The Need for Hardship

The spiritual life is not lived upon the heavenly hearth-rug, within safe distance from the fire of love. … It means a complete conquest of life’s perennial tendency to lag behind the best possible; willing acceptance of hardship and pain. And if we ask how this can be, what is it that makes possible such enhancement of human will and of human courage, the only answer seems to be that of the Johannine Christ: that it does consist in a more abundant life.
… we found its general line of development to lead through disillusion with the merely physical to conversion to the spiritual, and thence by way of hard moral conflicts and their resolution to a unification of character, a full integration of the active and contemplative sides of life.” ~Evelyn Underhill

Some people think that being spiritual should be a constantly pleasant and joyful experience. It would be if we lived in a spiritual world, but we don’t. In a material world, being spiritual is difficult and sometimes those difficulties almost seem deliberate, as if God wants you to face some hardships. Why should that be?

One reason why we have to face hardships such as illness, money problems, lose of family members, etc. is so that we can understand what everyone else feels and goes through when those things happen to them. We can sympathize and empathize with others much more easily when we feel something similar to what they feel.

Another reason is that hardships remind us that the material world is not a very pleasant place. It can seem pleasant and beautiful if, as some people encourage us to do, you look only at the pleasant and ignore the rest. But it is hard to ignore the bad things in the material world when they pounce on you and sit on your chest. You can look at healthy, happy children playing in a schoolyard and pretend that the world is a happy place, but it isn’t so easy to ignore the fact that many other children are home in bed with illnesses when you get some illness yourself. It is easy to pretend that all people are well clothed like they are in your neighborhood, until your plane crashes in a poor country where most people don’t even own a single pair of shoes.

Another reason is that we grow stronger by overcoming difficulties. Just as the bodybuilder gets bigger muscles by pushing himself to lift more, when we overcome difficulties, it tends to make us stronger. The old saying, “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger,” is indeed true most of the time. And it is important for spiritual people to be strong when you face demonic opponents to your continues spiritual growth.

And, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, we sometimes suffer hardships because dark being, demons, send them our way to try to pull us away from the Path of Light. So we need to develop strength to resist them.

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A Proper Diet, West or East

The Eastern Tradition, and those organizations that derive from it, inculcate a strict vegetarianism, both on psychic and humanitarian grounds. The Western Tradition does not. The effect of a vegetarian diet is greatly to increase the sensitiveness of the nervous system and thereby render easier the perception of subtle forces. The drawback to the use of this sensitizing method in the West is that the resulting sensitiveness unfits for the rush and drive of urban life, and unless seclusion can be secured, the subject is very apt to become neurasthenic and to suffer from neuritis, neuralgia, sciatica, nervous dyspepsia, and similar complaints. The initiate of the Western Tradition overcomes his comparative lack of sensitiveness, and also the density of the atmosphere in which he has to work, by concentrating the forces by means of ceremonies.” ~Dion Fortune

Several decades ago in our community, long before I was a member, the rules of the group were very strict. The diet was totally vegan. Stimulants such as tea and coffee were not allowed. Neither were drugs or alcohol used. The members controlled what they ate, what they drank, what they thought. Much time was spent in prayer and contemplation and looking upon the spiritual sun. As a result, they became so sensitive, they were unable to function in the very materialistic urban world of today. It was literally painful for them to be around people who were negative, hateful, or just very materialistic.

We learned our lesson and no longer follow such strict practices. While some have chosen to be vegetarian, most of us eat some meat—but not pork or beef; just fish, chicken, turkey, and occasionally lamb. We are allowed to have alcohol in reasonable amounts, usually beer or wine. Most of us do try to eat healthy and that means looking for organic fruits and vegetables and limiting as much as possible junk foods and Genetically Engineered (GMO) foods. As a result, we have to work a little harder to reach those higher frequencies necessary to truly communicate with higher beings, but we can also function in the material world which remains necessary for most of us.

Vegetarianism is growing in this country and the anti-GMO movement is making progress. As people start taking more interest in healthy eating, and the general population becomes less materialistic and increases their vibration frequencies, we can move more towards that ideal diet, but for now, The diet we follow works well to keep us balanced between both the worlds of spirit and the world of matter.

