Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Religion Won't Save You Unless You Take Full Responsibility.

 Francis Berger has a good post on his blog about how being religious these days is not enough if you lack proper spiritual perception which is the ability to see underneath and beyond the doctrines to the truth within them. Often religious people completely fail to see the evil that is running riot throughout the world and sometimes those who do see this evil fail to see its supernatural origin and the spiritual motivation behind it. It seems we cannot bring ourselves to believe in supernatural evil. We are spiritual sentimentalists who will sing "All you need is love" as we are hauled off to the pit. Well, perhaps that is a bit over the top but the fact is religion's weapons, and Christianity's in particular, are being turned against itself to advance an agenda of spiritual destruction. The well-meaning but naive and emotionally self-indulgent will be left behind unless they toughen up and acquire the wisdom of serpents. They must develop some spiritual backbone and risk being thought bad, because apparently judgemental, by the world, and the world includes most religious people who have allowed themselves to be absorbed by it.

A commenter on Francis's post asked if there were any words of Christ's applicable to the present situation. What immediately sprang to mind when I read this were these words from Matthew 7 21-23.

"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"

Many people think they are good Christians because they believe in Christ. That is not enough now if indeed it ever was. You have to start becoming Christ-like. You must at least allow him to be born in your heart and not simply have an exteriorised faith. What is it to practice lawlessness? It is to go against the law and the primary law is to love God which means to love truth. How many religious people really love truth even above their religion? That is what is required. Note, I do not say love truth above Christ but I do say that all Christians must love truth above their Christianity.

In the same Gospel, verse 24, chapter 24, Christ talks about even the elect being deceived in the end times, such will be the all-encompassing but subtle wickedness of those (these?) times. If the elect are deceived then the rank and file will be too. I call it subtle wickedness though it is not so very subtle. But it is not obvious like mass murder and that is why so many religious people fail to see it. They don't realise that evil has changed its modus operandi or it has done so to a degree. Now, in line with the change in human consciousness, it likes to present itself as good. But the problem is also that we are so influenced by materialism, even if we are religious, that we just cannot accept that what might appear random has a purposeful intelligence behind it.

It is good to be able to see the evil that dominates in the world but that is not the end of the story. Sometimes those who have a serpent's wisdom lack a dove's harmlessness. We must have both and not let our awareness of evil curdle our hearts. Then there is the matter of hope. Yes, evil is everywhere but God will prevail. This is the hope, or knowledge really, that we should always keep in mind, whatever the outer circumstances.

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Making a Difference

 Many people who have a creative belief in God, by which I mean a belief that is not set in the stone of official religion but is able to engage creatively with the facts of spiritual existence and respond to divine reality in a personal way, might feel a little lost and alone in the face of the massive contemporary spiritual onslaught we are undergoing. We know that the world has descended into lies and we know that religion as it is now is powerless to prevent that. Should we not be doing more than we are to fight this? But what can we do? Take my case. I write a blog that gets two to three hundred page views a day which is a tiny drop in the ocean of the internet. It can hardly be said that the books I have written trouble the best seller lists either, even in the minority interest categories in which they might be placed.

But I don't think this is what matters. Years ago when I was anxious to share the good news that had been given to me by the Masters they told me that "You teach best by silence and the rays you give out." Now, this could have meant that I was in no way qualified enough to talk about spiritual matters seriously (which was very probably true) but it also means something else. Despite the New Agey feel of these words they do contain an important truth. Giving information is good but there is something else which is equally, perhaps more, important. That is grounding spiritual light in the world. Everyone who thinks of God in a genuinely spiritual sense opens the world up to God and enables him to manifest his presence in the world more fully. Such people become a channel through which spiritual force can flow, and if their thoughts engage creatively with spirit they add to the invisible but real pool of truth that exists on the mental plane so making it easier for other searching minds to open up. Anyone can serve the good cause in this way. You don't have to make a splash in the world. If you think right thoughts that potentially makes a stronger impression in spiritual terms than if you write pages of best selling text or give lectures attended by thousands. I'm not saying these activities are not helpful too. I am saying that for most of us the best spiritual work is mental and acting in your daily life wherever God has placed you according to his word.

We are all sowing seeds. It should be noted that the best plants take a while to grow while weeds may flourish quickly and abundantly. Everyone who begins to understand the reality of God wishes to serve God in some way. Human nature is such that we like to make a big impression. I don't think that is what God wants from most of us besides which for many people worldly success can be spiritually destructive. All you have to do is keep on keeping on in faith and love and anchor the word firmly within yourself. Your growing consciousness will then help to lighten the spiritual equivalent of the collective unconsciousness and in this way aid in the illumination of other souls.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Monarchy and God

No one can deny that the Queen's funeral was a magnificent spectacle of ceremony and ritual, deeply moving in its solemnity. One also has to admire the organisational skills that pulled it off so well even if plans for it will have been prepared long ago. It's the sort of event that the British like to say they still do better than anyone else and that is probably true.

But what does it all mean? On one level what it means is obvious. The monarch receives the right to rule from God. He or she derives power and authority from the creative centre of the universe which, ultimately, is the only place that power and authority reside. This is lent and must be returned as was symbolically demonstrated at the end of the ceremony in St George's Chapel when the royal crown, orb and sceptre were taken from the top of the Queen's coffin and placed on the High Altar. She then became an ordinary person and returns to God as just another soul to be judged according to her spiritual state. Her power and authority as monarch pass to her successor.

That's what it means. In the Western view of kingship as brought to a peak during the Middle Ages the king reigns because he has been chosen by God but this is not just a medieval tradition. Everywhere we see the same pattern repeated. From Egyptian Pharaohs to Chinese and Aztec Emperors the king rules because of divine right which means he reigns as God's Regent. Without God his power is maintained only by force or subterfuge or the will of the people who are notoriously fickle and easily manipulated.

Isn't that where we are now? Despite the religious ceremony being absolutely central to everything that has just taken place the great bulk of the crowds who thronged the streets of London over the last few days, and the even greater number of people who watched on television in their homes, do not believe in God except, possibly, in a vaguely sentimental manner. But they don't believe in a way that makes a fundamental difference to the manner in which they lead their lives or to their attitudes to everything else. Some of them might fit God in somewhere but for few of them is he all that really matters. But this is what the ceremony is saying. This is what the fact of a monarch means. The monarch is nothing without God.

Perhaps the people flocked to the funeral procession because they feel the absence of God. So runs a certain type of well-meaning opinion but frankly I am impatient with this line of thinking. If the people feel God's absence they don't feel it nearly enough or they wouldn't behave as they do the rest of the time, happily swallowing all the nostrums of secular materialism and turning their backs on God except when convenient. We are a society of God rejecters and indulging in a few emotions in the face of death does not change that or make us worthier people. It's no good pointing to the reaction of the crowds as proof that religious belief persists underneath it all. Something like it may come out at odd moments but it will be firmly put away again almost immediately.

The points I make here do not mean I am against monarchy, even a monarchy which, as now, has become to all practical purposes severed from its roots in God and absorbed by the System. The situation is similar to that of the Christian churches which have also lost touch with their divine source. Even if the monarchy, like the churches, has been infiltrated, if not taken over, by forces antithetical to true spiritual growth (though one might well say when was that not the case?) it is probably still better to have something that preserves an opening to higher power than one which does not which is the case with purely political forms of governance. 

That having been said, every once sacred institution in our world has  lost spiritual authority. Some survive even when their true animating principle is neglected. The British monarchy is one of these. Let all those who claim to have been moved by the life of the late Queen and the idea of monarchy over the last week look behind the spectacle to see where the roots of these things might lie. If you don't follow these roots to their source, which is in divine being, and then change your life accordingly ask yourself to what were you actually responding?

