In Spirituality there are many paths – an infinity, should we say; and so should it be, as actually for each individual there is her/his own path to be gradually traced, as unique as the inner needs of that individual spirit are. So the main known spiritual paths are merely those that are the main avenues, so to say, through which most people must pass to reach their own individual goal, absolutely identical to no other.
The crucial thing to be understood, then, is that not all spiritual paths will lead you to the same result, and certainly not to the full result that is needed if your aim as a soul is to participate in the Divine Plan going on here on this terrestrial plane, through the immense Process of Evolution.
If my personal goal had been only to achieve what the central aim of all spiritual paths is, that is, to realize (= live the Reality of) my Divine, immortal and eternal Essence, with the intention then to withdraw entirely and for ever from this Physical Dimension, that spiritual goal would have been reached already since many years and I would only need to wait until this physical body I have been wearing in this lifetime finally dies and my spirit is free to return to its true realm of existence, away from physicality.
But as you may have read in my previous post on this blog,”What I Really Want’, such is not my full goal at all: the central Fact described above, experienced only briefly at first and then becoming a permanent Realization, is indeed the indispensable beginning, the necessary central starting-point for achieving all the further conquests I want to achieve too; but I cannot stop at that traditional only goal, a lot more inner work remains to be done, that can be addressed only through the few new spiritual paths that have been figured out and traced more recently for this newly discovered purpose of Spirituality: Conscious Evolution. It is only through Conscious Evolution that we can reconquer here, for the Divine in ourselves and in everything else, this realm of Matter.
So for example you may discover the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the great yogi of Arunachala Hill in Tiruvanamalai, Tamil Nadu, and be attracted to those teachings; but you better know in advance that they talk only of the central awakening needed, and that even after this awakening had happened in Ramana himself years before, his mind didn’t get really transformed, and he remained unable to perceive the divine Meaning and Purpose also of this physical dimension; when in his later years his body was affected by a painful illness, some disciples were telling him,
‘What terrible nuisances those physical diseases are!…’
‘But the physical body itself is a disease!!!’
Well, when I read that, I saw at once that the Maharshi’s way towards the Spirit wasn’t the right one for me, as for me this poor body was not at all a disease, but, as Sri Aurobindo explained, the means of existence and expression of ‘me’, individualized divine spirit among innumerable other ones, for the progressive manifestation of the One Spirit in this specific physical dimension of Itself.
For the same reason, the Vipassana Meditation, a traditional form of meditation originating from Buddhism and popular also nowadays in the West, is rather not to be advised for people interested in Conscious Evolution: the very aim of that form of meditation is on the contrary to go back to only the Unchanging Essential Permanence, the One Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, in Sanskrit ‘Sat-Chit-Ananda’. From that extreme point of view, even our individual souls within that One Existence are considered unreal and unwanted, illusory products of the same ‘Maya’ supposedly responsible for this entire physical dimension as well.
But this theory is incapable of telling you what is this ‘Maya’, and where it originated from, and how it has been able to manifest all this if it is supposed to be extraneous to the Divine Reality and contrary to the Divine Will. Instead of helping us making sense of All That Is, this theory makes it all seem absurd and directs us backwards, back to square one, so to say, not seeing at all the vaster purpose and special delight to be experienced through the whole individualization and growth process that Evolution is. That the Divine Being may indeed have an absolute and permanent way of being, but may want also on the other hand to experience change and the surprise of the unknown and the unexpected, is totally not understood; in this too one-sided outlook, one misses the whole point of this great Game and Adventure that Evolution, on Earth or anywhere else, is for the Spirit.
This outlook has practical consequences of course: for a Vipassana Meditation you are instructed to disregard and reject the signs and feelings you may get from your very soul while your consciousness goes into the depths of your being; the problem is, such instructions are quite contrary to what you need to do for evolving consciously here on earth: the advice of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is to give the first importance to your soul, through what they call the Concentration in the Heart, in order to get back the inner contact with your soul, the only part in each of us still aware always of the Divine and of being a portion of the Divine – which makes it the only part capable of guiding us constantly in the long process of spiritual transformation that our further evolution asks from each of us.
Another path, actually shamanistic rather than spiritual, that still intrigues many and has attracted a great number of Western followers in the sixties, but will not lead you to Conscious Evolution at all, is the path indicated in the teachings of Don Juan Matus as reported by the famous Carlos Castaneda in his many books.
The weird experiences given by his various mentors to Castaneda, the bizarre incidents and feats attributed to their hard-gained powers can indeed be totally fascinating for ordinary people who have no personal experience of what true spirituality is about, but those who do may throw the books across the room in disgust for this dark travesti of the real thing. When as a researcher years ago I forced myself to read some of those books, starting dutifully from the first, I had many times to stop myself from expressing aloud my anger at the endless histrionics of the shamans who in those books are presented as spiritual masters.
The main thing I found interesting and valuable in the whole series was the Way of the Warrior, for the inner strength and sense of dignity it indeed teaches, that is needed especially for all the people who too easily consider themselves as victims of everything and wallow in self-pity and a degrading sense of both guilt and fear.
