Thursday 17 April 2014

What Spirituality is Not

Having discussed in an earlier post what spirituality is I thought it might be interesting here to take a look at what it is not because much is called spirituality nowadays that is really just a man-made imitation of it. This has a lot to do with the fading away of traditional religions with nothing coming up to replace them. Or rather, there is plenty to replace them but virtually all of it springs from human invention and experience. Thus it is man rather than God-centred and, while it might seem spiritual to those whose understanding of life and conscious awareness has hitherto been restricted to the physical plane, it lacks the sacred quality that would lift it above the merely human. There is very little that emanates from the true spiritual world and could be called in any way divinely inspired. As a consequence, spirituality today often means bringing the divine down to the human level instead of raising the human up to the divine level. Rather than looking to the heavens, and trying to conform ourselves to what is beyond ourselves, we think we can fit the heavens inside our own little heads.

So we are left with religions that are dying (I don't mean in terms of having fewer adherents but because they have lost much of their spiritual power), and replacements for these religions which are either designed from the limited experience of individual human beings or else put together as a composite from odds and ends ransacked from the psychic store cupboard of history. In both cases you have forms of spirituality constructed from the bottom up (the reverse of what should be), and with no input from the Creator, which may be why they often try to get by without Him.

Hence the world today is largely rudderless, spiritually speaking, and that leaves room for all kinds of misinterpretations as to what spirituality actually is. 'From the unreal lead us to the real' 
says the ancient Vedic prayer. The unreal affects approaches to the real, to the spiritual, just as much as it obscures it. Let us examine some of the ways in which it does this.

Spirituality is not the search for personal happiness or fulfilment still less health or, heaven help us, prosperity. It has no relation to the desires or even perceived needs of the self, that is, the so-called natural self or ego. All of that is obvious, and yet it is not unusual to find people who see spirituality as something to be acquired or possessed as one would anything else one wanted, and who approach it largely in terms of benefits to themselves. Now, that doesn't mean that our spiritual search will not have benefits but if we seek for our own sake, instead of being motivated by the legitimate desire to go beyond the barrenness of a self we recognise as being fundamentally empty and not the centre of our true being, we most assuredly will not find. At least, we may find something, or think we do, but it will not be God which is the only thing really worth looking for.

Spirituality is not connected to the pursuit of enlightenment. The idea of enlightenment is a major obstacle on the path and it would be a great help for seekers in the West if they forgot all about it. I mean this quite seriously. One of the most persistent illusions of the last century is that we can reach a state of full and permanent self-realisation in this life. There is no supreme, ultimate state that can be attained whilst in the physical body. There is no point at which you can say “I have achieved all that can be achieved and have become completely one with the absolute”. Yes, there are certainly experiences of unity, and there are high levels of insight and attunement to spiritual truth available to the disciple in this world, but you always come back to yourself. The idea of the enlightened guru who has completely transcended ego and is totally one with pure awareness is a myth, albeit one that has ensnared many students and even teachers whose spirituality is goal and therefore self-orientated. 

Now, of course, the great majority of these people are 'sheep that have been led astray', but could certain amongst them be the people sometimes referred to as Satan's contemplatives, the wolves in sheep's clothing that Jesus warned us about? Looking at the history of spiritual teaching over the last century it's hard not to think that there has at times been a consciously directed influence involved, attempting to lead true seekers into the shadows. On the one hand, we have seen the spread of atheism and materialism which has deflected millions from the proper path, but on the other, for those who can see through that falsehood, there has been the corruption of proper spiritual teachings by a variety of false doctrines with just enough of truth in them to appear valid to the unsuspecting. The Masters told me there were many false prophets in our day teaching half truths, adding that they were not all evil but they were not very evolved. This suggests that some might be driven by an agenda which includes the subversion of true spiritual values. A focus on enlightenment as a valid spiritual goal is designed to encourage wrong motive, and wrong motive will corrupt your entire journey. Forget enlightenment. It is a chimera, the pursuit of which will lead you far from the path of true transcendence.

I don't dispute for a second that there have been many saints and sages who have attained great spiritual heights in their lifetimes. Thank goodness there have been for we'd be lost without them.  But these were apostles of love and self-abnegation who saw themselves as servants of the Most High. None of them would have claimed to have reached the highest pinnacle of spiritual perfection. All of them would have regarded themselves as unworthy. For, as the Masters said, the Master Jesus and all the Masters of old knew that they were as nothing and that all they were came from the Creator. Some of these noble souls may well have reached the point of self-emptying at which they could be filled with the Holy Spirit (to use Christian terminology), and some may have become sufficiently pure in heart and detached from worldliness to have gone beyond the need to come back to this physical world. Some may have realised their true nature as much as you can in this life. They may have 'cut the knot', as it is esoterically understood. But if by enlightenment you mean they had attained to a kind of absolute knowledge and spiritual perfection, no, none of them had reached that, and they would have been the first to have said as much.

My point here is not to deny that enlightened souls exist.  My experience with the Masters has clearly shown me that they do. But perfection is not of this world. And if our concern on the path is with some kind of spiritual state we hope to reach or achieve then we have everything back to front. You cannot bring a worldly agenda to the spiritual path and hope to get very far.

To be continued.


ando said...

Thanks, Mr Wildblood. This needs to be said, but is not very popular with the spiritual "seekers." Probably won't see Oprah promoting your book, eh??


William Wildblood said...

No, Mac, I don't suppose we will!

Paul Hillman. said...

For. Which , I am sure you are truly grateful. Well done, William. As always your message is timely, clear and incontestable