Sunday, 11 June 2017

Why Are We Born Into The World?

Just recently I made some comments on Bruce Charlton's blog about the reasons why I thought we are born into this world and what we have to do while here to make proper spiritual progress. Does this mortal life have value and purpose or is it just something that we should seek to go beyond by devoting ourselves entirely to higher spiritual things, and being completely detached from any sort of worldly focus? Actually I believe both of these things to be true in their own different ways, and will try to explain my position here.

First of all, here are my comments. They are taken out of context but if you would like to see them as they are in Bruce's post it is here.

"As I see things we have to develop a real individuality before we can go beyond that and reach a conscious I-Thou union with God and so know love in the full spiritual sense. The pronounced duality experienced in this material world enables us first to develop the self and then, if we follow the spiritual path as we should, to transcend the limited identification with it in the union with God.

I don’t find thinking in Buddhist terms is helpful for me any longer. (Note: This was in response to a point made about the Buddhist concept of the lack of centre to our sense of self).  I think our individuality is a real, God given thing and we have to develop it in a spiritual sense, grow intellect and imagination, ability to act and be creative etc, but, at the same time, go beyond a limited identification with it into a deeper union with God. But there has to be something to achieve this union.

I think Buddhism confuses the personal, separate self or ego which is a mind created thing with the real individuality which is a spiritual thing and which, when it has developed sufficiently, can join in the fully conscious union with God.

I don’t think you need to reduce individuality, God wants strong individuals in his kingdom, that’s why he created us, but you certainly do need to reduce and then cease entirely your unique identification with it. Go beyond it rather than to eradicate it. Eradicate the ego, yes, but not the individual. For me Buddhism tends to cure the sickness by killing the patient while Christianity heals the split in the soul.

The caterpillar has to grow before it can metamorphose into the butterfly.  True, it does have to give up its identity as a caterpillar if that metamorphosis is to take place but the butterfly is the caterpillar metamorphosed. It is still there but now a butterfly rather than a caterpillar.

I base this on the teachings of Christianity, my own intuitions on the matter and my personal experience with discarnate teachers who I regard as demonstrating its successful achievement.”

This more or less sums up what I think but I will try to expand on it a bit here.

I will start by saying that I consider God to be a personal God not just an impersonal absolute. He does have that aspect to him too but it is the aspect of him at rest, asleep you might say. But in expression, and this whole universe is him in expression, he is a personal God. This is him awake and active or creative. He creates us, human beings, because he is a God of love and because he expresses himself in love. You might almost say he grows through love. He creates us with free will because love is only real when the beloved is real, and the universe is a vastly more interesting place for God if he shares it with other free beings who are, of course, always dependent on him for their being but who have still been granted freedom.

This might sound a bit too simple, almost childish, but I have come to think that over-philosophising on this question takes us away from the simple truth. The Masters always told me that truth was simple and that endlessly thinking about it got one nowhere but I must confess that my natural tendency is to theorise when perhaps I should allow myself more to feel with the heart. This is not to recommend the abandonment of thought. We have a mind and should use it. But we need to give priority to intuition and then use thought to unpack that rather than give thought the driver's seat.

So I believe God created us because he is a God of love, a God that gives and a God of ceaseless expression who might even be said to grow through his creation. He creates us as real individuals not mere clones of himself. We are free. But when we are created as pure spiritual beings we are babies. With vast potential but undeveloped. We are conscious but in a kind of sleep state. If we are to be real, free, fully conscious spiritual beings then we must unfold that potential. We must, in a way, build ourselves if we are to be ourselves and not just mechanical automata. 

God gives us the environment in which to do that and it is this material world in which the sense of separation from him is possible. Without that feeling of separation we could not come to know ourselves. We would remain spiritual babies. But there's a risk. We might come to identify ourselves exclusively with ourselves. Separation might go too far. Any awareness of God at all might be lost. That appears to be what has happened. Whether it is a consequence of the Fall as described in the Bible or whether it is part of a natural cycle is a matter for debate and I do not want to enter into the in and outs of that here other than to say that I am firmly of the belief that there was a derailment of a natural process, and that sin and death entered into the equation in a way that might not have been necessary had things gone according to plan. Things went wrong and that is the explanation for much of the state of the world as we see it today. The Incarnation put things back on track but it is a gift that still needs to be accepted. 