Added note: Although I do recognise the theoretical value of monarchy compared to materialistic political forms of governance it has to be said that there is no effective difference nowadays between a monarchy and a republic. How is the UK in any way different to anywhere else? It isn't. The fact is that the monarchy in Britain is simply decorative and hasn't prevented the takeover of society by materialistic, secular forces. It could even be said to enable that because it gives the pretence that it hasn't happened and that things are carrying on as they traditionally did. This may well be why the monarchy is permitted to continue in existence. 

Friday, 16 September 2022

Monarchy in the 21st Century

 I sympathise with all those who are upset over the death of Queen Elizabeth II but, at the same time, look forward with optimism to the reign of the new King. The modern world has chased all magic and mystery away from life and we must take them where we can find them for the human soul is such that we need these things. They call to the essence of our being and when they are denied, as now, we feel their loss acutely even if we can't articulate just what it is that has been lost. What has really been lost is, of course, the sense of the reality of the spiritual. 

The British monarchy stretches back a thousand years into the distant past and provides a link to history and tradition in a world where nothing has deep roots or lasts long. The pageantry that defines the monarchy, its hierarchical dignity, the ceremony and ritual that surround it, all these can satisfy the soul in a world in which everything else is materialistic. Religion is meaningless for most people now and monarchy can fill the hole in the psyche that the absence of religion leaves behind. At least, it is one of the few things that might seem to do that. In truth it can only fill a tiny fraction of that hole.

So I do sympathise with the many people who express their support for the monarchy in the wake of the Queen's death. But I can't share their emotions and for two reasons. The first is that monarchy is fairly meaningless without God above it to back it up and give it its fundamental raison d'ĂȘtre. All the ritual is centred in the reality of God. Take him away and it is just theatricals. But he is not taken away, you might protest. He is right there with the altar and the archbishop and the services and the cathedrals. No, he is not there. The words are there, the outer form is there but the spirit is not there. Some of the participants in these ceremonies may be believers according to their own lights, as the Queen is said to have been, but in what do they actually believe? A tradition, an historical idea, a set of ethics, the doctrines of an official religion? Or do they believe in the living God who animates their own soul and do they demonstrate that belief in everything they say and do? Believing in God is not enough. You must love God which means love truth. I know no one can judge the state of another's soul and I do not pretend to do such but the evidence indicates that most religious people accept the world on its own terms and that to me makes them unbelievers. You cannot believe in God and accept the world. You cannot serve two masters.

The second cause for my reservations concerns the personalities of the deceased Queen and her son Charles. The Queen cannot be faulted. She served her country faithfully for 70 years. She never put a foot wrong. Her moral character cannot be questioned. This is what people say and I don't dispute it. But I would say that despite her obvious qualities she appeared to be entirely passive in the face of massive spiritual degradation. Maybe she said and did things behind the scenes but if so she was remarkably ineffective, given the spiritual situation in the UK today. Under her watch the Royal Family became all show and no substance. She went along with every change in the country including what amounts to a loss of sovereignty, the conversion of the Church of England into a branch of secular liberalism and the radical restructuring of the population. The fact that her nation and her Church are in a much worse state spiritually at her death than when she ascended the throne cannot be blamed on her personally but as far as the public is concerned she did nothing to arrest the slide downwards apart from carrying on behaving as she had been brought up to behave. On the credit side, her personal behaviour was impeccable. She did her duty to the end, acting with dignity at all times. She clearly impressed everyone who met her and not just because of her position. But how did the Queen use her role? To be brutal, as an opener of fetes. The purpose of the British Royal Family under the late Queen became simply to stay in business. It survives because most people agree that it is better than the alternative which is true enough as it does provide a link to a past rooted in God but when, in itself and as it is now, it really just seeks to be all things to all men what use is that? In reality, it has become just another arm, a traditionalist, anti-modern but really completely modernised arm, of the global elite basically used to absorb resistance to the more overt forms of globalism. King Charles claims to be a traditionalist (or even a Traditionalist) but he seems likely to go along with all the ongoing corruptions of the country and the West as a whole apart from some token opposition. Perhaps not. We shall see.

It's easy to criticise and I don't mean this as a personal attack. I recognise that the Queen had an impossible task and she was certainly a fair better monarch than her abdicating uncle would have been. But there is the sense that her main objective became to keep the family business running and if the soul of the country suffered in the meantime that was secondary. I am sure that personally she regretted many of the changes that came about during her reign but, even though she was only a constitutional monarch, she might have done a little more on the positive side to defend her nation from the depredations of the spiritual attack on it.

In 1965 on a gloomy day in January my father took my brother and me to line the streets in London for the funeral procession of Winston Churchill. I remember very little about it other than the grey clouds and the rain, both somehow fitting. My father felt this funeral marked something more than just the death of a man. It also signified the end of the British Empire and the ideals and beliefs that had governed that. This turned out to be the case. The death of Queen Elizabeth II can be taken as a similar marker of something. Despite what I say above, the Queen did at least hold the line, symbolically if in no other way. Now that she is gone we can expect, once the initial period of mourning is over, the last vestiges of the old ways to be swept away. If these were replaced by something better that would not be a problem for undoubtedly there is something better, but what these ways did at least have was a sense of the reality of something beyond this world, something to which this world should coordinate its being. The new ways are actively based on the rejection of that sense. The triumph of matter over spirit will continue and become even more entrenched in the human psyche. Whether there will eventually be a reaction to that remains to be seen but King Charles will have to go a lot further than he has if he is to be the figurehead of that reaction and not absorbed by the zeitgeist.

Sunday, 11 September 2022

All Authority is Now Corrupted

There has been some debate about authority, spiritual and temporal, and whether a good Christian should submit to it at all times, acknowledging authority as justified simply by virtue of it being there in the first place. I have a few thoughts about this but they come from someone who is not a member of any official branch of religion and consequently does not acknowledge anything in this world as having full spiritual authority so you may wish to reject them on those grounds.

What I would say is that this is a fallen world. You cannot assume that just because someone or something holds power that is in line with God's will, certainly not now when God is either denied outright or effectively denied because his commandments are disregarded even though he may be given nominal allegiance. 

Obedience to external authority is not a virtue unless that authority is worthy and even then it is not a virtue as such though it may be right. Humility is a virtue and rebelliousness is a vice but obedience in itself is neither good nor bad. Besides, the whole point of obedience in a spiritual sense is so that we may reach a stage where we have learnt to think for ourselves. It's like the stabilisers on a bicycle before you can ride. This is not to say that disobedience is a virtue for it clearly is not except in particular circumstances when it may be right. But obedience is for children. Necessary if the children are to grow as they should and be guided into the proper ways of being and behaviour but stifling and infantilising if persisted in or insisted on for too long.

Jesus told us that the devil was the prince or ruler of this world. I don't imagine he was telling us to obey this prince while we were in the world. At the very least, he was surely saying that power in this world cannot be assumed to be given by God, and looking at history how can we doubt that?

Actually, I do believe in obedience but obedience to the voice of God within ourselves.  You may ask, how can you know it's the voice of God? I reply you can't be certain but if it is and you obey it you will be given greater discernment whereas if you mistake your own self-will for the voice of God your mind will darken. By their fruits you will know them.

I had teachers whom I regard as spiritual authorities. They never asked for or expected obedience. They expected me to pay attention to what they said and if I had not they would have ceased to talk to me but they never asked me to think or do anything that did not make complete sense to me. I listened to them and I tried to apply their teachings because I respected them not because they were the authorities. They were authorities but that authority was rooted in truth as proper authority must be. If it is not (and can anyone really tell me that any authority is today?) then it is not spiritually legitimate and not only need it not be obeyed. It should not be obeyed because there is a higher authority.

