Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Krishnamurti


This question fits in well with the last couple of posts so I include it here.


Q. You praise Krishnamurti in your book but a lot of people think that he somehow went wrong and that his teachings might come from a high state of consciousness but are of little practical use and could actually have a negative impact in that they just set the bar too high. What do you say?

A. I understand what you say and I don’t think it advisable to read only Krishnamurti and, as a consequence, reject everything else. I think you need a broader overview to begin with to get the best out of him. But, if you have a proper grounding in traditional spiritual teachings, he can be very illuminating in that he clears away all superfluity and sweeps aside the later accretions of those who echo the great Masters without having scaled their heights. The diamond-sharp discrimination he brings to bear on spiritual matters is very refreshing. However he can also seem to be asking us to leap over a high wall while forbidding the use of a ladder or even the attempt to climb. The reality is that to get from A to Z you must pass through the intervening letters of the alphabet. The spiritual path has stages which can't be ignored. From the starting position of a normal person it is impossible to reach enlightenment in a single leap. The unripe ego cannot transcend itself without purifying itself in the fires of spiritual discipline and uplifting itself through prayer and meditation.

But, despite Krishnamurti’s possible shortcomings as a teacher, I do think he has manifested the truth in its purity more than anyone else in the latter half of the 20th century. Maybe he had a peculiar mission and was meant to act as a new broom. He has many modern imitators but none of them has his depth of insight or clarity of vision or, for that matter, his purity of soul.

What distinguishes Krishnamurti from most of those who have followed on from him is his love of God. That may seem a strange thing to say given his stance but, although he may not have spoken of it in that way, it is revealed in his sense of the sacred and his uncompromising desire to protect the truth from corruptions inflicted on it by those who know it only from the outside looking in.

I have no doubt that Krishnamurti was sent by the Masters and served them faithfully, and one of the ways he did so was to purify the spiritual atmosphere of his day which had become heavily clouded with astral glamours and psychic illusions. By rejecting the Masters as they were presented he paved the way for a truer understanding of what they actually are. They were behind him and inspiring him, but as spiritual essences rather than the magical super-personalities they had been turned into by some of those who came before him.

Monday, 27 May 2013

A Non-Duality Question


I've received a couple of questions in response to the last post which I thought I could post here as they might have a more general interest. Here's the first.

Q. I read your post on the non-duality trap and have a question. What do you think of those modern teachers who claim that the path to enlightenment comes from living in the now and who say that they have accessed a state of pure consciousness which we can too if we follow their teachings? I’ve read some books, been to a couple of lectures and though I find it hard to say what is wrong, I feel something important is missing. It’s all a sort of Buddhism-lite by which I mean it has the style but not the substance. You talked a bit about this but I’d like to hear some more on the subject as some of these teachers are very popular nowadays.

A. I’m not familiar enough with any of these teachers to speak about them in more than general terms. But my impression is that what they teach is a human-centred spirituality that in no way will take you to God. And that’s the problem. They take God out of the spiritual equation, in the process reducing the spiritual quest to a psychological exercise. Perhaps not always in theory but the practical result amounts to that. What is more they appear to draw people to themselves as achievers of a certain state rather than point to something higher. But I would ask this. In what sense do they demonstrate anything of the sacred or the holy? This may seem just a matter of words but there is a real meaning behind these words and to neglect that meaning, which I feel these teachers do, is to neglect the essence of spirituality which is, of course, love of God. Deny that and you deny everything because it is the foundation of any true spirituality. Naturally, they speak of compassion and bliss and the like but go behind the words and what do you really see?

Denying the ego is not transcending the ego. It is just the ego denying itself for its own ends. Living from moment to moment without being attached to the past or concerned for the future is obviously a basic part of any spiritual training but on its own, without genuine love of God underwriting it, without real submission to a higher power, it can never lead to any kind of true enlightenment. 

