Monday 24 August 2015

Atheism is Egotism

At the end of the piece on Creation and Evolution I asked the question "Why do human beings want to reject spiritual truth?", and I will seek to answer that question here. But first I have to say that it is a valid question as it is clear that many atheists are so not because of an act of intellect but one of will. The fact of God, a higher power of intelligence and love who is the source of our being, is graven on every human heart, even if many of us would deny this. To be sure, the present materialistic culture and artificial environment in which we live play a strong part in blinding us to the reality of the Creator, but there is more to it than this. A number of people nowadays are not just casually agnostic or uninterested in whether there may or may not be a God because they are too busy going about their daily business. They are not just spiritually indifferent but actively and assertively atheistic. They claim there is no evidence for God (a debatable view), maintain that science gives them all the answers about life they need (equally disputable since it actually gives none about life and its origin as such), and even condemn religion as morally reprehensible (confusing wrong-headed response to religious teaching with the teaching itself). They claim to be motivated entirely by reason, and at one time I thought that might be true and that they were wrong but honest. I now see that that is not the case, and that many people actually do not want there to be a God or Creator to whom they owe their existence. They are motivated not so much by reason as intellectual pride and arrogance.

I should say that this accusation is not leveled at everyone who doubts a spiritual reality to life. The world is too much with many people, and the idea of God simply doesn't matter to them unless and until they are brought low by suffering. However there are people who reject God not because of unbelief but because they hate the idea of God and of themselves as a created being. They disguise their true motives, probably even from themselves, which makes it very hard to discuss the matter with them. They are as wedded to their position as a religious fanatic is to his. Sometimes these people will try to be more morally pure than any believer because they need to prove to themselves, and to others, the superiority of their position, and show that they do not need God to be a good or principled person. However on examination it transpires that their morality is based precisely on their sense of superiority and an intellectual arrogance rather than simple goodness, kindness or a genuine concern for others. At best, it is a mentally based morality rather than one of the heart, echoing their own often highly developed intellect but lack of intuitive vision.

A confirmed atheist is always an egotist. Of course a believer may be, but an atheist always is because he has denied God, and the fundamental reason for denying the reality of God is the desire to assert the primacy of the self and to be beholden to no one. It is almost a form of teenage rebellion and dislike of being told what to do which leads me to think that many dogmatic atheists are simply people who have not grown up properly or who carry the wounds of childhood within them, often to the point of not wanting to be healed of these wounds because they feel defined by them; and to be healed would be to lose their sense of self-validating injustice, on the flames of which they feed.

For the plain truth is that atheism is not a reasoned and logical assessment of the situation in which we find ourselves. It is often no more than an angry rejection of God, and denial of the transcendent because of the implications of what that would mean for the atheist's sense of personal autonomy.

Now, of course, some people don't reject God so much as what they believe to be an anthropomorphic version of God, and this is understandable. Obviously the reality of God is far beyond any idea we might have about it. But the fact that we are made in His image (and we are since the nature of his being is manifested in us) means that we can, on some level, reflect His reality. This means that ideas we might have of Him are not completely false as long as they correspond to the highest we can find in ourselves. For instance, on the matter of anthropomorphising absolute reality, God is not a person but He has a personal aspect and this personal aspect is absolutely real. It is not that pure being or the impersonal aspect of God, the Godhead, the Absolute, is above intelligible being or the personal aspect of the One. It is that the two are different aspects of the same thing

Let me repeat this since it matters. God and the Godhead are both eternal. God does not emerge from the Godhead, as some esoteric philosophies believe. He does not come out of it or depend on it or derive from it as a subsidiary expression. He is it and it is Him, no difference. God is the actuality of the Godhead which represents abstract being to His real being. Hence there is no Absolute without God and no God without the Absolute, and the Absolute does not become God. They are the same One Reality. All of which means that God is no more impersonal than He is personal. There is no life in the abstract without its instantiation so those who seek the Absolute without fully acknowledging the Personal God will never find what they are looking for.

The doctrinaire atheist requires everything to be explainable in scientific terms, apparently not noticing that a great deal of our experience lies outside the limitations imposed by the senses which is the world explored (often in extraordinary detail) by science. But what this leads to is a denial of such things as goodness, beauty and truth as being in any way real. They become merely relative things, simple concepts or personal judgments, which evaporate when you look at them too closely. Now, there are no solid, intellectual grounds for doing this so it can only be a prejudice. The prejudice springs from a desire, and the desire is to reject God because the person does not want to think of himself as a creature, a created being accountable for his actions to a judge who has authority over him. He wants to be free but the freedom he wants is of and for the self. However to be bound by and to the self is the greatest captivity. The only true freedom is from the self, and this is only possible in God.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

No One Comes to the Father Except Through Me

This is a question that addresses something many people interested in esoteric or mystical forms of spirituality, contemporary or traditional, shy away from. But it's something that we, especially we in the West, must always come back to. Is Jesus Christ a spiritual teacher or is he the spiritual teacher?

