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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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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troubled learners

Troubled Learners Trying Too Hard

Troubled learners

“The trouble with many of us learners is that we wish to learn too rapidly. We have little knowledge of the power which really brings us all we do acquire—the power which reaches out from us when the other faculties are temporarily suspended, and brings back not only ideas, but teaches the muscles how to carry out ideas. New invention comes to the mind which originates it when in this state, not when the mind is straining after its plan. You will make a perfect circle on paper with pen or pencil far easier when you do it idly, and care little whether you succeed or not, than if you are tremulous with anxiety to make one. When you are free from that anxiety, your real power has opportunity to act. That is the power of the spirit. It is the man who throws all thought of success or failure to the winds, who is most likely to accomplish the daring act at which others shrink, or, if they try, try with great dread of failure, which is mistaken for care. The best pilot through raging rapids is the man who has the power to forget all danger and see only obstacles. His spirit then possesses his real self. Self-possession means the power of the spirit to possess and control the body as its instrument.” ~Prentice Mulford

Learner’s Troubles

Learners should never be troubled because we should all understand that learning is important. We should also understand that since it is important, it can’t be rushed. Anyone who is serious about spiritual development knows that in the ancient mystery schools, students studied for many years to become enlightened. Yet today, many things that because they have instant oatmeal and instant soup, they should be able to get an instant spiritual awakening followed by a nearly instant complete enlightenment. Unfortunately, wishing for it doesn’t make it so. It still takes years in most cases for a REAL spiritual awakening, and for complete enlightenment, we have to continue along the path of higher consciousness after physical death. Continue reading “Troubled Learners Trying Too Hard”

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lesson of suffering

The Lesson of Suffering is Learn and Grow

Lesson of Suffering

“Suffering is not punishment. It is given as a lesson. We give a completely different connotation to the word ‘punishment.’ Punishment means there is a lesson to be learned. If suffering comes to you, do not become disturbed. A specific blessing is hidden within it that will come after you have endured the suffering. Do not force the given conditions. Remember: the blessing for which your heart and mind are longing will come in time. Be watchful not to let this blessing pass you by.

“Do not avoid suffering, but profit by it. … Through suffering Love prepares the conditions for new joy to come.The suffering of today is a condition for future joy.

“Suffering and sorrows are Divine Plows that prepare the ground, so that the seed of future virtues will be able to sprout. When someone suffers, he becomes a better person and more sensitive.

“The awakening of the consciousness does not occur mechanically, but comes through the impulses that come from suffering. The more difficulties a person encounters, the greater the possibilities are for personal growth. The great people had to endure great ordeals. This does not mean that these great people knew only suffering. They also had joys so great that they are not known to the ordinary people.” ~Biensa Douno

Suffering is not Punishment

The first lesson of suffering is that it isn’t a punishment. God doesn’t punish. The Universe doesn’t punish. It teaches.

When you stick your hand in a fire, it gets burned. That is not because the fire is punishing you. It is because you need to learn to respect the boundaries and restrictions of the physical world. The same is true with sticking a finger in acid or eating something that makes you sick. It isn’t a punishment. It is a lesson of suffering to teach you how the world functions.

Another Lesson of Suffering: Change

When everything is going well when we are happy and contented, we don’t want to change, we don’t want to grow. This is simply the way of the human mind. Why try to improve when you are enjoying where you are?

But we all do need to improve, to change. The world is constantly changing and we must be doing the same. Those who choose to stop growing and changing rarely, if ever, accomplish anything.

When something interrupts our joy and comfort with suffering, we want to change. Often, change must be triggered by suffering or sorrows of some sort. We all need to continue to grow, and the lesson of suffering reminds us to do that.

Empathy is also a Lesson of Suffering

Many of us who are developing our spiritual Selves are empathic in the sense that we can literally feel the pains and suffering of those around us. But even those who are not empathic in that way need to truly understand and empathize with those who suffer. That is another reason why some forms of suffering may afflict us. Empathy is a lesson of suffering for all, even those who are not empaths.

Profit By It

So Douno says that rather than trying to hide from suffering, we should learn to profit from it. That means that when we are suffering we need to ask what is the lesson that suffering is trying to teach us. It doesn’t mean that we should seek out suffering and punish ourselves in an effort to grow. Another lesson of suffering is that suffering, in and of itself, doesn’t make us grow. At least not in a spiritual way. What it does is trigger us to get moving and change the things that are preventing our growth. Or even better, it gets us to actively seek out spiritual growth and understanding. But we don’t necessarily need a Dark Night of the Soul to Awaken. That is a myth. A few individuals need that sort of an extreme lesson of suffering, but most of us do not, so don’t seek it. Small bits of suffering that gets us to move ahead for a while is enough. More suffering does not necessarily mean more or better growth.

Awakening Consciousness

First, we don’t need to do anything to awaken our consciousness on the material level. What Douno is talking about is, of course, spiritual consciousness, higher levels of consciousness. I find I have to disagree with him on what he says about it in the book quoted. Suffering does not in itself cause a spiritual awakening of consciousness. What it can do for some is trigger us to seek a spiritual awakening. When St. Francis was suffering from what we now call PTSD, it wasn’t the suffering that awakened him. He awakened while watching the sunrise from his bed. The PTSD triggered the lesson of suffering, but it was the Light of the Spiritual Sun that did the actual awakening. There is a lesson far more of us need to learn.

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