As for the claim that they live in pure consciousness, this assumes they know what pure consciousness is. Many people have experienced so called higher states. In the great majority of cases what has occurred is that they have had a temporary breakthrough into a level above mind, an experience of their higher self perhaps, but this passes and they are still themselves. What may then happen, especially if they are untrained, lack proper discernment and are spiritually ambitious, is they seek to preserve and copy this state with their minds, to construct a mental approximation of it in which they then live. The ego can and often does imitate the spiritual state but a true seeker will see behind the fa├žade. I think you have and that is why you are troubled by these teachings which, on the face of it, seem to offer the truth but in reality parody it.

The ‘be here now’ teachers have been with us for quite a while. They are focussing on a single aspect of spirituality which has relevance as part of the whole but is incomplete, if not downright illusionary, on its own. Most of them mistake satori (a momentary opening) for nirvana (full enlightenment), and my use of these Buddhist terms leads me on to make the following point. When Western teachers set themselves up as gurus and adopt the trappings of an Eastern style of spirituality, the results are often superficial. What may be valid when rooted in a traditional context and supported by serious religious practice is not so when divorced from that. To continue the metaphor I used in the last post, the flower can only truly blossom on the end of a stalk with its roots deep in the ground.

I would add two more things. Firstly, words are a good deal less than half of any teaching. If a teacher does not embody his teachings, these teachings do not have any transformative power.

And secondly this. True teachers do not teach enlightenment. That is not the goal of the spiritual quest.

Let me end on a positive note. Those beginning a spiritual path can possibly be helped by these teachers but if they don’t move on to a more truly spiritual approach, they risk going nowhere. They may be a stepping stone. They are not a destination.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Non-Duality Trap


There was a time when I would unreservedly have described myself as a partisan of non-duality. Today I regard it as potentially one of the more misleading forms of spirituality though I still believe it describes the basic truth of the universe. What has changed in my outlook?

What has changed is the fact that so many people now embrace (or even teach) non-duality in a form that would not have been recognised by its originators in India. (Note: non-duality is found in many places but I take the Indian version as the principal source of the doctrine). So it is not non-duality that is the problem. That remains as pure truth. It is the distorted version of those who think themselves in the vanguard of spirituality but who dispense with God because of what can only be called lack of humility and intellectual arrogance. What these people don't appreciate is that you should come to non-duality as the basis of your approach to God and the universe only after having fully traversed duality. For duality is real. It may not be the ultimate reality but ultimate reality comes only at the end.

Non-duality is a step beyond duality but that does not mean that it completely replaces it. Non-duality says that all is one. The division between spirit and matter is false, and you are pure undivided consciousness. All this is absolutely true, and actually pretty easy to understand as a concept and even to attain as an experience in meditation or, at least, to imagine one has attained. However what is equally true is that the duality of the soul and its Creator is a real one, even if it must eventually be transcended. But, and this is what is at issue, you won't transcend it by denying it, rejecting it or pretending that it is not there. You must fully acknowledge it and all it implies, and then go beyond it. That's the only way, and those who are encouraged to bypass the traditional approach, which is founded on wisdom and insight, by teachers of half truths who lack these things, even if they have an intellectual grasp of that of which they teach, are being misled. Worse, they are being sidetracked from the true path and their spiritual development delayed.

You are pure awareness. Such a simple statement to make, but how do you transcend the duality of subject and object and know yourself to be pure awareness? Not just by thinking so, that's certain. And is pure awareness all you are? Because if not then maybe it's not sufficient to take that, and that alone, as the basis of your spiritual practice.

One of the Masters' simplest but most profound sayings was 'Remember the Creator'. This, non-dualists of the modern Western variety, frequently fail to do. Usually brought up in one of the monotheistic religions, or a society still heavily influenced by that, they are eager to throw off their cultural baggage, which they perceive as outworn (and I am not saying that it is not in many ways), but they still crave some form of spirituality. A non-dualistic belief system fits the bill because, in its trivialised version, it makes relatively few demands of the lower self, and does not require one to bend the knee or incline the head. But spirituality without a recognition of a higher power is a temptation to be avoided, though very attractive to the ego that always wants to reap the benefits of spirituality without giving itself up. The true non-dualist always remembers the Creator (though he may not phrase it exactly like that) because he knows that he is part of God. For the false non-dualist it is the other way around. He is pure consciousness.

