One may wonder, “Just how can these seemingly contradictory systems of thought co-exist without giving rise to irrationality?” Another may question the value in pursuing any line of thought which has no apparent roots in spirituality. Many will seek insight into the sympathetic effects which often become apparent out of accident or happenstance. Still others will find many questions left unanswered regarding who is the intrinsic self from the results of the inquiry into consciousness. These are questions which are more metaphysical in nature, less definable by science, and yet, extremely urgent to anyone seeking to attain their fullest potential while creating a personal philosophy which can assist an individual to live a moral life and find fulfillment.
As the introduction of the concept of Universal Principles should indicate, modes of behavior exist: first action, response, interaction, community and lifestyle, which support and cooperate with the harmonious propagation of Universal Purpose and yield the realization that one’s Universal Purpose reveals itself everywhere one looks. The understanding that spirituality is a vital property which expresses the relationship of every living thing to every other living thing, to the immediate ecosystem, to the planetary ecosystem and to the solar system, galaxy and universe, consequently, must infer its presence. As that mindset arises, it infuses the individual through every human activity, emotion and belief.
Like everything else in life, spirituality is a process, not an end state. Spirituality is not expressed by going to a congregational gathering one day a week and then living a lifestyle during the rest of the week in competition with one’s neighbors, angry with, jealous of and/or resentful of them, committing all kinds of unkindness and selfishness along the way. True spirituality is expressed when one lives one’s beliefs in complete awareness, moment by moment, in as many of life’s moments as possible. This kind of spirituality is available to everyone.
At this juncture, it seems advantageous to reframe the perception of what spirituality is. Most people will look at the root of the word, spirit, and determine that spirituality, to be valid and have meaning to both individuals and humanity as a whole, must be inextricably tied to spirit. I would never argue that point. However, what we mean by spirit lies at the crux of coming to terms with our place in the cosmos as well as developing a proper relationship with our neighbors and our environments.
To some people, spirit is synonymous with soul. For folks with such an outlook, the two words can be interchangeable, and they infer an everlasting vessel of that which constitutes a particular human’s intrinsic self. It is invisible to the physical world. However, this vessel, of what can only be considered as being essentially the most basic element of human composition, is never really defined by any religious (or other spiritual) tradition which I have ever studied.
However, other people do not share a belief in the individual soul which expresses its life force only through a single lifetime. For some, there exists a belief in a reincarnating spirit. They believe in the existence of many lives experienced by the same individuality expressing various personalities, different variations of what they term as being the individuality, from lifetime to lifetime.
Finally, others express a belief in a spirit which need not be eternal, which need not express more than the greatest hopes, wishes, dreams and love within each of us. In this sense of the term, a person may be described as having spirit (intense energy, a sense of personal identity expressed through universal interconnection). In this sense, agnostics and atheists can be referred to as being spiritual if they subscribe to the presence of such an intrinsic spirit. I would suggest that this definition of spirit is synonymous with Nietzsche’s “will to power.” That will has to come from somewhere. I suggest it is that intrinsic and indispensible part of the individual which lies at the deepest inner reaches of our psyches and minds, that part of us which directs words from our mouths which we didn’t pre-consider prior to uttering in conversation, which solves mathematics problems we couldn’t consciously solve while we aren’t even thinking about them, or which drives us to write books we didn’t even know we had in us before we began typing. Our spirit is our most essential self; it is that which is our fire, our drive, our highest hopes, our deepest love, our strength and character, and our most serene contentment.
One may wonder at a few questions. How and why did humanity ever conceive of the notion they possessed an everlasting soul or reincarnating soul? What have been the ramifications from the spread of this notion? Why do people invest so deeply in beliefs concerning the existence of an everlasting soul or reincarnating spirit? Is there any basis upon which to accept or deny the existence of the soul or spirit?
Each individual must arrive upon uniquely satisfying answers to these questions. Some of you may prefer to accept the arguments offered by someone or some group you trust (a clergyman, a religion, or a philosopher). Many will choose to investigate the matter thoroughly, internally and arrive at their very own specific insights into these questions. Others may choose not to consider the question at all. However, any individual, who hopes to arrive at a reasonably comprehensive philosophy of life which incorporates the reliability of scientific knowledge with the very human need to find acceptance within social conventions while also developing a system of morals and ethics for regulating interpersonal relationships and relationships with the environment or among and between nations and who aspires to be the best person they can be while also fulfilling their most burning, lifelong desires, cannot ignore the questions: does the soul exist, and what is the nature of human spirituality if they also seek to infuse their life with meaning and purpose.
The word soul carries a Judeo-Christian connotation with it. The Judeo-Christian tradition suggests that before creation, God existed. Then, God created everything in the universe by dividing up elementary polar opposites (light and dark, heavens and earth, etc.) out from what could only be interpreted as a pre-divided, unified state. However, the Judeo-Christian tale of Genesis does not provide an account for when the angels and archangels were created, or when the orders of angels came into being. The Judeo-Christian explanation generally infers that the creator caused angels to come into existence prior to causing the physical world to manifest and that these angels seemingly will live eternally, after having been created (they had a beginning, but will have no end). We do know that, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, out from the roster of archangels Lucifer separated himself from God’s following, that Lucifer imagined himself as equal with God, and that Lucifer, later, allegedly seduced Eve with the apple as a means of destroying God’s plan for a perfect creation. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, God created Adam from the clay of the Earth and then breathed the spark of life into Adam. I assume it was in the moment when God is alleged to have breathed that spark of life into Adam when he created Adam’s soul. As far as the rest of us, who knows? Most Christians allege that the embryo has a soul and that is why it should not be aborted. Such an allegation hardly meshes with the idea that God breathed the spark of life into Adam, and consequently his soul at that time too, after God had already created the fully formed human body. Anyway, one can certainly see there is one heck of a gap in this story of creation which, allegedly, is the unaltered and divine word of God.
