Wednesday, 18 December 2013

What is Spirituality?

This may seem a strange question to ask because the answer is surely obvious. Isn't spirituality just believing in a spiritual basis to life and then behaving in a way that corresponds to that? Well yes it is, according to the simplest definition, but in reality spirituality has many sides to it, as you would expect if you are using a single word to describe the attitude of a Christ on the one hand and that of an ordinary believer, fully identified with his 'name and form', on the other. Moreover, so much is called spirituality that is really just plain sentimentality or else a search for self-improvement that it is worth considering what the word might actually mean.

I will attempt a few definitions here while stressing that it is all of these and more, and cannot be limited to any single definition. But if we seek to lead a truly spiritual life then something of each of them should inform our approach to that end.

Spirituality is being true to your conscience.

It is revealing that we all, believer or non-believer, saint and sinner alike, regard our conscience as representing something good to which we should adhere, and if we do not then we are falling short of some proper and objective standard. We might suppress the voice of conscience but no one would claim that disobeying your conscience is an admirable thing or that it is a false friend which can potentially mislead. Conscience is an inner knowing that cannot be argued with, and exists at a deeper level than thought. It never suggests personal advantage which should tell us something about its source. At the same time, the reality of conscience does not mean that everything we might call conscience actually is such for we are multi-levelled creatures, not always able to recognise whence come our thoughts, feelings and ideas. Historically many people have justified their opinions and actions as inspired by conscience while a more objective view would show them to be heavily coloured by a personal ideology, if not prejudice. That is why the Masters told me to be true to my conscience but make sure that it was my conscience I was being true to.

Spirituality is a love of the laws of God. 

There are spiritual laws which are just as real as the physical ones we know about, and these laws are the basis of creation and lie at the roots of our being. Real happiness and inner harmony can only come from observing them. They are presented in religions, though in forms appropriate to particular times and places, but can also be discerned in a pure form within one's own heart which is, as it were, stamped with truth, though our mind must be able to discern it there. And they are present in Nature, even if it must be appreciated that this is a fallen world so God's laws are by no means perfectly expressed in Nature as it exists on the physical level. The Masters told me that there is nothing perfect in your world, but there are echoes of perfection and signs pointing towards it, and we must be alert to these and able to discriminate between what is of God, hence of truth, and what is of fallen man or the human ego. God's laws are truth.

If you find the word law a little oppressive then be assured that the greatest law is love. But it is not the only one. 

Spirituality is an awareness of the oneness of life. 

This is at once the easiest and the hardest thing to understand. It is almost a truism today to say that all life is one but who among us really lives as though that were the case? The oneness of life is a fact in consciousness for the enlightened but for the rest of us it is only a theory, albeit one we can, at least, try to live up to. Yet this oneness must be seen in the overall context of manifestation. All life is certainly one but in the created world there is a hierarchy of being which stretches from the highest archangel, who was one of the first thoughts of God, to the humble worker bee and beyond. Don't be put off by the word hierarchy which has as its root meaning the sense of rule of the sacred. The sacred is the spiritual, and that which reveals more of pure spirit in its expression is always higher in the chain of being. The Masters said when speaking of beauty that it is everywhere. It varies in degrees according to its closeness to God but there is God in everything. In these words we have the relation between the principles of hierarchy and oneness perfectly expressed.

Spirituality is awareness of the sacred. 

All life is sacred but see the Master’s quote above. I could rephrase it by saying that there is God in everything but He is more present in some things than others. Awareness of the sacred is the ability to see this. When Christ was alive not everyone was able to recognize him for what he was. In fact, most people could not recognize him. Spirit has to be awakening in you for you to be able to perceive it in outer things. It is a sense of the sacred that first draws many onto the spiritual path. An awareness that a world without God is empty and dead. The sacred is that which is beyond quantity, and when it is denied the world is without meaning.

Spirituality is service, sacrifice and surrender.

This is self-explanatory. It was a constant theme of the Masters who quickly disabused me of the idea that their presence had anything to do with my personal advancement. Spiritual progress comes through service and sacrifice, they said. This sounds rather fine in theory but when the reality of what it actually entails is made apparent, it is another matter. Plus, of course, the obvious point that if you think of any service and sacrifice you might be called upon to make as service and sacrifice that is exactly what they are not. They must be made willingly and almost joyfully if they are to be spiritually fruitful. As for surrender, this means letting go of everything remotely related to self, and is really only possible for a saint. But then we have to become saints if we want to be spiritual, and there are no half measures in that. It is only by going through the fires of self-immolation that we can hope to become worthy of entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is the path of service, sacrifice and surrender.

Spirituality is observance of silence.

I don't suppose there has ever been more outer stimulation to distract us from what is real. If we would discover the truth within we have, at least some of the time, to withdraw our mind from attending to the constant stream of fast moving images and the assault by ever more discordant sounds. There is also the noise of the mind itself that must be quietened. We have to get back to a more measured way of being, and find a space in our lives for contemplation. Inner truths can only arise when the noise of the world dies away, and this noise is not just the buzz of the world's ceaseless activity but its very presence for if the world is with us then we are with the world. Similarly, silence is not just an absence of sound but the womb in which awareness of that which lies behind the constantly shifting veils of form may be born.

Spirituality is simplicity.

Many a time the Masters spoke to me of a need to be more simple and childlike. Michael Lord, their outer representative, was a good illustration of this. He had no interest in anything except loving and serving God in the form of the Masters. He was fortunate in that he could see them but maybe he had earned this precisely because in his heart he wanted nothing for himself. Simplicity means an open heart and a humble attitude that does not seek to force understanding but allows it to arise naturally and in its own good time. These Michael possessed, and they were the reason the Masters were able to use him as their medium.

Spirituality is forgetting.

It is forgetting your attachments and all the things that bind you to this world. Forgetting your frustrations and your fears, your desire to shine, to amass, to impress, to dominate and to control. Really there is only one thing needful on the spiritual path, and that is to forget the personal self.

Spirituality is remembering.

It is remembering what you really are and where you come from. It is remembering that this world is not ultimately real, certainly not in its current form. Most of all, the essence of spirituality is summed up in three simple words. Remember the Creator.

Spirituality is the sun in a blue sky.

When we have had enough of thoughts and words, and beliefs and philosophies, and books and blogs and all the paraphernalia of the mind, we just have to go outside and look upwards to know that, behind all the shadows and obscurity of this world, there is something glorious that is ever present and which awaits us when we have completed our earthly duty and are called back home. The sun shining brightly in a clear sky is an honest image of a holy truth.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Material World

One of the major tasks for anyone on the spiritual path is to arrive at a correct relationship with the material world, and in particular that part of it which involves us most closely, namely the physical body. This has caused no end of problems in the past when matter and spirit were often viewed as opposites, if not outright enemies, and even today, when we tend to see them as two parts of a single whole, it is by no means easy to have exactly the right balance between these two principles. How then should the spiritual aspirant regard the material world?

The first point to be made is that God is one and there is nothing apart from God. The material world is not the product of some demiurge type figure or in any way evil, as certain early Gnostics believed. It is the creation of God, made out of His own being and from His own thought. Therefore it is good. However things are not quite that straightforward. They rarely are! There are three further points that we should bear in mind which help to explain why, if a perfect God really did create this world, it is so full of imperfection.