We all need to obey the laws of the land except in extreme circumstances. But the greatest obedience is to God. He is ultimately the only authority and the only person we should obey. Yes, God delegates authority but in this present time the situation is that we are all being called to form a personal relationship with our Maker. How can we do that effectively if we listen to other voices?

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Adam's Peak

 I mentioned a couple of expeditions in the previous post about a trip to Sri Lanka. The first was to the ancient Buddhist capital of Polonnaruwa but the second was to an even more sacred site. This was Sri Pada, or Adam's Peak as it is popularly known, which is a mountain in the central highlands of the country that stands at just over 7,300 feet tall and has at its summit a footprint of the Buddha. Or theoretically so. If that is the case the Buddha must have been a big fellow as the footprint is over 5 feet long and 2 and a half feet wide. Besides which there is no record of him having visited Sri Lanka anyway. This has not stopped the mountain from being an important place of pilgrimage but then why should it? In spiritual terms imagination is more powerful than mundane fact because it points, or can point when correctly oriented, to higher truth.

The name Adam's Peak comes from an alternate belief. There is an old story that Ceylon was the location of the Garden of Eden and so this is not the Buddha's footprint but that of our original father Adam marking the first place he stood after being thrown out of Paradise. Perhaps the association with Eden comes from the fact that the area around the mountain is one in which the rubies, sapphires and emeralds that gave ancient Ceylon the name of Ratnadvipa, meaning the Island of Jewels, were to be found. The Hindus have their own version of the tale and identify the mark with Siva while Christians say that St Thomas stood there. This is actually the least unlikely story as St Thomas was the apostle who travelled to South India and might conceivably have come to Sri Lanka even if he probably didn't. Be that as it may, whoever/whatever made this mark on the mountain's peak the reality is that for members of all religions it is a place of great religious significance. 

Adam's Peak from a distance (from Wikipedia)

The idea is that you should start your climb in the early hours of the morning so that you reach the summit at sunrise for a spectacular view. We were staying at a hotel about 30 miles away and got up just after midnight to drive to a little town at the base of the mountain called Dalhousie which is where we were going to start our ascent though I believe there are other routes. It was mid May and the weather can be unpredictable then as it is the start of the monsoon season, the south-western one that is. Sri Lanka gets two monsoons, the south-western and the north east which comes in October/November. But as we started our ascent around 2am the weather was warm and pleasant. The climb was supposed to take around 3 hours and is about 2 and a half miles in length. It doesn't involve any actual climbing but parts are steep. There is a path at the beginning but, as far as I recall and this was 20 years ago so the details are a little blurred, at some point it turns into a stairway of 5,500 steps. Calling it a stairway is perhaps a little generous because it is very rough and ready and you need to be fairly fit to make the climb.

About halfway up there is a Japanese Peace Pagoda and this is where the ascent can get a bit more arduous. It is also where when I did my climb it began to rain. And rain. And continue to rain. We knew this was a possibility and my two companions had brought thin raincoat-like coverings to protect them but I only had a shirt which got soaked within 10 minutes. Having not much option, I decided to take this as one of the tests of pilgrimage and luckily it wasn't cold. There weren't many other people around either and this made the climb more enjoyable as you could imagine yourself to be fully embedded in the natural world. I have read that nowadays the climb can get very busy which, to my way of thinking, takes away the whole point of it.

What is the point? To climb a mountain is, in the religious sense, symbolic of the ascent to God. This ascent can be done with companions at the beginning  but as you progress you become more and more isolated until you are alone. This is right and proper. You cannot know God if you are distracted by anything else. As long as you are attached to any aspect of creation you will not fully encounter the Creator. The meeting with God, to be real, must be wholly personal and this means it is just you and him. Nothing else. Climbing a mountain is an outer representation of going to meet God. As you ascend you are stripped of your worldly accoutrements and so I felt the torrential rain was somehow fitting.

Unfortunately it also meant that when I got to the top I saw nothing like this.

Sunrise on Adam's Peak

We had timed it well enough and got there just before sunrise but the summit was wreathed in cloud and mist with nothing to be seen. Oh well, not all pilgrimages end in enlightenment. We saw the footprint which looked like a natural rock formation to me and you might say the end result wasn't worth the climb. But the climb itself was the reward, the sense of having made an effort to achieve something was the achievement itself and the way up the mountain certainly had its moments of beauty. The descent seemed much quicker than the climb and by the time we reached 'base camp' the rain had stopped. I, in fact, had taken my shirt off about halfway down the mountain, so sodden was it, so you might say I had indeed stripped myself down to the bare essentials as required by the rules of pilgrimage. Things don't always turn out in quite the way expected.

The mountain in good weather

Saturday, 3 September 2022

A Visit to Sri Lanka

 I haven't written much recently because I was finalising the By No Means Equal book, then I went on holiday and then had other matters to deal with. But most of all because I haven't felt particularly inspired though I use the word inspired in the loosest possible sense. Normally ideas occur to me either by popping into my head or else in response to something I have read or observed but recently the well has run dry. I could write (again) about the disastrous spiritual state of the world in which people are being ushered into thought prisons which become more constricted every day or I could write about the ongoing destruction of pretty much everything, but plenty of other people do that very well and at the moment I just don't feel like it. It's not that I have no hope but I have none that the world will right itself. It's much too far gone for that. It's hit the iceberg and is going down. My hope resides in God and that is where everyone's hope should be. It's not wrong to seek to make a better world and to cry out against the falsehoods and lies. Indeed, we must do this. But this world is a bridge not a destination and that's how we should ultimately regard it.

With all that in mind, I thought I might write about a trip I made in 2001 to Sri Lanka, a country I have visited several times. I was staying in an old colonial bungalow in a district just outside Colombo called Mount Lavinia, supposedly named after a dancing girl a 19th century British Governor of Ceylon fell in love with. I have great fondness for these old bungalows, having lived in one in South India. They may not be exactly beautiful but they are very aesthetically pleasing with their orange tiled roofs and pale yellow outer walls and high ceilings that keep you cool but also give the inner structure a sense of space and even grandeur. And you can't beat a good long verandah where you can sit and have a cold beer in the evening. Although there was now mains water at this bungalow there was also a well on the property and you could drop down a bucket and have a very refreshing wash in the morning if you so chose which I occasionally did.

My hosts had arranged a couple of expeditions and the first was to visit the ancient Buddhist capital of Polonnaruwa. To be honest, modern Buddhism in Sri Lanka is not particularly interesting to the average Westerner but Polonnaruwa, which I believe dates back in its origins to the 10th century, contains what are, in my opinion, among the finest works of Buddhist art.

These are all at the Gal Vihara which is a rock temple created in the 12th century that comprises four statues of the Buddha which have been carved out of the face of an outcrop of granite. The statues go in a line and are of a large seated Buddha, a smaller Buddha sitting inside a cave, a standing Buddha and a reclining Buddha, the last of which extends to 46 feet in length and is one of the largest statues in South Asia. It shows the Buddha in parinirvana which is final nirvana entered into after death. He is lying on his right side and resting his head on a cushion supported by his hand. The beauty of this statue and the peace it exudes are profound. You feel that the craftsmen who created it must themselves have been far advanced on the path to liberation. The delicate folds of the Buddha's gown and the grace of his posture are superbly represented in a material which, in its obdurate resistance, is almost the opposite of those soft and gentle qualities. Look at the flow of his left arm as it rests on his reclining body. Observe the serenity of his face even if it does seem slightly too well-fed!

