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Spiritual Path

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Spiritual Path

All Spiritual Realization Seen as Different Faces of One Truth

When I say that these realizations—whose experiential universe and wisdoms are all different—are freedom and all faces of one truth, I am not saying that all paths lead to the same place. That is not, in fact, true. Rather, each path leads to different realizations, all of which are true. Some people think that it is the same reality seen by different people through different perspectives. But reality actually can present itself in different ways. So the idea from perennial philosophy, an ancient notion that was revived in the twentieth century—that all spiritual paths speak about and lead to the same truth—is quite different from what I am saying. That thinking attributes the variety of spiritual experience to differences in culture and circumstance. Although I understand all spiritual realization to be different faces of one truth, each one of them is the truth completely while, at the same time, each is different from the other. The view of totality allows all views—all realizations and teachings—to be valid and true. Each one of them reveals something about liberation, enlightenment, and awakening. And we can abide in one realization forever, but we don’t have to. Just because a particular realization is true does not mean only that is true. The view of totality shows us that this is true and that is true and there is no end to truth. It challenges not only our attachment to an ultimate realization but also our belief in the concept of an ultimate. This frees us to experience true nature manifesting other kinds of realizations. 

Being Everything

On the spiritual path, we can have various experiences of totality. We might experience it as the soul or individual consciousness being aware of itself as the totality of our experiences and the totality of what we are. The individual soul, with its organs and capacities and histories, is where all our experiences happen. So we might experience the soul as a kind of totality. Or we might experience totality in a boundless dimension—not being the individual soul but being the totality of the universe. That experience usually appears in what is called boundless or nondual experience. When we are experiencing that kind of totality, we are everything. We are the totality in the sense that we are the nowness or the awareness that contains everything—all thoughts, all feelings, all objects, all phenomena are part of this totality. Sometimes when we experience that kind of nonduality, we are the totality in the sense that we are all of that.

Embarking on a Spiritual Path

So when we embark on a spiritual path, we unconsciously believe that we are setting out for heaven. We think that the path is a matter of going to a spiritual universe that we somehow see as separate from physical reality, from the here-and-now, from the world we live in. This deep split is implicit in Western culture, and Western religions actually support it. All theistic religions basically look at things through this dichotomy: There is God and there is the physical world. Their religious formulations are based on it, and only when you get into the mystical elements of these religious traditions can this split be seen through. This split in which heaven and earth are two different things is not the fault of Western culture but rather, a reflection of a characteristic of the development of ego itself: its loss of contact with reality. As we develop, the environment inevitably fails to hold us completely. The spiritual element—our essential nature—is rarely fully or even partially held, while our physical nature, our minds, and our emotions receive much more holding. Because we gradually lose touch with what is not held within us, the spiritual recedes from our awareness and becomes split off. While we are by nature spirit manifesting in a body, as our ego develops, we become blind to that reality. It is analogous to becoming color-blind, seeing only part of the spectrum. We see the physical world but we do not see the fundamental or spiritual component of it. We could call this seeing and experiencing of only part of what we are and what is around us essential blindness.

Facets of Unity, pg. 54

Life of Renunciation

Because havingness is a cornerstone of the ego-self and its life, spiritual traditions have seen poverty as necessary for realization, which is largely a going beyond the ego and its view of reality. Learning to be poor, to live without attachment, without havingness, becomes the way to empty the self and to move towards the truth of reality. Since it is almost automatic that possessing becomes possessiveness, many of the spiritual traditions teach material poverty as an effective method to counteract the tendency of havingness. Living a life of renunciation becomes the way to avoid the temptations of havingness. The world begins to appear as a temptress to be shunned and renounced at any cost. This strategy can help but there is no guarantee for success. Most renunciates do not become enlightened.

Much of Our Human Potential Lies in Realms not Accessible or Even Visible to Normal Consciousness

Throughout history, human beings have felt the need for intentional, focused work and guidance, to be able to advance beyond the average human development known in most societies. Much of our human potential lies in realms not accessible or even visible to normal consciousness. This is specifically the case for humanity’s spiritual potential, which is the ground of human consciousness and the source of true and lasting fulfillment, peace, and liberation. This situation has led to the arising and development of many teaching schools throughout the ages, inner work schools that specialize in the development of the total human being—particularly the actualization of the depth of human potential. Such a spiritual school is usually built on a teaching that emerges from a specific logos—a direct understanding of reality and the situation of human beings within that reality. Through the teaching, the logos reveals a path toward the actualization of our human potential. The methodology of the path also reflects the wisdom arising from this direct understanding. It is not just a haphazard collection of techniques aimed at helping students to arrive at certain inner states. The methodology will be
successful in unfolding the path when it is a faithful expression of the particular logos of that teaching. You could say that practicing the methodology of a teaching is the specific key needed to open the door of this teaching’s logos of experience and wisdom.

