“Sometimes, the very activity which one self has rejected as an impediment becomes for another the channel of spiritual perception. I have mentioned the Cure D’Ars, who, among other inhibitions, refused to allow himself to smell a rose. Yet St. Francis preached to the flowers and ordered a plot to be set aside for their cultivation when the convent garden was made, ‘in order that all who saw them might remember the Eternal Sweetness.’ So, too, we are told, of his spiritual daughter, St. Douceline, that ‘out of doors one day with her sisters, she heard a bird’s note. What a lovely song!’ she said:and the song drew her straight way to God. … ‘To look on trees, water, and flowers,’ says St. Teresa of her own beginnings of contemplation, ‘helped her to recollect the presence of God’.” ~Evelyn Underhill
Steps or Obstacles
Ms. Underhill makes a good point. We are not all the same. What functions as an obstacle for one may be a stepping stone to awakening for another. He difference is in how you react to the thing. While St. Francis and Sat. Teresa could enjoy the beauty and sweet scent of flowers without becoming attached, Cure D’Ars felt he could not. And he may have been correct. We don’t all get attached to the same things. I’m sure if St. Francis found himself getting too attached to the flowers in his garden, he would have rejected them as well.
The point is, with a few exceptions, we can’t assume that the same thing is always an obstacle to spiritual growth, while another is an aid. We know, for example, that crystals can aid in spiritual growth. But some people can become so obsessed with collecting them, and locating rare ones, that they become an attachment and a hindrance.
There are some things we know are always steps to a higher consciousness. One is learning. Learning by any means either moves us ahead or keeps us in the same place. I don’t see any way that learning can move us backwards. Of course, the more spiritual the thing, the more learning about it will move us forward. And what we learn has to be true. Learned falsehoods can be obstacles.
Another is giving up any material object. Getting rid of excess matter always helps, never hinders. This is why the Essenes, and most other ancient spiritual schools, required students to turn over all material wealth and property to the community. They felt we should not claim ownership of any material thing. Such claims lead to attachment. Then the objects become obstacles.
Just as some things are almost always steps, others are almost always obstacles. These are more likely to be behavior rather than objects. Murder is the most obvious one. When you kill another person, you definitely take a step back. In fact, you have probably lost your soul entirely and cannot achieve a spiritual awakening. Similar crimes and violent behavior will also be obstacles.
Holding on to anger and jealousy is another obstacle. When you are full of anger, you cannot make spiritual progress. And don’t forget that everyone has something to teach us. We won’t learn, however, from one we push aside with hatred and jealousy.
Clinging to childhood beliefs we have no proof of is always an obstacle. Even if it turns out the belief is correct, we need to learn the truth of it rather than blindly accepting it. But most beliefs we got from parents, friends, and teachers trapped in materialism are false and need to be flushed out of our system.