A compilation about the essence of spirituality, what it is, what it means, and nature of direct realization or enlightenment. A video montage of personal narratives of spiritual experience.
Without energy and realization all the play with words and concepts is gray and colorless. Gray people can also talk of light and dark, of dualism and non-dualism, of Christ or Buddha, or cosmic consciousness. But in the gray world, it’s all the same, all illusions dressed in fancy words, no light, no life, no color, no realization.
Whenever we become obsessed with sharp divisions we engage in a sin of separateness—with the knife of intellect we try to cut things up very neatly: spirit/matter, objective/subjective, religion/science, real/unreal, inner/outer, etc. “Real” and “unreal” have a number of meanings. In a curious way, objectivity (the material world) looks relatively unreal to spiritual perception. Yet we may knock on a wooden table and say, ”This is real,” and from the personality standpoint, so it is. And if we knock too hard we become convinced that the pain is real. Here, “real” means the practical experiences that we hold in common and find it useless to question. We may agree it’s a “real” fact that our hand hurts.
We know our perception of the physically real is subjectively taking place in the senses, brain, and mind—a realm the Eastern philosopher terms “Maya.” Perhaps our deeper sense of the unreality of external things derives from the intuitive knowledge that we are, when acting as isolated personalities, Maya interacting with Maya, illusion interacting with illusion, glamor interacting with glamor. Yet, whatever measure of reality anything has, is borrowed from the Transcendent. So never mind that we act as if the world is really “out there” the way we imagine—the important point is that we are always seeking a deeper Real. And the only way to truly know what is “out there ” is by unity in which the sharp division between “out there” and “in here” disappears—in unity we find our life is both out there and in anywhere.
You’ve probably not met The Active Enzyme Lemon-Freshened Junior High School Witch. Maybe she’s alive and well on a planet a constellation near Andromeda; we don’t know for sure and humility prompts us to realize that there are a few corners of the universe we’ve not yet visited. But she has such a charming name that, in a serendipitous mood, we might be half-convinced that she is quite real. In any case, a book for children was written about her, but unlike many related texts it does not purport to be anything other than fiction. Fiction often overlaps with fanciful abstractions and the real and unreal are intricately interwoven. We also know that many abstract words are only “shadows hiding a vacuum.” And what we know about the “The Active Enzyme Lemon-Freshened Junior High School Witch,” is that she is a high-flying abstraction pieced together from things that we do have knowledge of.
The thing about the witchery of high-flying language is its emotional appeal. It is glamorous, and at the same time often touches on matters of real importance: God, love, death, humanity, finding the right path, our place in cosmos, our true nature… These are so important, so luminous in the depth of consciousness that we may find them compelling even when badly expressed and mixed with all manner of invented balderdash. So when we encounter a truth that is distorted, watered-down, and morphed with extraneous material of all sorts–even then–we may find this pseudo-truth attractive and absorbing. The words we hear and the associations they evoke work magic so that anything with some real truth in becomes a challenge. And like the Active Enzyme Lemon-Freshened Junior High School Witch, the name can be so charming that we may be half-convinced by the name alone. This particular witch is an abstraction, selected and composed from a wide array of things.
The root meaning of the word “abstract” is to “draw away,” in essence to draw away from the things physical, concrete, and specific. If one were aspiring to things spiritual, this would seem, at first thought, to be a good idea. But some mentally unhealthy conditions are also characterized by withdrawal. So what are the differences between the benign metaphysician and the neurotic?
One difference, semantically defined, is what we might call word/reality split. It is the disunion between the words and the things or realities that they stand for. Often, we listen to someone using high-level abstract words, and we don’t know what they’re talking about. In such cases, there are at least two possibilities: either our experience is too limited or uneducated for comprehension, or they actually don’t know what they’re talking about. In this latter case the person who has “lost touch” doesn’t know it and are quite sure that they know what they’re talking about. They may be proud of their language and love the associated emotions.
We live in a “New Age” of information and misinformation overload, and this poses special challenges for us. In the metaphysical and philosophical world, there are thousands of competing verbalizations with contradictory pronouncements. If we gulp down lots of metaphysics, unless we’re an exceptionally well-rounded and clever, we’re apt to wind up with fine case of muddle-de-physics.
