Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Metaphysical Error and Heresy

We live at a time of not only rampant atheism and materialism but also one in which there are many spiritual errors and half-truths masquerading as truth floating around and often flourishing. So the Masters told me forty years ago, and it is even worse today.

Most heresies or metaphysical errors are the result of taking an element of truth and giving it a disproportionate importance while at the same time ignoring or downgrading other elements. We may think some of them are new but actually the same old heresies tend to appear and reappear quite regularly. They appeal to the mind because they are often seen to be more logical than revealed truth, logical to the human mind anyway, and sometimes more in tune with what you might call entry-level mysticism. So they can appear to be supported by human experience or reason but you will always find something missing in them, some lacuna which leaves an aspect of reality unexplained whether that relates to the illusionary existence of the world or the complete unreality of evil or matters to do with fate and free will etc. Only the pure truth describes reality in its wholeness and completeness and depth. 

Sometimes heresies have a simplicity which makes them attractive and sometimes they have a complexity which makes them seem profound, especially to those who pride themselves on an intellectual approach to the Mysteries. However, you will find that most of them can be banished or seen through, by a mind that stands in the light of Christ, and seeks to cultivate the pre-eminent spiritual virtues of humility and love. This does not mean that knowledge is not important. It is extremely important, but this knowledge should be based on the intuition which is our personal connection to the mind of God, albeit limited by our own capacity.

You might think that spiritual heresies are not really significant, and that, as long as you have a spiritual outlook, that is all that matters. The rest is detail. Not so. If your metaphysics is wrong then everything will tend to be wrong. This can be seen in an extreme form in the world today when our attitudes to art, science, politics and a whole host of social issues are all misguided because our metaphysical assumptions are, to put it kindly, mistaken. But even if your metaphysics are only partially wrong in that they are spiritually focused but lacking completeness, you might still drift into error. Sometimes this could be relatively harmless but at others it will be crucial. It all depends on the degree of deviation from truth. 

Fundamentals are essential in order to get everything else right. If your foundations are badly laid then the whole building is liable to collapse. 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

First Principles

I've put a post on Albion Awakening about how important it is to get first principles, meaning base lines assumptions about what life is, right. How, if you do, you will create a culture that is orientated towards the good, and, if you don't, you will have a society that becomes self-destructive as its members lose touch with reality with all the psychological turmoil and disturbance that implies. Moreover, these first principles cannot be arrived at through argument. They are either known or they are denied.

See here: First principles

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Jesus Christ and the Mysteries

It has often been remarked that key episodes in the life of Jesus can be taken as symbolising stages on the spiritual path for any true disciple. This goes along with the idea that Jesus's life was an externalisation or enactment of the ancient mysteries, those rituals that initiated the qualified candidate into the realities of the spiritual world, originally through the offices of sage-priests in touch with that world but in later, more degenerate times through drugs as the spiritual quality of both priest and candidate dropped and the materialisation of the environment reached the point at which the windows between the physical plane and higher ones became more opaque. I was once lucky enough to be left alone in the King's chamber of the Great Pyramid for a few minutes and it seemed obvious that this was meant as a place of ritual in which the neophyte would experience death and rebirth while lying in the stone sarcophagus that is the only object there. This was the core of the ancient mysteries. It was a dramatic ritual for the Egyptian initiate but performed literally by Christ as he revealed the hidden secret of life and made potentially accessible to everyone what had been open (and only partially open at that) to an elite few before. He did more than that, of course, but that was part of what he did.

The life of Christ can give us a deep understanding of the spiritual path that we too must tread before we are worthy to join him in his heavenly kingdom. I will examine seven major episodes from his life but there will certainly be more that can teach us new things about ourselves for it is a fact that a study of Christ's life can be endlessly revelatory.

Here are the seven episodes that I see as crucial stages to be passed by the aspiring disciple on his way to eternal life. There follows my interpretations of these stages but each one of them will richly reward further meditation which, of course, has long been known by Christians.

  • His Birth.
The obvious beginning. Christ must be born in our heart. This doesn't just mean becoming a Christian for that can be largely an external thing. It means that we acknowledge the reality of Christ as the truth in the light of which all other truths must be seen. We accept his reality as the foundation of everything and resolve at the deepest level of our being to coordinate our soul to that. This is clearly an aspiration. We are a long way off from realising it and will stumble and fall many times but a sincere start has been made. We have reoriented ourself from a focus on this world and its goals to the higher spiritual world. I don't say this has specifically to be directed at the historical figure of Jesus Christ himself but, if it is within the parameters of any other spiritual approach, it should be directed towards something that echoes and holds at least part of the reality of Christ. The highest form of spiritual reality, of truth, beauty and goodness, we can conceive of at the moment.

