Saturday, 13 August 2016

God as Father and Mother

One of the major problems of our time is the corruption of the male/female duality. This is so counter to Nature and to most people's instincts that it must be diabolically inspired to have come about in the way it has. However one of the reasons that this distortion of reality has been able to take any kind of effect at all, and not just be laughed out of court, is because we have no sense of metaphysics nowadays so no understanding that sex or gender is not arbitrary or meaningless but something real that is the echo of a much higher truth. For the masculine/feminine duality goes right down to the heart of existence and it is present, in some form, from the very beginning. 

In the past most monotheistic religions have downplayed, if not totally ignored, the feminine side of divinity. To say that does not imply that its place should be exactly equivalent to the masculine, which many of those who want to restore it seem to believe, but it definitely does have a place which has been neglected. I have written about this before here and hereand I don't claim any full knowledge on this subject (any more than anyone else can), but I do have my intuitions and I will try to express them in this piece. As they coincide, more or less, with tradition and the book of nature I believe them to be relatively free of prejudice and cultural conditioning. 

The fundamental duality of existence (and existence must be dual in order for it to be known) can be described as spirit and matter or God and Nature, Subject and Object, and in sundry other ways that are variations on this theme but which all boil down to something like Life and Appearance. In this duality the former is always, in practically every culture, masculine and the latter feminine. No doubt there are exceptions but they, as the saying goes, just prove the rule.  Humanity has a basic intuition about this and it is correct.

Now it is interesting that the two are complementary but always it is natural to put one before the other. This is not just the way we are used to doing it. It is how it is. The masculine principle is always put first, even in Tantra in which this dualism is most developed and where it is described as Siva-Sakti. Does this mean that the first is the primary principle, Life/Spirit, and the second, Appearance/Matter, is that principle when it expresses itself which it has to do as a duality? Thus spirit and matter in manifestation are actually modes of  Spirit since on the highest plane of reality there is only the Creator and spirit and matter are one, not yet sundered. So you can say that the second comes out of the first as its complementary principle in manifestation but you cannot reverse this statement and put it the other way round. I think this is exactly what it does mean and this points to a twofold relationship between these two principles which may be why so much trouble is caused in coming to a proper understanding of how they should interact, and their role vis a vis one another. 

On the one hand, there is the complementarity. Where there is one there necessarily is the other and each is incomplete without the other. One cannot exist without the other and they need each other to grow and become more. This divine duality is the case in all the created worlds and in every situation or circumstance in which life is expressed in form. But, on the other hand, there is a hierarchy of sorts. Matter does come from spirit when it moves out into self-expression. The masculine principle does precede the feminine which is its opposite in manifestation and the worlds of duality. It is not just that in unmanifest oneness neither exist or both are dormant. If so, how would the externalising process ever get started? It is more that pure being, to reveal itself, becomes positive and negative though these words are slightly misleading because here the negative is not absence of anything but its own absolutely real principle. We are, after all, talking about God in whom and for whom everything is real. Perhaps a better way of describing this primary duality would be as active or initiating (God, they say, is Pure Act) and passive as in creatively receptive. Both are fully real but one exists to express and glorify the other not vice versa. You might say that without the Mother (Mater/matter/prima materia) the Father cannot create because it is only through her being, her substance, and in her space that his idea can take form and manifest. She is the second part of the duality in which the One manifests and without which it would remain unexpressed.

This is undoubtedly a difficult concept which is why we tend to seek refuge in a simpler scenario of either one alone being real or both being equally so. But neither of those ways of looking at the picture of masculine and feminine as they relate to the depths of existence is really satisfactory. The truth seems to be a mixture of the two. Complementarity and hierarchy. Perhaps one way of picturing this is to see that the sexes (as cosmic principles, first and foremost) relate to each other in two ways. One, on a horizontal level in which the masculine is on the right and the feminine on the left, and two, on a vertical level, in which the masculine is above (Sky or Heaven) and the feminine is below (Earth). This image will undoubtedly raise hackles today but it probably was the intuitive understanding of the past before our minds were clouded by materialistic humanism and atheism, not to mention too much education of a certain sort distorting our natural and innocent perceptions.

