Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hiding The Lamp

Light From Eternal Lamps–Essays On Practical Spiritual Life–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Hiding The Lamp

"No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light."1

A person would be somewhat crazy to light up a lamp and then put it away or cover it up so he would still be in the dark. Yet there are those who love darkness but want to claim possession of the light.

I remember very well when as a child I discovered the existence of one kind of these beings. In our small town people rarely had cement walks leading up to or around their houses, Instead they would lay down boards and use them for walkways. Our house had such wooden walks, as well. One day in attempting to straighten out a board that had gone awry, I turned it over and discovered underneath a multitude of little creatures that scrambled wildly to get away from the light. In a few moments there was nothing where before there had been a large assembly! So from then on I often amused myself by turning over the boards in our yard and watching the scramble. Being a solar creature myself, who did not at all like the dark, I was fascinated to discover that there were some of my fellow inhabitants of the earth that preferred darkness to light–who seemed to actually fear or hate light.

It intrigued me that those creatures did not live down in the depths of the earth where they could be assured of uninterrupted darkness. No, they wanted to live up on the surface of the earth and at the same time they wanted to be covered up in order to be in darkness. Their behavior had a profound message, though at that time I did not figure it out.

But if we consider seriously we can see that most people in the world want to live like those insects. Or at least the "religious" ones usually do. They do not want to be identified for what they are–spiritual moles–or to have someone recognize them as truly being ignorant, unspiritual, or even irreligious. Not that they really mind being those things–they do not with to be anything else–but their egos do not want them to be recognized for what they are and labelled accordingly. They want the low things of life, the things that darken and coarsen the mind and heart through their indulgence, while at the same time having the reputation that they are living up high within the light. Yes, they even aspire to be spiritual examples and leaders of others! They also want the constant company of the dwellers in the darkness, as well as their good will and approval, affirming almost hysterically that they refuse to be "fanatics" or "extremists." "After all, we do live in the world," they conclude with smug satisfaction. But Saint Paul says that Christians have been raised up to dwell in the heavens,2 that we shall henceforth live in the spirit and not in the flesh.3 But the "moles" much prefer to believe in the resurrection of the body rather than the resurrection of the spirit. "How can I be in the light according to external appearances while still living in the dark?" This is the question vital to them.

The answer is simple: create a spiritual cover, a shield under which they can crawl in the dark, congratulating themselves that they are not like those beneath them living in the depths of the earth, but have evolved up to the surface with those who walk in the light. And all the time they can be comfortably in the dark–a darkness they can even begin calling "the light"! After a while they can begin to say that those who do not dwell with them under their spiritual rock are "outside, in the outer darkness," doomed to sure perdition.

Such were the pharisees of Jesus' time, to whom he is speaking, and so are they today. Taking refuge in external displays of righteousness, they remain interiorly darkened, preferring to reverse the old adage and snuff out the candle and curse the light. If their cover is the least bit disturbed, the intrusion–or even the threat of intrusion–of light is desperately, even violently, resisted to the utmost of their power, which is not inconsiderable. Dogmatic theology is the most effective cover of these people along with token external observances originally meant to symbolize and stimulate people to attain the very illumination they now disdain and call "darkness."

But let us not look at others. Let us take a good look at ourselves as aspirants to Christhood. How often do we lie even to ourselves, saying: "I want the Light," and when we get the light, putting it conveniently out of the way. We don't reject it–that would be too honest and we would have to face ourselves squarely–but just push it out of sight, like the man who buried his talent in the ground rather than putting it to use.4

To keep from falling again into that folly, what must we do? We must lift up our consciousness on high through meditation that it may shine into every corner of our darkness and fill us with light.

Meditation confers both knowledge and power, which must then be applied, made to produce practical results. For meditation is a real birth,5 and once a person is born they cannot go back and forth into the prebirth state and into the birth condition at whim. In fact, to reenter the prebirth state is to die! Whimsically dying and living alternately is just not possible, though we might fool ourselves that we are succeeding when we really are all the time simply dead.

Many of us do not want to be in complete darkness, but hope to manage living in a comfortably dim twilight. But the Light of Christ is meant to be lifted up on high. And this is literally so. That is, we must continually lift up our consciousness to the higher levels of perception–"heaven"–away from the "earth" of lower consciousness and perception. This is the inner meaning of Jesus words about "lifting up" the Son of Man–the human consciousness–so that in its lifting up it may be transmuted into the consciousness of our real nature as sons of God. Those who live in deep valleys experience the minimum of sunlight, but those who live on the top of the mountains receive the maximum degree of light. In all religious traditions we find holy places established on the tops of mountains to symbolize this truth and to demonstrate the necessity for climbing the mountain of consciousness and establishing ourselves in the highest possible states–not just popping up and down, in and out, but attaining an unbroken condition of higher awareness.

The essential practice to accomplish this is, of course, the continual practice of meditation. Saint Vincent de Paul was at one time a slave in the household of a Moslem alchemist who really could turn base metals into gold. He trusted Saint Vincent enough to teach him how to do the same. In later years the Saint was constantly besieged by people who wanted him to reveal the secret to them. Knowing that human beings were greedy enough, he prudently refused to do so. But one thing he did tell, and that was that an alchemist does not take all base metals and turn them into gold, but that he makes an amalgam of gold, silver, and other metals. In time the entire mass becomes gold, but first gold is there as a "seed" or aid to transmutation by affinity. So it is with us. At first we mix the base metal of our mundane thoughts and "original ignorance" with the silver of higher aspirations and the gold of the inner consciousness that is cultivated through meditation. This is the most precious secret known to the seeker. Just as continual heat and pressure eventually turn a piece of coal into a diamond, so regular meditation eventually brings us into the status of the Christ of God. It is a great labor indeed, for it is itself the Great Work of divine Alchemy.

But this Alchemy works total change, and many of us do not want to purify our lives and hearts of accommodate that change. Thus we want to flame of Christ to be submerged so we may go about "business as usual." But there is nothing "usual" about a real seeker, and we had better accept it. Of all spiritual aberrations, cowardice is among the worst. Sri Ramakrishna used to tell His disciples that shame and fear were the supreme obstacles to divine realization.

We often want the light, but do not want it to make any drastic change in our lives. And especially we do not want those around us to think we have "gone strange" or become "religious fanatics." Not willing to change ourselves, we insanely expect the Light to change Its nature and cease to shine out–except at command at our own private whim. But Jesus says that everyone will witness the presence of the Inner Light when it is correctly posited (applied).

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."6

Light does not change darkness–it annihilates it. So no wonder we fear its action upon us. Most of our "life" is a construct of shadows. The moment the light shines we will lose that shadow life. So we cling to it, denying the light rather than our illusions. "For whoseover will save his life shall lose it,"7 says Jesus.

