“There are in this struggle1 three factors. (1) the unchanging light of Eternal Reality: that Pure Being ‘which ever shines and naught shall ever dim.’
“(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 the growth in true being, ever more conscious of the contrast between them.
“In the ever-shifting relationship between these three 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. Only one of he three is constant: the Absolute to which the soul aspires. Though all else may fluctuate, that goal is changeless. That beauty so old and so new, ‘with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,’ which is the One of Plotinus, the All of Eckhart and St. John of the Cross, The Eternal Wisdom of Suso, … awaits yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever the opening of its creature’s eyes.” ~Evelyn Underhill
There is little doubt what the eternal reality is. The realm of spirit and the beings that dwell there are eternal. Everything material is temporary. That is one reason why the ancient spiritual leaders called matter illusion.
And when Underhill, and many others, talk of the bright light of that eternal reality, it is both literal and symbolic. Light symbolizes truth and wisdom. The spiritual realm is home to both of those. But it is also a place of bright light. The true image of God is light. The true image of the soul is light. Bright light, spiritual light, not physical light.
Web of Illusion
The realm of matter is the web of illusion. That doesn’t mean, as some believe, that the material universe does not exist. It means that what it is in actuality is very different than what it appears to be to the human senses and mind.
There are many people today who think that manipulating this web of illusion, like a small child making animals out of play-doh, is a path of spiritual awakening. They use terms like “manifesting” and “Law of Abundance” to describe this playing with matter. But playing with matter doesn’t awaken the spirit. It actually makes matter more real, more important, to those who do that. The only proper way to manifest or manipulate within the realm of matter is to help change it back into spirit. Simply molding it into new forms of matter doesn’t accomplish anything. When you truly understand that matter is an illusion, playing in it will lose it’s attraction.
In some of the ancient Hindu books, “self” and “Self” are used to mean two different things. When it is lowercase self, it means the physical and mental self of the physical world. While the uppercase Self is another way of saying the spirit or soul. That is the true Self, the eternal Self that is part of eternal reality. I think it is that eternal Self that Underhill labels the third factor in our overall being. Although it is possible that she is looking upon self and Self as one whole. From what she says about it, that may be the case.
In any case, the primary purpose of spiritual development is to awaken and grow that true Self. Only the spiritual Self is eternal. Only the spiritual self can know truth and wisdom. The real truth and wisdom that comes from God.
The goal of the spiritual student, says Underhill, is to open the eyes. Just as with Jesus healing the blind, this is not a reference to the physical eyes. The goal is to open the spiritual eyes. We do that by awakening the spirit and soul. We do that with a large input of spiritual energy. And the best place to turn to to get that energy is the spiritual sun.
When the soul awakens, your spiritual eyes open. Then you can see that eternal reality. Then you can start to fully participate in being part of that eternal reality.
1 – For spiritual enlightenment.