Thursday, 9 June 2016

Meeting the Masters Revisited and Revised

When I wrote Meeting the Masters my primary aim was to recount the story of my experiences with the spiritual beings who instructed me. I thought the fact of their existence and what they had to say might be of interest to many people frustrated by the dead end of modernism. I sought to present this in the context of the best of Western and Eastern (and theistic and non-theistic) spiritual approaches in order to arrive at a more universal perspective that reconciled these by focusing on their higher, unifying essence. I realised they weren't fully reconcilable but I don't think that, at the time, I fully appreciated the extent of the differences between them.

The main part of the book still stands. The strictly factual part that describes my encounter with the Masters, their words and their teachings and my reactions as a spiritual apprentice, is what it was. However my metaphysical understanding has changed a little and if I wrote the book now I would put the more theoretical parts in a slightly different way with less emphasis on the identity of mystical traditions and more on what I consider to be the deeper truths revealed through Christ. Thus I would place the non-dualistic and Buddhist points of view, which are fundamentally the same, at a different level of truth to the idea I have been describing in previous posts (most notably here) which sees the destiny of the soul as to be made one with God in a union in which individual identity is transformed or transfigured but retained rather than being seen as unreal or illusionary and consequently rejected in favour of an unqualified pure consciousness, without difference admitted in any way. I would lay greater stress on the love of God as the supreme spiritual path with knowledge, as in intuitive understanding that the soul and divine ground are one reality, a preliminary but incomplete on its own approach that can take the disciple a long way but not all the way to the final goal. I would put a personal relationship and union with God at a more advanced stage than self-sufficient oneness with the uncreated part of one's being which is the goal in Buddhism and advaita. And I would further stress that the aim of the spiritual disciple should not be enlightenment but the sanctification of the soul, achievable only through the grace of God which grace can only be properly received and merited (if it is ever really merited) after lengthy purification of the fallen self.

As a matter of fact, most of this was already plainly implied in the book as, for instance, in the passage about the absence of God in Buddhism or comments about there being a duality beyond non-duality. I also mentioned that the Masters were more like wise abbots of a Christian monastery than present day teachers of enlightenment (a word they never used).  However it was not spelled out quite as unequivocally as it might have been as I wished to be more inclusive in my approach at the time and was also less clear in my own mind about the difference between the impersonal absolute as the ground of pure being and the Creator God. Coming to an understanding of the meaning of the Trinity as the ultimate truth of things has helped clarify matters for me, particularly as to how oneness and difference can be completely reconciled in a higher union in God with no loss to either. It does seem to be that only a Trinitarian metaphysics, or something like it, can really account for reality as it is and do no violence to the integrity of either the One or the Many, either the uncreated source of all or creation.

I once assumed that all mystical traditions described more or less the same thing which was the union of the soul with God. They just put this in different ways depending on where they were coming from. Because my spiritual training was with the Masters, as described in the book, I refracted everything through that prism and didn't pay sufficient attention to the fact that different traditions do actually say different things and have different goals. I read books about the various religions and studied some of the writings of the great mystics and philosophers, both ancient and modern, but tended to assume that any differences were at the level of expression only. I now see that they are not all describing the same thing and that some do have a more restricted point of view than others. Also, that some come from human attempts to know truth while others have revelation from above at their core.

As the Masters never told me what to think from a philosophical or theological perspective, but focused entirely on practical instruction on how to be, I did not take my metaphysics directly from them. They were only concerned with inner change and development and did not point me towards any outer spiritual teachings, letting me sort that out for myself. However their words and their presence definitely point to a certain form of truth, and that is the form in which love and humility are the primary spiritual virtues; indeed one in which virtue itself rather than knowledge is the primary spiritual quality. And true virtue only comes from one place, that is aligning oneself with the will of God. So the Masters demonstrated the full truth of the transformation of the individual soul into a divine union with God. Think of us as messengers from God, they said. And so they were. Ceaselessly active on his behalf. There was no question of them resting in some state of blissful inactivity which an unqualified non-dualistic reality would necessarily imply. If there is no reality in creation why bother with it?

