Thursday, 8 September 2016

What is the One Thing Needful?

This world is a difficult place in which to live and it's frequently human beings who make it so. Different people believe different, often totally contradictory, things and many claim they have the right answer but these answers don't agree.  It can be very confusing. What is one to think?

Then there is life itself which poses endless problems. Even if you have a reasonable standard of living and no serious personal or financial difficulties there are numerous irritations and annoyances which can disturb your peace of mind and trouble your heart. How do you deal with them? And if you are at all sensitive to spiritual truth what can you do about its apparent destruction in the world, a destruction getting worse by the day as right and wrong are inverted and goodness submerged in falsehood? I posed this question to myself recently and received the following answer.

Submit everything to God. Keep him in mind at all times of the day. As an undercurrent when you are doing things which require your full attention and right at the forefront of consciousness when you are able to do that. At these times lift your mind up to him and try to feel his presence. This won't be easy at first and you may fear that you are just imagining things but persist and you will eventually find a supporting presence to which you can consign all your troubles and problems. You will realise that what takes place outwardly can never affect you if you are centred in God, and that the truth can never really be damaged, whatever takes place in the world, for nothing good, nothing true can ever be lost. In the real world, which we do not currently inhabit, the sacred is always protected from the profane, and it is always there to be accessed by those who purify themselves of worldliness and fix their minds on God.

This is stunningly simple. At least, in principle it is but it isn't easy to remain focused and undistracted. The flesh may be weak but the mind is often even weaker. And yet it is simple in the sense that all one has to do is keep the idea of God in one's thoughts and in one's heart. I mean by this that we acknowledge the Creator and know that our 'I' only exists as a gift from him. It is a gift so we can do with it whatever we like but the only way to enter into the higher life, the life of spiritual growth and freedom, is to give it back to the Creator in love. Then we can enter into his life. This we do by accepting him and receiving him into our hearts. The modern intellectual type hates this. Such a person wants to be independent. He is too proud, too clever, to be simple and to do something that any uneducated peasant could do. But he lacks wisdom. He lacks love, he lacks humility and he lacks truth. Let us not be like him but let us joyfully acknowledge the Creator.

Now this does not require loud praise and extroverted celebration. Almost always any extravagance of this kind is the sign of an ego seeking emotional excitement, someone who wants God to come down to their level and adjust himself to them instead of them going up to him. But God is not to be found in emotion. He is to be found in feeling, and true feeling, deep feeling, will be quiet and unwilling to draw attention to itself. God is not known in noise and excitement but in stillness and silence. Remember that when Jesus wanted to commune with God more fully he withdrew from the crowds and towns and went into the deserts and mountains, and this remains true today, if not always literally, then certainly symbolically and psychologically.

So when the world oppresses or perplexes you, hand your troubles over to God. Submit them to him by imagining his presence beside you or lifting yourself up to him in thought and imagination. As the Masters said you will then find relief.

This approach might be criticised as 'dualistic'. You are envisaging God as something outside yourself, and the more enlightened mystic is surely past that sort of thing as he knows that his being and God's being are woven from the same cloth. God is within you as your true self. To seek him outwardly is the mark of the spiritually immature.

That may well be so but I challenge anyone who takes this position to maintain it in times of darkness when the spiritual glow is withdrawn from their life, and any experiences they may have had of a non-dualistic nature have dried up.  And believe me, this will happen. The mystic will one day find that his connection to the divine has gone. He will be thrown back on himself. This is inevitable and it is necessary because it takes the mystic away from his attachment to spiritual experiences and forces him to walk the spiritual path for the right reason. He is being purified of egotism and selfish desire by being made to be, and to accept being, nothing. He is being taught that God may be within as your life force but he is also the Creator with whom you can have a relationship of love and, in fact, it is only by means of such a relationship that he can truly forget himself and go beyond his identification with the ego. For the ego is not an illusion to be seen through by knowledge. It is a real fact of human nature that can only be transcended through self-forgetfulness in love. And this is only possible when you open yourself up to God, knowing that you are as nothing and that all you are comes from the Creator.

So the true mystic does not seek spiritual experiences. He will surely welcome them if they come but he is learning to love God for himself not his gifts. Only in this way can his soul be transformed into a suitable vessel for the living God. That may mean that he will find rather more suffering than joy on the spiritual path but this is to cleanse him of sin, the greatest of which is the identification with self. When this suffering comes the only way through it is to hand yourself over to God, and that means, in effect, to submit yourself to his will. Know that whatever he sends you is what you need and accept whatever comes in that spirit.

Which takes me back to how to deal with this world when it assails you. The answer is simply keep the fact of God in mind. Don't let anything distract you from that. It's all in the first commandment really.



ted said...

Beautiful William!

William Wildblood said...

Thanks Ted.

Bruce Charlton said...