It is undeniable that this relationship along the vertical axis, in which the masculine precedes (in terms of the process of creation) the feminine, has been corrupted in the past, principally by taking it out of context and misapplying it on the horizontal level where it is not valid, but that does not mean it is incorrect. What it means is that spirit is the primary principle, and matter its expression in form, indeed its expression as form, but the two always go together to make a whole. Though with the proviso that spirit must be seen as the active principle and matter the receptive, and the additional understanding that the fact that the masculine hierarchically precedes the feminine in creation does not make man superior to woman, individually or collectively, in this world. The two have equal value as expressions of God but they also have their real roles which are not by any means the same and in some ways may even seem to be unequal.

I want to try to imagine the beginning of all things. What happens when God creates the universe? From within the eternal night of unmanifest being comes God the Creator. So the first thing is an act of Will, the will or desire to create. Now this cannot come from nothing so it means that God as Creator is already there. Obviously there must be a Creator before there is creation (I am discounting any materialistic hypothesis here) so the Creator must be there in the eternal night of unmanifestation and must precede anything else. The Creator is the acting, masculine principle, and this is the first of all things, present from before all things. But then 'the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters'. In order to create the Creator must have something in which and from which to create, something to give form to his idea. This is 'the waters' which is the receptive or feminine aspect of God and which becomes light once it is impregnated by the Spirit of God. As I envisage it God draws this forth from himself (where else could it come from?), or separates himself into two, and his resulting feminine side is both the womb and substance of creation. So for there to be anything there must be two things, both the masculine and feminine principles. Each needs the other in the creative process - as if we didn't know that! And in terms of the created universe each has always existed. There is nothing without the two of them interacting. However in terms of existence prior to creation the masculine principle was primary just as the Will of the Creator preceded Creation.


Another way to look at this is to see the masculine and feminine principles as giving and receiving or expanding and contracting. The two always go together as movements in a single process but the first is always first, the initiating or preceding stage. The second makes the movement of the first possible but the first is the instigating factor.

Everything in the universe from atoms to galaxies is created out of the feminine principle, the Mother as the divine substance of God. She is the source and matrix of all manifested form in heaven and earth. However creation comes from the mind of God the Father. It is his idea that initiates the process and which takes form in the substance of her being according to parameters (laws) that he has set up. But note that we are talking about divine realities here so the feminine aspect may be the passive or receptive aspect but that does not mean she is without a will or mind or consciousness of her own. But she, like Mary, lovingly submits to the Will of the Father and allows his imaginative power to be expressed through her, also imbuing it with her quality. So God the Father thinks the Creation and his thought bears fruit in the body of the Mother which lies in darkness until acted on by him.

The idea that the feminine principle ultimately derives from the masculine is echoed in the story of Eve being formed from Adam's rib, and also in that of Sophia or Wisdom of whom it says in Proverbs that "The Lord created me the first of his works long ago, before all else was made." One can dismiss these stories as fairy tales or inventions designed to boost patriarchal power but I think they are mythologies, that is, symbolical presentations of truth. The same truth is enacted in Mary's acceptance of her role as the Mother of God, that is, of God in form. This involved humble submission to the Spirit of God (as Mary submits to God as matter should submit to spirit), and it plays out on a lower level what happened right back at the very dawn of creation. Mary, by her submission to God, eventually ascends to become Queen of Heaven, and one does not have to take this literally to see that Mary was indeed the perfect representative of this divine archetype.

