Wednesday 29 June 2016

From Savage to Sage

In the 1980s when I was in India I wrote a book I called 'From Savage to Sage'. I wrote it with pen and paper on a 19th century rosewood roll top desk bought in a market in Bangalore for next to nothing - another world! Anyway, the book was never published. When I returned to England I sent some sample chapters to a couple of publishers, one of whom replied that it was an interesting read but “the audience for which we cater is receptive only up to a point”!  
That was not because the book mentioned the Masters because it didn't. At that time they were still talking to me, though not as regularly as they had been during the first year of their contact covered in Meeting the Masters, and I was always reluctant to mention them when they were still communicating except in a general sense, by which I mean that I was happy to state that I believed such beings existed but not that I had personally encountered them.

The subject of the book, as implied by the title, was the evolution of consciousness, outlined in general terms according to my understanding of the time. This was the process that, as I saw it, transformed an Adam into a Christ. That is to say, the evolutionary process that turned a new formed spiritual being into a fully functioning son of God. The journey is one from innocence to experience and then back to innocence again but this time as a fully self-conscious state with all the fruits of experience, will, intellect, creativity and so on, added.

The early adamic state is when the newly created individual is not yet conscious of his individuality. He is one with nature and his environment.  He is one with spirit as it is manifested in nature but totally ignorant of his Creator, the transcendent God.  So he has to leave the paradise of union with the Mother principle in order to know the Father.  This means he has to experience the sense of separation and become conscious of duality, and that, of course, introduces the possibility of pain and suffering in a more than purely physical sense.  So he has to discover himself as a person and a true individual. Alone but also free. Early man lived in what we now call a participation consciousness. It was a state of unity but natural not spiritual meaning that the union was an unconscious one with what you might call the anima mundi not a fully conscious union of love with the Creator. So Adam fell in order to know himself. Whether this fall was intended or not is an interesting point.  My belief is that it was not, not in the way that it happened anyway. Adam was meant to evolve in a gentler fashion, one in which death and suffering would not have played so great a part. However the process was disrupted in the way mythologically presented in the book of Genesis, and sin entered in.
 God had to remake his plans for the evolutionary path but he has to do this constantly in response to the exercising of human free will anyway. He may have a plan but it is not fixed. It is an organic thing, always growing and changing according to how human beings react to it and what they instigate. There is destiny and there is free will and the two necessarily interact at every moment as life unfolds. So God's plan alters second by second according to events but its direction remains constant. Yet we need to remember that all this occurs only in time. There is also the timeless state in which everything that ever happens is known to the mind of God in an eternal present. However it would be a mistake to conflate the two modes of being, temporal and atemporal.

So, whether or not the Fall was part of God's original plan (or, most likely, anticipated but not intended), it has happened and we are here as  result of itWe have fallen but we can rise again. The first step in that, though, is to recognise that we have fallen, and this modern man stubbornly refuses to do. There is no doubt that in our journey from spirit to matter and back to spirit again we have reached the nadir.  Like the prodigal son we must turn round and head for home. All the fruits of a separated consciousness that we have gained we must now put in the service of a higher path, one of the journey back to the Creator. But, as a group, the human race shows no signs of doing this which explains the truly dangerous situation in which we find ourselves at present. There are forces who will make every effort to keep us in darkness, either by convincing us that there is no God or else distorting our ideas about God in ways that might serve them. If our hearts were pure we would see through this because a pure heart sees truth. But our hearts are not pure and they will not be so without repentance, the honest acknowledgement by each individual that he is a sinner. There are two things required for this. The awakening to a love for the good and the true, and a genuine sense of unworthiness. This is not a self- flagellating attitude (always a sign of egotism) but a right and proper humility before our Creator.