Please understand, I am saying that the Inner Power changes the meditator, dispelling from his inner and out life all that is incompatible with its action. I am not saying that those who are seekers of Christ become these mouthy evangelists of themselves who go around holding up their claims to spiritual life as beacons for others to follow. Just the opposite. He need proclaim nothing. Those who have eyes to see will perceive the light, and those who seek it will come to the light. The blind and the perverse will continue to shuffle along in the darkness of their self-satisfaction. When the light shines there is no need for someone to proclaim it. The light is its own witness and evidence. The wick that sputters and makes noise is a wick that has water mixed in with the oil, and may go out. One of the traits of phoney religion is the tremendous amount of sputtering its adherents make. But the perfect light shines in silence, needing no signal. Yet it must be willing to be visible.

At the very beginning of our spiritual life we must learn this dual lesson regarding the necessity to constantly elevate our consciousness and to make it manifest–that is, visible–in our external lives.

My first instructions in higher spiritual life came through a series of printed lessons. When I applied for those lessons, at the end of the application form there were two boxes to check. One was to be checked if I wanted the lessons sent with the name and address of the spiritual organization on the envelope; the other was to be checked if I wanted them sent in a completely plain envelope with no indication as to their source or nature. In other words, was I scared to have others know what I was doing and run the risk of being ridiculed or criticised? At the time I was living in an environment utterly hostile to belief in higher consciousness, must less the attempt to attain it. Meditation and metaphysical thought was "of the devil" absolutely. Once that envelope arrived bearing the name of the publisher, a real storm could break loose.

You may think I was mistaken, but I considered that I was facing the first test of my spiritual search. More, I felt assured that my decision would effect the ultimate outcome of my endeavors. To check the box for the plain wrapper was to already be in retreat before the forces of darkness that would rise to prevent my progress. The best defense truly is a good offense. So I checked the other box and sent the application on its way. You can't fight a battle in the dark and in secret. You have to stand out in the light and "be counted." I had read the Bhagavad Gita, and out of all the profound expressions of wisdom my favorite was the simple exhortation: "O Arjuna, stand up and fight!" What kind of battle could I begin if I was afraid of my family disapproving of my inner search?

In the church I was brought up in, there was a woman who had told me about her cousin that had been miraculously healed of tuberculosis when the physicians had predicted she would die in a matter of days. This woman had gone with her sister to see their dying cousin, and had given her a New Testament. She had never been given any religious teaching at all, but in reading the Gospels believed she could be cured. And so she was. When anyone saw her, radiantly healthy and strong, and remarked on it, she would openly tell them that God had healed her. Her parents would immediately get the visitor off to one side and assure them: "Eva's mind is affected by her illness. Don't pay any attention what she says."After some weeks, however, her parents told her that if she did not quit saying she was healed and–even more important–"give up this religious stuff" she would have to leave home. The girl had never been off the farm in her entire life of nearly twenty years, except to go to a little country church in her early childhood. She had never even entered the house of another family. But she made her decision. One day she bundled up her clothes and started down the road that led to a nearby town. Turning back she saw all that she knew lying behind her. And ahead of her was nothing but uncertainly. The pull to return was nearly overpowering, so she knelt and prayed as best she knew. Then she stood up, turned her back on "home," and walked down the road singing:

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Naked, blind, despised forsaken–
Henceforth Thou my all shall be.

And it had been true. She attained a marked degree of spiritual growth before, in a few years, her life ended. So remarkable had her spiritual character been, that a minister who knew her personally wrote her biography and it was widely circulated.

Could I do less than that poor girl–especially since I had been given so much more understanding than she had? Yes, I could, but would I? No, it would be too shameful. My motivation may have been egotistical, but my decision was the right one. How could I hope to conquer my own ignorance, if I could not withstand the ignorance of others? The first step of the journey often determines what the last step will be–or whether there will ever be a last step.

Our inner life is to no purpose if we do not put it to practical use. When Moses came from communicating with God the ignorant demanded that he put a veil over his face so they would not have to see the reflected light of God's glory.8 But there can be no veils for the seeker, whose very intent is to pierce through all veils. If we try to veil our light we will surely extinguish it. And those who live long in the dark become blind.

Rare are those who both can and will let the light shine forth without any inhibition, putting it on its proper stand and letting it light up the whole house. Of them alone will it be said: "Ye are the light of the world."

Wholistic Religion

Light From Eternal Lamps–Essays On Practical Spiritual Life–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Wholistic Religion

"Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any [man] from that day forth ask him any more questions."1

In recent years we have heard many things described as "wholistic"–that is, dealing with the whole being. But two thousand years ago our Lord spoke of the need for wholistic religion when He cited the passage from the Torah that said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind."2 The Greek words for "heart," "soul," and "mind" used by Saint Luke in his translation of Saint Matthew's Gospel from Aramaic were kardia, psychis, and dianoia. Kardia means both "heart" and the core of our being. Psychis means mind, but in the sense that includes the astral bodies. Dianoia means the intellect and intelligence, and encompasses the causal bodies. In other words, we must love God with the totality of our being–physical, mental, and spiritual. That is easy to say, but in our present fragmented condition, how can it be possible? We do not do anything with all of our being at present. Therefore we must find the way to unify all aspects of our existence before we can fulfil this "first and great commandment." We need to consider the things we can do for the unification of our being.

The foremost is meditation. Meditation, being simple, works for the simplification of our consciousness. Therefore we relax into the simple awareness of awareness itself to attune "all of us" to the Divine Consciousness that Itself is a perfect unity. In this way we work to restore the divine image that is the essence of our being. Meditation then works in two ways: it attunes us to divine unity, and then unifies all the levels of our existence. The Kingdom of Heaven is indeed within our reach through meditation.

It is important to keep in mind that Jesus mentions loving God totally before any mention is made of loving human beings. This is because no one truly loves another who has not first loved God. We can be attached to or infatuated with someone, but our attraction is utterly material and egoic. Love does not come into it, because God is love,3 and when we are not living in God we are not capable of love. Moreover, our feelings for one another are in constant flux. Jesus showed this in His life. The same people that shouted "Hosanna" on Sunday yelled "Crucify Him" on Friday. As Swami Yukteswar Giri often commented: "Human conduct is ever unreliable until it is anchored in the Divine." Human feelings are equally unreliable, as well. Only when we have restored the divine image in ourselves will we truly love. The acknowledgment of this pinches our egos, but we are wise if we face the truth. Those who would be loving must first love God. Then we will not love with our little finite love, but the love of God will flow through us to others. It is this transforming love that the world and its citizens need.

It is easy for religious people to fall into two traps: either becoming obsessed with external righteousness and actions, or obsessed with the psychic side of things. Both of these are destructive when there is no true love of God and our fellow human beings. This is why Jesus said that on the love of God and man "hang all the law and the prophets."

The second half of this passage deals with the nature of the Messiah. Naturally, the Hebrews considered that the Messiah would be a man like them, albeit a remarkable one. Further, he would be a descendant of David the Prophet-King. But Jesus pointed out that under divine inspiration David spoke of the Messiah as Lord–that is, Adonai, which the Hebrews used as a "cover word" for the sacred Name, Jehovah. In other words, David was saying that the Messiah would be the Supreme Lord. On the other hand, the prophecies were clear that the Messiah would be a human being. So here Jesus is indicating that He, the Messiah, was both God and man. And so are we, which is the whole purpose of His manifestation. In Christ Jesus our own Christhood is revealed.

