Materialistic dropsy, Troubled Soul

Materialistic “Dropsy” that Prevents Spiritual growth

“If a man thus falls into sickness and cold, he is sometimes caught by dropsy, that is to say, he has an inclination towards the outward possession of earthly things. The more such men acquire the more they desire; for they straightway become dropsical. The belly, that is, the appetites or lusts, swell terribly, and the thirst will not be quenched. But the face of conscience and discretion become small and thin, for these men put hindrances against the inflow of the grace of God. It they thus accumulate the waters of earthly possessions about the heart, that is, if they cling to them with desire, they cannot progress in works of charity; for they are sick, they lack the inward spirit of life and breath, that is to say, they lack the grace of God and inward charity.” ~John of Ruysbroeck

Materialistic Dropsy

Dropsy is an outdated term used to describe a number of illnesses that resulted in swelling or water retention. What Ruysbroeck is describing is a more spiritual dropsy, but one which can have physical symptoms as well. Since we have the Hermetic, “as above, so below” to deal with, illnesses on the mental and spiritual levels can make the body sick as well. The opposite is also true. Those who are spiritually healthy are less prone to physical illness.

Healthy Spiritual Masters

Remember that time that Jesus had to cancel a talk because of a sick headache? How about the time that Buddha spent a week in bed with the flu? No, you don’t. There are, to my knowledge, no record of these prophets and spiritual masters getting physically ill.

It is true that spiritual students can get ill, but they do so less frequently than others. They also get well faster. There is one exception. Spiritual students who are growing spiritually often get a mild case of a kind of flu. It isn’t really flu, however, because it isn’t caused by the Influenza virus. It is a physical reaction to a sudden spurt in spiritual growth. This spiritual flu is always mild, and will never turn to a more severe form. And because they have lost (or should have lost) any attachments they may have had to material possessions, they cannot get materialistic dropsy.

Acquisition Headaches

Many illnesses are directly or indirectly caused by stress. The stress of trying to get the things we want and failing. Wearing ourselves out trying to get things we don’t really need causes even more stress. And then there is the stress of wondering how we are going to pay for the things after we have them. This stress can directly cause headaches, backaches, stomach problems, and more. It can also weaken our immune system which that leads to many other illnesses.

A Spiritual Solution

Ruysbroeck says we can’t do “works of charity,” or develop our spiritual self when we are caught up in the pursuit of material possessions, or have become too attached to those that we have. So we end up with a catch-22 type of situation. Developing our spiritual side is the best way to escape from the chains of materialism. But the hold of materialism prevents any significant spiritual growth.

The solution is a gradual approach to both. We make an effort to develop our spiritual self as much as possible. We also work on freeing ourselves of those attachments to matter. We make a little progress on one, then a little on the other. Right foot forward, then the left, and we are walking toward our goal. Each much proceed at their own pace. The important thing is to keep moving forward. And when you fall, or take a step back, just get up and start forward again. And one day you too will be free of that materialistic dropsy that is the root of all illnesses.

spiritual illness

Spiritual Illness and the Soul’s Protection

“The soul or mind is the seat of all imaginative representation—both the higher representation … and the lower. … It is equally certain that all that follows upon the mental act or state, the disturbance, confined to the body, belongs to the sense-order; trembling, pallor, inability to speak, have obviously nothing to do with the spiritual portion of the being. The Soul, in fact, would have to be described as corporeal if it were the seat of such symptoms. …
“No Ideal-form can be the victim of disturbance or be in any way affected; It remains in tranquility; only the matter associated with it can be affected by any state or experience induced by the movement which its mere presence suffices to set up.” ~Plotinus

Soul or Mind

Plotinus seems to be saying in the first line that “soul” and “mind” are just two different names for the same thing. I don’t really know if that is the way he meant it, but if so, he is wrong. Soul and mind are definitely not the same thing and imagination is a mind game not played by the soul.

Spiritual Illness

The rest of the quote may be difficult to follow, but essentially it is saying that the soul cannot get sick, disturbed, angry, jealous, or any other negative emotion or state. Those are things of the body and mind. But here is the rub: while physical illness cannot really affect the soul, spiritual illness can affect the mind and body.

PushingRock3The famous myth of Sisyphus, where he is punished by having to push a large rock up a mountain side, only to have it always roll back down, may be an allegorical representation of this. It is almost impossible to push the rock (material problems) all the way to the mountain top (Soul), but it is quite easy for problems to roll down to lower levels. So problems on the spiritual level can flow down to the psychic and mental levels, and mental problems can lead to physical ones. Continue reading “Spiritual Illness and the Soul’s Protection”