  • Preaching in the Temple.
This is a moment at which we have made some progress on the spiritual path and are able to share something of what we have learnt. It may not be at a very elevated stage. Jesus was only 12 after all! But it will still be better than the worldly wisdom of the "Doctors" who may represent the professionals of outer teaching.

  • Baptism.
At this point we are brought into closer contact with the soul or higher self. This is the part of us that exists on the spiritual level, above that of the everyday mind which we normally assume to be the centre of what we are, and which is the source of intuition. It is the real beginning of being guided by this spiritual sense and going beyond the threefold lower self associated with the physical, emotional and mental worlds. We now really know ourself as the soul, something that until this point we have had intimations of but not been able to fully centre ourself in. We still can't do that but a point has been reached at which the balance of power has definitely shifted and the baby Christ within us has reached some kind of maturity. Clearly many people might think they have reached this stage before they have because their intellectual understanding of the soul has outstripped their ability really to be it. This is one of the pitfalls to be negotiated by the disciple, both in respect of himself and in respect of others, outer teachers, to whom he might wish to give spiritual allegiance. By the way, I don't think this stage on the spiritual path has much to do with the religious ritual of baptism. That is a symbolic echo of it at an earlier point in the cycle.

  • Temptation in the Wilderness.
Once you have reached a certain stage of spiritual development you will be tested to see if you can maintain that in the face of appeals to egotism. Actually, tests and trials are an ongoing feature of the spiritual life but this is now serious stuff. You have attained a certain level of real knowledge. What effect does that have on you? Does it fuel pride? Is there a temptation to use it for your own ends? Or do you humbly accept the responsibility of it, seeing it not as your possession but as a gift from God, a gift that could be withdrawn should you react to it as your own? The significance of this stage should be obvious. It is perhaps the culmination of all the previous tests with the aim of giving you a clean bill of spiritual health. But it has echoes at many earlier stages of the spiritual path. Tests are one of the more important parts of the path and one to which we should be constantly alert. I say this as someone who has often fallen short where tests are concerned. But I suppose that's the point. We keep failing until we succeed. Failures are to be expected but we have to learn from them.

  • Transfiguration.
I interpret this as the moment we become fully aligned with the soul. We are now, as it were, the soul in embodiment. The spiritual self illuminates the whole being of the threefold lower self which become vehicles of expression rather than centres in their own right. Obviously this is a stage in theosis well beyond most of us at present but I think it can be seen in the lives of some of the saints. Our being is irradiated by spiritual light. The process that came into full view at the baptism reaches a culmination. Christ in us has reached full maturity.

  • Crucifixion
It is interesting that this last stage is not the conclusion of the path. We seem to have reached the pinnacle of spiritual achievement. What can there be left to do? But there is something more. We have to give it all up. All the hard-won spiritual success must be renounced for it is only by doing this that our motive can really be seen to be true. We give back to God all he has given to us, thereby showing that it is love of God that has driven us forward not the quest for some kind of personal reward. We are prepared to sacrifice all we have attained to prove our dedication to God. This is what Christ showed us in the Garden of Gethsemane. "Not my will but Thine be done". This is what it really all comes down to. The full renunciation of self. But please note this is not the seeing through of the illusion of self as in some forms of spirituality. Self is real. The crucifixion is agony. It is not some kind of peaceful transition to bliss. There is the sense of real and total sacrifice. There was for Christ and I expect there will be for us though it will probably be in the nature of an existential crisis rather than a physical one. For Jesus it was clearly both but that was because of the nature of his mission.

  • Resurrection

After the supreme sacrifice comes glory. The risen Christ. The soul loses everything, or apparently does. But it must give up everything, and this is not done with one eye on the prize. It really seems to be spiritual abandonment and darkness. But after death there is rebirth. The soul is remade as a completely spiritualised being, an individualisation of God himself. It is the entry into the fifth kingdom of life, that of immortal souls. For immortality up to this point has been conditional. Now it has been completely won and there is no return. The resurrection of Christ marks the fulfillment of life and the return of the soul to its Creator but this time with full knowledge. The circle is complete.

These are the mysteries of Jesus Christ, demonstrated in his life which also, I believe, actually made them possible of achievement for human beings. He was the trailblazer who through his life and death connected the physical world to the spiritual, bringing them both together and opening up a channel between the two. He created a path that now anyone following after may walk if they so wish - and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifice for just because it is possible does not mean it is easy. But it is possible and we can do it with Christ as our guide.