We must maintain a careful perspective on our own dual nature. We must be very aware of our present humanity and our actual and potential divinity. If we consider ourselves as only human and therefore, without exception, mortals and sinners, we cannot possibly fulfil the purpose of Christ. For Jesus came into the world to save us from the delusions of mortality4 and sin.5 It is not correct to deny mortality or sin, for they do exist, though as delusions. Darkness is not real in itself, being the absence of light. Yet, there is such a thing as darkness. We must admit this personally. That is, we must admit our ignorance and its fruition, sin, in our own lives–more, in our own hearts. But we do not wail and weep about darkness, condemning it and ourselves, and trying to will or pray it away. Rather, we simply bring in the light and it is dispelled.

We are at the moment mortals. And no honest person denies being a sinner.6 But these are only momentary states which we need to overcome by entering into our true nature as immortal and divine. Once more, meditation is seen to be necessary, for without it the dispelling of our darkness is impossible. With it enlightenment is inevitable and we should work toward that with hope and confidence.

Just as we must not fall into the delusion of thinking we are only hopeless sinners, so we must not engage in the even worse delusion of thinking that right now we are perfect and need nothing but "our selves." For we do not know our true selves, but only our egos. If we mistake our egos for our true selves we will be hopelessly trapped in delusion. Therefore verbal affirmations and arrogance operating under the label of "self esteem" are killers, not cures.

What must we do, then, to know who we are and to manifest it? We must avail ourselves of all the means we have discussed. By meditation we will truly come to see and know who and what we really are. Therefore we must work for the perfection of our humanity in order that it may be transmuted eventually into divinity, saying with Saint John: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."7

"The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool."8 Until the revelation of our divinity we, too, should sit–that is, be established–on the "right hand" of God by means of the spiritual life that is "born" in meditation. The statement that our enemies shall be made our footstool is very significant. The "enemies" spoken of are those things, both external and internal, that oppose or prevent our spiritual perfection. It is interesting that these enemies are not to be destroyed or banished, but rather to be made a support for our feet. That is, through dealing with the outer obstacles we shall become stronger than we would otherwise be. And by the transmutation of the inner forces through meditation they shall become repolarized and an empowerment for good.

The final verse of this Gospel passage tells us that after Jesus had spoken so firmly about the nature of the Messiah–that is, about His own nature–no one was able to contradict Him or raise any questions.

All spiritual aspirants are plagued by questions and doubts–some are even deflected from spiritual life by them. Others are certainly troubled and hindered by them on occasion. Therefore we must eliminate such negative threats to our spiritual and mental well-being. The only sure way to do that is to experience the truth about our own Christ nature. And that is possible only through meditation.

Once we know who we are in fact and not in theory, and once we have been established in that consciousness, we shall know peace. We can expect that external forces will continue to fuss and carp–the lives of the saints demonstrate that–but if we have inner peace we can move right on without hindrance to possess fully and forever the infinite Kingdom that can know no end.

Where Do We Find God?

Light From Eternal Lamps–Essays On Practical Spiritual Life–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Where Do We Find God?

"And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither."1

In every religion that makes offerings to God, it is understood that nothing can be offered that has been first used by another person–for example, flowers should not be smelled before offering, nor should food be tasted beforehand.

Jesus, entering Jerusalem, would ride only on an animal that had never before been ridden. This is a symbol of the advent of higher consciousness within our own being. Where can Christ Consciousness "sit" within us? Not our body, emotions, mind, intellect, or will–they have all been used (and used up) by ourselves and others.

Sweet as it sounds, it is pointless to ask God to come into our heart. How much trash is in the heart! How much foolishness is in there! Our heart is like the proverbial crazy person's house that is filled to the top with junk. There is not even anywhere to sit. Most people want to clear a tiny space for God, as long as He will not stay too long (after all, they do have to get on with "their" life, they cannot waste all their time looking at God). But it does not work. God does not come.

But we want God to come and stay. How can we manage that? By establishing ourselves in that part of our being which can be touched by none other but God: our spirit. And what will happen then? We will find that God is already there. In the depths of our being God is already present and waiting for us to arrive. We are the absent party, not Him.

We cannot meet God through body, feeling, senses, thoughts, or desire. Only in the spirit can He, the Infinite Spirit, be found. This is why religion is such a detriment. It points outward, saying: "God is there. Worship and serve Him." This includes so-called Christianity, even though Jesus says: "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."2 Of course professional religion is interested in perpetuating itself rather than introducing people to the kingdom of God–for then they would have no more business. However that may be, the truth is this: God can neither be worshipped nor served. But He can be KNOWN.

"Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you."3 Now that is possible. Most of the practices of external religion are just painted doors on a blank wall, but through meditation we can approach and meet the God Within. When we turn within, away from all that has been handled, smudged, and damaged by "the world and all that therein is" and enter into the simple principle of consciousness that is the real "us," the search for God will be over, and the endeavor to make that state permanent will begin. And meditation is the way to accomplish that, too.

Called By God

Light From Eternal Lamps–Essays On Practical Spiritual Life–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Jesus sings to his LambsCalled By God

"The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me."1

In the Gospels we do not always have complete accounts of events. Often only their salient–that is, their symbolic–points are being recounted to us in order to convey their esoteric meaning. There is also another reason for the brevity of the Gospel narratives. Since the early Christians were vegetarians, they refused to have their holy books written on the skins of animals as was the Jewish custom. Consequently all the writings of the New Testament were written on papyrus scrolls. Whereas the length of an animal-skin scroll was virtually unlimited since the strips of skin could be sewn together, a papyrus scroll could scarcely be even fifty feet in length. So the Gospels were also written with this limitation in mind.

The deliberate brevity in the Gospels is evident in this verse, according to which Jesus goes to Philip and just says: "Follow me." Philip goes to Nathanael straightaway and announces to him that he has met the Messiah. Although it is true that spiritual events are often unexpected, rapid, and even cataclysmic, it is not usually so, and it is reasonable to feel that in these few verses we do not have the whole story. So we should look at them as giving the esoteric essentials only.

These telegraphic words point out a very important fact of spiritual life that is easily overlooked by the ego-centered: the fact that spiritual life is never initiated at the will of the individual, but is the direct and exclusive action of God. This is not pleasing to our egos, since we wish to preen ourselves on what intense seekers we are and how wonderfully dedicated we are to walking "the path." But Jesus said: "No man cometh unto me except the Father draw him."2 This is why missionarying in the ordinary sense of the word is utterly futile. We can certainly herd people into an organization and intellectually or emotionally convince them to declare their adherence to a set of beliefs and to even swear loyalty to an institution, but none of this is drawing near to God. Usually it is exactly the opposite.

