steps of illumination

Steps of Illumination and Spiritual Growth

Steps of Illumination

“There are three main types of experience which appear again and again in the history of mysticism; nearly always in connection with illumination, rather than any other phase of mystical development. I think that they may fairly be regarded as its main characteristics, though the discussion of them cannot cover all the ground. In few forms of spiritual life is the spontaniety of the individual so clearly seen as here: and in few is the ever-deadly process of classification attended with so many risks.

“These three characteristics are:

  1. A joyous apprehension of the Absolute: that which many ascetic writers call ‘the practice of the Presence of God.’ This, however, is not to be confused with the unique consciousness of union with the divine which is peculiar to a later stage of mystical development. The self … is not immersed in its Origin, but contemplates it.
  1. This clarity of vision may also be enjoyed in regard to the phenomenal world. The actual physical perceptions seem to be strangely heightened. …
  2. Along with this two-fold extension of consciousness, the energy of the intuitional or transcendental self may be enormously increased. The psychic upheavals of the Purgative Way have tended to make it central for life.” ~Evelyn Underhill

The Phase of Illumination

Ms. Underhill says that these three experiences generally happen during the illumination phase of spiritual development. She has probably defined elsewhere what the various stages are, but I don’t have the list handy at the moment. In any case, I think that virtually all spiritual growth is aimed ultimately at complete illumination, so there seems to me to be little need to define stages or phases of the process. It is sufficient to know that it is an ongoing process, not an instant event.

The Apprehension of the Absolute

The joyous apprehension of the absolute is the first of the major steps of illumination. It isn’t a thing that just suddenly happens. It isn’t like turning on a light switch. It happens gradually, in many small steps. The first step is simply the recognition that the physical world is flawed, or that it is largely an illusion. Next is the recognition, or at least consideration of, spiritual worlds beyond the physical. These spiritual words may seem like they are completely separate from the material one, but the next step is realizing that they are entwined. In fact, all the dimensions of reality are linked together, and crossing barriers between them isn’t terribly difficult.

A lot like traveling in the physical realm, though, going up is harder than going down. So we can very easily go from the third dimension to the second. We do, in fact, interact with the second dimension all the time without even realizing we have done it. To reach into the fourth and fifth dimensions, though, is somewhat more difficult, and is almost always done intensionally. This is another step in this Apprehension of the Absolute. Continue reading “Steps of Illumination and Spiritual Growth”

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absorbing thoughts

Absorbing Thoughts for Good or Bad

Absorbing Thoughts

“Thought being unseen substance is absorbed by all. If you absorb another person’s thought, it mingles with your own. Then in part, if not in whole, you will think that person’s thought. You will to some extent see, feel, judge, and form opinions, as does that person. You are to greater or lesser extent swayed and influenced by the person. His or her thought, or spirit, has mingles with yours. You are not wholly yourself. You are in part this other person.

“This is as much a mesmerizing power thrown upon you, as that thrown by the mesmerizer on his subject. It works by the same law. If you associate a great deal with another person, are rarely by yourself, and see few others, you will be constantly taking in that person’s thought. If it is in motive and refinement higher than your own, you will be benefited by it. If it be in motive, taste, and refinement lower than yours, you will be injured. Your taste, your refinement, your motive, and judgement, also will be tingled with the thought of the inferior person. … To be closely associated with a person thinking much of the time his or her lower thought, id for you to absorb this thought.” ~Prentice Mulford

Absorbing Thoughts from another Person

Prentice Mulford is not a psychiatrist or brain research doctor, so we must take that into consideration with what he says about absorbing other’s thoughts. I’m not saying he is wrong, only that his statements and conclusions may be overly simplistic.

Two Minds in One

For starters, Mulford doesn’t seem to distinguish in this concept the differences between the conscious mind (not to be confused with Spiritual Consciousness, which is something entirely different) and the subconscious mind. We need to understand that it is the subconscious mind that is being influenced by the thoughts of others, and mostly it is influenced by their subconscious thoughts. While this may be occasionally problematic, it is generally a good thing. It has to do with the fact that our thoughts affect how the world around us appears. It is not, as some suggest, that we are literally changing the world with our thoughts. We are only changing the illusions that hide the real world from us. Continue reading “Absorbing Thoughts for Good or Bad”

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tended his fires

Tended His Fires to Awaken His Soul

“Once upon a time Upakosala Kamalayana lived with Satyakama Jabala the life of a Brahmacharin. He tended his fires for twelve years. Satyakama performed for other disciples the ceremony of completing studies and returning home, but did not perform the ceremony for Upakosala. The wife of the teacher said to him, ‘This Brahmacharin has undergone severe austerities and has tended the fires properly; you should teach him so that the fires may not blame you.’ But the teacher went away on a journey without instructing him. Through mental sufferings Upakosala began to fast. The wife of the teacher said to him, ‘O Brahmacharin, do eat; why are you not eating?’ He replied, ‘In this (very ordinary and disappointed) man (i.e. myself) there are many desires running in various directions; I am full of mental sufferings; so I shall not eat.’ Thereupon the fires said among themselves, ‘This Brahmacharin has undergone severe austerities and has tended us properly; come let us instruct him’. They then said to him, ‘Prāna (life) is Brahman, Ka (joy) is Brahman, Kha (ether) is Brahman’. He said, ‘I understand that Prāna is Brahman; but I do not understand Ka and Kha.’ They said, ‘What is Ka, even that is Kha; and what is Kha, even that is Ka’. Then the fires instructed him about Prāna (Brahman) and the Ākāsha within the heart related to it. Then the Garhapatya fire instructed him: ‘Earth, fire, food and the sun (are my forms). The person who is seen in the sun, I am he, I am he, indeed.’ ‘He who knows it thus and meditates on it, destroys sinful acts, wins the region (of fire), reaches the full length of life, lives gloriously, and his descendants never perish. We protect him in this world and in the next, who knows it thus and meditates on it.’” ~Chandogya Upanishad