But if the Way of the Warrior is a need indeed in the vast, many-faceted approach necessary for Conscious Evolution, the problem in the Castaneda books is that the importance of the Warrior Attitude is greatly exaggerated, to the point of unduly being made the central thing. And the very reason behind that absolute importance given to the Warrior in ourselves, is an appalling belief, the almost totally obscured perception of the Divine that is given as the overall context in which we and everything else live: the belief that all there is, including all human beings, constitutes merely food for the Unknowable that exists supreme – called, for lack of a more precise description, ‘The Eagle’.
Such a horrendous central belief explains why everything in those teachings is viewed and conveyed as a kind of self-defense system, and in such an atmosphere of negativity, fear, terror even, within Carlos Castaneda himself and the other apprentices, when they are not being mocked again and again mercilessly at every mistake. The only goal of all that harsh training, for them as for their trainers, is in fact to escape supposedly for ever from this terrestrial dimension, seen as a realm of inevitable death, into an unknown dimension of supposed Freedom, but where Divine Love is as terribly absent as it seems to be in all other dimensions too. Everything is interpreted at that lower level of understanding, due to a consciousness not really open to the Love of the Divine nor to its utterly sweet and fulfilling Presence in ourselves too.
At every page it is the same reductionism due to this basic ignorance or, even worse, this total misunderstanding of the Supreme Reality underlying and containing all there is: the ordinary reactions of human beings in general in front of the Unknown are seen through the nearly constant demonstration of them by poor Carlos, and are denounced as false and laughable; but the explanations provided as to what things truly are, and how to react to them in the true way, are themselves false and laughable too, seen from a still higher level: granted, they are less ignorant and ridiculous than the ordinary beliefs and habits people usually have, but still all those supposedly shamanistic notions are a far cry from the real Truth they are claimed to be.
In all the three examples given above, we have seen Inner Paths that do not aim at any Conscious Evolution, because Evolution simply isn’t known, or it is deliberately not taken into account at all in the overall interpretation of Life. It is still possible of course to learn something, or even a lot, from such teachings (just as from anything else…), but one has to be very careful to keep only what doesn’t go against one’s real aim, if that aim is the vaster and more complete Truth offered through Conscious Evolution.
To understand this crucial difference is extremely useful for dispelling the utter confusion in which most spiritual seekers find themselves for a long time, wondering why there are so many paths (often contradicting each other on top of it!), and which one is the true one: it all depends what your aim is…
There are, though, forms of ancient shamanism (see my posts about Olga Kharitidi) that are much closer to true spirituality than the example I have had to write about today, so what I have written in this specific case should not be taken at all as a blanket condemnation of all shamanism; but caution and discernment must be there in our being before we entrust our inner life to any path – also those labelled too easily ‘spiritual’… and even some of those paths which are truly spiritual, but may not be the right ones for reaching the specific inner goal our soul has.
One can always start simply by trying out whatever teachings one is attracted to, but always while observing what effect(s) it has on one’s being and one’s life. If after some time one notices one lives in fear rather than quiet inner joy and obvious progress, something is wrong.
It can be for example like what happened to me in 1971, when as a young adult I was desperately looking for some satisfactory meaning to Life, and found a book, ‘Fragments of an Unknown Teaching’ (my translation of the French title…), by someone named Ouspensky about his Master, Gurdjieff. My mind at once got totally fascinated by the intricate notions presented in that book, it was a mighty and very impressive mental edifice I kind of lost myself into for three months, until suddenly I realized that if indeed our human consciousness could evolve further as was said in that book, that was momentous news, no doubt, but if that further evolution had to happen in the manner and through the means described and practiced by that Gurdjieff, I was not interested at all, thanks: I looked within myself and saw that only my mind had been caught by the prospects, then totally new to me, of a possible Conscious Evolution; the rest of my being in the meantime had been shocked and horrified by the downright dangerous methods used to make it happen, based on the sheer willpower and personal determination of the solitary individual human being, under the watching eye of an indifferent and not helping sort of God in an equally indifferent cosmos.
Nothing in me was actually attracted to such an evolutive possibility, if such was the context and the conditions in which it had to happen. These teachings, I could see, hadn’t sparked in me an interest real enough to translate itself as a will to live, so I simply dropped them then and there.
Once this book was rejected as definitely not what I was looking for, I realized the only two things I had really discovered thanks to it were, the first one, Consciousness, and the other one, Evolution. I could feel somehow that those two discoveries were important: essential keys that were not to be thrown out like the proverbial baby together with the dirty bath-water.
And indeed, a mere few weeks later, another book came to me, brought by a young fellow seeker: ‘The Life Divine’, by a certain Sri Aurobindo, in which Consciousness and Evolution again jumped up out of the pages, but this time as part of a totally different Universe, born of Joy and Love as I had intuitively known it really had been, and evolving further and further under the loving eye and caring guidance of a God who was not exclusively masculine as we believed in the West, but was also our Divine Mother.
There it was, the secret Knowledge I longed for, that finally made Life worth living!… It gave me at last the desire to live, as to go on living in this physical dimension would be to use this lifetime for a Conscious Evolution process in which I would have the constant help of that divine Presence while growing towards a joyful and loving existence, right here on Earth, and in a better body… ‘The Life Divine’ indeed!…
That book propelled me towards the Future my whole being instantly recognized as the one it wanted, when I read the very first lines of its first page, containing already the full splendor of the whole thing, like the Overture contains and announces the full splendor of the entire Symphony.
Not only the Goal, but the Way towards it have to be your own, the ones your whole being rejoices in.. even if you know it is also going to be hard work, and it indeed is!…