Monday 27 April 2015

The Social Sphere 2

I received the following comment on the previous piece which gives me the chance to clarify any misconceptions that might have arisen as to its meaning and intent.

That’s an interesting position but it basically seems to ignore or take for granted the contributions of those politically motivated groups and individuals who have fought for an increase in human rights over the years, and stood up against privilege and oppression. You would not presumably discount their efforts and, indeed, sacrifices?

My reply was as follows.

I'm not saying that, given the present state of the world, politics are unnecessary. (I can envisage a time when they are no longer necessary but that would have to be a kind of Golden Age.) Of course, society must be organised along certain lines and there are, as I said, better and worse ways in which to do this, even if all today lack insight into the true nature of things. What I am saying is that for the spiritual person all political matters are, or should be, subsumed into spiritual understanding, and that to step down from that to politics is to go back into the duality of the worldly mind and identification with outer things which should always be seen in the light of inner realities and never in their own light. How many of the great spiritual figures of the past were politically involved in any way or advised their disciples to be? Their counsel was always to “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all things shall be added to you.” In other words, put all your focus on God and everything else falls naturally into its proper place. If you have the kingdom of heaven, you have everything. If you don't have that then you have nothing at all. 

So I am not condemning political involvement per se but pointing out that there is a much higher approach to all problems, and that when you awaken to the reality of the spiritual world all matters to do with this world are put in a completely different perspective, and it is a mistake to go back to seeing them or trying to tackle them from the old vantage points. 

So my words were not addressed to everyone but only to those who are committed to the spiritual path, and take seriously the implications of the fact of God, and recognise that, ultimately, that is the only fact.

My correspondent replied.

"That may be but if spiritually aware people don't take to public or political life how will things ever improve?"

To which I answered.

That's a good point and I'm sure there are some people whose destiny it is to do that, though looking around it's hard to see anyone who might answer that description at the moment.  But I am referring to the spiritual aspirant who has no destiny of that kind which will always be the great majority of us. And I would add that even those who are so called are more likely to be people who may be spiritually sensitive but who are still rooted in this world and so are not yet completely dedicated to treading the spiritual path. 
Because they are still largely focused in the material world they can act as intermediaries between this world and the spiritual in a way that someone seeking greater spiritual polarisation could not do. 

Basically what I am saying is that spirituality and politics don't mix any more than God and Mammon do, and if you do try and serve two masters you will inevitably end up losing connection to the higher reality because you are being unfaithful to it. You are, in effect, denying its supreme truth. Real spirituality has to be an all or nothing affair in the sense that everything worldly must be completely subordinate to it.

Monday 20 April 2015

The Social Sphere 1

In the UK there is a general election coming up in May which gives me the opportunity to discuss how a person who is serious about the spiritual path should approach the vexed question of politics. My answer to that is brief. As little as possible. 

That doesn't mean you cannot have opinions. Everyone does and it's almost impossible not to. But the serious spiritual aspirant should steer clear of political debate and remain aloof from political ideologies, all of which will drag him down into worldliness, attachment and confrontation.  It is inevitable that any undue focus on the material world will distract you from the spiritual. You might say that the two are one and indeed they are, but they are only so when viewed from the standpoint of the higher or that which transcends them both if you see them as opposites rather than higher and lower aspects of the one reality. In other words, the material is only one with the spiritual when approached from the perspective of the spiritual. If you interact with it on its own level or from its own position or by giving it any kind of priority or by seeing it in any other way than by the light of the spiritual then you have lost focus and moved out of the unity of the spiritual into the division of worldliness. You have succumbed to identification with form and outer things, and lost touch with the inner realities that lie behind them through which, and only through which, they are given meaning. 

Just as the world is not real in itself, but is real as the expression of God, so it is with the material which is without significance in and for itself but full of meaning, truth and beauty when recognised as God's creation.

I'm not saying that a person intent on pursuing the spiritual path should not vote. That's a personal decision, though I do believe that the more aware you are of eternal truths, the less you will be drawn to any kind of political ideology that is not rooted in those truths, and that means all of them (without exception) in these days when the world is seen as having no spiritual origin and no purpose beyond itself, and human beings are perceived solely in terms of their social and material needs and aims. There is no political philosophy (and you may well smile when I use that word in this context) that exists today that has any connection to spiritual truth (or truth tout court) because there is none that derives from a metaphysical basis. There is scarcely one that even acknowledges such a thing for you certainly cannot count contemporary Islamic systems which, if they do so at all, do so in word only while in reality representing complete perversions of proper spiritual understanding. It is transparently evident that they have no link to metaphysical truth whatsoever, exemplifying, as they do, religion drained of all spiritual content.

