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Wisdom Traditions

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Wisdom Traditions

The Struggle Between the Angelic and Animal is Characteristic of Incomplete Human Beings

The wisdom traditions have recognized that a human being is mature and complete—that is, fully human—when the soul has integrated her essential nature fully and harmonized it with her animal potential. In other words, the struggle between the angelic and animal is characteristic of half-grown human beings, of incomplete human beings. This happens to be the station of the vast majority of humanity, but the complete human being, the being who is fully human, is one who has fully realized and integrated the two sides of the soul’s potential. The fully human being retains animal instincts, for instance, but these instincts are integrated into a perspective of selflessness and compassion. Even though the wisdom traditions have understood this and developed ways and methods for accomplishing it, the paths are so steep and difficult that many involved in these traditions settle for an unbalanced development that usually involves suppressing and splitting off the animal side. The rest of humanity continues the struggle, balanced on the side of the animal, which is the path of least resistance.

Principles that Manifest in Mind and Soul are Seen and Understood by the Wisdom Traditions

Basic knowledge is direct experience, but much of this direct experience is patterned by our ordinary knowledge, by the contents of the mind, which are in turn the product of our personal history, which unfolded in a particular cultural milieu. (See Spacecruiser Inquiry, chapter 5.) Nevertheless, basic knowledge is deeper than ordinary knowledge; it possesses its own objective patterns and principles. The objective patterns and principles of the physical world, for example, are described by the natural sciences. In the spiritual world, objective patterns and principles that manifest in mind and soul are seen and understood by the wisdom traditions. Science inquires into the surface manifestations of basic knowledge—its horizontal dimension, so to speak—and spirituality inquires into its depths—its vertical dimension. Each arrives at detailed, extensive, and useful knowledge. Both attempt to discover basic knowledge that is uninfluenced by opinions or projections, or determined by prior constructions. By exploring the wholeness of basic knowledge—both the vertical and horizontal dimensions—we may be able to arrive at a more fundamental dimension of knowledge that embraces both. The important point here, however, is that when we explore the forms of basic knowledge it reveals to us its truths, its invariant patterns and universal principles.

The Soul Cannot Help but Dissociate from Her Essential Ground

Our task now becomes clear; by learning how soul develops duality in a way that shows us how to reverse it we learn a possible path to the redemption of Western thought. The various wisdom traditions tended to see this development of duality as a going astray, as the fall of man. However, we need not take such a view of normal human development. Since this development happens to all souls it makes more sense to view it as lawful and natural. And since Western thought has developed in a way that on the one hand alienates us from the ground of Reality, but on the other has resulted in various advances for humanity—scientific, technological, cultural, artistic, and so forth—the soul’s normal development must also have its positive side, a result that would not happen otherwise. This positive side is one thing we will need to explore, but the important point is that this development is part of the natural evolutionary pattern of the soul. That there is no other alternative for the soul will become clear when we recognize the implications of her childhood condition. The soul cannot help but dissociate from her essential ground; the only variation is in the degree of this dissociation.

The Wisdom Traditions Tend to Emphasize Sudden Enlightenment or Direct Realization

Many wisdom traditions speak of pure consciousness as primordially perfect, eternally complete, not needing development, growth, or completion. These traditions tend to emphasize sudden enlightenment, or direct realization, where the methods of inner work involve simply recognizing true nature. Because they do not discuss the kind of consciousness that can grow, like that of the soul, many practitioners of this kind of path end up believing that one does not need to develop one’s consciousness in order to be realized. This view does not recognize that the fact that our ultimate nature is primordially complete does not mean that our soul can contain such completeness without first growing and developing. Our soul always has the possibility of experiencing the primordial ground and nature, and recognizing the nondual condition of Reality, but she cannot remain with this perception unless she is sufficiently mature and complete to live this realization. This is why enlightenment cannot simply be one definitive experience. Direct recognition of the ultimate truth does not by itself bring about enlightenment and liberation. In fact, the soul cannot actually absorb the significance and implications of such experience all at once. She needs a continual process of development, in which she grows and matures, and the fullness of this maturation will then coincide with the capacity to abide in the primordial perfection. This process of unfoldment and learning is the process of growing and developing the inner vessel needed for our essential nature to manifest in a lived human life.

