The supreme objective of every law enforcement department should be to bring all police work to an end. In other words, society will have evolved to the point where the constabulary, as we know it today, is no longer necessary. Although many will laugh off this goal as unachievable or even absurd - these same scoffers many years ago would probably have also derided the idea of space travel and cloning.
In the same vein the ultimate aim of organized religion should be the cessation and eventual dissolution of this institution (and of course this won't happen because religions were created and then co-opted for very specific reasons). Yes, people will still gather together, spiritual mentors will always be with us, and perhaps different types of rituals will be practiced. What will no longer be necessary will be the self-appointed intercessors and middlemen whose ambitions have had more to do with power, control and ego than with ministration, devotion and truth. The quest for Divine Oneness will become inner instead of outer-directed and when we need the quietude and the serenity of a church we'll simply close our eyes.
The word 'psychology' originally meant the science of the soul. Today it is merely the study of behavior and mind. In good old lang syne all scientists / psychologists regarded so-called mystical experiences as symptomatic of some sort of pathology, of an unsound mind. These escapades could be summarily dismissed as subjective creations, as flight of fancy, because there didn't seem to be any logicality to them - and so this placed them outside the domain of the plausible and the analytical. Of course all of these professionals also believed that consciousness was nonexistent in and of itself. There was no consciousness where there was no brain, no neurological stew.
The major religions have a mystical tradition but there is no mainstream substructure or affirmation or cultivation. You have to go in through the rear entrance. Judaism has the ancient wisdom of the Kabbalah and Moslems have Sufism. Most Christians fail to realize just how much of their ideology was conveniently 'borrowed' from the mystical tradition and it is even more incredulous when they castigate New Agers for their 'occult' superstitious notions while at the same time swearing by the Bible - which only happens to be chock-full of prophets, miracles, communications between angels and human beings, spiritual healing, visions and so on.
So, we are at an impasse. Is mysticism pseudo knowledge or is it supreme knowledge? If we examine mystical lore and the wisdom of the sages who have gone before us we will discover a consistent and homogeneous train of thought:
In plain language mysticism is the conscious unification of self with the Absolute. It is not a trance or hypnotic state but a higher level of awareness. And this Realization is not determined by any religion or organization to which one belongs, any particular principles to which one subscribes, or any specific technique which one happens to practice. The experience hinges on the degree of development / unfoldment of one's consciousness.
We may all be connected to the Source but we are also at different evolutional stages as far as enlightenment is concerned. We have all met people who seem so stuck in 'matter' and 'ego' that not even a single ray of spiritual light seems to be emanating from their inner core. Now, ego is not a four letter word. We need not obliterate it - just the control it sometimes exercises over us. We have to lay aside the obsession with our personal urges, emotions, ambitions and attachments. We have to 'wake up' in order to experience that vital spark, that mystical Light which has always flickered within.
Once we consciously dedicate ourselves to spiritual growth, to truth, and once our motives become sincere and pure, then and only then will we begin to notice substantive results as we journey towards an understanding of our divine nature. And our spiritual maturation should not be appraised by the number of psychic and/or mystical episodes that transpire during the course of our lives. Everyone is different. And we may misinterpret a particular happenstance as being something that it is not (there are books available that describe the ineffable, transient, noetic nature of a true mystical experience).
From the Abyss to Seventh Heaven
We go to high school and university in order to learn. The paramount difference between going to school and volunteering to inhabit the third dimensional earth plane at this point in time is that everyone of us, mortal in body and immortal in spirit, has not arrived in this world to learn so much as to REMEMBER. In our heart of hearts we already know everything. Life is a process of remembering. In being, just like in school, you don't pass to the next grade level until you have mastered certain tests. After all, you don't find out how really honest you are until you sit down with your tax return forms every year or chance upon that wallet lying in the street with $3000 in it. You assume you are deeply committed to your spouse and then the most beautiful woman in the secretarial pool initiates some serious flirting with you at the office. You see yourself as strong, assertive, industrious, on top of the world as far as your life is concerned, and then your partner dies and you are left with two small children and a mortgage.