We have seen that God becomes two in order to express himself but he is pure positivity to start off with otherwise he would be nothing. This is why there is a sense in which the masculine does precede the feminine in terms of being even though there is complete complementarity in the phenomenal worlds of becoming where the two are always ever present, each suggesting the other. Complementarity means that each has a role to play and neither should usurp the role of the other. That is not what is happening in our fallen world but those who are serious about the spiritual path have to look within themselves and try to gain a proper intuitive understanding of the roles of the sexes and the meaning of gender as it exists at the deepest level of creation. Divine order only comes about when masculine and feminine are in harmony. In our human terms that does not mean that men are just manifestations of the masculine principle and women are of the feminine. It's like the yin/yang symbol where each includes an element of the other. And, as human beings, which we are before we are men and women, we all contain the whole within ourselves. Nevertheless for women this should be in the context of femininity just as for men it should be within that of masculinity. At the moment the world is very confused, misled partly through the desire to correct past error but chiefly, I would say, through egotism ably stirred up, inflamed and given spurious justification by demonic incitement.  All of which means that none of this discussion of the feminine aspect of divinity should be taken as support for modern feminism. In fact, the opposite is more the case. Feminism, as it stands today, is a distortion or perversion of this idea since it is largely based on the hatred of the feminine as the feminine and the desire to replace that with a pseudo-masculinity. Its devaluing of the role of motherhood is the plainest indication of that. Its refusal to see femininity in terms of receptivity, which it mistakenly sees as inferior, is another clear example that it is rooted in error.

I have been talking here about principles but the question then arises as to whether these principles are persons too. I think the answer must be yes, though what form they take, if form they have, is beyond our comprehension. In the Christian world view, to which I largely adhere, everything in the universe is, or is aiming to become, a person based on the supreme reality that is the personhood of God. Therefore all principles can be personified but what that really means is open to question. Man is created in the image of God but we must try to conceive spiritual realities in spiritual rather than material or worldly terms. Is God a person? Yes. Does he have a body? Not according to Jesus who said that God is Spirit. Not according to St Paul who in Colossians 1:15 described Jesus as the image of the invisible God. And not according to the understanding that sees the Creator as transcending his creation and a being that cannot be limited by form. I don't doubt that there are great spiritual beings who do appear in form, and maybe the Divine Mother is one of them as in the vision of Isis in The Golden Ass by Apuleius, but God as Creator of the Universe stands above his creation.

It might be asked where the Trinity fits into this or the Godhead, the Divine Darkness which is the ground of all being and about which nothing may be said for all words about it must fall back into silence? The latter can readily be equated with the Eternal Night which is both prior to creation and sub-stands it at all times. As for the Trinity, it may be that the Mother is the substance to its essence. It is the Mother who enables the Father to give expression to the Son and who enables the Logos to take form, both individually and cosmically.  But really God is far too great and beyond our conception to be forced neatly into any ideas we might have about him. There may be different ways of conceiving him which are not contradictory but which focus on different aspects of the totality of what he is. This should not be a problem. We can look at the picture in different ways and this is one of them but I see it as more a symbolic description of reality than an absolutely true depiction. Nevertheless I believe that it does describe this reality in a way that does not misrepresent it on our level of understanding.


Note: God nowadays is often described as transcending any idea of gender. Either above masculine and feminine or else including both within himself. And, of course, this is correct if we are talking about the Supreme Principle, unmanifest spirit in its pure 'isness'. But if we are talking about the Creator, the one who created the universe, who created our souls and made us individual beings, the one who Jesus Christ called Father and with whom we can have a relationship, then what I have written above applies. Naturally the fact he is Father does not mean he doesn't contain all qualities within himself but still as the Creator he is Father.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Feminism Reappraised

Feminism in the modern world is usually regarded as an all round good thing which every educated person, male or female, should  be in favour of and support. It will take us forward to a more just and civilised world in which everyone will be happier as life proceeds in an enlightened fashion to the benefit of all.