No Path is the Final Description of Reality

Under normal circumstances, an individual in serious spiritual work follows a particular teaching, a certain path that involves a perspective, a detailed knowledge of Reality and the path to it along with various attitudes and methods. He needs to faithfully follow the teaching, for a real teaching is the objective manifestation of true and essential knowledge, the nous of true nature. Yet to be fully liberated he must go beyond any knowing, and his realization must be independent of his discriminating mind. This will only be possible only if he does not adhere to his path as the final description of reality -- not because the description is necessarily wrong or inaccurate, but because true nature is ultimately beyond any description, any system or teaching. This possibility of detachment from the path he has faithfully followed is granted when true nature manifests its nonconceptual presence. It appears as nonattachment in his heart, and as total openness in his mind. He is open to see that the teaching he has been following has been, at least partially, conceptual. He can now see all teachings, and all systems and wisdom traditions, simply as useful stories that explain Reality and the path of liberation, but that liberation itself is beyond any and all stories, any and all teachings, any and all knowing. This is not usually easy for good students who have not only followed their chosen path faithfully and diligently, but have deeply appreciated and loved it, and seen its amazing beauty and preciousness. At this juncture in the inner journey, many conflicts may arise, great doubts about one's path, and even about one's personal realization. If the student has been following a path that emphasizes a certain dimension of reality or postulates God as the reigning divinity, this juncture can bring about a great crisis of faith, involving guilt and intense self-recrimination, because the inner unfoldment is now revealing to him that God, or whatever divinity he has believed in is actually a concept. That Reality, or God, cannot be seen as "God" or anything. It cannot be named, and it cannot be made into a special category. There are no special ultimate categories, because there are no ultimate categories. No sacred cows survive the realization of the nonconceptual, and one's realization becomes independent from any belief or teaching.

One of the Central Dangers on the Spiritual Path

So, this is one of the central dangers on the spiritual path: whenever we experience something new, we want to put it in a box. We reify it and then separate from it in order to identify with it. Students sometimes ask me, “I had such and such an experience. What is it? What do we call it?” They ask in part because they want to recognize what has just happened to them, but they also ask so they can label and define their experience and hold on to it. The idea is: “If I can package this really nice thing that happened to me, I can identify with it—I can think that it is me, that it is part of me; it’s something I can say I have.” True presence, on the other hand, doesn’t care what it is. It is totally uninvested in itself. It is simply being itself. We can become aware of the tendency to want to freeze-frame our experience so that it can be known. Having all these snapshots is how we reify, but reality is more like a movie than a still picture. When you are being, everything is flowing.

The Fruit of a Spiritual Path

The fruit of the path is the capacity to live in objective reality. With the understanding of the view of objective reality, you can discriminate how each of your experiences is a reflection of this reality, a distortion of it, or an approximation of it. The view in its totality cannot be completely grasped until an individual arrives at a deep realization of it, but that does not prevent us from trying to understand what that view is. This attempt helps us to orient our work on ourselves because our understanding of what reality is determines our minute-by-minute and day-to-day approach to our own consciousness. In fact, the methodology and actual practices of the various spiritual paths are determined by the particular understanding of reality out of which they arose. Because the view of any genuine teaching is an elucidation of the one reality, the various teachings are similar; where they vary is determined by the particular view of reality that is emphasized on each path. When you are engaged in a path, you need to understand the view of that teaching to be able to fully engage in its work -- to be aligned with its path and to have the right attitude about its practice in your life.

Facets of Unity, pg. 61

The Full Circle of the Inner Path

In traversing the inner path we make a full circle. We first leave the practical, in terms of our value system, and go to the complete Absolute; from the Absolute we come back to the practical and see it as the Absolute. When I say our destination is the Absolute, I don't mean a rejection of this world. I mean coming back to the world from a different perspective. Coming back to the world as divine, as Absolute, as real. In this realization, matter itself is spiritualized. You realize that matter, the physical universe, the ordinary stuff of your life is the ultimate reality. There is no separation between essence and appearance.

Universal and Particular Logoi of Manifestation

The universal logos is the ordered pattern of the flow of manifestation, as we discussed in chapter 20. It is the flow of embodied concepts as cosmic speech, which articulates its intelligent optimizing force. But the term logos also means a particular pattern of change, flow, and development, with its own logic and conceptualization. This latter meaning implies that there can be logoi, different forms of logos that apply to different situations or systems. All the logoi must reflect and express the universal logos as an ordered pattern of unfoldment, but they can differ in their conceptualizatons, their logic, and the particulars of the phases of development. It is possible to see that each teaching is an expression of a particular logos. The logos of a particular teaching has its own unique view of ultimate reality or truth, self or soul, and spiritual path. Each possesses a different and unique technical language, logic of experience and understanding, ideals of development or realization, phases of unfoldment of experience and understanding, and kinds of experience, perception, and knowledge. Furthermore, each possesses an approach to spiritual work or practice, determined by its view of ultimate truth and realization. This necessitates different methods and approaches, and varying spiritual technologies, that are often different in principle.

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