Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Opinions

In the present intellectual climate everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and everyone's opinion is more or less equally valid. But, in fact, it is always assumed that your opinion must be within the parameters of secular humanism to be considered acceptable.

I have a different view. Yes, of course everyone is entitled to their opinion since God gave us free will and we are allowed to exercise it. However to think all opinions are equally valid is nonsense. Clearly those opinions that are founded on a greater knowledge of reality than those that are not are worth more. Equally clearly those opinions which come from disinterested motive and pure hearts are worth more than those which arise from self interested motive which many opinions do though this is not always acknowledged. For instance, the demand for the expression of full personal freedom lies behind many opinions. As does the denial of God which is often based on the pride of the denier.


So no, not all opinions can be considered equal. Some approximate to truth which exists objectively and some just correspond to a personal prejudice. As always we need to examine the heart and motivation of the person proffering an opinion before we decide whether his opinion is worth anything.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Mysticism, Monism,Theism

Many mystics who prioritise experience, and perhaps an intellectual approach, over revealed truth, tend to assume impersonal monism is a higher or deeper realisation than theism, dismissing the latter as dualistic (bad word) or, if they are influenced by Indian religion which many are, a bhakti approach, bhakti being something like devotion to a deity. So they equate theistic mysticism with an emotional dualistic, me and him, attitude to God, one still centered in the self which must be transcended for full realisation. 

From where I stand they are both right and wrong. Yes, full identification with the separate self must eventually be left behind and yes, an emotional loving response to God does take place on the level of that self, albeit a purified level. But bhakti as devotion is different to agape which is love as being-feeling not emotion-feeling (hence without an opposite and not subject to fluctuations), and a higher state than simple identification with pure consciousness which is a kind of ‘back to where we started’ state that disregards the purpose of incarnation and experience in our dualistic world with the consequent sense of separation between self and other. It also isolates one part of our being, namely spirit or essential being, from the rest, in particular soul (individuality) but body too, thereby reducing the totality of what we are to its most fundamental aspect. 

But the true goal of unfolding life is the integration of spirit and matter, of the individual and the universal, including not separating, making the two one but, at the same time, keeping them as two and so preserving the truth in duality even if seeing it in the light of overall oneness.  Monism rejects matter by seeing it just as a veil on spirit and with no purpose or function in itself.  It has sometimes occurred to me that you could even regard it as metaphysically misogynistic, if you wished to think in those terms, matter being an aspect of mater and also maya, the feminine side of divinity, and crucial to God's purpose for us.

A proper theism sees the one and the many as not just both valuable but both essential with truth in both, and it seeks to preserve their uniqueness while uniting them in consciousness. And while monism ultimately seeks experience and therefore, contradictorily, could be perceived as self-centred, theism is concerned with doing the will of God in love and humility. 

Which is greater, to reject the self or to sanctify it? To exclude or to include the fruits of creation? I would say that the latter is not just better but truer to God's intention for us.  Why otherwise create us?

Sometimes disagreements are just over words and, bearing that in mind, you could say that the real goal is to reach a state which combines monism with theism since both contain something of the truth and neither is sufficient on its own, especially if your understanding of theism implies an unbridgeable separation between God and Man. There is no separation. Life is one. But within this oneness there is multiplicity and it is that which gives love, beauty and goodness to life. Monism is wrong because the personhood of God belongs to the highest level of being, and there is an element of differentiation right at the heart of existence. That is the Trinity which contains within itself the principle of differentiation and so makes creation possible. But theism is also wrong when it sees the creature as always apart from the Creator. For truly creature and Creator are one in essential being just as they are different in expression.

The highest truth is not in pure being alone but in being and becoming together always working together to create more, a ceaseless expansion of life to the greater glory of God and ourselves, his children.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Absolute and the Infinite

I'm not a particular enthusiast for the writings of Frithjof Schuon but one observation of his I do find interesting is his remark that, metaphysically speaking, the masculine can be equated to the absolute and the feminine to the infinite. In my previous post on the spiritual risks of feminism I talked about how the cosmic principle of the masculine preceded that of the feminine in ontological terms and, by extension, in their expression as man and woman even though the two are complementary. This seems to me to be the instinctive perception of most people before they are troubled by ideological concerns but it is actually quite hard for the mind to get a hold of because it is not equality and it is not fully complementary either. There is complementarity but there is also a sort of hierarchy. This is brought out in the story of Adam and Eve, and perhaps a good parallel from the natural world would be the sun and the moon but still it is something that would be largely resisted today.

But if we think of masculine and feminine as linked to concepts of absolute and infinite then we can see that the absolute is ontologically prior to the infinite because the absolute is being itself while the infinite relates to becoming or to the absolute in expression. Think of the absolute as a point and the infinite as the rays that stream from that point when it manifests itself and you will see that the one does precede the other even if in terms of creation both are essential.

