The aspirant’s understanding of the true goal of any spiritual process must be put into proper perspective. For his aim should not be the accumulation of intellectual knowledge, nor psychic phenomena, nor even self-gratification, for these tend to be hallmarks of status and achievement, which are elements of the mundane world, not of the heavenly reality. Goals such as these are only ego hooks that act as anchors which will hold back the aspirant from any real goal. Therefore, one must become humble on this path, so that he may learn to surrender into the Divine.
Certain Eastern teachings will teach that the path involves a “goalless goal” by which you must “seek without seeking.” This line of reasoning only baffles the Western thinker and confuses his logical mind. Let us explain that this kind of philosophy is essentially saying that the Mystical Path is not concerned with some distant destination, but it focuses on the whole journey. Hence the idea is to live life as fully as possible without endeavoring to reach some utopian goal. For when you hold out for a supreme destination, you will miss the journey and any significant keys to development along the way. You can’t force your inner progress, but you must remain receptive to the flow of Spirit within you, so it can guide you where you need to be. The journey is a natural process that you can’t rush or manipulate.
“Growth is natural to man. No one thinks of a flower trying to bloom, or of a tree trying to grow. The blossoming of the flower is the manifestation of universal law flowing through the plant; it is the will of the Infinite made manifest in the finite. Illumination is the blossoming of the soul in man; it is just as natural, simple, and inevitable as the flowering of the rose.”1
Another example of this is demonstrated by the question, “At what point did the tree arrive? At which moment did it achieve full maturity?” The point is that inner unfoldment is gradual and natural. It is easier to perceive this process as the aspirant advancing through countless levels or plateaus, as in a stair step progression along the whole journey, while he does not hold out for one final goal. For even that ideal which the aspirant may perceive as the main goal he seeks, such as Illumination for instance, is not a final goal, but yet another stepping stone along the whole path.
The distant steps ahead of you may seem vague and abstract at first, but farther along the journey you walk, these become much clearer and attainable, as the unseen becomes the seen, that you may more fully experience these deeper realities of Life.
When you seek Illumination, or any Initiation, you should not seek it for its own sake, that is, for sensationalism or ego-gratification. The phenomenalism of it is a side benefit at most. The vivid experience of these inner, mystical realities is important, but not to be seen as the goal. Your experience is a clear sign or indicator that you are advancing on the path and reaching the deeper Reality in all of its Infinite and Eternal nature. The experience you receive is not the aim itself, but it is your consciousness awakening and growing into more expansive levels of God’s Consciousness, thus these mystical experiences are transformative in nature through deeper realizations of Universal Beingness, which is God. Likewise, if you are advancing successfully on this Mystical Path, you will not just have merely one experience, but many along the whole journey. This explains more clearly the analogous idea of plateaus of progression, through your continual deepening awareness and realizations into the higher unseen realms of God’s Consciousness, or what has also been called Cosmic Consciousness.
You aren’t here on this Mystical Path to merely see and experience the Light inside and then go out and boast about it to your friends and family. Illumination is not a badge of honor for attainment. These sublime experiences and realizations of God within are personal, not something to broadcast to just anyone; however, they can be discussed between you and your teacher, as he guides you in further understanding and unfoldment in these sensitive and profound interior areas. The ego does not need to be gratified through spiritual unfoldment, nor will it ever find real fulfillment in self-gratification. Unfortunately, it often takes advantage of these “plateaus of progression,” so the aspirant must learn to be more humble in this process. Otherwise he gets caught up in the phenomena of spirituality.
“It is most important that any student of metaphysics who expects to make any true progress in the development of his inner life should refrain from all forms of psychism, and avoid psychic phenomena. The best schools in both East and West warn their disciples against psychism and mediumship.”2
Seeking spiritual or psychic phenomena and satisfaction therein is a waist of valuable energy. Likewise, the aspirant must not view attainment or the Initiations as trophies for spiritual achievement, which is all too tempting. But as he learns to live the inner life of living and working in the Light of Christ, and sincerely continues his spiritual disciplines and service to mankind, then he will continue on this spiritual journey in a more balanced way.