My teachers told me that prayer was essential for the spiritual aspirant, even the most advanced. Prayer is how you remember the Creator, and only if you remember Him can you even begin to approach His level. If you don’t approach Him, how can you possibly go beyond Him (by which I mean the idea of Him and you as separate)? Does the modern non-dualist pray? If not, why not? Here’s what the Masters said to me on the subject. Do you think yourself above prayer? Even the greatest saints prayed and, while meditation is necessary, you need the humbling experience of prayer also.

The great danger for the non-dualist is that he creates a mental version of 'pure awareness' and then bases his behavior on conformity to that. Right there you have duality. The idea and the attempt to become that idea. This leads nowhere except illusion to begin with, and falseness and hypocrisy if you persist in that illusion. Even if you experience what seems to be a non-dualistic state in meditation you must remember that any experience is always interpreted by the mind which is the very source of psychological division.

I think the problem is that many contemporary non-dualists and their teachers fail to grasp the distinction between soul and spirit. The soul is the individual consciousness, the spiritual self that remains on the higher planes when you incarnate (what the Masters described to me as the greater part of you), and it is that that we should try to attune ourselves to in meditation. We cannot go beyond it, to the level of pure formlessness, until we have become one with it. If we try, well we all know what happens when you try to run before you can walk. But that is precisely what many modern non-dualist teachers are advising us to do. What is more some of them also seek to transcend the duality of the material world by, in effect, denying that it (the material world) exists. But it does exist and, let me repeat, you do not go beyond something by denying it. These teachers and their acolytes will have to come back to the physical world in a later lifetime and fully integrate both matter and spirit if they continue with their error. You cannot avoid the lessons of maya by denying her. She is not illusion. She is the Divine Mother who allows the formless Father to manifest. Without Her we would never have come into being.

I said in an earlier post that I am not a Christian in the regular sense of being a member of any particular church, but when Christ said no one comes to the Father except through me, he was speaking the exact truth. In one way he may have been talking about the chain of initiation that stretches from master to disciple and which cannot be circumvented, but he was also saying that you cannot know the Father (pure spirit, the uncreated world of formlessness) except through the Son which is the individual soul. You must bring the soul to perfection (symbolised by the Transfiguration) before you are ready for the crucifixion which is the necessary initiation before you can 'go to the Father'. Thus the knowledge of non-duality can only come through the full experience and acceptance of duality.

Nothing I say here is meant as a criticism of non-dualistic teaching in its traditional setting where it formed part of a whole and found its place as the culmination of a spiritual teaching. It is only when it is taken out of context and taught in isolation from its parent religion that it loses touch with reality. The flower will only bloom on the end of the stalk. If you cut it off it may still look beautiful for a while but it is losing its vitality and will soon be dead. 



Update 17th March 2015

This piece is by far the most viewed of all the posts on this blog. Perhaps that reflects a feeling a lot of people have that non-duality, as it stands, leaves out too much to be a completely coherent doctrine of existence.  As this is also my feeling I have developed ideas only implied here in further articles which may interest those who feel the non-dualistic point of view to be too reductive/exclusive/limited, and these can be found by clicking on the non-duality label under Topics on the right. But, briefly, these articles approach the question of non-duality from the position that, yes, of course, God is One and there is nothing but God but this unity includes multiplicity as well as the creative energies which do not belong to a degree of reality any less real than the undifferentiated, inactive, transcendent Divine Essence. Thus God’s essential being and His active powers are ontologically inseparable, and the latter do not belong to an inferior or somehow illusionary state of being as they tend to be seen to do in advaita. There is never one without the other and that means that reality is not dualistic in essence but it is in expression, and essence and expression always co-exist. Such a point of view has implications both for correct spiritual practice and for a proper appreciation of the reality of individual identity which is not negated in enlightenment, as it is in advaita, but seen for what it is; a unique and necessary vehicle through which universal oneness can manifest, know and be known. The fact that we have an uncreated aspect in pure spirit does not mean that our created aspect or soul is not real.