Likewise with the transcendent and the immanent. These are two aspects of one whole but God is transcendent before he is immanent just as he is absolute before he is infinite. You can say that transcendent and immanent only make sense as a pair but still one must come first just as the Creator comes before the creation. Esoterically the mystery of sex is supposed to be fully revealed only in the higher initiations and one can see that there is a deep mystery here which is why it causes us so much trouble to resolve.


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Spiritual Risks of Feminism

The present day rebellion of the female against the male, which has made such inroads into our society, has its roots in metaphysics and cannot be properly understood without reference to that. Much of the motivation behind it, as behind the left in general (the left being a feminine thing, metaphysically considered), is resentment against established order and power which results in the attempt to grab a share of that power or at least bring it down to an equal level.

But two things must be understood. One, the established order, whether it be God or the male was legitimate even if in the former case it was perceived as oppressive and in the latter it sometimes actually was oppressive. So the revolt against it is driven by ego not truth. Change driven by truth would seek to repair and restore an order not replace it, and it would not be marked by so much anger.

The claimed motive is equality but in truth there is no such thing as equality. It does not exist anywhere in nature. There is balance of sorts (never complete balance which leads to stagnation), but this results from harmonious interaction between complementary principles, and in any complementary pair one always takes precedence. In the male/female pair this is the male just as in the spirit/matter pair it is or should be spirit. This does not make man superior to woman. They are both human beings made in the image of God. Moreover in the case of any two individuals a woman can clearly be superior, in wisdom, intelligence or whatever it may be, even strength, to a man. As a man may be to a woman even in such pre-eminently feminine qualities as beauty. But the general rule remains.

This precedence of the masculine does not mean that there are no areas in which the feminine has precedence. There very obviously are. That is the whole point of having two sexes and the meaning of complementarity. No one can deny the differences in the physical realm but it exists in the mental one too and very probably in the spiritual also. But overall leadership lies with the male. This is what is resented by feminists but they are revolting against truth. Their cause is justified to a degree by the fact that the male has in the past abused his position of power and authority but this does not alter its legitimacy nor does it gainsay its source in divine reality. I have to repeat that reform is one thing but revolution quite another.

The upshot of all this is that now is a very spiritually perilous time to be a woman. Women see themselves as having the moral high ground with male evil widely recognised, and often exaggerated, while female evil is practically denied to exist. This inevitably results in a dangerous sense of self-righteousness and pride with virtues magnified and vices ignored. The irony is that men are not so affected unless they abandon their masculine responsibility by adopting the feminist stance themselves but even then the actual spiritual risks are lower for them. They have failed a test but they have at least, even if in a misconceived way, understood the need for justice and sacrifice.

An egalitarian feminist perspective often appears to be adopted by societies and civilisations that are in decline and have lost confidence and a sense of true mission (see Fate of Empires by Sir John Glubb, for example). It probably starts as a consequence of achievement with its accompanying wealth and security and then becomes a cause of decline as a safer mediocrity and average are promoted instead of the more threatening but more creative exceptional. We are plainly in that position now but I would like to think there are enough wise men and women to take a stand against it and work together for a true spiritual understanding that will benefit both the sexes. For if they don't the spiritual consequences will be serious and they will affect women most of all. The tragedy of feminism is that what women gain or think they do in worldly terms will be more than counterbalanced by spiritual loss.




Friday, 27 October 2017

Prayer and Meditation

When I first became interested in the spiritual world I, like many of my generation, did not enter through Christianity but through meditation of a roughly Eastern sort. I say roughly Eastern because my meditation was not based on any particular practice but was a generalised emptying of the mind and sitting in silent awareness. In fact I started meditation by just staring out of the window! But I soon moved on to sitting cross legged, eyes closed, and trying to still thought. There was not much sense of God or anything other than to reach a higher state of consciousness. All pretty amateur and self-centred, I must confess. But despite this fairly hopeless method I did have certain experiences that seemed to indicate to me that there was something real to it all. Beginner's luck, I suppose.


Eventually I honed my technique and learnt to meditate by stilling thought (or trying to, this was never easy for me) and attempting to focus my awareness in the heart which, spiritually speaking, is not the physical heart but a more central point in the chest. But still God was not invited to the party. I was young, only 22, and keen but very inexperienced and ignorant. My motive was mostly self-centred but there was also the sincere attempt to discover some kind of highly reality because I felt it must be there and that's what a person should do. So I did have a real sense that a human being was supposed to search for the highest truth that he could and not waste time in materialistic pursuits. My motive was a mixture of self-interest and genuine aspiration to something higher.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I learnt before too long that there was more to the spiritual path than just the attempt to enter into a state of passive bliss which was probably my initial goal. I used my periods of meditation to try to become more aware of God within and I began to appreciate that the spiritual path was not just about higher states of consciousness but the attempt to put oneself right with one's Maker. I went from simply trying to gain something for myself to trying to attune myself to the real. In a way that remains my aim.

