“Such a process of development and unfolding is not accomplished at once, but requires time and patience; a neophyte cannot immediately understand the mysteries of initiation when he enters the sacred precincts. The soul must be gradually accustomed to the light until the power of spiritual thought is unfolded, and the latter being, continually directed towards the divine light, becomes at last united with it. If the soul is perfectly purified and sanctified she becomes free in her movements; she sees and recognizes the divine light and she instructs herself, while she seems to be instructed by another. … She is then no more subject to terrestrial conditions of time, but lives in the eternal.” ~Apuleius
Process of Development
It needs to be noted that virtually all of the great philosophers, seers, and prophets of the past talked about developing our spiritual faculties. No one taught the ideas that it could happen instantly. None of them said we would become spiritual simply by declaring ourselves to be so. We may be spiritual students, or spiritual neophytes, but no more. It takes time to develop into a truly spiritual person.
One reason it must take time to develop spiritually is that we need to understand the new truths we are exposed to. We would learn nothing by having thousands of new concepts and idea flash before our eyes in a few seconds. It would be like a person who has spoke one language all his lie trying to learn another in a few days. Even more because in the new language there would be words that have no equivalent in the language already known. The truth must be introduced gradually, and the resistance to it removed gradually.
Accustomed to the Light
we have probably all done the experiment at some time of sitting in darkness for some time, and then a bright light is turned on. You are blinded by it for a moment. And that is just physical light and physical darkness. Spiritual Light is much brighter than physical light. Likewise, spiritual darkness is much greater than physical. So one who has been trapped in a world of spiritual darkness must be exposed to spiritual Light gradually, just as he must be exposed to spiritual truth gradually. Then once accustomed to that great spiritual light, one can work to become united with it.
United with the Light
In a sense, we are always united with the light, we are simply blocking it. The Light flows from God, to the Spiritual Sun, then to us. All of us, at all times. But many of us are simply not receptive to it. In a small number of cases, we may be actively blocking it. We actively block it by denying that it exists (with no proof, of course), or by accepting that it exists, but we ant no part of it.
Usually, though, we block it unintentionally. If you need to catch bus number 7, you can stand all day at a stop where only buses 3, 4, and 5 stop, and never get it. At that point, many will simply decide that bus 7 doesn’t really exist. Actually, all they need to do is move to the correct bus stop. In other words, we need to change our frequencies. We need to move up from the low frequencies of matter toward the high frequencies of spirit. We do that by taking in spiritual light which gradually increases our frequencies.
Apuleius is not the only philosopher who seems to be confusing the subconscious mind and the soul. They are definitely not the same thing. The soul does not need to be perfected, only awakened and nourished. As a direct link to God, it is already perfect. It is, however, in a dormant state when we are born into the physical world. It must be awakened with the spiritual Light. But in order for that to happen, we have to have a subconscious mind that believes it can happen and should happen. That is where the need for “perfection” is found.
Apuleius says the awakened soul, the soul that has received Divine Light, instructs herself. In the material world we live in, that seems like a nonsensical thing to say. How can it instruct herself? In order to instruct herself, it would have to already know the teachings. But if it already knows the teachings, there would be no need to instruct itself. It seems like a paradox.
But it is much like a person who has been through a traumatic experience. Sometimes, the person will have no active memory of the incident at all. They may even deny that it ever happened. Yet the memory is still in them deeply hidden in the subconscious mind. With the right therapy, they can be brought to gradually remember without the fear that it will happen again.
The soul instructs herself in a similar way. It is not a matter of learning anything new, but remembering what was known in the distant past. In fact, some spiritual teacher say that we never learn anything new, just remember what has been long forgotten. So in that sense, the soul instructs herself.
A final note: Apuleius, like some other ancient philosophers, always refers to the soul as feminine. Even today, you will hear some say that the soul is female. Others say that the soul is female in men, male in woman. In truth, the soul is pure spirit, therefore undivided. It is equally male and female. Or more accurately, the concept of sexes has no meaning on the spiritual level.