People who are on a conscious spiritual path have as many obstacles to surmount as anyone else, and oftentimes more so. There are days of agitation, uncertainty and even utter hopelessness. Mystics are familiar with the "dark night of the soul" or the "obscure night". Each such night can last twenty-four hours or twenty-four years depending on how long it takes for a specific lesson to be learned. In the struggle for individual growth and harmony it can take time to realize that jubilation and disconsolation are but two facets of the same diamond. And each puzzle solved, every course of study mastered is like an initiation - and with initiation comes illumination.
Animals and human beings are demarcated by the distinction between simple consciousness and self-consciousness. There is a third level of consciousness (already experienced by certain individuals over the ages) towards which we are all advancing, and there is probably no better introduction to this subject matter than Richard Maurice Bucke's classic book - Cosmic Consciousness.
In a sense, Cosmic Consciousness and the Absolute are uniform and congruent. Those who have experienced and written about this consciousness describe it as an influx of lucidity, exultation and a sense of personal illimitability and unity. This level of understanding can only be achieved through conscious development (encompassing many lives if you happen to believe in reincarnation) and not incidentally or by belief in a specific creed or tradition. When selfish desire is extirpated, when the quest for truth and virtue becomes sovereign, when the mundane self synthesizes with the transcendent self - then that transformative flash of omniscience will be our just reward.
And I personally believe that mysticism is not mysticism unless it is pragmatic. Just like the scientist, a true mystic studies natural and cosmic laws. The worst mistake any potential student on the path can make is to withdraw from the life he/she has been living and to focus exclusively on the inner journey - eagerly anticipating adventures in the realm of the Absolute. The society of which we are all a part is laced with shortsightedness, irrationality and downright ignorance. It cannot afford the indifference and/or the defection of some of its most discerning and inspirational members.
Mysticism is not an end. It is a beginning. Unlike the Olympics, we do not centralize on standing on a podium with a gold medal around our necks. Purity of motive and earnest application will remunerate us all equally - with laurels of clarity, inspiration and unbridled bliss.
Frequently, we hear the statement that psychic development is indicative of attainment. And, quite often, when people attempt to evaluate their personal development, they often look to the "unfamiliar" aspects of their beings as an indication of where they stand in relation to spiritual evolution. That is, those aspects of their beings with which they are familiar are generally taken for granted as being a common part of themselves and that there is really nothing very special about them.
On the other hand, most sincere students of mystical studies know that there are certain aspects of our beings of which most people are not normally aware. Such aspects include psychic abilities, awareness of mystical experiences, frequent application of intuitive impressions to our lives, and so on. As a result, we often look to the "unfamiliar aspects" and assess our attainment based upon the frequency of such experiences.
Suppose, for example, that there is some doubt in our minds as to whether we have experienced these "unfamiliar" aspects. What do we then think about ourselves? Do we think that we are not highly evolved because these experiences are seemingly non-existent or few and far between? Do we then desire to have such experiences so that we may become more highly evolved? But, let us suppose that we frequently have conscious awareness of psychic, mystical, and intuitive experiences or other types of abilities that we, as mystical students, know exist. Do we then reach a pinnacle of attainment in which we know that we have attained? Or, do such experiences become so much a part of ourselves that they too, become common and we, in turn, begin searching for ever "higher" experiences to which our desires take us?
If so, do we not have the same attitude of mind that we had before experiencing the unfamiliar? And, if this is true, what real difference is there between the former and the latter?
Those of us mystically pantheistic in our outlook recognize an all-pervading Oneness that is inherent in all things. Nothing can be separate or distinct from this Oneness and, as a result, we all have the ultimate in attainment inherent within our beings and it merely becomes a matter of realizing this, usually by way of mystical illumination.
With these thoughts in mind, we can define attainment not in the linear sense as a goal to be achieved by any of our desires, but rather as an already existing state inherent within ourselves. Attainment is not in the desire; it is in what we are! What is often mistaken as attainment is really our conscious awareness, and it is usually the development of our conscious awareness to which most of our energies are directed. Naturally, one of the goals is to increase our awareness so that we may better understand and apply the principles learned to our lives. However, it is best that we realize that a subtle distinction exists between what is known consciously and how far we have attained.