According to occult teachings it was not the Supreme Being itself that created the world. God may start the process off ("Let there be light") but the moulding of that light into form on lower levels than the first plane of manifestation is undertaken by beings referred to in the Bible as Elohim, angelic deity type figures who carry out the Will of God but are a step down from divine omnipotence. The created world is multi-levelled and can be thought of as a great chain of being stretching from highest spirit to lowest matter with the work on each level done by beings of and just above that level. (By the way, low and high are relative terms here. What is low may be lower than what is high, as in more limited and less purely reflecting the source, but it is all part of the whole because there is God in everything).

So the Elohim step down pure, divine light to lower levels of vibration (planes) until the material world is created. In this they are aided by what are known as the elemental builders of form who work largely unconsciously under the supervision of higher beings. Thus this world is not the direct creation of God but a creation of the created. No doubt those more learned than I on this subject could go into much more detail but this rough outline suffices to make the point. The material world and all life forms in it came from God only at certain removes. Moreover, as we shall see, this world was something in the nature of an experiment and never intended to be perfect as in complete and without blemish.

Here is one reason for the fact that our world is not as ideal as it might be if it were a direct reflection of the Creator who I call the Creator because all creation does ultimately and essentially come from Him even if not all comes directly. But there are other matters to take into account. From a purely metaphysical perspective, nothing manifested can ever be perfect because everything that is not wholly God is less than God. Manifestation, by its very nature, is limitation. Whatever is created is impermanent. Whatever is impermanent contains the seeds of its own dissolution from its very inception. That is not perfection.

However this world is not just not perfect. It is very imperfect. The higher planes may not be perfect in an absolute sense but they are perfect in themselves. In terms of what they are, they cannot be conceived as being any better or any more. That obviously is not the case here and the reason is that this is, as many religions teach, a fallen world. It is not what it should be.

When the world was created it was perfect (in terms of what it was and what it was meant to be), but suffering and the association of death with pain came into the world through the fault of man. This is not what we are led to believe today but it is what is taught by those who have spiritual knowledge. I submit that it is corroborated by intuition too. The story in Genesis of the Garden of Eden is a myth but it is a myth that embodies a truth. Humanity fell away from its proper path through disobedience to its own higher self and hearkening instead to the lower voice of ego and self-will. It inverted the true hierarchical order and has been doing that ever since. That is why humanity fell and, because the human race is the custodian of the world, that is why the world, including nature, fell too. It was the refusal to live in accordance with the will of the Creator, and the replacing of that with self-will, that resulted in the current unhappy state of our world. Now, because of the supreme mercy of God, it is said that this has actually been turned to our advantage, and that, through falling, we can, after suffering the consequences of that fall and turning around, eventually rise higher. This idea is brought out in the parable of the prodigal son.

All of which brings us to the third point. This world was never intended to be a place of perfect happiness without challenge or testing. The sorrow and suffering that we endure were not part of God's original plan but the world was created as an environment for experience and experiment, and so the potential for error always had to be there. As the Masters emphasised to me on more than one occasion, Earth is a school. It is a place in which the soul is intended to grow through learning, and that is why the existence of God is not evident to us. It is not meant to be. We must discover Him for ourselves. We have free will and can choose what to believe and even, to an extent, what to see. Therefore there must be potential for choice. That is why there is just enough evidence for a divine origin to support those who wish to believe in that but not enough to convert those who do not want to acknowledge that truth. We can choose. Those who choose not to believe in a spiritual basis to life have a perfect right to do so but they are condemning themselves to remain where they are now and not to rise to a higher estate. In effect, they are imprisoning themselves because an individual cut off from his soul is in prison. That is why arguments about whether you need God in order to lead a good life are missing the point. Many people like to claim that you don’t need to believe in God to lead a morally upright life but the aim of spirituality goes far beyond mere morality*. We are not here to lead good lives. We are here to discover our souls and realise our true identity as spiritual beings. This we can only do in a positive sense, and voluntarily, when we have the opportunity not to do it which (to return to the subject of this post after something of a diversion) is why we come to the material world. This is the part of the spiritual spectrum where the presence of the divine is not clearly palpable because substance has densened to the point at which the inner light of spirit is no longer discernible. At least, it is not to the mind and senses which are our means of experiencing the world.

So the relative imperfection of the material world is part of its purpose. 

In a future post I shall talk about that aspect of the material world which most directly concerns us, the physical body. To conclude this one, I would like to say that the spiritual aspirant should regard the material world as real but only relatively real. No-one but the most complacent and deluded would walk past a wounded child with the thought that this is just one of the many aspects of the divine play; and yet, from the point of view of the absolute, there truly is nothing but Brahman. However we need to remember that, while things may not be true from the standpoint of a higher plane, they are true on their own plane, and our approach to the material world and everything in it has to take both of these factors into account. In this, as in many other matters, the heart will show the way where the intellect may stumble.

* Note: Apropos of that point I would maintain that even the desire to have a system of ethics and abide by it comes from the presence of God within you, who is there whether you acknowledge Him or not. I would also say that many atheists today are living off the moral capital of the religion of the past and the cultural background formed by that, and would question how long true morals would last if a spiritual sense really were expunged completely from the world.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

More on Paganism

An acquaintance who read the previous post on paganism made some comments on it which I reproduce below in the form of a question together with my response to it.

Q. Why do you say you must go beyond the Goddess to find ultimate truth? I regard the Great Goddess as the primal source of life. I accept that unmanifest Oneness transcends sex but prefer to visualise it in the form of the Goddess who gives us birth and death. What is wrong with that? After all most of the earliest religions of humanity were matriarchal. I follow the pagan path because I like its full acceptance of the natural world which so many religions look down on. We honour the divine as manifested in nature and try to live according to its seasons and cycles. And we have a solid ethical teaching expressed in the maxim "As long as it doesn't harm anyone, you may do whatsoever you will".

A. I would not say anything is wrong, as such, with using the concept of the Goddess as a symbol for Unmanifest Oneness, if that is the way you prefer to look at things, mainly because no way of visualising divine reality can begin to come close to the truth. Therefore all fall short, and equally so in the face of the infinite. However some forms are closer approximations than others, and more metaphysically correct. And some are relatively true while others don't even come into that category. If we take the masculine and feminine polarity as based on something real, and not just arbitrary designations that are interchangeable and have no fundamental meaning, then we must see each in its proper light, and neither should usurp or imitate the role of the other. It is the case that all traditions based on revelation envisage the universe as the product of two primal principles that issue forth from unmanifest Oneness, and these are the origin of what appear in the human being as masculine and feminine. The masculine corresponds to essence and the feminine to substance so the Goddess, the Mother (and it is surely no coincidence that matter and the Latin mater are etymologically so similar), is not the creator but the womb in which creation takes place. She does give birth and death but to form not life. Life, being, comes from the Father. To confuse roles is not to see clearly and implies the intervention of thought and the personal self with its own agendas rather than true, unbiased intuitive perception. As the Masters said, we need to make sure that our spiritual vision is not coloured by wishful thinking.