"Remember that when Jesus wanted to commune with God more fully he withdrew from the crowds and towns and went into the deserts and mountains, and this remains true today, if not always literally, then certainly symbolically and psychologically."

The point is well made - if even Jesus needed to withdraw from the distractions of other people, noise, busyness... then how much more do we?

And yet how few people do this? (maybe a couple of weeks a year of holiday... but then the holiday often involves two or three days of miserable travelling, and may itself be filled with frantic activity and excessive intoxication!)

In almost everybody's life, there is ample possibility of withdrawal, every day; IF it is made a priority. Which it should be, because it is a necessity, not a luxury.

A great strength of the Christian way is that it understands God as both outside of us and within us (because we are God's actual children, hence divine - albeit embryonically).

According to our current challenges and circumstances, we can therefore seek and find God both within and without; as a feeling and as a relationship.

And our assurance is that the necessary help will always be given if asked-for, listened-to and accepted (remembering that sometimes it is better for us not to get help but to do our own best to overcome our own difficulties - indeed this is the normal and usual thing); and that true help is ultimately directed at our eternal well-being, not necessarily or often what makes us happiest in this mortal life).

William Wildblood said...

“God both outside of us and within us". Yes, more and more I am feeling that this is the crux of the whole spiritual path. Either one of these on its own is not enough. We need both equally to put ourselves in right relation with the divine, and to my way of thinking only Christianity really captures this in the right way. Mystics who seek God within only will find what I’ve called the life force in this post but won’t find God. They will be spiritually self-enclosed. Those who look for God externally only remain stuck in their earthly 3 dimensional minds and selves. They will be spiritually dry. To know ourselves as true sons and daughters of God Christ must be born in our hearts which is quite a different thing to merely accepting him as saviour with our minds.

Nathaniel said...

Thank you William, I found your post very helpful.

You said nothing good is really ever lost. In practical terms, I being with my children a great good, and yet there seems to be the real possibility that they could, God forbid, go to Hell (or myself). I wonder how those good times with my children may be eternal, yet as adults they could be lost forever?

William Wildblood said...

When I said nothing good can ever be lost I was repeating something that was said to me and referring more to goodness beauty and truth in an objective sense, all of which are trampled in the dust these days. But your question is a very good one which wiser minds than mine have struggled to answer. How can heaven be heaven of those we care about are not there?

All I can come up with in response to this is that, firstly, it must be axiomatic that nothing impure can get into heaven. So sinners by definition cannot do so. But then maybe nor can any of us without God's grace. So there is always hope. And, secondly, we have to ask what is hell? Heaven is surely supreme reality and that implies that hell is actually unreal. So maybe it is only the unreal part of us that goes there. Inside every human being there is something of God and it is that which gives us our reality. This cannot go to hell so maybe this part of us is always salvaged and somehow made new while the dross is burnt away.

But I am only speculating. Two things I think must be taken into account. One is the fact of free will. This cannot be got around in a just universe. If we choose not to be saved that is our right. But the other is God's love besides which any love we might have for our family is feeble. So although I don't know how it is accomplished I do believe that nothing good, even in the sense you meant it, can be lost.

I realise this is not much of an answer but I just don't know. Does it mean that somehow everyone will be saved? That would seem to go against justice and free will. But maybe in the next world opportunities exist for every soul to turn round though the way back will be longer and harder. Maybe the seeds that have not blossomed, or the spiritual essence of these seeds, are gathered up and resown and maybe that happens until everyone is indeed saved. So the crop that's not grown properly is burnt but the essence of it, the essence of the person, is preserved and given another chance to grow correctly.

Nathaniel said...

Thank you William, that is an excellent comment. I started to reply to your explanation, and the various implications of conclusions, and then reread your comment and realized you had already gone deeper than I realized and explored all those avenues - though I didn't pick it up on a first read.

I don't believe in reincarnation, but it would make understanding this problem a lot easier. I'm not sure how eternal progress in Heaven would function in the understanding of eternity being outside time.

William Wildblood said...

I actually do believe in reincarnation but don't think it essential in this context because I also believe that 'in my Father's house there are many mansions' so we don't have to divide existence into just earth and heaven. There can be many planes of existence in the spiritual world going from those not too dissimilar to this earth all the way up to the highest heaven. So the person would not be developing in heaven but one of these intermediate states or places.

Nathaniel said...

Do you think "planes of existence" could be the same as "Hierarchy in Heaven" or separate? Mormons talk about different levels of Heaven, and even Catholics believe in a hierarchy and different degrees of the beatific vision (though it's not discussed often).

William Wildblood said...

Yes I do think they must be more or less the same thing. I believe there is a hierarchical arrangement in the spiritual worlds (plural) and that where you go after death is determined by the spiritual state of your heart, though there is always the opportunity to advance/ascend as and when you open yourself up to the word of God.