“One gem from many facets blazes fire,
One Light paints sacred scenes of stained glass hue;
To just One Truth do many faiths aspire —
There is One Way, but many paths thereto.”3
The Illumined Mystic often holds to the axiom that there are many paths, yet one way. There are many branches on the tree, but one central trunk from which they spring. The main trunk represents the Truth, and the branches represent the many avenues by which to reach this. Once again, everyone is different in their life experiences, and there are countless religious groups and traditions through which we seek for the one Truth. Often these avenues are colored or flavored differently and so the way to the Truth may not always be exact. This is why the aspirant may seek through many different exterior paths, and then he will eventually turn within, to the interior Way instead. The Mystical Path may at first be perceived as merely one of these branches of the tree, but at its deeper levels it becomes the Mystical Way, because the essence of the Way can only be mystical in nature. This is because true mysticism is “experiential spirituality,” or learning to know and experience God and becoming one with this Reality.
Many traditions from the East are not fully understood by the Westerner, who tends to retain a superficial view of Eastern practices, in many cases, unless he is trained properly. However, no matter if a person was born and raised in the Eastern path or the Western path, or somewhere in between, ultimately, we are all growing souls from the one Divine Source. Each person must find the path that is appropriate for him. It doesn’t really matter as long as you discover what will work right for you. But it always requires patience, integrity and sincerity through the appropriate disciplines. When you find the right path and the right teacher for you, you will know, because if you apply the tools of this path correctly and sincerely, you will truly unfold spiritually as a result. “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7-16. KJV) The teacher and the path he represents will reveal itself as one that is truly genuine if it bears righteous fruit. This is true, because “truth demonstrates itself.”
It is also important to realize such genuine paths will expect much patience and perseverance in spiritual unfoldment. Each aspirant unfolds at a different pace, some much slower and painstakingly, and others more swiftly and steadily. So we cannot train all students according to one rigid system. Each person requires a somewhat different treatment to match his individual process.
“Many modern schools place their disciplines on a time basis, but time has little place in the matter of growth. One may practice certain disciplines for ten years and still not be ready for any further enlightenment; or one may practice only a few weeks and be prepared for further instruction. The time that it requires to release the inner faculties depends upon the amount of spiritual enlightenment that has been brought forward from the previous life. It may be necessary to practice the disciplines for a number of years before the maximum results are achieved. If you are discouraged easily, or inconstant in your development to the subject, the benefits will be proportionately diminished.”4
While the aspirant commits to his spiritual work, essentially he is opening doors to deeper realization, because the process does not have to be arduous or toilsome. He learns to realize his inner unfoldment is not a strenuous effort, but a natural process after all.
Spiritual growth is very natural, but it doesn’t appear this way, for people have complicated the process with their limited conceptions and lack of true understanding and insight. It is very much like building dams in the river, preventing its natural flow. Hence, these people have blocked the Way, so their walk seems very difficult. The journeyer on the path need to let go, surrender completely, and then the natural flow will carry him through, and the rest of the inward journey will be a truly wondrous adventure. You must come to realize and experience the natural flow of this process in order to be fulfilled in it.
“When through realization we come to understand the divine energy that causes us to exist and grow, we cease to impede its natural flow in and through ourselves. When through realization we become aware of this divine virtue within ourselves, our inner nature is enlightened, with the result that our outer nature inevitably is transmuted.”5
When you receive genuine Awakening and Illumination, it resonates on all levels, body, mind and soul, and the natural flow will be initiated; spiritual unfoldment will be a steady pace toward what the Mystics call Divine Union with God. You may ask, is this the final goal then? No; but you can say it is the end of one phase of the process and the beginning of another. For here is where the real adventure in God’s whole Beingness truly begins for the unfolding Mystic! For we as cosmic travelers have embarked on an Eternal Adventure where Infinity is our range!
1 Self-Unfoldment by Disciplines of Realization, by Manly P. Hall, PRS, pg. 8
2 Ibid., pg. 23
3 Jewels of the Wise, Epiphany Press, pg. 1
4 Self-Unfoldment by Disciplines of Realization, by Manly P. Hall, PRS, pg. 30
5 Ibid., pg. 8