So where I take issue with rigid non-dualists is in their failure to see that individuality is real, and not only real but the very purpose of existence. You are a true individual. Enlightenment (salvation might be a better word) comes when you go beyond the separate self and know your being to be one and the same as divine being, but this does not mean that your individual identity is lost. Post-enlightenment there remains a unique individual with its unique quality, and that is the locus in which realisation has occurred and without which it could not have occurred. For realising that you are the Self does not eliminate the self.  Rather it subsumes it, on the one hand, and transforms it, on the other.


So from this perspective the goal is not for the individual self to disappear into undifferentiated oneness, as a strict non-duality would demand, but for it to become transformed into a completely integrated synthesis of the part with the whole. To be divinized, you might say. And this, I believe, is what is meant when Jesus is described as both God and man. As for him, so for us. It is also the point and purpose of creation, and why there is something rather than nothing.

2nd Update 8th May 2016

It's a funny thing but being challenged on the views expressed here by non-dualists has caused me to modify those views though in precisely the opposite way they might have intended. I would now reject Sankara's advaita Vedanta as a flawed philosophy whereas previously I just regarded it as extreme but basically correct. That is no longer the case. For those who have intuitive doubts about non-duality, despite its seeming intellectual coherence, I have written the post below. Convinced non-dualists might also take a look at it for I truly believe they are on the wrong track and trapped in, believe it or not, their own kind of maya!

http://meetingthemasters.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/non-duality-and-person.html









Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Boy and the Brothers


An experience that paralleled mine with Michael, though on a larger scale in that it was on the public stage, was that of Bill Coote and Maud McCarthy later to be known as Swami Omananda when she became the first Western woman to take sannyasi. This is related in her two books The Boy and the Brothers and Towards the Mysteries which were originally published in 1959 and 1968 respectively. The first tells their story, which is an extraordinary one that should be better known, while the second is an account of the teachings that the Masters gave through the 'Boy' as Bill Coote was called. He was the medium who performed the same role for the Masters as Michael did. I consider these to be among the most important spiritual books of the last century.

The reason I make this claim is because they are two of the very few books that give the Masters' teachings in a completely undiluted way. Straight from the horse's mouth, one might say if that didn't sound a little disrespectful. There is no subjective bias on the part of the vehicle they came through and no interpretation put on a message received in a non-verbal form. It is simply the Masters' exact words coming directly from them through a medium who must have been a very pure soul, carefully selected for his lack of worldly contamination. It is apparent from the books that the Boy was one of those rare people who are completely true to themselves and that his spiritual instincts were absolutely sound.

I say that these are the Masters’ unadulterated teachings for two reasons. Firstly, the beings that communicated really were the Masters. Of that even the most casual read will leave you with no doubt. There are many channelings that are claimed to come from the spiritual hierarchy but I know of few others that so unequivocally do. Actually, I know of none that come through with this degree of purity. It is true that over the past century there have been discarnate beings from many levels of the inner universe communicating but the great bulk of these beings are located on and speak from the psychic and mental levels, which are levels of form and duality, and are not liberated beings though that may not be the impression they give or what is claimed for them.

These are the only books I know of that really carry the vibration of the Masters in a way that brooks no argument. There are other writings that do that to a degree, and some would put the Alice Bailey books in that category*, but it is never totally pure (though maybe it is not meant to be so that we learn to discriminate but that's another matter). However in these two books it is, and that is because of the way the communications were received.  They did not come through the Boy's mind, as is the case with psychic or telepathic communication. He was a deep trance medium which meant that he was taken out of the body and quite unconscious of what was said through him so what came through was literally the Masters themselves. This is never the case with channeling or inspirational writing or telepathically received material. There is always input from the recipient's mind. Not so here. Having witnessed the identical thing with Michael I can vouch for the authenticity of this case.

