Sunday 30 June 2024

Spiritual Crisis

A few years ago I wrote a book called The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man (see here and here) which was largely based on essays from this blog arranged thematically. The crisis has obviously intensified since 2019 when the book was published but its nature has not changed. It concerns humanity's rejection of God which has the effect of leading people to search for meaning in false paths, some political, some supposedly spiritual through the attempted deification of the human self, and some just plain hedonistic. That's to name just a few of the wrong directions in which people may go when they turn away from the path of truth and reality.

The events of 2020 could not have happened, certainly not to the extent they did, in a world in which people acknowledged God. To acknowledge God does not just mean you accept a higher power in which all truth is centred and from which it derives. It means you perceive a meaning and a purpose and goal beyond this world which, let's face it and despite its many beauties, is a distinctly unsatisfying place if it represents the sum total of existence. But surely we should know we are not the body and if we are not the body then this world is not all there is and if that is the case then there must be more, something more real that lies behind it. 

We should know we are not the body for many reasons but one simple one is that we speak of 'my' body. That means we recognise that the 'I' lies elsewhere. It is not the product of the body or physically derived but uses the body as part of its experience and means to express itself. Think of your body. It really is just flesh and bone and blood, and surely it should be obvious we are more than that. Obvious as in known unless we are bamboozled by intellectual sophistries. This is not to denigrate the physical body which is currently part of the totality of our being but it is only part and by no means the central part. If people had understood this then they would not have allowed themselves to be panicked by officious bureaucrats and a cravenly compliant media into a quasi-totalitarian situation with an unnecessary and potentially dangerous medical intervention presented as the only escape route. But most people succumbed to the propaganda and they did so because of fear. It was a test which the majority failed. The medical crisis, assuming there ever really was one which is highly doubtful, has passed but the groundwork has been laid for human beings to have their freedom taken away again at some future date. When something has happened once it becomes much easier to do it again. If it's been done before there is precedent so we are less inclined to question it the next time.

Human beings are so constituted that we can accept or deny reality. We have the freedom to do that. But if we make the wrong choice, there are inevitable consequences as in cause and effect consequences. These may not be obvious straightaway but they will become increasingly apparent. Such is our situation. We have turned away from reality and at first there may even have seemed to be the illusion of greater freedom after doing that. There is also a certain freedom if you jump out of a window. However, the law of gravity cannot be ignored and we descend in this certain freedom until we hit the ground. So it is in a spiritual sense. We are falling and the only way to avoid a crash is to learn to fly which basically means return to the acknowledgment of God who alone can save us from a hard landing. I am speaking metaphorically, of course. Suffering in the material sense is not circumvented by faith and spiritual suffering often increases as that is part of the purificatory operation on the soul. But these are transitory and have an ultimately beneficial purpose. The suffering that comes from the rejection of God has no purpose. It is just the negative consequence of denying truth and it does not lead to joy.

Why does one deny truth? Some people might claim that it is an intellectual matter but that is either too simplistic or else an excuse for the failure to exercise proper spiritual responsibility. The true answer lies in the will. The will is sovereign. It is the one thing that is entirely our own and part of the reason for our life in this material world is to test it in an environment where there is no coercion. The current spiritual crisis may in part be seen as the inevitable consequence of a cycle reaching its conclusion when material clouds have thickened to such a degree that the spiritual sun is almost completely obscured. But even when you cannot see the sun its light is perceptible and so it is now. The light of God may be obscured but it is still present and we should know that without that light we could not see anything at all. The current crisis, which is now in the process of moving from simple crisis to actual madness, is to bring things to a head. Use the situation in the world today as a springboard to push against and return to God.

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Spurious Spirituality

Any form of spirituality which doesn't recognise the powerful presence of evil in the world today is a false path. Any approach to God which ignores the pronounced spiritual evil of the present time is not just deficient but ignorant and not just ignorant but very possibly part of the evil itself, either directly or through a kind of coercive absorption. If you don't recognise this it may be that you too are on the side of evil, even if that is only passively so, and that is because of a spiritual lack within you.

What an 'unspiritual' and unloving thing to say! We should tolerate many different approaches and no one of them is better than another if they all seek the same end. So it is said. But this is the problem. People have been so disarmed by the thought of love and kindness that they forget that God's mercy must always be accompanied by his justice or it is just sentimentality. Love needs truth or it is not real love.