So salvation was not originally a necessary part of the plan and only became so as a result of the Fall. Instead of our evolution, as in spiritual unfoldment, proceeding naturally and almost inevitably it became something which we had to turn back to and re-embrace. Without the Fall our spiritual development would have proceeded in a smooth, or much smoother, way. We would have experienced duality but not the full and complete separation from God, and therefore been able to develop mind/self without all the negative consequences we now know so well. We would have entered the material world, reaped the benefits to be found there and returned to spirit in full consciousness, having learnt all the lessons of duality. It would have been a journey from unconscious innocence to self-conscious experience and back to innocence again but now fully conscious and bearing the fruits of experience which are essentially wisdom and love.

The Fall messed that natural trajectory up. Now we became trapped in material, self-centred consciousness. Matter actually became much more material, harder, denser, to the degree that it became impossible for us to get out of it. That is why we needed the incarnation of Christ to, as it were, re-spiritualise matter and enable us to liberate ourselves from self-identification as material beings. He offered the way for us to get back on track but we have to accept that. By the way, I think that the Incarnation affected all spiritual approaches and gave them all a new energy but clearly it affected Christianity to the fullest degree.

So there are two things going on here. There is the natural spiritual unfoldment that requires spiritual babies to experience this material world in order to fully awaken to themselves and then consciously return to God. That was the original plan. But then there was the corruption of the Fall which locked those babies in separation and materialism and stopped the conscious return occurring naturally. The process was stalled half way with the disastrous results we know and which required the Incarnation. But now we have to reject identification as material beings, the usefulness of that bit is long since done. We have reached the nadir and must turn around and start our journey back to God.

Obviously things are much more complicated in the detail than I have written here but this is a basic outline of the reasons, as I see them, for us being on this Earth, for why we are born into the world and what we have to do once we are here. Remember the Creator and live all your life in the realisation that your task is to realign your self with his to which end you must offer up your little self in a loving sacrifice just as Christ did. He demonstrated exactly what each and every one of us has to do. He did not disdain the material world but he saw it exclusively in the light of the spiritual and that is what we should do too.


David Balfour said...

"Remember the Creator and live all your life in the realisation that your task is to realign your self with his to which end you must offer up your little self in a loving sacrifice just as Christ did."

Am I alone in finding that a truely terrifying ultimatum! To sacrifice oneself as Christ did?! He was humiliated, beaten, mocked, came face to face with the worst possible torment a human being can imagine and then was nailed to a cross to die in agony! Similarly horrific deaths were the fate of his disciples! Are you really saying that we meet to be prepared to martyr ourselves like this to achieve what we need to achieve spiritually? To become martyrs in the name of the faith? The mere thought makes me feel sick and slightly mentally ill just to contemplate it. I thought this was supposed to be 'good news.' Or did he die in our place so that we do not need to endure the same fate?

William Wildblood said...

No, no, David, that's not what is meant at all. Christ enacted something on the physical level that we have to go through on a spiritual one but only as the final stage in our evolution so only when we are ready for it. It's the giving up of the earthly ego not physical death and torture. Didn't he himself say that those who would follow him had to take up the cross? This means give up the earthly ego. But surely you knew that? How can we become one with God if we don't renounce what stops that union which is identification with the ego?

Never forget though that all this is made easier through love. I have never met you but you seem to me from your comments to be a very loving person so you have a head start on most of us.

David Balfour said...

Sorry that last comment did sound quite blunt and alarmist! Writing things off the cuff rather than speaking in person can be misleading. Suffice it to say I feel like I am 'on the wrack' a lot of the time thinking about religion and faith. I feel a deep inner conflict. At one level I feel profoundly moved by the gospel and am struck, in a most difficult to articulate way, by the life and works of Jesus Christ. I see so much beauty, courage and love in his character and persona. On the other hand I feel like I am living the double life of a mentally ill person, who has seen something in this 'story' that many or most other people consider literally insane and bewildering. There have been times when I have feel so moved by the story of Christ and a deep intuitive experience of loving God that I have allowed myself to share it on some occasions by telling others I have a faith in the power of love, or that I believe that I have a soul. Without exception, each of these admitions have resulted in me feeling under sincere attack by others or 'the world' including many instances of directly contradictory or disturbingly challenging thinks come my way. I think this has resulted in me 'going on the run' from my natural insights and a sense of fear that I am actually insane and the whole thing is just some kind of madness...

David Balfour said...