Now, my reason for pointing that out was not to ridicule the contents of the Book of Genesis. No, my point is to grapple with the meanings and usage of the word spirit. Genesis gives us almost zero insight into what spirit is, other than with regard to God’s ruach. In Hebrew, the ruach can be defined alternatively as breath, fire, spirit or wind. God breathed animation into the body of clay God made for Adam to spark Adam with life. In the Kabbalah, the ruach can be thought of as akin to the spiritual body, or the animating spirit for human life. It is the Kabbalah’s concept of that human ruach which has come down to us today as signifying and symbolizing the human soul.
In order to more fully delve into the true meaning of spirituality, a clear understanding of the origins and evolution of human approaches to the search for meaning through religious doctrines and spiritual pursuits must be cultivated. Such a pursuit demands one begin by researching, comparing and contrasting the various creation myths and their origins.
The Origins of the World’s Creation Myths
Let us consider how ancient the texts are for the Book of Genesis. It is generally taught that Moses was the author of all five books contained in the Pentateuch, of which Genesis is the first book. Prior to the 19th century, the accepted view purported that Moses authored the books sometime in the 2nd millennium B.C.E. In the 19th century, a new view advanced by Julius Wellhausen suggested that oral traditions gave rise to three different documents written between 950 B.C.E. and 500 B.C.E. (one penned by worshipers of Elohim, one by worshipers of YHVH, or Yahweh, and one penned by the Aaronid priesthood), and that these were combined into the form currently accepted somewhere around 450 B.C.E.
In the first half of the 20th century, the so-called science of Biblical Archaeology was developed by William Albright and his followers, combining the then-new methods of biblical scholarship known as source criticism and tradition history (developed by Hermann Gunkel, Robert Alter and Martin Noth). Their determination was that the Book of Genesis was based on material which could be traced back through oral traditions to the 2nd millennium B.C.E.
By the 1970s, this view came under attack. Thomas L. Thompson in his book The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (1974) and John Van Seters in his book Abraham in History and Tradition (1975) each explained that the references to the oral tradition could as easily apply to the 1st millennium B.C.E. as the 2nd and oral traditions are not as easily recovered as Gunkel suggested. In 1987, R. N. Whybray wrote his book The Making of the Pentateuch (1987), which analyzed Wellhausen’s work only to find the underlying assumptions illogical and unconvincing. William G. Dever (an American archaeologist who specializes in Israel and the Near East during biblical times and who received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1966) argued against the philosophical foundations for Albright’s biblical archaeology suggesting that it is neither desirable nor possible to use the Bible to interpret the archaeological record. The generally accepted view today is that the Book of Genesis (and the whole of the Pentateuch) was codified into its final form between 500 B.C.E. and 450 B.C.E.
No matter the date one wants to attribute the final version as having been compiled, whether in the 2nd millennium B.C.E. or the 1st, one must conclude that the material within the pages of the Pentateuch (including Genesis) had to have been derived, at least in part, from oral tradition. Why can I say this? Well, the most obvious reason springs right from the material within the Pentateuch. Judaism did not originate with the writings of Moses. Moses was instructed in the oral tradition by Jethro, a Midian priest who gave him shelter, and whose daughter, Zipporah, Moses later married. So, the most logical deduction is that he (or whoever the author or authors of the Pentateuch may have been) had taken upon himself (or themselves) the task of compiling the lore and oral traditions of the Hebrews, Canaanites, and Jews into written form which could be preserved for the future, and out of which a curricula of study could also be culled.
The most ancient piece of European writing is alleged to be The Iliad. Not much is known of Homer’s life, and there are no good indicators as to when he lived. Most scholars, however, date Homer and The Iliad to approximately 850 B.C.E. (The Odyssey seems to have been written much later, perhaps decades later). Homer seems to capture a few basic elements in his writing. He presented a kind of historical fiction which was rooted in the popular tales of the gods and goddesses (much like the material contained in the Pentateuch vis-à-vis the Biblical, monotheistic tradition) and which permeated the oral traditions of the Greek city-states of the times, but which also provided a framework of beautifully crafted verse upon which entertaining storytelling soared. Homer, however, did not impart to his audience a creation story.
The task of encoding into written verse the Greek creation myth was tackled by Hesiod who lived in about 700 B.C. Hesiod codified the Greek cosmogony in his work titled Theogony. One scholar, Edith Hamilton, in her book Mythology, [Mythology, Edith Hamilton, Little, Brown and Company, 1942, 1969, pg. 16] suggested that Hesiod must have been, “… the first man in Greece to wonder how everything had happened, the world, the sky, the gods, mankind, and to think out an explanation.”
I’m not so sure it is fair to attribute to Hesiod that he grappled with the subject of conceiving the Greek cosmogony as he presented it: how the world and the stars were created or even what roles the various gods and goddesses may have played in the creation of everything. However, I find it far more likely that he brought together a vast amount of divergent material contained in the oral traditions of the Greeks, reasoned out for himself which were most consistent with one another, brought sense to them, ordered them, tried to make them cohesive and complimentary as opposed to fragmented and contradictory, and ultimately crafted a piece of beautiful, artistic and entertaining storytelling in verse out of the stuff of myth and legend, working in much the same way Moses must have when he codified Genesis into written form and how Homer culled from the vast lore of both Greek mythology and legend to write The Iliad and The Odyssey.
