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Friday December 3, 2004: Spiritual Ladder

From the magazine Mandala, December 2004/January 2005:

            Researchers Lobsang Rapgay, Ph. D., and Albert Erdynast, D.B.A., believe that the results of the study suggest that deliberately inducing a compassionate state does not necessarily mean that compassionate behavior follows.  So meditating on compassion alone may not result in developing the full scope and depth of compassion.

            "A person can induce compassion via meditation, and may also manifest compassion toward others under certain circumstances, such as when they are in a place of power, that is, as a teacher with students. However, the individual may have difficulty in manifesting compassion such as in challenging circumstances and may avoid any personal conflict or risk in such situation," the report said.

         This article is talking about a finer detail of spiritual life, but I think it brings up a common problem in spiritual communities -- the ability to look spiritual and balanced while still harboring repressed and destructive behavior patterns. How is that that someone can appear to be a pillar of the community, an outer example of balance and discipline for years, then surprise or disappoint us later by resorting to quite unspiritual behavior in the midst of their own personal challenges?

          I think of the path to reach God awareness as a ladder that stretches from everyday awareness into higher spiritual realms.  The top of the ladder is hidden in clouds and where it ends is only known to most people by stories brought back from the founders of their religious path.

           For some believers, blind faith is the foundation of their spiritual life.  It is enough to stand on solid ground, next to the ladder. That they have found the true ladder (or been born into the group that gathers near the base), that they have been told this ladder will lead them to heaven someday -- that is enough for them, providing comfort and support while they live out their lives. It provides a focal point instead of randomly wandering about the physical world.

           How can they know where the ladder ends? Usually someone tells them this is the ladder that ends in paradise; if they stick close and follow the group rules, then when they die they will be allowed to climb the ladder. Time is spent acquiring book knowledge (techniques for climbing the ladder and required behavior for group membership) while enjoying the companionship of other true believers. The emphasis here is on finding the right ladder and learning the group rules. 

          Should we be surprised by those who wander away from the ladder to indulge in old vices? They know the location of the ladder and can always wander back to reassure themselves a way out of the physical world is still there waiting. Perhaps the authority figure that lays out the rules has his or her own agenda, sending off members to defend the group's honor or promote group benefits. No problem as long as you have people guarding the ladder.

            I don't want to be harsh in my opinion of this level of religious following. If a religious path has survived multiple generations then a ladder probably does exist that can lead one higher in spiritual awareness.  I'm not talking about the validity of this or that chosen ladder, but of the way an individual approaches their particular ladder.  I acknowledge that, at the very least, following religious rules can lead to better social behavior and provide structure and purpose to an individual's life.

       I'm just the type who could never get comfortable taking someone else's word about a heaven that most teachers have themselves never seen. The focus of a mystic's life is to climb the ladder and discover for oneself what lies hidden in the clouds. I feel the climbing process itself is not well understood. To be continued..........


Posted on Friday, December 3, 2004 at 06:09AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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