 Early religions were matriarchal because humanity at that time was bound up in nature and unable to see beyond the natural world. People then could sense the presence of spirit immanent in matter but did not know transcendent spirit. That is why they tended to be pantheistic and were unaware of the reality that transcends nature in whose light nature is revealed as not absolutely real in itself but real only as the activity of something deeper and more fundamental. That is not to downgrade nature at all but it is to see it in its true perspective. No true religion looks down on nature but it will regard it as subsidiary to God, which it must surely be or else when your body dies so you would too. Neo-paganism certainly believes in spirit but it inverts the true hierarchical relationship between spirit and nature for it tends to see the former as an aspect of the latter rather than vice versa. At the very least, the relationship is viewed as one of equals, but nature is an aspect of spirit and not truly real in its own right. That is why I consider paganism to be, in a certain respect, materialistic though, of course, it is so in a quite different way to a belief that denies any kind of reality to spirit at all.

You speak of Unmanifest Oneness but the metaphysical truth of this is not central to pagan or neo-pagan practise. In fact, in the pagan scheme of things, it is conceived more as a raw energy or power diffused throughout nature than pure transcendent spirit, and it has probably only acquired its higher overtones through the influence in the 20th century of such things as Kabbalah and other forms of Western occultism.

As for the maxim you quote, it sounds very reasonable, but it sums up the ethics of the natural man not the spiritual man.  A secular materialist would not find anything in it to disagree with. There's nothing wrong with that either but it doesn't take you very far beyond where you are now. It does not light the way to your true spiritual being. It will not lead to what I called in a previous post the sanctification of the soul. There is a much higher teaching in the Lord's Prayer, and it is contained in the words "Thy Will be done". Not your will but God's will. What is God's will? It is very simple, that you renounce the personal will and go beyond the natural self which you don't reject but don't identify with either. How can you go beyond the 'you', which is the goal of spirituality, if you "do whatsoever you will"?

The pagan remains locked in the natural self, as you imply when you say that you honour the divine as manifested in nature. That is a worthy practice but there is so much more to divine reality which is why you will never see a pagan of the spiritual stature of the Buddha or Christ. I don't mean by this that anyone should reject paganism, but you have to go beyond it. On its own it is not enough. You have to go beyond the forces of nature. You have to go beyond the powers and energies of the material world, and all levels of it for the material world is not just restricted to the physical level.

And how do you know what harms unless you have spiritual vision? Something may not harm the outer person but be severely detrimental to the soul and its development. Things you do, actions you make, choices you take which seem to have no outer consequences as viewed by the standards of this world may be spiritually retrogressive. It simply is not good enough to say that you can do what you like as long as no one else is harmed by it. You may be harming yourself without realising it if you ignore the deeper spiritual teachings in favour of that ideology. Of course, you have the right to do whatever you wish because we live in a world of free will but if your actions, or even your thoughts, go against God's laws, which are the true coordinates of your own being, you will bring consequences upon yourself. At best, you will remain where you are which is fine if you're happy there but there is a long way further to go than your current state.

This is a picture of the stones at Avebury with some local inhabitants. I love the prehistoric sites of Great Britain, and visited those in Wiltshire and the West Country as regularly as I could when I lived in the area which I did for a number of years. There is still a sense of mystery and dormant power to be sensed in these places, and I can sometimes imagine that I lived in the distant times when they were functioning sacred centres, and that I took part in the rituals that were enacted there. Rituals when the veils between the worlds were lifted and the gods appeared to bless the worshippers. I don't doubt that this was what took place at these holy sites. They were not just areas where the tribes gathered to perform fertility rites or worship as modern people go to church. They were places where things we might call spiritual could actually be made to happen. But that was then. It is right to reconnect to the truths known then and subsequently forgotten but it is not right to try to live those times again. The wheel has turned and humanity has moved on. Paganism is a religion of this world but we must go beyond this world and beyond nature to find truth.

Monday, 25 November 2013


As traditional Christianity loses its appeal in the West many people look to other forms of spirituality. Some turn to the East and some to pre-Christian Western religions or, to be strictly accurate, modern versions thereof. In the book I made a brief comment about paganism, and I'm happy to expand on that in my response to this question. 

Q. I belong to a pagan group and I disagree with the statement in your book that paganism is not on the same spiritual level as the revealed religions. Different paths suit different people and why should one form of spirituality be better than another? Are you saying we should not worship as we please?

A. First of all, nowhere do I say that people should not worship as they please though I assume you would draw the line at human sacrifice?

Next, may I ask if you would deny that some things really are better than others? Do you truly believe that there is nothing superior and nothing inferior in this world? If that is so then why even tread the spiritual path at all?

Let me now try to describe paganism as I see it. It is not the philosophy of Plato or Plotinus, even if most medieval Christians would have thought of those two as pagans. Paganism in its modern sense is a religion of Nature. That is why it grants such a high place to the Goddess who is none other than the personification of Nature. I do not say that such a being does not, in some form, exist and is not worthy of veneration. I think she does and she is. However I do say that she is part of the created world and it is precisely this that marks out the essential difference between modern paganism and the revealed religions. To the extent that paganism either denies or downgrades the transcendent Creator God, it is a lesser spiritual approach than one that fully acknowledges that God as the supreme source of all. Pagans worship or seek to propitiate the powers of nature and the beings of the inner worlds. Now, there are many powers in the universe, most, though not all, benign. But they are created beings not the Creator and a religion that ignores this fact is not on the same spiritual level as one that accepts it. That does not mean that a pagan may not be a more spiritually aware person than, say, a Christian but, just as the more enlightened druids accepted Christ as a higher revelation of the divine than that they currently knew, and the polytheistic pagans of Mohammed’s time saw Islam as an advance on their religion, so the truths enshrined in the major revealed religions are of a higher order than those in paganism. I should add that Hinduism is a little different as it includes everything within itself, both paganism and the highest metaphysical truths. That is how it has developed. This points to the fact that one need not reject all aspects of paganism though one must go beyond it.

Please don’t think that I am dismissing your approach. Any spiritual practice followed in sincerity and humility will bear good fruit. I do however still maintain that paganism, the worship of the energies of nature and the earth, is not, spiritually speaking, on the same level as the great revealed religions which see spirit as hierarchically superior to matter whilst not denying that matter, creation, is an intrinsic part of the divine, worthy of love and respect though not worship. Could it be that modern paganism has arisen partly as a response to the body-denying element of traditional religion which was an over-reaction to the correct perception of spirit as the pre-eminent divine principle?

There is a further point. Paganism, while a justifiable spiritual approach in its day, was superseded by the advent of the monotheistic religion of Abraham then by Christianity and then Islam. The pagan deities may at one time have been the transmitters of the divine impulse but when that impulse was withdrawn, which it was, starting well over two and a half thousand years ago, something was left which were the vehicles that had embodied that impulse on the psychic level. For when spirit ceases to animate a form it has at one time operated through that form still remains in the inner worlds though it will start to decay in just the same way as the physical form does when the soul has departed. There is this difference though. The pool of psychic energy left behind by an ancient religion may linger for a long time and can even be given an additional lease of life if attention is directed to it, by, for example, ritual or prayer. This does not mean it retains its spiritual virtue as God has withdrawn his gaze from it but it can give the impression of that to those who mistake psychic for spiritual light.

By the way, it would be my contention that the animating spirit has started to withdraw from all contemporary religions and that is why they do not satisfy as they used to, and why many people seek elsewhere for their spiritual sustenance. However to seek to revive past approaches to the divine is not the answer, not in the long term anyway, as all you will reanimate is the psychic element of the religion. You may also be giving energy to beings on the psychic level who may present themselves as the old gods but who, even if they are in some sense affiliated to past spiritual practices, no longer have a connection to the transcendent realm. The spirit has withdrawn and it will not be going back into old bottles. It never does.