The Rig-Veda provides the account of Hinduism’s creation story. Most scholars determine that the Vedas were written between 1500 B.C.E. and 1000 B.C.E. (this era is called the period of historical Vedic religion). Though they were actually written down during that time period, again, the Vedas were based in the oral traditions of Hinduism. Scholars conclude that the evidence for the earliest prehistoric religion in India date to the late Neolithic period (which spans the years from 5500 B.C.E. to 2600 B.C.E.).
Any study of Hinduism (the oldest continually practiced, contemporary religion on the face of the Earth and third largest behind Christianity and Islam) reveals the religion’s tenets (like the religion of the ancient Egyptian, Pharaohic era, which was contemporaneous with the historical Vedic period) included nature worship, deification of natural phenomena, and deification of certain animals as being intrinsically symbolic of aspects of deity. The gods and goddesses of Vedic mythology often correspond with gods from the pantheons of other Indo-European mythological traditions, exhibiting highly suggestive similarities. Some scholars attribute the similarities to the Aryan invasion of Middle Eastern and European lands by the early Vedic Aryans, a subgroup of Indo-Aryans, and their consequent bringing to newly conquered/settled territories the religions and mythologies from the Aryan homeland.
Something which I feel stands as extremely important in this brief summary of just a few creation myths regards the seemingly persistent view of so many different early cultures that the creation of everything began with the yawning open, or the breaking open, or the hatching of a cosmic egg. Now, this symbolic explanation does not exist in all cultures, and I can’t even say it exists in most, but that particular symbolism arises over and over again, and in such divergent regions and belief systems one would be remiss not to mention it and consider how fertile that image was to the early developing spirituality of Neolithic to Bronze Age human minds.
Variations of the egg myth can be found among: the African Mandinka tribe; in Taoism through the myth of Pangu; among the ancient Finnish peoples; within classic Greek mythology, incorporating stories passed down in the sacred writings of the singer Orpheus which were preserved by his disciples (seemingly more of a tale coming from the ancient forest people than those of the sea coast) of a cosmic egg which was laid by Night and which birthed the Rushing Wind; the Norse and Germanic peoples’ belief in a yawning gap but this was not properly described or attributed as being related to an egg; Sikhism; Surat Shabda Yoga; the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs expressed three differing creation myths, one of which (the Ogdoad) suggests that Ra arose from an egg (or alternatively a blue lotus), in a second of their creation myths, devoted to the worship of Ptah, creation occurred much like that described later in the Hebrew Book of Genesis as Ptah spoke the words and the gods and the world emanated from his “divine words”; while the Seminole tribe of Native Americans creation myth recounts a tale wherein a supreme creator put all things into a large shell and when the timing was right, the shell opened and all things emerged from it.
While the ancient Sumerian creation myth does not contain reference to an egg, it bears examination here because, through its documentation on a fragmentary clay tablet known as the Eridu Genesis, scholars attribute it as being the earliest recorded creation myth – dating back to approximately 1800 B.C.E. Of additional note is that the Babylonian creation myth, known as the Enûma Elish, dates to the 2nd millennium B.C.E. I feel it is also significant to point out that, while the Australian aboriginal people do not have a single, specific creation myth, their rich traditions of diverse mythologies contain among them a belief that the Earth was created by one of the gods of Dreamtime.
The Essence of Human Spirituality
You must be wondering, “What does all this have to do with arriving at a useful understanding of the significance of spirituality among humanity?”
One significant revelation which arises from an inquiry into creation myths regards the apparent worldwide need of human populations during the 2nd millennium B.C.E. on through approximately 500 B.C.E. to codify their oral traditions, creation myths and religious philosophies culled from divergent, but similar and related, localized tales expressing a broad and basic definition concerning who they and their ancestors were as well as their place in the cosmos. In order to arrive at such a definition, most found it necessary to grapple with the process of creation. They could not define their place without defining the nature of their god or gods and what kind of beginning they had. Their understanding of the nature of deity was inextricably linked to the creation of everything, from hierarchies of gods to the emergence of human beings and their natural hierarchies. In this context, the most significant element of spirituality can be seen in the relationship of people with their gods and nature.
The most unifying principles among all religions, ancient or contemporary, is that God, a god, or gods and goddesses created the natural setting first and then placed humans into nature. The natural world possessed everything humanity would ever need for our sustenance. However, while human beings could modify nature and sometimes harness some of nature’s properties and processes (agriculture and husbandry), humanity remained subservient to their god or gods at least insofar as they depended upon that god or those gods to continue to provide the benefits of nature (rain, sun, arable land, a fruitful growing season, animals to hunt, fertile mating relationships, etc.) in order to maintain their societies and receive their rightful share in the bounty nature provided.
As people gained greater control over their environments, they depended less and less on their deity or deities as providers. I would suggest this statement provides a great insight into the meaning of “original sin.” The “knowledge of good and evil” can be seen as the knowledge of agriculture and husbandry. Humans, once they exerted control over the environment to the degree that they no longer required the intercession of a benevolent God (or gods and goddesses), soon discovered they no longer needed to worship that God (or gods and goddesses).
The symbolism of the story of Genesis reveals a God who had needs (to be loved and worshiped), who created a system whereby God would give people what God deemed worthy expressions for human wants and needs in return for obeisance. When Adam and Eve discovered that they, too, could create life by giving birth to offspring and growing crops, God grew angry at their audacity, at the challenge directed at him by people who became co-creators. God wanted to be the sole creator, to remain unchallenged in this arena. Humans rose to the level of demigods when they created on their own. God perceived the new creative ability in his creation as a threat. The natural order God created would no longer remain untouched or solely exhibit God’s intent.