So many people who think of themselves as spiritual, and who may indeed practise some kind of spiritual discipline, have no awareness of modern evil, and even consider some of its aspects positive goods. This is because instead of submitting the self to God, they try to make that self emotionally and psychologically comfortable or enlightened without repentance. For repentance you need to be able to see yourself as the fallen sinner you are. These are emotive words but the fact is there is no spirituality without repentance, and repentance requires a ruthless honesty with oneself. You are not seeking to gain something (the true motive of many spiritual seekers), but to redirect the will.

Are the teachings that promote unity, love and doing good to one's neighbour part of a grand spiritual deception now in the 21st century? That may seem an absurd idea but half-truths are often worse than outright lies because they use the sweetness of the apple to smuggle in the putrefaction of the worm. They use the legitimacy of truth to veil a hidden corruption and the corruption here is that we can separate goodness, light and love from their source which is God or Christ. We cannot.

There is no genuine spiritual awareness without the acknowledgement that we of ourselves are nothing. All is from God and God is not an impersonal cosmic energy that we can tap into and exploit if we look deeply within ourselves, but the living, breathing God (yes, God has breath, what do you think spirit is?) who is our Creator. We are not the source of any love we might feel. That derives from God and if its source is not recognised then, guess what, it is not real love but a cheap facsimile of it.

When I was a worldly adult I thought like a worldly adult. I spoke like one and I reasoned like one. But now is the time to put away the grown-up things of this world and become as a child. What are we looking for? Peace, love, happiness or God? We will only have the gifts of God in the full and real sense when we have God himself and to have God you must want him more than his gifts. Motivation is key. 

Thursday 20 June 2024

I Am a Christian but...

 I'm not only a Christian. There is part of me that is pagan, particularly Greek, Celtic and Norse, and part that is Hindu and part Buddhist. Part of me is an ancient Egyptian living in the space between the bright blue sky and hot yellow sand and part a Chinese sage secluded in misty hills, and there are other parts too. Anywhere there is beauty and wisdom is somewhere to which I feel that, in some measure, I belong. 

All this is true and all of it matters to me. I would not be without any of it which, I suppose, is a privilege of our otherwise spiritually benighted times in which we have easy access to the whole of history. Nonetheless, although I respond to and have absorbed many different influences, they are all assimilated into and subsumed by a fundamental Christianity. It is against Christ that everything is measured, and where there is any contradiction between him and it, he conquers. Other tributaries can flow into the Christian river but the source of that river is Christ and its flow is directed towards the Kingdom of Heaven where he is king.

Like many people of my generation who engaged in the spiritual search I went away from conventional Christianity to explore other traditions, though that was always on the outside looking in as my main path was as described in my first book from which the title of this blog was borrowed. I learnt much from these encounters and they deepened my understanding of the spiritual world. They also helped me engage with Christianity on a more profound level when I returned to it as in the familiar words of T.S. Eliot in his poem "Little Gidding".

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

So, although I now regard myself as a Christian in a fuller sense than I ever was, my appreciation of the spiritual path has certainly been enhanced by other approaches to it. I think we can all benefit from this though I wouldn't say it is in anyway necessary. I am aware of the old jibe that interest in comparative religion makes you comparatively religious, but what I am talking about is not comparative religion but a serious exploration of the richness of spiritual life in its many guises.  God has revealed himself fully only once but he has left traces of himself in many places. 

Saturday 15 June 2024

Cosmic Order

 Ma'at and Ṛta are two words signifying concepts whose meaning we have almost completely lost today. The first comes from ancient Egypt, the second from ancient India and they mean more or less the same thing which is truth, universal order or simply that which is right. The cosmos is built on these things and the earthly state or nation should reflect that as should the microcosm, the inner state of the human being. The human soul should conform to Ma'at if it is to walk the correct path and the nation must be based on its principles if it is to be favoured by the gods and prosper. As soon as these principles are deserted because of human corruption or sin or for whatever reason, the benevolence of the gods will be withdrawn and things will start to fall apart. The nation may even be conquered by outside forces or overrun by uncivilised, barbaric elements.

In Egyptian theology Ma'at was personified as a goddess, sometimes shown with wings symbolising her divine origin. She was the daughter of Ra the creator God, so high up in the hierarchy of spiritual beings. She represented the order and harmony of the universe, the pattern on which it was designed and the principles according to which it should be governed. She was also of great importance in determining the post-mortem destination of the soul. After death every soul was required to enter the Hall of Judgment where its heart would be weighed on a set of scales set against Ma'at's feather of truth. If the heart balanced with the feather then Thoth the god of wisdom would record that fact and the soul would be admitted by Osiris to the Sekhet-Aaru or Field of Reeds which was the Egyptian heavenly paradise. If, on the other hand, the heart was heavier than the feather it would be consumed by the goddess Ammit who combined the features of crocodile, lion and hippopotamus, these being the most fearsome beasts known to the ancient Egyptians. This grim fate implied the destruction of the soul. Such was the importance of living by the principles of Ma'at.