The fact is not all spiritual paths are equal in the sense of being of equal vision and depth. No doubt all paths that have the worship of God/the gods at their heart can lead you upwards if followed in sincerity but some are purer channels to truth than others. And while some forms of religion have as their primary purpose to enable us live in harmony with nature and help attune us to the higher worlds, others have the higher aim of bringing about the transcending of ego and the going beyond form. I don’t believe that paganism, as practised, can do this because that is not its principal purpose. It is to help us live in the world rather than go beyond it. At the same time, the revealed monotheistic religions have the defects of their qualities and undervalue both nature and the body. That leaves a gap which the pagan religions can fill. However they, in their turn, are limited by their emphasis on what the monotheistic religions tend to ignore or downplay which is the Goddess principle. The Goddess is the Mother and specifically Mother Nature but you must go beyond Nature or form, in all its aspects, to find the source of your being which is in spirit or the Father.

I'd like to add a few words about modern neo-paganism. This appears to be almost entirely derivative with the main focus on nature worship but some metaphysical concepts added on, picked up from occultism, Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism (amongst other things), to give it intellectual credibility. But these are by no means central to the religion as practised which is proven by the fact that neo-paganism celebrates the natural self rather than seeks to transcend it. True religion doesn't deny the body but it does see it in its proper place as a frame, and it would never identify with it. Neo-paganism has to be seen as a homemade belief system for people alienated by materialism but unwilling to go beyond the psychic to the truly spiritual.

I know that some of the things I say here will not sit well with everyone but if you are serious about the spiritual path you must put away fashionable beliefs as well as conventional ones.  Paganism and its companion shamanism are popular these days but, although there are certainly things we can learn from them, they belong to earlier ages and are more suited to psychic exploration than spiritual transcendence never mind the sanctification of the soul.

Monday, 18 November 2013

A Visit to an Ashram

Meeting the Masters is mostly about a single year in my life, the year the Masters made contact with me and the first year of my tuition by them. This was also the only year I recorded their messages in a systematic (or relatively systematic) way. During that period Michael and I made a month long visit to India which is described in the book. However shortly after that we returned to India to live, and we stayed there for five years, during which time the Masters continued to talk to me. In fact, part of the reason we went there was that it was easier for them to do so. They also wanted  to separate us out from the world for a spell so that we could devote ourselves to the spiritual quest without distraction. 

We spent the first few months in and around the city of Bangalore before moving up to the hill station of Yercaud in Tamil Nadu where we bought a property which comprised two bungalows. This property was on the side of a hill with the bungalows on different levels of a terraced garden. We lived in the top bungalow and ran the lower one as a guesthouse. It only had three bedrooms and the season was relatively short but it gave us a small income as well as something to do of a practical nature. The Masters always encouraged me to keep myself occupied and not lapse into the sort of over-introspective mysticism which leads only to self-absorption. As they told me shortly after we arrived in Yercaud. 
Work more with your hands so that you keep busy, and do not dwell so much in thought as that will only make you self-centred and inclined to lose yourself in speculation that goes nowhere. You will not gain the knowledge you seek through thought”. They were and are practical mystics and that is what they seek in their disciples. The correct balance between inner and outer is important on the spiritual path, and the Masters were always keen advocates of working with the hands which they saw both as a form of giving, or, to be more accurate, training towards a giving attitude, and as a means of keeping the over-activity of the mind at bay.

You will not gain the knowledge you seek through thought. That's precisely the opposite approach to the modern one. It does not mean that thought is wrong (in its place) but it does tell us that spiritual knowledge is only to be found on a higher plane than the mental one. And really spiritual knowledge (that is, spiritual knowledge not knowledge about spiritual things which is an entirely different matter) is the only sort worth seeking.
Our Bungalow in Yercaud
I regard those five years in India as the most important of my life but didn't include much about them in the book partly for reasons of space, but also because I wanted to focus on the words of the Masters as recorded during that first year. The following piece is something I did originally include but then cut out as not particularly relevant to the main thread of the story. It's not without its interest though, and I hope earns its place as a post in the blog.

'This is not a personal history so, although there are many other things I could write about our time in India, here is not the place to do it. However I might mention a visit we made to the ashram of Bede Griffiths, the Christian monk who had adopted the lifestyle of a Hindu sannyasi. Michael and Bede Griffiths had a mutual acquaintance who had given us a letter of introduction and so, one time when we were travelling in the vicinity of his ashram, we decided to pay him a visit. By one of those little quirks of fate which implies that someone on the other side has a sense of humour, it turned out that Bede Griffiths had that very day gone to Yercaud for the funeral of a fellow Catholic priest. However he was expected back the next day and the people at the ashram kindly said we could stay there. I recall that the ‘bed’ we were offered was basically a slab of concrete jutting out from the wall, resembling a shelf more than something you might want to sleep on. Still, you don’t go to ashrams for the creature comforts. The ashram itself, though, was idyllically situated on the banks of the sacred river Kaveri, the Tamil equivalent of the Ganges, and though the life led by the devotees there seemed simple to the point of austerity, the natural beauty of the place more than compensated.

   Father Bede came back the next day. With his long white hair and beard, barefoot and simply dressed in an ochre robe, he looked every inch the holy man. We talked to him for an hour or so and it was clear that his appearance was a true representation of what he was which is not always the case. However I did have some reservations about his ashram or, more specifically, about the form it took. The church was built along the lines of a southern Indian temple with statues of Jesus and Mary in the form of Hindu deities and frankly looked like something out of an Indian Disneyland. We went to a service which was half Mass and half Puja and, although conducted with obvious sincerity, seemed to both Michael and me to be misconceived. When you mix the outer elements of religious traditions you risk ending up with a hybrid that may preserve something of the externals of both but has nothing of the inner nature of either. Truth is beyond form but form can also express or misrepresent truth, and if you try to blend traditions that have grown completely separately, you lose most of what matters and might even be left with a caricature of both. It is true that religions have borrowed from each other and that, for example, the now unmistakably Eastern form of the Buddha owes much to Greek influence but when a religious iconography and ritual has taken on a settled and defined form, to mix it up with that from another tradition negates its purpose which is to act as a channel from the inner to the outer.

I don’t want to be misunderstood on this point. I am not saying that religions cannot learn from one another or that they do not have the same inner truths behind them, but to seek to combine their outer trappings and forms of worship robs them of their operative value and results in a possibly well-intentioned but effectively confused mish-mash, style without substance. Religions may ultimately be one but a mosque is a mosque, a church is a church and a temple is a temple, and to see a picture of Christ sitting like Siva is likely to reduce them both from powerful images expressing spiritual truths to trite composites which communicate nothing of an inner nature. I understand that Father Bede himself was aware of the dangers of syncretism, and I mean no disrespect to his person in writing of my impression of his ashram like this. He was born in a time when religions were more exclusive than they are now, and it is understandable that he sought to move beyond that, but I think the approach tried at his ashram was a mistaken one even if it was well meaning and sincere. '

My visit to Father Bede's ashram was nearly thirty years ago and it may be completely different today. But that's not the issue. I've included the piece to make the point that a mix and match approach to religion, popular today, doesn't really work. Because there is nothing hidden anymore, and we all have easy access to everything that has ever existed, at least superficially we do, it is tempting to blend traditions and think we are getting the best of all worlds. But that is not necessarily the case, and in this instance greater breadth often means less depth. I am certainly not saying that we cannot learn from other traditions. One of the great boons of living at the present time is that we can do precisely that. But try to blend the outer forms of traditions that spring from different revelations and you risk losing the connection they both might have to the source.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Is God He or She?

