We should be cautious of a teaching that is popular. Mass acceptance often means the truth has been diluted or inverted. A truly fresh and uplifting teaching is unlikely to appeal to large numbers because the appeal must be based on non-egotistic appeals that are not popular. The teachings of the great religions of the world were not popular at the time they were founded. After centuries of debasement, obscurations and distortions—only then did they descend to a popular level.
image loosely based on the book Truth and the Dragon by Elsa Bailey
Self-centered metaphysics is a contradiction in terms. It’s a curious and often unnoticed fact that most schools and teachings termed metaphysical, place the major emphasis on more or less mundane egocentric concerns: awaken your psychic powers, get money, exercise influence, find love and romance, achieve personal enlightenment easily and quickly, and so on. There is a wide spectrum of desire-appeal in these that ranges from the “metaphysics” of winning a lottery to subtler goals like general self-improvement and gaining knowledge.
Given the current nature of humans, such motivations and appeals are to be expected. But they are not about metaphysics but “physics,” that is, the physics of bodies and their desires. In the normal course of life, we do need metaphysics to awaken personal powers, get money, exercise influence, and find love. With the exception of the last—and depending on what level of “love” we mean—these normal human goals are achievable without the confusion of redefining them as a spiritual path. But in a curious way, selfish appeals and methods get wrapped up in various “spiritual” and “supernormal” packaging. The seduction of that is that we can go on living an ordinary life while while entertaining the ego satisfying illusion that we are on a special spiritual path.
Goals like self-improvement, gaining knowledge, or getting clear of personality limitations can began to shade up toward something spiritual since they can support a healthy and more integrated personality. And we need some measure of progressive normalcy before we can expect safe progress toward spiritual or supernormal. Our practical pursuits are useful training and develop faculties in us that are a fitting prelude to spiritual progress, and moving toward the future our earthly abilities lend themselves to use on higher turns of the spiral of life. But, as often happens, more or less egocentric concerns saturates the beginning, the middle, and the end of pseudo-metaphysical teachings.
We search for happiness, and real happiness is spiritual sunlight. When approaching the spiritual, any desire emphasizing our egocentric concerns dims the light, and acts as a barrier separating us from the goal. We achieve happiness not by grabbing for it, but as a byproduct of love, a radiant sun-like disposition and motivation. For spiritual things, we achieve is by radiance. But the ego in us is not radiant, not giving. It is like a grasping hand, whereas the higher symbol is an open hand. Spiritual receptivity is like this open hand held out to the sun. If we try to grab the light, our hand closes on darkness.
We make much of the bodily aspect and it may even seem to us that the spirit is less real than the physical, so a “real” encounter comes to equal a physical one. Yet, only the spiritual component of each encounter is real. Without spiritual consciousness, a physical encounter is unconvincing and with spiritual consciousness the physical encounter may not be required. The external is, at best, an attractive adornment to a real meeting. Our ability to tie an encounter to a certain incarnate body is incidental. It is the energy component of any meeting that is essential.
And what of the bodies of the books and talks? Everywhere the mediators of great thoughts show both grandeur and flaws—the best are like magnificent stained glass windows, but with occasional cracks, splotches of dust, or missing pieces. One must find enough greatness of spirit to love the grandeur while not remaining blind to the flaws.
I do not see total validity or total authenticity in any book or person. I see that spirit pertains to the essence of things, to the rainbow of spirituality that is the foundation of the universe. But all verbal formulas provide a picture that is “through a glass darkly.” The texts we have, like our personalities, are never entirely satisfactory.
There are limits to be considered in every verbal formulation as well as in those of us who draw on the formulas. The value of a good teachings is it’s merit as general guideline and stimulus to thought and reflection. In the details and specifics, and their application to any time and space, there is often much ambiguity and vagueness. So, in a sense, we are still on our own—otherwise put—the intent of a great teaching is not to turn people into “wind up toys.” Teachings are not the truth, but a catalyst to aid us in our approach to the truth.
The teacher spoke. No one had a tape recorder handy or seemed to know shorthand. He used our words instead of his, adapting a little of what he saw we could grasp. Of the part we heard, we recalled a portion. In time, we came to understand, vaguely, a part of what our memory seemed to say. Of that portion, we wrote and spoke a little, and strangers with their own political agendas moved part of that to other languages. We heard, or thought we did—had we been women, we would have heard differently. No one in the chain thought much about the anomalies of retro-cognition, or vicissitudes of linguistic obscuration.
In the sky, sunlight in the air; on Earth, fragments on the ground…