Most religions and many philosophies interpret Man  as a single consciousness or soul or spirit in a physical body. But, although an improvement over gross Materialism, this interpretation is actually extremely naive, for it ignores all the manifold aspects and dimensions that human consciousness includes.
A more sophisticated understanding is that the so-called individual is made up of a multiplicity of "souls" or levels of being. The human entity (and for that matter, every evolutionary entity) is thus a synthesis of a number of elements of being, corresponding to different dimensions or planes of existence. In the present essay, these various levels of body, soul, and spirit can be defined as follows:
|Level of being or self ('microcosm")||World or Plane ("macrocosm")||Associated experience|
|Unmanifest/Manifest Absolute||Unmanifest Absolute||Shunya, Sachchidananada, etc|
|Transcendent Higher Self||Noetic Absolute||Eternal Consciousness|
|Immanent Higher Self||Innermost Being||Inner Divine Consciousness|
|Spirit||(Noeric Ideational) Plane
|Dreaming, Imagination, "Astral travelling"|
|Physical Psyche||Etheric Plane
|Physical Body||Physical Plane||Body Consciousness|
One can use Egyptian, Indian, Greek, and Kabbalistic terms to supplement the imprecise and ambiguous English equivalents like "spirit" and "soul". If you look at other esoteric  teachings, you will notice all use pretty much the same schema, although differing in details and terminology.
Most esoteric systems postulate only a single spectrum of being. I would suggest instead at least two (and probably many more) spectra or emanation gradations. One is the vertical series of planes, another a concentric series (corresponding to Prakriti (or Prakriti-Maya-Shakti) and the Self - Higher Self Sequence
The Self - Higher Self Sequence assumes the following series of hypostases In the following I have for the most part followed Sri Aurobindo in distinguishing between a prakritic being, an inner being, and a transcendent higher self. Also, in Assagioli, as in many other quasi-theosophical doctrines and NDEs, there are also three upper stores beyond psyche (emotional, mental etc). This has been inorporated into the following:
A few examples of these inter-doctrinal equivalences are given as follows:
|Level of being or self ('microcosm")||Egyptian equivalent||Taoist equivalent||Neoplatonic equivelent||Sufi equivelent||Chakras||Blavatsky
(Adyar School & others influenced by)
|Paramatman||?||Wu Ch'i||The One||Hahut||Paramashiva||Parabrahman
higher Kosmic Planes
as aspect in Supermind
|Divine Soul||"Memphite Theology" (Old Kingdom) - Ka;
New Kingdom - Khu (in part)
|Shen - immortal spirit||Noetic Soul||Ruh
|Mental / "Spirit"||Khu (in part)||Hun (Spirit)||Rational Soul||aql (intellect)||Manas||Buddhi Manas||Higher Mental (Causal)||Mental (in part)|
|Emotional / "Soul"||Ba (soul)
|Kama Manas||Higher Emotional/ Astral||Vital (in part)|
|P'o (yin nature)||nafs
|Tanmatras, Organs of Sense and Action||Kama rupa||Lower Emotional/ Astral|
|Etheric||Ka (in part)||Ch'i||Vegetative soul||Sthula||Etheric body||Subtle Physical|
|Gross elements||Sukshma||Physical body||Gross Physical|
Taking the five "lower" principles in Table 1 - the Physical Body, Etheric Body, Instinctual being, Emotional "Soul" and Intellectual "Spirit" - one might suggest these each correspond to a particular "vertical" Plane or stratum of existence, from pure "matter" to pure "spirit", in the vertical prakritic sequence. Note the higher three principles do not lie on this Spirit-Matter axis at all. In addition to the prakritic "vertical" axis, there is a "horizontal" or "concentric" one, which represent the various gradations and interpenetrations of the different planes. These are represented for example by the seven etheric bodies described by Barbara Brennan. They are all etheric, hence on the same "plane", yet they represent a gradation all the same. Max Theon formulates a similar system, referring to "degrees" and "subdegrees"
In Indian Vedantic and Tibetan Buddhist metaphysics, these levels are grouped into Gross, Subtle, and Causal ; whilst Western Esotericism  refers to Physical, Psychic and Spiritual.
One might even suggest these prakritic subdivisions constitute a sequence of "frequency octaves" equivalent to the energy levels in an electron orbital shell around an atom's nucleus. Just as there are an infinite number of possible quantum energy levels in an electron's orbit, so there are an indefinate number of "vibratory" or "frequency" levels of consciousness on each plane.
Unfortunately, many esoteric teachings tend to confuse the "vertical" series of planes, the "horizontal" frequency series, the "inner-outer" sequence from Higher Self to ego, and the Absolute Self, collapsing everything into a single set of planes of consciousness. That is why it so hard to match up the different systems; they use similiar language and concepts to describe totally different things.
. The term "Man" as used here is, it hardly needs to be pointed out, gender neutral. Because of patriarchial overtones, feminists have suggested that the term be replaced by a gender-neutral one like "Person". However, the word "Person" comes from the Greek persona, meaning a mask used in theatre, whilst "Man" is derived from the Indo-European root mn, from which we also derive "mind"; hence Man literally means "a thinking being". Since the only way the human species can be distinguished from the rest of the animal kingdom is in our superior intellectual devlopment, I feel that this is a more appropriate term to use here.
. "Materialism" here refers not to a particular lifestyle based around material goods, but a sceptical way of looking at things, that denies all realities beyond those that are currently known to physical science. This is a reductionist perspective that actually constitutes a specific meme
. "Esoteric" means the inner or hidden meaning of things, the occult, the metaphysical; as opposed to "exoteric", the outer meaning, conventional knowledge or reality
 The division "gross, subtle, and causal" is derived from Indian Vedantic philosophy, specifically the Mandukya Upanishad), which speaks of four states of consciousness, the waking, dream, dreamless sleep, and transcendent state. These were later identified with the five koshas [see note 5 below]. Tibetan Buddhism refers to a similiar three-fold distinction as "gross", "subtle", and "very subtle" [Table 3].
 By "Western Esotericism" is meant the occult and spiritual teachings that have developed in the West in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; such as Theosophy, Hermetic Qabalah, Rosicrucianism, and Thelema. The division of being into "body, soul, and spirit" is central to the teachings of the Christian theosophist and clairvoyant Rudolph Steiner.
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