Jesus told the Apostles toward the close of His life on earth: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."3 In spiritual life as with everything else, things work from the top down. In India they say: "When a man chooses God, you can know that God has first chosen him." Only when we work within this framework can spiritual life be viable to any extent. This principle indicates that the moment the very idea of spiritual pursuit arises in our mind we have been called by God. And since God said through Isaiah: "My word that goeth forth out of my mouth shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please,"4 there can be no doubt of our ability to succeed if we act immediately upon that call.

I say this, because some people use the "I don't know if I'm ready or not" excuse to avoid spiritual life. Others lack confidence in their ability to succeed spiritually and they, most of all, need to have the correct perspective on this matter, for they will realize that since their desire for God is really God's desire for them there is no question of its fulfillment. God never fails. "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."5

When we realize the truth of things we shall be assured that the very fact we seek to find God means that God has already "found" us–as was the case when Philip said he had found the Messiah. The essential thing is to have absolute confidence in God–the rest will take care of itself.

Do your best.
Leave the rest.
do no more.

This is most important at this point in time because of the continual destructive cant about how we all need "self-esteem" and "positive self-image." This is actually a very negative approach. It is bad enough to have little confidence in ourself, but it is insufferable to then be badgered about it by Ipana-smile experts who insist that we artificially create a self-image that is rooted in their mouths but not our hearts.

Although the aforementioned badgering is a hallmark of the "new age," the "old age" had plenty of tools for beating up its helpless victims, too. One of these was a continual din about humility. The popular idea is that an humble person has a low opinion of himself. That is not true. A person with a low opinion of himself is simply a pessimistic egotist. The truly humble person is one who has no opinion about himself, but who occupies himself exclusively in involvement with God–about Whom he has an opinion of love.

We are weak, corrupted, ignorant, broken, and mortal. That is, our bodies, minds, and egos are all those things. Our ego may lie, and say: "I am rich, and increased with goods," but it is still "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,"as Jesus tells us in the book of Revelation.6 Therefore if we clear-sightedly look at what we erroneously believe to be our "selves," we cannot help but be utterly depressed and without hope. But if we look to God, Who is all perfection, we will have hope, for in God we will discover our own perfection. Only when we seek to behold God alone is it possible for us to behold ourselves in true perspective. That is paradoxical, but so is any reality.

Jesus said that we have to lose our life to find it,7 meaning that we have to let go of our false ideas about ourselves to find the truth of ourselves. As the great master Yogananda used to say: "Let me drown in Thine ocean and live." He also used to say: "When the 'I' shall die, then shall I know 'who am I.'" When I was a child I greatly loved a song with the refrain: "Let me lose myself, and find it, Lord, in Thee." Although my personal philosophy may have become somewhat more sophisticated over the years, that idea is still valid.

We are told that the incident recounted in the Gospel occurred when "Jesus would go forth into Galilee"–that is, return to His home. God has spread forth this creation, having actually become the creation itself, including the body vehicles in which all individual consciousnesses are evolving. Having projected the universe and sent into it the evolving souls, the intention of God is to systematically withdraw the universe and bring back into His bosom each one of us. It is this will to return, the call back to the origin, that is behind the contact of God with the soul. In the form of vibratory matter–physical, astral, and causal–God looks after and fosters each being. But it is a kind of subliminal or automatic attention they are receiving. It is only when the time has come for a conscious return into the depths of His being that God really "finds" us in the sense of communicating with us. Our return, our ultimate salvation, is His only motivation.

This is also the sole motivation behind divine incarnation. God does not incarnate merely to deliver us from the symptoms of ignorance and suffering, but rather to deliver us from their cause: the separation of our consciousness from Him. The compassion which drew the great being known as Gotama Buddha into earthly incarnation was not directed at our momentary sufferings and foibles, but at their root: the terrible condition of delusion. This is borne out by the fact that Buddha never worked any miracles of healing, nor did He ever do anything to alleviate material suffering. Rather, He presented the knowledge of the path which would lead to nirvana, the state which precludes all possibility of future suffering. This is the truth with all divine incarnations and all valid religions. They are not intended for the momentary relief of suffering, but rather to reveal the cause of all suffering and to arouse and empower us to escape from that deadly root.

Hence when God contacts the soul He has but one idea in mind: its return unto Him in total union. God wishes no other thing for us than this turning back and journeying to our eternal home. Using this fact as a touchstone, we can determine the reality and quality of any aspect of our spiritual life and condition. That is, only the degree to which we are both aspiring to and actualizing our individual union with God is a reliable indicator of the reality of our spiritual search and life.

We must continually apply this test as we live out our life. When encountering anything–be it religion, teachers, associates, activities, objects, ideas, goals, and even our own inner reactions and dispositions–we must ask the single question: "Does this call me toward God?" and–even more important–"Does this enable me to go toward God?" Unless the answer is an outright Yes, then that thing should be forgotten by us. Considering this from the aspect of the concept of God, which is the heart of religion, the great master Paramhansa Yogananda wrote in The Science of Religion: "Whatever concept we have of God, if it does not influence our daily conduct, if everyday life does not find an inspiration from it, and if it is not found universally necessary, then that conception is useless. If God is not conceived in such a way that we cannot do without Him in the satisfaction of a want, in our dealings with people, in earning money, in reading a book, in passing an examination, in the doing of the most trifling or the highest duties, then it is plain that we have not felt any connection between God and life."

This principle can be turned about to great profit. That is, not only should our religion affect every aspect of our life, our every activity should be viewed within the context of religion–specifically, how it affects our search for oneness with God. Whatever does not further or facilitate our search for God, our religious life, should be eliminated. For Jesus said: "He that is not with me is against me."8

This may sound odd, and a host of things in our life may spring to mind that we would think could not be considered as religious acts: taking a bath, cooking and eating food, working for a living, putting on clothes, and tying shoes, for example. Yet if we look at them all we can see that if they are done for the maintenance of order in our life and for the maintenance of life itself, then if our life is dedicated to the search for God–they are all religious acts. For example, taking a bath to remove dirt and the toxins accumulated on the body is a religious act, for by so doing we further the health of the body, and the body is necessary for our spiritual practice within this world. When understood in this way, even cutting our fingernails is a religious act. It is this perspective which Krishna presents to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, telling him that every action offered to God is worship of God and effectual spiritual practice.

Our life, when lived sensibly and in harmony with the divine law, can be a continual act of worship to God, a fulfillment of Saint Paul's injunction that we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices unto God.9 This can only be actualized when we daily practice meditation and throughout all our activities constantly maintain that inward consciousness produced by meditation. The saints of the Church were greatly diverse in their personalities and approach to life, but they all held the inward experience of the spirit to be the heart of their lives. And so it should be with us who aspire to sainthood through Christ.

