Wednesday 18 December 2013

What is Spirituality?

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

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

Spirituality is being true to your conscience.

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

Spirituality is a love of the laws of God. 

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

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

Spirituality is an awareness of the oneness of life. 

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

Spirituality is awareness of the sacred. 

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

Spirituality is service, sacrifice and surrender.

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

Spirituality is observance of silence.

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

Spirituality is simplicity.

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

Spirituality is forgetting.

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

Spirituality is remembering.

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

Spirituality is the sun in a blue sky.

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

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