Q. How do you interpret the words of Jesus that no one can reach God except through him? Should we take them seriously or do they just have a symbolic meaning?

A. "No one comes to the Father except through me." These are extraordinary words. Can they possibly be true? On the face of it they seem to be saying that Christianity is the only true spiritual path. But do they really mean that or are they pointing to something different? Remember that at the time they were spoken there was no such thing as Christianity. There was Christ but not yet a religion based on his teachings. Let me set forth here what I think Jesus meant by these words.

To begin with, though, there is little point in even considering this matter unless you think that the words might be true, and that Jesus had (and still has) the right to say them. So let me say straightaway that I do think they are true. When we come across them in the Gospel of St John we don't say to ourselves that here is a megalomaniac with severe delusions of grandeur. Such is the power of Jesus's personality, the strength of his aura, that we take them seriously. We believe them. I believe them. They don't make me want to give the person who says them a wide berth, and yet if I heard them from anyone else I would certainly react like that. In the context of the one who speaks them, these words convey a deep sense of truth. It is just as it says in the Bible. Jesus speaks as one having authority.

But even if we accept this saying as true there are still various ways in which we can take it. We can interpret it literally or metaphorically, or we can say that it is true on both these levels. I think this last way is the correct way and that it is true in both a literal and metaphorical sense. No one can reach God who does not go through Christ. However to say that does not mean that everybody must become a Christian. We must distinguish between outer and inner truths or paths, and also between the incarnated Jesus in whose name a religion was founded and the risen Christ who on the heavenly plane is the Master of Masters and the Teacher of Angels and Men. (Not that these are different beings. It is more that they are the human and divine faces of the same being). The risen Christ is the inner channel through which we all must approach God, and though this does not negate or replace the individual connection we all have to God, who is eternally present as the core of our being, it is nonetheless the way through which that individual connection is opened. We all have the divine spark within us but that spark can only be fully ignited through the inner spiritual reality that is Christ, through whom we must pass in order to find God the Father.

Not everyone will be able to accept this as an intellectual proposition and, from the perspective of an outer spiritual practice, they do not necessarily need to. Many who do not follow Christ outwardly may be doing so inwardly in that they follow the essence of the teachings he embodied. In the same way many who follow him outwardly may not be doing so inwardly. Christ does not have an monopoly on all forms of the teachings that lead eventually to the Father, Divine Reality, but he is their personification, their instantiation, and they are given life and salvific power through him.

So the outer sense of these words may not apply literally to everyone but the inner sense does, and so does the metaphorical sense and what it means is this. Those who seek God only as an impersonal force, who restrict Him to a kind of universal cosmic consciousness will not find him. We cannot access the unmanifest divine essence except through the Personal God who is not a lower level of reality than the formless Godhead but fully one with it, never to be separated from it, and the only reliable portal to it. For in truth there is no such thing as the impersonal God. If there were how could the personal be its primary expression? Indeed, how could the idea of the personal exist at all? If the impersonal really were the root of existence there could be no I, and if there were no I then there could be nothing. Certainly nothing could ever be known. So the personal aspect of God cannot be ignored or denied which is to say that the full recognition of God with form is essential if you would go beyond it to the formless. This may be transpersonal but it is not impersonal and it can never be known without complete acceptance of the personal and all that it implies. Why? Because only that allows for a genuine love and humility, and a proper sense of one's place in the divine chain of being. This is the reason that the Masters said 'Remember the Creator'. Today too many people, both materialists and followers of certain spiritual paths, don't do this.

