIGURE 2. This has been confirmed by studies of out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, and reports of contacts with other souls.
We know little for certain of how this soul functions when it is not housed in our body and connected to our brain. Our brain’s mind and our soul’s mind perform similar functions. Our brain’s mind analyzes everything from its distinctive material perspective, whereas our soul’s mind analyzes everything from its distinctive spiritual perspective. Although the mind of the brain and the mind of the soul have different agendas, they integrate to form our thoughts and feelings about our everyday lives. What our brain contributes is most obvious in the drives and desires we share with other animals, the drives that sustain individual life and preserve the species. Our soul’s influence, on the other hand, is more visible in qualities that make us different from other primates, such as our more penetrating intellect, the voice of our conscience, and our attraction to spirituality. FIGURE 3 represents our everyday consciousness, where most of the capacities of our soul are used by our brain to try to achieve its own material goals.
We don’t notice most of what is going on from our soul’s perspective because we are completely preoccupied with meeting the challenges of everyday life. At times, when the input of our soul becomes strong enough, a spiritual inspiration will break through. FIGURE 4 shows what can happen when our soul is able to summon up the energy necessary to transmit the information to the brain in such a way that this information emerges into our consciousness as an inspiration. For us to recognize this information, however, our consciousness has to be sufficiently receptive to the advice being given. If it isn’t, an inspiration may reach us but be ignored as irrelevant. To give an inspiration the attention it deserves, therefore, we need to be prepared to recognize and value its input.We can receive inspirations out of the blue, being grateful when they come our way, but we can gain far more by taking the next step: We can make ourselves more receptive to these inspirations by creating conditions that encourage our soul’s comments on our daily life—a subject that we will return to frequently throughout the course of the book.
A spiritual message, as represented in FIGURE 5, is an inspiration coupled with a real external event that has itself been influenced by spiritual forces. It not only helps us in our immediate situation, but also teaches us how the material and spiritual dimensions interact. By carefully studying these moments of correspondence, we can gradually become familiar with the wider range of influences that our soul has on our thoughts and feelings.
With this schematic in mind, we can see the elements of a spiritual message in Beth’s example. [Click on menu item "Examples of Messages" and then link to "Help Finding A Job".] First, Beth received an inspiration to look for a job. Second, she responded by looking for a job, thus creating the right material circumstances for a message. Third, she experienced an unexpected external event (getting the interview quickly and a better job than she had a right to expect). Fourth, she felt strongly that this confirmed for her that spiritual forces had arranged the whole situation.
Beth’s story underscores something that I have found to be true: The more we understand that our messages are aimed at both helping our material life and stimulating our spiritual development in a balanced way, the more we can take advantage of our soul’s input into our everyday thoughts, feelings, memories, and reactions. Both our brain and our soul benefit from the integration of the others’ resources, as depicted in FIGURE 6, so that we can enjoy life more in the physical plane and develop our soul at the same time. What could be better? (chapter 2, pages 33-37)