“There are in this struggle [for spiritual enlightenment] three factors. (1) The unchanging light of eternal reality. … (2) The web of illusion, here thick, there thin, which hems in, confuses, and allures the sentient self. (3) That self, always changing, moving, struggling—always, in fact, becoming—alive in every fiber, related at once to the unreal and to the real; and, with its growth in true being, ever more conscious of the contrast between them.
“In the ever-shifting relations between these factors, the consequent energy engendered, the work done, we may find a cause of the innumerable forms of stress and travail which are called in their objective form the Purgative Way. One only of the three is constant: the Absolute to which the soul aspires.” ~Evelyn Underhill
The Self, Becoming
I decided to look at Underhill’s three factors in reverse order because that seems a more logical approach to me. So we start with the self. That comes first because what we are talking about in spiritual growth, in materialism, and in the great illusion is always how it relates to our self. Our “self” is deceptively simple to many. In truth, we are very complex beings. A lot more complex than most even suspect. But we will keep it somewhat simple and just consider the four main parts of what we are. Those four parts are, body, mind, psyche, and spirit.
Main Parts of Self
The physical body is the most obvious part of what we are. And yes, it is a part of us, even if it is, to a large degree, a mask we wear over our true self. It allows us to function in the physical world. While it is something we will shed one day, it is essential to us while we are in the realm of matter.
The mind, or brain-mind as I often call it, is another part of our being. It is both physical and mental. Mind is associated with the brain, but not strictly limited to it. It is the source of intellect, but not consciousness. Its thinking is all on the level of the material plane. It can speculate about the spiritual, but can’t actually know the spiritual.
The psyche, or more accurately, psychic body, is of a higher frequency than the physical, yet lower than the spiritual. It is this body which often can o psychic things like move objects without touching them, or seeing into the future. It is also the level of our being that links us to devils, demons, and other beings of darkness. Therefore, it isn’t a place where we should spend a great deal of time.
The spiritual body, which includes the soul, is the highest part of our “self”. It is dormant when we enter the physical world and needs to be brought to consciousness. That is the true meaning of spiritual awakening. Simply becoming aware that the physical realm isn’t enough is only the first step to actual awakening.
The Web of Illusion
Based on comment I see in spiritual groups on social media, I think there is a lot of confusion about this. Most understand that the physical world is a world of illusion. But many thing that means it is not real, doesn’t exist. It doesn’t mean that at all. It means that what it appears to be is not what is really there. Something like seeing a magician saw a lady in half. We know he didn’t really saw her in half. But that doesn’t mean nothing happened, or that the magician and his assistant don’t exist.
The idea that it is all illusion used to be considered a fantasy of the mystics, laughed t by the scientists. Know quantum physics has shown that they were correct. He physical universe, they say, is just a hologram. The real questions to ask when healing that are; “what is projecting it?” and “What is the source of that light?”
The Unchanging Light
The third factor is the Light. Underhill calls it the unchanging light. It is also called the spiritual light, or the Light of God. This is the highest level of light. It is the source of all other lights. And light is the source of all other. That is why the Book of Genesis in the Bible has God starting the process of creation by creating the light. And that Light is the true image of God. So being made in His image means we too are made of light. At least our true self is made of spiritual light.
The quest for those of us who want to develop our spiritual self is to seek out that unchanging light and become one with it. To let it awaken our spiritual faculties and help them develop. It is said that at some future time we will no longer need to consume plants and animals and just live off the light.
As Underhill points out, this quest is not easy. Many obstacles are thrown in our path. The three factors can be confusing. We can become confused and frustrated. We get stressed out. Those things limit our spiritual growth. But we can learn methods of reducing the stress and letting go, to a large degree, of the world of matter.
The reward for all this effort is eternal life. Eternal life with God and the angels in Heaven. That makes all the difficulties worth it.