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Sunday, February 12, 2006: Stages of a Spiritual Journey

        There are two stages to a spiritual journey. The first is dependent on the will of the aspirant.  This is the stage where one builds a foundation of understanding by studying a religious tradition, creating positive behavior patterns, and learning to restructure thoughts in a positive, loving manner.  Religions are great at this stage because they provide structure, communal support and reinforcement.  Religions tell the aspirant how to live a better life, how to express one’s devotion in a secular world, and what actions will brings one closer to the divine.  They have rituals and gatherings to help the aspirant refocus when secular life has pulled daily awareness away from the divine.  To worship a godform (whether the image of the divine in the likeness of some physical form, or as holy text) is to give the mind an object on which one can pour love, devotion, reverence.

         In the second part of the spiritual journey, one must release personal will and effort.  It is the divine which pulls the seeker into god realization.  Give up all your old established ideas—this stage goes beyond time, space and thought.  It is the point of surrender (and I am not talking about the religious surrender of following someone else’s directions and interpretations).  One is ever more open to inner guidance, while continually stripping away more of one’s personal ego and desires.  While mystics may talk of this stage, most religious seekers continue to cling to traditional patterns, feeling that the path requires simply an ever-narrowing focus on God.

         Note that a tight focus of surrendering more to one’s faith and removing more of one’s ego does increase closeness to God.  Saints become ever more devoted to following their hearts and remaining aware of the presence of God in their lives.  This is a good thing.

         To reach God-consciousness, however, requires more.  Think of the divine as residing behind a wall created by the limits of our perception.  The human brain cannot grasp or comprehend an unlimited, all-inclusive source.  The brain is built to function in a dualistic world; it sees male and female, inside and outside; it thinks in terms of now and then, the observer and the observed. It has no way to comprehend ‘formless form’.  It has no symbol to represent ‘all-inclusive’.  Can you picture the shape of infinity as it stretches ever outward?

         So we have a wall separating us from this divine ‘form of the formless’. There are doorways along this wall, and at these intervals there stand the various godforms (remember these can be in the form of human, animal or religious text).  As the aspirant focuses on a particular godform, the love or power of the divine flows through the doorway and the godform: the aspirant knows in the core of his/her being that this is a true reality, more true and real than could ever be found in the everyday world.

          Why are religious mystics so sure they are standing before the one and only true form of God? Because the divine is flowing freely through these forms; the godforms filter that flow into an emotional format recognizable by the human brain.  If you have only stood before one godform, it is human nature to assume this is the only truth or reality that could ever be so powerful and pure.

         Few mystics reach outside their path.  There is no reason to run up and down the wall looking at all the doors to find spiritual bliss.  Bliss resides wherever a doorway is opened by a godform.  What some religions fail to point out is that the godforms are there to lead you to the doorway, not to stand guard.

         There is no divine restriction preventing humans from seeing the true form.  It lies within the human potential.  Had I not been passed around between various godforms as part of my inner training, I might have never questioned how each had a distinct personality while still exuding the same intensity of divine presence.  My own curiosity and stubbornness might not have made me remain open to truths still waiting to be uncovered.

         In Hindu tradition, they do mention reaching a stage of spiritual enlightenment where the godforms are supposed to catapult you beyond their forms and into awareness of the divine itself.  Buddhists try to keep their focus on the everything/the nothing so one form is never taken to be the endpoint.  All too often, however, we forget that daily worship is a temporary stage of spiritual evolution.

         Should people try to reach the endpoint? The Jewish tradition tells of several rabbis who were determined to see the true essence of the divine (My apologies for not knowing the exact number—I recall hearing numbers of four and six). These rabbis retreated spiritually with the sole desire to be shown the true form, and their request was finally granted.  The experience is said to have killed some of them.  Some went crazy from the vision; one was so shaken he lost all belief in his faith and became a heretic.  Only one survived who had seen the true essence and could bring that spiritual wisdom back to his people.

         From my experience, this is probably an accurate assessment of the risks in seeking this level of awareness.  It is not given for free.  These higher insights require sacrifices most people would not want to endure.  Trust me—you don’t want to go there.  I don’t think I will ever discuss that highest level, because it is so far beyond words that the mind refuses to even attempt the search for words.  Yet, there are things from slightly lower levels which may give insights into creation and evolution.

Posted on Sunday, February 12, 2006 at 10:13AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments4 Comments

Reader Comments (4)

I believe with time our journey will be easier. There will be more doors and less walls. My son, on the other hand believes eventually there will be no walls. I have noticed gradually over the past 30 years that people have been more willing to discuss, accept and even explore what lies beyond those doors. I believe I have been shown a glimps of what is behind those doors. It is scary and exciting all in one. Apparently, I gave birth to 2 sons that have been lucky enough to experience some of what is in the spiritual relm. I love reading your post for I beileve your are right on the mark. Its nice to hear someone elses opioun outside of my family.
Miriam
February 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMiriam
Wow. This image of doors and walls is really helpful. I feel so much better after reading your thoughts. Thank you for articulating it.
February 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCL
You talk about god forms, from what i understand there are no god forms, only forms created by god. And the forms themselves are nothing for the creator is the substance of the forms. The walls mentioned in the article seem to me to just another false belief such as the belief in good and evil. god is closer the my hands and feet, closer than my breath. When i listen to the silence, i feel the pressence. i think that it is true that "issues" separate me from god. these issues to me are caused by years of giving them power by my believing in them. My wife is a good example of this. she is most of the time in a good mood, and has been that way in the 10 years that i have known her. she lets things slide of her back holding no resentments. Her spirit is sweet. i have found that i tend to not want to let go of things quite as easily. i have way more mood swings than her, and get angrier much more easier than her. However staying fixed on the presence of god i have mellowed out considerably.
March 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercsl@charter.net
The mystic is living a reality that is so very hard to ever describe to anyone else. Best to live it. When we try to wrap words around the awareness it will always create its own problems.

My problem is figuring out how to create images that make sense to people who have never been through a similar type of experience, to create a structure that others can explore. At the end of the life what counts are not the words or images but the person you have become.

If I use too many words to explain inner reality, realize that I also believe one must look for truth beyond the words, by looking and listening with the heart. For now, I need words to work my way into discussing later topics. It's one of those frustrating flaws of being human.

Surrender is a powerful path to reaching divine awareness, as long as it does not become denial of this reality. If it brings more peace and love into your life, follow it. When that approach starts holding you back, then open your heart to the next step. The spiritual journey does not end at some familiar landmark.

March 29, 2006 | Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic

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