It is within the divine life of Christ that our entire life can be divinized. Our Lord Jesus did not simply appear on the earth as an evanescent spirit, fading in and out like a vocal ghost. Rather, He was born in a physical body and lived in a truly physical manner, in this way demonstrating that physical embodiment need in no way impede the full manifestation of divine consciousness within a human being. In exoteric Christianity (when it has even thought about the subject) there has arisen the doctrine that the vision of God is impossible for those within the human body and that the fulness of spiritual perfection is likewise impossible for the embodied Christian. This is to completely misunderstand and even to deny the purpose of Christ's incarnation. One of the reasons He suffered and died was to show beyond any possibility of contradiction that He was indeed fully human and, yes, fully mortal, subject to all the laws of physical existence. This is considered at length in the book of Hebrews where it is affirmed that Jesus became absolutely like us in all things. That is, without any lessening of His perfected consciousness whatsoever, Jesus became an absolutely real human being. He became exactly what we are without the darkness of sin and ignorance, so that we, leaving behind that darkness can become what He is. This is the essence of Christianity, and all else within our spiritual life only serves to support and ensure our attainment of Christhood.

In summation: if we even know that the attainment of Christhood is possible, then we may be sure that God is calling us to it; that we have already been found by God so that He may be found by us. And we can further know that through His action within our lives produced by our own faithful spiritual practice we shall succeed in our spiritual endeavors. So as the nineteenth century hymn exhorts us: "Let us be up and doing; we have no time to lose. There is life and death before us–O which one will we choose?"

A Strong Man, Fully Armed

A Strong Man, Fully Armed

"When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils."1

The ancient principle: "As above, so below" is irrevocable. Since "above" and "below" are only relative terms, we can also say: "As within, so without."

We are each a universe unto ourselves, living in the greater universe. No force in the outer world can come into the orbit of our life and affect us if there is not a corresponding entity or energy already inside us in one or more of the subtler levels of our being. Every person, place, or situation we encounter is inside as well as outside of us. It is a lot like picking up a radio or television broadcast. First there is an attunement of the inner mechanism and then the corresponding outer signal becomes manifest in and through the set.

So we should understand that whatever happens to us externally is also occurring internally. This is why those of true wisdom tell us that when we wish to alter our external life we should do it by altering our internal life, for it is our internal life which really determines what can arise in our outer world. It is no exaggeration to state that the inner is the cause and the outer is the effect.

Therefore, if we have something negative constantly arising in our environment, instead of complaining about it and wishing that we did not have to put up with it, we should instead look deep inside and ask: "What inside me corresponds to this negative situation?" For if we can discover and correct that we will find it becoming automatically corrected in our outer life. Like every other truth regarding our individual existence, this underlines the unalterable fact that we–and we alone–are totally responsible for our lives, that we are at all times fully in control of all that happens to us.

A very interesting and valuable aspect of this approach to life from the interior viewpoint, is the common observation that usually when we correct our inner life or consciousness, the negative object does not necessarily go out of our life, but instead ceases to be negative and becomes positive. Thus, by healing our inner negativity we have healed the outer negativity as well. Many people think that meditation–which is the prime healing process–is selfish and only of benefit to the person who meditates. But by uplifting ourselves we can uplift the world. This is why Saint Seraphim of Sarov used to say: "Acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved." Paramhansa Yogananda often told his students: "Save yourself and you will save thousands."

Realizing this, when we look at the world around us and its problems we should not see them as external difficulties which "they" in the form of governments or other social structures should straighten out. Rather we should realize that they are things which we must straighten out by means of the reconstruction of our own consciousness.

It was long ago said that in the presence of a man of peace no violence can arise. Even wild animals are tame when near the saints. Evil men wished to destroy Gautama Buddha, and set an insane elephant on the road where he was walking. It came charging at him, but upon coming into his aura, the elephant became docile and did him no harm. Instead the elephant was cured of its insanity.

"Pilate went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above."2 Jesus meant that since there was in Him no hatred, hostility, or the desire or impulse to injure anyone or anything, His enemies were able to harm Him only because it was so decreed in the divine plan. He could say this because He was the strong man who was the master of his palace. That is, He was "a strong armed man," the master of all levels and aspects of His consciousness and the bodies in which it dwelt–for the word translated "armed" in the verse means "fully armed."

"In my Father's house are many mansions," applies not only to the external creation, gross and subtle, which is composed of numberless "worlds," but to our own individual mode of existence as well. In the "house" or "palace" of our dwelling are many levels and many rooms–most of them completely unknown to us until we take up the path of conscious self-evolution.

In the East the human complex is sometimes spoken of as "the city of nine gates." In the Song of Solomon "the city" refers to both body and mind. The souls speaks of searching through "the streets and the broad ways," referring to those passages in the physical and subtle bodies wherein the life energies flow. Saint Theresa of Avila wrote of the "Interior Castle" of the mind and heart.

We are strong in our inner nature, but that is not enough. We must also be armed. So this parable indicates. There is more to life than just being here, as there is more to school than just sitting. There must be study and learning. And beyond the learning there must be practical application. The armor spoken of in the Gospel passage is the mastery of all our inner powers, the consciousness of the totality of our being.

The human being is a true marvel. We are often lost in admiration of the world around us, but we are also worthy of admiration. Sadly, we are awed by human technology, feeling as though we are nothing in comparison, when a little bit of reflection should show us that the mind which can produce such awesome technology is obviously far more astonishing and admirable than its product. And the mind is just one part of us!

Although all that exists is ultimately good, being a manifestation of the divine consciousness, God, it cannot be denied that there is a negative force within the universe–and within ourselves. If we are not armed through interior mastery, the negative principle within our own selves may give us great trouble. To evade our personal responsibility we often seek to blame external factors for our life's problems, but that is basically dishonest. The outer things which we accuse have only entered into our life sphere because there is a corresponding negativity within us.

The universe cannot exist without positive and negative poles, and we cannot exist within the universe without them either. But one can become progressively more assimilated into the other. That is, the negative can become absorbed into–and become–the positive, or vice versa. And when the absorption is perfect, then duality vanishes and we are not in this or any other world, but have passed into the transcendent mode of being that is beyond all worlds. This transcendence is called nirvana in Eastern philosophy. In actuality there are two kinds of nirvana. One occurs when the negative principle has fully assimilated the positive within us and we have thus become a completely negative being. This is quite possible. When we thus transcend this world we find ourselves in that abyss which the Lord called "outer darkness." If on the other hand the positive absorbs the negative into itself, then we enter into the inner light, the Kingdom of God within. This latter process is the only way to be strong and armed. After we have made some advancement in spiritual life we must begin to transform and restore the negativity into its true positive state.

This state of things can sometimes be observed in places of great spiritual power. Not only are positive entities attracted there, but negative entities are drawn there as well. The negative entities, having become so "bent" that they find themselves incapable of extricating themselves from their dilemma, seek out a positive atmosphere with the hope that if they can endure to remain in it (and it is very unpleasant to them), then their negativity may become loosened up enough for them to begin shedding it by their own efforts. After some time in the holy atmosphere their astral forms became changed. Becoming brighter and brighter, those forms eventually dissolve and they pass into another dimension for their evolution before returning here for another incarnation upon earth.