Monday, 8 October 2018

The Elizabethan World Picture

What was the worldview that lay behind Shakespeare's plays and Elizabethan literature as a whole? The classical scholar E.M.W Tillyard wrote a book exploring ideas that were frequently referred to in poetry and drama of the time but then rather faded into obscurity as the scientific revolution gathered pace. See link below.

Albion Awakening

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Three in One

The human being, modeled after its maker, is a three in one, a trinity in which there is unity, and this apparently paradoxical fact, which may perplex the rational mind established in a three-dimensional world but makes complete sense from a higher standpoint, helps us to understand and resolve several conflicts in both religion and politics.  

For example, it explains why there is both oneness (intrinsic if not expressed) and hierarchy, and also how there can be forms of mysticism that deny the reality of self and those that affirm it.

A human being is comprised of spirit, soul and body where spirit is the uncreated aspect of God that is our being, soul the created individual self, our quality, and body the outer form and appearance. Now the point is that these three together comprise the human being just as God is Father, Son and Holy Ghost. You cannot separate them though they are different aspects of the totality. But at the same time there is a hierarchical order from top to bottom, inner to outer, and the totality should be seen in that context. Philosophies that do separate them, such as in their different ways do Buddhism and advaita, are incomplete. They have seen that the root of being is uncreated spirit, God in us, but they don't see that this is only part off the whole of what we are which leads them to deny or undervalue the rest, and particularly individuality. But individuality was the point of creation and why there is something rather than nothing. God is love and he sought to express that in relationship. What he creates is real, totally dependent on him but fully real in itself. Yes, in the context of our being, spirit is the most fundamental and truest part of us but it is not all of what we are, and you should not use its reality as an excuse to reject soul and body which are equally part of the whole. Indeed, without soul we could not individually know spirit, and without body we could not express it.

This is why I regard the Buddhist way as a preparation for the Christian way, or at least the Christian way in its higher sense of union with God. Nowadays many people brought up in our scientific, rationalistic, materialistic age turn to Buddhism or some form of non-theistic religion as the most sensible form of religion. It does away with that rather embarrassing anthropomorphic God. And its doctrine of not self makes a kind of philosophical sense. The ground of everything must be beyond the limitation and boundaries of the individual   which is clearly a veil on the deepest reality. So it is, but it's not that simple. Buddhism is, in fact, only a half truth, as is advaita which derives from it in that it was the Hindu response to the Buddhist challenge.

For reality is not the absolute alone but the absolute and the relative together, and the human being is not spirit only but spirit, soul and body together, a three in one.

Thus our spiritual goal is not to sink into Nirvana, the 'blown out' state, but to reach a full relationship with the living God, and the realisation of uncreated spirit can only be a precursor to this. It sets the scene in which that relationship can take place if one understands that disidentifying with the phenomenal world is not sufficient in itself but a preliminary to finding a union with the Creator. Of course, for that to happen one has to acknowledge him. To rest in Nirvana is, in a way, a refusal of the purpose of creation and birth in this world. I repeat, individuality was the very point of creation and so the rejection of it is a spiritual error even if it might be useful as part of 'skillful means', i.e. as a help to go beyond full identification with self which is also a spiritual error.

Three in one, hierarchy in unity, the one and the many, sameness and difference. This is the truth and isn't it so much more splendid than simply undifferentiated oneness? God is always more.  You cannot restrict him to the impersonal.  That would actually make him less than us. He includes and incorporates all we can conceive and, if a potential mistake of theistic religion is to limit him to existing outside us, as an object to us, the mistake of non-theistic religion is to ignore his personal or concrete aspect by focusing exclusively on the abstract impersonal. 

That mistake arises I think partly because of a confusion between the ego and the self.  The ego is the self as it manifests in three-dimensional consciousness and results from the separation inherent in unresolved duality. It is the self, which is not a phenomenal thing, squeezed into a phenomenal context.  That is why the elaborate Buddhist analysis and ultimate denial of the self is inconclusive. It only proves that the self is not a phenomenal thing. So it successfully dismisses the ego but mistakenly thinks it has also dismissed the self behind it of which the ego is a three-dimensional representation.  It has not done so. However its methods, techniques and philosophical reasoning are highly effective in showing up the emptiness of the ego. It can help us see through the illusions of the ego and detach ourselves from the lower self. The trouble arises when it throws out the baby of soul with the bathwater of ego.