That the first book is called The Boy and the Brothers is interesting. It’s almost a spiritual teaching in itself for it tells us two very important things. One, that the most spiritual people are the ones who have the child-like quality of the Boy. They are not trying to be anything. They just are what they are. They have gone beyond the dualistic state of experience and experiencer, what I think of as the fallen condition where you see through the distorting lens of the mind, and attained to a sort of holy innocence. I have to say that Michael also had something of this which could even lead to him on occasion being mistaken for a fool.

The Masters in these books described themselves as brothers. That is also how the Masters who contacted me spoke of themselves. It is how they think of themselves. They are brothers to each other and brothers to us because we are all children of the one Father. They, however, recognise their parenthood. They are one with the Father. We, if we are spiritual aspirants, aspire to this recognition but have not attained it yet so, while we may be brothers, we are certainly younger brothers. It seems that in this world the right balance between equality and hierarchy is hard to strike but both are based on reality, and understanding that the one relates to inner being while the other concerns realised being should make the need to achieve that balance clearer.

The Boy served as the medium for the Brothers for twenty seven years. They started giving teachings through him in England at the beginning of the 1930s but then more or less drove the Boy, Maud McCarthy and her entire family to India in 1935, saying that a great destruction is coming. Of course it came in 1939. The teaching continued unabated through much hardship until the Boy's death in 1953.

To readers of this blog, who presumably are interested in the idea of spiritual masters, I cannot recommend these books highly enough. Unfortunately they are no longer in print but if you can find a copy, either secondhand or online, I would advise you not to hesitate. I don’t think you will find many books that convey the essence of spirituality as well as these two do and they contain teaching to last a lifetime, teaching which is stripped clean of any colouring by a belief system but which is just naked, unvarnished truth.


*I used to take these on their own estimation but I now think they are too influenced by Theosophical ideas as well as being repetitive and long-winded so although a spiritual being of some sort may have been behind them there is a lot of Alice Bailey in there as well.

  

Monday, 13 May 2013

Who I Am


As some visitors to this blog will not be familiar with the book of which it is an extension, I thought I should say a few words about myself here. I hope that a little background will put what is said in these posts into some kind of context.

I was born in London in 1955. From as early as I can remember I knew that there was more to the world than I was led to believe by the culture in which I was raised but, because I couldn't find an adequate form to give expression to my sense of a greater reality behind appearance, I grew up with a feeling of acute pointlessness. Hence I made minimal efforts at school and got out of my education just exactly what I put into it. I felt that there was a definite truth behind religion but that it had long since been lost, and what was left was little more than a museum piece. I know that lays me open to a charge of spiritual arrogance but religions are not eternal and can only thrive when there is a constant input of new spiritual energy or, as we might otherwise say, new saints, prophets and realised souls. Since discovering for myself the truth of which religions speak I have come to appreciate them more, and I have learnt much from them, but, in the final analysis, they are outer things and I could never identify myself wholly with one as you must do if you are to extract its benefits.

In the early days of my association with the Masters I asked them about Catholicism because Michael Lord (the medium through whom they came), as an ex-monk, still liked to go to mass occasionally. This is what they said. The Catholic Church, like any outward form of religion, is good for souls on a certain level but it was time to lead Michael away from it into a new and higher understanding of life. This is not a condemnation of Catholicism but points to the fact that we must graduate from the outer forms of all religions if we would follow the mystical path. I don't dispute that you can follow the inner path from within religion but I do think that, certainly nowadays when all religions are definitely in a cycle of decay, there will come a time when adherence to an outer form will limit more than it liberates. At the same time, to cast something off before we have outgrown it is also wrong, and to replace any of the great religions with practically any one of their modern replacements is likely to leave you the worse off.