Tended His Fires

Upakosala tended his fires faithfully for twelve years. But simply tending ordinary fires seems like an odd assignment for a spiritual student, a Brahmacharin. But if you read through the quote entirely, you will get the idea that these are not ordinary fires, and tending them is not the same as tending a campfire or a fireplace. These “fires” talk among themselves. This article might give us a clue. According to it, there are five fires of which knowledge is taught. Without going into detail, the fires are The sun, the air, the earth, man, and woman. But that is just as enigmatic as calling them fires.

I think what is being called fires in this ancient book are spiritual energy sources. It then makes perfect sense that the sun is first on the list as it is the primary source of energy on Earth, both physical and spiritual. The sun fills the air and the Earth with energy, and that energy is passed on to men and women. But there still seems to me to be something missing here. Specifically, how would a spiritual student tend such fires? While adepts should care for the sun and the Earth, I think that is limited. And the Upanishad does say “his fires” which makes them seem personal. Continue reading “Tended His Fires to Awaken His Soul”

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polish a stone

Polish a Stone, Polish a Soul

“In order to polish a stone, one needs to chip and grind it. The same is true for a human being. Polishing, suffering, is necessary so that one may awaken.

“It is difficult for people to become aware. They need to be boxed into a corner in order to awaken. Every time the consciousness falls asleep, suffering comes to awaken it. After that comes rejuvenation and uplift. Suffering will uplift you. Be joyful that you suffer so that you may bear fruit.

“God will transform the suffering of people into precious stones that will be placed as a wreath upon their heads. In the future, people’s suffering will adorn their heads.

“When Nature puts someone in restraints, she has his best interests in mind and has, as her goal, the awakening of the hidden forces within. All suffering, constraint, and trials in one’s life aim to awaken the higher consciousness within. When Nature imposes sorrow, we feel wronged toward it. When a mother puts her child in the tub to bathe him or her, the baby cries and thinks that this is something bad. The child does not understand that the mother means to do well for her baby. …

“As a result of suffering one’s way of thinking is gradually set right. When the thinking is set wright, the consciousness awakens.” ~Biensa Douno

Polish a Stone or Gem

The main image used to illustrate this post shows an opal that has not been polished and one that has. That polished stone is clearly a valuable gem, while the unpolished stone looks to most of us like an ordinary rock of little value. Cutting and polishing can do that for a stone. In the case of valuable melts like silver and gold, they are purified by heading them until they melt, at which point the pure metal can be separated from other minerals in the ore. Humans generally need a similar kind of polishing, cutting, or purifying process to help them awaken to their true selves.

A different, yet related idea is that of the geode. These appear to most of us to be ordinary, often rather ugly, rocks, until split open. Then the crystals hidden within are revealed. There is hidden greatness in many of us and we need something to crack our shells so it can come out.

Becoming Aware

It certainly is difficult for people to become aware and awakened. We have sunk very deeply into matter and that makes it hard for us to see the spiritual, or even the need to be spiritual. It is like trying to see the sun rising on the horizon when you are at the bottom of a twenty-foot deep hole (seven meters). And while “polishing” and “grinding” of some types will encourage people to start developing their spiritual Self, it doesn’t awaken by itself. Suffering may be necessary to help us become aware, but by itself, it does not make us aware.

Transform Into Precious Stones

Yes, polishing, cutting, and curing people with certain types of “suffering” or obstacles does help transform them into precious stones, which is to say the spiritually awakened. But as already mentioned, that alone never does the job. You need to turn to the light of the Spiritual Sun for the final steps of the process. If suffering alone did it, we would have many millions of spiritual adepts in the world, but we actually only have a few.

Nature can Polish a Stone

Sometimes it is Nature rather than other humans who cause the suffering that polishes us into gems. We may be born with a physical defect. We might be struck by lightning. There are many possibilities. The results are much the same as with any other suffering. Many will just complain about it forever. A few will try to change their path in life and become true gems of humanity.

Polish a Stone Until it Shines

One thing Douno doesn’t mention in the section quoted above is that sometimes a person who has been through obstacles and has turned to spiritual development may give up before reaching the goal. If you know someone like that, you should encourage them to continue, to get back on the horse, as the old saying goes. If you are a person who gave up on spiritual growth thinking you were getting nowhere, look to the image below. It shows someone who has been digging for a great treasure but finally gives up having failed to find it. He doesn’t see that he was almost at his goal when he gave up. Don’t be like him. Don’t be a polished stone that becomes dull and ordinary again. And when you have reached the goal, start to polish a stone by helping others develop. The world can use more polished gems and fewer rough rocks.

digging for treasure

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