A soul is an individualization of the One Spirit-Being. It might also be thought of as a microcosmic hologram of the One Divine Being. Confusions come about, though, when souls are regarded as distinctly separate entities from one another. There are distinctions between individual souls, which will be explained, but the essential sameness of souls is far greater than their distinctive differences. The essences of any soul are its qualities of consciousness, love, and the will to unify and make beauty. Other spiritual and positive qualities are also inherent in every soul.
In other words, all souls share the same essential qualities of One Spirit, and all have the same essential spiritual capacities; so the only difference/distinction between individual souls is about degrees of development and the relative proportions of these developed qualities. Thus, individual souls have distinctions, but they nonetheless share in the same essential-inherent qualities of the One Spirit. So when we consider others, we can understand that our souls are essentially the same, yet with different mixtures or proportions of the shared essential qualities of the One Spirit. The other kind of distinction between souls is in their relative degree of light, love, and spiritual will; which also are what defines their level in the Hierarchy.
Each soul is a consciousness, a love and a wisdom; which all merge together as one. One of the purposes of every soul is to expand its consciousness, and its love and wisdom. And as each soul expands, there is discovery of those souls who are already at this next level of expansion.
This is related to expanding the soul's body-of-light within the One Mind or Universal Presence. For each soul is a body-of-light, within the One Light and made from the One Light. Each soul is a degree of light, or we could say an amount of light, or some amount of light radiance. As well, it could be understood that each soul is a sphere of light, a sphere with some degree of expansion -- which can expand further and further.
To understand this, imagine each soul as a sphere of light. Some spheres are smaller, while others are larger. Each soul begins as a small light, like an infant light. Yet each light expands in its progress, through expansions of realization and love, and this expansion occurs over many lifetimes, through many incarnations. In fact, the whole process could be infinite; which would mean an infinite possible expansion.
So then, as this sphere of light is expanding, it is becoming more of the Whole Universe. Do you see? It is expanding into the Whole of space, which is the spaciousness of Being; and thus, it is becoming more of the Whole, more of the whole Being. Until at its omega, its final destination, this once little sphere of light has expanded to become the whole space of the Universe. It has expanded to become the Whole Being Itself. And so this once little light is now the Whole Light. It has expanded so much that it has become the whole Being.
This omega could also then be understood as a final merging into the whole Being of God. That is, the soul is expanding and expanding into becoming all of God, all of the One, eventually. Yet this can also be understood as a re-immersion into God, a re-merging, or return to God. The portion returns to its wholeness. Each is realizing oneself and be-coming back to the Whole Being. Thus, in esoteric teachings this is called the great Return, or the Path of Return, or path towards Self-realization.
So, in a sense, this is a coming back to God, or back the Wholeness of Consciousness, of Love and Being. We first became souls when the original Light of Being fragmented into a multiple plurality of lights, or spheres of energy. These spheres of energy range from quantum small to cosmically large, small within Large. This occurred in order for the One Being to experience through the many, and also to experience the very Process of Return.
Essentially, the soul is returning to the One Source, the Almighty or Absolute. But this is a conscious expansion. It is an ever-expanding consciousness of the Whole Unity. The soul comes more consciously into the Universal Omniscience, of which it is already a partial fragment. And as it stabilizes into further and further expansions, the soul grows in realized wisdom, in love, and in spiritual power (or spiritual will).
Each soul is in a long cosmic process of expansion. This is a process of becoming more of the Whole, which means that each soul is expanding to include more of the Whole Universal Being, which is God. So we could also understand this as an expanding inclusiveness; until a soul has become all of the inclusive Whole, which would be its final return to God. In one sense this is an expansion, but in another sense this is a gradual annihilation of separate individuality back into Universal Being.
So along this process, this journey of expansion, of souls becoming more inclusive and more of the Whole Being, there are steps into greater Group-consciousness, or Group-being. For each step of inclusive expansion means that one becomes a greater field of consciousness, which also means that one comes into a greater Group-consciousness or Group-being - which are like stages into finally becoming the Whole Universal consciousness/being. For at each level of expansion is already a Group-consciousness, a kind of unified inclusive consciousness. So in this sense, we speak of Group-light, Group-consciousness, Group-being, and Group-will.
To understand this, imagine a series of leaps from lesser spheres of consciousness to greater spheres of consciousness, as one progresses from limited mind to Universal Mind. Now imagine this as an expanding group-mind; and the group gets larger as consciousness is more expanded and inclusive.