When I visited the temple it was early morning and there was no one else about. The periods just after sunrise and just before sunset are, especially in the tropics, ones in which the world seems to be holding its breath and inwardly focused, attentive to the slightest whisper from the divine. The air is still and the mind finds it relatively easy to enter into the spacious calm that is the essence of Buddhism. I sat in front of the statue and let myself be absorbed by that calm. I am not a Buddhist but I have the greatest respect for the Buddha and his path. We say that Jesus was the only person born without the stain of sin but there is an innate goodness and purity to the Buddha which inspires reverence.

The standing statue is 23 feet tall. There is some debate about whether this is the Buddha or Ananda, his favourite disciple, due to the crossed arm pose which may signify a devotional attitude. I feel that the former is more likely and that the three main statues show the Buddha in various attitudes of enlightenment, sitting, standing, lying down. Ananda is usually shown shaven headed and does not have the characteristic long ear lobes of the Buddha which this statue does have. Also, why include Ananda when all the other statues are of the Buddha? No, this is surely the Buddha too though for me it is the least spiritually impressive of the three large statues but that is only because the other two are so extraordinary.

The one I was most moved by is the first going from left to right which is the way one approaches them. Here they all are in a row carved into a 170 foot length of rock which rises to about 30 feet high in the middle.

This is the Buddha sitting in classic meditation pose. He is about 15 feet high and sits in an alcove on a throne decorated with lions and thunderbolts. These are obscured in the first picture by the brickwork but they can be clearly seen in the second picture at the bottom. The presence of the thunderbolts or Vajras is interesting because it suggests a Tantric flavour. Sri Lankan Buddhism is Theravada which is early Buddhism before the development of the Mahayana but perhaps there was some influence from the reforming schools, some of which imported non-Buddhist themes and iconography into traditional Buddhism.

I sat for a while in front of the statue like the fellow in the picture above. There was a powerful sense of the wisdom and enlightenment of the Buddha, more than I have felt with any other Buddha figure and I have seen a few. The impassive serenity of the posture and facial features carved out of the pale grey rock streaked with darker colours across the body gave a sense of eternity and the feeling that this would remain even when the universe had crumbled into dust. Maybe not literally but as a state of consciousness it represents the underlying bedrock of being that existed before the awakening of the worlds and that will endure even when all forms of life are called back to their source.

That is the Buddhist view anyway and it is one to which I am deeply sympathetic while actually believing that creation is really an ongoing process and that, though outer forms may be destroyed, it is only so that new forms may be created that better express the higher states of consciousness into which life forms, aka human and other beings, evolve. Maybe the universe does experience what in Hinduism are called Days and Nights of Brahma, periods of manifestation and non-manifestation, but the seeds of the past are always retained during the Nights so that they may grow anew and to greater heights in the next cycle of creation. Nirvana is the Night of Brahma and it is the most profound state of being. But life is not just night. It is day too and Jesus, always depicted with his eyes open as opposed to the Buddha who has his eyes closed, calls us to active life in the glorious sunshine days of Creation.

Monday, 29 August 2022

The Gospels and Everything Else

  Since becoming interested in spiritual matters I have, as one easily can nowadays, investigated all sorts of  mystical and occult highways and byways. On a literary level, I mean. I have never belonged to any group or followed any outer teaching but I have read numerous books, both in an Eastern and Western vein, on the subjects of mysticism and occultism. Some, a few, have been inspiring, some have been insightful, some have been informative and some just recycle other books. But I have to say that nothing compares to the New Testament. Of course, to a large extent that is because of the figure of Jesus but it is also because the spiritual teachings in the Gospels are presented simply and within the context of a story. They are not philosophical or metaphysical or esoteric in form, though they are all these things to an extremely high degree in essence. They are presented as the expression of the personality of a man and this makes them living truths rather than intellectual statements. They go straight to the heart and soul instead of just feeding the mind.

I must admit I find a lot of the classics of occultism unreadable. I have tried The Secret Doctrine and the Alice Bailey books on several occasions but always given up faced with their turgid, repetitive style and habit of saying things fifteen times that need only be said once. In a word, they are dull. In two words, they are dull and verbose. Even Dion Fortune, who otherwise writes very readably, produced in The Cosmic Doctrine something only an ardent disciple convinced he is penetrating the secrets of the universe could plough through with enthusiasm. Maybe they are the secrets of the universe but like many occult tomes these and other books lack the inspirational and intuitively satisfactory qualities of true spiritual writing. These works remind me that all occultists fail unless they eventually renounce their occultism. That is because "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

The Gospels are stories, true stories, but still stories. The life of Jesus is commonly referred to as the greatest story ever told which it clearly is. Stories have the power to take us beyond the mental world we habitually live in to a higher reality. This is why the works of Tolkien have had such an impact and have been such a force for good. The Gospels are stories that speak to children of all ages, as are those of Tolkien. To be a child in the spiritual sense does not mean to be intellectually undeveloped but not to be limited by the intellect. Jesus did not say become children but become as children. There is a critical difference and I will end this brief post by leaving the reader to think about that.

Thursday, 25 August 2022

Illusion and Sin

 There are two valid approaches to the spiritual path. They are markedly different from one other and this means that the real path should incorporate them both. However, many people opt for one and ignore the other or else pay the other only a token acknowledgement. In the case of the second approach this is limiting but not spiritually deadly. In the case of the first approach, it can indeed be spiritually deadly. It seems that this first approach is becoming more popular these days, and part of the reason for that is is because it appeals more to the desire for power, spiritual power, personal power or just general self-expansion which latter term would include the expansion of consciousness. Desire for power motivates us all whether we admit to that or not. This is actually a good thing because we are meant to grow and increase but it becomes a bad thing when pressed into service by ego or the fallen self as it would be called in Christianity.

I wonder if the devil and his fellow fallen angels are really in hell. Don't be alarmed but hear me out! What I mean by this is to question whether these beings are subject to permanent pain, torture and suffering as would traditionally seem to be the case for the denizens of hell. I would speculate that many spiritually fallen souls do indeed experience these privations but the higher ranking beings in what C. S. Lewis wittily called the Lowerarchy may not. At least, they may not in the way we think. They will certainly suffer the loss of the proximity to God and be deprived in that respect but they may have means of anaesthetising this loss through artificial means rather as drugs can be painkillers. The devil can certainly bestow the sensation of expanded consciousness on human beings and by so doing lead them to thinking he is an angel of light. This is why one should always treat any supposed spiritual experience with circumspection. Does it foster love and humility or does it lead to inflation? If the devil can do this to humans, and he can, then it is reasonable to assume he can enter into such states himself. He is/was a great angel. He has lost much but not everything. He has lost God but not what he was himself or not all of it anyway. I think that the demons can steal spiritual energy and give themselves false spiritual 'highs'. This is part of the reason they attack humanity, to absorb light they can no longer absorb directly. The devil suffers on the true spiritual level but he may experience a high degree of consciousness, simply by virtue of what he is. He is a thief and he can steal spiritual goods though he can never hold on to them.

The reason for this digression is to illustrate the potential problems with one of the two approaches I mentioned earlier, the one I said is becoming more popular partly because of the power aspect but also because it draws the intellectual type of seeker who regards himself as halfway divine already. Jesus said we are gods but the devil also said that. There are gods and there are gods. There are gods in Christ and there are gods in Satan. Choose carefully which one you want to be. To be a god in Christ means to let Christ into your heart. You become a god through him. To be a god in Satan means to seek to become a god in your own right. You are divine. Godhood is your right because you already are God. This is the created being seeking to usurp the rights of the Creator. These rights are not yours but can only be bestowed by grace.