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Real Philosophy

Plato regarded philosophy as the greatest good ever imparted by Divinity to man. In the twentieth century, however, it has become a ponderous and complicated structure of arbitrary and irreconcilable notions—yet each substantiated by almost incontestable knowledge. The lofty theorems of the old Academy which Iamblichus likened to the nectar and ambrosia of the gods have been so adulterated by opinion—which Heraclitus declared to be a falling sickness of the mind—that the heavenly mead would now be quite unrecognizable to this great Neo-Platonist. …
In his treatise on Atheism, Sir Francis Bacon tersely summarizes the situation thus: ‘A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.‘” ~Manly P. Hall

Philosophy was once one of the great and noble fields of knowledge and its practitioners were highly respected individuals, kind of the celebrities of their day. But in modern times, real philosophy has been replaced by egotistical individuals simply stating their personal opinions about everything and calling that philosophy. Real philosophy is based on proper interpretation of divine knowledge and applying such knowledge to everyday situations. As a result of the degeneration of the field of philosophy to nothing more than the opinions found on the editorial page of the daily newspaper, there is little respect for this field anymore. While I haven’t made such studies myself, I suspect that if I were to go to a major university to get a degree in philosophy, instead of being taught how to gain access to divine wisdom (gnosis), I would be assigned to read the writing of various philosophers of the past.

It is therefore not much of a surprise that so much of the pretend philosopher of our modern times supports the idea of atheism. As Bacon said, when you just look at the surface of philosophy, or things in general for that matter, you are likely to come to false conclusions, but if you dig down deep, and keep your ego at bay, you will come to a very different conclusion.

I recently watched the animated movie “The Croods”, and one of the things I liked about it was the way it demonstrated that things are not always what they appear to be when we only view them superficially. First, we see the flock of cute little pink birds that look so cute and cuddly only to learn that they are essentially flying piranhas. Second, we find that the huge cat monster the cavemen have been hiding from for year is not chasing them to eat them, but because he wants to make friends and get his ears scratched.

Real philosophy is about getting to the truth behind the illusions, not about egotistical opinions.

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The Best Teacher Is Not the Most Popular

First we must struggle against our own passions, watching and keeping in mind the course of the battle; and then on the basis of personal experience we can advise others about this warfare, and render victory easier for them by describing the tactics beforehand.
There are some who gain control over their passions by practicing great austerities; but, as happens in skirmishes by night, they do not know how victory was won, and have no idea of the snares laid against them by the enemy. …
But these self-appointed teachers lack personal experience, and do not even listen when others speak to them. Relying solely on their own self-assurance, they order their brethren to wait on them like slaves. They glory in this one thing: to have many disciples.” ~The Philokalia

The primary goal of the real spiritual teacher is to save souls. While he obviously wants to save as many souls as possible, the real teachers knows that in these very materialistic times, as well as times of nearly instant gratification, finding students who will truly be dedicated to following spiritual practices that take much time and a lot of work is not easy. Such a teacher knows that it is better to have a small number of students that are really moving towards saving themselves and the world rather than having a large number of students who are actually doing little to save themselves.

Unfortunately, we have so called spiritual teachers these days who brag that there books sell millions and their expensive seminars are attended by thousands each year, yet they can’t point to a single person in their following who has become a great spiritual adept and teacher.

As this lesson from the Philokalia states, you must teach from experience, especially when it come to matters of spirit. Someone who is simply teaching what he has heard from others, or has read in ancient books and simply rewritten in his own words, is almost certain to be teaching falsehoods. That is because any real spiritual development techniques that are put into writing are always codified so a materialistic or egotistic person will totally misunderstand their meaning.

McDonalds is the worlds most successful restaurant chain, but that doesn’t mean they serve the best food. Simply because a guru has a million followers doesn’t mean he knows what he is talking about, or has the ability to truly teach others how to become enlightened. So if you seriously want to develop your spiritual side, don’t look to a McDonald’s style teacher, seek,one who teaches true and tested techniques, even though such a teacher probably has only a few followers.

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