We speak of an expanded Group-consciousness, because each soul finds itself to be a consciousness field within a greater Field, and each soul field is surrounded, so to speak, by other souls, all of whom are on the greater path to Complete and Absolute Unity. This path to Unity involves a merging with other souls in the greater Group-field of souls, and this merging continues up the Ladder towards Absolute Unity whereby there are no boundaries and no plurality of souls. Thus, each soul is ascending on the way toward the Absolute Unity, the One Universal Consciousness. So, stages of mergence into the surrounding field of Group-consciousness are necessary along the way, at each level of expansion.
There is a possibility of continual expansion into greater wider Group beings. Each soul exists within a greater Soul, and this Soul within still greater Souls. So at each level there is an Over-soul, which is also the Group-Unity. Also, the Over-soul is the true essence of the soul, at each level, just as the Absolute Being is our Ultimate Truth.
Each soul-being exists within a greater soul-being, its Over-soul, which again exists within an even greater Over-soul. This is forms the Hierarchy of souls, whereby each soul exists within a greater Soul, and in turn, that Soul exists within an even Greater Soul, and so this goes on in an ever expansive way; while all souls exist within the One Being of God. The esoteric journey of each soul is an expansion into its greater soul, its Over-soul -- which can also be understood as a soul's greater being, as yet realized. The Over-soul is like the greater potential of a soul. The Over-soul is the greater consciousness and being of a soul, which that soul would be if it were to expand or discover more of its true nature. This Over-soul is itself an existing soul within the greater Hierarchy of Being, and it is an 'Over-soul' only in relation to those souls coming into its lighted being. For otherwise, this over-soul as well has the One above it, within whom it has its being.
Soul ascension is an expansion of consciousness, becoming more of the Absolute and Complete Unitive-Being. It can be thought of as a path to Greater Realization, which involves the realization that the soul is a unitive Group-consciousness. This does not mean that the soul is a consciousness of self-plurality, but that the soul-consciousness realizes itself as part of a greater Group or greater field of Being. This consciousness is truly unitive, that is, a consciousness of oneness, though open to a greater group-oneness. We say it is an expansion of consciousness or greater realization of being, but one should remember that the soul is also substantial, a spiritual substance or energy-form. It is far more substantial than a mere thought or sudden insight. It is a being of energy-light, a substantial field of intentional consciousness.
Each soul is both independent and inter-related with other souls. The soul is a being, a presence, a cohesive substance of spiritual light, consciousness. And each soul-being is more or less expansive in relation to the infinite Universal Being, which means there are very expansive souls and less expansive souls. Less expansive souls exist within greater expansive souls; or in other words, greater expansive souls enfold less expansive ones. Yet all souls, no matter how expansive, have a divine potential to be more expansive. This means that a soul can expand its being and consciousness to merge into the greater soul in which it exists, and to further expand its realization of the One Infinite Being, in which all exists.
In mystical religious terms, the soul is a limited reflection of God, or a partiality of God' s Being Consciousness, and the soul's journey is to expand into the God-consciousness and discover more of its pervading spiritual Essence. To truly know thyself is to truly know thy God; for in essence there is only God. But since God is the infinite Being-substance and Universal Consciousness, the soul-journey is relatively infinite. Or we might say, there is infinite potential within each soul: a potentially infinite consciousness, a potentially infinite pervading presence or being, and a potentially infinite creative power. So as the soul journeys more and more into God consciousness and being, it is becoming evermore expansive within the Total Whole. But there are stages along this journey, stages that might take awhile to progress through and onto the next level of expansion. These stages are the levels of Hierarchy.
The journey is through God and toward God, yet it is also through the Hierarchy of souls and Over-souls. Each step of expansion is into the soul's Over-soul, and this Over-soul can be thought of as the higher self or guiding presence of that soul. The present state of expansive and inclusive consciousness is the soul, while the future or next potential state of expansive consciousness is the Over-soul.
The Over-soul can also be known as one's Group-soul or Group-consciousness, because each soul is intimately related within a collective group of souls, thus being part of a collective group which is sometimes called an 'Ashram' of souls, with the Master being the whole Group-consciousness or Group-unity. The Master, or Guiding Light, is the Over-soul or Self-potential for all those in this group. The Over-soul, the Master, the Soul-guide, is the next leap, as it were, on the spiritual journey toward absolute and universal Consciousness. This next leap of realization and expanded soul-being is already a living potential or reality, but as-yet unrealized by the present state of the soul.
A number of souls have the same Over-Soul, or same influential [greater] Soul above, and these souls are in the same group. In some teachings this Over-Soul is what they mean by a Master or Guide, or Higher soul above yours. This higher Soul works to awaken the lower level, and the evolution of a soul is essentially to Realize its higher Identity, to realize the Soul above as one's true self, thus collapsing the previous self-consciousness and emerging anew as a more expansive consciousness. This gets into a teaching that only becomes clearer over meditation and time, and no one way of talking about it is adequate.