The two spiritual paths are illusion to enlightenment and sin to repentance. Many people today prefer the first because it asks less of them. They will admit that enlightenment requires the giving up of ego but they think this just means seeing through the impermanence or transience or illusionary nature of the ego state which fades away by itself in meditation or when higher states of consciousness are reached. Not so. Giving up ego is not an intellectual exercise and nor is the fallen self something that you just 'see through'. It requires genuine self-sacrifice and repentance of sin to defeat the ego. So much sin is unacknowledged by the seekers of enlightenment because they regard sin as part of illusion. It is not or, if it is, it is much more than simple ignorance. We live in a state of sin because we are fallen. No amount of wisdom or enlightenment will change that. It must be renounced through full repentance. This is the only water that washes away the stain of sin from the human heart. The seekers of enlightenment may attain higher states of consciousness, spiritual power (of a sort) and great knowledge. They will not attain union with God or heaven unless they repent their sins. And their spiritual accomplishments may well lead them deeper into sin if they are not careful. The devil doesn't just trap people with material wealth and power. He can also trap them with spiritual wealth and power. It is only the recognition that you are a sinner and repentance that can defeat him.

Those seeking enlightenment need to understand that they are sinners and the full implication of what that means. You cannot become divine merely by recognising your own true nature. You are potentially divine but can only become truly so as a gift from God, and that gift is only bestowed on those who fully abandon their fallen self in repentance. Of course, this is an ongoing process but God looks for the sincere heart and rewards that accordingly.

To point to the flaws in the search for enlightenment does not mean that search is wrong or sinful in itself. It is very necessary to see through illusion and to strive for higher understanding. But let this be done by the soul dedicated to Christ, one that recognises that any divinity we might acquire comes not from within ourselves but in and through him.

Monday, 15 August 2022

Growth Through Separation

I would like to relate a personal experience of mine to the wider experience of humanity as a whole over the last three centuries. It's not an exact analogy by any means but there are parallels which I find instructive.

Those who have read my Meeting the Masters book will know that from 1979 to 1999, a period of about 21 years, I was spoken to by spiritual beings who seemed to me then and I believe to be now the embodiment of wisdom and holiness. They instructed me in spiritual understanding and development though made clear that this was a long, slow process. That has turned out to be very true. They spoke through the medium of a man some 35 years older than myself. He was, as I was informed, taken out of his body during the procedure and one of them would then use his physical frame to speak to me. He, of course, had agreed to this. The voice was not the medium's, the manner was not his. It was quite literally another person or persons since more than one was involved over the years. I envisaged them as a group or extended family. They were all male except on a  couple of occasions when it was a female spirit who spoke. Even though these beings spoke through a man the female spirit was clearly female. I won't go into more detail here as it's all in the book except to say that this process started as a regular  and frequent occurrence but became much less regular and frequent as the years went by. I mention this because it brings me to the point I wish to make.

As anyone who studies myth and religious history will know, God or the gods were much closer to humanity in the past. The points of contact were many. It wasn't an everyday occurrence insofar as recorded history is concerned (it may have been in the very ancient unrecorded past) but it took place and did so on many levels. This decreased as time went by and by the time Jesus was born it seems to have been rare and exceptional. After the Incarnation it probably picked up a bit again but gradually over the centuries spiritual contact faded until it belonged only to the past. It was accepted as having taken place once but it didn't happen any more. Then, with the Enlightenment, it began to be doubted and was seen as belonging to the realm of imagination or even mental illness. This idea has taken a firmer hold until in the present day most of us regard any supposed contact with God or the gods as purely fictitious.

It is not fictitious. It happened but, by and large, it doesn't happen now. God has withdrawn from humanity and he has withdrawn so far that his existence is denied. We are unable to see that conditions have changed but we live in a different world to that of our ancestors, a different psychological world and, I believe, even a different physical world. It's the same as the child of 5 is the same person as the man of 50 but it is different as these two are also different.

So, God has withdrawn but why has he done this? Is it because of our wickedness? That would be a reasonable supposition but I don't think it is entirely correct. God has withdrawn to see how we get on without him. We have reached a certain stage in our unfoldment, one at which we have to start developing spiritual insight within ourselves. We couldn't do this if God were there holding our hand all the time. Therefore he withdraws to give us the opportunity to grow but also to see whether we will grow like this or whether we will refuse the opportunity. At the moment it seems as though most of us do reject God when he is not there to remind us of himself. We are failing the test of the heart. But perhaps as the situation changes and our material comforts are removed more of us may turn to God. He is merciful and will surely give us every chance to repent. At the same time, the repentance must be sincere. It must come from the heart.

The Masters spoke to me for around 21 years though this was substantially reduced as time went by. Their object was to awaken me spiritually but after a while I had to show that I could do this on my own. They acted as a bridge not a prop and once a certain stage was reached they left. Their medium then died. He was 79 and had done his work in this world. Before he died they told me they would still speak to me but on a spiritual level which means through impression. It was up to me to be receptive to this and to translate the impression as clearly and in as undistorted a form as possible. This was the test of my own inner discernment.

Something like this is happening to humanity. We are being encouraged to leave spiritual childhood and start to become spiritually responsible for ourselves. Humanity is going through a kind of initiation, both collectively and on an individual level. The collective initiation does not appear to be going well but the individual one depends entirely on you. Your individual success may even help the collective.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

A Testing Time

It's clear that we are in the middle of a serious spiritual examination. We will increasingly be given options and we will have to decide which side to align ourselves with. It will be a question of appearance and reality, with the good choice often seeming to the untutored eye to be the wrong choice, even the bad choice. And vice versa. This will work on the simple worldly/spiritual level but then it will become more refined. As you get through one fork in the road you will be faced with another. What sort of spiritual path do you choose? Why do you choose the one you choose? Your motive will be examined. Is it love of God, love of truth, or is it the wish to receive something, some spiritual possession, talent or power? Are you prepared to tread this path alone or with minimal support? You had better be prepared for that because it is what will be asked of you. In the later stages certainly but even at the beginning to an extent.

The point of the testing is twofold. Firstly, to see how the heart inclines and then to see how you are able to express that inclination. It's no good opting for God and then doing nothing much about it. I don't mean we should all go out preaching but our beliefs should translate into how we live our lives, whether that be on a large or, more usually, a small scale. It's the old demand for both faith and works, the inner connection must follow through to outer action even if that just means, as it will in most cases, living your normal daily life in the light of the reality of God rather than that of the world. Sometimes this may mean looking foolish in the eyes of the world. Sometimes it may even mean looking wicked.

As we do this we will be tested again. We believe in God, we live our lives according to the word of God and in the light of his truth. Most people don't do that and even some that think they do don't really. We see this. How do we react? With pride that we are the elect? That is very tempting even when we are intellectually aware of the trap. The only thing that will save us from this pride, which I must say is a perfectly normal and natural human reaction, is sincere love of God. That and watchfulness. And prayer. That's three things! The worm of pride lurks in every human soul. You can't escape it but you can be aware of it and being so aware will bring it out into the light where it can more easily be dealt with. But, as I say, the only thing that will really deal with it is raising your whole mental focus and attention up to God where it will shrivel and die. Obviously, I speak as someone still engaged in this process and certainly not as someone who has achieved it.

In the past salvation could be a collective thing. You belonged to a church or religion, you believed and you behaved according to that religion. Those days are past. This is another test. The spiritual path is much more of an individual thing now. In many way it always was as it must be since an individual is what we fundamentally are. However, that aspect was less emphasised. Now it is right up at the forefront of the spiritual endeavour. You cannot just join a collective, a church or religion, and hope to be taken along with it. You must forge your own path, make your own connection to God. Again, this was always the case to a degree but now it is paramount.

Look at what is to come as an opportunity. It's a chance to clear out the worldly trash and get our spiritual house in order. If our priorities are right this won't be too much of a challenge, and if they aren't it will help make them so!