That is one way of regarding the matter but there is another which, instead of taking things at face value, looks behind appearance. However this requires a spiritual as opposed to a material/humanistic understanding of life. In this scenario feminism is akin to a second temptation for Eve, deceiving her into thinking that if she eats the apple proffered she will become as a god. It's the old appeal to power disguised as justice. Outwardly what the serpent is whispering makes sense. It seems right and reasonable. The old ways (the command of God, the rules of religion and traditional society) are unfair and absurd. They are restrictive, authoritarian and designed to maintain an unjust power structure. But actually once the shiny surface of feminism is stripped away it can be clearly seen as a lie that will only lead to unhappiness as the relationship between the sexes is damaged, and the harmony that should exist among human beings is replaced by a state of affairs in which the natural balance and order is lost. The only result can be alienation from the truth and suffering for both sexes not to mention humanity as a whole. Of course, no one is saying that the past was perfect.  Abuse of male power had set in long since, and that was obviously what increased the appeal of the temptation and made it possible in the first place. Some wrongs did need to be righted, but that is quite a different thing to overturning the whole natural order. The traditional idea of the sexes as complementary is far closer to the truth than the false notion,  rapidly becoming the norm today, that there is no real difference between them.

Satan has always known that if he can corrupt woman who, when she is true to her nature, frequently has greater intuitive sensitivity to truth than man, then man will follow, whether through weakness, vanity, the desire to please, to be seen as fair and reasonable or maybe even gallant and gentlemanly.  Her sexual power over him is also a major factor. So he (the tempter) plays on her sense of injustice, appeals to her ego and fans the flames of resentment. As always there is an element of truth in what he says. There must be or else it would inevitably fall on stony ground. But mixed in with that there are powerful lies and these become more dominant as time passes and the good that could be done is overshadowed and swallowed up by the harm that is done.

The divine nature can be seen to express itself through masculine and feminine forms when in manifestation, these corresponding to Justice and Mercy as discussed in previous posts and best personified as Father and Mother. Each sex should ideally manifest one or other of these qualities to be true to its calling as a man or a woman. That of course does not mean that the other quality should be neglected or left unexpressed, but it should be seen as within the context of the main principle. When either sex overbalances too much towards the other then something has gone wrong and the natural order will no longer function as it should. When either tries to usurp the functions of the other then something has gone very wrong. This indicates rebellion against reality and, as such, its origins are not hard to determine. Feminism is based on the desire for power which must surely be obvious to the unbiased observer, and its undervaluing of the role of the mother makes it blatantly anti-feminine. What clearer proof could there be that it is infernally inspired?

Many people in the brainwashed world of today will reject that assertion and consider anyone who says it an ignorant bigot. So be it! Nevertheless, in order to defend myself from attacks by those who might accuse me of saying what I haven't said (a typical tactic of the fallen being), perhaps I should qualify it slightly. What is infernally inspired is modern feminism. That is, the original impulse behind all this would have been meant as a correction to past over-balance on the masculine side but the devil, true to his normal working practices, has taken an intended force for good and corrupted it. He has polluted what, at its source, was a clear stream, bent truth to his spiritually corrosive ends and destroyed its original meaning and purpose in the process. Naturally, he could not have done this without the willing participation of wrongly motivated humans in this world to carry out his project, people who claim to be acting disinterestedly, if not out of goodness, but in whose faces and manner you can usually see something quite different.

The position I put forward in this post is one, I fully realise, that is easy to take the wrong way, even to caricature. But there are two points I would like to make. Firstly, modern feminism is based on rebellion and the roots of this rebellion, like practically all rebellions since the first one, lie in the ego's self-assertion against the truth of God. This leads to the second point which is that the whole question, like so much else, comes down to metaphysics. If your metaphysics is wrong then the position you adopt from it will be too. The metaphysical basis for feminism is materialistic humanism which is the denial of God. Some people try to fit feminism into a spiritual context but the spirituality that results from that is a very ersatz one that has no grounding in any kind of authority or genuine tradition. It's a cut and paste job, and one that has to adapt to political/social views rather than the other way around.  