At the beginning, however, they may be so habituated to evil that they will cause disturbances in that holy place and even trouble the people who have also come there for upliftment. This is because negativity has become an automatic reflex with them. Therefore the aspirant must realize that many times when he finds himself attacked by negative intelligences–both embodied and disembodied–he is really being sought out for help, and should deal with them accordingly. It is not easy to love evil human beings or evil spirits, but if we can do so they may be delivered from their evil.

The great Master, Paramhansa Yogananda, was more than once held up by robbers. By steadily looking into their eyes with love, he was able to change them, and they asked his forgiveness and left him alone. One mad man came with a gun and told Yogananda that he was going to kill him. The Master stood calmly, loving him as only the saints can do. After some time the man threw down his gun and said: "Forgive me. You have taken away my evil." It is the great lovers of God who can say to their straying brothers: "Your sins are forgiven you. Go in peace." This troubled world of ours does not need peace conferences and cultural interchange programs with slogans and demonstrations. It needs saints who will heal it by their very presence. And we must strive to become ourselves those needed saints.

It is easy–when you know the methods–to put up a strong defensive aura so that no negativity can come near or touch you. But it is better to be able to change that negativity, to heal it and cause it to become wisdom instead of ignorance. When our spiritual consciousness is strong enough, those who are spiritually asleep will be awakened by simply coming into our presence. The Lord Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world."3 But we must hurry up and light our lamp.

All along the way, until we arrive, the negative and positive sides of us take turns at being the "strong man" that is "armed" and in control. But one must eventually despoil the other and take unto itself all that the other has. One is going to eat up and absorb the other. And the one that absorbs the other is the one who truly wins. So we must strive to see that the right man wins!

In many of our ancient "fairy stories" there is great occult wisdom concealed beneath symbols. One wisdom story is Little Red Riding Hood. In the Scandinavian and German tales the wolf always represents the principle of darkness. During eclipses of the sun the people believed that the wolf had leaped into the sky and swallowed it. When the sun reappeared they felt that it had escaped from the wolf's jaws or stomach. In the same way the grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood represent the individual souls who are swallowed by the darkness of ignorance. The woodsman and his axe or sword represent the principle of gnosis, of illumination. He cuts through the wolf of darkness and sets the pair free.

The crux of the story really is that if Little Red Riding Hood had not dawdled on the way to her grandmother's house and had not as a consequence entered into conversation with the wolf she would never have gotten into trouble. And especially she could not have been fooled into believing that the wolf was her grandmother!

Now, in or outside the wolf's stomach, Red Riding Hood was essentially the same. Even when swallowed by the wolf she remained intact and uninjured. Being confined to the wolf's stomach was unpleasant enough, we can be sure. In the same way the divine soul can never be anything but what it is–a part of the greater Life that is God. But it is up to us to decide whether we are going to end up in the bosom of the Father or in the wolf's belly. And it is not wise to assume that somebody will for sure come along with a sword and get us out of the wolf's interior.

How, then can we arm ourselves? We should learn how to tune in to every level of our being in turn and master it. This is accomplished through meditation, by means of which our higher, spiritual will comes into function in every facet of our existence. This is not just hopeful fantasy. Those who meditate experience this.

It is necessary to realize that we need not worry about or fear any external principle of darkness, but we do indeed need to be concerned about our own inner darkness. For that alone harms us–indeed, that alone brings us into contact with the outer darkness. Once the inner darkness is dispelled by the inner light of Christ, then all will be light in our outer life as well. This is why the saints have passed through this world of turmoil and suffering while experiencing only peace and joy. Their consciousness was not posited in the world but in God, Whom they had found within. They did not look outward to the darkness of the world, but inward to the immortal kingdom of God.

It is not the world or the people in the world that need to be changed. We are what needs changing, though that is usually the last thing we acknowledge or agree to do. A real Christian is one who is making himself into a Christ, not busybodying in the lives of others.

"My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all."4

Putting on the whole armor of God, as Saint Paul has advised us, we must strive upward on the path to enlightenment. False mysticism says: "Oh, you are trapped in material existence which is evil and delusive. Do these practices and untie the knots of the bodies and they will fall away and you will be released into spirit." Yes–and then we will have to return again as an atom of hydrogen and go through the whole process of evolution all over again, because we cannot evolve except through these bodies. Just as by destroying our auto we do not get to the place we want to go, so by dissolving the vehicles of our consciousness we will not arrive at the Goal. As we have to get in auto car and drive it to our destination, so it is with our body-vehicles. They must be used for that attainment. Then, just as after arriving we can get out of the auto and leave it behind, so it is with our bodies, gross and subtle.

The path of mastery is the only path to peace, to the completion of the aeon-long struggles of evolution. "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.…He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith."5

Light From Eternal Lamps–Essays On Practical Spiritual Life–by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Awakening To God

Awakening To God

"He entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them."1

Original Interpretation

From the beginning of the Christian Church the entire Bible was interpreted as a book of esoteric symbology. An exactly literal interpretation of the Bible was not considered illegitimate, but such an approach was always considered less than secondary both in practice and importance. This was nothing new, as many Jewish commentators before Christ also interpreted the Holy Scriptures in a symbolic manner. When we read the works of the great Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo we find this approach brought to perfection.

Although many early Christian writers wrote on the books of both Old and New Testaments from the symbolic–and therefore esoteric–perspective, the best known was Origen, who compiled the first critical editions of the Bible and wrote more than three hundred books. A few centuries after his death nearly all his works were destroyed by the zeal of the Byzantine imperial Christians whose degraded exoteric view of Christianity was contradicted by Origen's works. However, the original approach to the Bible was not completely annihilated and has survived, although feebly, within the Eastern Christian Church.

I say all this because we are going to consider the verses quoted above in an exclusively symbolic manner. This is not to imply that the account given is not historically accurate, nor to imply that the historical event was not of great importance within itself. But it has always been the feeling of the Church that the symbolic interpretation is the most relevant for it deals the most directly with the matters of spiritual evolution.


First of all, we are told that Jesus entered into Capernaum "after some days." This is an indication of the awakening of consciousness within the human being. The mystic poet Rumi speaks of sleeping as a plant, dreaming as an animal, and awakening as a human being. Although the divine essence is within every form of existence, yet it is for all practical purposes slumbering and operating only on an unconscious level. As the individual spirit moves from lower to higher forms its capacity for consciousness proportionately increases. But until it reaches the human form the consciousness is submerged in the subliminal and instinctual levels of the developing (evolving) mind.

The ancients stated that the trait which most dramatically distinguished human beings from animals was the power of logos–of "word." Looked at simplistically it would seem that they merely meant that the difference between humans and animals is the ability of speech. But anyone with a modicum of experience with animals knows that they do indeed speak their own kind of language and are also capable of understanding human words and even human concepts. Since this is so, were the ancients wrong in their statement regarding the unique power of human beings? No, for logos implies far more than mere verbalization. In its fullest sense it means the power of self-conscious thought–that is, the ability (and we might say even the impulse) to be aware of oneself as a conscious entity and to objectively reflect upon its own nature.