We must turn the corner. We have experienced the fullness of the stage of conscious separation. There is nothing more to be gained from that and everything to be lost if we continue down that path. But when we search for oneness we must do so in the right way. Currently there are many people and groups who respond to oneness but who do so incorrectly. What they do is seek it on a horizontal level but it is not there and, if it is sought there, all that will be found is a false or artificial oneness, an unnatural oneness. It must be vertically understood, that is to say we must seek connection to God, and only then will we be able to relate to our fellow men and women in the right way. If we try to establish oneness without doing so in the light of God all we create will be oppressive because the horizontal level is that of expression hence one of difference, hierarchically ordered. Oneness can only be in God, and it is to that we must turn. The Masters told me that there are many teaching half truths at present. Nowhere is this more obvious than in ideas about oneness which are distorted and misinterpreted by being applied where they should not be and ignored where they should be operative.

'From Savage to Sage' (the manuscript of which is now lost) attempted to describe the whole process of humanity's spiritual development, going from a state of unself-conscious oneness to conscious separation to conscious oneness. On the face of it, this might conflict with conventional religious teaching, whether of East or West, but I believe it finds a place within that since it since it simply looks at the same question, how to put unregenerate man right with God, from a different perspective and through a longer lens.

Thursday 23 June 2016

A Devilish Masterplan

This may seem a bit of foolishness but it has a serious side to it. Obviously anyone who does anything like this owes a debt to C.S. Lewis.

Some time ago one of the chief devils and his advisers sat down to work out how they might best mislead humanity. "For a start we need to destroy Christianity." said one. "No doubt" sneered another "but how do we do that?"

They thought for a moment and then one of them said. "To begin with, we need to divide it to make it weaker. Didn't someone once talk about a house divided amongst itself? Then we can attack it with its own weapons".
"How does that work?"
"We emphasise the purely worldly and social aspects of it and push the spiritual aspects to the background. Pretty soon the social aspects will seem all important and the spiritual ones will only have relevance in the light of those, and then they will cease to have any relevance at all."

"Not bad" said the chief. "What next?"
"We'll get some of their thinkers to start expressing doubts about the reality of absolute truth. First of all, whether you can know it and then, when that's done, whether it exists at all. Take things in stages so they don't notice what's happening. That way they will eventually accept what they would never have dreamed of accepting at the beginning of the process. So we'll get their clever people to say that the only things we can know are what appear to us through our senses. Anything else is just theoretical and has no intrinsic reality. Before you know it they'll be thinking that there are no absolutes and everything is relative and that will make them feel that nothing means anything. Which of course is true"
"Give me more".
"We'll inspire them to question the reality of their own creation. We know that some aspects of life are left to chance because of the absurd plan of the tyrant and his ridiculous penchant for freedom. We'll get them to focus exclusively on those and ignore the main elements of the process which they can't uncover with their puny intelligence left to its own devices anyway. This will flatter their sense of self-importance and make them feel they direct their own future instead of, as we know, that little task being our concern."
"More. More"
"We'll make them reject the idea of higher and lower or better and worse in the name of an imagined unity, equality and fairness. They are mostly unable to hold two apparently paradoxical ideas in their minds at the same time anyway so that should be easy. We'll over-emphasise one side of the question and take it out of context, and that will make them reject the other side. We know that when you remove the idea of anything higher from the mix everything settles down nicely to a fairly low level which suits us very well."
" All right, but I want more."
"What about attacking the family and eroding the difference between man and woman? The first gives them too much security and a sense of deep rootedness. They shouldn't have security as it provides them with a nasty inner strength and confidence in stupidities like tradition, and they mustn't have strong roots so they're more easily manipulated. As for the men and women thing, well, haven't we always wanted to deviate nature and turn it against itself? Don't we delight in corruption? Once men and women start to see themselves as fundamentally the same they will lose any connection to an inner life. Then they will regard each other in a competitive light instead of being able to cooperate harmoniously in a complementary fashion as they were originally designed to do. Eugh! Of course, ever since that splendid victory in the Garden we've already made them fight but we can do much better."