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Behold, I Make all Things New

Egypt was once the centre of the highest spirituality on Earth but then it descended into a concern with magic and power and became the oppressive nation we know of from the time of Moses. Israel was once the focus of God's attention, a chosen nation that was the ground from which the Messiah was born, but then it too descended into materialism, corruption and legalism. Christianity was a religion that gave the believer direct access to the Son of God but it gradually lost power as too many of its leaders succumbed to this world, and now its outer structures remain in place but the fire burns low.

Nothing lasts in this world and that is truer than ever in our day which is a time of increasing destruction. There is no outer spiritual body that will save you if you put your trust in it. The time has come when all aspiring souls must strive for truth within themselves. They can still use the outer forms but they must not allow themselves to be restricted by them. I know there is a verse in the Bible in which Jesus says the gates of Hades will not overcome his church but almost immediately afterwards he calls Peter, Peter the rock on which he will build that church and whom he has just praised fulsomely, Satan! I don't think we can build an entire spiritual edifice on one verse particularly when it can't be certain what Jesus meant by the word 'church'.  And given the recent arguments about inner discernment and outer authority we should also note that Jesus commended Peter for knowing he was the Messiah because he had had that revealed to him not by flesh and blood (outer authority) but by his Father in Heaven (inner knowing). 

I have to say that some people seem to mistake the lamp for the light. You can have a beautiful lamp, made of gold and adorned with jewels and with finely polished glass so that it allows the light to pass through clearly and without obstruction. But it is still the lamp. What is more, the glass can get dirty unless it is regularly cleaned, even replaced when it gets old. When that happens those who look for light in a pure form may have to look elsewhere. Some light may still pass through discoloured glass but it is less than it was and to pretend otherwise will help no one. Those who look elsewhere may still value the lamp for its beauty and the light it continues to transmit but what they really seek is light and they will look for that wherever it may be.

Why do we come into this world? If it is just to obey an outer authority we could do that better in the higher worlds. But if it is to learn to become a real divine being then we have to reach inside ourselves to find the living God there. The church serves supremely as a bastion of tradition and authority but it is like a mother. The growing child cannot stay clinging to its mother or it will never grow. Naturally, it will always love and respect its mother but if it is to become a mature adult it must start taking responsibility for itself.

Those designated Romantic Christians merely believe that the sabbath was made for man not man for the sabbath. They see the Christian religion as a living thing but living things either grow or start to decay. No one is saying the church should adapt to modernity because that is tantamount to saying it should secularise itself which is more or less what the Church of England has done to its catastrophic loss. But that is changing in a negative sense. There is positive, creative change too that reflects a deeper engagement with spirit (rather than accommodating to the world) and that is all the Romantic Christians are interested in. Speaking as one who may be said to fall into that category, I would say RCs (no pun intended) love and respect the church but their real love is for Christ and they will seek him everywhere.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

More on Different Spiritual Priorities

 I am going to wade into turbulent waters again because I feel the need to say something about the ongoing disagreement between those who put their primary faith in intuition and those who put their faith in a church. Ideally there should be no disagreement because in a perfect world these would be exactly the same. Inner and outer would reflect each other completely. But this is not a perfect world. It's a fallen one and the fallen nature of the world corrupts both intuition and outer institutions. There is nothing perfect in our world. That is just a fact and one we have to deal with.

What this means is that we must have checks and balances for both the inner and the outer. This is as it should be. God wants us to grow but he wants us to grow properly. You know those little fences one puts around young saplings to make sure they grow straight and upright? This is tradition and authority. Without that fence the tree might not grow properly. But what if you leave the fence on too long? Then the tree won't grow properly either. It might be hemmed in and stunted. This analogy can't be pushed too far but what it means is that spiritual growth must be guided but it must also come from within.

Regarding churches, I must mention the accident of birth problem. Might it not be that those who are currently ardent upholders of Religion A might have been equally ardent upholders of Religion B had they been born in a different time and place? I have met Hindus and Muslims, especially the latter, who speak in very similar language to that used by the church Christians. They would say heaven or enlightenment or whatever they call it is only gained through adherence to certain customs and rituals belonging to their religion. I'm not saying all religions are equal because I don't believe that but this tendency of human nature should give us pause for thought. 

Romantic Christians, that is to say those who feel unable to give full allegiance to any outer church because they search for what to them is a more fundamental connection to God within, have been described as enemies of Christianity. All those I am aware of merely think that outer forms cannot contain the full measure of spirit and that the modern age is one in which that is particularly true. They see spiritual life as an evolutionary thing, growing and unfolding, not a static once and for all revelation that will never develop beyond where it is now. Of course, they acknowledge Jesus Christ as the foundation on which all truth rests but they do not necessarily think that Christianity, especially modern Christianity, contains all that Christ is. Do traditionalists think it does? They might counter that official Christianity contains enough of Christ for us here and now and that to look beyond it risks falling into deception. That is true enough as far as it goes but I firmly believe that Christ wants us to know as much of him as we can. He calls us to that. What lover is satisfied with just part of his beloved?

This looks like being another sad story of believers fighting each other instead of seeing that there are bigger fish to fry nowadays. If I were an atheist I would be having a good laugh. I might even feel my opinion validated. And I'll tell you something else of which I am absolutely sure. This debate is irrelevant to God because he looks at the heart. If the human heart is open to him and then seeks an honest and loving relationship with him, he is satisfied. It's all too easy to get distracted from that basic element of the spiritual life and focus on side issues.

The bottom line is that no one in this world has all the answers. We are all struggling and growing or should be. We also all have the tendency to spiritual pride and I don't say this lightly. We all do, but as long as we measure ourselves against the reality of Christ and strive to follow him in our hearts and minds then outer disagreements should not be so important. Certainly some disagreements are fundamental and cannot be overcome. Peace at any cost is no answer to anything. But I also think each side in this debate should acknowledge the sincerity of the other even when they disagree with them. After all, no one proposes a radical reassessment of the great bulk of what Jesus taught. It really just boils down to couple of verses of the Bible, Matthew 16:18-19, and whether to take them absolutely literally. To me to do that seems almost totalitarian and not like the Jesus of the rest of the gospels at all. I could be making a mistake but if I am it is motivated by a desire for truth so I would hope to be forgiven.

Monday, 1 August 2022

On Romantic and Church Christianity

 There has been some to-ing and fro-ing online about the differences between so called Romantic Christianity and traditional Christianity. I haven't followed it all but I think this boils down to whether inner discernment trumps outer authority or vice versa. My first reaction is to say that both are necessary. There probably wouldn't be much inner discernment if we had no tradition, no scripture and no religious teaching to bring it out and help give it form. On the other hand, following authority without bringing that alive through inner discernment leads to dead legalism.

I personally don't regard Romantic Christianity as fundamentally different to traditional Christianity but it follows the way of John more than that of Peter. I fully acknowledge the risk of heresy with a more mystical approach that prioritises inner awareness but I think that is a risk we have to take if we are concerned with theosis as well as salvation. Christ calls us to become like him. This really does demand going beyond outer authority and treading the inner path. That in turn requires a correspondingly greater degree of honesty and humility to avoid going off the spiritual rails but it is somewhat similar to swimming when out of your depth. You have to take your feet off the ground for which read the support of traditional authority. That is still there but if you are really going to be a good swimmer then you have to strike out on your own.

From the real spiritual point of view, where is authority located? In the church or in God? Don't tell me they are the same because they really are not. The church may have authority from God to save souls but it does not begin to contain all that God is and it can, as we have surely seen recently, lose connection to the Holy Spirit. It is that connection that the Romantic Christians wish to establish in their own hearts and minds. Yes, the church is the custodian of sacred truth and it preserves that for all humanity but is it not possible that an excessive adherence to the body of Christ can, at certain times, lead to a loss of connection to his spirit? I believe this is one of those times.

