Sunday 20 July 2014

Merge With The Universal Self

One of the most significant aspects of having a spiritual teacher who has gone beyond this world and is no longer functioning through a physical brain is that there is no earthly conditioning in the teaching. This is necessarily and unavoidably the case with any teacher, however enlightened, in this world. But the Masters have transcended all those residual psychological habits and patterns of thought that remain even after enlightenment. That doesn't mean that they are not subject to any kind of limitation at all, but they are not affected by the limitations of human thought. They see things just as they are without the slightest mental colouring or tincture. The greatest teacher in this world will have some input from the earthly personality. Some cultural conditioning remains, some astrological tendencies will linger, but these cease to be operative after physical death which is the point at which complete freedom is attained. Please note this is not a justification for any sort of spiritual ignorance or wrong behaviour in a supposedly enlightened individual. If these exist then true enlightenment has not been reached. But any person in this world is subject to the conditioning of their upbringing and environment, and that goes for the greatest as well as the least, even if the greatest will be much less subject to its limiting effects.

I mention this in the light of the title of this post which, as readers of the book will know, is something the Masters told me early on in my training. Specifically they said, "Forget the personal self and merge with the Universal Self" which is the key to all spiritual growth though, like anything, open to possible misinterpretation. In this case that what merges is absorbed, swallowed up and lost. That is far from the case. If the dewdrop slips into the shining sea, as the poem has it, it doesn't lose all its 'dewdropness'. It is just no longer bound by or identified with that.

It might be wondered why I tend to repeat the same remarks from the Masters in these posts. The fact is that I only made notes of their talks in the first year or so which is the period covered by the book. The talks continued, off and on, for another twenty years but only rarely did I write them down. I rather regret that as they told me many interesting things, but in order to avoid any misrepresentation of their words I only quote them directly when I have a documentary record for what they said. Sometimes I do incorporate things I remember them saying into my own writing, but don't credit it as coming from them.

The idea of merging presupposes a real individual self - if there is merging there must be something that merges - and that is why strict non-dualists don't accept it. Their reasoning is that the individual self is an illusion to begin with so any merging means the illusion still persists. There can only be a seeing that there never was any separation and that is enlightenment. But I have to say that this shows a misunderstanding of the process of spiritual evolution. God creates real souls, individual beings that have real existence. He creates them out of Himself so they are Himself but they are also not Himself. They are themselves too. They have their own, quite real, being. God can do this. After all, He is God! These souls start off as spiritual babies. But through experience in the world of form they build up a real identity, growing their seed of individuality as they develop a greater and greater response to the various planes of existence, expanding their consciousness if you like. When this process has reached a point of full development their task then is to reach beyond the worlds of form and personal development and reunite their existence to the Great All out of which they originally came. To do this they have to forget the personal self and merge with the Universal Self. But this merging does not mean that their unique quality, their individual note in the cosmic symphony, is lost. They join the throng of realised souls in the great choir of heaven, souls who are all one with God, their being now consciously merged in His, but still unique facets of the Godhead.

To sum up this idea we can say that realisation or enlightenment means that you are no longer identified with becoming (the individual self) and now rest in pure being (the Universal Self). But that doesn't necessarily mean that becoming ceases because as long as creativity and expression exist then it does too. God Himself 'becomes' both through us and as the universe expands. But for a human being post-enlightenment it certainly shifts gear and goes into a totally new phase, taking place on the spiritual/cosmic level rather than the physical plane. And it continues until the night of Brahma when the universe enters into pralaya (dissolution). This does certainly not mean there are enlightened egos but there are enlightened souls who have, as it were, turned themselves inside out so that what existed outside (God) is now inside and what existed inside (self) is now outside. They have gone beyond karma in the three worlds and are liberated from identification with form but they still have their own particular and unique quality or identity. Unity does not mean uniformity. In fact I would say that for as long as life is expressed (i.e. not resting in a state of complete inactivity and stillness) unity and multiplicity are two complementary and equally real sides of the same coin. And this is the great glory and wonder of creation and why there is something rather than nothing.

Monday 14 July 2014

Technology and Computers

I am writing this on a computer and you will be reading it on one too. In the course of your work you are probably using a computer for much of the time and, increasingly, your leisure hours will be spent looking at some form of computer. Life today is unthinkable without these machines which have conquered the world in an incredibly short space of time.  Many people may have reservations about certain aspects of the computer revolution but most still regard it as something whose advantages greatly outweigh its drawbacks. Here I'd like to act as devil's advocate. I think there is a case to be made that the computer and the technology associated with it are inherently anti-spiritual.

Of course, I’m not blind to the computer's many benefits, the ease of access to a seemingly limitless range of information, the speed of communication, the bringing together of physically separated like-minded individuals and so on. The computer would never have made such an impact if it had not opened up so many new opportunities, and there is no doubt that it has done so in virtually every field. All that is obvious. And yet there is a price to pay, and I am reminded of the remark made by Jesus that 'What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?' I realise that puts me in the corner marked for cranks, killjoys and Luddites, but I am not saying we should throw away our computers. Only that we should be alive to the threat they represent. They are a fact of the modern world but that shouldn't mean that we close our eyes to the potential dangers that come with them.