As an illustration of this point, we should realize that there is a distinct difference between psychic and mystical experiences. One of the most important distinctions is that a mystical experience is noetic. That is there would be absolutely no doubt in our mind that we had the experience, and such an experience would result in the influx of knowledge into our lives. On the other hand, a psychic experience may be just that, or we may confuse a fantasy or some other form of self-deception as being psychic in nature.
The point is that we do not always know if a particular experience is psychic or if it is of some other quality. But, let us suppose that we do indeed have a qualified psychic experience, as many of us do. Since there can exist an element of doubt accompanying such an experience, how are we to determine its quality? In other words, if the experience is not noetic, is the frequency of occurrence of such an experience indicative of any degree of attainment?
To further illustrate this point, how many times have we experienced seeing a flash of blue or violet light somewhere within our range of vision? Or, perhaps a 'tingling' sensation along the spine or head? Such sensations can be psychic experiences and we should realize that often such physical sensations accompany these experiences.
However, what value does that type of experience have to us? Moreover, what do we do after experiencing such sensations?
We can dismiss them as being unimportant. Perhaps we run to the doctor or psychiatrist thinking that we are having a psychic experience. If so, what do we think?
Some people may jump to the conclusion that since their experience is 'psychic' they have finally attained a 'high' state of spiritual evolution, and that the tiny dots of light are representative of profound spiritual contact. Others will perhaps understand that those dots of light merely indicate that a particular psychic center is beginning to awaken and that their realization of the impressions is nothing more than a routine function of one aspect of themselves not unlike any other function. Who then has a 'more evolved' degree of attainment?
The point to remember is that it is not the psychic experience that gives us an indication of our development but, more importantly, it is our attitude and understanding toward such experiences which reveal to us our attainment.
Take the example of psychic projection. We understand that when we are in an unconscious state, such as in sleep, in a coma, or in a state of intoxication, we may unintentionally project, and quite often do so. Let us suppose that, in our period of attunement, we contact a personality that is projecting. Are we then to assume that because a contact is made, we have reached a high degree of attainment and, therefore, the personality that we contacted has an important message of enlightenment which we must give to the world? We should seriously think about the experience before taking any drastic measures because we do not necessarily have any idea as to what was contacted. Many of the books on the market today which are concerned with such "messages from Cosmic Masters" are the result of people misunderstanding their experiences. What level have these people attained? What are they really doing for the dissemination of Truth?
An important point implied regarding the frequency of psychic and mystical experiences while in a subconscious state needs elaboration. The vast majority of us frequently have experiences while asleep. Further, we may only remember a small percentage of those experiences when we awaken. What is extremely important here is that we do have these experiences and that they are embedded within us. They are quite applicable and important to our lives - but we may not have objective consciousness of these experiences simply because there is no reason for it. If the need arises, the awareness will be there. Just think of how many times we have awakened in the morning with the feeling that something special had happened while asleep, or perhaps we wake up with a clear perception of a situation which, the night before, was obscure. We may not remember the experience that we have passed through, but it has been applied, for a purpose, to our lives.
Spiritual attainment is quite similar. It is one's point on the Path of mystical awakening. It is not assessed by the frequency of psychic or mystical contacts but, rather, by our attitude to ourselves and others, and is measured by our dedication to Truth and our sincerity of effort. If we manifest a degree of interest and intent in the sensational, perhaps we should then reassess our personal values and goals.Gary Stewart is known for his scholarship in the western esoteric tradition. He is the author of 'Awakened Attitude' and is the present Imperator of the Confraternity of the Rose Cross, Knight Commander of the OMCE and Sovereign Grand Master of the British Martinist Order.
Service seems to be the key word in many organizations / movements and it is something we are urged to do constantly. Are we receptive and willing to be an instrument of such a call? Or do we treat it lightly? And what is service? Perhaps we can start with what it is not. The dictionary presents a number of usages of the word "service" - occupation or condition of a servant; employment; public service in government or the private sector. Among other definitions we find some which evoke response from us as we seek to find the meaning of service in our spiritual work - aid, assistance, service to a need, promoting or serving the interest of others.
