Friday, 19 May 2017

Good People, Bad People

I've realised something interesting recently and that is that bad people generally have no idea that they are bad people. This may seem obvious to many readers but had only really occurred to me over the last few years in the light of certain personal experiences. I knew the old joke about the Nazis being astonished to realise that they were supposed to be the bad guys, but had never extrapolated a more universal truth from it. Now, though, it's clear to me that this is indeed the case. As a rule bad people have no sense of their moral and/our spiritual condition.

But, you might ask, isn't it very old fashioned to think in terms of good and bad people? We're all a mixture of the two surely? Good, or good enough, when things are going well and potentially bad when pressure is applied to our weak points. That is no doubt true but still there are people who are in a more fallen condition than others, people who are more deeply sunk in pride, selfishness, egotism than the norm and it is them I am talking about. Most people are neither very good nor very bad but there are some at both ends of the spectrum and it is these latter I am talking about. However they are not the obviously evil monsters beloved of the tabloids, but apparently normal, ordinary people who have blinded themselves to the reality of their own nature and live in a state of delusion.

But, again you might ask, aren't we all like that to a degree, especially when you apply spiritual standards? And yes, of course, we are. We are probably all slightly mentally ill too. Nevertheless there is delusion and complete delusion, normal and extreme forms and though we do all undoubtedly live in a state of delusion from a higher standpoint, some people do even from a normal one.

All this raises the potentially uncomfortable question. Am I a bad person myself?  Here again it depend on perspective. Yes, we are all bad from a true spiritual perspective. We are all sinners, and ultimately 'there is none good save one which is God'. However the realisation that one is a bad person is the beginning of becoming a good one. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and it is, taking fear to mean a humbling sense of his supreme reality and your absolute dependence on him, then the recognition that one is a sinner is the first step on the path to becoming a saint.

All of which leads to the idea of repentance but that is a subject that merits a post to itself.

Monday, 15 May 2017

A New Mind

I recently wrote that there is nothing new in spirituality but that is not entirely true. No doubt in an absolute sense there is nothing new. The rules of the spiritual road don't change and changing times don't mean old truths are outmoded or can be rejected in favour of new updated ones, more in line with contemporary preoccupations. Archetypal truths remain or they would not be truths in the first place.

Nor does the way to God alter. The demands are the same as they have always been. Purification of the lower self, devotion to higher ideals, mental and emotional discipline and detachment, cultivation of imagination and the mind in the heart, service, sacrifice and love of God as both inner reality and supreme being. There can be no newly discovered 'quick fix' or technique or method or form of knowledge that can bring salvation, using that word to mean the liberating of the spiritual inner self from its entanglement in the worldly ego.

But while there is nothing new in terms of what the spiritual path is or what is required on it or the goal to which it leads nevertheless, for us evolving human beings, there are always new vistas opening up, and I venture to suggest this probably continues into eternity.

The full piece is on Albion Awakening.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Modern Science

The modern world is founded on science, not only technically and intellectually but metaphysically too. Science is regarded as objective knowledge or as close to that as we can get. It is something everyone from all cultures can agree on and benefit from. It releases us from the ignorance of our ancestors. It has also, in many respects, been a complete disaster for humanity.

Science should be founded on the love of truth but it is not.  Modern science has very little interest in truth. Its main concern now is to protect its own interests and power, and for this a materialistic world view is essential. If science were to accept that there were truths, foundational truths, beyond its reach and inaccessible to its methods of investigation it would, in its eyes, be admitting a kind of defeat. It would be acknowledging its inferiority to religion, to revelation and to the spiritual. But it proudly believes itself to be above these things and it does so for the very reason that it is, in fact, below them which is its attachment to the rational principle and the denial of any higher faculty in man. This is like a blind man denying the existence of light just because he can't see it.

But this truth is blithely ignored by most modern scientists, secure in their illusions and, I have to say, intellectual arrogance. Nor do they seem aware that their approach is based on several a priori assumptions, specifically the assumption that the world accessible to them through their methods and their instruments is self-supporting. In other words, that matter is primary. This most certainly is an assumption and actually a fairly ignorant one since it leaves all the fundamental questions unanswered.