Having said that, I sympathise with both sides in this debate. I see this matter as a question of balance, balance between inner and outer though, probably because I was brought up a Protestant, the outer for me is more scripture than a church. I also believe that this argument is not so important to God. He looks at the heart. If this is correctly oriented to goodness and truth in the form of Jesus Christ then outer differences, even (hold your breath) certain (not all, of course) heresies don't matter.

People who should be natural allies in the face of great contemporary worldly evil can disagree but should not fall out. Religious history is scarred by believers fighting among themselves. Absolutely one must defend truth as one sees it but we should also be able to tell if someone is spiritually at fault or merely intellectually so or even just focusing on a different aspect of truth which inevitably is far greater than any one of us can encompass. Can those who see faithfulness to the church as primary not see that others, equally faithful to God, might need to establish the inner connection we spoke of above and treat that as fundamental? Equally, can the latter not see that heresies and false spiritualities abound, particularly when spiritual seekers go freelance, and that part of the function of tradition is to defend humanity against that? It's all about balance, I tell you.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Saints, Then and Now

In this piece I am using the word saints simply to mean individuals who are serious about leading the spiritual life. I do not refer to those who might be considered perfected in holiness but those who, like myself and I presume anyone reading this blog, are souls walking the path to God who regard that path as the true meaning and purpose of life but who have some way to go before reaching its end. So, really just believers but true and sincere believers. Disciples or aspiring, but certainly not realised, saints in the more conventional use of the word.

There have been times in human history when religious practice demanded great feats of asceticism and devotion. In ancient India the rishis performed prodigious feats of tapas which were harsh spiritual practices of austerity and penance that deprived both body and mind of any worldly comfort. The early Christian martyrs gave up everything for their faith, up to and including their lives. In the context of the times this may have been necessary. Life was much more physical then and sacrifice was therefore more focused on the physical and material. Spiritual growth and discipline always involve sacrifice of some sort. It is the renunciation of the worldly part of our nature in order to allow the spiritual to come through. Just because this can be taken too far and seen as important in itself does not mean it is not necessary to some degree.

These times are not like those of the past. The martyrs and the ancient yogis in their different ways suffered and were tested physically. I once met a man in the jungle in India who had remained standing for 20 years. He had a bar to lean on but he never sat or lay down. I found this impressive but pointless. I hope he benefited in some way but it's hard to see how. In 7th century Northumbria St Cuthbert would wade out into the bitterly cold North Sea every night until the water reached up to his neck. There he would chant hymns to God until dawn. In earlier times this may have been a way of conquering the worldly nature for a heroic temperament but now the battle has moved to the mind. That is not to say the battle was not always focused in the mind but it may be that the mind could be overcome by overcoming the body in those days. That is not the case now which is not to say we should not be abstemious in our habits and behaviour. But we need not go to extremes.

Earlier times also saw mystics and seekers of God engage in prayer and meditation for very long periods. This again was a way of conquering the worldly nature and attuning the soul to higher things but I don't believe it is necessary or even desirable nowadays. Perhaps on a retreat but not as a way of living. The present time is just so materialistic, meaning both the mainstream attitude to it and the actual environment itself, that living in this way is not really possible. We should try to keep God in mind as a subliminal presence at all times but for those of us living in the world full and complete focus during all waking hours is not really possible.

Nonetheless, we are being tested and we are being asked to perform feats of mental endurance. The test is psychological in nature and it is a matter of discernment. The endurance is in resisting the extreme spiritual evil of the present time. We are bombarded with anti-spiritual messages from every side but we have to find the mental and spiritual resilience within to counter this. We may have some help from outside, from scripture, from tradition, from religion, but these on their own will not be sufficient. We cannot rely on them alone because the world is such that it can co-opt them to its side. Not really, of course, but it can put up a good impression of having done so which may well deceive us unless we are alive to the truth within. Outer structures can help but they need positive reinforcement from our own inner connection to God so that the truth within them can grow and blossom in our hearts as it should. 

Think of religion as a musical score. To make the music in that score audible we have to learn how to read music and also how to play an instrument. The musician needs the score but he also needs to know how to play. This is the balance we require now between outer and inner, between tradition and personal awareness. Of course, a good musician goes beyond just reproducing the notes to make the music come properly alive. This is what the saint is trying to do with the soul.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

A Body of Slag

 Bruce Charlton recently pointed me towards an article by the philosopher Jeremy Naydler in which he describes what he calls the emergence of the Eighth Sphere. This is based on an idea of Rudolf Steiner's concerning the evolution of the Earth. The details are complicated but for our purposes here one just needs to know that, according to Steiner and other esotericists too for that matter, our planet has descended from a pure spiritual state to ever denser forms in which matter has 'hardened' until we have arrived where we are now. This all accompanies, indeed it facilitates, the evolution of consciousness which gradually separates out from unconscious oneness with the whole to a more individual form before returning to the source but with the fruits of the journey which would include freedom and creative ability. 

This is broadly in line with what I believe though my belief takes a simpler form. The whole spiritual path concerns re-ascending from matter to spirit though life first had to be brought to the point at which it could do this of its own volition and in full consciousness which means the descent to matter was all part of the evolutionary journey. There would have been times in the distant past when a form of materialism was actually conducive to overall evolution. One can see the mystery of sex as part of that. These times, needless to say, are long past and any return to those ways is atavistic in the extreme.

Now is the time of greatest immersion in matter. It's the nadir of the arc which means reascending is critical. However, it is not inevitable. The reascent can take place either individually or collectively. It should take place on both levels but we can only control the former. This is now an extremely important time in the ongoing evolutionary cycle of the Earth. If enough people reject materialism and turn to the divine we, the human race and the planet as well, can begin to spiritualise ourselves. The environment will respond to that and change, becoming more rarified. On the other hand, if we, or enough of us, do not do that the descent will continue until in Naydler's words 'a "body of slag" will be cast off from the Earth as the latter transitions to a higher spiritual state". What this implies is a kind of split in planetary consciousness with those who are open to God ascending in one purified planetary environment while those who cling to their materialistic ways will descend to a more materialistic, denser environment that reflects their own consciousness. It is a parting of the ways. What matters here is not simply a matter of good and bad as we consider those qualities now. Selfishness is certainly part of it but it is also a materialistic attitude to life. Many who see themselves as upright decent citizens will descend if they remain closed to God. Some sinners will rise if they are sincerely open to God.

Think of human life as a stream moving towards a rock. Part of that stream will go to one side of the rock and continue on its way to the sea. The other part will go to the other side and enter a crack in the ground from where it will descend to a subterranean lake. The rock is becoming visible. We need to start getting ourselves in place so that we do not consign ourselves to the body of slag for note this. Nobody or nothing does this to us. Our own consciousness will determine our external environment.

Slag is the waste product that is separated out from metal ore when it is refined. It is a chilling description for human souls that don't make the grade but while God is love he is not sentimental. The essence of the human condition is that we are free. If we advance a small way towards God he will come a long way towards us but we have to make the initial approach. If we don't we cannot be forced. I would not compare the body of slag to hell, though it may be hellish, because I believe that there will be opportunities to rise again even from that state. But it will be much harder. Souls that find themselves there will be that much further separated from real goodness and truth. Everything will be heavier, darker, duller. The time is coming when the rejection of God will have profound consequences.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022

In Praise of the Esoteric

 There's a fair amount of Libra in my birth chart - Mercury and Venus are both there as is Neptune. Maybe that's why I usually try to look at both sides of a question. With that in mind this post is going to be about the importance of esoteric understanding if one wants to make real spiritual progress. It is neither sufficient nor necessary for salvation but it is very helpful and, though the intellectual mind is not the key to unlocking the door of spiritual truth, it can certainly guide the key to the lock.

