The three stages of spiritual path are Katharsis, Theoria, and Theosis: Katharsis is Purification through Abstention. Theoria is Illumination through Contemplation. Theosis is Deification through Concentration. Theosis is Obliteration in Affirmation.
This encompasses the method, the means, and the end of all spiritual ascent: First, we become aware of our existence; then, we see, with the Eye of the Heart, the non-existence of our awareness of our existence; and at last, we are no more and we see no more, for in our total obliteration it is affirmed that though “Nothing is like Him, He is the Hearing and the Seeing,” [Verse (42:11, Quran)] and He is the Being of all beings: At last, we have landed on the Cloud of Unknowing.
Spiritual ascent is a journey from man to Atman, from humanity to Divinity, from duality to singularity.
Nothing is ever achieved, for everything is already given. The wind of grace is always blowing; to receive it we only need to become receptive, and to become receptive is to be open, wide open, and to be open to Him is to be closed to ourselves, to be mute and dead to ourselves, i.e. to play dead before Him so we perceive His approach and receive His mercy and grace; it is to turn the attentiveness of the soul away from the Divine self-transmutation toward the Divine self-disclosure, from perception in reception to reception in perception.
Truth is waiting for us on the other side of phenomena. It is the attraction of truth that draws us toward Himself but to us it is experienced as an attraction toward phenomena, while it is really an attraction to that which lies behind and beyond them. The task is to cross over: Your soul is your boat and your remembrance of Him is your rowing toward Him.
The world, this ensemble of phenomena, is nothing but a transparent veil over the face of Truth. It is transparent, for we are at all times staring at the face of Truth but failing to recognize It. Instead we conjure up the world in place of the Face, darkness in place of light, obscurity in place of clarity, illusion in place of vision. Truth is always known by all. It is only a lapse in memory that make us oblivious to Its existence and nearness to us.
Since truth is transcendental, and hence atemporal, its perception too cannot be an experience in the usual sense of the word, i.e. experience as a temporal and dual stream, dual in the sense that all experience is based on a knower-known, or subject-object duality. Knowledge is proportional to its object, for both emerge and become manifest as a result of an apparent polarity within the knower. Therefore: The experience of the eternal is itself eternal.
Intelligence operates simultaneously at two distinct levels: In one level it is the pure onlooker, the Witness; in another, the lower level, it is the actor and constitutor. These two distinct levels of activity of God or the higher Intellect, the one transcendent and the other immanent, is reflected in the human plane as the two principal modes of wakefulness, i.e. a wakefulness in the world and a wakefulness to the world: This is the distinction between the active and the contemplative life. But even the active life, action here implying outward mobility, is founded on the contemplative activity of the spirit. After all, everything is contemplation, for the One is contemplation par excellence: It is contemplation that creates, i.e. transcendentally constitutes, the field of action.
Spiritual practices and rituals are not meant to invoke a deity or to bring the Divinity closer to the aspirant but to make the aspirant aware of the primordial nearness of the Divinity: The heart of the devotee is the throne of God.
The separation between man and God is a one-way separation, for it appears only to man and as long as he is man. From God’s side all is God and God is all. Though we are far away from God, He is eternally with us, for He is the eternity within us. This separation is of the nature of time. As time separates the tree from its root, the fruit from its seed, it has separated man from the Atman. To see this we must see that eternity is not something in time, but time is something in eternity. Because of ignorance, i.e. intellectual/spiritual impurities, or more precisely because of poor sight, we cannot perceive this truth. Spiritual practices are meant to remove these impurities as a result of which the ever-shining Face of Truth is immediately recognized.
Truth shines in the heart: Spiritual practices only make the heart receptive to this light. This is only a matter of spiritual/intellectual reorientation of the soul. In other words, spiritual practices in fact reorient the Intellect toward its origin, away from duality and toward singularity: The only way to Theosis is Katharsis.