I would sum the matter up in this way. The religions were given by God to provide ways home for a humanity in exile. In the past they have succoured and guided countless millions, some even to the end of the road, but the current cycle is coming to an end and its forms and structures are crumbling so increasingly less able to serve as vessels for light. Hence the power of the religions of the past to liberate and save is much diminished. If you find a religion that answers all your questions then, by all means, follow it, but bear in mind the Master’s point above. You may one day have to go beyond.

I left school with no idea of what I wanted to do but was fortunate enough to find work in the Geological Museum of London (now part of the Natural History Museum). It was while working there that I met a man who turned out to be very influential in my life. It was 1978. Profound dissatisfaction with the direction my current path was taking had led me to a metaphysical bookshop where I was browsing one lunchtime when a man approached me and began talking. This was Michael Lord. He told me afterwards that he had been clairaudiently instructed to do this but mentioned nothing about that at the time. If he had, I don't doubt I would have made polite noises and fled. He talked about spiritual things from a mildly esoteric perspective, and I was intrigued enough to agree to meet up at a later date for more discussion. One thing led to another and six months later we were living together in a flat in Bath with the intention of leading a life wholly devoted to the spiritual quest. By day we worked in an antiques market. In the early morning and evening we meditated.


Bath 1979. Outside the antiques market.  I'm on the left. 

It was during one of these meditation sessions that the Masters first appeared to me. Michael had known about them for a few months, having been contacted by them around the time we met. They spoke to him clairaudiently and also telepathically. He had not mentioned any of that to me, though, and I was quite ignorant of their existence. 

One evening towards the end of our meditation Michael began to sound the OM. Very powerfully. I was familiar with sacred chanting but had never heard anything like this before. My innate scepticism was completely uprooted and tossed aside by its strength, volume and duration. Surely no mortal was capable of such a feat? Michael certainly wasn't. Eventually the OM came to an end but the silence that followed was even more impressive as now the room seemed filled with a mighty presence. This was the way the Masters got my attention but I think it may also have been necessary to bring vibrations to the correct pitch and enable them to enter Michael's body in order to speak to me.

I know that trance mediumship is not favourably regarded in some esoteric circles. I think I have spoken about this in previous posts, and I also speak about it in the book, so here I will just say that normally the Masters do not use this method of communicating. But in this case they did. There are others though only a few as far as I am aware. They don't use it because not many mediums would be able to support the intensity of their presence, and also because they would normally require us to come up to their level rather than them descend to ours. It has one enormous advantage though. What comes through is unaffected by the medium. This is not the case with any other form of mediumship or channeling. When the Masters spoke to me, it was exactly as if they were seated in the chair opposite. What they said came directly from them without any input from Michael who, to all intents and purposes, was not there other than corporeally, of course.

On that first occasion when the Master spoke to me he did not say very much to begin with. He did not even say who he was even though there could be no doubt of his status from the authority of his presence. He did say that he, or rather they, since from the start they spoke of themselves as a brotherhood, were guiding us and it was their desire that we live and work together. But he did not actually explain anything initially, and that may seem odd but this outer approach was setting the seal on an inner change that they had been working on for some time (the spiritual rule is always inner before outer) so I was subliminally prepared and intuitively understood more than I was told. Therefore, although I was astonished by what had happened, I was not altogether surprised.

But soon afterwards explanations were given, and over the ensuing weeks, months and, as it turned out, years the Masters came and spoke to me through Michael many times. They were and are spiritual instructors without peer for they see directly into the heart and, though they never spoke of past lifetimes in the particular, it was clear that they were fully cognizant of my entire spiritual history as well as the karmic limitations I had brought into this life. Many times they demonstrated that they knew me better than I knew myself. They spoke with an unparalleled depth of insight and a Himalayan authority. Their abiding characteristic, though, was love and this they never failed to convey even when (as they sometimes did)  they were admonishing me for my failures.