The slowly subtle, yet constantly certain, erosion in the natural order God imposed upon creation by human intervention would likely yield commensurate erosion in humanity’s obeisance to God. Such a schism in the relationship between human beings and God had to be thwarted by early Hebrew theologians. So, the story was written in a manner which placed the broad mass of humanity under the subservience of a priestly class who people needed to intercede for them with God.
God exiled Adam and Eve from the Garden and stopped speaking to them. In this manner God withheld his love from humanity. In order to regain small doses of that divine love, people had to prove their worthiness. Since God no longer entertained direct communication with people, people had to group together when worshiping and had to incorporate elaborate rituals. Those rituals demanded the presence of the class of priests. Hence, people subjugated themselves to a new class of overseers. The purpose of the story becomes clear: the priestly class sought to perpetuate their authority over the rest of humanity.
In time, nature lost its mysterious cloak as science began to discover natural laws. Without mystery residing in nature, humanity lost its reverential connection to the natural world and all of its inhabitants. Soon, people saw themselves as superior to, and masters over, their environment and its creatures. Through this evolutionary process, humanity devalued the beauty, majesty, mystery, awesome power and seemingly endless bounty which nature offered. Consequently, our spiritual link with our ecosystem was severed, eventually spawning the currently arising potential calamity which is Climate Change.
Every early human society and culture found the expression of its most fervent spiritual passion within the inescapable wonder which is our interconnection with every other human being, every living entity and every natural resource on the planet. However, as human technological invention grew and spread, we exalted human pre-eminence over the planet and its resources. In so doing, we not only unleashed our basest narcissistic arrogance, but we placed human desire, greed and the pursuit of fame and wealth above our spiritual passions. Humanity doused the flame of spirit with the waters of self-importance, ultimately leading to the rise of enslaving hierarchies, castes and classes.
In the “cosmic egg” subtext so common to creation myths we can see another rich example of what spirituality originally meant to humanity. I find in the egg story a truly beautiful poetic device which explained creation in a manner consistent with how people of early times understood life. There is a bit of irony here, as well. As a metaphor, the cosmic egg myth beautifully represents the Big Bang. Though the similarity to the Big Bang is certainly an accident, the cosmic egg myth reveals to us a similar truth held within the understanding derived from the Big Bang, and that is our oneness with everything. This oneness with of all of creation underlies every aspect of true spirituality as well as truly pure scientific inquiry.
Consider the symbolism within this presentation of how everything was created. The entire universe is contained within an egg, everything: people, plants, animals, minerals, mountains, seas, darkness and light, the stars, the sky, our Sun and Moon. In this sense, we are all one and the same. We are all born of the same stuff with the same cosmic parents. By the word “we,” I mean the entire universe. When the egg breaks open, all of creation spills forth from the shards of the broken shell, each thing finding its proper and natural home in the cosmos (the expanding universe) or on the Earth (through evolutionary natural selection). In other words, everything wells up out of the same primordial soup, everything is made of the same stuff, everything is interconnected, and everything (and everyone) has equal value and importance. Such a view of the cosmos can only yield a loving point of view among and between all beings and things. This is the core of spirituality.
Another topic I’d briefly like to touch upon regards the Australian aboriginal belief that the Earth was created by one of the gods of Dreamtime. This is richly suggestive of the origins of human spirituality as well as early human beliefs in gods and goddesses, especially as they embody natural forces (fire, rain, etc.). To our most ancient ancestors, dreams must have offered an amazing paradox. On the one hand, dreams and their subject matter are involuntary (although some people claim to be able to exert co-control over their dreams through what is known as lucid dreaming in which the dreamer realizes he/she is in a dream, and consequently, can take charge of the dream from that point forward). However, among early humans, dreams and their contents must also have seemed like alternative ways to explore life. There is a mystical or magical nature to dreams. No matter what the story line, when one awakens, one finds oneself unharmed and back in one’s bed. Additionally, during the dream state, one can surmount the insurmountable, accomplish the impossible, and attain the unattainable. Where else could such a world exist to the minds of pre-Neolithic humanity but in the realm of the gods? This is why I suggest that dreams led to the invention of the concept of gods (which over time evolved into the concept of a single God). I contend that the views of the Australian aborigines on this subject support my hypothesis.
Early humans would have discovered everyone shared the ability to dream. However, there quickly would have arisen within some individuals a deeper understanding for the symbolist nature inherent in dreams. Someone would have seen that the dreams were not real experiences in the sense daily activities are. There were no consequences to events transpiring in dreams, but in daily activity, death was very real. Just as cave painters expressed early human fascinations with art, with expressing the deepest urges within us, early storytellers would have woven together a tapestry of lore and imagined events to devise local creation myths retold and passed on around the campfire, binding the group together. Soon, storytellers would likely have discovered both the mind-altering properties and the medicinal capabilities within a variety of herbs and other plants. The restorative and curative abilities of the herbs would have led the rest of the group to perceive the medicine man/storyteller as possessing magical abilities. The influence those mind-altering properties would have exerted on the medicine men/storytellers probably led to a divergence into two approaches to appreciating the wonder and splendor of the world while giving them an additional authority over the rest of the group.
No doubt, most of the newly emerging medicine men/storytellers remained content to sit around dining room tables and communal eating rooms, warmed by the fire and community, and those medicine men/storytellers would have shared stories from their group’s rich tradition. However, others likely found the means to wheedle and exert power over the group by manipulating their facility with symbolism and fortune telling. Consequently, a third schism occurred. Many would have been seduced by the power they could exert over others, so they would have formed a priestly class, exerting influence on others, and placed themselves high in the hierarchy, right there with the leader. Others, however, likely true seekers for knowledge and divine experience, probably went off to live as hermits.
