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:
- 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.
- This clarity of vision may also be enjoyed in regard to the phenomenal world. The actual physical perceptions seem to be strangely heightened. …
- 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”