“These gurus in the marketplace keep saying that consciousness is the ultimate reality. But what I am asking is: is there such a thing as consciousness AT ALL?” –U.G. Krishnamurti
”This Self, Soul, Spirit, Atman, whatever you want to call it is an invention of thought, [the ultimate attempt to find and identify with permanence].” –U.G. Krishnamurti
The idea of a Soul, a Spirit, or a permanent Self is a comforting one; it allows us to see our physical life as being of not much consequence, for, says this idea, there is some eternal nonphysical part of us that will live on beyond its mortal coil. As comforting as it is, it does not correspond to any substantial reality: there is nothing permanent to be found in the changing streams of our bodily states, thoughts, feelings, states of consciousness, or experiences. This belief is the most elevated expression of wishful thinking, a logical extension of the purely biological wish to survive. This organism wishes only to survive, and it yearns for the most permanent survival of all: eternal existence as a soul, a spirit, a Self that does not rely on a body that is mortal and cannot permanently survive.
Interestingly, however, the belief in a soul or spirit or permanent Self can have survival value; those who hold it tend to work hard without feeling a sense of desperation, as if there whole being were riding on their present life. But like many beliefs, it is little more than a useful fiction.
Even the usefulness and not simply the veracity of this age-old belief can be questioned, however. The sense of being or having a separate self, soul, or spirit can bread alienation and a sense of isolation or separation from the world one inhabits. Founded on illusions, these feelings are themselves illusory. Perhaps there is some value to be found in dropping these false, though comforting, ideas and squarely facing our bare human situation without these spiritual crutches.