Sunday 4 March 2018


To continue with the theme of the previous post:

Spiritual truth is simple but it is easy to get lost in philosophical speculations which lead nowhere.

One of the things the Masters never ceased to emphasise to me was that spiritual truth is fundamentally simple. That doesn't mean it is naive or childish or even easy to understand. But it is pure and good and therefore uncomplicated, and consequently available to anyone whose heart is open and whose thinking has not been led astray by fashionable beliefs of the day or intellectual mind games.

However while spiritual truth is simple it also requires a seriousness and a depth of insight sufficient to understand that its real purpose is not to make us happy in this world or reduce suffering here but to take us beyond ourselves and this world to something greater. That is why current notions of spirituality as in some way being about healing are so wide of the mark. Healing of the psyche can be a preliminary to proper spirituality but should not be mistaken for it. Some of the greatest saints have been those who have suffered the most, both in mind and body. They did not look for healing but for putting themselves right with God. They did seek self-improvement or self-fulfilment but tried only to love God more deeply and do his will more completely. What could be simpler than that? And yet what is further away from us today when so many people believe they can follow a spiritual path without acknowledging the Creator or their own sins, or act as if spirituality were really just another, more sophisticated branch of consumerism?

The simplicity of spirituality means that it is a path of the heart more than the mind (which however is not excluded) but this truth has become stale through repetition and lost much of its meaning. It does not mean that the way to God is through feelings centred on the self, as in relating to emotional reactions and attachments, but it is through deeper feelings which are more akin to intuitions reaching beyond our personal thoughts and desires to something more universal and fundamental.

However the problem with intuition is that we often interpret it according to our pre-existing prejudices and preferences. That is because what we call our intuition is still undeveloped and our personal mind is much the stronger element within the totality of what we are. Our task then is to follow the intuitive thread more fully and not obscure dawning insights with misinterpretations or even distortions of those insights. This requires strict honesty and the ability to look at oneself objectively.

So spirituality is simple but it is not about the joy or sorrow of the earthly self nor is it about healing that self unless this is taken to mean setting right its fundamental disorder.  But that can only be done by aligning the soul to truth which means God who is best conceived of as our divine parent.  This sounds too simple, even sentimental, to some but Jesus called God Father so who are we to disagree? We have to assume he knew what he was talking about and meant what he said. This doesn't mean that God is exactly like an earthly father but that fatherhood, cosmically considered, best defines his essential nature. Of course, we can also conceive of God as pure existence if we wish but if we are concerned with a God that acts, that is something more than unexpressed being, then we have to think of him as a person. This is the God in whose image we are made. It is the God we are called upon to know.

When Jesus told his followers that unless they became like a child they would never enter the kingdom of heaven, he was emphasising this need for open-hearted simplicity. But note he said like a child. He was not recommending a reversion to childish ignorance or juvenile behaviour but saying that a complicated, calculating mind was a barrier to true wisdom. At the same time, the mind is a major part of what we are and cannot be neglected or sidelined. It must just be coordinated to the higher understanding of the spiritual intuition, the direct knowing which comes when the heart is rightly orientated to God. Then it is fulfilling its proper function.

God is inherently simple because he is the One from whom comes all the profuse variety of created life. But it is the world that is complicated. God is simple, and yet in that simplicity there is everything. How can we know him unless we become like him?


Edwin said...

Dear William, Simplicity is associated with simple-mindedness, just as complexity is associated with deeper understanding. And behind such notions, I believe, is ego, the mind-created self that is ever in competition with others. The adherents of non-duality, such as Shankara taught it, stress the four qualifications for studying Vedanta. These prescriptions eliminate almost everyone, which makes Vedanta the preserve of a select few deemed to have reached the level of maturity it requires. And the aim, it would seem, is to dissolve this mature mind in undifferentiated brahman. So, the aim of life is apparently to acquire the qualifications to study Vedanta so that one can realize the ultimate meaninglessness of incarnate existence, and that meaninglessness is seen in the illusory nature of individual being, which is a superimposition due to ignorance. One has to jump through a lot of hoops, again and again, to reach the desideratum of this reasoning process.

I just read your posts on non-duality. I am trying to restrain my enthusiasm, for one of my habitual faults is rash judgment, but I am sitting on a rumbling geyser of gratitude for what you have written. It is a great gift to me and, I hope, to many who earnestly want to know the truth and have settled for a non-duality that, as you say, results in an impersonal benevolence but falls far short of the fire of love which Christ implants in our hearts and that we are here to realize. Well, I don't want to get carried away, but I do want to thank you for your genuine fraternal charity in sharing what you have learned.

William Wildblood said...

Thank you Edwin. Your kind remarks are very much appreciated. I always had misgivings about advaita and even Buddhism but was only recently able to articulate them properly. I've worked them out through a series of posts in this blog but basically I think any spiritual path that dismisses the personal is lacking something essential which is why the teaching (and person) of Christ is so important in spiritual history. He shows how to reconcile the One and the Many and resolve the tension between them. Vedanta, as it were, tends to cure the disease by killing the patient.