Continued on Albion Awakening

Monday, 23 October 2017

Western Hindus

Back in the 1970s when I first became interested in spiritual matters some of the most popular spiritual movements of the day were Hindu and though this was nothing new, going back at least a hundred years, there was a resurgence of interest amongst the young in the 1960s and '70s, fuelled, I have no doubt, by psychedelic drugs and the experiences many people had had through them. The main attractions then were Transcendental Meditation, Hare Krishna and the schoolboy Guru Maharaja Ji and none of them inspired me with any enthusiasm because, to put it bluntly, they seemed trite and superficial. But many people signed up to them, such was the spiritual wasteland of the time. The lure of the exotic was presumably a factor too. Most of those who flocked to these groups were in search of something more than was on offer from the materialistic world view of the late 20th century but they were often naive and many of those I met were motivated largely by self-interest and the desire for some kind of enlightenment. I don't mean this unkindly but it is true. Very few had a real and sincere love of God. Their quest was for themselves and this is why they were so easily lead astray by movements that were, if not totally fake, then not very authentic either.

As time went by people became more discriminating. Most fell away and went back into normal life but some pursued their interests at a deeper level and sought out more profound teachings from the subcontinent and teachers that were not so publicity driven. I myself went to India first for a visit in 1979 and then in 1980 for a stay of five years. My motive was not to find a teacher but had more to do with the fact that I felt a strong affinity for India itself and wanted to lead a spiritual life in an environment that didn't treat that as self-indulgent. I loved the country and still do though I haven't been back for more than 15 years now. But as I say I wasn't looking for a guru myself though I met a few of them and also more than a few Westerners, principally English, American, German and Australian, who had come out to India looking for spiritual truths. Most of those I met were made of sterner stuff than the people I had known earlier in the groups that had come to the West. They were often serious seekers who were quite aware of the pitfalls of Indian spirituality but who still sought for a genuine guru among the charlatans and frauds. There were certainly others who were just as naive as the English Hare Krishna devotees who chanted to a strange blue god in Piccadilly Circus, and those attracted to the recently deceased miracle man Sai Baba were among these, but the ashrams of Ramana Maharishi at Tiruvannamalai  and Sri Aurobindo at Pondicherry contained many people who were both sincere and serious.


And yet in few of them did I see a real spirituality by which I mean that the search for enlightenment was almost always the underlying motive. What's wrong with that, you might say? What is wrong is that their concern was invariably with God Immanent rather than God Transcendent so it basically amounted to a quest for the spirituality of experience rather than one of self-sacrifice in love. There is a difference and it is important for it concerns inner integrity. Of course, some sort of God was often acknowledged but not in the sense that he was actually real and the true goal of their spiritual search. Not in the sense that he was the Creator and the Father and their purpose was to reach a proper relationship of love with him. Sometimes he was even something to be gone beyond by the real mystic who was expected to leave him behind in the relative world when he penetrated to the non-dualistic reality behind all things. So their conception of God had changed from the Christian idea that he was the whole reason for the spiritual search, and its only proper aim and purpose, to putting him in a more peripheral place where, even if he existed, he was no longer the prime focus. That was now deep within themselves. God was within them as their truest self but there was not the perception that this true self within them actually had its origin outside them, Lip service might be paid to that notion but it was not felt.

Westerners who take to Hinduism usually do so because of the metaphysics but you can't really separate the religion and the metaphysics. It's like body and soul, and each needs the other to be complete. And Westerners with their education and their backgrounds simply cannot take Hindu religion, in most cases with mythologies thousands of years old, seriously, however hard they try. They can pretend to do so but it will not be real. It will always, and I mean always, be assumed not innate and therefore rather ridiculous.

Then there is the problem of temperament. This is certainly not as different as used to be thought, active Westerners versus passive Easterners went the cliché, but the difference is not non-existent either. Consequently Hindu practices and traditions just are not suitable for Westerners, however interesting they may find them.  I am among those who do find them not only interesting but profound too and yet I have never been drawn to follow an Eastern religion because it just would not 'sit right'. There would always be something artificial about it. That doesn't mean that some Eastern practices may not benefit Westerners but most of those that would do that already exist in the Western tradition, even if they are not widely known and used.

So what am I saying here? For as long as Europeans have known of India it has had a magnetic allure for them. Its sensuous beauties and exotic mysteries have been very captivating, and many are drawn to these in the search for something more than the grey reality they perceive in their homelands. There is undoubtedly something to be gained from this contact and yet, when all is said and done, the Westerner will always be on the outside looking in when it comes to Eastern religion. He is searching for something where he thinks the grass is greener but he would do better, and be truer to his destiny, if he explored his own spiritual heritage more deeply. For the Western mission is not to sit in contemplative meditation but to actively engage with the whole of life, though from a completely spiritual perspective, as Christ, its divine exemplar, did.

I am aware that I have been generalising in this piece and it is not my intention to put anyone off the great richness to be found in Eastern religion which can certainly supplement a traditional Western spirituality. But Western Hindus will always be a little bit like actors in costume and, while Indians may be flattered by them, I don't think they take them entirely seriously either.