A spiritually attuned person may well have political views. As I say, that's more or less inevitable until you have reached a high degree of purity and insight. Moreover, even with the woefully limited political ideologies that exist today, that does not mean that everything is equal. There are certainly better and worse options as to how society should be organised and run on offer. 
There are also forces at work consciously seeking to destabilise the spiritual integrity of the human being; inner forces working through outer mediums, individuals and organisations, usually unaware of the source of their inspiration, which are attempting to separate mankind more and more from its divine origin through various means including the deconstruction of the human form, the desecration of the human image and the dismantling in the mind of the true vision of the human archetype. These forces work through art, through social theory and also through politics, and their long term aims  should be recognised and resisted. This may well mean taking a stand that might be interpreted politically even if it is spiritually based.

So the spiritual person will have opinions as to how things should be in the social sphere. But these views are, or should be, always held in the light of a higher metaphysical reality which is at all times and in all circumstances known to be primary. Everything is seen 
in the context of spirituality by which I mean the reality of God, of the soul and of the world as the creation and expression of God. This, of course, puts contemporary notions of left and right in the position of near irrelevance even if both would have certain points in common, either economically or socially, with a proper spiritual understanding.

There are two basic facts which have to be taken into account in any kind of working out in the social or political sphere of spiritual principles, these being the only principles grounded in concrete truth rather than theory or idealism. They are the unity of mankind under God and the individuality of the evolving (as in unfolding) soul. If we take these as our guiding lights in showing how human beings should relate to each other we will not go far wrong. Overdue emphasis on either one will create imbalance and eventual tyranny, but taken together they will result in harmony and give the best framework in which all may flourish and grow.

As a matter of fact, the Masters in 
Towards The Mysteries give a teaching that ties in with this, and which, I believe, provides the key to all matters pertaining to politics as well as all economic and social questions. It is stunningly simple and quite obvious when you think about it. They said that the aspiring disciple should be individual but not individualistic.  A little reflection on what this means and its implications would surely resolve the conflict between left and right, satisfy both their concerns and temper both their excesses.

You cannot serve God and Mammon, and the Masters said something else in these books by Swami Omananda which is relevant to our subject, and which should deter anyone thinking that you can mix spirituality and politics. They said that politics are born in the cradle of corruption. These are strong words and they might be contested by those who believe that everything is political, and that politics, of some sort, is always necessary. That may be so from a purely worldly position but, as I hope to have made clear in this piece, political disputes become quite irrelevant when life is seen from a proper spiritual perspective. Problems and disagreements in the social sphere fall naturally into place when submitted to a higher standpoint. As for politics, however they start off, they always descend into the search for power, and power, as we know, always corrupts.

Thursday 2 April 2015

Morality, Humanist and Spiritual

I saw an article the other day which claimed that as intelligence had increased (which the article stated it had over the course of the 20th century, though based principally, it seems, on IQ tests which I thought had long been exposed as efficient at examining only one type of intelligence), so we had also become more moral. Setting aside whether intelligence has really increased or whether our brains and thought patterns have simply been educated into the modern technological way of thinking, good in some respects, poor in others, this assertion must surely depend on what kind of morality one espouses. For me and, I would have thought, for anyone acknowledging a spiritual reality, morality is first and foremost about loving truth and attempting to coordinate oneself to that. And this means knowing, to some degree at least, what truth is. Hence the humanist morality (the one referred to in the article), which is largely atheistic as it either denies or ignores the spiritual reality, is almost the least moral attitude one can take. This implies that much of the perceived improvement is merely a matter of greater conformity to the prejudices and ideologies of the day.