"Persuade them that anything done in the name of love is good and if someone disputes that then they are a wicked and unloving person." said another.
"Attack their culture." said one more. " Destroy the sense of beauty and so called truth in their foul works of art. Let them see our more heroic truth in all its glorious abandonment of strait-laced convention and embracing of  the real freedom to do anything you want".
"Corrupt their music" said another. " We know that music can serve us or the enemy, and it affects humans and the way they think and feel in a powerful way. Make it serve us! We want noise and more noise!"

The chief devil considered the matter for a while. "All these ideas have some merit. I congratulate myself on giving you the hints to come up with them. But they are not enough. The enemy will undoubtedly send people to counter them. We need to do more. We need to inspire those humans who respond to us and make them think they are advancing the cause of humanity. We need to make humans believe that their salvation relies on progress in their world, on material progress and more knowledge to bend nature to their will. Give them lots of things to distract them,  then they will more easily be ours. Excite them with sex and more sex and get them to overlook what it's really for. That's always been easy but once we remove those bigoted and unnatural religious constraints it will be even easier. We need to foster atheism and materialism, of course, but we also need to infect their spiritual ideas with our own sweet additions that will poison the mix. We will send some of our disciples to lead astray those humans who are sensitive to spiritual matters but who also have their own ambitions and agendas which are ultimately more important to them. Wherever the enemy has his people we will attack relentlessly. We can sometimes bring them down through their desire for recognition or power. Many of them will resist us but many won't. We will prove to the enemy that our decision was the right one. I want souls! Get to work!"

The meeting closed and the devils went about their business. Far away in heaven the armies of light prepared themselves for the fight ahead. They knew that victory would eventually be theirs, of that there was no doubt, but they also knew there was a battle for souls to be had. Each individual human being was infinitely precious to their Master but each one had to make his or her own decision.

Monday 20 June 2016

A Question on Krishnamurti

I received this question about J Krishnamurti whom I regard as one of the pre-eminent spiritual figures of the last century even if I don't agree with him on everything. His philosophy seemingly had no room for God but I would argue that he had a specific role to play which consisted of purifying the spiritual field of much past error and false ways of thinking about both God and spirituality. Moreover, his idea of the sacred can be construed as a way of describing the essence of God that is free of any ideological trappings or religious sentiment.

Q. Could you comment on the following quote by Krishnamurti? ‘”When you call yourself an Indian or a Christian or a Muslim or a European you are being violent because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. A man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any religion, any political party or any country.”

It did make me consider that perhaps we should attempt to transcend labels completely in the way that he is advocating here. After all Jesus was not a Christian and I am finding that there are fewer labels that are any more divisive than the label 'Christian.' I often wonder if it has ever been that any two human beings on the planet have ever totally agreed on a shared definition of what that means?! Inevitably, there must be some very subjective elements to the definition of anything and leap of faith to cover the distance between the islands of two conscious human souls attempting to share a perception of a thing.

A. What Krishnamurti is saying here is that if you identify yourself too much with a particular background you are creating division between yourself and the rest of humanity, and division leads to conflict. However I think he is mistaking patriotism for nationalism. Also, context is important. He grew up at a time when there was great division in India between Hindu and Muslim, often ending in violence as at the partition after independence between India and Pakistan. This was also when the English tended to look down on other nationalities, and most people thought themselves superior to other groups. It's not like that now so his point is less true even if it is the case that, from the highest standpoint, oneness is the underlying reality.

His basic point is that you should identify yourself with the inner spiritual reality not any external thing, and that I think is true. This can be taken too far and become unbalanced but it is surely the case that to define oneself is to limit oneself. But still, that doesn't mean that all externals are equally true and equally false. Some are truer than others. And we do, after all, all have an outer form as well as an inner being. The former must be in the right place and not usurp the place of the latter, but that doesn't mean it should be denied or rejected.