So feminism is the product of materialistic humanism but that is a false ideology based on unreality. This means that feminism is actually built on non-existent foundations and once that is realised its whole premise just melts away. By the same token when the true metaphysical position is known, that God is real and that he expresses himself in a dualistic way through spirit and matter, life and form, which correspond to masculine and feminine then the complementary roles of man and woman and their relative positions with regard to each other become apparent. This is not a matter of equality which is an irrelevant red herring here, having no bearing on the question. It is a matter of complementarity within the context and meaning of the divine masculine/feminine polarity.  The two sexes have different roles (as everyone knows if they're honest), and if one of them tries to usurp the position of the other then eventually societal breakdown will ensue.

I have put this post under the label of the Kali Yuga which is the ancient Indian version of the End Times when true values are inverted and materialism is rife. It is, you might say, the time when the substantial (material) pole dominates the essential (spiritual) one, and truth and goodness are distorted. Feminism, in its modern form, falls very neatly into this category.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Christ

A while ago I was asked if the Masters who spoke to me ever referred to Jesus Christ and, if so, in what way. As something of a follow up to the previous post I thought I'd include my reply here.

"This is a very intriguing question for me.  Jesus was the only religious personage the Masters ever mentioned by name but they never said Christ is the Son of God or anything like that. However I have always felt that all roads lead to Christ and that, in some way I don't pretend to understand, he is behind everything good and true, including behind the Masters as their commander-in-chief you might say. I once said to Michael I felt very attracted to St John and he nodded and said that's not surprising, but wouldn't say anything more when I tried to press him. Very frustrating!

Even though I have been interested in a wide variety of religious teachings from Hinduism and Buddhism to Theosophy, and even people like Dion Fortune and the Western occultism she espoused, they have always all paled before Christ  
So, to answer your question, my current understanding comes from me not anything the Masters actually said. And yet they always told me that they sought to impress me with ideas and it was up to me what I picked up on. I know that's how they prefer to work so one has to use one’s own intuition and work things out for oneself rather than be spoon fed.

In the book Towards the Mysteries by Swami Omanada  (Maud McCarthy), which I see as comparable to my experience with the Masters, there is a passage right at the end where the Masters are asked by the author about Christ and their relation to him and they say in reply that yes, they come from him and that he sent them. The whole passage is very moving and I think it's worth quoting in full here.


"Some weeks before his death, I was alone with the Boy*, when he went into a deep trance, and walked unaided onto the verandah. A great Brother had evidently taken him; in fact I perceived that my own guru was there— that high Master who was leader of the group of Brothers who had taught and healed through the Boy.
We stood together in silence: evidently he knew that something weighed on my mind, and waited for me to speak first. I was indeed longing for confirmation of an idea that had persisted in me for years; but the opportunity to question him privately had come so unexpectedly that, taken by surprise, I was agitated, confused, and unable to formulate my big question. Trying to regain composure, I enquired hurriedly and lamely if I might speak my mind on one or two points. He said:
Certainly, my child.
I then told him that I had had a great love for Christ since early childhood, and that my love for Him did not cease, but increased with the years. I asked if I was wrong to love Him as I do, whilst also loving greatly my own guru—himself? He replied with much affection:
MY CHILD! HOW COULD IT BE WRONG, SINCE CHRIST IS MY OWN GURU ALSO?
That made me amazedly happy, but even more speechless, for my mind was working furiously on something about which I dared not speak. I floundered between yearning and timidity; and at last sought permission to question further. This was granted; but I was now trembling exceedingly, and struggled with words that died on my lips.
Finally I asked him (who would not permit me to call him “Master”):
Brother! Is it possible that He sent you out on this mission, with the other Brothers of your group—that it is truly from Him and as His Messengers that you came out this time?
My guru paused in thought; pondered long, and seemed to hesitate. Presently he nodded slowly, and breathed:
YES—HE SENT US OUT! 
He took the dying Boy back to his room, still entranced, and there, left him. I stayed on, ministering to the heroic Labourer from Bow. I am certain that he had long known what my guru had just revealed, but that—faithful servant of the Messengers and their Lord—he had remained silent."