There was an article in the Daily Telegraph last week that claimed that thinking of God as ‘He’ is a purely cultural thing and that ‘He’ could just as well be referred to as ‘She’, though the article did admit that limiting God in any way determined by gender made no sense anyway. Of course, the latter point is perfectly true, God transcends form and cannot be limited by anything, but the article as a whole displayed a fundamental misconception of what God is and seemed to be prompted by the desire to fit spiritual truth into a form determined by personal prejudice. Now this is an accusation that could also be levelled at defenders of the so called patriarchal interpretation of religion and God, but the fact remains that conceiving of God as ‘He’ does make metaphysical sense in a way that conceiving of the Creator as female does not, and I will tell you why.

Absolute reality is beyond any idea of male and female as it is beyond duality and beyond quality of any kind. It is pure being, the One without a second that contains all things but in itself is No Thing. However if life is to be expressed then it must manifest and for that to happen the One without a second must appear as God the Creator who then, for Creation to take place, must bring forth from itself (or awaken since it already exists in potentia) the Eternal Mother which is Divine Substance or the form out of which the Creator creates. Form is Mother. This is the division of the One into two complementary principles and the beginning of what we might call masculine and feminine, though really it makes little sense to think of things in those terms at this stage. These two principles must act together in order that Creation may come about, the Father acting on the Mother who brings His thought to fruition through her being. Only through the working of the feminine aspect of divinity can idea take form and become reality, but the initiating creative impulse comes from the Father.

So, speaking symbolically, we can say that everything is created out of the body of the Mother but from the vision of the Father. The Mother is the matrix in which the thought of the Father is expressed and takes shape and without which it could not develop.

God the Creator, therefore, can most accurately be thought of as male because He is the acting principle behind manifestation but also because He stands in positive relation to Creation. As they say, all souls are feminine to God. However the Divine Feminine exists too, firstly as the substance out of which the Creator creates, but also, in case this mistakenly gives the impression of Her as purely passive, as the principle of Mother who is a divine being embodying love and compassion as well as sacrifice since it is she who gives her body to form the created worlds. To forestall possible objections I should add that it would be an error to claim that this description is merely a projection of human stereotypes onto a cosmic plane for, in fact, the reverse is the case. Human behaviour, when based on what is natural, is a reflection of archetypal cosmic principles or, as the famous Hermetic maxim has it, as above, so below.

What I hope to have made clear in the paragraphs above is that everything in Nature has been created out of the Mother, which is the passive or receptive principle in manifestation, by the Father which is the active principle. Hence, from the spiritual point of view, manifested life is made up of the union of spirit and matter with spirit as Father and matter as Mother. There is no implication in this scenario that one cosmic principle is better than the other since the two are equally necessary for creation to come about and, anyway, each suggests the other and is a part of the other. But they have different roles. The Father gives life. The Mother gives form to life.

This is a very simple outline of how life manifests and, it should go without saying, is more symbolically true than literally so, but nevertheless it expresses a reality. Out of the Great Unmanifest there emerges what become the two poles of manifest existence, and these are clearly described in various traditions as essence and substance, purusha and prakriti and so on, but the Masters sum it all up when they say (in Towards The Mysteries) that God is Father of Spirits, but Nature is Mother.

There is no doubt that in the past, particularly in Protestant countries and Muslim ones too, the Mother aspect of God has been devalued, if not neglected completely, and it should certainly be restored to full awareness in the interests of balance and harmony not to mention truth. However restoring it to its rightful position should be done with an awareness of what it actually signifies rather than an attempt to establish some kind of gender equality which is quite meaningless in this context. Spiritual beliefs should never arise out of political ideologies or personal preferences or in response to anything or in reaction to anything. They must always be based on the perception of truth as it is expressed in divine principles.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Belief in God

This question came in response to the previous article. I consider it to express a common contemporary misconception which is why I am posting my reply here even though it's a subject I've touched on more than once before. 

Q. You’ve talked a lot about God in your recent posts but I incline towards Buddhism and don’t accept the idea of God which I see as an invented concept to give people something they can understand, like a powerful king to whom they owe allegiance and who will protect them if they serve him. That seems so out of date now. We know the universe is far subtler than that. Why do you believe God is so necessary to the spiritual path?

A. Because He exists! And without Him nothing would exist. Just because people in the past (and now) have understood God according to their own lights does not mean that that on which they base their inevitably limited understanding is false. I don’t think it is sufficiently realised today how Buddhism arose in part as a reaction to the prevailing Brahmanical religion with its plethora of gods for the masses and guarding of ultimate truth for the elite. The Buddhist position is not wrong but it can be one-sided, and that makes it unsuitable for those Westerners who, because they want to dispense with God, focus on its philosophical aspect but ignore the fact that traditional Buddhism has a religious side too. All spiritual aspirants need to understand that you cannot go beyond God and reach enlightenment until you have reached a stage of oneness with God. And you won't reach that without fully acknowledging God and your total dependence on Him. That is why the Masters told me many years ago (when my spiritual practice consisted mostly of meditation) that I did not pray enough, adding "Do you think yourself above prayer? Even the greatest saints prayed and while meditation is necessary you need to have the humbling experience of prayer also." We notice most the faults in others that we ourselves have or had, and I have observed that many people today think you can have spirituality without God, pointing to Buddhism or one of the non-dualistic philosophies in support of their position. But they are mistaken and they need to ask themselves why they want this to be true because it seems to me that in this case, as in many others, the desire is father to the belief. Of course, that is an argument that atheists have often, and sometimes justifiably, levelled at believers, but it cuts both ways.

God is the personhood of life. Without this aspect of personhood you have compassion but you do not have love. God is the 'I' that stands behind all other 'I's. If there were no archetypal 'I' there could be no individual 'I's. God's is the mind from which springs this whole universe. Without this original mind there would be no lesser minds. God is not a person but He has individuality and this universe is the expression of that, though not, it must be said, in the purest form on the physical level.

The Buddha is the greatest human spiritual figure known to history but I think Christ embodied divine truth to a higher degree and not least because, whereas the Buddha was honoured and respected until his death in old age, Christ was the suffering saviour who died ignominiously and who, to all outer appearances, failed completely in his mission. There is a great teaching there. The Buddha was the Enlightened One. He was a man who became a god or even more than a god according to the Buddhist conception of gods. But Christ was God who became Man. I don't mean this literally, which is what separates me from regular Christians, but on the symbolic level it is undoubtedly true, and even on the literal level I believe there is a mystery to the incarnation of Christ that cannot be adequately explained by seeing him as no more than a prophet or enlightened being. In his person the end and purpose of creation were made clear and fulfilled while for the Buddha, or so it seems, creation was, if not rejected, certainly seen as something to be gone beyond and left behind. For the Buddha the purpose of life was to attain Nirvana, but for Christ the world of creation was an integral part of the whole of life, there to be redeemed not just transcended.

I know Buddhism has the idea of the Bodhisattva but I see some of the later developments of Mahayana Buddhism as inspired by the Incarnation of Christ. Not directly as in a religious influence travelling in the physical world, but through a spiritual energy that was released by the Incarnation and which spread by suffusing the mental plane of the entire planet, and from there being reacted to independently throughout the world according to the understanding of those sensitive enough to respond to it, but expressed within their existing mindsets.