The consciousness of the animal is centered in sensory experience and instinctual response. Intelligence is certainly displayed through animal behavior, but it is utterly responsive. That is, the animal consciousness is totally turned outward and is actually incapable of internal contemplation. The human being, on the other hand, possesses the power to live a fundamentally internalized life. Because the evolving soul has recently been in animal form, primitive human beings do not greatly manifest this capacity for self-contemplation. Nevertheless it is there in its full potential, awaiting for the moment when it can manifest in the simple question: "Who am I?" Once this thought arises spontaneously within the mind true humanity has been attained.

Evolving Consciousness

The arising or "entry" of full consciousness is a matter of evolution, an event that occurs only "after some days." The conscious search for God is the capstone of human evolution. The whole idea of being human is not to make better gadgets or get more possessions or to have influence over others. The evolutionary current of humanity, when not deflected or impeded, leads toward one thing: the vision of God. Only in sainthood do we find a fulfillment of our humanity.

In esoteric philosophy we often speak of transcending humanity, but we do not mean this in a sense of rejecting or casting away our humanity. Just the opposite. We mean the full realization of our human potential. This being so, true religion is the only real "human potential movement" possible.

What Is Implied

The fact that spiritual consciousness is a product of evolution implies two very significant points. The first is that spiritual consciousness is inevitable, for evolution never ceases. It is indeed true that in our presently-flawed universe the evolutionary force can be diverted or even reversed, but such a bending or deflection is only temporary. (I use the word "only" when looking at the matter from the standpoint of the soul's eternity.) In time the evolutionary stream must lead right back to the place from whence it began–the heart of God. No matter how bleak the picture may be, we can be optimistic and affirmative about the eventual destiny of all human beings. Beneath the veneer of delusion and confusion lies the reality of the ultimate return of every spirit unto God.

The second significant fact brought out by an evolutionary understanding of spiritual life is the truth that spiritual consciousness can never be imposed from the outside. Rather, spiritual consciousness must arise from deep within. Moreover, it must arise spontaneously. Although we can physically awaken a person by shaking him or making noise, it is quite different with spiritual awakening. That must come from within the individual himself. Of course, it arises from the "advent" of God in the person's consciousness, but God is also within each one, and the awakening is an interior condition and movement. It is true that we have all experienced moments where external occurrences, objects, or persons have evoked a spiritual stirring or response in us. But these events were like the falling of ripe fruit from the tree during the blowing of wind. In one sense the wind did cause the fall, and in another sense it was the condition of the fruit which caused it. As with all realities there seems to be a contradiction when examined by our limited intellects.

Basis Of True Religion

The important thing, though, is to realize that all true religion must be based on the interior nature of the human being. A religion which only concerns itself with intellectual philosophizing and dogma is no religion at all. Neither is a religion which concerns itself obsessively with external observance–whether in the form of moral acts or religious duties. Obviously since we are rational beings, we do need some intellectual principles and understandings upon which to base our attitudes and actions. Further, without discipline there can be no spiritual progress any more than there can be progress in any science without methodology and routine. But still, in the context of spiritual life, all ideas, actions, and refrainings from action, must point back to our interior being–must have an interior effect–to be spiritually legitimate. Thus religious principles, practices, and disciplines must be only those which reveal and further the inner evolutionary movement of the individual soul toward divine perfection.

Signs Of Our "Time"

How do we know that this point in our evolution has come to us? As I have mentioned more than once, one ploy of the ego is to tell us we are not "ready" or not "evolved" enough to take up spiritual life seriously and commit ourselves to working at it faithfully. The gospel reading gives an indication of when that time in our growth has really arrived. It tells us: "and it was noised that he was in the house." That is, the word was spread about that Jesus had come there. The same thing happens in our life. We begin to hear the truth about our spiritual destiny as perfected sons of God. Sometimes we hear it in conversation, sometimes we read it from the printed page, or we hear it on the radio or even learn about it from television.

Sometimes the first "noisings" we hear are in the form of negative statements about this truth. I well remember hearing a radio preacher in western Canada fulminating about those who meditated and tried to turn themselves into "cosmic nothings." As Babe Ruth commented, it does not matter what they say about you, as long as they spell your name right. Once I met a man who was going to visit a great spiritual teacher in India because he had read a lengthy and defamatory denunciation of the guru and realized that the author was at fault and that the master was truly genuine. In my own experience, I rejected the first intimations of spiritual reality I encountered. But they persisted, and in time good sense dawned.

So our lives become filled with the "noise" of the truth that we are sleeping gods. Sometimes we discover that spiritual opportunity has always been at hand, but we either never knew about it or had somehow managed to let it go by when we encountered it, not realizing what it was. But it has been the experience of many people that as soon as the awakening began in them they also discovered many "intimations of immortality" arising all around them. This is only reasonable, since our inner and outer life is truly one.

Something More

Yet Saint Mark is not speaking to us about the din of mere external religion that surrounds us on all sides. Nor is he speaking of exoteric religion–liberal or fundamentalist–that does not speak to us of our own spiritual reality as "gods within God."2 For Saint Mark does not tell us that the word went around that Jesus was somewhere walking the streets of the city. The message was that Jesus was in the house. That is, the word comes to us that true spiritual life is an interior matter, that God is to be found at the core of our being, that God is in truth the Being of our being. More important, the truth is presented to us that we can directly experience this truth by entering into mystic communion with God in the depths of our consciousness by means of meditation. The truth comes to us, declaring that we can awaken the sleeping Christ within and manifest that Christ throughout our life, proving the truth of Jesus' assertion that those who really believe in Him would do all that He did–and even more.3

Rest–Or More Work?

It is the hope of all of us that when we take up spiritual life from that point on all will be smooth sailing. Such a state would be spiritual death, but we do not realize that. For life implies change and struggle, and we must reconcile ourselves to the fact. Some struggle for the things that perish, and some struggle for the imperishable things of the spirit. Having worn ourselves out through so many lives in our frustrating struggles for material things, it is only to be expected that when we decide to turn toward spiritual things we would assume that at last we can get a rest since the objects of our pursuit are so different from the things we sought in our previous lives. But if our path is an authentic one, we soon find that it is just the opposite. Saint Mark tells us that as soon as people learned that Jesus was in the house "straightway many were gathered together." The same will happen to us.