Naturally, many of us think—prematurely–that we’re exceptionally well rounded and clever, and so are quick to get into trouble. Which brings up the next notable difference between a metaphysician and neurotic: ego. Knowledge of a special language makes us feel special. Familiarity with lofty terms seems to elevate us, and set us apart from the crowd. We may become part of a world saving in-group. We are trying to be less lonely and be recognized for our knowledge and high status. Salvation of the world is, of course, an essential and admirable pursuit. And it would benefit all of us if more of those enthusiastically engaged in this activity did know what they were talking about, and if they actually could fly as high as the witchery their words suggests.
“It is inherent in our intellectual activity that we seek to imprison reality in our description of it. Soon, long before we realize it, it is we who become prisoners of the description.” —Aneurin Bevan
“Great God, what a universe! And we discuss it over our teacups as though it were a thing we carried in our waistcoat pockets.” –L. P. Jacks
“Men suppose their reason has command over their words; still it happens that words in return exercise authority on reason.” –Bacon
“The world is satisfied with words. Few appreciate the things beneath.”—Pascal
Everything transcendental is above the limits of external language. In direct realization we no longer need translation by linking words to meanings via external personal experiences. Yet fidelity of “reception” and “transmission” are still issues. We may catch a meaning directly, but there will still be limitations surrounding its embodiment on the personality level, that is in the form it takes in the mind, emotion, or physical world. Yet, in the depths of consciousness we can still sense the truth directly. And if the realization is revisited directly, it becomes apparent that the body we give it is inadequate. Words and images never fully embody the realities of spiritual life.
Without intuitive light, we exist imprisoned in symbols, in forms, in surrounding things. But by light we pass through symbol to meaning by way of intuition. Or failing this we are caught in symbol, mistaking it for the real. To be caught is easy, because symbols are not entirely dark–there is borrowed light in them, a moonlight reality, mirror of the sun’s radiation. Without the sunlight of intuition, only glamour is visible, and we exist then in an eerie moonlight world, knowing only surface lights. While moonlight is from the surface, sunlight shines from an inner depth. So moonlight is borrowed but sunlight is fiery-original and an apt symbol of intuition. On the surface we live in a moonlight world of things, yet rightly seen each natural thing conjures for us the sunlight world.
True life expresses in a radiance that illuminates all surrounding things. Knowledge or consciousness may be conceived as the source of this interior radiance–it is the light of intuition or teaching from within. It is revelation of truth, the release of imprisoned splendor.
“I was lifted high,
In sun-bright healing winds—desiring now
A greater beauty…”
— Marion Wentworth
Usually, people think of beauty as something perceived, something we subjectively attribute to an object or a person. But I find the spiritual meaning of beauty is different. Spiritual beauty is not a passive perception but an active and transformative power. It is the energy of the intuitional world. We commune with such beauty, we enter into it and it enters into us. It is unity and Fire. It is “the world of pure meaning.” This beauty is not our personal response to an object in the world. Rather, beauty is itself a multidimensional world of rainbow archetypes.
In the archetypal world the divine mosaic shines in beauty. We encounter considerable fidelity problems in translating this world of pure meaning into its best correspondences in thought and words. It is a valiant effort, yet the lesser cannot fully include the greater. Still we try to mirror it. Fortunately, the mental mirror is itself in long-term evolutionary motion.
“…beyond the Beauty that is predicated of various forms and relationships, there is a pure Transcendent Beauty, and this is a mode of the very Being of the SELF. This Beauty is not something that is beautiful. It is Self-existent and casts its luster upon all things… Ecstasy is pure Beauty, as well as pure Joy and Knowledge.”
— Pathways Through to Space, Franklin Merrell-Wolff
“It is not words only that are emblematic; it is things which are emblematic. Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible world.” R. W. Emerson
This being so, every encounter is an act of interpretation, an attempt to divine essential meaning. Every thing suggests its higher correspondence. The archetypal shines through everything in all its oceanic majesty. So, to the evolving eye, the entire universe, every person, flower, and event becomes a hyper-space doorway.
The words you see here—and the thoughts I hope you see—are an illusion, but also relatively real. Words are real to the extent that some true spirit or knowledge imbues them, and they are also more or less real or unreal according to the consciousness of the reader.
Think of the words “real” and “illusion.” I propose that the world is not illusion on the one-hand and reality on the other. Is this obvious? Yet we often use the word “real” as white and absolute and “illusion” as black and unqualified. Sure, some accommodate some grays in their vocabulary, but usually human emotions are friendlier with the enthusiasm of an absolute and unqualified ego affirming judgment.