The reason for this brief comparison of the differences between the Buddha and Christ (I know comparisons are odious but they can be revealing as well) is to make the point that the non-theistic aspect of Buddhism is not a higher spiritual concept than a belief in God. It may relate to a deeper level of reality but that level of reality on its own is not all there is, certainly not in terms of manifested existence, and, in fact, on its own, is only half the truth for God Impersonal and God Personal are two sides of the same coin. On the level of ultimate reality all is one but when all is one then nothing is anything. Creation has a purpose which is to express the Uncreated, and that purpose can only be realised on an individual level, as Christ showed in himself, by fully acknowledging the Creator. As Jesus said, ' No one comes to the Father except through me', and what that means is that nobody realises the Impersonal Godhead without fully acknowledging the Personal God. The form in which we make this acknowledgment need not be the same but the spiritual perception and impulse behind it must be.

There is a further difficulty that may arise from unwillingness in a spiritual aspirant to believe in the Creator. Why do you tread the spiritual path? What is your motive? Is it because you seek something, wisdom, fulfillment, enlightenment, realisation, heaven? Or is it because you have perceived something that calls forth all your love and you want to conform your being to that, and to do so purely because of this love and not because you wish for anything? The Masters made very clear to me that only in the latter case is there any chance of spiritual success which always requires submission and surrender to a higher power. Not as a vassal submits to an overlord but as a lover submits to his love.

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Point of Life

Here’s a question which, in one form or another, most of us will ask at some time in our lives though the intensity of the demand will differ from person to person. 

Q. I have a very simple question. What's the point of life? A lot of people would say it has no point. You're born, you live, you die and that's it. But there's got to be something more. I mean, if that really is all there is, why bother? I know it's enough for many people but it doesn't make sense to me and I feel increasingly frustrated with the negativity of that response. The trouble is most of the spiritual answers to the question of what life is all about don't satisfy me either. They seem too much like man made attempts to explain the unexplainable. There's something behind it all, I'm sure, but what?

A. Spiritual answers to that question are man made attempts to explain the unexplainable. What else could they be? But some are founded on various degrees of insight and experience, and some, I believe, are inspired by God and the Masters who are the spiritual guides of humanity and who bring forth various approaches to the divine to suit different times and temperaments. Nowadays we have access to practically everything there's ever been, spiritually speaking, but, paradoxically, more quantity here means less quality as if spiritual energy has become diminished through being more widely dispersed. As in greater breadth equals less depth. This is actually an easily observed phenomenon in all areas of life. The more you have of something the less you can actually get out of it. So that is both the advantage and disadvantage of living at the present time.

It seems to me that you are awakening to the soul. As you become aware of that spiritual presence within you so the conventional 'eat, drink and be merry' philosophies of the day seems increasingly superficial. But so also do contemporary spiritual forms appear to be unsatisfactory representations of the reality you sense, albeit fairly dimly at the moment if you don't mind me saying so. You are growing into the realisation that there is something behind appearance and you are not satisfied with the opinions of others, as many religious people are. You want to know for yourself but at the same time you wonder if there is anything to know. Are your feelings founded on something real or are they just imaginary or compensatory or whatever?

Your feelings are based on reality. You have a soul which is the spiritual component of your being and what you really are. Many people are not aware of that because this world has detached itself more and more from its source but you, obviously, are becoming so. This soul was created by a divine intelligence which imbued it with its own essence and also gave it individuality and free will. Thus the path you take is your own responsibility. There is a right path and a wrong path, though we all inevitably take many wrong turnings before we are firmly established on the right path. There is nothing wrong with that as long as we learn from our mistakes. But we have to reorient our face towards the light and it sounds as if that is what you are beginning to do.

The point of life is to learn what life is. At the moment we are only partially alive. There is so much more and this more we can only know when we go beyond our little limited self and become one with God. Some people might express this slightly differently but the true purpose of life in this world is to learn to love God. We can only start to love God when we become aware of Him both within ourselves and 'out there', in nature and in other people. Regard all people as manifestations of the divine, the Masters told me. Not always easy! But, in the same way as we would not regard our own ego and lower self as divine, so we are not told to regard those of other people as such either. But we should recognise that there is a seed of God in everybody and do the best we can to let that seed grow. In most people the seed is still no more than that, just a little seed hidden away in the heart. But it is there and if we wish for our own seed to grow we must acknowledge that of others. Don't make the mistake of thinking the outer person divine but always recognise the divinity within.

The point of life is spiritual and all else is peripheral to that. Everything else must be seen in the light of that, art, science, philosophy, politics, social relations, everything, and if these things are not seen in a spiritual light they are broken and will eventually break down. And true spirituality depends on the love of God. Various false forms of spirituality, forms which have always existed but which are common today in our acquisitive age, try to taste the spiritual fruit without first planting and tending the tree and letting the fruit come to ripeness of its own accord. Advocates of these paths sense the soul, as you are beginning to, but, instead of doing the difficult work of raising themselves up to God, they seek to bring God down to their level. No long term good can come of that which is why true spiritual teachers throughout the ages have always emphasised the love of God as the only proper motivating force for treading the spiritual path. This love will purify the self, sharpen the intuition and enable you to see the truth. It will automatically pull you upwards towards the divine and help you shed those worldly attributes which keep you attached to this earthly plane and all that pertains to it. Without a love of God your spiritual progression will never get beyond a certain stage.

The point of life is to love God and to do it of your own free will and without thought of reward. So how do you love God?  I've written something about that elsewhere. Here I would just add that loving God is your natural condition if you can forget your self. If you address yourself to God, the higher power, and submit yourself to His will, whatever it may be (and remember that the saint thanks God as much for what He withholds as what He gives), then you will start to perceive Him and, perceiving Him, you will love Him. When you love God you love His Truth which you intuitively see because that which you love, you become more like. So the divine alchemy works in you to transform the base matter of your lower self into the pure gold of spirit, and love is the catalyst for that transmutation. But remember this. You cannot love both God and the world, as the old teachings have always made clear though some contemporary teachings overlook, so if you would learn to love God then you must start to detach yourself from the things of this world. Leave behind its transitory pleasures and the quest for personal fulfilment and dedicate yourself to becoming a vessel pure enough to embody the divine light. Uproot anger and fear from your heart, free your mind of prejudice and conditioning and, most important because if you do this then those things will happen naturally, always remember the Creator keeping Him in your thoughts at all times.

Life has a point which has been described by spiritual teachings in all ages. It is to know yourself to be a child of God and to take up your inheritance. The concept of God has been distorted by human misunderstanding, greed, desire for power, literalism, bias and I could go on but this is very well known nowadays. The fact is, though, God exists and does so as the centre of your being. Your desire to know the point of life is His voice calling to you through the medium of your soul which is telling you that its needs (which are the most fundamental of your needs) are not being met. Listen to that voice and you will be given all that is necessary for you to take the next step on your path. It may not be very much but it will be enough if you recognise it and respond to it. It is said that God never leaves the true seeker comfortless and that has been my experience. At the same time, because our spiritual guides want to bring us up to their level they don’t make it particularly easy for us and that has been my experience too! But know that life does have a point and a purpose and a meaning and a goal, and your strong desire to know that puts you well on the way to realising what it is.

