The soul means different things to different people. This is one view that ties it together with what our personality's purpose is, and the circumstances that we find ourselves in while here.
We may have an idea about what the soul is from our religious upbringing, and what follows may include some of that. This article tries to provide the greater context that ties together creation, the soul, and our existence on earth. Our view of the soul might be like a balloon we hold, though we have no idea what to do with it. Over time, we may come to see our relationship to our soul as the reverse of that, and then the world will make a lot more sense.
Before describing what the soul is, its existence has to be seen within the larger context of creation.
Most religions have a creation story that describes how the world came to be. What they have in common is that the world of matter and form came out of the consciousness of what we call god, under many names, by their will. One way to look at creation is to see it as a way of god exploring themself and what they can do. In that exploration, they create worlds that extend the depths of their creative ability. On the way to going deeper into creation, one point of focus is called spirit and is a centre of individual consciousness within creation, but still conscious of being part of the whole.
Further on the path of exploration, the spirit creates a projection of its consciousness and being as what we can call a soul.
The soul is learning to be a creative being, exploring its abilities, and growing in understanding and strength. That process results in a succession of accomplishments that each allow it to expand its consciousness until it reaches a stage that is called master. The journey does not stop there, as it is trying to be conscious of the spirit that created it.
To learn and evolve, the soul creates a projection of itself, known as a personality, that is an attempt to instill some of its consciousness into matter.
The goal is to eventually create a personality that is a perfect embodiment of the soul's consciousness, at which point the soul is considered a master of creation, where it can create a personality at will. In a similar way to god, as a centre of consciousness and will, we, as a personality, are given consciousness and free will, but also a body by which we give expression to those. The personality is limited to learning only some aspects of creation, and so is imperfect compared to the soul, which is imperfect in relation to the spirit.
As each personality explores and learns, the soul is learning how to make better personalities, as vehicles for its consciousness. At some point, it becomes skilled enough to speed up its learning by running multiple personalities simultaneously. In order to broaden the soul's learning as much as possible, those personalities rarely meet. This maximises the interaction with the rest of creation, enabling an exponential growth of the soul as it approaches mastership.
Note that we cannot 'save' souls, as they are neither broken nor suffering. As personalities, we cannot directly change our soul's development. We can only cooperate and in doing that, we demonstrate that the soul has had some success, and so change our circumstances to give us more opportunities to cooperate more.
A good analogy is to think of each personality as a day in the life of the soul.
At work, you may have several tasks to do. Each task does not start nor finish on the same day. We may not work on all of them each day, and we may work on each to a differing amount each day we do. Some tasks get held up, perhaps due to waiting upon other's actions, or we need to learn more about something that will help us to complete the task.
Similarly, the soul may work on upon gathering understanding over several personality lives, and may be running several such threads, spreading the workload over several personalities, with differing effort on each thread in differing lives, progressing its learning until it understands what it needs to get it to the next stage in its development.
Of course, with both a business and the soul, the work being done with each session/life will have evolved from what has been done in previous sessions/lives. Thus, we may get abilities and talents in one life, without being trained for it, but only because the training and hard preparatory work was done in previous lives.
There may be holdups in the sequencing of how the soul develops its personalities, so it can cooperate with other souls for mutual benefit, or cooperate with a group of highly evolved beings, called the Lords of Karma, for the development of the earth.
We may create a business, and as we learn, make adjustments as to how it operates, and so manouver it towards the outcomes we require. The soul does the same thing with its personalities. As above, so below, and it is that similarity of how our personality lives work out, compared to that of our soul's, that we can infer what the life of our soul is like.
The idea of free will is one that seems to run counter to an orderly expansion of the divine consciousness, so what is its purpose?
Free will is one of the few real – as opposed to being a matter of faith – givens that we have from the divine, so it must be important in the mechanics of the soul-personality interaction. In the context of the soul trying to create a personality that embodies its consciousness, how does it really know that it has succeeded? By giving the personality free will, it gains a measure of independance from the soul, rather like winding up a toy and watching what it does. It uses that free will to decide what it will do as a result of what enters into its consciousness from the outer world.
In the course of its life, the personality encounters situations that affects it physically, emotionally and mentally. Initially it often handles these by reacting, but later by reflecting upon them and posing questions to itself. In asking those questions, it gives opportunity for the soul to provide input, perhaps in dreams, or insights when contemplating or meditating. We often call that unseen part of ourselves the subconscious.
As a result of interplay of consciousness, free will and contemplations and reflections, a personality decides upon actions, the consequences of which will occur over a varying amount of time. Examining those results starts the process again.
