Much like socialism or love, ‘spiritual’ is a word that through overuse and misappropriation has been diluted to the point where it has lost virtually all meaning. Although commonly understood to allude to something separate from the material world, according to esoteric literature that which we regard as ‘spiritual’ – referring to spirit, and its opposite, form, exist in duality and are but the positive and negative polarities of one energy, which we call life. Spirit then is the highest most refined form of matter, and matter is the lowest, or grossest form of spirit.
Helena Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society described this expanded structure in The Secret Doctrine (Vol. 1 p.79/80), “life we look upon as the one form of existence, manifesting in what is called matter; or what, incorrectly separating them we name spirit, soul and matter in man. Matter is the vehicle for manifestation of soul on this plane of existence, and soul is the vehicle on a higher plane for the manifestation of spirit, and these three are a Trinity synthesized by life which pervades them all.”
Under the prevailing doctrine of our current civilization – a form that has evolved over the last two thousand years or so and is now collapsing – the understanding of what constitutes ‘reality’ is limited largely to that which can be perceived via the sensory apparatus. If you can’t see, hear, touch or smell it, if the physical sciences, the God/s of the age, cannot quantify and qualify it, well then (chances are) it doesn’t exist. Conversely, if you can and do experience ‘it’ through the senses, then it must be real.
Despite the large numbers of people in every country trying to live a life that is not dominated by materiality, it is nevertheless a materialistic era, ignorant and cynical; society and the systems that control is organized along lines consistent with the dogma and behavior is encouraged that conforms to the stereotype.
Wonder, the unexplained and the mysterious are laughingly indulged, flippantly disregarded or outright trashed. Miracles – ‘impossible happenings that happen’ –, which incidentally have been witnessed in unprecedented numbers over the last forty years or so, and continue unabated are largely ignored. Death, which is perhaps the leading example of ‘the unknown’, is regarded as something separate from life and the end of existence. It is thought of as that awful thing that one day is going to tear us away from loved ones and from daily living, with its endless turmoil and conflict, pleasures and delights – all of which we are deeply attached to. As such death is widely regarded as inherently bad, something to be feared, not talked about and avoided for as long as possible.
This particular chapter of the belief system is much more common in western, so-called developed nations (most Americans e.g. are terrified of death) than in the east, India, Tibet, China, Japan and so on. In such ancient civilizations teachings of great wisdom and depth are found, aspects of which over the last hundred years or so have been circulating with increasing force in the west, bringing about a shift in attitudes among many. Stimulating growing interest in eastern practices like Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga and meditation – another distorted and widely misunderstood term, and as such, one that is increasingly difficult to use with any real meaning.
Within such a reductive view, the physical body, including an endless stream of thoughts, within which ideologies and conditioning live and prosper, emotional feelings, and desires, become all-important. Collectively they form the construct of the self, and through unswerving, largely unquestioned identification the notion of who we are as a separate individual ‘I’ is born. Sensory pleasure in its various forms – hedonism and the attainment of security – emotional and physiological, become the paramount aims, the purpose of life, the goal of all endeavor.
Huge industries have evolved in order to meet and perpetuate desire, association with such basic urges is encouraged and the image of the self as separate and isolated thereby strengthened. Consumerism in all its glory including the diverse world of entertainment is dependent upon the insatiable longing for stimulation and satisfaction being maintained, impulses that bring with them discontent, depression and anxiety, among a range of mental health illnesses, as well as a plethora of social issues.
It is an extremely narrow definition of life and self, and one that contradicts the teachings of the wise throughout the ages. Its divisive values and belief in separation have saturated every corner of civilization, dividing humanity, stamping on open-minded enquiry and common sense, and feeding behavior that has led to endless wars, needless poverty and the environmental catastrophe, among other calamities.
Like all totalitarian ideologies, it is rooted in ignorance, and yet, like isms of all kinds, perhaps suspecting this, tolerates no opposition. All ideologies are limited and therefore false, all move along an ever-narrowing path of deceit and must result in crystallization: all imprison the mind and, if mankind is to be free, all must be rejected totally. Such confinements are totally incompatible with the times and should be among the first casualties of release.
Enthralled within Plato’s cave we stare into the shadows and believe them to be real, we have disregarded the wisdom of the ages, abandoned unified ways of the long, largely forgotten past, and collectively reached false conclusions about the nature of life and of ourselves. We fail to recognize and/or understand that there are basic laws that underlie all life. As a result, we consistently violate those laws setting in motion unstoppable, negative, consequences. Virtually all human thinking and behavior is motive-bound and therefore dishonest and polluting. It is the cause of all that is chaotic in our world, including the systems that imprison us, as well as every aspect of environmental disruption and ecological breakdown.
As we clumsily and, for many, reluctantly, transition into a new time, a time colored by different qualities, encouraging alternate values and ways of thinking to the prevailing ones, tensions are created. Conflict between the old and dying and the incoming new, a clash between the prevailing materialistic dogma with its divisive ideals and a movement towards inclusiveness, responsibility and freedom is at the forefront.
It is a clash of values and understanding. Broadly speaking one set grows out of a decaying, but powerful identification with existing ideologies and forms. This approach proceeds from and strengthens the materialistic viewpoint, together with the belief in separation and its bedmate, tribalism. The other senses an underlying unity to life, is curious and drawn to look within, to explore self-identity and discover meaning. We might legitimately describe this outlook as ‘spiritual’. It points towards an inherent and unchanging aspect of our nature and recognizes that humanity is one.
As awareness of this essential core, this ‘life within the form’, grows, it tends towards contentment because the mind is not as agitated by desire as it is when the focus is only external, something the current systems demand – contentment and peace of mind are the enemies of Neo-Liberalism. A mind thus oriented is a less ruffled mind; it cultivates values that we would readily recognize as good, fostering inclusivity and compassion.
With each day that passes we move ever more deeply into The New. As the past decays and its ideological grip weakens, as it must, what we might call the spiritualization of culture will intensify, stimulating the transformation of attitudes and forms, breaking down divisions – within the individual, between peoples and between people and the natural environment.