In several articles here I have argued against the idea, basic to advaita Vedanta and Buddhism, that the personal belongs to a lower level of reality than the impersonal and is therefore, in some sense, unreal. I have said that the Personal God is not merely a limited expression of Impersonal Being, and ultimately subsumed into that, but that the two are co-equal and coeval, two faces of the one reality representing God in creative mode and at rest. If I now say that the impersonal does not actually exist at all, i.e. does not correspond to anything in reality, what I mean is that ultimate reality cannot just be pure unqualified, featureless being or the personal could never arise from it. God cannot just be life. He must be alive.  Deeper levels of reality must include, in some form (not necessarily expressed but present), what derives from them, and so, if the highest reality is above the personal, that can only mean that it includes the personal in the same way as a cube includes a square not that the square reduces to nothingness at the cube level. If that is what is meant by impersonal I have no argument with the term, but very often that is not what is meant. The square is reduced to a line if not a point if not a blank if not, as the Buddhists say, emptiness. Ultimate reality may be beyond the personal but it is impersonal only to the extent that God is not limited by or to form. But then He is not limited by or to formlessness either. If, in His essence, He is beyond Personhood, or our conception of it, neither does He fall below it into a kind of blank facelessness. He is not mere abstraction but real in the most concrete of ways. So for us, made in His image which means reflecting His reality, God must be personal before He is transpersonal. And this is the metaphorical meaning behind the words spoken by Jesus. We must go beyond the personal to find the Father but we can only do that by going through, going through but fully including, the personal. Formlessness is not less than form.

I don't by any means claim to have covered all that is captured in this saying here, but I hope I have said enough to give you some food for further thought.

Monday 3 August 2015

Cycles of Change

In his book "The Order of the Ages", which I thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in the subject of this post, the author Robert Bolton gives the dates of the Kali Yuga as being from 3102 BC to 2082 AD. If you want to know how he arrives at those dates you must read the book but, suffice it to say here, his reasons for them seem plausible enough. For those not familiar with the term Kali Yuga, it refers to the last of four ages in Hinduism during which the world gradually descends from a natural spiritual state into materialism and disconnection from the divine order. This particular form of the doctrine is an Indian one but the idea of a spiritual fall as time goes by exists in many traditions, and we are all familiar with the sense of nostalgia for a Golden Age in the distant past. This is the polar opposite to the modern belief in progress but does not necessarily conflict with it if we understand the traditional concept to relate to matters of spiritual consciousness and awareness of the source while progress in the modern sense refers exclusively to the material world which includes the social, technological and political spheres. Of course, viewed from the spiritual standpoint, progress in these spheres is no progress at all if it derives from an ignorance of our true nature and results in a divorce between our material and spiritual selves. In fact, in this sense, it is the very opposite of real progress.

The beginning date of the Kali Yuga is interesting because it appears to coincide with the start of recorded history. Thus all that we regard as our known past falls within the period of spiritual ignorance, the lowest point in the cycle that runs from a pristine new beginning when men walk with the gods to the time when the gods withdraw, spirit is gradually obscured and our external physical environment becomes the principal focus of attention. Now this may be a fall in one sense, it undoubtedly is a fall, but it is also a natural and inevitable occurrence that presumably has the purpose or effect of helping us develop aspects of our nature (primarily mental) that otherwise might remain in abeyance. How far it is taken, though, probably depends on us and our reaction to the cosmic winds of change. We can go completely with the flow of spiritual deterioration or we can recognise it for what it is and, to an extent at least, remain apart from it, remaining centred, insofar as possible, in higher truth. The old saying that the stars incline but do not compel is relevant here.

The constituent parts of a full cycle are often referred to as Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron (though this last, corresponding to the Kali Yuga, has nothing to do with the archaeological Iron Age when that metal was first used), and, temporally, they stand to each other in the ratio 4, 3, 2 and 1. Thus the Krita Yuga or Golden Age is four times longer than the Kali Yuga which we can see from the dates above lasts for approximately five thousand years. So the most recent Golden Age lasted for around twenty thousand years. Now, interestingly, because of the Law of Correspondences, each cycle can be broken down into mini-cycles which exist in the same proportion and bear the same relation to each other as do the parts of the main cycle. So within the Kali Yuga there are four sub-periods corresponding to Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron which last for 4/10, 3/10, 2/10 and 1/10 respectively of the total duration. Remember the Kali Yuga in this system runs from 3102 BC to 2082 AD so these sub-periods range from 2,076 years to 518 years, the period in which we find ourselves now, the tail end of the Kali Yuga. For ease of comprehension I'll put this in a table below in a form copied from Robert Bolton.
  • Gold of Iron   3102 BC - 1026 BC    2,076 years
  • Silver of Iron  1026 BC -  528 AD    1,554 years
  • Bronze of Iron 528 AD -  1564 AD   1,036 years
  • Iron of Iron    1564 AD - 2082 AD      518 years.
Those who wish can look for patterns in these periods. They are not hard to find. Robert Bolton points out that the second corresponds to the classical civilisations of Greece and Rome and the third to the Middle Ages. However I want to break them down further by taking the last period and applying the same process to it. I want to do this for two reasons. Firstly, this period falls well within historical times and so events are more familiar to us, but secondly, there is the idea that as the cycles progress so time and the rate of change speed up. Therefore the effects of cyclical change are easier to see. Once again I am copying Robert Bolton with this table whose fascinating book is the inspiration for this post. Please note that when it says 'Golden age' in the table what is meant is the first section of the fourth section of the Kali Yuga thus gold of iron of iron.
  • Golden age 1564 - 1770   206 years
  • Silver age    1770 - 1926  156 years
  • Bronze age 1926 - 2030   104 years
  • Iron age      2030 - 2082     52 years
It will be seen that we are now living in pretty grim times, spiritually speaking! No doubt this is what the Masters referred to when they told me during the 1990s that never before had there been a time of such vulgarity.