In these divergences, we see the four main classes of people. Three seek direct knowledge of the divine: the mystic, the spiritual individual and the priest of a religion. The fourth class of people accepts what the priestly class tells it, the group’s religious dogma, and that they cannot have a direct relationship or direct knowledge of the divine. This is how it always was, how it has always been and how it continues to be.
Gaining Awareness of the Higher Self
Everyone experiences moments of exhilarated exuberance which give them an appreciation for all which is and all which can be. In those most lucid of moments, when we find ourselves overcome by the awe and majesty of this infinite, interconnected universe, we gain insight into our individual spiritual nature. Universal Love is the primary emotion experienced and expressed in that context. One also experiences an innate knowingness about all things, a certitude concerning one’s place, and a grand serenity. In bridging one’s reality to not only be aware of the moment, but to comprehend its personal significance in spanning the chasm of all fears and insecurities as we glimpse for the first time our inner originator of thoughts and activator of actions, the true self which manifests its will from within – what many call the Higher Self.
There is an element or quality of consciousness within me greater than the sum of my experiences and which has lived as an adult consciousness within my mind from as far back as I can remember. This more mature version of consciousness from within me often seems to spring forth, offering sudden insights, possible alternatives, and the most passionate of my highest aspirations and emotions. However, when I guide myself by its aims (which I can ascertain by discovering those aims never seem to express a desire for personal gain nor infringe on the free will of others), I find myself always feeling exhilarated as life unfolds and meaning seems to always provide a sense of accomplishment and understanding whether or not material manifestations or trappings of material success appear along with that sense of connection to wonder. In fact, in my life, it invariably seems as if the closer I get in touch with my essential self, the further I must wander away from material reward of any kind, meaning both monetary reward and critical or social acclaim or respect. I’ve learned not to care about those things anymore.
The voice of the Higher Self does not sing songs of self-love, grandeur, wealth, luxury or opulence. The songs it sings are of wonder, awe, nature, beauty, connection, compassion, cooperation, understanding and acceptance. This is where humanity’s spiritual nature resides and how it expresses itself. Our spiritual nature always exposes itself as pure, altruistic Universal Love. When two sentient beings experience each other by expressing from the deepest well of their most true natures, they are living out the will within their Higher Self and expressing it in natural union, creating a self-perpetuating generator out of the cycle of flowing love currents, expressing their honesty, and finding fulfillment and meaning in purpose.
Human beings invented spirituality as a tool in a quest for meaning and fulfillment. They ultimately discover the only fulfillment and meaning which can be derived arise from the search, the greatest meaning and fulfillment to be gained, are gleaned by dedicating one’s life to discovering, unfolding and expressing one’s spiritual nature. In that paradox, we discover that the invention of spirituality occurred as a natural response to our inner yearning to express our inner nature, and which has actually grown to be more than a device for assisting in discovering our unique, individual answers from that inner nature. The quest reveals its own answer; the quest itself confers truth, meaning and fulfillment personified.
“How does one go about making contact with one’s Higher Self?” you may be wondering. There are many systems taught which suggest their approach is the only path to enlightenment. I would take with great skepticism any claims containing the word “only” in the phrase. Honestly, what works for one person may not work for another. Each must find one’s own path to discover oneself. The reason each claims to be the only way is because, for the group of people who find it works for them, nothing else did, but the diversity of people naturally requires there be a diverse number of approaches, each of which will work for someone, and none of which can work for anyone. Certainly, people variously explore: psychiatry, prayer, meditation, yoga, Zen, Kabbalah, ceremonial magick, pathworkings on the paths between the spheres on the Tree of Life, chanting, dancing, drumming, fire walking, vision quests and ingesting hallucinogenic drugs as means of seeking to discover the elusive Higher Self. Sometimes an individual may have to experience many of the different possible avenues to their Higher Self before one of the methods works.
Personally, I’d say it takes the totality of the richness of experience in life along with a deep desire in order to discover your Higher Self. I honestly do not believe it takes more than an intense desire, a lifetime of focus on the desire, a lifetime of meditation and a willingness to listen to the quiet voice from within as it counsels you in what direction to travel, who to meet, where to live, and what to do for work and play. Along with this, one must do one’s best to live as moral and kind and considerate a life as possible. However, that does not mean leaving yourself open to attack or abuse from others. It is always wise to merely extract yourself from a situation or relationship that seeks to make you conform to some other idea of what your purpose and path are than your own inner truth.
Before I go on, allow me to digress for a moment.
The Buddha taught all suffering arises from our karma which itself accrues from our expression of our earthly desires. The Buddha was explaining that our desires are the impediments to our ability to experience our true selves. In other words, our conscious longing to escape ennui through accumulation impedes our ability to discover serene bliss free from our irrelevant, lustful appetites. The Buddha is saying, “You must learn to stop allowing your conscious mind to be in control and demand its way if you want to find peace, contentment, fulfillment and inner harmony.”
Lao-Tze explained through The Tao that one knows one is traveling on one’s proper path when the road beneath one’s feet is no longer rocky. Again, the admonition is to get the conscious mind and its irrelevant interests, only and always designed to puff up one’s self-importance, out of the way of living in harmony and balance. Now, the rocky path may or may not include a rockiness of material desires. The rockiness of which Lao-Tze spoke was of an inner nature. He meant your inner peace and contentment. He spoke of your feeling of peace with the world, your sense of inner righteousness and honesty, that sense of truth to your ideals which only you know and which is the only thing that satisfies your inner nature, and your steadfast focus on whatever causes burning and yearning in your heart. In this sense, Lao-Tze spoke of the same thing which Nietzsche sought and directed us to pursue, each of our individual “will to power.”
