A Spiritual Perspective
Spirituality is an affair of the heart. It is not a doctrine, a prescription, a teaching, or anything that can be set out in words. It is the life behind the doctrine, to which words can only hint. It is a matter of experience, of love, of bliss, of understanding the true nature of things without intellect or analysis. It is an expansion of awareness or consciousness approached by means of spiritual practice or meditation, through exercises within ourselves that are designed to bring about and to enhance that experience. It is something universal, beyond time and place and language.
So when it comes to talking about it, we find that there is really nothing new to say. We go on saying the same things to inspire ourselves, to remind ourselves of the Essence, and to reformulate the same old truths in the language of our times. This is no doubt important, and spiritual masters have themselves always used the language and idioms of their own times. But ultimately, it is all so very simple, and it has all been said before. We are spiritual beings living in the ocean of the divine Being, of God. All the problems of the world, personal or otherwise, have just one source – our forgetfulness or unawareness of this one Reality, of the divine presence in everything. The meaning and purpose of life are enfolded in this mystery, and enlightenment is to discover who and what we truly are.
We have lost touch with the great mystery through our entanglement with material things. The ever-roving mind – its thoughts, emotions, and impressions – obscures our essential divinity, veils the Oneness from our inner vision. We may have inklings of a fundamental unity holding everything together in its embrace, but for most of us the clouds of delusion, misperception, and misapprehension have yet to part and let in the light. But through spiritual practice, the clouds can be dispelled so that we experience an increasing awareness of the Divine.
The world is a school to which we are sent to harvest the fruit of our past and to discover our reality. Our essence is the Divine, the soul, but the driving force behind our coming and going is the mind. It functions in this world and in higher worlds as well. All deeds, desires and thoughts are recorded in its soft putty; and according to the cosmic principle of cause and effect, we reap in this life what we have sown in the past. What we think of as the world is in fact an ocean of transmigration, of souls coming and going under the influence of the mind.
We arrive in this world through the mysterious event we call birth, but only the most advanced mystics truly know how birth takes place and what it actually is. The biology of the process may be well known, but how a newborn being really arrives in this world and where it comes from remain a mystery. We may rejoice at the new arrival, but we do not understand.
The infant – mental faculties yet to develop, unable to speak, no words with which to formulate its thoughts or feelings, unable to walk or move about in this world – lies helpless, utterly reliant upon other human beings for its sustenance and survival.
Taking an interest in the world through the medium of the senses, inescapably caught up in the process of physical and mental development, the new arrival grows, learns to walk, to talk, and to interact with the world. And so life goes on. If the child ever had any inkling of a prior existence in this realm or elsewhere, it is usually soon overwhelmed by the insistent, incoming tide of experience of which its present life consists. The essential divinity or spirit within is lost, forgotten. Play, curiosity, learning, interests, work, self, emotions, needs, desires (not to forget the flood of mind-shattering hormones that inundate the body and brain in teenage years) – all these and more hold the mind captive and entranced. Depending upon the depth of entanglement in previous lives – the karma that weighs upon the mind – the developing human being may or may not retain any glimmer of the spirit within that is the source of life and consciousness.
To make some sense of the world, according to our bent of mind and the circumstances into which we have been born, we may resort to religion, philosophy, or science. But however clever and compelling our thinking and investigation may be, it is all based upon concepts spun out in a mind we do not fully understand. We are using an uncharted and uncalibrated instrument as our means of comprehension. So everything we think we know is related to a point of ignorance.
Yet with each human birth comes the wonderful opportunity of transformation and spiritual growth, of answering the fundamental questions of human existence. Who am I? What is life? What is death? What is time? Does life have a purpose?
If we are fortunate, we develop a sense of the divine Oneness of which we are a part. We may even have some preliminary glimpse of a higher reality. We may take to prayer or meditation to enhance that understanding and awareness. We may even be blessed enough to find a spiritually realized soul to help us on our way and give us confidence that our subtle perceptions are not mistaken, to lead us out of the round of birth and death, to realize the Divine. It can be done. But for the most part, human beings remain caught up in the play of life, giving scarcely a thought to the unseen Reality that affords us our existence.
And then comes death – a mystery as profound as birth. These two great events that mark our coming and going are beyond our understanding. Our way in and our way out of this world are shrouded in the same essential ignorance that accompanies our life. We may shed tears at the departure of a loved one, but what has really taken place, we cannot say. One moment, the body was infused with life; the next, the life essence that we call the soul has departed, leaving behind a still and lifeless corpse.
At the present time, it is estimated that over 360,000 human beings are born every day, and over 150,000 die; and if we consider all the other life forms on this planet, the coming and going of souls amounts to uncountable centillions, every second of every day. No wonder the mystics of ancient Greece called it the ‘wandering’ of the soul.
The only answer to the mystery of life in this ocean of material existence is recollection of our Source – with the help of the ever-present divine grace, to stitch together whatever fleeting moments of remembrance we may have into one continuous awareness of the divine presence within ourselves and within all things. Then, by degrees, the veil will be pulled aside, the clouds of ignorance will disperse, and the light of true understanding will dawn. Then, little by little, our awareness of the Divine will grow until at length we realize the One who has been with us all along.
This essay is an extract from Awareness of the Divine, a book by John Davidson, published with permission by Science of the Soul Research Centre, RSSB, in 2020.