We have instead the assertion, based on nothing more than speculative hope, that one day science will uncover these truths as it has so many others though note that it has never discovered a single fundamental truth about the world. Everything it has discovered is to do with phenomena alone which has led to the supposition that phenomena are all there is.

Science can never understand the world because when it looks at it what it sees is a reflection of its own way of looking. The information it gleans from the world can't go beyond the limitations of its reason based approach because all that approach can uncover is the part of life that is open to it. Higher levels of existence that are not accessible to reason and sensory observation simply can't be detected. So it is not that science sees what it wants to see but what it sees is all it can see because what is observed is determined by what is observing and how it observes. A fly sees the world according to the limitations of its mind and so does a scientist. The difference, and it is an important one, is that the fly can't help it but the modern scientist imposes these limitations on himself because he denies a faculty higher than reason. Now, reason is certainly not a false faculty. It is God given, but when it is taken as man's highest faculty and its existence is used to reject higher spiritual principles then the servant has become master and reason becomes a tyrant that insists the world is seen according to its own limitations.

If we note how modern science started we can see the near inevitability of its descent into spiritual ignorance. For nature to be regarded solely as an object of study and exploitation it was separated from its roots in the spiritual world, a world not open to investigation by the new methods. As time passed and the new approach proved highly successful in material terms it came to be seen as the only way in which the world could be understood despite the protestations of people like William Blake and writers and artists associated with the Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. When science through Darwinism came up with its own creation myth its triumph was assured, and we now live with the spiritually disastrous results of that. Even much spirituality nowadays, such as it is, has to accord with science if it is to be accepted as realistic, the very opposite of what should be the case.

Anyone taking the line I have here will inevitably be asked if (for example) he uses computers or avails himself of the advantages of modern medicine. In other words, if he uses some of the many benefits that science has brought. If the answer is yes, he will be charged with hypocrisy. However it's not that simple. We all live in the 21st century and, unless we take to the woods and become hermits, we have to do so. No one disputes that modern science has brought many material benefits. It would never have made the inroads it has if it had not done so, but the point is it has brought them at immense spiritual cost. If we live in the modern world then we more or less have to use the products of science, and we can legitimately do so though I would suggest we should do so to a limited degree if we wish to avoid being contaminated by the mindset behind them. For it is not science that is bad but the mindset behind it, though I admit it can be hard to disentangle the two especially when the products of science reinforce the idea of man as a machine.

And so I say that, while science has brought some good things on the material level (it has brought many bad and unholy things too), these don't begin to compensate for the spiritual destruction it has wrought. But I would also add that it is not science per se that I am attacking here but a science not pursued in the light of the reality of God and the hierarchical supremacy of revelation and spiritual insight to unsupported reason. If science acknowledged that there are truths, deeper foundational truths, beyond its reach then it might begin to acquire a wisdom it currently lacks and which we so desperately need. If it pursued knowledge not for its own sake or even humanity's sake but for a fuller revelation of God then it might start to discover something really worthwhile.

Monday, 8 May 2017

England's Failure. Another Chance?

I believe that England was intended to be, or, at least, it was hoped that she might be, a pioneer for a revived form of spirituality in the late 20th century but this failed. It failed through a combination of social and political actions that came about in the 1980s but had their roots earlier, sometimes much earlier. We are still living with the consequences of that today.

More on Albion Awakening.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Quest for Moral Purity

This is a question about a rather unusual action but I think it's worth including here because it points to a certain type of behaviour which might be perceived as highly moral yet which could actually be motivated either by spiritual pride or even caused by a personality defect.

Q. I read recently about a person who every month gives virtually all her salary to charity leaving only a small fraction for basic living expenses. Do you think the world would be a better place if we all did this?

A. Maybe. As always, though, with matters of this kind one must look for the true motive. Is this a concern for moral purity which is actually a quest for moral superiority, and the action, forgive me, of a self-righteous prig, or even someone who is slightly mentally ill and wishes to attain to a kind of personal sanctity by appearing (to herself as well as others) much better than anyone else? Sometimes the spiritual seeker (whether a religious believer or not) mistakenly seeks a kind of perfection of the separate self, and this sort of behaviour could indicate that. It's rather like a person who refuses to kill a mosquito under any circumstances or a fruitarian who won't eat anything that harms anything in any way. Over-zealous people of this type forget that these external attitudes do not constitute true spiritual understanding. Rather they imply a self-absorbed over-concern with personal purity and righteousness. The desire to go one step further than anyone else and thereby prove moral superiority.