Q.  Surely Krishnamurti is either right or wrong. If he's right then the correct view is to transcend a self-label of Christianity and focus on the cohesive value of focusing on values and behaviours but not labels. But if he is wrong we need to self-label as Christian and encourage others to do so also even though this will inevitably seriously ruffle the worlds feathers! A self-label of Christian is almost universally despised, feared or rejected in anger by modern people. Krishnamurti’s quote on the other hand is something I have showed to people and they have immediately seen a truth in it. Religion being necessarily perceived as divisive and like something that is very dangerous and to be handled with extreme care or ideally not at all. And to be fair to secular people the reality of human history has given us ample reason to now view religious ideologies with a great deal of suspicion. People are too frightened to see that the divisive aspect of religion is only one side of it and there is great truth there as well.

A. Actually it is possible for Krishnamurti to be both right and wrong and I think he is. It depends on how you look at things. Firstly, everybody who believes anything self-identifies as something. It's impossible not to. You could say that Krishnamurti was a Krishnamurti-ite, and, as a matter of fact, his followers do often rather act like that. His view reflects his rootless background. He was born a Hindu but taken up by the Theosophists as a youth and then raised in their system which he reacted to by rejecting wholesale. Theosophy had certainly taken on a lot of nonsense at the time he rejected it even if its fundamentals remain interesting. He then travelled all over the world but had no fixed home so you can see that his philosophy is partly reflected in his life. This doesn't make it wrong, and you could say the life was the result of the philosophy, but you could also see an influence the other way. Anyway, it can  sometimes be a little one-sided I think. A necessary corrective to the other point of view that says you have to be a Hindu, Christian or whatever but it is assuming that the Hindu, Christian or whatever is attached to his beliefs and cannot see that they are only tools enabling you to get a grasp on reality. That is very definitely the case for many people but it need not be the case. For instance, I do not identify as a Christian in the conventional sense but I think the teachings of Christ are the highest teachings and contain more of truth than any other. I try to follow them. But I cannot identify with the external body of Christianity as it is today. Maybe I could have done so in the Middle Ages but not now.

It's a question of changing perspective and each side needs the other to be whole. Each is incomplete without the other. We need each approach as a corrective to the extreme of the other which is why I say it is possible for K to be both right and wrong. It all depends on how you hold your view. If you are a Christian which is more important, your Christianity as a religion or your church or your love of God? Do you see the difference? It's a matter of inner and outer. Are you attached to the outer as a form or do you see it as an opening to the inner which is always the main thing.  That said, some outer approaches certainly do better reflect the reality of the inner, and are more able to guide one and attune one to it.  A rose is a truer reflection of beauty than a dandelion even though both are beautiful flowers.

So I would say Krishnamurti is right but can be taken to extremes and then he becomes wrong. Always spirituality is concerned with inner attitude  and the state of the heart rather than mental conceptualising. A doctrinaire Christian who nevertheless genuinely loves God is much closer to him than a philosopher who sees that identifying with a system keeps you bound but has no real love or humility in his heart.

I see Krishnamurti as someone who performed a valuable service in the 20th century when we had gone too far to one side of the matter. But now when we have lost nearly all sense of religion there is a risk of going too far to the other side so he is not so useful in this sense even if ultimately he is right. The Masters I spoke to were not, as far as I could see, Christians or Buddhists but then they knew truth directly. They did not need any help to see it. On this Earth the vast majority of us do need help and if it is not one thing it will be another. A universalist form of Christianity seems pretty good to me. I mean by this an approach that sees the uniqueness of Christ but can also accept that other religions are valid approaches to God too if their inner essence is adhered to rather than their outer form.

Religion is only divisive if people make it so. At the same time, Christ did say he came to sort out the sheep from the goats and you have to divide, or be able to discriminate, between truth and falsehood. Not everything is equally true or equally good, and sometimes you have to call a spade a spade and condemn what is wrong or misguided or downright bad. One of the great recent successes of the devil is to persuade people that judgment is wrong in the name of a spurious unity or fairness. Spirituality requires the most rigid discrimination if it is to accord to what is real.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Question on God and Duality

I received this question in response to the previous post. Answering it here gives me the opportunity to clarify my understanding of the relationship between the personal God and the idea of the Absolute.

