Friday, 10 March 2017


What is the greatest fault of the contemporary spiritual seeker? Actually it is the perennial fault but it is manifested more than ever now due to our current strong focus on self and reluctance to admit that we are fallen beings. It is the idea that we can get to heaven/attain salvation/be enlightened (choose your preferred option) on our own. This idea appears in various forms but is particularly prominent in those paths that emphasise technique and knowledge as a means to attainment or those which dispense with the sense of a personal Creator. That is why the greatest virtue is humility, which can only be acquired by, as my teachers told me, thinking of oneself as the lowest of the low. This is a real attitude to be acquired and not just a snappy catchphrase but it does not mean debasing or devaluing yourself. It is really just a way of getting to the point of not thinking of yourself at all. Humility can be assumed or imitated (and often is) but it can only be a genuine thing when it comes as the result of love and gratitude to the Creator, and realising your utter insignificance in his presence. That doesn’t mean you are without value. You are infinitely precious and worthy but only truly so when you know that you yourself are as nothing and all you are comes from the Creator.

This goes completely against the grain for the modern person (I know, I’m one of them) who likes to believe that he is, through his own efforts, somehow perfectible.  But this is the greatest of illusions. We can indeed become perfect but only through complete surrender to God. There is nothing we can do to bring this about except submit to the higher power that runs the universe.

Become as a child and put your entire faith in your Maker. This sounds demeaning to people today and I am not denying that the concept can be sentimentalized and reduced to an emotional dependency which is not what I am talking about here at all. It is a sad fact that every truth can be perverted and/or trivialized, and though we are required to submit our sense of an autonomous separate self we are not required to surrender good sense, intelligence and personal responsibility. In fact, we will get nowhere without them. So surrender does not mean abandoning our individuality as some spiritual paths mistakenly teach. God wants strong individuals in his kingdom. He wants people who are able to become more and more like him. What it does mean is giving up the notion of oneself as an independent personality who is capable of penetrating to the heart of existence by his own efforts. God made us as individuals but true individuality only blossoms when we are able to let go of our self-centredness and find our real centre in God.

The evolutionary path is long and arduous. The goal is for new born baby spirits, little sparks of consciousness, to grow into godhood. When we are first created in the heavenly worlds we are completely at one with our environment. We cannot distinguish between that and an individual centre. Gradually we separate out from that environment and become aware of ourselves as autonomous beings. That process has reached an extreme now. At this point there is a stage of potential crisis. We can carry on with the separating stage and become more and more entrenched in our own ego, becoming ever less aware of the greater whole outside that, both material and especially spiritual, or we can start the path to completion in which our self reunites with the greater Self, the All Self, of God but does so in full consciousness unlike the beginning phase which was a purely passive one. And this leads to a possible complication. The return to God must be an advance not a retreat by which I mean that going forward is not going back. That is to say, we should not seek to return to a pre-rational stage when we were at one with our surroundings. That may have been blissful but it was the bliss of the baby at her mother's breast, a being totally dependent and without thought or creativity or even love other than a sort of attachment. We have to go on to join the Father in a fully active existence in which we have transcended the limitations of matter but used our experiences in the material world to become fully conscious of spirit. 

And to do this properly there is only one path which is the path of humility for that strikes down the separative ego and opens the soul up to the grace of God thereby lifting it up to his world of light and truth and love.


ajb said...

"That is why the greatest virtue is humility, which can only be acquired by, as my teachers told me, thinking of oneself as the lowest of the low."

I understand how this could be useful as a technique, and I am not questioning those who have achieved spiritual advancement have said it. The problem I have (and what prevents me from using it) is with its accuracy - it just seems false. If God is the creator, and created me, it seems an insult to say His creation is the 'lowest of the low'. Juxtapose this with the sentiment that we are 'wonderfully made' (Psalm 139).

"it does not mean debasing or devaluing yourself. It is really just a way of getting to the point of not thinking of yourself at all."

If that's so, then why not use a different phrase? Something like 'I'm not so important' or 'I'm just a small part of a much bigger plan', and so on? I simply have a hard time reconciling 'lowest of the low' with 'not devaluing oneself'.

William Wildblood said...

I take your point and I've actually thought similarly myself but, as you say, it's just a technique designed to get us out of our habitual attitude of self-centredness. It doesn't mean we are the lowest of the low. It means that we have to replace our ego bound consciousness with one focused on God and, because of our fallen nature, this is a way to do it. Of course, as God's creation we are wonderfully made but we have also made ourselves in our own image and that needs to change.

But probably your suggested alternatives are just as good. These words were said to me and I may have been a particularly hard nut to crack, in need of strong medicine! The real point is we have to learn humility. It doesn't matter how we do it.