We have probably all met people a bit like that, people motivated by a puritanical obsession to be morally superior but who have little real love in their hearts, either for God or for their fellow men and women, though they may claim to love humanity in a vague general sense. However as the prophet Isaiah said (albeit in a different context) when all is said and done, 'all our righteousness is as filthy rags'. In other words, the ego remains the ego whatever it does. The fallen self can never be good in itself however hard it tries. Only through humility and grace can we really find God and the true uncorrupted self.

There is a name for this kind of behaviour which is pathological altruism meaning an altruism that springs from a personality defect rather than genuine kindness of heart. This is not meant to judge any one individual but to provide a general principle about spiritual excess and melodramatic gesture. The middle way is usually the best way and, as always with anything to do with spirituality, it is the motive behind thoughts and actions that counts. I don't say external behaviour is irrelevant. Of course it isn't but it is secondary. What we do is always less significant than what we think in our hearts and how much we love. Personal sacrifice is good, no doubt, but the only real sacrifice is of the self. This sounds more like a sacrifice ultimately intended for the advancement of the self because of its excessive nature rather like some of the austerities performed by Indian yogis and fakirs.

It is an unfortunate fact that many people take to various forms of spiritual practice to extend the domain of their own ego. The modern liberal often does the same thing with his disfigured version of morality. Indeed, the tendency to seek a personal moral perfection is a temptation we should all be on the lookout for. Morality is not something we should seek for its own sake or our sake or even for humanity's sake. It is something that can only really grow out of the love for God. Apart from that love it is not much more than nothing. In this respect these words from The Cloud of Unknowing, the 14th century book of mysticism by an anonymous Englishman, are worth thinking about.

"I tell you truly that the devil has his contemplatives as God has his.

So beware of behaving wildly like some animal, and learn to love God with quiet, eager joy, at rest in body as in soul. Remember your manners, and wait humbly upon our Lord’s will.

They are more anxious to seem holy in the sight of men than in the sight of God and his angels. Why, these people will worry and grieve more over unorthodox ritual, or the speaking of an unseemly or unsuitable word, than they will for a thousand vain thoughts or nauseating and sinful impulses, which they have deliberately gathered to themselves, or recklessly indulged in in the sight of God, and the saints and angels in heaven. Ah, Lord God! where there are so many humble bleats without, there must be pride within.

The fiend will deceive some men in this way; in a most remarkable fashion he will set them on fire to maintain the law of God and to destroy sin in all other men. He will never tempt them with anything that is openly evil. He makes them like those busy ecclesiastics who watch over every condition of our Christian life, as an abbot does over his monks. For they do not hesitate to reprove us all for our faults, just as if they had the cure of souls. For the sake of God they think they dare not do otherwise than declare the faults they see. They say they have been moved to do so by fervent charity, and by the love of God that is in their hearts. But they lie. It is the fire of hell which is welling up in their minds and imaginations."

These are strong words which might seem a bit over the top nowadays. But a spiritual director must be ruthless in rooting out all falseness from disciples and, heaven knows, in all of us there is a good deal of falseness and treading the spiritual path will always bring it to the surface.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Eastern Religion for Western People

I wrote in a post a while ago words to the effect that I had never seen Eastern religions particularly benefitting Westerners. I know that is a very sweeping statement but, generally speaking, I think it is true though, as with any rule, there will always be exceptions. Before proceeding any further I should first of all say that I have learnt an enormous amount from Eastern religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, but I have learnt this as an outsider looking in. I have never been tempted to adopt an Eastern approach but I have used insights gained from studying these philosophies to deepen my own understanding of spiritual matters. So I am certainly not saying that Westerners should not study Eastern religions. I don't say they must but I think that if they do they will gain a lot thereby. However studying a religion and fully participating in it are two quite different things. It is the latter I am referring to when I say that I don't think Eastern religions particularly benefit Westerners.