Q. Frithjof Schuon, the Traditionalist writer, has a metaphysical system in which Beyond-Being is the Absolute or impersonal Divine Essence, and the Personal God only exists at the level of Being which he calls the first self-determination of the Absolute. So the Personal God is at a lower and more relative level of reality. This seems to correspond to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life with Ain Soph or absolute Nothingness manifesting as Kether, the first cause and root of Creation. In both of these systems God, as such, is a step down from the Absolute, and a mystical union with God would be a lesser realisation than Nirvana which is entry into Beyond-Being or Ain Soph. Would you like to comment on this view since it seems you are saying something different?

A. I am. In the past I have thought in a similar way to the approaches you describe above, and believed that Nirvana or entry into the Void of pure being must be a deeper and truer realisation than the mystic’s sense of oneness with God for in that there is still duality present. That’s the logical way of seeing things. Union is trumped by non-duality which must be better than duality. Or so one might suppose. But there was always a nagging doubt. If Ultimate Reality really is a formless Absolute of pure being or Nothingness whence comes anything at all? Where does the Creator God come from? How does he arise from Nothingness? How can something come from Nothing or form from pure and absolute formlessness? Why should Beyond-Being ever give rise to Being unless Being is already present within it in some way, and if it is then that is duality. There is not just pure and absolute oneness. There is oneness and the potential, at least, for something else, something more. If Nirguna Brahman (Brahman without attributes, without any qualities whatsoever) is the bedrock of everything where do the qualities and attributes come from? How could they ever arise? So Saguna Brahman (Brahman with attributes) must be present in some way in Nirguna Brahman which means that the Void, so called, cannot be completely empty, the Self cannot be pure, undifferentiated consciousness alone, and the Absolute must already contain the Relative within it. There can be no such thing as pure being without the innate capacity to become always and fully present within it. 

So this is why I now don’t accept the idea that absolute reality is the divine darkness of nothingness which is what Beyond-Being or Ain Soph or Nirvana would be. It’s why I would no longer put the personal God on a lower level of reality than the impersonal one, seeing them now as simply two faces of the one reality, just the Absolute in different modes relating to passive and active existence or rest and expression. But even God at rest contains the active God, the Creator God in itself. The Creator is not a limited mode of the Absolute but the Absolute in movement, in becoming mode. But this becoming is the expression of being, integral to it and not in any way a lesser reality. How can it be since to be at all it must be there from the very beginning, indeed before the very beginning? Likewise time must exist in eternity in order to exist at all, ever. We can say it only exists in theory or potential but exist it must. It is not simply not there at all until suddenly it is. And so if God is the Absolute in expression, which he is, then he is fully there already in the Absolute. He is not a lesser or more relative thing at all. He is not and can never be part of maya.

All this, of course, has implications for the question of individuality, denied in Buddhism and advaita which don’t understand the reality of the relative world. Individuality is a real, God-given thing not an illusion of ignorance. And this means that enlightenment does not mean the end of the individual but the end of a limited identification with individuality which is an utterly different thing. The whole point of it is not the entry into pure, timeless, inert, changeless being or Nirvana but the integration of being and becoming to create something more than either on its own, something that encompasses and involves the whole being not just a part of it. This is found in the proper union of the soul with God, a union that accepts the totality of existence and does not seek to escape matter for spirit. It is the cosmic marriage that joins the two together, something that would not be possible (actually nothing would be possible) if the root of reality really were the featureless Beyond-Being postulated by Schuon who may not have realised the implications of his metaphysical position. To say that Being comes from Beyond-Being can only be acceptable if we acknowledge that it is already wholly present in Beyond-Being and is not a limited step down into a lesser reality.