Michael and I lived in Bath for a year and a half before the Masters put it into our heads (as they afterwards confirmed) that we should go and live in India where the psychic atmosphere would be more conducive to our way of life. This period is roughly that covered by the book which comprises my notes of the Masters' regular talks at that time. I understand that they also wanted to remove me more completely from the world. Living in England we still had to work and mingle with people on an everyday basis so distractions were constantly present and, even if you resist them, they still are an assault on your inner life that you have to waste energy dealing with. At this early stage of my spiritual endeavours it was important to be completely undistracted. Later on when I had put down proper spiritual roots I was able to go back into the world more as I was better equipped to deal with it without losing focus. This, by the way, applies to us all. We all need a time of spiritual insulation if we are to develop proper inner attunement and a stable grounding in the higher world.

To be continued in a later post.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Transcendent and The Immanent


Divine reality presents itself to us under two guises and both are equally true. Inevitably most spiritual approaches tend to emphasise one more than the other but if we neglect or undervalue either of them we cannot have the other properly because both are essential parts of the whole and each is incomplete alone. No genuine spiritual path will ignore the fact that God appears to us in dual aspect. If it does then it is unbalanced and built on shaky foundations. It will not even have a correct understanding of the principle on which it focuses because, if your perception is unclouded, you will see that each necessarily suggests the other just as a man suggests a woman and vice versa. If you do not see this, you do not see clearly and so, even what you do see, you see through a veil.

The two faces of God are the Transcendent and the Immanent. God Without as Divine Object and God Within as Divine Subject. We can express these two poles in other ways and, as it may help to give a fuller understanding of them, let us do that. First, though, we should say that this duality is somewhat different to the Yin/Yang one even though there are similarities. The duality of Yin and Yang (dark/light, earth/heaven, sustaining/creative, cold/heat and so on) might be conceived as a horizontal complementarity whereas the Transcendent and Immanent duality is more accurately thought of as vertical. It is part of the inexhaustible richness of Creation that it can be viewed in diverse ways and described in diverse terms, all of which are true in themselves but none of which is the whole truth. This is why we can have different religions focusing on different aspects of the whole. Religions all point to the same truth but they come at it from different angles and their perspective is not quite the same.

The Transcendent is God above, the infinitely great and remote. It is Majesty and Law. We respond to it with awe and reverence. We approach it with prayer. The Immanent is God within, the nearest and most intimate. It is the still, small voice. We respond to it as our very self. We approach it through meditation. In one way, the Transcendent God is the object of worship for followers of exoteric religion while mystics seek the Immanent Self and, in that sense, the Immanent is the higher path. However the true spiritual aspirant pays attention to both aspects of God for the simple reason that both are there and neither one is more real or more true than the other. Too much focus on the transcendent, which was the error of the past in the Western world, might lead to authoritarianism and a denial of our own divine nature. Too much focus on the immanent can result in spiritual narcissism, a loss of objectivity and a forgetting that manifestation is hierarchical in structure. A contemporary problem is precisely that many people see spirituality in terms of a deification of their own self. If you take the Transcendent God out of the equation that is a real possibility unless there is a strong external order, such as the Buddhist Sangha, to set down guidelines and control excesses. But, if you forget that the Kingdom of Heaven is within, you risk setting an unbridgeable gulf between Creator and created. God will always remain on the outside and you will never discover what you really are.

So, to those embarking on the spiritual path, I would say be aware of both aspects of the divine. An exclusive focus on either one of them will leave your spiritual development unbalanced, which is not to deny that at certain periods we will legitimately have a predominating focus on a particular aspect, usually the immanent for those aspiring to the mystical path. But never forget the complementary face of God. Due and proper attention to each one will help to develop qualities essential for final attainment, which could be expressed as a state of perfect balance. Neglect of either will leave you falling short. I do not dispute for a moment that, to the liberated soul, the Transcendent God and the Immanent God are one and the same, but you cannot achieve that non-dualistic union of opposites without fully acknowledging them both.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Virtue

How often does a spiritual book or talk these days discuss the matter of virtue to any great extent? With the modern tendency to put the emphasis on self-development as the principal aim of spirituality, I would say not nearly enough. And yet virtue is really all there is to the spiritual path. Everything else is peripheral to that which is why the Masters once told me to "Follow the path in humility and patience and all will unfold as it should". Simple, plain words that at first glance don't say very much but which, on consideration, give us the key to progress which is rarely dramatic and usually unnoticed.