Every society or culture must have some kind of morality or else it will collapse. Its morality will be based on its formational mythology, and in the case of contemporary Western (and really nowadays global) culture that mythology is rooted in the ideals of the 18th century Enlightenment, on the one hand, and the theory of evolution on the other. Both of these, if they don't actually dismiss a Creator, certainly pave the way for that dismissal. So you could say that our modern morality is based entirely on the assumption that there is only humanity, and human obligations and duties and responsibilities are only to other humans. Of course, that's not completely true because many of the moral ideas that fed into and shaped this belief system were actually inherited from Christianity* (even if this is frequently unacknowledged today), but it is the way modern morality tends to perceive itself.

Now, this basing of morality, and how we approach life, ourselves and others, on a purely humanistic level may seem to have much to recommend it, but if it arises from an incorrect or even downright wrong view of the world, then it is insufficient, to say the least. It may even be, in some respects, immoral.

A proper morality has two strands, a vertical one and a horizontal one, and these are plainly identified by Jesus in his two commandments. To love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself. These sum up the essence of any morality based on truth, but here's the interesting point. It is no accident that the commandments were given in that order because if the second is to be in any sense real then it must grow out of the first. That is to say that the love of man, to be true, can only really derive from the love of God, and that is because what you are loving is not man in and for himself but God in man. For God is both the source of love and its end. There is no other. If He is not present then, whatever feeling you might think you have, it is not love, not in its true, spiritual sense. And love is spiritual in origin. Anything that is not spiritually derived is not love.

So you can only really love your neighbour if first you love God. Without that you can have good will or even empathy towards your neighbour but not love, and, in the long run, only love can overcome the ego and so bring about a morality that is true and innate rather than a mainly intellectual or ideologically derived thing which can, and will, crack under pressure.

What this means is that our modern morality, which only acknowledges the horizontal, cannot be properly effective even on that level. The first moral requirement is to love God. Everything else springs from that, from the vertical, and if that love is not present then any morality is flawed and ultimately, dare I say it, will prove useless. I am not disputing that the modern approach to morality has improved on the past in some respects. For one thing it has done so because the past failed to live up to its ideals. People can be worse than their beliefs and they can also be better than their beliefs (which is not to say that beliefs don't matter!). But there is also the fact that exclusive focus on the horizontal will necessarily bring advancements in that particular area.  However these improvements take on much less significance once you realise that this approach has lost sight of the essential for it is founded on a falsehood, namely the primacy of man.

In the past we have emphasised the vertical axis and neglected the horizontal. Now we have the opposite problem. What we need is an understanding that both are required for a correct approach to morality. But that does not mean that both are equal. The vertical must take priority, since it is the source of everything else, and the horizontal be seen to derive from that. It has no validity on its own. All it has, it has by virtue of its relationship to the vertical. If you approach it on its own level and see it in its own light, you do not see it properly and, in fact, seen only in that way it doesn’t even have any real existence. 

Some people think that vertical and horizontal axes can be seen as the motivating forces behind conservative and liberal ideologies, with each set of beliefs originating from a focus on one or the other axis. I agree there is a connection to be made, but there are too many other tributaries feeding these streams for this connection to be in any way exact. So while it may be true that, ultimately, the conservative looks to the vertical and the liberal to the horizontal, it is too simplistic to make a direct analogy between them.

I have said that a true morality must have a vertical and a horizontal component, and that the latter must derive from the former. The atheist may well dispute this and say he can have a perfectly good morality without bringing God into the equation. Perhaps that is so but without an absolute reference point what do we base our morality on? For when God is banished from reality there can be no morality resting on something true or real but only one that depends on opinion and preference.  If there is not something that stands above us and unites us by virtue of its transcendence and its absoluteness then there is no unchanging right or wrong. There is only custom, convention and what is deemed to suit a particular society at any given moment.  If we are just the product of a directionless, purposeless, meaningless evolution, as the atheist and materialist believe, then nothing really matters, nothing is true and nothing is better than anything else. A human being is not the crown of creation and the means through which incarnate life may transcend itself but just one material form among many. As for the individual human being, each one is isolated and locked in itself with no real connection to any other human being. Morality is just a theoretical thing with no relationship to any kind of universal truth because there is none.

In the end, however, one must say that moralities are in the eye of the beholder. They shift with perspective but spirituality is what truly matters and that never changes, assuming of course that it is based on the real and not just as subjective as man-made morality systems.

*We could even be said to be living off the moral capital in Christianity in many respects, and it will be interesting to see how much real morality survives as Christianity becomes more marginalised and less and less of a cultural influence on future generations.