If you can read that without a lump coming up in your throat you are made of sterner stuff than I am. The teachings given through these Masters in that book are not obviously Christian in the conventional religious sense any more than the things the Masters taught me were. Nevertheless they do seem to echo what Christ himself taught in a pure and profound way.

 So I don't know what to think about this really. All I really do know is what I feel, and that is that all goodness and truth and holiness and purity and ‘rightness’ are summed up in Jesus Christ. I have always felt this even when talking to the Masters or investigating other spiritual approaches, and, as time goes by, I feel it more and more. I don't think I am being disloyal to the Masters in saying that.  I think they would approve! What's that line from a poem whose author I don’t remember?* “I could not love thee dear so much loved I not honour more”.  That's how I feel about the Masters and Christ. 


So my view of Christ is that he is the supreme spiritual principle in this world. He is what he says he is and everything else must be seen in his light, its truth depending on how much it accords to him.  I don't believe that everyone has to acknowledge Christ externally to be saved.  I think the truth is more universal than that, and the spirit matters more than the letter. But I do think we all have to recognise him and the truth he stands for in our hearts."



* This is the medium who performed the same function for the Masters as Michael did in my case though his work was much more extensive and public.

*I've since looked this up. It's from To Lucasta, Going to the Warres, a poem by the cavalier Richard Lovelace written in 1649.



Friday, 5 August 2016

Buddhism and Christianity

As this blog has progressed one of its main concerns has become how to place Buddhism and Christianity within the context of an overarching reality or supreme truth because, as I said in the previous post, they are not saying the same thing. Christianity is often regarded by the mystically inclined today as though it were saying the same thing, really, as Buddhism. It just isn't saying it quite as well. But that is not true. The writings of some Christian mystics can be interpreted as if they are speaking non-dualistically, though Meister Eckhart is usually the only one who can really be seen in this light, but non-duality or monism, as conceived in Eastern terms, is not part of Christianity at all which remains a dualistic religion in which union with God, and not absolute identity, is the goal. In several previous posts I have attempted to show how Buddhism and Christianity, both seemingly true on their own terms but incorrect in terms of each other, stand in the light of overall truth, and the conclusion I have come to is that Buddhism is the highest truth but Christianity is higher.

Before I try to explain that rather gnomic utterance I should say that this view is fully borne out by the teachings the Masters gave me. They never mentioned either Buddhism or Christianity by name (though they did mention Christ), but what they taught can be seen to contain elements of both. The essential elements required for any individual treading the spiritual path, though tailored for my particular needs of the time and addressing my particular weaknesses. For instance, they spoke of both meditation and prayer as being equally important. They told me to forget the personal self and merge with the universal Self but also said I should remember the Creator. They spoke of themselves as being essentially one but were also wholly individual. They advocated detachment from emotional identification but emphasised love and humility as the highest spiritual qualities, neither one of which, incidentally, would have any meaning in a system of pure non-duality.

I say Buddhism is the highest truth because it points to the unchanging reality beyond creation and the movement of form, and details the way in which an individual may step out of the world of becoming and into pure being. This is Nirvana, the 'blown out' state in which there is no more coming and going. Oneness with the Absolute must be the highest state. It is the state beyond all ideas of states.

Or so it might seem. But actually there is something more, something better, and this is revealed in Christ.

For in Christ the world of creation, either denied outright or diminished in Buddhism and other non-dualistic religions and philosophies, is fulfilled. He is the fulcrum of the created world and uncreated reality, and in himself he reveals the perfect union of the two. He brings the one to perfection and the other to full expression and, as a result, completes them both. For while Buddhism rejects becoming for being, Christ encompasses the whole of life in himself and shows us the way to do the same, which way is through and by means of his teachings and his person.