Virtue is not morality because morality is a code that we live by, and so there is always a division between us and it. What we actually are and what we think we should be and try to be. I am not intending a criticism of morality when I say this because, until we have virtue, we do indeed need morality to keep us going in the right direction, and help us to conform our behaviour to the true nature of reality. But morality can change according to our position in time and space, that's to say our historical and geographical location, whereas virtue is unchanging and quite independent of fashion or mores. Morality is usually based on virtue to a greater or lesser degree so, even though it may be subject to change, its fundamental tenets are very similar wherever we may find ourselves. However, being virtue at least one remove from the source, it is heavily affected by culture, custom and sometimes prejudice as well. It is also largely dependent on majority opinion and the way that the society in which it is found views itself. But the most significant difference between the two is that morality is based on thought, whereas virtue, true virtue, springs spontaneously from the heart. A virtuous person is his virtue.

So, until we have virtue, we do need morality. Equally, though, once we have virtue we have no further need for morality anymore than we need the Ten Commandments when we have learnt to love God and our neighbour as ourself (though that does not mean we reject the Commandments since to go beyond something does not mean to deny it). This gives us a clue as to what virtue actually is. If we would seek its true basis then that is surely to be found in the love of God. Does this mean that only a person who loves God can be virtuous? I maintain it means precisely that. The love of God is at the heart of all goodness, and virtue is goodness. I am not saying that an unbeliever is a bad person but he cannot truly be a good person either unless, despite his unbelief, he loves God without knowing that it is God he loves. For this is possible, as an initial phase at least. If we love the good, the beautiful and the true then we are beginning to love God even though we may not call Him by His name.

But, as I say, this is a beginning and we must take it further. When Christ was called good, he replied 'Why do you call me good? None is good, save one, that is, God.' Christ had aligned himself with the source of all goodness and that is why he was wholly good and why he could deny personal goodness. In the same way, although a love for goodness may lead us onto the path of virtue, it is only when we have completely identified our will with the Will of God that we can truly be said to be a virtuous person. But then we know that our virtue is not our own. It comes simply from a recognition of the true nature of things. That is why I say that only a spiritual person can really be a good person in the fullest sense. Obviously this does not mean that those who believe in spiritual things are necessarily better than those who do not. They may be, they may not be. But only someone who has fully submitted his will to a higher power can truly be good. For goodness never comes from us. It can only come from going beyond the self.

This points to the fact, one always emphasised by the Masters, that the prime virtue is humility. The four cardinal virtues are temperance, prudence, courage and justice, and these are all excellent qualities, of course, and ones we should strive to cultivate, but theoretically they could be possessed by an egoist or even a bad person. Therefore they are not Virtue as I think of it in the singular and with a capital letter. The theological virtues are faith, hope and charity or love, and while I am sure much ink has been legitimately spilt defining, qualifying and specifying what these mean from a Christian perspective, I hesitate to include faith and hope as part of Virtue (with a capital V). I say this because I envisage a sanctified person to be the embodiment of Virtue, and such a person would have replaced faith and hope with knowledge. So faith and hope (which, again, theoretically could be possessed by a bad person) cannot be considered part of virtue as spiritual perfection.

This leaves us with love. Something I have learnt from the Masters is that humility and love are two sides of the same spiritual coin. Humility is the recognition of our nothingness before God. Love is what comes from that recognition. And if the fear of (as in reverence for) the Lord is the beginning of wisdom then the love of God is its end. All virtue comes from this.