By placing that lesson in the context of one’s search for one’s Higher Self, one can begin to see, that when one strives too hard, one consequently gets in one’s own way of finding their true self, which is always right there for one to discover anytime one is finally willing to give up the reins of life. In such a circumstance, one chases away that which one seeks by metaphorically filling up the void in one’s life with one’s one focus on the act of striving instead of just on striving and letting go, knowing the hole will naturally be filled by the universe on its own accord simply because the hole exists. Now, this path is not a path of wealth building. This is not a lifestyle which focuses on accumulating possessions, overindulgence in personal taste, or excessive waste. No, the Higher Self reveres nature and the living force of Universal Love which underlies the basic structure of everything of real value in the universe, none of which ever manifests in material gain, critical acclaim or fame. On strives for one’s yearnings because that process is fulfilling, knowing there are no ends (or rewards which are the material symbol of ends) which create fulfillment.
There is no particular rigor which one can undergo to guarantee one will overcome the audacious tyranny of the ego. Any particular mnemonic device might unlock a trigger in any individual’s mind. That is all each system is, a rigorous attention to mnemonic devices, details which so distract the conscious mind that the supra-conscious mind is able to awaken and forge a link to the Higher Self. It’s also possible that peer pressure can lead to individuals so expecting to have a particular experience that they manifest an illusion of the experience in their own minds. Those illusions can be so strong that the individual may take it for the real thing. All I can say is this, there is a difference in intensity, the authentic experience is so utterly overwhelming that it completely changes one’s outlook on life and thoroughly fills one with so much Universal Love that one feels compelled to share it, though knowing it is impossible to share. If you think you know what to tell someone about it, or if you think you can convey what it is, or if you think you can teach others a method to unlock it, most assuredly, you have not experienced the real thing.
Near-death experiences all yield extremely similar, general emotions and perceptions. NDEs also provide confirmation of individuals’ belief systems, even when among the various people who undergo near-death experiences the varying belief systems to which each subscribed are all confirmed, and even where there existed mutually exclusive dogma among the various experiencers. Thus NDEs make contradictory confirmations. Viewed in this light, the mind seems to be able to manifest what it wants to manifest or needs to manifest under various circumstances and stimuli, thus fostering for every individual during their final conscious moments a sense of completion, righteousness and worth. However, at the same time, near-death experiences do impart the sense of interconnection and intense love providing an approach to the authentic experience of communion with the Higher Self. As such, they open doors in the mind and create psychic links to the Higher Self which can aid the true aspirant in their quest. Some psychedelic experiences are able to accomplish the same process of opening doors facilitating one’s quest for communion with the Higher Self.
However, I think each discipline attempts to get the individual to so focus on the ritual, on the mnemonic, keeping the mind so busy as to ultimately help the individual get the conscious mind out of the way. The problem with these approaches is that, first off, they aren’t honestly explaining what their method is, and second, they make you buy into all the mumbo-jumbo in order to trick the mind into letting go. You can do this for yourself, just train your mind to let go. In fact, if you learn to train your mind to let go, you’ll be way ahead of those who rely on whatever the mumbo-jumbo mnemonic technique is that they use. They actually have to deceive themselves in order to acquire the ability to contact the Higher Self.
Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to experiment. Maybe your mnemonic device will be meditating during a rainstorm, focusing on the clicking sound of the gas heater, and you’ll fly out of your body. Maybe a jolt from some really great acid on your perfect day will ring the morning alarm. Maybe, for you, it will be morning yoga as the sun rises over the ocean, or surfing the perfect wave. You can find it on a hike in the wilderness. You might even be a baby seeing infinity for the first time. I think that living each day consciously aware of the meaning and implication in every single one of our actions is the least we should expect of ourselves and one another. In that process, you will be on your road to unlocking the particular and peculiar personal door which leads to your Higher Self. You can’t be aware of your Higher Self if you are not aware of every action you take, the implications of every utterance you express and the implications of every emotion running its course through your heart. One must be able to stay in the moment and maintain complete focus on and exert control over everything occurring, transpiring, being exchanged and communicated, and everything thought instant by instant.
The starting gate for every, and any, search for one’s Higher Self lies in contemplation of the interconnectivity of everything and everyone. No one can truly express or experience Universal Love who does not grasp that everything in the universe is interconnected. It is contemporary, technological society’s greatest failing not to respect the interconnectivity of all things which has led us to the door of potential catastrophe through human induced Climate Change. The contemporary world attaches value only insofar as marketability and profitability present themselves. Where economic rewards are lacking, captains of industry find no value and, consequently, the land harboring plants and animals (or seas, lakes and rivers) are renovated for use in a commercially profitable venture. When individuals, corporations, nations, cultures and/or societies determine profits as being the only, and greatest, evaluator of value, they express narcissism as the paramount motivation. In so doing, they not only fail to make spirituality a part of their daily lives, they actually devalue spirituality as having any relevance in the contemporary world. Spirituality must remain at the core of what one does and how one acts every bit as much as who one is if one wants to validate one’s life as having purpose, meaning, morals and ethics.
Another important focus for contemplation in the search for one’s Higher Self issues from perceiving the vastness of the universe in conjunction with the miniscule significance of the individual. An appreciation of one’s insignificance lends a second approach toward battling with the conscious ego’s narcissism. Self-importance and self-indulgence have no place on a truly spiritual path. Narcissism and the accumulation of things, position and wealth express the antithesis of spirituality. True spirituality always reveals itself through altruism. One cannot contact the Higher Self as long as one’s primary foci are steeped in self-importance (including the false sense of spiritual importance or a smug sense of spiritual superiority, neither of which vests in any truly spiritual individual who has attained any level of actual spiritual awakening), accumulation of things and/or wealth, publicity, fame, social status and/or physical beauty. All of those concerns remain rooted in the temporal existence, in materialism and/or in self-gratification. The Higher Self not only doesn’t express any of these pursuits, it rejects them as indicators of self-worth. No, to approach the Higher Self, one must transcend all notions of the physical self and hierarchies of status. It is said that attainment of communion with the Higher Self only arises after the death of the ego. I concur with that line of reasoning.