The Judgment of the Soul with Osiris (far right) and the Feather of Ma'at in the right hand scale.
The jackal-headed god Anubis officiates.

Ṛta expresses a very similar idea. It describes cosmic and moral order and is mentioned over 300 times in the Rig Veda which is the oldest Sanskrit text, currently regarded as dating back to the second millennium BC. The chief god at that time, the sky and ocean god Varuna, is called the king of rta and through its power restores the good order lost from time to time because of sin and ignorance. However, even he is subject to rta in the sense that it precedes him in the order of creation so he may serve and exemplify it but its origin lies further back than the gods. In ancient India the word itself faded from use but its meaning persisted in the idea of dharma which became fundamental to Hindu religion.

These two words convey a similar meaning to the idea of the Tao as used by C.S. Lewis in his book The Abolition of Man. This is more his adoption of the term than the traditional Chinese sense of the word as the mysterious undercurrent of being, but it fits in with that well enough. For Lewis it is a universal moral structure that transcends the vagaries of the times and cultures in which it may be expressed. It is not verifiable by conventional scientific means because its ground lies in the realm of first principles which cannot be proved as they just are. Lewis traces its presence through many religious traditions, all of which had intuited the reality of this Natural Law as we may think of it. But today we have lost touch with it because we have abandoned the sense of a transcendental absolute. Indeed, a definition of modernity could be that it is the triumph of relativism which might have seemed reasonable at one point but inevitably just ends up in nihilism.

Ma'at, Ṛta, the Tao, all these things point in the same direction, to an eternal, absolute, unchanging, incorruptible reality. We need to rediscover the truth of that reality and start to build our lives and our cultures on that basis. It is flexible enough to allow for different expressions of the one truth but these will differ only in form. In essence, they will be one. However, we must also remember that since Christ natural virtue, which is what Ma'at etc call for, is no longer enough. Piety, worship of the gods, following the path of dharma, supported by the traditional four cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude, are the foundation but on these must be built the house and that is constructed of the spiritual virtues of faith, hope and charity. The difference is that whereas the natural virtues can be acquired through right thinking and human effort, the spiritual virtues can only come from God though God will only bestow them to the soul that has made itself ready to receive them. This should tell us that faith, hope and charity, spiritually considered, are rather more than they are conventionally thought to be as anyone can have them in an ordinary sense but in the proper spiritual sense they are gifts of the Holy Spirit and so qualitatively different to the human versions.

Without the idea of an overarching Absolute human beings have nothing to anchor themselves to reality, and so will make up all sorts of fantastic notions to further their ambitions, desires and goals. But these can never go beyond the limitations of human experience and the human soul is so constituted that it must do this or suffer spiritually. The rediscovery of Ma'at is essential if we are not to drown in relativism.

Tuesday 11 June 2024


Right and left are largely meaningless terms nowadays but they are still used because it suits the establishment to perpetuate its power with this charade. The two sides give the illusion of choice but are just variations on the same theme. Most people know this but go along with it anyway as there seems no alternative. 

Now there is the bogey man of the far right used to terrorise the sheep back into the fold. Quite soon a person will be described as far right who

  • Loves his country
  • Respects the laws of nature
  • Thinks men and women are different 
  • Honours beauty
  • Believes in God and behaves accordingly
  • Is a Christian

This last point shows the way forward. There is no political solution to the downward spiral in which we find ourselves. The only solution is spiritual. It always has been but the peculiar nature of our time is that this will become ever more apparent and eventually reach a point at which it cannot be ignored without a conscious effort of denial. If you feel like lamenting the loss of your country remember that your true home is not here.  Use the destruction of your earthly home positively, as a stimulus to focus your thoughts on where you really need to go. "My Kingdom is not of this world."

Thursday 6 June 2024

Earth is a Filtration System

 One of the books on the right is called Earth is a School which it is. A school for the development and refinement of consciousness and a testing ground for the orientation of the heart in an environment so cleverly set up that one can find reasons to believe or not in God, depending on one's desire. I got that phrase from my teachers but the one that is the title of this piece I came up with on my own which may explain its unromantic sounding nature.

