LOVE AND THE ANIMAL SOUL
A. H. Almaas
The next issue we're going to deal with is how objects of desire
compete with the truth for our heart's love. The objects we crave compete for
our attention, our interest, our time, and our commitment. This is because
of what we call the libidinal soul, the primitive and animal level of our soul;
the part that is run by instinctual drives. At some point we recognize the
soul as one of the main barriers to the love of truth.
Love of truth is a subtle thing; it is the illumination, the radiance, and the melting sweetness of the heart. The animal soul, however, doesn't love the truth. Not only that, it doesn't even recognize love.
This soul is dominated by cravings, by animal desires: "I want it because I gotta have it. What has love got to do with it?" This is just like when an animal feels, "I gotta have this meat." It's not out of appreciation or love. It's more like, ‘‘if I don't have it, I'm going to die.''
This level of need and desire becomes the main barrier-and the most difficult one to deal with when it comes to recognizing our love for the truth. This is the level of animal instincts, where motivation comes from instinctual needs for survival, pleasure, and social connections. These are very powerful drives that live at the bottom of the unconscious. More than any other influence, they make us forget about or ignore the truth. You may see the truth, but when an instinctual need comes up, you not only stop seeing the truth, you actually feel,
" Who cares about the truth? If following my instinct means that I'll survive, and I don't know it' I'll survive if I follow the truth, then the choice is obvious." Survival is what you go for. You forget truth because it feels like a luxury.
In fact, the animal soul doesn't just forget truth; its attitude is: “What's that? What's truth? You can either eat it or YOU can't If I can't put truth in my mouth, what good is it? If I can't play with it,
what is it for? It's not fun, if it's not filling, if it doesn't make me feel safe and secure, I'm not interested.'' The animal soul manifests many kinds of desires, cravings, and needs. Pleasure is paramount. Even when truth comes, it's good only if it is pleasurable. If it feels sweet, nice, yummy, that's good. If it's bland or bitter, it's not the truth that's wanted.
This level of soul exists in us all. At this level, it is not a question of having difficulty with the truth due to a divided heart. The animal soul does not have a heart yet! It's operating on the lower chakras; only the stomach and pelvis matter here.
What's important to see is that ultimately, all animal instincts amount to the basic drive for physical survival. And all our powerful needs and instinctual drives can become a force that completely eclipses the love of truth. This is true whether the survival instinct manifests as the need for security, support safety, affection, social contact, comfort or money. In reality, all social and sexual instincts are linked to survival. For example, you may just want somebody around or someone to talk to on the phone, and it doesn't matter whether truth is involved. Just talking is what's needed. What's really happening is that you can't be alone; you are operating unconsciously from the assumption that social contact is a survival need, and that takes precedence over the love of the truth.
We need to deal with this level of our soul if we are to liberate our heart, for our heart can truly love only when it is free. The heart exists at the level of the human soul rather than at the level of the animal
soul. And unless the instinctual drives in the animal soul are confronted they will confine-and ultimately control-the human soul and heart.
One way that that the Instincts manifest themselves is in aggression. When getting what we want is blocked or frustrated, we often feel anger hatred, and revenge. These feelings and our desire to express them can become powerful forces against our love of truth. We're more interested in getting angry than in recognizing the truth, more
interested in making somebody suffer than inquiring into what's going on. These tendencies are driven by an instinctual force. Of course, fears are also involved because we are anxious about survival
and anticipated losses.
So the level of the instincts, the animal level, looks at the world in terms of objects of gratification-going after things that will make us feel good, gratify us, and help us survive. These are real needs for
human beings; they are not made up. We need food to survive. We need some kind of security. We need to have some pleasure; human beings can't survive if all they are experiencing is pain and suffering
We need some kind of company, some kind of social contact, some kind of family. The question is not whether these things are needed, but whether the expression of these needs is more powerful than the
love for the truth. When it is, we stay on the animal level. This doesn't mean that anything bad is going to happen. It just means that we're going to continue living as animal souls; we won't take the next evolutionary step toward becoming truly human souls. Many people go into Spiritual practice without dealing with their animal soul, without recognizing that there is such a thing. Some even become enlightened but never find out that they still have an animal soul. This means that the animal soul is living in the dungeon, waiting for a chance to come out.
The moment the observer inside relaxes and
a wonderful object of gratification appears on the horizon, (perhaps an object more wonderful and available than ever before), that's when the animal soul will come out. The love of the truth is in some sense our beacon, our way to become more human, more developed, more refined. And this does not happen by abandoning our animal needs-you can't abandon these needs-it happens by not putting them ahead of the truth.
Inquiring into and understanding the animal soul is a more effective way to work with our instincts than attempting to control them through renunciation. If you just renounce your cravings, your desires,
your passions then you're not dealing with the animal soul. When you say, "I don't want to engage with the animal soul. I'm not going to do anything to it, and I won't allow it to do anything to me," that pushes it to the side, and its tendencies are suppressed. But just as renunciation will not bring us to the place where our love of the truth is primary, neither will acceptance. Even after you recognize the unsatisfied needs and wants of the animal soul and how they were rejected-and then work with them and accept them that does not necessarily translate into allowing the love of truth to dominate.
The animal soul has its own fixations and objects of satisfaction. We definitely need to allow the animal soul to feel all its wants and desires and we need to accept them. However, that is not enough for the
animal soul to be able to let go of them. There are people whose animal needs have not been rejected. This does not mean that these people are not dominated by the animal soul. In fact their needs may have been over gratified, which is just as difficult a problem. It is easy to get stuck
in that. These individuals are used to being gratified and they feel that's their right. Because they're used to getting what they want, it's very difficult for them to let go of the focus on gratification and love the
truth. So both the rejection of and catering to animal desires are barriers to the love of truth.
In reality, the animal soul is the primary barrier to
spiritual development. It's difficult for us to see this because we're usually not dealing with a healthy animal soul; we're dealing with a damaged,
distorted, or arrested one. So we're always dealing with the distortions. We don't know how big a barrier the animal soul itself is because we're busy
trying to turn it into a more "normal" animal soul by freeing the instincts that were repressed in childhood. That in itself is not easy.
But even if you can accomplish that, you recognize, "Oh, what did I do? I thought this animal was going to turn out nice and cute. You didn't know it was going to become a huge hungry monster that
declares: ''Good! Now I am strong, I have my energy. Now I can get what I want!"
It's not as if the animal soul never feels peace and happiness. It does-when it has gotten what it wants. The animal soul becomes beautiful and graceful-but only after gratification of its desires.
There's no freedom in this. You're at the whim of your desires. In this way, the animal soul is like a small child. When things are going fine, the child is happy. He is an angel. When something goes wrong and he is not getting what lie wants, or you want him to do something he doesn't want to do, the child can become angry and even vicious. Give the animal soul what it wants and it becomes relaxed, happy and generous But the next day, when it is hungry again or somebody crosses its path, it behaves very differently.
So there are two stages of working on the animal soul. First, allowing it, accepting it, and letting it be there-recognizing that there is such
a thing and that it's normal and human to have all these desires. The next stage is its transformation. The transformation of the animal happens as you live your life according to the truth that you have
discovered. If you don't live your life according to the truth that you know, then you continue being an animal soul that has spiritual experiences once in a while.