For what is consistently misunderstood by monists and those who don’t properly distinguish between God and the soul, because they think that both arise from and sink back into the Absolute of Beyond-Being, is that the ground of pure consciousness is not God. Self-emptying can take one to this ground which then seems as though one has penetrated to the deepest mysteries because all has been stripped and there is nothing left but pure naked existence. But this is not God or not the completeness of God. It is but his outer being as existing in the soul. It is not his heart. The true mystic seeks a union of love with the heart of God. Heart to heart. This may be duality but it is a duality beyond non-duality and is the whole point and goal of creation which has to do with making something out of nothing. Who would be satisfied with nothing rather than something, with featureless being instead of eternal love? 

For the truth the non-dualists fail to see is that God is more than pure consciousness, and the oneness of pure being (identification with the ground) is but a precursor to a loving (and necessarily dualistic) relationship with the Creator. Because they make the mistake of envisaging formless being as beyond God, and see him as emerging from that, they confuse entry into the depths of their own soul with the spiritual goal. This is why some of them can say that there is no path, no goal and all you have to do is to realise what you already are. But that is false. There is a path, there is a goal and it requires more to reach that goal than simply to know yourself as pure consciousness. That may take you to the root of your being and realisation of oneness, but the mystic's goal of a union in love with God fulfils the purpose of creation to a much higher degree because it unites the two poles of life whilst fully preserving the truth in both of them. It does not deny love or creativity, as non-duality inevitably does if its implications are properly grasped, but sees these, or their coming to be, as the purpose of creation. God created, and he created us, so that there might be a ceaseless expansion of light, love and beauty, and this there can only be when being and becoming are both fully realised. If one is rejected for the other you are spiritually impoverished.

The conclusion we must draw is that twoness (or duality) is actually a higher thing that oneness, mystically and metaphysically considered, as long as we understand it to include oneness as a sub-structure. Besides which pure and absolute oneness cannot actually exist for, if it did, in what way could it be distinguished from 'noneness'? For there to be anything there must be two things, and if there are two things then there must be a third to connect them just as love connects the lover and the beloved. Nevertheless, although these are different, they are all completely one as well. Another way of putting this is to say that eternity must be dynamic if it is ever to be capable of expression.

From what I have written here and elsewhere it might seem that I reject the Buddhist approach to truth but that is not the case. Its great value is that it takes the subject away from identification with himself and leads him to a deeper insight into the true inner nature of the human being. It gives an understanding of immanence that is lacking in most modern Christianity and, as far as I can see, all forms of Protestantism. At the same time, Buddhism and similar paths lack a proper awareness of the Creator and Father of the universe and so overlook the need to form a loving relationship with God. So it is incomplete and needs to be balanced by the Christian way but then the same might be said in reverse too. So I return to the idea that both meditation and prayer are important for a complete approach to God, one that takes into account both his immanent and his transcendent aspects. 

Thursday 9 June 2016

Meeting the Masters Revisited and Revised

When I wrote Meeting the Masters my primary aim was to recount the story of my experiences with the spiritual beings who instructed me. I thought the fact of their existence and what they had to say might be of interest to many people frustrated by the dead end of modernism. I sought to present this in the context of the best of Western and Eastern (and theistic and non-theistic) spiritual approaches in order to arrive at a more universal perspective that reconciled these by focusing on their higher, unifying essence. I realised they weren't fully reconcilable but I don't think that, at the time, I fully appreciated the extent of the differences between them.

