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Poor in Spirit

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Poor in Spirit

Moving From Being a Soul to Being a Spirit

When you are a slave, you can be a true expression of the truth, a true prolongation of the truth. As we see, our attitude continues to refine. The purification of the soul, the correction of our attitude toward experience, leads to the condition of mystical poverty. Being poor in spirit means we not only serve and purify, but also that we realize we don’t own anything. We move from being a soul to being a spirit. A spirit is a soul that realizes that its existence is not its own. We realize that our very substance, our very consciousness, is not ours but originates in a higher source. Not only the love and the will and the value come from a deeper source, but our very existence, our very soul, is owned by the master. We own nothing. We become a slave to the truth when we realize that we are not separate from it. True service arises from the station of slavery. True service becomes our natural state, like becoming the finger of the hand and being moved only by the master.

The Dark Night of Spirit, an Actual Experiential Condition

The soul recognizes that the spiritual qualities and experiences are not hers; they are God’s qualities, and are bestowed upon her, and just as easily can be taken away. She recognizes that even her very substance, her very existence, is a gift from God. She is nothing, possesses nothing, and can do nothing. This is the dark night of spirit, which is an actual experiential condition, and not only an insight or understanding. As the soul recognizes her truth—that as an
individual soul she possesses nothing—she begins to experience the true condition of being an individual soul. And this is the condition of being totally empty, totally poor, totally incapable, totally lacking. This is the state of poor in spirit, traditionally referred to as mystical poverty. To be completely poor is to recognize our true condition as individuals, which is that nothing we have or experience or accomplish is actually ours. It all belongs to the ultimate spiritual truth, the absolute ground of reality. We then experience a phenomenological emptiness, a voidness of all qualities, of everything, including being and existence. When this condition prevails, it becomes possible for the source of all manifestation to reveal itself in this voidness. This is a subtle point. When we recognize our inherent poverty, our sense of self is completely denuded, which makes it possible for the essence of divinity to manifest.

To be Poor in Spirit Means to be Completely Nonattached

Since we are looking at this situation from our Western perspective, rather than viewing it from the perspective of nonattachment, we see it in terms of poverty. The notion of poverty, as we discussed earlier, is part of the Western spiritual tradition. Poverty is the Western counterpart of nonattachment. However, nonattachment is not identical to poverty. To be poor in spirit means to be completely nonattached, but the sense of poverty is a different flavor of experience from that of nonattachment. Nonattachment means we have reached a place of realization of true nature or spirit, and we experience ourselves as the spirit, which is inherently nonattached. In the Western traditions, the question is looked at from the perspective of soul, not spirit, where soul is the individual total consciousness through which experience happens. It is useful here to recognize the distinction between soul and spirit. Poverty means the soul has learned to recognize that everything she experiences, everything she has, is not hers. All experience is a gift from true nature, from the source of all manifestation. In monotheistic language, the soul recognizes that whatever richness she experiences, whether material or spiritual, comes from God, a gift and grace from him. She owns nothing because there is only one owner. Even her actions and accomplishments are not hers, for without the capacities and qualities that God gives her, she won’t be able to do anything.

We Need to be Poor in the Inner States Themselves, the States of Realization, the Positive States

To be poor in spirit ultimately means that we need to be poor in the inner states themselves, the states of realization, the positive states. We need to be poor in love, poor in compassion, poor in intelligence, poor in truth, poor in awareness, poor in existence. But what does this mean? Clearly, as we open up to our nature we begin to experience these things more. Being spiritually poor does not mean that we do not experience spirit, just as being materially poor does not mean we do not have material things. Rather, poverty means that we do not possess spiritual experiences or material things. We realize that we don’t own them; when they come, they come, when they go, they go. We do not have them, hold on to them, or take the position that they are ours. We treat them as visitors, as guests. The moment that we say some experience is ours, we go back to the same attitude, just like the person who has lots of money. We feel rich again and we support our ego with that richness. To learn to be poor, we have to go very far. The attachment to realization has to go. The attachment to inner states has to go. Needing to have good states has to go, just as needing to have bad states has to go. We learn that our attachment to negative states also can make us feel full and rich with oceans of hatred and mountains of jealousy. We can be rich in envy, anger, and fear. These inner possessions support the identity in the same way that oceans of love and mountains of strength do. The ego says, “These are mine.”

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