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.