I don't reject anything I wrote in the book (which is first and foremost about my experience with the Masters), but I feel that my theological understanding has become more nuanced now. Strangely enough, it has become so since being challenged by non-dualists after a post of mine (The Non-Duality Trap) was put on a non-duality website. This led me to consider the implications of pure non-duality more deeply which made me realise that my assumptions about it were incorrect. It is quite dissimilar to Christian mysticism. Its rejection of God and the individual are, I now believe, deeply flawed for reasons I have given in various posts.

So what I am saying is that, pace Buddhism and advaita, individuality is important. The Masters have certainly transcended identification with the limited individual aspect of their being as they are one with God who is the centre of their lives, but individuality remains. In fact, it is more developed than it is in most of us, who, in comparison, are only half-formed individuals. A heaven of identikit saints would be a sort of hell, wouldn't it?

Most of all what I would now insist on is the reality of God. This might seem a strange thing to say when talking about spiritual matters. But more and more I have noticed a tendency in present day spirituality, or attempts at spirituality I might say, to take God out of the spiritual equation whether as a lesser reality than pure absolute being or as not existing in any true form at all. This is a great error. God exists and he exists in a personal form though I am not saying he is restricted to that. God will always remain a mystery in his essence. Nevertheless God as a Person is absolutely real for personhood is not a limitation on being, as erroneously thought by the non-dualists. It is the abstraction of pure being brought to full and perfect expression. Besides which, if God is not a Person then goodness, beauty, and even truth in any comprehensible form, are all only relatively real which, in effect, means they are not real at all. God cannot be limited in any way but to envision him as a blank absolute or infinite energy or the like seems to me to be much more of a limitation than to say that he is a Person. And without this personal side nothing really matters or has meaning for it is the personal that give life its savour, joy and, most of all, its love. This is why modernism, which is founded on the active denial of God, is basically anti-life. It is, in fact, nothing less than a death cult.

To say that God is a person does not mean he is just an object to us, something or someone 'out there'. That could never be for he is the essence of personhood, the very 'I' behind all 'I'ness, the archetypal person from whom we borrow our person-ness or individuality which is given to us from him and reflects his. But he has created this world of multiple beings who are one in their being, his being, but many in expression and quality, uniquely theirs though given by him. So in this created world, both heaven and earth, oneness and multiplicity exist together like harmony and melody, and God is both the Supreme Father, in terms of creation, and life itself in terms of pure spirit above form. But, and this is the point, both of these must be known if we are to encompass the fullness of reality.

So the only parts of the book that I would amend now are those that say or imply that God as Person is somehow lower or less real than the Impersonal Absolute. I always struggled with this intuitively (if that were the case then where did the original 'I' come from in the first place, what was love, what was goodness, why were the Masters so individual and why did they speak of higher Masters, i.e. point to a hierarchy even in heaven?), and it was not a teaching that the Masters themselves ever gave. However the weight of metaphysical authority, particularly that of the East, appeared to affirm it, and it can be seen as just an extreme form of the fact of oneness. But an understanding of the nature of the Trinity, seeing how there is difference even at the deepest level of unity, has given a better metaphysical foundation for my intuitive sense of how things are.

There is perhaps one minor point I should clear up. When the Masters said that one should forget the personal self and merge with the universal self this might appear to support the idea of abandoning the sense of being an individual and becoming one with the absolute. So in a way it does but it does not mean giving up individuality. As I have said, the Masters themselves were full individuals. The only difficulty here is on a verbal level. Personal can refer to the reality of the person and this was an idea that the Masters fully supported. They demonstrated the truth of it. However it can also refer to the personality in the sense of the separate rather than individual self and it was this that the disciple was asked to renounce. This idea of himself as a separate being. Not the idea of himself as an individual. God created us as individuals and does not demand suicide but self-transcendence. Forget the personal self does not mean deny you are an individual but don't identify with your individuality. Know yourself to be a spark of the divine, fully one with your Creator.

Incidentally, in case of misunderstanding, I am not saying here that our approach to God should exclusively be on a personal or dualistic level and that the practices and attitudes associated with a formless or apophatic approach to truth should be dismissed. I believe that each should be balanced by the other for a comprehensive understanding just as love should be balanced with wisdom. The Masters counselled both prayer and meditation for the disciple and this points to the need to take both a personal dualistic and an impersonal non-dualistic approach into account as we walk the spiritual path. Either on its own is incomplete even if the truth is that the ultimate aim of God is that he may have a personal relationship with us and that we may become gods ourselves. He did not create souls merely for them to be reabsorbed back into his being, eternally resting in the darkness of the Godhead as though they had never been. He did so in order that they might add to the glory of being through multiplication and joyous communion between all parts of it. He is a giver not a taker.