Heretofore we had passed our life completely unaware of the multitudinous aspects of our being–especially of our mind. Also, we have been utterly unaware of so many details in our thought and action–what to speak of our environment–that need to be corrected and brought into conformity with our new life in the spirit. Beforehand, we were coasting along, thinking that we were without a care, thinking that we are pretty good people who are doing rather well. Suddenly the light of reality begins to dawn, and we find that our lives and souls are not the paradise we had assumed, but are more like a wrecking yard or a disaster area! This is no fun, but we should be grateful to at last see the truth of things regarding ourselves (or more exactly, regarding the layers we have to get through to discover ourselves). The foregoing is especially true of meditation. For when we turn within, we find a clangorous multitude of chaotic and negative forces–forces that hitherto have completely dominated our thought and life while usually remaining hidden from our conscious minds.

Reacting To New Life

Saint Mark further tells us that the multitude was so great "insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door." That is, we discover such an incredible number of things clamoring for our attention (and usually elimination), that we find ourselves utterly incapable of dealing with them. Because of past life habit our initial response is to cut and run. This is why so many people are happy to read books on spiritual life and metaphysics but rarely meditate, making various excuses to avoid the rather terrifying inner confrontation which meditation produces. And it is indeed a good question: How are we going to deal with all these things? How can we possibly bring any order out of this explosion, and how shall we ever have the strength to deal with these demands and distractions? The answer is that on our own we can do absolutely nothing.

But we are not alone. Just as Jesus was in the house, so He is within us–especially He is present to those proficient in meditation. Saint Mark says that "He preached the word unto them." Our entire being is yearning for the Word of Life–the word of which David said: "He sent his word, and healed them."4 This inner call to life is the "deep calling unto deep" that David referred to.5 It is the god within calling unto the God without for the ending of that duality, so that at last there will be not two, but One: God, the perfect Unity.

The multitude pressing at the door of our minds and hearts will be cured if, like Jesus, we ever speak to them "the word" of immortal life within meditation. For the light and "word" born of meditation dispels all darkness, transforms, and heals all things within and without, so that Jesus will say to us as He did to Zacchaeus: "This day is salvation come to this house."6

Whom Can I Trust?

Whom Can I Trust?

A question of truth

Some years back when speaking to an informal group in a friend's home, a young woman asked me: "How can I know if a teacher or a body of teaching is valid?" I asked her to let me delay answering until our next meeting, for I realized how very crucial her question was. To find our way through the labyrinth of clamoring "truth" that assails us on all sides is no simple thing. Nor is it simply a matter of ensuring that we recognize intellectual accuracy, for spiritual teaching is just that–spiritual–and directly effects our personal evolution.

On the surface it does not really matter much what we intellectually believe about many aspects of spiritual philosophy. But on a deeper–and therefore more real–level, it matters greatly. For since it is definitely true that "thoughts are things" it only follows that every individual concept and every system of philosophy possesses a vibrational life of its own–a thoughtform or force that either serves to release the fettered spirit of the seeker into the freedom of the Infinite Spirit, or which serves to perpetuate its bondage within the realm of untruth and illusion.

The hidden life of religion

It is not the obvious, outer shell of a concept or belief that really affects us, but its inner heart–its "blood" which conveys the state of consciousness from which it arises. This is why Jesus told His disciples that they must not "eat" His body alone, but that they must "drink" His blood as well. 1

That is, they were not to simply adopt a series of beliefs or external ways gleaned from listening to Him speak, but they were to access the very Divine Source from which He drew His words–words which, because He spoke from a perfectly illumined consciousness, were in truth "spirit and life."2 For this reason, reading His words nearly two millennia after they were spoken still conveys a definite spiritual power. The same is true of the writings of saints and masters. It is not amiss to say that by reading their words we attune ourselves to their liberated consciousness and begin to absorb some of their interior vision along with the intellectual concepts expressed by them.

Conversely, writings and verbal teachings that arise from ignorance or deception convey the vibration and psychic state of ignorance and deception–even when the words are true on an objective level. This is why Saint Paul3 spoke of turning truth into lies–not by verbal alteration or rearrangement, but by the infusion of corrupted consciousness. We may think of the simile of good, wholesome food served in a dish laden with virulent disease germs. Those who eat the food also get the disease of the dish. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Saint John the Beloved Apostle, wrote, it is like a pleasant drink with poison concealed in it so that whose who partake "do sweetly drink in their own death." Teachers and teachings are vessels that either purify or contaminate.

The four traits of trustworthiness

So what did I tell the inquirer at our next meeting? I told her that there are four characteristics which indicate that a teacher or religious-philosophical system is trustworthy, and one through which we can get more than just verbal answers to verbal questions–one by means of whose teaching we may attain to higher consciousness. Those four traits of such a teacher–and teaching–are these:

1) They have a well-established tradition of long standing–however popular the "new religion for a new age" slogan may be. Generations of aspirants who have applied the teachings and practices demonstrate a tradition's validity by their own objective spiritual realization which was gained by their applying that tradition's beliefs and practices.

2) They did not simply read books, do some kind of research, have some vivid dreams, "channel," or attempt to archeologically reconstruct a broken (or non-existent) tradition, and then set themselves up as a teacher or restoration of "lost wisdom." Rather, they learned from living guides, even though the study of written texts is usually part of the training they received.

3) They are supported by other valid traditions–that is, they are in harmony with all other ways of illumination and acknowledge the truth of those ways, not claiming to have the only truth or be the only right teacher and teaching. The differences between the great spiritual traditions are necessary so those traditions may benefit seekers of differing psychic makeup. Although there may be differences or seeming contradictions, there are never really any conflicts between the spiritual systems based on spiritual revelation. Further, each valid tradition understands that its ways are not for all, but only for those who can benefit from their distinctive approach. For example, valid meditators on God with form never disdain meditation on the formless, though they understand that it is not the kind of meditation they themselves need. And true seekers of the formless never disdain or deny the validity of approaching God through form. Nor does either one think that their way is the best one that all must eventually come to. As Swami Nikhilananda, a Vedanta missionary to the West, wrote, we cannot accept Christ and reject Krishna, nor can we reject Christ and accept Krishna. For they are One. And those who rightly seek union with the Real will come to experience that for themselves.

4) They not only give instructions in concepts or external observances, they also open the inner life through knowledge of the practice of meditation so their students may both comprehend the intellectual side of the tradition and on the esoteric side be enabled to attain the same state of consciousness which the original Teacher and His successors embodied. That is, through application of esoteric knowledge and power they are enabled to pass from being Buddhists to being Buddhas and from being Christians to being Christs. This takes much more than philosophy or external disciplines–however subtle or dramatic. It requires the inner experience and knowing that comes from meditation. Saint John wrote at the beginning of his Gospel: "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God."4 That is, those who "receive" the pure consciousness of their own spirit, their own inner Christ, will be enabled to manifest their true nature as sons of God–as gods with God. It should be noticed that Jesus did not make His disciples sons of God. Rather, He gave them the "power to become" and they got to work and themselves did the "becoming" until in time their very shadows could heal the sick.5 As the Rig Veda says of God: "His shadow is immortality," and so is that of those who are one with God.

When these four points are truly possessed, and not merely claimed, then a teacher or teaching may be at least provisionally accepted until the seeker's experience itself becomes the determining factor of trustworthiness.