God creates to become more than he is, expanding himself throughout creation, and also to express and share love. But if love is to be real then it must be freely given which means that God must create fully independent individuals. They are extensions of him but they cannot just be extensions of him. They must have their own integrity and it must be absolute. This means love can be given or it may not. It also means the resulting individuals may freely cooperate with God and creation or resist that or even, to further their own ends, turn against it. To have the possibility of deliberate, freely chosen good you must have the possibility of not good. 

This is why God cannot make a creation that is all good to begin with. Or he could but it would be full of clones of God who had no independence, and any love would be a sort of automatic, passionless, all-purpose, blissed out and bland everybody loves everybody else equally sort that you see in some spiritual communes or, at least, you see people imitating that because they think it's what they should be doing. But that is not love which to be real must be personal.

There needs to be a first creation which acts as a selection gateway to the second creation which is the real one. Nothing evil or dark or in any way damaged or even less than perfect can get into Heaven, the second creation. This is why I call the first creation a filter for the second. All propensity to evil in the individual is brought out in the first creation where it may either  be indulged in or made excuses for or justified. Or, and this is the only reaction that gets it through the fine meshes of the filter, repented. The soul makes its choice and on that choice depends its future, whether it goes on to the second creation, the one in which evil does not just not exist but is impossible, or is recycled through one of the many environments in the first creation which differ inasmuch as they are reflections of the consciousness of the soul so some are indeed dark while others may be perfectly pleasant, even wonderful by earthly standards, but they are not the Heaven of absolute good.

If only we knew this for sure, you might say, then we would make the right decision. But that's the whole point. We don't know for sure so we must make an authentic decision, one that reflects our true self. One could add that we do actually know. All the information has been presented to us. If we choose not to accept it, that is our affair.

This idea of Earth as a filtration system, designed to extract impurities in the soul, does not preclude the Earth as a school scenario. Both operate, albeit in different ways. One the one hand, the soul is developed through its experience, expression and experiment in the world of duality, the material world, in which subject and object are wholly sundered. On the other, its inclination to or from itself and towards or away from God is brought out and examined. It is given the opportunity to see itself and to know itself, and also the chance to grow so that when it does reach the portals of heaven it can contribute creatively to the new creation and experience more of it. Many souls may qualify for heaven but the greater the spiritual development, the deeper the spiritual participation and the more the ability to add to heaven's glory.

For heaven is not a place of static peace and tranquillity. It is the eternally blossoming flower that grows from the seeds planted on Earth. Thus, it increases in beauty and glory and wonder, and we increase with it.

Why is there evil in this world? The answer to that is simple. There is evil in this world in order to eradicate it completely and let those who wish go on to a new world in which evil cannot exist. This world brings out and filters evil so that the new creation may be one of absolute good. You might say that Earth is a refinery.

An earlier piece on a similar theme is A Body of Slag.

Sunday 2 June 2024


 There was an interesting article on the Orthosphere recently on celibacy by Professor J.M. Smith with which I am in broad though not complete agreement, and I thought I would offer my take on the subject here. I feel I can comment from the position of someone who has lived both lives, that of the celibate in early manhood and the married with children later on. The celibate phase was intentional not through disinclination, bad luck, negligence or failure, and it was because I was leading a life dedicated to the spiritual path as described in my book Meeting the Masters. 

I understand Professor Smith's point about the quality of priests being improved by abandoning the requirement of celibacy. It might weed out some of the sexual oddities and encourage more full-blooded males to join a group which they might thereby render more masculine and less effete. It would certainly widen the pool of available talent. But then you have to look at some of the vicars in the Church of England and wonder, would it really? I don't know. I would say, though, that to judge an institution by its defects does give a one-sided view of the overall picture.

Professor Smith's article is about priestly and monastic celibacy but I would like to open up the discussion to celibacy as part of the spiritual path and whether it still has a place. First off, I must say that celibacy is and ought to be difficult. It is not natural and those for whom it poses no problem are, in my opinion, not properly developed. Fruitfulness and fertility are wholesome expressions in the physical world of joy and creativity. Desire is godly because it is the flame of love as manifested in the human mind and body.