The path to knowledge of, and connecting with, the Higher Self lies in expressing and receiving Universal Love in as many of life’s moments as possible without feeling any need for ego gratification or ego exaltation. One can find many roads to travel in the effort to express Universal Love: giving of one’s time and efforts in charitable causes, promoting kindness and generosity among others, working to clean and protect the environment, advancing ecological causes, investing in peace and non-violence, and expressing courtesy and respect to others. However, one must take care to engage in these activities with the right mind. One should not pursue any of them out of guilt, to improve one’s social position (even, and perhaps even especially, in one’s own eyes), or to consciously seek the Higher Self. Those motivations are all self-serving. One must act rightly for the sake of acting rightly; there can be no thought anywhere within the mind of seeking a reward or expecting a reward. Once that thought enters one’s mind, it chases away the Higher Self at the moment it enters.
Ultimately, the Higher Self reveals its presence to those who incorporate all those strategies for the sake of the joy which arises from expressing altruism, honestly, openly, thoroughly without any conscious regard for self. Love for the sake of loving and give for the sake of giving. Never love with the hope of being loved. Never give with the expectation of receiving a return. Altruism, to be really manifest in one’s life expresses itself without having to think about it. One simply gives up trying to glorify oneself and begins to act with and towards others in a giving, loving manner simply because one knows instinctually this is the way to be, for indeed, that is the truth. Altruism is also selfless from the point of view that no care enters the mind for how one is disadvantaged, encumbered, financially affected or how much time must be invested. By giving others the gift of ourselves, in any and every way, we give ourselves the gift of spiritual attunement with and to Universal Purpose. That, indeed, should be reward enough.
Effecting Change in the World in Conformity with the Higher Self’s Will
This is a topic on which Aleister Crowley wrote volumes, however, his ideas and methods do not necessarily coincide with mine. Nonetheless, much of what I know about this topic I learned through discovery, trial and error, deep contemplation, and finally making contact with my Higher Self.
Before I go on, I’d like to comment on some of the side benefits of entering into communication with the Higher Self. One of the first discoveries I made was an ability to concentrate more deeply and intensely, and for much longer periods. I also discovered I could control my heart rate. Through deep breathing techniques, I could engage the Higher Self for extended periods. Over time, I learned to listen to the still silence within, and out of it came thoughts, ideas, projects and dreams.
The Higher Self actually seeks to communicate with each of us individuals all the time. Most people are too busy to listen or create too much of a cacophony in their life to hear the voice above the din. It’s there, however, always counseling, coaxing, enticing, and trying to lure you onto the path of your heart’s desires. However, if you are so caught up in worldly things, materiality; if you can be seduced by status; if you care about what others think and consequently are driven to conform to whatever may be the rules and styles of the particular group to which you belong, then you’ll never hear that voice and never feel the tug on your sleeve. Consequently, you’ll never know what your heart really does desire.
Knowing your heart’s desire is the most critical aspect in finding fulfillment and in opening the pathway to your Higher Self. This is the aspect of yearning which Nietzsche understood and expressed as the “will to power.” Have you ever noticed how some people are utterly driven to accomplish something in particular? They might be drawn to skateboarding, playing guitar, hitting a baseball, writing poetry, painting canvases, making movies or mountain climbing. It doesn’t matter what the thing is, what matters is the drive, the absolute single-minded focus which cannot be diverted and which must be fulfilled at all costs. This will, this focus, this single-minded drive which cannot be diverted is the expression of the “will to power,” the heart’s desire and the will of the Higher Self.
The Higher Self is connected. “Connected to what?” you might ask. It is connected to the all, to the planetary mind, in other words. It is in communion with the will of the overriding group consciousness. It is in communication with the Higher Selves of others and can work with those others on various levels in a variety of endeavors.
I am convinced that The Beatles were four men who knew their heart’s desire because they were able to tune in to that call from the Higher Self, whether consciously or subconsciously, and work together to achieve a higher end result. The reason they achieved that higher result is that their Higher Selves, when combined, could tune in to the planetary consciousness’ will for change at the same time as they were turned on by universal form of communication which flowed through them when working in combination as a group. Consequently, they dropped out of the traditional merry-go-round and touched an entire generation’s intuitive understanding that The Beatles represented the next evolution. The revolution of human evolution The Beatles led still resonates as can be seen by their continuing popularity nearly 40 years after they broke up. Their ability to call their separate Higher Selves into a single unit and work together as a group touched some part of every Higher Self in my generation and it still touches the Higher Self of every new generation coming into contact with The Beatles’ work. This explains the incredible resonation.
I am also convinced that George Lucas is in contact with his Higher Self, and that the stories he tells so magnificently in his films touch people so deeply because they come from that place deep in his heart, from his true “will to power.” I believe that the stories he tells resonate with the public so pervasively and so deeply because they speak directly to our Higher Selves in much the same way the Beatles communicate to generation after generation. If you look carefully at these two examples, one thing becomes clear immediately, both communicate a positive message, a message of love and peace, a message of freedom and liberty, a message that each, The Beatles collectively and Lucas individually, tuned into be delving into the deepest reaches of their heart’s desires, and turned on the world with in a way that sent shock waves through the culture, demanding a certain change in society, prodding all of us on with a revolution in our collective evolution. But each example completely dropped out of the traditions from which they emerged – The Beatles were four lads from Liverpool who otherwise should have worked on the docks or dug in the mines, and Lucas completely renovated the way movies were made from marketing strategies, to the fascination with outer space, and ultimately even to the methodology of movie making, ushering in CGI and THX sound.