Rising up to the next level is an accomplishment that few people ever know, but one might say that this is one of the true purposes of our lives. And every time someone actually rises, like a quantum leap, there is a rising influence rippling through the whole pyramid of souls. Esoterically, when a very high soul rises to the next level, many people of that time have spontaneous awakenings and initiations, and even mass consciousness's will suddenly expand over a short amount of time - these are special times in social history.
So each group soul is part of a more expansive group soul within the human pyramid. At the higher levels there may be only one or just a few personality embodiments of a particular soul (a unique expanse of self-conscious love-wisdom), while at the lower levels there will be more people having the same soul.
For example, at the more base level of humanity there are large groups of people of the same group-soul, and these souls will mostly evolve as a group. You can usually know who these are because they tend to be followers of mass movements or trends or fads, and the groups will often disagree about trivial things and fight each other. Yes they will have different personalities, but they'll be basically at the same level of consciousness.
The esoteric teachings tell us that seven is a key to the levels. At the top is the World Guide or Savior, who has manifested in different forms with different names. This Soul is actually the Sun- Soul or Solar Logos. Then there are seven great souls under the guidance and influence of the Greater One. Then from each of these there are seven again, producing 49. Then from here, the tree branches again and again, at each level. So there are a lot of souls, especially nearer at the lowest level, but also a lot of people sharing the same souls.
There are not as many souls as people on earth, because groups of people have the same soul. This esoteric teaching may be hard for western minded people to accept, because the western culture places so much emphasis on distinct individuality. Souls are distinct unities in themselves, but many different persons may share the very same soul. Remember that a soul is a certain expanse of divine love and wisdom, which also has some distinct potentials not found in every other soul. But the soul must live through personalities and bodies. Most people (body/personalities) are only aware of their personalities (their unique body, their mixture of emotions, their thought habits and memories). But groups of people share the same soul. That is, your soul may be the same as some other person’s soul, so we could call this a group soul.
As we usually pride ourselves on our uniqueness or individuality, this truth has not been well accepted and the more popular teachings emphasize how separate and unique each person is. But hey, I'm not saying you are just like everyone else, just that you are essentially the same as a lot of others. I mean even your personality is very similar to a lot of others, even if you're not exactly typical, but of course you probably feel quite unique. Yet remember that down deep, past the confused emotions and beliefs and memories, you are really the same as a lot of others, not all of everyone, but many.
But then, what about accountability for our lives and how does this translate into reincarnation? For the most part, soul-groups evolve or de-evolve as a group, so each person either helps expand the consciousness and love, or shrink it. Really, most people carrying the same soul will simply go with the flow, and their next lives will just reflect the same potentials of the group-soul, the same potentials they had in lives before.
Here's an example. A group-soul embodies in the material world, through Sue and John and you and many other body-personalities... -- it doesn't have to happen all at the same time.. it's just ongoing. Some people of the group may die, new embodiments are born, but the shared soul remains who it is... it never really left and never really changed at all with these deaths and births. The soul only evolves or de-evolves in usually a fairly slow process over time, depending on the experiences and spiritual efforts of its earth vehicles (the personalities in action).
Now, it is possible for you or anyone to evolve past your own group; which is like a leap from one zone to another. People in this process will often feel very isolated or lonely or absolutely different from everyone else... for at least awhile, but eventually this personality vehicle stabilizes in another group, hopefully on a higher level. Because of this potential, it is true in a sense that each has potential for being truly unique.
But in reality, despite these transitions, no-one is really completely separate-alone as a conscious identity, because in any singular soul-consciousness there are others here on earth who embody the very same consciousness -- they are you in essence but they have different bodies and live different lives. Yet on a deeper experience level, you all share things like deeper feelings and inspirations and love; so people do not exactly have the very same thoughts and emotions, but the general thoughts and emotions are shared.
Now if the collectiveness of this seems too bothersome, then it can be remembered that each and every single person has the ultimate potential to break out of their collective-soul and spiritually awaken on the next level.. (though it's also possible to fall down a level). So in this sense, we are each unique souls, able to transcend wherever we are now (and whatever group we are with). And it may be useful to look at this from still another perspective; that each mind (as part of each body-person) is capable of realizing soul-consciousness at various possible levels (and also expressing from one of the levels). Thus, each of our individual minds stabilizes at some level or another, yet each still has an everpresent potential to expand into greater soul-realization to enter into the next higher level.