Yes, desire is godly, pace Buddhism, but attachment to desire is, if not sinful in itself, conducive to sin. It also binds one to the material world and material things. Now, celibates can be as full of desire as the promiscuous and sometimes even more so if suppressed energy, given no natural outlet, festers away beneath the surface and becomes a constant focus of attention. But the ideal of celibacy is to detach oneself from the world and be focused entirely on God. The world of matter, the Creation, is certainly good, but it is not the Creator and it may be that to have a full relationship with God one must turn away from his things and face directly towards him. As far as we know, Jesus was celibate and he seemed to ask his disciples to devote themselves full time to their spiritual lives which is hard to do if you have a wife and children to support. This may be a requirement only for those who are seeking a deeper contact with God but we may all have to become celibate at some time if we would attain to that deeper contact.

There are two aspects to the celibate life. One I have just mentioned and that is the need to give proper attention to a wife and family. The married man cannot devote himself to God quite as much as the celibate. His attention is necessarily divided, at least until a certain later stage of married life. That doesn't mean celibacy in itself is positive but it may be a positive negative. The second aspect is sex itself. This mysterious energy is the most powerful we know of, excepting for some the love of God. While not being a need, it is more intense than any need and more fulfilling in its satisfaction. Some traditions speak of this energy requiring to be turned inwards and upwards rather than expressed outwardly and would say that outward expression mitigates against the reorientation inwardly just as a river cannot flow in two directions at the same time. We have to make water flow uphill, back to the source. A lot of spiritually interested people reject this idea nowadays but it has a notable pedigree and one wonders if the modern rejection comes from the fact that we simply want to have our cake and eat it too, and look for reasons to justify doing what we want to do or are unable not to do.

Energy follows thought. In all cases, it is the mind that matters more than the body. By this criterion actual celibacy is less important than the state of the mind. At the same time, a mind truly focused on God will naturally seek less external stimulation and result in a body requiring less external satisfaction.

In the ancient Indian way of spiritual development there were four stages of life known as Asramas. The first was that of the student known as Brahmacharya which lasted to about the age of 25 and in which celibacy was enjoined. Then came the stage of Grihastha which was that of the married householder wherein one raised a family and fulfilled and enjoyed all the material demands and satisfactions of life though always within a spiritual context meaning one of virtue and religious devotion. After the age of 50 came the retirement stage of Vanaprastha when one started to withdraw from the world and focus one's energies more on Moksha, liberation or salvation as we might call it in the West. If one wasn't celibate necessarily then sex was certainly something that should be receding from one's mind and attention. The fourth and final stage was that of Sannyasa which was the life of complete renunciation and here again celibacy was enjoined though as the normal age for entering on this stage was 75 that should not be too much of a problem. This all represented the natural path of the soul through the world and returning to spirit and I think still represents a good path for everyone though it should be noted that anyone could move into the Sannyasa stage straight from that of Brahmacharya if one felt particularly called to the spiritual life.  

This Indian system tells us that celibacy has its place in the spiritual life, particularly at the beginning and end, but so does married life in which the full enjoyment of sex is not only permitted but encouraged as a good and healthy thing. There is no rejection of the body here but its incorporation into a grander scheme of things that has the ultimate aim of union with God though for this to take place it is expected that the soul is able to move beyond the demands of the physical body, the energies of which must be purified and transmuted. This means desire must be directed towards God.

Some might think this Indian description of life stages has no relevance for the Christian but I believe it has a universal application. If we think of the spiritual path as consisting of salvation and deification with the former as the preparatory stage and the latter as the ultimate aim then we might say that celibacy has a role to play in the context of deification as an occasional discipline and necessary condition for progress to be made. Every soul seeking full union with God, which union renders the soul divine in itself, must develop an exclusive relationship with God and that means all other loves and attachments must be renounced. The creation must be renounced for full knowledge of the Creator. But this may just be a stage. If we say that God himself has a spouse which is the redeemed part of Creation so every soul, as a reflection of its Creator, does likewise, and having reached conscious union with the Creator the soul can then turn back and re-embrace creation, though in the full light of God.

 Jesus said there was no marrying in heaven but his first miracle was at a wedding and religion constantly speaks of spiritual completion in terms of a marriage. There might appear to be a contradiction here but perhaps Jesus was speaking in terms of earthly marriage. There is also spiritual marriage, ultimately that between God and Creation but also between every individual soul, on the vertical plane with God its Creator for whom every soul is female, and on the horizontal with its created other half. Celibacy relates to the union with God but the sanctified soul does not just exist in that union. It also has relationships with other souls and among these is the reflection of the Cosmic Marriage of Spirit and Matter on its own level.