The main part of the book still stands. The strictly factual part that describes my encounter with the Masters, their words and their teachings and my reactions as a spiritual apprentice, is what it was. However my metaphysical understanding has changed a little and if I wrote the book now I would put the more theoretical parts in a slightly different way with less emphasis on the identity of mystical traditions and more on what I consider to be the deeper truths revealed through Christ. Thus I would place the non-dualistic and Buddhist points of view, which are fundamentally the same, at a different level of truth to the idea I have been describing in previous posts (most notably here) which sees the destiny of the soul as to be made one with God in a union in which individual identity is transformed or transfigured but retained rather than being seen as unreal or illusionary and consequently rejected in favour of an unqualified pure consciousness, without difference admitted in any way. I would lay greater stress on the love of God as the supreme spiritual path with knowledge, as in intuitive understanding that the soul and divine ground are one reality, a preliminary but incomplete on its own approach that can take the disciple a long way but not all the way to the final goal. I would put a personal relationship and union with God at a more advanced stage than self-sufficient oneness with the uncreated part of one's being which is the goal in Buddhism and advaita. And I would further stress that the aim of the spiritual disciple should not be enlightenment but the sanctification of the soul, achievable only through the grace of God which grace can only be properly received and merited (if it is ever really merited) after lengthy purification of the fallen self.

As a matter of fact, most of this was already plainly implied in the book as, for instance, in the passage about the absence of God in Buddhism or comments about there being a duality beyond non-duality. I also mentioned that the Masters were more like wise abbots of a Christian monastery than present day teachers of enlightenment (a word they never used).  However it was not spelled out quite as unequivocally as it might have been as I wished to be more inclusive in my approach at the time and was also less clear in my own mind about the difference between the impersonal absolute as the ground of pure being and the Creator God. Coming to an understanding of the meaning of the Trinity as the ultimate truth of things has helped clarify matters for me, particularly as to how oneness and difference can be completely reconciled in a higher union in God with no loss to either. It does seem to be that only a Trinitarian metaphysics, or something like it, can really account for reality as it is and do no violence to the integrity of either the One or the Many, either the uncreated source of all or creation.

I once assumed that all mystical traditions described more or less the same thing which was the union of the soul with God. They just put this in different ways depending on where they were coming from. Because my spiritual training was with the Masters, as described in the book, I refracted everything through that prism and didn't pay sufficient attention to the fact that different traditions do actually say different things and have different goals. I read books about the various religions and studied some of the writings of the great mystics and philosophers, both ancient and modern, but tended to assume that any differences were at the level of expression only. I now see that they are not all describing the same thing and that some do have a more restricted point of view than others. Also, that some come from human attempts to know truth while others have revelation from above at their core.

As the Masters never told me what to think from a philosophical or theological perspective, but focused entirely on practical instruction on how to be, I did not take my metaphysics directly from them. They were only concerned with inner change and development and did not point me towards any outer spiritual teachings, letting me sort that out for myself. However their words and their presence definitely point to a certain form of truth, and that is the form in which love and humility are the primary spiritual virtues; indeed one in which virtue itself rather than knowledge is the primary spiritual quality. And true virtue only comes from one place, that is aligning oneself with the will of God. So the Masters demonstrated the full truth of the transformation of the individual soul into a divine union with God. Think of us as messengers from God, they said. And so they were. Ceaselessly active on his behalf. There was no question of them resting in some state of blissful inactivity which an unqualified non-dualistic reality would necessarily imply. If there is no reality in creation why bother with it?

I don't reject anything I wrote in the book (which is first and foremost about my experience with the Masters), but I feel that my theological understanding has become more nuanced now. Strangely enough, it has become so since being challenged by non-dualists after a post of mine (The Non-Duality Trap) was put on a non-duality website. This led me to consider the implications of pure non-duality more deeply which made me realise that my assumptions about it were incorrect. It is quite dissimilar to Christian mysticism. Its rejection of God and the individual are, I now believe, deeply flawed for reasons I have given in various posts.

So what I am saying is that, pace Buddhism and advaita, individuality is important. The Masters have certainly transcended identification with the limited individual aspect of their being as they are one with God who is the centre of their lives, but individuality remains. In fact, it is more developed than it is in most of us, who, in comparison, are only half-formed individuals. A heaven of identikit saints would be a sort of hell, wouldn't it?