There are two issues here and I will get one of them out of the way quickly. Each religion has its own mythology and really you cannot adopt this. It has to be part of you, and that is definitely the case where Hinduism is concerned. I do think you have to be Indian to be a Hindu. Traditionally that is the case anyway. To be sure, you can take the philosophical aspect and leave the mythical side alone but then you will remain outside the religion as a whole so your interaction with it will always be slightly, or even very, artificial. It will be like reading a poem in translation. Of course, you can get something from it but you are not reading the real poem. Where Buddhism is concerned the situation is a little different as that is not so tied to a particular place (Hinduism is the one major religion that comes from the spirit of a land rather than an individual prophet or founder), but it is still soaked in a mythology and garb that will always be alien to a Westerner. They might be able to access the intellectual spirit of the religion but the form will not be natural to them and this is more important than it might appear. The spirit is certainly the main thing but the form houses and earths that spirit so cannot just be dismissed. In a way it and it alone gives true access to what you might call the spirit of the spirit, its living kernel. The appearance of something cannot be completely separated from what it is inside, not without damaging the whole which then becomes considerably less effective.

I'm not saying that nobody can be converted to a religion in which they have not been born. That's clearly nonsense. But the gulf between the modern Western mindset and the ancient Eastern religious attitude and view of the world is too wide for there ever to be a genuine and natural union between the two. The meeting will always be at several removes so adopting a religion that comes from long ago and far away, and is not 'in the blood', will always have a certain artificiality to it which means that it cannot ever really be a natural thing which it must be if it is to spiritually feed and nourish the soul as it should.

But even supposing this bridge can be crossed there is another and greater problem. Most Western people who look to the East for enlightenment are doing just that.  They are looking for enlightenment. They are aspiring mystics seeking a higher state of consciousness. It doesn't matter if you say that Nirvana or Brahman is beyond a mere state of consciousness, that is basically what these people are doing. They seek mystical experience. I know. I've done that myself. But is mystical experience, or even enlightenment, what the religious path is really meant to be about? Is it to do with tracing life back to its unmanifest source of consciousness in itself, without any colouring or flavouring of individuality at all, or is it to do with making the soul fit to receive divine grace thus rendering it holy which requires that it acts out of love for the divine being rather than desire for any condition or state of mind or being, spiritual or otherwise? You might think these two things are just different ways of describing the same thing but there is an important difference and it is to do with motive as well as goal. In the one individuality is (supposedly) renounced but in the other it is brought to perfection by being taken beyond itself in love. Love is key and it is to know its Creator in love that is the true spiritual goal and purpose. Only this takes us beyond the separate self with its personal goals.

Most Western people who take to Eastern forms of spirituality have a humancentric approach to spirituality and privilege knowledge over love but you will only find the true God (and there are many states and conditions you might mistake for God in the higher planes if you are not pure of heart) when your approach is fully theocentric and your motive is love. If you seek knowledge only you may well find a spiritual state that is profound, but you will not be fulfilling the true purpose of your being born in this material world of change and time and multiplicity. You will be abandoning half of life for exclusive focus on one part, albeit that which can be described as absolute. But life is more than just the absolute alone and if you restrict it to that you will be falling short in your duty to God who created you (and he did do that) so that you might know him in a full relationship of love and thereby add your unique individuality to the whole of creation so that it might expand and grow into ever greater glory. Simply to retreat into pure awareness is not going to do that. In a way that is a refusal of the gift you have been given and of the chance to make a gift yourself. I mean by that to make the gift of your self, your sanctified and redeemed self.

Ancient Eastern philosophies are wise and profound. They have much to teach us and I believe that some of their practices can help anyone develop spiritually and start to align himself with the unmanifest ground of being. But ultimately they are to do with knowledge, technique and method, and true religion requires more than this. To go beyond the ground of universal consciousness to a higher spiritual state (and there is such), to go to God as he is in himself not as he is in his outer aspect of pure being, we need love. The prime teacher and exemplar of love is Christ. He is what he teaches and the only way we can become that is to become like him. Christ is still all important for the West.

The Buddha brought light to the world but Christ went further. He included all that the Buddha brought of light and the wisdom of oneness but added to that divine love which, be it noted, is only acquired through suffering. The Buddha, the paragon of the East, sought to escape suffering but Christ, through his acceptance of suffering, transformed it into a path to divine love. It is Christ who set the spiritual pattern for the West to follow.