Faith and knowledge are often separated and regarded as almost in opposition but I see them as twins with each one both complementing and deepening the other. Without faith knowledge is dry and spiritually sterile. Without knowledge faith can be impotent and immature and rooted in ignorance. Ignorance is never good. It will likely lead to error and then becomes faith in what is false. What use is that?

Esoteric teachings are simply a guide to the higher aspects of the human being, where we have come from, where we should be going and how we get there from here. Then they describe the spiritual structure of the universe. They are, properly considered, the knowledge aspect of religion and so are a form of spiritual science. Like material science they can be abused but in themselves they are good because they are founded on truth though I would add the strict proviso that any teaching calling itself esoteric needs to be subjected to the rigour of intuition, common sense and cast in the light of the reality of Christ. If it conflicts with the latter, it can be rejected.

There may have been a time when knowledge of the higher worlds was relatively unimportant for the work we need to do in this world to grow and develop spiritually but now human beings have evolved their minds and the mind needs to be catered for. It must have food. If it does not have real knowledge it will have false knowledge and it will act according to that in ways that would not have been possible before as it has more agency. Therefore, you could say that esoteric understanding has become more important. A developing mind has to have something to know. 

Moreover, there is a God-given impulse in the mind pushing it towards growth. We need to understand. We are in fact obliged to understand and esoteric teachings provide some form of understanding. They are not perfect because we are still very limited beings but we are growing towards the light and esoteric teachings can be a kind of fertiliser that help us to grow. As long, that is, as they are balanced by growth in the spiritual and moral sense. I refer back to the previous post.

Monday, 18 July 2022

The Temptation of the Esoteric

 Ancient mysteries, hidden secrets, the wisdom of the ancients. Whose imagination isn't stirred by the idea of arcane knowledge preserved from initiates of the distant past? The magic of Egypt, the mysticism of India, the occultism of Tibet can all be powerful drugs to the questing mind seeking to penetrate the veil between this world and the next. It's intoxicating stuff and there undoubtedly is a reality behind it all. It's not just dreams and fantasy. There is a real substance to it. But is it what spirituality is actually about, especially for us here and now in the modern West?

It's just a coincidence but esoteric and exotic do sound very similar. And it's not just the words that are alike. They both conjure up the sense of something fascinating and strange that can open up unsuspected new areas of experience. They can take you beyond the mundane and everyday and give you a feeling of superiority over ordinary people if you explore or even possess them. 

Wise teachers have always warned of the difference between magic and religion. The esoteric, even if it is spiritually focused, has much in common with magic in that it is to do with knowledge and power. It certainly appeals to those who hunger for these things and who may be motivated by that hunger. But I am always reminded of something the Masters said to me. Spiritual truth is simple but it is easy to get lost in philosophical speculations which lead nowhere. And not just philosophical speculations. Anything that is not inspired by the love of God is a spiritual sidetrack, and the esotericist is often a long way from simple faith and worship, using the word worship in what I regard as its proper sense which is loving God.

Everything changed with the advent of Christ. I appreciate this more and more as the world sinks further into spiritual darkness and Christ is neglected not just by the people but often by the churches that preach in his name  Before his time there were many forms of spirituality and they could open doors into the unknown for the qualified initiate. But they did not lead to Heaven. Those who go back to the past without fully accepting Christ are not revivifying ancient teachings that will give them access to the Mysteries. The spirit has departed from them. It was once present but is no longer and though you may be able to recreate a simulacrum of the once living and vital truth embodied by these spiritual forms, you will not find the living truth itself. That is now in Christ.

I don't know much about Freemasonry but I suspect this is why it is condemned by the Catholic Church. No doubt there is a kernel of esoteric wisdom behind its ceremonies and rituals, possibly passed down from ancient Egypt though it will have travelled a long way and perhaps been subject to the Chinese whispers effect. Nevertheless, I expect there is something there. But if Christ is not there, and as far as I can tell he isn't, that renders the whole enterprise suspect. Hidden truth without Christ is not truth. Moreover, in the case of Freemasonry, it has always been too concerned with building a New World Order. There is a definite whiff of the Tower of Babel about it.

I am not condemning the esoteric. We are called to knowledge and we should seek it out. That is our destiny and our spiritual duty. Greater knowledge will enable us to interact with both God and the universe on a deeper level. I myself have explored esoteric teachings for over 40 years as is easy nowadays when so much has been published and made widely available to anyone who can read. But I do say that if we do this we should always do it under the banner of Christ or we risk falling into illusion and worse. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Raphael and the Renaissance

 I have a book which was first published in 1932 called Through the Eyes of the Masters. It was written by David Anrias which is the pen name of someone called Brian Ross, and it purports to be telepathically received communications from the Theosophical Masters on various subjects. It's an intriguing book but I'm not convinced any more than I am convinced by the Theosophical Masters themselves though I do find Theosophical teachings interesting albeit with quite a few reservations, the chief of which, of course, being the diminishment of Christ. 

Anyway, one of these communications is from someone known as the Venetian Master who, we are told, was the painter Paolo Veronese in a previous life. Maybe. But he says something about Renaissance art which came to my mind recently and I will quote it here. He says that "the religious element was imposed upon the consciousness of the painter by extraneous conditions rather than arising from real spiritual experience. Such religious scenes and emotions as he attempted to convey were usually conventional and stereotyped though exquisitely painted in the tradition of the period."

I was reminded of this because on Monday I went to the National Gallery in London to see the current exhibition on Raphael. It was far too hot for such an escapade which involved me walking a couple of miles in the midday sun with temperatures of 31 degrees (87 in old money) but that's another story. The point I wish to make is that I found the paintings in the exhibition, against expectations, rather dull. I went through the whole exhibition in about 15 minutes before cheering myself up with some 17th century Dutch landscapes in the main gallery which were more to my taste.

What's the problem here? For me it is captured by the quote above. The paintings were mostly of religious subjects and they were indeed exquisitely painted. But I found them quite uninspiring to look at. The faces were bland and conventional and the general depiction of the subject had no depth or feeling. I was surprised because I thought I liked Raphael. There was a reproduction of The School of Athens there and that was impressive but the great majority of pictures had nothing to say (in my view). I'm sure they are technical masterpieces but that is not enough if they don't use that mastery to offer something more, and for me they just don't.

When I was young and more interested in art than I am now I appreciated the pre-Raphaelites. I couldn't remember what it was they didn't like about Raphael so I looked it up. Wikipedia tells me that they believed the "classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael were a corrupting influence" on art. I suppose this means he favoured style over substance and that is more or less what I felt on my visit.

I may just have been in the wrong frame of mind. It was very hot and shortly before my visit I had eaten a stale croissant washed down with an over-priced cup of bad coffee. But that's not all there was to it. I enjoyed the Dutch landscapes and still lifes (lives?) I saw afterwards. These seemed to have a lot more depth to them and really capture something of the inner truth of the subject. Raphael's art has a certain serenity and is undoubtedly exquisite but that word implies a surface level bland beauty and that is what I saw in his work. Perhaps the problem was the lack of variety when so many are seen together and he might be better appreciated if one just saw one or two paintings in which case the smooth perfection might not pall.

The Madonna of the Pinks. A beautiful painting but could it also be rather bland?

The Renaissance was a restoration of Classical humanism. When it treated religious subjects it played down the hieratic quality you find in medieval art. It brought them closer to the everyday human but by removing distance it also lost the sense of the sacred. I don't feel about Raphael as I feel about Leonardo but nor do I feel his painting has any of the spiritual intensity of, say, Albrecht Durer to take an almost exact contemporary, and as far as the pictures in the exhibition go he well illustrates the spiritual loss incurred by Renaissance humanism.