For most Eastern mysticism, the individual is what negates reality, but a more inclusive understanding sees the individual as the whole point of creation. At the same time, the ego, which is that aspect of individuality that restricts itself to itself, is a barrier between us and God. We need to disidentify with that false aspect of our being but not make the mistake of rejecting the real part of us of which it is the shadow. Our spiritual make up is triple and all should be seen as parts of the whole for a full expression of being. This is why there is hierarchy even in heaven as I can attest to from my experience with the Masters.

Spirit, soul and body are the equivalent in the human being of the true, the good and the beautiful, and none of them can be denied. Note that it was the Ascension of the body which marked Christ's final act in this world.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Confessions of a White Male

Some thoughts on the identity politics that increasingly seeks to divide human beings from each other, all in the name of equality and diversity, of course.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Nothing to Attain, Nothing to Accomplish

I had an interesting exchange with an unknown commenter under one of Bruce Charlton's posts on Albion Awakening yesterday. The post is here. He took the line that "The world has no purpose, is not going anywhere, it is already perfect and thrumming with meaning. Striving and seeking are harmful and pointless - they merely obscure the vision."  So for him spirituality is to do with becoming aware of what is right here right now, and in doing this your consciousness becomes attuned to the whole. This approach has a long and honourable history, particularly in the East, but I think that, for all its virtues, it is an incomplete path. I replied as follows:

"The problem with the ‘nothing to attain, nothing to accomplish’ path is that it has no answer to evil. If "the world has no purpose and is not going anywhere as it is already perfect” that means there is no good and no evil, that creation is without point and fundamentally nothing is better than anything else. This is actually a very limited and one-sided view of reality which rejects the relative for full focus on the absolute.

Now the absolute is the absolute, of course, but reality is not just the absolute or the uncreated. It is the absolute and the relative, spirit and matter, together, and a more inclusive view sees that time does indeed have a place in the context of eternity. It is not rendered null and void by eternity but contributes to a deeper view of life than eternity alone. This is why God creates, to make something more than pure undifferentiated oneness.

So the path that seeks growth is greater than the path that seeks being alone (as in only being). What is more, it is able to counter evil which very definitely does exist in a fallen world. The world is not yet perfect but it will eventually be made so by those who join the struggle. Those who simply seek to be ..... have rejected or not picked up on the fact that the fullness of life is found in the integration of being and becoming and the journey to ever greater heights of glory."

Unknown replied setting forth his position more fully (which you can read under Bruce's post linked to above) and making several points among which were this  "Christian mystics like Eckhardt and others say to call God good is to limit him - he is beyond such limiting conceptions",

and this "(time and evil) exist in a relative sense, like an illusion", 

and then this "These are all nice theories, and not reality. The question must be - if you strive and seek, if you fight evil and try and improve the world and yourself, if you approach the world through concepts and understanding and thus control- does the world then reveal its magic and wonder to you, do you then feel existential fulfillment, does seeking and grasping of the ego lessen, does your existential anxiety and anomie diminish? Or are you just expecting these things in a future that never arrives?"

I responded:

"I respect your position .... but it doesn’t cover the whole picture. We won’t agree which is fine but to me your view basically downgrades the individual who is little more than a blot on the face of pure awareness. But there is a big difference between the self-seeking ego which strives, tries to grasp etc and the fact of the individual which brings quality to consciousness (a good, in fact, an inevitable, thing) and allows for relationship which I now see as the principal purpose for creation. Your scenario removes the need for any kind of creation.

Ultimate truth is beyond good and evil but please don’t compare relative things to an illusion. What God creates is real even if not self-subsistent. It’s a mistake to think that the world of creation exists apart from God but it does exist in God and he saw that it was good. It’s not an illusion or a dream. He loves it.

By the way, I see what Eckhardt means but I think he’s wrong. God is good. That doesn’t limit him because goodness cannot be limited. The goodness of God is not part of the pairs of opposites. Evil has no intrinsic reality but it does have limited reality as the perversion of goodness. God is only beyond good and evil to the extent that he is beyond opposites. But he is goodness not nothing.

Perhaps you don’t accept God or see him as something subsidiary to ultimate truth? I don’t see how this can stand up. If the absolute does not include the personal then the personal could never arise. There must be some kind of differentiation even in the absolute, strange as that may seem to our logical minds. I suppose the trinity in Christianity is a clue as to how this might work. 

These are not theories to me. They are not thoughts though that is how they form themselves mentally. But they are more perceptions than concepts.

With regard to seeking and striving, I would draw a distinction between the striving of the ego or separate self who is after a reward, and striving driven by the pure aspiration of the humble soul. There is no saint or mystic who has not struggled even if the struggle is to let go of struggling. We seek effortless being certainly, but that does not mean that we don’t have to work towards it.