How is it that computers could cause you to lose your soul? I should say first of all that I don't mean this literally, but, figuratively speaking, I do mean it. What you lose is awareness of your soul. As you become more and more caught up in a virtual reality, as you become more absorbed by it, so you become more and more separated from your soul. The computer denatures life. It is the most significant advance yet of the machine and, as such, it points to the mechanisation of consciousness. It is that which will cause you to lose touch with your soul. The more you succumb to the lure of a computerised world, the more you will lose the connection to the mystery of the world that lies beyond form and quantity which is the world of materialistic science.

Advocates of modern technology like to say that it is neutral in itself. It is what you do with it that raises questions, moral questions, questions of philosophy and so on. But I think this is mistaken. The acceptance of the increasing dominance of technology in our lives is a psychological attitude and what that attitude indicates is an implicit belief in the superiority of the machine over nature. I don't think that technology is neutral or that it is just a means to an end which we may determine ourselves. I believe it to be an end in itself, and that end is the de-naturing of the world leading to the separation of man from God.

Don't write this off as the reaction of an hysterical alarmist. We have been told by someone who knew what he was talking about that you cannot serve God and Mammon, and I believe that to be literally true. Mammon is not just money. It represents everything that is of this world and what else is technology, the attempt to conquer nature by mechanical means, if not a thing of this world? I am not arguing for a return to the Stone Age (or even before that time since Stone Age man had axes and the like so had a technology of some kind), but for a proper understanding of the significance of what modern technology really is. I write this with no hope of appealing to anyone except the already converted, and with the full expectation that most people will reject it as nonsense. I would expect to be reminded of the countless lives that technology has saved and I obviously don't dismiss that as insignificant though I would say that we all die anyway and our state of mind at death is perhaps more important than how long we live. We live forever anyway. No, the many benefits of modern technology are undeniable. But to me what is also undeniable is that our growing addiction to it and dependence on it is robbing us of our ability to respond to the soul. And that means that our capacity to respond to real truth and real beauty, even, I would submit, real love, is much diminished. We are increasingly fobbed off with imitations and distortions of these things, and many of us don't even notice it though many do notice, even if only subliminally, resulting in feelings of discontent and pointlessness.

Maybe this is all meant to be as anything that can be must eventually work itself out in the external world. That doesn't mean it is a good thing, though, in the sense of something to be wholeheartedly embraced and regarded without circumspection just because it is an inevitable part of the world we live in and we must accept that world as it is. It might also represent a test for humanity to hold fast to a higher truth in the face of a sustained assault on the very notion of any such thing as a higher truth. One of the tasks of all those who value the spiritual is to call the world back to its source, to point out that it has lost its way and been bewitched by the spurious glamour of fake gold. Fake gold is everywhere these days and the only way to avoid being corrupted by its alluring sparkle is to see beyond appearance and hold fast to purity.

The computer may just be a tool but our minds tend to reflect the technologies they use and the limitations of these technologies become our own.

Monday 7 July 2014

A Question on Enlightenment

Q. You sometimes use the words enlightenment and liberation which are normally associated with an Eastern worldview, but then you have also used salvation to describe seemingly the same thing though that is a purely Christian concept. My question is, do you understand these words to have an identical meaning?

A. I must admit to being a bit loose with my terminology at times. For better or worse, I don't come at spirituality from a specifically Christian, Hindu or Buddhist position or from the perspective of any particular form of spirituality, though many have guided my thinking and helped me formulate my own intuitions. I was brought up in a Christian culture and have studied (though not that extensively) many other religions and philosophies. I have learnt something from all of them. However I am not a follower of any of them, and the reason for that is that I feel any belief system would impede the flow of my own understanding, and contaminate the purity of my own perception. It would constitute a barrier between me and the truth, or as much of it I can grasp. Obviously I am not saying I know better than those who formulated the doctrines of these systems, but eventually we all need our insights to be our own if they are to be true for us.

Incidentally, I have sometimes been asked why the Masters came to me as they did. I could fall back on assumed past life connections and these may have existed but I don't know. More to the point is this.  I believe that the Masters can come to us (whether in person or, more usually, through the intuition) when we have exhausted all worldly forms of spirituality and are no longer satisfied by any of them, the highest as well as the every day exoteric. This was something like my position at the time I encountered them, and it was also Michael's when he first made contact with the Masters. He had been a Benedictine monk, received initiation from a swami of the Ramakrishna order, explored Buddhism and so on. Nothing answered his inner questions in a way that did not require some kind of compromise with what he felt to be the truth. When there is nothing in the world that truly satisfies your spiritual yearnings then, perhaps, you are ready for instruction by higher beings even if that instruction takes place without you being consciously aware of it.