Each created personality will be seeded with propensities to behave in particular ways by being programmed into it during childhood. This propels the personality to particular paths of learning/experimentation/experience that typically involve transcending adverse aspects of the early programming to make its own decisions about its life, rather than just living out the dreams and expectations of parents and others involved in the programming.
Each personality, throughout its life, is given many opportunities to choose what its soul wants, but those opportunities usually involve a choice between that and the desires of the personality. Personalities built by more experienced souls will tend to choose what the soul wants more often. Its desires will align more with those of the soul. It will choose livelihoods that give more opportunities for its soul to manifest.
When the soul eventually creates a personality that chooses, of its own free will, to allow the soul to guide its actions as much as possible, it has succeeded in its creative endeavours. It is a master of creation.
Some may have reached a very high stage of development of some aspect of their personality, such as with an elite athlete or virtuoso musician, but these are not examples of perfection of the soul.
Souls are learning to be creators of personalities that are able to serve them. Each personality is given what it needs to achieve whatever purpose the soul has for its life. That will be different for each life. If a personality is to learn how to see past the limitations of a disabled body, then that body is the perfect one for that life, despite what we may expect to be the perfect body that we, as personalities, may want.
Advanced souls do not necessarilly need to produce personalities that are perfect in the eyes of humanity to demonstate that they have mastered creation. Their personalities may well look no different from the average person in the street, as the work they do is mostly away from the public eye, and thus do not need to be especially appealing.
Personalities only have to be fit enough for the purpose of the soul, and no more, which can be hard to comprehend for those whose expectations of perfection have been largely based upon the glamourous images flooding our media. Our souls are so much more than what our personalities can ever be, and so their state of perfection is so much more than whatever we can imagine is perfection for us.
A learning lesson for the soul typically involves several personalities as it refines its understanding, so it has a set of goals it would like each personality to achieve.
This agenda for the personality is called dharma, variously seen as duty or obligation, but more realistically as a wish list or bucket list. Of course, with each personality having free will, those goals can be bypassed at a decision made in a second, leaving a whole line of learning in the dust at that point. However, the list is created with an expectation that most will, sort of, be achieved by the personality created, with incomplete learning left until later in a life, or to another personality.
Therefore, dharma is a dynamic process, and not fixed, and definitely not fixed at your birth. It is evolving as you evolve, so that if you do not change your thinking, your life will be fairly predictable. Conversely, if you change your thinking, and act upon those changes, your future will change.
However, even if you don't want to change your thinking, that your soul wants you to evolve will likely bring about circumstances that force you to make decisions that will change your life. The soul does not stand still, and so, while some lives will be fairly peaceful, most will be pushed along.
As each personality makes decisions, which each demonstrate some learning, the circumstances that follow need to be adjusted to maximise the new learning opportunities now possible.
The process of adjustment is governed by what is called the Law of Karma, which measures each decision against what was expected, and, with the cooperation between the soul, the souls of others that need to be involved, and the Lords of Karma, the future circumstances are changed.
The Law of Karma is seen as the law of cause and effect, also expressed as reaping what you sow. The important aspect of this is that you cannot get what you want without performing actions that enable it to happen. No-one will do it upon a wish. It takes your action to trigger the process.
However, the other aspect is that the circumstances are created according to what the personality needs to learn, not what the personality desires. This means the best path is for us to try to work out what our dharma is, just so that our actions are likely to create better circumstances for ourselves. We create the spiral of chaos or harmony by the progression of decisions and consequent actions we take.
While some personalities are in the stage of learning how to use their minds by manipulating their circumstances to achieve their goals, they are given some latitude to create chaos for other people. However, the tail end of their learning will be about the effects of their selfishness and the suffering it creates, for themselves, as well as others.
Mostly though, the more selfish the intent with which we make decisions and perform actions, the more difficult will be the resulting circumstances, eventually! The moral is to do what is best for all, and the future will be the best for all.
The earth is also a being with consciousness and will, and has its own dharma, which includes hosting and protecting lots of conscious beings.
However, it does not stand still, and we must cooperate in its development. That is, if the soul is not able to create personalities that can cooperate with the planet, then its sphere of creation will be shifted to another planet that can provide a more suitable environment. However, those that shift will be accompanied by the many who have been living among them, and who can guide them in their new journey towards perfection.
The earth is approaching a step up in consciousness, requiring its inhabitants to also be ready to step up. That step up is not necessarily in level, but in readiness to change and cooperate, and be part of a new world.