Looking at these dates the first thing that strikes me is that the so called Golden age of this sub-cycle went from the Reformation and the birth of science (as it is understood in modern terms) to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Galileo was born in 1564 and Beethoven in 1770. These are two individuals who can very well be taken as representing spirits of a new age. The one as a scientist who confronted religious authorities and the other as the most important artist of the Romantic period which was a definitive shift away from God as the centre to man as the centre. Whatever the quality of Beethoven's music might be the fact is that it signified a spiritual loss. Man felt his exile from heaven more than ever before. It's probably a coincidence that the dates are so neat. We can't always expect things to fall into place quite so smoothly as this. Rather like astrology, this system is not an exact science. Nevertheless these dates do speak eloquently from a symbolical point of view.

The Silver age takes us right up to the brink of modernity. The 1st World War swept away the past, and the twenties are always regarded as the start of something quite new. Art, politics, everything changed in ways too well known for me to need to set them forth here. So what I want to do now is break down the third period, the one in which we live and therefore, it could be said, the most important from our point of view. Please note that this time the golden age is the gold of bronze of iron of iron. I'm sorry - it's getting a little complicated at this point!

  • Golden age  1926 - 1968  42 years
  • Silver age    1968 - 1999  31 years
  • Bronze age  1999 - 2020  21 years
  • Iron age       2020 - 2030  10 years
The dates here are not quite exact because the periods do not break down into whole numbers precisely to the year, but they are near enough. 1968 is a significant date. It might be said to be when the momentum built up during the early sixties really kicked in and the new ways, a focus on youth, sexual liberation and so forth, spread from a select group right out to the whole populace. I believe it's when colour TV started in England and there's a whole symbolism right in that fact. 1999, apart from being the end of the millennium, can be seen as the time when computers and the internet started to enter every home. Of course, these things build up gradually, they don't come out of nowhere, but if you are looking for tipping points these dates are about the best there are.

You can carry on breaking these periods down endlessly. For instance, the bronze and iron ages of the period from 1926-1968 start around 1956 and 1964 which strike me as periods of significant change, while the silver age of the period from 1968-1999 coincides almost exactly with the '80s, a time of increasing globalism, unregulated capitalism and the spread of what is called by its opponents and maybe is, cultural Marxism. Obviously one can take this sort of thing too far but that does not discount the fact that, using this method, significant patterns emerge without them being forced to do so.

The question could nevertheless be asked what is the point of all this? Is it just a bit of fun, the truth of which you can neither prove nor disprove, or does it have any purpose? To be honest, I'm not sure. I do think, though, that studying these dates can prepare us for change and help us to respond to it in a spiritually intelligent way. Particularly when you bear in mind that the dates are turning points when what already exists for an elite or group of specialists spreads out into the mainstream. It looks as though the next bit of the cycle will be starting up in a few years time, and then the final phase in the whole process ten years after that. These may well be, to put it neutrally, interesting times and it might help to know that there is some kind of pattern behind it all.

A Note on the Krita Yuga.
To say that the Krita Yuga or Golden Age was a time of greater general openness to the reality of the spiritual plane, and an ordering of the world in accordance with that reality, does not mean that there were people of the stature of a Christ or Buddha walking around then. In fact it may need the relative spiritual darkness of the Kali Yuga to enable a true spirituality to be born, in which the soul on an individual level, through its own efforts, struggle and suffering, can awaken and develop the capacity for love and wisdom within itself. For a pre-lapsarian Adam to become a Christ you might say. The Krita Yuga was a time when the quality of the higher planes of existence still 'seeped through' into this world and the divine order of being could be more correctly discerned, but that would still only have been according to the degree of inner development of the people at that time.

Drug taking is an illicit attempt to recapture something of the consciousness of earlier periods. It is illicit precisely because it seeks to acquire the consciousness without developing the proper character. The aim now is to develop a spiritual character and not simply experience a spiritual consciousness. That is why the Masters constantly emphasised to me the importance of love and humility, and regarded the search for mystical experience as unproductive and potentially even detrimental to true spiritual growth.