What did all that lead to in terms of cultural awareness and cultural movements? It led to a whole new experience of the Acid Tests, in its own way. The Beatles’ music was, quite literally, acid influenced and with projects like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour helped define what psychedelic meant. They literally turned on the entire world. Lucas did the same thing for the next era and generation, but in a different medium (film). What Lucas gave us hasn’t been called psychedelic, but it certainly qualifies, right down to the religion he invented with The Force. The Beatles spread the initial word of Love. The Force is essentially another manner of advocating Love. Both expanded everyone’s consciousness in the same way Leary and Kesey advocated. They just represented with their art the kind of consciousness change which Kesey and Leary experienced and spread through the use of LSD. At the same time, both are amazing examples of effective use of Nietzsche’s concept of “will to power.” They were so good at expressing their “wills to power,” they brought everyone along on their trips with them.
There is another way in which the Higher Self can effect change in the world. This can be done individually, however, it also requires the cooperation of masses of people, and there must be an underlying attunement with the planetary consciousness and group will, just as with The Beatles and George Lucas. However, one can do this through meditation. If one is sufficiently in tune with one’s Higher Self, one may acquire an understanding of their heart’s desire that is completely different from turning on the world with art, one may affect the collective consciousness in such a way as to induce a change like bringing down the Berlin Wall and ushering out a repressive government like Communism from controlling the minds and lives of half a continent, like in Easter Europe. If it is what one burns to do, one will discover one must, and will, unfailingly focus their meditation on the single-minded goal of their heart’s desire – say freedom from oppression. One will create a symbol for that, for instance something like the Berlin Wall. Then, one will create a mnemonic which will allow the individual to wash away the old order and usher in the new. For instance, one might conceive of a blank wall inside a pyramid temple and, say, call that wall the Wall of Writing the Future. One must then focus all one’s intent on washing away the symbol of oppression, for instance in this case, on tearing down the Berlin Wall, and then, the individual must write on the Wall of Writing the Future, a new order of freedom, independence, liberty and self-determination. There is a careful balance one must exercise in the writing, because one must not overwrite the independent wills and self-determining hopes and dreams of those who must effect the change on their own for themselves and their future. Now, if the timing is right, and if this kind of change lies in the true heart’s desires of the broad mass of people, if this kind of operation is in conformity with the collective consciousness and resonates with the Higher Selves of the broad mass of humanity, then the operation will have an opportunity to take effect and occur in the annals of history. In such an instance, a bloodless revolution can occur and free half a continent from the shackles of a repressive government.
This kind of operation can never be done for personal gain. In other words, one is not able to will the sale of their book or their movie or their album of music. One must be working under the premise of creating a revolution in evolution which is attuned with the principles of non-violence and Love. One must be tuned in to their own Higher Self and working an operation which is a reflection of their burning heart’s desire. One must be able to turn on the spirit of humanity in a positive manner for change which is necessary and for which the time is right. One must be dropping out of an existing order in order to replace it with a new one built on freedom, liberty, peace and Love. One will not be successful if: 1) it does not resonate with the mass group will, 2) one tries to override the free will of the world and/or those who would be affected by the operation, 3) one seeks to advance one’s own reputation or self-image through the operation, 4) it lacks an utter adherence to the principles of altruism on any level, 5) the general timing (in the sense of the period of history and the readiness of the people to initiate the acts, the leaders to acquiesce, and the new order to be instituted) for the operation is not right. However, if all the conditions are ripe, and the operation is conducted out of true Love for humanity and completely adhering to the principles of altruism, then a psychedelic change can occur which will touch the Higher Selves of the broad mass of humanity and revolutionize the hearts and minds of the world.
These are merely examples of what can be accomplished when one meets one’s Higher Self, learns to communicate with that Higher Self, discovers their burning desires and effectively gives up all other interests, devotes oneself exclusively to achieving one’s burning desire without any account for self interests, personal gain, acclaim or popularity and then acts in accordance with one’s “will to power.” One will find the principles of tuning in, turning on and dropping out always invest in such an endeavor. The result is a psychedelicizing of the minds and hearts of humanity into new levels of consciousness which bring about an attunement with freedom, liberty, self-determination, Free Will, peace and Love. This is the true potency of spirituality in humanity.
What you do with that potency is up to you. Not everyone is meant to lead a major change in the culture or political makeup of the world. Most of us will never accomplish much more than learn to adhere to Universal Principles and spread Universal Love in the circle of their acquaintances. However, that in itself is a major accomplishment, and one worth pursuing, because it signifies the revolution of your character which affects the evolution of humanity.
In the end, your spirituality will define you. Is dedicating yourself to the God you had chosen for you by your parents and the culture into which you were born really the measure of your spirituality? Could it be that your sense of connection to nature, to protecting and advancing its unfolding evolution, and your connection to all your brothers and sisters on the planet, and your dedication to living a life of Universal Affluence based on Universal Principles built on a framework and foundation of Universal Love, with or without great wealth, while respecting the wisdom revealed by moderation of appetite is what actually constitutes your spiritual nature? If selflessness is really to be prized above selfishness, as every religion on the planet asserts, then the accumulation of wealth has no place in any moral system.
No, real spirituality ties us together and never divides us. Real spirituality breeds cooperation and understanding. The larger and more diverse the community, the greater and more dispersed must be the spirituality and cooperative framework. This is the underlying foundation for any sustainable, global culture.