Are you with me or against me on this?
Or is the question: “To what degree?”
Are words better able to convey mundane experiences than subtle or spiritual ones? No, because the virtues and limits of words are the same in each case. It’s experience in common that makes all communication via words possible, because the meaning of everything (from the most spiritual to the most material) is not in the words but in the consciousness of the listener or reader.
“The eyesight has another eyesight and the hearing another hearing and the voice another voice.”
—Henry David Thoreau
In the garden, the child asks, “Where is God?” With omnipresence, we might find God behind that curtain of galaxies in the far depths of space, or in the gift of flowers? Where is God the child asks. Smiling mother touches the child’s forehead and answers, “Right here.”
Galaxies might look severe, yet It must be a fiery but gentle God that nurtures the aura of youth, for the muted radiance of the child is easy on the eyes. Still, galaxies can not be discounted. Isn’t God more intense than the brightest sun? Some imagine approaching the God of all things directly. and right now, yet even the distant center of our modest solar system gives us sunburn. And it’s not hard to picture that even a lesser angelic visitor may be more than our eyes can bear. It seems degrees of separation are required for our protection, and serious adaption to the advancing radiance. But even with the dangers of life, there remains the wonderful concept of a vast hierarchy of light, otherwise the gulf between man and deity would be impassable.
Let us consider the world of the “esoteric” or “spiritual science”—these suggests a wide diversity of things such as psychic phenomena, the supernatural, mysticism, meditation, tarot card reading, kabalistic obscurity, crystal balls, reincarnation, astral bodies, auras and chakaras, Eastern thought, metaphysics, and the occult. For some, the language may also call to mind witches and wizards, seances, a yogi in a mountain cave, magical charms, mysterious rites, and perhaps even some UFOs thrown in. And for some, the esoteric terms even associate with cults, satanic worship, or some TV show on the latest strange, weird, or bizarre phenomena. We might say that, the human scene, being what it is, people inevitably acquire a superficial picture; a caricature of whatever realities esoteric language is intended to point to. And among many people, a term like “esoteric” or “occult” conjures emotions most strange, while in this maze of language and concepts–usually but vaguely and poorly defined–wander the metaphysically oriented people of the world.
All this is not to belittle the truth underlying the language, but rather to help us realize more clearly the difficulties of discerning that truth. It helps to realize that excellent things are rare, and that for every true teacher, there are a thousand pretentious gurus. For every true psychic, there are a thousand pseudopsychics. For every prophetic visionary, thousands of false prophets walk the earth. And for every truly enlightened individual, there are thousands spiritual charlatans. And the matter is further complicated by the fact that we rarely have just obviously “false” communications but a cryptic blend of the true, and half-true, of false, and a partly false. There are a thousands of shades of partly true offered us from every direction.
And everywhere we find systems, gimmicks, offerings of pretty packages, of effortless cures and quick enlightenments, and even metaphysical versions of get-rich-quick schemes. And for every purely wrought axiom of wisdom, there are a thousand clichés and inferior versions.
It may also help us to realize that, at one extreme, everything becomes counterfeited and debased. Everything has false and glamorous versions. Everything has illusory and shadowy counterparts. So, on the surface, everywhere is scattered fool’s gold.
At the other extreme, in deeper spaces, is the clear gold light of wisdom. But between the extremes is a world of grays where things gradually shade toward the light. This is the world where our discrimination and insight are constantly tested. This is the world where we must learn to think and see ever more clearly. We live along a twilight path of human understanding, a world mixed of dark and light. Yet, along the way, we may more optimistically recall that shadows suggest the light that cast them.
Take heart then that the Powers that be thought so well of us as to lay upon our path such difficult circumstances. Our own powers are equal to the challenge, if not today, then surely tomorrow, and we have an infinity of tomorrows.
Let us bring out of the dense fabric of human thought some clear ideas, set them upon a pedestal, elevated, striking, luminous—suitable objects for reflection. The light of them is beautiful and, in one way, simple, yielding to us by interior radiance that vision of clarity we so deeply need for the difficult journey.
How distant are we from Buddha and Christ? The gap may seem cosmic, but it would be wrong to emphasize separation. Besides both are local to Earth—that tiny dot in one of many galaxies.
The painter Veronese created many pictures of Christ close among people, a visual corrective to the conception of a distant and unapproachable Reality.