For the Buddha the problem of life was resolved through the elimination of suffering but this also required the elimination of desire. The way of Christ is more inclusive. It involves, not the elimination of desire and suffering, but their redemption and sanctification. This is the higher path that leads to the fullest embracing of life and not the rejection of any part of it except that which is false and unreal. You might say that Buddhism and similar philosophies reject matter for spirit but in Christ matter and spirit are made one in a holy union in which the former is sanctified and the later revealed. And from this union is born something completely new, something in which the divine qualities of goodness, beauty and truth are not transcended and left behind as belonging to the relative world (as they must necessarily be in a strict non-duality), but taken up and transformed and carried along on a journey that progresses into ever deeper union and ever brighter illumination. Nirvana is an end. There is nothing more. There can be nothing more. But the way shown by Christ has no end for in it time is taken up into eternity and something more than either one on its own comes into being.

Buddhism appeals to the modern intellectual who is looking for some form of deeper understanding in the spiritual wasteland of the 20th and 21st centuries, but it can be a risky spiritual approach for Westerners. It falls too neatly into our modern way of thinking, and can be adjusted to suit our current prejudices. Its lack of a personal God is a temptation to intellectual pride.

That is one reason I regard Buddhism as an unsuitable path for the contemporary Westerner. The fact that it appears to offer spirituality without the inconvenience of God makes it attractive to some but that is its major flaw in my opinion and why, whatever its historical necessity and appropriateness in its original time and place, it is not really appropriate for Western people. The cultural context is quite different, and it tends to fortify existing deficiencies rather than correcting them as it would have done in the heavily theistic and ritualistic context in which it arose. Even in India it needed correction which is why we had first Sankara and then Ramanuja who offered a more inclusive teachings than Sankara’s, one which reconciled the impersonal and the personal. For us today Buddhism, or any spiritual approach which doesn't acknowledge the Creator, coincides too readily with our prejudices and preconceptions. But these need to be disturbed not flattered. The Buddha did that to the people of his time but we are totally different from them and need an approach which challenges and confronts our prejudices. As I see it, the great danger in not acknowledging a Creator is that our spirituality is human-centric which means that potentially we will remain in the fallen state in which the self is dominant. I know that Buddhism has the express aim of revealing the emptiness of the self but that just will not work for modern Western people for whom the self is so entrenched that it can never be bypassed (if, indeed, it can for anyone at any time). It must be first purified and then transformed by grace and the best way to do this remains the way shown by Jesus whose arrival in this world changed everything, rendering other approaches secondary, even if they remain effective on their own terms as indeed Buddhism does. Faithfully followed, it may take its most developed practitioners to some kind of enlightenment. But Christ offers something more than this, something which is more in line with God's purpose for his children. He offers the spiritual transformation of self rather than its elimination, and it is this that fulfils the reason for creation and incorporates all its goods rather than rejecting any of them.

If we accept that human beings are made of spirit, soul and body then we see that Buddhism and similar approaches reject the last two for more or less exclusive focus on the first. Modern practitioners may claim they don't do this but in effect they do or should if they are true to the teachings. The no self doctrine is clearest proof of that. Christianity, on the other hand, sees a human being equally as spirit, soul and body or life, quality and appearance, and gives all of these their due importance. They all have their place in an overall scheme of things, even if the priorities are always from above downwards. Thus in Christianity the individual self is not lost, as it is in non-dualistic religions, or even seen as belonging to a lesser reality. It is sanctified by grace and taken up to the highest reality. It is not seen as the centre of consciousness any longer, that is God, but it remains the truth of what a person is, even in its transformed state once the soul has been merged into spirit.

Praise be to God for this wonderful miracle!