Bruce Charlton said...

William - I am finding that many of these matters depend on, derive from, how one conceptualises God. The general ideas of God are to be found in many and various sources, but ultimately which one is believed (lived by) depends on one's own personal spiritual experience of God (and, of course, upon believeing that such experiences are at-least-potentially a valid source of insight and understanding).

Under the influence of William Arkle and confirmed by experience, my own understanding moves towards a warmer, wholly positive and more loving, creative and 'friendly' or filial understanding of God; and therefore I tend to regard the old emphasis on 'Kingly' attributes such as awesome glory, power, majesty, jealousy, anger; and reciprocal praise, worship and a general attitude of fear, abasement, sacrifice and propitiation... as being the kind of things that God adopted, somewhat reluctantly, because it was expected, or these were the only things that 'work' with some people in some times and places --- rather than these being essential attributes of God.
Rather as a human father 'pretends' to be angry with a young child who has done something dangerous like running out into the road - so that the child will get scared, and won't do it again; and because this is the only (or most effective) way the child can learn a lesson which he must learn. In other words, 'anger' (or majesty, or awesomeness etc.) is done purely for the benefit of the child; and not from real anger. (I may actually be terrified by the near accident, or feel sorry for the child). I see the God of the Old Testament having behaved with this kind of motivation when dealing with the warlike, turbulent Ancient Hebrews and at many other points throughout history.

But all this gives a false impression of the true nature of God. As John the Evangelist (who knew him personally) made clear - God as seen in Jesus Christ's nature is wholly loving, approachable, friendly etc. He wants the disciples to treat him like an elder brother, not a King. I think the same applies to God the Father: he wants from us something much like loving familial friendship.

Nor, I think, does God want us to think about him *all the time*, not to pray or meditate *all the time*, nor for us to be oriented towards him all the time (which is why the world has been set-up the way it has - certainly not conducive to full-time orientation to God) - it would be a pretty strange and insecure and over-bearing kind of Father who wanted his son *always* to be thinking about him!

The point behind these ramblings is that how one regards deity has all kinds of ramifications for what kind of religion, or what kind of Christianity, one holds. But these consequences seem to emerge only quite gradually and incrementally as basic ideas/ assumptions work-through into life; and then we reflect on life and trace it back to basic ideas.

At least, that is how it is for me - so I need to go back and revise my basic ideas from time to time, as I appreciate how they are working-through.

Maybe something similar happened to you after writing 'the Masters'?

William Wildblood said...

Well, Bruce, I can't restrict God to anything. I would say he can be Father and King and something above and beyond both those things. Maybe at our stage everything must be a symbol. But I don't conceive of him as a person in the way you and I are. I don't think we can objectify him or meet him as an external being. So we can know him within but not meet him and share a cup of tea, as it were! I would say in his transcendence he is always above us but his immanence is where we meet him as a living, loving presence. When Jesus was asked "Show us the Father" he pointed to himself. That is possibly the closest anyone can get in terms of an external one to one encounter - knowing the Father through the Son.

But then I don't know and it probably doesn't matter. Reducing God to a mental level is not where we will know him. He can be sensed in the heart and intuited in the head but can never be put into words or reduced to form. No doubt one day 'on the other side' we will find out for certain but my current approach is to think of him in a personal way without worrying about the form or shape of that person. It is just the embodiment of love and truth. God is spirit and those that worship him must do so in spirit and in truth said Jesus. That's the approach I try to adopt. But you're right. I don't do that all the time. I know I couldn't for a start but even if I could we still have to live our life. I try to keep him as, at least, a permanent undercurrent though. I do believe that is important.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William " I don't think we can objectify him or meet him as an external being. So we can know him within but not meet him and share a cup of tea, as it were! "

In contrast, I think 'sharing a cup of tea' is pretty much exactly what we could do - and indeed is exactly the sort of thing which God most wants from us: i.s. to purify and raise us up so that we can relate to each other 'on a level basis'.

"When Jesus was asked "Show us the Father" he pointed to himself. "

My interpretation of this and similar parts of scripture is that this was meant 'literally' - Jesus was saying that God the Father was just like himself, the same kind of being.