It’s not a question of fighting evil or trying to improve the world but the saying that all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing is very pertinent. Even if that doing is no more than proclaiming the truth (sounds pompous, I know!), that is necessary in a fallen world which this is. But we must always act from love of God not desire to make our own paltry mark on the world. That is the difficulty which those who do seek to improve the world often don’t face and then they fall into the trap you rightly draw attention to."

I could have also mentioned that it is wrong to put time and evil in the same category as Unknown did. One is a God created reality, the other is a distortion of reality so they cannot be compared at all. I could have also said that he was quite mistaken in thinking that the Christian (for we are really talking about the difference between a Buddhist and a Christian path here) is trying to improve the world or himself or seeking and striving on an ego level. He is simply trying to put himself right with God, to walk in the light of Christ. That is a wholly different thing.

Unknown's reply referred to the Indian idea that creation is play when he says "You are quite correct that this removes any need for creation - rather, creation is mere Play, the Divine Game. Need means God isn't perfect, which Bruce quite honestly acknowledges and accepts.

The notion of the universe as a game, and play as superior to work, and magical spontaneity as better than necessity, is I admit very foreign to us today - but it is an ancient notion, and I wonder how much of the gloom, anxiety, and seriousness of the modern world cones from the loss of this notion.

Well, logically something that doesn't exist as an independent entity but is part of an energy field isn't real to the extent that it appears to us as an independent entity - that's all that's meant by illusion, and I don't think that's so terrifying.

An illusion is in fact real - it is not nothing - but it distorts what it represents

I must admit I find this kind of talk very unpersuasive. I've heard it many times before and it really just avoids facing up to the reality in creation or God by conditionally admitting these with one hand while dismissing them with the other. Funnily enough, given the mystical tone of the commenter's beliefs, it seems to be a mentally inspired approach, coming up with ways of expression to justify an opinion one already has   Of course, creation is not real in the way that God is real. No one has ever said it is, but it is still fully real. It is not in any way an illusion or dream, neither of which have any true reality at all. I would also object to the term energy field which reduces divine realities to abstractions and therefore presupposes unreality to demonstrate unreality. We are not energy fields any more than a star is, in CS Lewis's words, just a ball of fire and gas.

The debate boils down to this. How real is creation? How real are you? This is a matter for intuition but a clue is given in the book of Genesis when it is written that God looked at his creation and saw it was good. The view that creation is just play is attractive but play of who or what? The impersonal absolute? That makes no sense. Play means a player who wishes to derive pleasure from playing. It must be a who which means God.

I would agree there is an element of play in creation but that does not discount purpose. God can surely kill two birds with one stone! The purpose is twofold. One, self-expression in love and two, the desire to become more. I don't agree with the idea that God is not perfect. If he is the all, which he is, then he must be. There is nothing outside him or limiting him in any way. But perfection exists in absolute terms. In terms of a relative world of becoming, God can always become more than he is even though he is perfect. This is his reason for creation, to grow. Obviously he cannot grow as the uncreated absolute but in terms of creation he certainly can, and we can with him. 

So we can if we wish return to the absolute. But is it not better to do as God himself does which is retain and harmonise the two aspects of our being, the created and uncreated? I agree that we have to seek our deepest reality in spirit but that is not the whole of what we are and to restrict ourselves to that is to limit ourselves even if we are limited to the unlimited, paradoxical as that may sound. But then if we do that we are ruling out relationship which means love. 

If you say that the Absolute alone is real then you are also saying there is no better or worse in creation. It's all one. People try to get round this by saying that creation is real on its own level but the fact is that, once truth is realised, none of that can matter. Everything is part of the all regardless so why care? That is the fundamental truth however you spin it. This problem is resolved by looking at the world like this. Yes, God is in everything but he is not in everything equally. The purpose of spiritual evolution is to manifest more of God in creation starting with ourselves. Even the Buddha had somewhere to go. He could grow and no doubt has for I dare say his spiritual consciousness now is greater than it was then. There is something to attain. It is to be more than you are. There is always more of God to be realised which there would not be if there was nothing to be attained or achieved and the goal was just to be. That is part of it but spiritual growth can be endless if you allow it to be and don't cut yourself of from the fullness of the divine through excessive focus on one aspect, albeit the deepest, of it. God is a Trinity. He is not just the Father. This is where the Christian revelation goes further than anything else. We are not just spirit but spirit and soul and the goal is not to abandon one for the other as in the non-dualistic approach but to combine the two to make something new, something that was not there before. 

God is being. However he creates to be something and that should be our goal too.