Monday, 21 October 2013

From Reason To Intuition

Our world view today is almost entirely formed by science and when I say science I mean reason, science’s progenitor. Reason is our God in the sense that it is the highest we are prepared to acknowledge. To live your life on a rational basis is certainly much better than to live it according to prejudice, unthinking cultural conditioning or emotional reaction because it is more or less objective (in theory at least), and generally aims for the greatest happiness for the greatest number. But, despite these advantages, reason is still very limited because it is a mental activity and the mind (as we currently experience it) is restricted in its field of operation to the material level, that is, the level of form. This means that reason, on its own, is a quite inadequate way of appraising reality in its totality. Unsupported, it is unable to see that there is anything beyond the material level, and, as a result, will often deny that there is.

But there is a transcendent dimension to life and knowledge of that puts everything else in an entirely different perspective. We don’t normally experience this higher dimension (the adjective is correct since it is a dimension of greater insight and freedom) because we are so identified in this world with our material selves, but, if we allow ourselves to do so, we can sense it, and we also have it revealed to us through religion. The expression that revelation takes may not appeal to the modern mind, precisely with its focus on the rational, but an unbiased sensibility should be able to see that the truth is there behind the out-moded presentation. The question is how can we move beyond simple faith and access that truth ourselves? Not through reason which largely relies for its data on input from the senses so cannot see behind the appearance of a thing to the thing in itself. We must try some other way.

There are really only two ways. Experience is one. Those who have been fortunate enough to have had a spiritual experience find that it takes them beyond the view of the world as described by reason alone while in no way conflicting with what is sane or rational. The other way is through what some call the intuition but what I will call here, in line with medieval philosophers and because it sounds more precise, the intellect. This is the light of God reflected in the human soul and it is that faculty in us that enables us to know by direct perception.

The person limited to reason will usually deny the existence of direct perception or else claim that what is called that just falls into the hunch, instinct or vague feeling category. Hence that it is purely subjective. However the fact that they may be right about that in some cases does not invalidate the reality of true intellect. It simply means that in our current state of spiritual development (or spiritual ignorance) imitations of it abound, and the lower is regularly mistaken for the higher.

Reason is always dualistic. There is always the thinker and the thought, and the thinker thinks his thought. But the intellect is not like that. It comes into being seemingly independent of the person in whose consciousness it appears. It is not born of experience, either personal or collective, for it is not the product of the past but arises spontaneously out of the living present, the ever-existing moment. It links the individual to the universal and the source of all things. It is objective, whole and, most of all, illuminating. Reason seeks to dispel darkness bit by bit and never succeeds totally but the intellect lights up the mind with complete clarity revealing truth in its pristine purity. Furthermore, what we know through reason is always external to ourselves but with the intellect knowing is part of being for it comes from identification with what you truly are.

Once we accept the reality of the spiritual intuition or intellect we will naturally wish to know how to develop a proper response to that. It’s really very simple. As implied above, the intellect will open up to the degree you coordinate your being to the reality of the higher worlds; that is to say, to the extent you bring yourself into harmony with the intrinsic quality of those worlds. This requires a radical reassessment of your life’s purpose followed by realignment of all the levels of your being. Thus it is not simply a question of believing in spiritual things and hoping for the best but of truly perceiving what is higher and of God and what is lower and of man, and then living according to the former. It is not a matter of passively sitting in meditation and waiting for insights to pop into your head nor does it involve ‘raising your consciousness’ (whatever that means). It is an active thing and it requires, first, purifying yourself of worldly desires and ambitions, and then doing exactly the same thing on the spiritual level. Many aspirants to the divine mysteries merely transfer the focus of their egotistical attention from one plane to another but it is still the ego seeking reward for itself and no spiritual benefit will ever come from that. I don’t wish to sound harsh here but, as I learnt from my experience with the Masters, the first requirement for any spiritual pupil is self-honesty. If you aspire to truth you must start by being completely truthful with yourself. Anything less and you are simply wasting your time.

Just as we identify thought with the head so we can identify the seat of the intellect as the heart. The heart is the centre of our being. It is where we are joined to all creation and, symbolically speaking, where spirit is anchored in the body. The sun can also be regarded as a symbol for the intellect with the moon, shining by reflected light, standing for the ordinary mind. Taking this analogy further, we can compare the darkness of night with our current state of spiritual unawareness, illumined only by a few pale shafts of light here and there, while the dawning of the day foreshadows the awakening of spiritual knowledge.

All seekers need to develop intuitive sensibility but this is not the work of a few months or even a few years and during that time they should bear in mind the advice given by the Masters which was to trust the intuition but be careful to distinguish between that and wishful thinking. I have mentioned this before but it is worth repeating as many people have been tripped up by confusing the two. Those of us who have started the climb out of this world into the next need to be alert to the fact that, while we may be becoming more sensitive to spiritual truth, we are still limited by attachment to the ego. We still have our desires, fears and prejudices, and our intuitive awareness will not be perfect until we have surmounted these. Always remember that the intuition is not personal. It will enable you to see the truth but, for as long as you are identified with your lower self, it comes to you filtered through the mind.

Reason is a God-given faculty which helps us to make sense of this world and shape it to our will. But it tells us nothing about ultimate things. It knows nothing about the world beyond this one and cannot reveal where we have come from or where we should be going.  A person limited to reason is spiritually blind and ontologically ignorant and will remain so until their inner eye starts to open. This is the eye of the Intellect, the organ of spiritual vision, and only when the mind is illumined by the light from that eye can it be said to have truly awakened.

Monday, 14 October 2013


I've used the word God regularly in these articles but I know that nowadays many spiritually inclined people feel uncomfortable with that word. Some even reject it outright. Whether that’s because they are scarred by a primitive notion of a God of judgement and punishment or because they lean towards the Buddhist position which refuses to grant a personal dimension to the absolute (unusual, it must be said, and therefore possibly not entirely correct), it’s a pity because God does exist. Or so the Masters who spoke to me affirmed when they described themselves specifically as messengers from God. However they never defined God other than to speak of Him as the Creator so what does this word actually mean? Does it refer to a real being with actual personhood or is it an impersonal force or maybe just a cosmic emptiness that lies behind time and space and, in some mysterious way, gives rises to manifested existence?  Or is it all of these?

First of all, I must say that this is not something you can approach intellectually and expect to get very far, and that is why the Masters did not define God to me and I did not ask them to. There were certain questions which I would have liked to have asked them but which I instinctively knew were foolish and would have met with a gentle but firm refusal to answer. The Masters’ presence and authority were such that you simply knew what to ask and what to leave unspoken because it was not relevant to the issue at hand, that being practical spiritual training. To seek to comprehend what God is, except in the broadest possible terms, is vain. You can never understand God though you can know Him or as much of Him as you are capable of knowing.  On the other hand, it is certainly not wrong to have a mental image of God. In fact, this will help you to address Him and form some kind of relationship with Him.  However you must never allow your image of God to limit your conception of Him. Or, for that matter, your lack of image. He is always more.

People today have lost the gift of simplicity. We try too hard to think things through instead of responding with our hearts. But if you allow yourself to accept, if you allow yourself to have faith, you will understand enough of God for your needs. If you try to be clever about it you will probably get lost in philosophical speculations which lead nowhere, as the Masters say.  That is what happens to so many of us because we are reluctant to be as a child and listen to our hearts. We seek truth in abstractions but God is not an abstraction. He is the most concrete thing there is. He is there beside you as you read this.