We Cannot Know True Nature in Its Absoluteness

This experience of no perception, internal or external, is reported by advanced practitioners of most wisdom traditions. This indicates that we cannot know true nature in its absoluteness, because as we move away from manifestation and toward the transcendent truth we lose consciousness of anything. Such a conclusion is supported by the fact that the movement deeper into pure true nature, as awareness relieves itself of the perception of manifestation, is an experience of being increasingly enveloped by darkness, a divine darkness that feels like grace. The sense of the experience is that the light of true nature darkens the consciousness of the soul, liberating her from the perception of phenomena, as it draws her nearer. The soul feels increasingly close to the source as she feels more enveloped by darkness. At the point of complete nearness, that of unity, the darkness is complete, and there is no perception or awareness of anything, including darkness.

What the Wisdom Traditions Mean when they Speak of Direct Experience in Intuitive Knowing or Spiritual Contemplation

However, the experience of the senses is not what the explorers of Reality in the wisdom traditions call direct experience. In fact, the wisdom traditions of humankind, Eastern and Western, ancient and modern, speak of sense experience as exactly what is immediately present in the way of direct experience. When they speak of direct experience in intuitive knowing or spiritual contemplation, they mean that the mind itself, the medium of knowing, is in direct contact with the object of knowledge. Of course, this kind of knowing is not recognized by our science; its view and method are precisely based on isolating the observer from what is observed. The philosophical position of science—its exclusive reliance on the discursive mind and the physical senses for knowing—cannot be the ultimate arbiter of truth if science is to be integrated with an understanding of the self and of God or Being. According to the senses, there are no such things as soul and God; they cannot be verified scientifically. Is there a more fundamental dimension of knowing, a real dimension that can support both science and spirituality? We will argue in this book that there is, and will begin our exploration with an unquestionable fact about the human soul, the fact that we have a capacity for knowing, any knowing. More precisely, we need to begin with ourselves, our body and mind and all their capacities of awareness and knowing.

Why the Wisdom Traditions Think of Their Work as the Most Significant for Humanity

The soul can develop before enlightenment, by actualizing many of her potentials, as we see in the actualization of creative and intellectual potentials. Spiritual realization is not the only development, and does not imply or guarantee other kinds of development. Realized individuals, as a result, can be developed in various ways and on many levels in relation to the various human potentials. However, the soul’s freedom and the fulfillment of her deepest longings depend on the realization of her essential potential. Only with the actualization of essence can the soul be free, completely authentic and totally serene. Essence is her true nature, without which she is estranged, lost, inauthentic, empty, and twisted. Regardless how much of her potential she actualizes, regardless how much a genius she becomes, artistically or scientifically, if she does not realize her essential nature her experience continues to be characterized by emptiness and strife, on the same level as most human beings. This is why the wisdom traditions think of their work as the most significant for humanity, as transcending any artistic, scientific, cultural, or intellectual kind of education and development. The essence of thesoul stands apart from the rest of all of her potential, for it is the only possibility she has for finding true liberation and fulfillment.

Wisdom Traditions Speak of Realization as Recognizing the Inherent Perfection of Reality

Essence is always pure, eternally immaculate, everlastingly perfect. This is the reason why many wisdom traditions speak of realization as recognizing the inherent perfection of Reality. Our true nature is primordially pure, complete; it does not need to develop or be clarified. This can lead, and has led, to much confusion about the inner journey, whether it is the discovery of a primordial perfection or the process of perfection. This also resulted in the conceptual dichotomy of gradual and sudden paths of enlightenment. Understanding soul and essence, and the relation between them, clarifies such confusion. Soul grows and develops. She does this by actualizing her potential. The central potential she needs to actualize is her essence. Realizing her essential nature she is enlightened. Her essence is her deepest and most central potential, but it is a particular potential, one of the elements that constitute her potential. Essence does not have potential, for it is the ground of all potential, the ultimate nature. Realizing essence we recognize we are primordially and fundamentally immaculate and complete. The soul develops, and her spiritual development is the actualization and realization of essence. But in the state of self-realization, development does not make sense, for we are then essence, which is perfection and completeness itself.

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