While we are interested in the traditional meanings of the word they do tend to deal more with the outer expression as in a job or activity to be carried out in the home, community or military. Is there more to Service than that which can be seen with the eye and applied to the material world? Is there an innate urge that propels us forward to a greater understanding of the inner levels of Service?
Let us examine the difference between true service and pseudo-service. The best field of exploration is oneself. By questioning our motives through reflective meditation we ask: Is there a need for self-expression by imposing our ideas on others? A strong desire to please, with strings attached? A longing for return benefits of any kind so that the ends justify the means? These are penetrating questions which can pierce through the clouds of illusion.
Many well-meaning enthusiasts produce harmful effects and even dire results that might have been avoided by an examination of motives. A personality based desire to serve without any consideration for the real needs of others can create quite a mess and even destroy the nourishing effect it could have had. Through active meditation and right thinking we can examine our motives so that we do not fall prey to our own desires and inflict them on others even if in a well-meaning way. On the other hand, if our motives are pure and we feel the inner urge to serve, the results will be growth on all levels. Sometimes we may not see the results, or they may materialize in a distant time when in retrospect we can see the order of events that have taken shape by right thinking and pure motive. Every action has a reaction and every cause an effect. By acting through right thinking instead of reacting to every impulse we can have constructive results. When we react without thinking we are working from our personality only.
True service is not a quality we acquire, nor is it something we perform, or a method we follow - but rather a life demonstration. It is the urge of the Inner Self. Therefore, service is a natural effect, evidenced on the physical plane, of Soul contact working through the instrument of the personality. It is spontaneous response to the Soul call to service. Through the field of service we realize that in the doing is the learning and we refine our serving as a Soul-infused personality.
As esotericists we are very aware of the power of thought. It can be equated to directed meditation. Herein lies a great opportunity to serve. As the human mind becomes more sensitive to directed meditation, spiritual understanding develops more deeply and we begin to evoke light. We begin to build a thought form (egregore) that relinquishes the self-centered desire nature of the material world and presents the unity that enlightens human thinking. It is through meditation and every effort to express good will in the world that we play our part in serving humanity, thereby anchoring powerful spiritual energies on earth.
If we consider the work of the electrician in relation to service, we might find an interesting analogy. The electrician hooks up to a main source of power which provides electricity or light to our homes and businesses. This networking to the main source of power is called a service. If we think of the saying "as above so below" the same idea might work in daily meditation as it does for the electrician. By linking up with the power source - the Soul - we become the wire through which a current or energy can flow. This connection brings forth light to our inner being creating an alignment with the Cosmic - which is a form of service. We become magnetic, radiant beings and transmitters of light as we answer true need, greatly affecting the 'climate of opinion' and the thought network of the planet. We add right thinking, pure motive and love to the environment - helping to dispel the clouds of fear, confusion, illusion and negative thought.
We may say that service in action could become one of the major sciences of the age. We can use the word science when we consider service to be the outward result of an inner reality. Service can then be considered a proven method for producing outward results as evidence of a creative quality. With service comes responsibility to humanity and also to our fellow group servers. As we meditate daily we link up with that group thought form, or egregore, and help to participate in its creation. Our daily thoughts and feelings affect not only ourselves, as individuals, but the group and humanity as a whole.
Dag Hammarskjold said "In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action". Do we answer the call to serve? Are we attentive when the call comes? We must always consider the group and be able to live in the spiritual as well as the physical. Joseph Campbell, author of THE POWER OF MYTH, reminds us that "The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and power to serve others".
Service then can be seen as twofold. First, a spontaneous effect of contact with our inner Self, the Soul, in which we are called to serve and obey. Secondly, to serve humanity as we develop through meditation that inner connection and find ways to motivate every spark and every initiative towards the good of the whole. Service can then be seen as love in action - love being the propelling force and purity of motive coloring actions.
This gives us a lot of work to do, especially in our own environment as we deal with family, friends, co-workers and our community. It is through service that we grow and it is the urge towards group good that we strive. Now let us use the creative imagination visualizing points of light connecting with each other and forming groups of interconnected points of light. All these points of light hook up to a spiritual power source like the hub of a wheel forming a network of enlightened thinkers radiating a vast circle of Light.