Honesty I am frighted that when I allow myself to be the 'loving person' you describe, more openly, that others will come to dissown or despise me unless I pretend to be thoroughly 'secular' and denounce any sympathies with spiritual points of view. I used to try and gently call peoples materialistic or atheistic assumptions into question, but this has only resulted in me feeling very marginalised and alone. Perhaps I am just a coward in some respects but I havr found that while I can be brave at times when a situation calls for it, often it only makes you 'a marked man' and besides, there are just too many fights to be had for one person that living in the modern world just feels so exhausting that to my shame I sometimes despair that I cannot make it through all the trails that lie ahead. I am tired of people tearing God down beforw my eyes every day in casual conversations (e.g. a fellow student had visited Rome on holiday and another the holy land recenty - what a privelage - and predictably the conversation over lunch descends into a set of cliche comments about religious people being delulded. I found I sat and said nothing). I guess I am just very world weary William!

William Wildblood said...

I sympathise. I'm actually in a similar position in that practically everyone I know either rejects or actively despises spirituality. Even if they allow there to be something possibly in it that can only be on the terms of ordinary life and opinion.
But you're definitely not insane! You're actually saner than the disbelievers around you if the truth be told. But you are clearly a sensitive person struggling to fit that sensitivity into this world. That is something any genuine spiritual person must do.
If it's any help I was told that I had to acquire balance and detachment, something I confess that I still struggle with in the context of the awfulness of the materialism of this world. But pray for help and guidance. Keep true to what you feel inside and know that God's love doesn't falter though if may often seem that it does. But we are being tried and tested and maybe this is part of your crucifixion, a budding away odd what separates you from God.
So go within and try to stay detached from this world. Most people now have false information on which they base their view of life. The world is hard because the world is on fire. In some respects that might make it easier to stay detached from.

William Wildblood said...

A budding away? Wretched autocorrect!
A burning away of etc

David Balfour said...

Thanks William. I feel a little better already. You know sometimes I wish I was born into a large supportive religious community just because that would be so much easier in certain respects but perhaps I would not learn as much that way from life as I potentially can this way.

No worries about the typos. I use my mobile phone to write on blogs and the result is very poor prose but hopefully gets the ball over the net

David Balfour said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron said...

@David Balfour -

Every spiritual person has to deal with what you are dealing with. If you deny the world, the world will deny you. If you become spiritual, you will be persecuted. Jesus himself clearly said that you can expect persecution, hostility, and antagonism if you deny the world and follow him. Its all over the Buddhist sutras as well.

I have personally experienced a tremendous amount of this in my life since I became religious, and it has been extremely difficult.

In my silly naivete, it was surprising. I thought I was bringing them a message of hope, happiness, and love - I saw how their petty ego concerns and attachments to the world were making them miserable, the constant bickering, the anhedonia, the focusing on trivialities, yet the response to my message of liberation has been rage and hostility.

I realized that people did not think I was liberating them, but rather that I was trying to take away the one thing that they thought could give them happiness! They search for happiness precisely in ego and worldly things, yet that is the source of their misery. Like alcoholics, they are truly stuck in a catch-22.

I also think there is something supernatural going on - every time I felt that I had "leveled up" in some minor way, shown more love, forebearance, kindness, non-ego, something bad would invariably happen, I would run into some sociopath or something. It was a truly remarkable pattern. I could not help but notice it. Yet as Jesus said, if you love only your friends and not your enemies, then what virtue have you?

If you don't maintain compassion and love even in the face of persecution, then you are still far too attached to your ego and worldly things - one must be tested by fire. And yet it is enough to drive one mad!

I feel this is one of the most important things they don't tell you enough about when you start the spiritual life. You can expect persecution! You do not get an earthly reward - on the contrary. The reward is all spiritual - inner peace, the world as magic, and inner happiness.

William, I wonder if you can write more about this general aspect of the spiritual life - the persecution and hostility it will arouse in others - and how it is almost never emphasized enough - it is a real stumbling block!

David Balfour said...

@Aaron - I can certainly relate to what you say. I think in particular the hardest thing to accept from others is when they deliberately pre-judge you and immediately pigeon-hole you as full of hate and not love for expressing that you believe in a meaningful created Universe and simply stating some support for traditional religious perspectives on a given issue. Understand, I dont even mean calling a spade a spade on a moral issue, simply to cast doubt on modern 'progressive' wisdom is like a red flag to a bull! Modern people truely seem to believe they have achieved a far more morally and virtuous world view than almost all of their ancesters, their great-grandparents and everything that has gone before.

William Wildblood said...

You've made a really good point, Aaron. It's been (been? it still is!) my experience too. Yes, I will certainly try to write something along those lines sometime soon. Theoretical spirituality is all very well but we need to know something about the practical side of treading the path too. Many thanks for the suggestion.