Of course, all these contrasting interpretations derive from different metaphysical assumptions (or different revelatory experiences) - since each is a plausible way of reading the texts.

William Wildblood said...

You may be right, Bruce, but this is an unorthodox position, isn't it? Is it the Mormon belief? From my perspective it makes the Creator like a created being but probably my position that God is personal but doesn't have a form as such is a contradiction in terms from your perspective. But then I return to the idea that God is spirit. All will be revealed one day no doubt but in the meantime the important thing is to, as it says somewhere In the OT, walk humbly with your God by which I understand seek to do his will in love.

Nathaniel said...

@William - It is the Mormon belief that God the Father has a body.

"Latter-day Saints perceive the Father as an exalted Man in the most literal, anthropomorphic terms. They do not view the language of Genesis as allegorical; human beings are created in the form and image of a God who has a physical form and image"

William Wildblood said...

Ah I see. Thanks Nathaniel. This is deep water and must, I suppose, be a matter of belief. But to me that's the difference between the Father and the Son, that the Son has a body but the Father is non-corporeal. After all Jesus did say God is spirit. To say that God has a body does sound more like a Hindu conception of God than a Christian one but then I know I'm far from orthodox myself!

Nathaniel said...

It is very different! I'm Catholic, but have found Mormon theology surprisingly coherent and easy to understand. It simply takes most things very literally and draws out explanations from these common-sense type assumptions.

(For example, God walking in Eden is now literal, and Jesus did not lessen or diminish Himself by taking on a body, but it was the plan for His own exaltation. Our bodies are not primarily sources of pain and temptation to sin, but our essential God-like being that must progress towards being with Him. A God we could physically and literally embrace is different, but in its own way beautiful and relatable).

Nathaniel said...

Do you plan to actually update the book, such as the Kindle version, or leave as is? Thank you!

William Wildblood said...

Thanks for asking but no. As regards my experiences with the Masters nothing has changed and that is the substance of the book. The rest as mentioned here is really just extra detail. The basic theme of the book is the reality of the spiritual world and the fact that we are guided and protected by it if we follow the rules of the spiritual road which are still as outlined in the book. The theological differences I write about here are important but don't alter the essential message. And they are there already in the book if you read between the lines anyway.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - I have just read through another channeled book called The Only Planet of Choice - do you know it? I read it because it had been mentioned (briefly) by William Arkle in a letter.

I came away from it with mixed feelings - about half was interesting and seemed valid; but about half was almost at the level of 'current affairs' politics and seemed very dated and not particularly wise.

The basic problem was that the channel was being interviewed and recorded by a somewhat fluid group who did not seem to be very high quality in terms of their spiritual motivations and seriousness - and kept asking silly questions!

The premise of the book was that the messages were for 'mankind' rather than the specific persons involved - which struck me as grandiose and implausible - rather than for the spiritual benefit of the people involved - which is in contrast to Meeting the Masters.

William Wildblood said...

Dear Bruce, I read this book about 20 years ago and I would say your spiritual antennae are quite correct. I usually like to keep books for reference but I got rid of this one because it seemed very dubious to me. There were all sorts of general occult tidbits but no spiritual feeling at all. I can't remember it exactly but aren't space vehicles and something grandly called the Council of the Nine involved? Isn't Jesus present in some way but completely re-imagined according to their scenario of the universe? It just didn't have the right atmosphere to it.

My peculiarity is that I am someone who has written about a channelling experience who basically distrusts most channeling experiences. I think the problem is twofold. First of all, in most cases the medium affects the message. The technique involved means that the process cannot be pure. But secondly there is the question of the origin of the message. Where does it come from? And practically always it comes from beings on the inner planes, or whatever one calls the non -physical worlds, who are still separate from God. So they may have more apparent knowledge of these worlds but it is still refracted through the prism of their own limited understanding. That is assuming the communicators are not demonic which they clearly often are.

In this case my impression was that the communicating beings were talking from the mental plane which (using conventional occult terminology) is above the astral or psychic plane but below that of real spiritual union which is the location of the soul when it is one with God. So they were still talking from the level of their own thoughts and opinions rather than genuine spiritual insight such as possessed by the hierarchy of saints.

So in Christian terms they were in purgatory rather than heaven, and I think this is the case for the great majority of the beings who are channeled.