Be that as it may, the point is that I have taken ideas from various places if they coincide with what I consider to be reality but I don't go along with anything entirely. I imagine that is true for many of us these days when we are exposed to so many different forms of spirituality in a way that would not have been possible until recently. I have used the word enlightenment, even though the Masters never used that word or even discussed a state that might resemble that, because it is the standard word to describe a state of spiritual arrival and/or completion, and it does describe something real which is the transcending of identification with the world of becoming. But, actually, I don't think of spirituality in terms of enlightenment. As you say, it is a specifically Eastern, in fact, Buddhist idea. The same goes for liberation or realization. I use these terms because they are common nowadays and they do mean something which most spiritual aspirants understand.  But in many ways I consider the idea of enlightenment to be potentially spiritually counter-productive because it puts so much focus on the self and its aims, in reality if not in theory. It is also responsible for massive amounts of illusion and self-deception. So for me a more interesting way of looking at the spiritual journey is in terms of initiation though I freely admit this has very similar risks. But at least it recognises that there are stages on this journey, and it is more realistic to aim for the next stage than to think you might be ready for the grand finale straightaway.

So what is initiation? Many traditions include this concept but I am not referring to anything bestowed by an earthly teacher. Nor to any ceremony or rite that forms part of the trappings of a particular religion or cult. Esoterically considered, initiation is said to relate to stages in the process of purification and disidentification from form on the one hand, and an increase in sensitivity plus growth of intuitive awareness on the other. The first three initiations are sometimes linked to the successive mastery by the soul of its physical, emotional and mental vehicles, but I think this is too simplistic as we address all three aspects of our expressed being at the same time when we tread the path, even if the focus may be on one or another at different stages. I would say that initiation can best be thought of as an opening up of spiritual consciousness and detachment from worldly concerns. It entails the transfer of the centre of awareness from the mind to the soul. That is to say, from the thinking, feeling and doing parts of our nature (which, properly considered, are external to our real self and only exist for the purposes of the expression of that self) to the spiritual consciousness that lies behind them. Despite erroneous claims that enlightenment can happen to anyone at any time, this is a long process and the various initiations mark stages in that process, stages during which the disciple becomes progressively detached from the belief that this world is the real world. He doesn't regard it as false or an illusion (that is actually an intellectual position rather than a spiritual one), but sees it as the manifestation in form of a formless reality, and having no purpose other than as a), a school for the development of consciousness (this is its purely functional side), and b), a platform for the expression of spiritual truth which includes goodness and beauty. That is the side relating to creativity. God is creative and so should we be though our creativity, if it is to be worth anything, should reflect eternal realities and not just be a shallow self- expression.

This world, then, might be said to have a threefold purpose. It exists primarily as a training ground for souls, but it is also a canvas on which to paint beauty and an arena in which to demonstrate goodness. That is why those who use the fact of a higher reality to reject this world and dismiss qualitative differences within it are mistaken. The world may not be ultimately real but it is part of reality and should be made to correspond to what is really real as much as possible. Form is not truth but some forms reflect more of truth than others which is why a stone is not the same as a lump of gold even if both are manifestations of the One Life.

An often forgotten point is that it is the soul that receives initiation not the incarnated person so much of initiation relates to the soul on its own plane. However some of that will inevitably make an appearance in the disciple's earthly consciousness. The first initiation marks the point at which one's initial searching and practice has borne some fruit. The prizes of the world having been experienced and lost their allure, the disciple has looked up and seen beyond this world. He has pursued the path and made some headway on it. The spiritual current is now established in his heart and he is no longer just a seeker but a person of some real knowledge and attainment. But he is still on the outside looking in. He is still a personality, albeit one aware of the soul and able to demonstrate something of its light. His task now is to bring that personality more and more into line with the soul, in effect transferring the centre of consciousness from one to the other, so that gradually he becomes not a personality aware of the soul but a soul expressing itself through a personality. This is said to be the point at which the third initiation can be taken. The disciple is henceforth a fully spiritual being in that he has realised and can be the soul in incarnation. This is a high stage of development, one that the majority of spiritual teachers in the world have still not reached.

But it is not enough. Now everything the disciple has achieved must be given up. The perfection of his being must be renounced and placed on the sacrificial pyre. He must be nothing and nobody. Because the same patterns repeat themselves at different turns of the evolutionary spiral, this experience, which is the culminating point of an individual soul's whole spiritual development, will not be entirely new. The disciple will have suffered abandonment, experienced darkness and been required to let go and give up many times before in the cycle of his earthly incarnations. But this is the crucifixion of the soul, the moment when it is required that you give up not something but everything. You hold back nothing for yourself, indeed nothing of yourself. You give up all. And that is the moment of release.

The soul is now identified with its Maker but, because identification does not mean identity, it remains itself, though in a totally transfigured form with individuality henceforth more a circumference than a centre.

This is the scenario of initiation. Whether it is literally the path trodden by every soul or not is of secondary importance. It is symbolically true for everyone. It is the way of the soul, and it culminates, as all initiations do, in death and rebirth, a rebirth which is enlightenment, liberation and salvation all at one and the same time.