It’s easy to be a philosopher but it’s hard to be a saint.

We are all familiar with the saying that God is love but let us consider this a little. Does it just mean that to love is the highest thing we can do? Surely not because then we would say that love is God. We don’t put it like that. We say God is love but if God is love then He loves and if that is so then He must have a personal aspect. Love requires a subject and an object. God as Creator is the subject; God in creation is the object. But this is not just God loving Himself because, through His love, He has endowed us with selfhood too. We are little gods in the making. That was the purpose for our creation.

So there is a personal aspect to God. As the active Creator of the universe God has personhood. But this is not all there is to God. It is, as it were, His face as it is turned towards us, and it relates to Him as He is in expression. Beyond this, though, there is another aspect to God. In terms of the manifested universe we can speak of God the Father. In terms of the world of form and appearance we can think of God as Creator. But behind this vast world of creation, what there? Before time and space, what then? One answer is that there is no thing but this is not nothing. It is ‘isness’ which has the potential to act but is inactive. It is the pre-manifested state and the ground of being which is God at perfect rest.

Well, I am disregarding my own advice here and starting to complicate what is essentially a simple matter. Spiritual truth is simple say the Masters, and so it is. Christ and Buddha spoke about the same reality but from different angles. There is a personal aspect to God to which we can pray but there is also the aspect of God at rest which we can seek to approach in meditation. These are not different things but different aspects of the same thing in its active and passive modes. But why even distinguish? The essential truth is God exists. God is. He is greater than the whole universe but He is also fully present in the smallest of things, and He dwells within your own heart as the core of your being. He is Life, He is Love, He is Light. He is the Most High and He is closer to you than your own skin. But more than that He is your Father and friend, and you are dear to Him beyond measure.

If God exists and if He loves us you might reasonably ask why His existence is not apparent. Why can we not perceive Him? There are various answers to this which I have discussed elsewhere so I will only mention them briefly here. To begin with, you could say that God is not hidden from us. It is we who have hidden ourselves from Him by our identification with the ego and the mind. But that is only part of the answer. In order to develop a true sense of self we need to experience a degree of separation. So we enter the physical world where (in our present state of consciousness) the denseness of matter is sufficient to cut us off from higher vibrations. Where, in effect, we can be alone with our self. This leads on to the question of free will. God wants free sons and daughters not coerced slaves so He gives us the opportunity to accept or deny Him. That is why there is just enough evidence in this world to support those who choose to believe in a spiritual basis to reality but not quite enough to convince those who are unwilling to accept this. The choice is up to us. God does not wish to force Himself on us. There can be no irrefutable proof.

Finally, it is worth asking how God’s existence might be apparent to our mind or senses for when we say we can’t see Him we mean we can’t see Him by means of these. But God is not a thing you can perceive as an object. He is not out there. He is beyond the world of form so he is not perceptible to thought. He is spirit and can only be perceived spiritually.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Inner Path

The writings on this blog do not derive from any particular form of spirituality which some might consider a weakness but I believe it has a positive side. It could be thought a disadvantage because forms have a structure which enables us to approach the essentially transcendent (i.e. formless) world of spirit in a way that gives the mind something to grasp. A formulation of truth brings it down to a level that can be mentally comprehended. However when Christ was asked by Pilate “What is truth?” he remained silent because truth, in its essential purity, cannot be expressed. Pilate was none the wiser and many of us would be similarly perplexed if given such a response. We need to have spiritual truth in a container that gives it some kind of shape and colour, and we usually like a container which has the backing of a recognised authority hence the organised religions. These also provide us with a way to approach the sacred, which might otherwise be beyond our reach entirely, in that they offer a method and practice. A ladder by which to start the climb from earth to heaven.

All that is good and I am not, as some do, condemning it. However the trouble with any form is that, while it may start out as liberating as it opens up new vistas to us and gives us a means to approach them we might otherwise never have had, it can finish by being constricting. We may become limited to the form, unable to go beyond it, and sometimes the form becomes more important to us than that which it only exists to express. We must slough off that skin in order to go further which may mean adopting a new and more sophisticated form but ultimately means going beyond forms of any sort. A spiritual form is a bit like scaffolding. We need it to erect the building but eventually it must be demolished in order for us to go into the building and for it to be useable. The scaffolding has a purpose but that purpose is not its own, and for that purpose to be fulfilled it has to go. 

 To an extent this approach reflects my personal inclination but it also comes from the way I have been taught. The Masters who instructed me were not Christians or Buddhists or aligned to any spiritual traditions of this world, and they did not approach spiritual teaching from any particular angle as we might judge it in earthly terms. They lived in and spoke from the plane of direct spiritual awareness and their teaching reflected that. It was, in the highest degree, pure; without admixture or personal input of any kind, and I think that if you read their words as recorded in the book you will see that to be the case.

For some this might make their teaching seem less accessible. It could even be regarded as a little austere. It certainly lacks window dressing. But for those who wish to grasp the essential, and who do not require props which will eventually have to be thrown away, it is invigorating to have a teaching which contains only unvarnished truth, and which dispenses with all outer paths to focus solely on the inner one.

Outer paths have their place and should certainly not be rejected before time. Nevertheless they must eventually be transcended or you will stay on them forever. They have the potential to take you to that point known in esoteric parlance as the 1st initiation which is where the Christ child is born in your heart and you become a properly spiritually attuned person as opposed to one who aspires to such, but thereafter you must walk alone, depending more and more on your own light. Or rather not your own light but the light from within which is the light of God that shines in the darkness of your own mind but can only be perceived when you start to become sensitive to what is beyond your own mind.

I do not say that you cannot follow the inner path whilst also being aligned to an outer path but the further you proceed, the less importance the outer will have and the more the inner until the outer ceases to have very much importance at all. I believe that this is particularly the case nowadays when all outer paths have become much diminished in spiritual power and competent authorities working in them harder to find, but it was always true to an extent. The Masters told me that outward forms of religion were good for souls on a certain level but that there was a higher understanding of life they expected us to follow.  This was the inner path.

The purpose of spirituality is for each individual to build a personal relationship with God. This can only really happen when you approach God directly, without intermediary, and that can only happen when you dispense with ideas, interpretations (other people’s or your own) and expectations. You must be emptied of everything, and, in fact, much of the spiritual life consists of this emptying. It is an uprooting and a stripping away, and it requires letting go more than acquiring. Indeed, in many ways the inner path is the path of abandonment. But it is also the path of at-one-ment. If you follow an outer path, whatever it may be, there is always something between you and what you seek. Thus it is basically a dualistic process and that can never bring you to God who you must find for yourself and by yourself. Of course, this does not mean that you should refuse guidance or instruction. No-one ever found God without help from those more advanced along the way. But it does mean that everyone must make their own path. You cannot follow that of another. To begin with maybe but not forever if you wish to complete the journey.

The inner path leads, naturally enough, within. It leads out of this world and it can be a lonely way to travel. But any perceived loneliness is really only an illusion, albeit a powerful one to the traveller. The reality is that we are surrounded at all times by love. The Masters frequently told me this and I experienced it through their presence. Since they have withdrawn from me outwardly (as they must from all their disciples if those disciples are to progress) I have many times felt alone. However it is only through this spiritual isolation that we can eventually achieve oneness because each soul must forge its own private link with God and it can only do that when it renounces all that is not God and stands utterly by itself. And that is the way of the inner path.