Question: I would like to know the difference between soul and spirit. I know that they are two entirely different things, but I cannot understand the difference.

Sri Chinmoy: A spirit, as the term is used in the West, is a vital entity, and it is usually not good. The soul, which embodies God, is deep inside us; it is part of the Self. Through the soul we enter into our all-pervading divinity. When we use the term ‘soul,’ it refers to a spark of the Self, the Omniscient and the Omnipotent.

A spirit, as we use the term here, refers to a vital entity which is unsatisfied or dissatisfied when the person dies, and which stays in the vital world for some time. There are many, many disturbing, obstructing, conflicting forces that take the form of spirits.

These spirits try to create disharmony, division and so forth. This is their function.

Spirits sometimes will also help someone gather information in the vital world about what is happening there or what is going to happen tomorrow or the day after. They have this capacity because the vital world is higher than the physical world. If you climb up a tree and look down from the top, you have a wider view and can see everything more clearly. From the vital world it is easier to observe the happenings of the physical world. But from the physical world it is very difficult to enter into the vital world. Occult practice or spiritism is involved here.

Very often spirits say to someone that they will bring their parents or their dearest ones to visit the bereaved person. I wish to say that people who listen to these spirits are committing a great blunder, because the spirits do not actually bring the soul of that particular person, their dearest and nearest. Rather, they bring dissatisfied, hungry entities from the vital world.

There are some spirits that take possession of the existence of the people who deal with them. The outer beings of these people allow the spirits to enter into them, with the result that they become possessed. Sometimes these people predict many things which may or may not happen. Unfortunately, however, this does not bring them into the spiritual life. After a few years the spirits say: “Now give me payment. I gave you name and fame. You did not know anything about the past or future. I showed you, so now you have to give me payment.” What can he give? His name and fame cannot bring joy to the hungry spirits, so the spirits strangle him. Many, many black magicians and people who deal with spirits have been strangled or killed. I know because I have been near quite a few of these cases.

To come back to the term ‘spirit,’ in India we use the term with a capital S. and it means something different from what it means in the West. This Spirit is the masculine form of God which does not enter into the field of creation. It is the unmanifest Beyond, the Self. When we enter into the inner life and make spiritual progress, realising ourselves and liberating ourselves from fear, doubt and limitations, we gain a free access to the Spirit. There we achieve our own identity with the Cosmic Vision and Reality. This conception of Spirit is not used in the West. In the West we use the term ‘spirit’ to refer to spiritism and to beings in the vital world.