Most of all what I would now insist on is the reality of God. This might seem a strange thing to say when talking about spiritual matters. But more and more I have noticed a tendency in present day spirituality, or attempts at spirituality I might say, to take God out of the spiritual equation whether as a lesser reality than pure absolute being or as not existing in any true form at all. This is a great error. God exists and he exists in a personal form though I am not saying he is restricted to that. God will always remain a mystery in his essence. Nevertheless God as a Person is absolutely real for personhood is not a limitation on being, as erroneously thought by the non-dualists. It is the abstraction of pure being brought to full and perfect expression. Besides which, if God is not a Person then goodness, beauty, and even truth in any comprehensible form, are all only relatively real which, in effect, means they are not real at all. God cannot be limited in any way but to envision him as a blank absolute or infinite energy or the like seems to me to be much more of a limitation than to say that he is a Person. And without this personal side nothing really matters or has meaning for it is the personal that give life its savour, joy and, most of all, its love. This is why modernism, which is founded on the active denial of God, is basically anti-life. It is, in fact, nothing less than a death cult.

To say that God is a person does not mean he is just an object to us, something or someone 'out there'. That could never be for he is the essence of personhood, the very 'I' behind all 'I'ness, the archetypal person from whom we borrow our person-ness or individuality which is given to us from him and reflects his. But he has created this world of multiple beings who are one in their being, his being, but many in expression and quality, uniquely theirs though given by him. So in this created world, both heaven and earth, oneness and multiplicity exist together like harmony and melody, and God is both the Supreme Father, in terms of creation, and life itself in terms of pure spirit above form. But, and this is the point, both of these must be known if we are to encompass the fullness of reality.

So the only parts of the book that I would amend now are those that say or imply that God as Person is somehow lower or less real than the Impersonal Absolute. I always struggled with this intuitively (if that were the case then where did the original 'I' come from in the first place, what was love, what was goodness, why were the Masters so individual and why did they speak of higher Masters, i.e. point to a hierarchy even in heaven?), and it was not a teaching that the Masters themselves ever gave. However the weight of metaphysical authority, particularly that of the East, appeared to affirm it, and it can be seen as just an extreme form of the fact of oneness. But an understanding of the nature of the Trinity, seeing how there is difference even at the deepest level of unity, has given a better metaphysical foundation for my intuitive sense of how things are.

There is perhaps one minor point I should clear up. When the Masters said that one should forget the personal self and merge with the universal self this might appear to support the idea of abandoning the sense of being an individual and becoming one with the absolute. So in a way it does but it does not mean giving up individuality. As I have said, the Masters themselves were full individuals. The only difficulty here is on a verbal level. Personal can refer to the reality of the person and this was an idea that the Masters fully supported. They demonstrated the truth of it. However it can also refer to the personality in the sense of the separate rather than individual self and it was this that the disciple was asked to renounce. This idea of himself as a separate being. Not the idea of himself as an individual. God created us as individuals and does not demand suicide but self-transcendence. Forget the personal self does not mean deny you are an individual but don't identify with your individuality. Know yourself to be a spark of the divine, fully one with your Creator.

Incidentally, in case of misunderstanding, I am not saying here that our approach to God should exclusively be on a personal or dualistic level and that the practices and attitudes associated with a formless or apophatic approach to truth should be dismissed. I believe that each should be balanced by the other for a comprehensive understanding just as love should be balanced with wisdom. The Masters counselled both prayer and meditation for the disciple and this points to the need to take both a personal dualistic and an impersonal non-dualistic approach into account as we walk the spiritual path. Either on its own is incomplete even if the truth is that the ultimate aim of God is that he may have a personal relationship with us and that we may become gods ourselves. He did not create souls merely for them to be reabsorbed back into his being, eternally resting in the darkness of the Godhead as though they had never been. He did so in order that they might add to the glory of being through multiplication and joyous communion between all parts of it. He is a giver not a taker.