If the soul comes from God, as the world’s religions agree, why wouldn’t it have some memories of this remarkable origin? If it did, this remembrance surely wouldn’t come easy. It would require hard work to retrieve such deeply embedded memories. Remembrance of our divine origin may be deeply hidden but it is also the most rewarding of all memories to attempt to recover.
That’s why there is a great power in remembrance. Enough hard work, and remembrance can awaken us to an everlasting, changeless reality. God continues to send us his Messengers to help us remember who we are and where we came from. The world’s sacred traditions acknowledge the importance of seeking answers to the mysteries of life. This quest for spiritual understanding raises two essential questions: “Where have we come from?” and “Where are we going?” The mystery of our origin and our destiny is intricately tied to the nature of the soul.
A story shared by many sacred traditions (a version of which includes the Jewish legend “The Angel and the Unborn Soul”) addresses metaphorically how we learn in the womb as unborn souls what our nature and destiny can be. We are born, however, forgetting where we came from and why we are here. Our physical nature, and its needs and wants, take over at birth, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to remember what we have already forgotten.
This story addresses the descent of the soul to the material realm and the challenges it faces here. The Sufi version of the story includes the reminder that within the soul are Divine Attributes linking us to God, and that even though once embedded in materiality we become blind to that secret within us, we still have the gifts of “mind” and “will” to help us return to this original level of awareness.
But even with these gifts, how do we remember what is buried within us? How do we use the tools given to us? It may be that we are actually hardwired for transcendence, for going beyond what is seen, venturing into the unknown, and making it the known. Transcendence is necessary to our existence. One cell transcends into many; cells transcend into one body; individuals transcend into societies; and societies transcend into world civilizations. Part of this transcendence is innate and part of it is learned.
This is why the prophets of God speak so clearly of remembrance, to keep our focus on the sacred, spiritual aspect of life. This is where we will find our greatest comfort, the holiness of life, and the love that we will most cherish. In remembering the real lives of the Prophets, we will gain greater meaning and understanding of our own lives, as our lives are also a reflection of the universal, archetypal experiences they have so movingly had.
But remembrance is not an easy process. Living in the material world is like having dust gather upon the soul, as Abdu’l-Baha says. What will wipe the dust away, and get us in touch with our soul again are the spiritual qualities of sincerity, justice, humility, severance, and love toward others.
The soul is seen as a repository of ancient, divine mysteries, and remembrance may be the most powerful tool we have for achieving true self-knowledge, as this knowledge is within us, fully accessible, and essential to who we are.
One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is finding the practice, simple or otherwise, that will help us remember who we are, what we do know, and what we do not yet remember that we know. It can be meditation, prayer, writing, singing, walking, or even going deep into the mundane routines of life. Having something regular that helps center us into a remembrance of what we may already know to be sacred and beautiful is essential to our spiritual growth. Simple acts of remembrance greatly enrich our spiritual life and move us toward transformation.