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.