Spiritual Practice

I visit my blog less often than I used to. I open the post page to write something because after all the point of having a blog is to blog; but I stare at the empty page because I have got nothing to write. I feel I have a lot to say, or rather a lot to share about what I have learnt from others. But I don’t feel right to write because that would make me a hypocrite. You see, I cannot claim to know anything as long as that knowledge is not assimilated by me and put into practice, by which I mean conformity to what I believe to be true, and I am very weak in that department. I love spirituality, and above all spiritual metaphysics. But it is one thing to read and talk and write about it which does not make one spiritual but only a little prepared for spirituality; and it is another thing to assimilate what I read and use it as a support for my spiritual practice; and without spiritual practice, which is adherence to one or another orthodox religious/spiritual tradition, nothing is ever accomplished.

It is a well-known fact that spiritual life-and life is either spiritual or isn’t life at all-and the journey toward God consist of two fundamental aspects: Doctrine and method. Doctrine is that which directs us; it provides a sense of orientation by giving an outline of the goal, much like a map. Method is the spiritual practice that takes us to the goal, much like the vehicle or instrument that takes us to gates of Heaven. Now, reading and thinking of spiritual matters alone, though it may make us feel good or give us some peace, do not accomplish anything because it can become a sort of obsession with the doctrine at the cost of forgetting the journey itself. Doctrine itself is never the Truth Itself but a pale reflection of it that is meant to evoke in the seeker a forgotten memory of the lost paradise, i.e. the paradisaical state of being and consciousness; thus, doctrine too is no more than an instrument and a support for spiritual realization.

Truth Itself transcends all doctrinal formulations to the extent that we are allowed to say all doctrines are false relative to the Absolute Truth Itself; it is false relative to Truth because it cannot be identical with It, for Truth transcends all formulations and is ultimately inexpressible. But all doctrines insofar as they are traditional and orthodox, i.e. have their origin in a non-human influence which is none other than revelation, have a relative truth to them because they are reflections of That which lies above and in transcendence. However, this relative truth has no value in itself if it is divorced from its metaphysical function, and the metaphysical function of the doctrine is to invoke in the aspirant the longing for the Truth that is reflected in the doctrine, and also to keep the traveler on the right path without going astray. Therefore, we must look at doctrine not as a fancy collectible to be used for decoration but as a rope hanging from the sky. We must climb the rope and not swing with or by it.

The spiritual practice, on the other hand, is meant to purify the soul so that it can reflect the Truth expressed in the doctrine. The soul that is purified by its nature reflects the Truth, for the pure heart knows nothing but God. All other forms of knowledge, including empirical knowledge of ourselves and the world, is a dirt covering the spirit, and spiritual practice is the way to clean up this mirror as a result of which our soul-which is essentially identical with the Spirit in its state of purity-remembers and reflects its transcendent principle, God.

That you must hate your soul and put your soul to death is a very true statement because it is this soul as dirt over the spirit that ties us to the belief in our independent existence and separation from God. This nowadays fashionable cult of “love yourself” goes contrary to all traditional values, i.e. to Truth Itself. Instead, you must love your Self which is the Self of all things and is none other than God; but to succeed in loving the Self you must hate yourself and put your self to death, for this inferior self is no more than dirt and darkness. So, to hate yourself is to hate delusion and separation, darkness and forgetfulness, arrogance and ignorance.

When the soul becomes pure as a result of spiritual practice it reflects, by its nature, the Divine qualities which are spiritual virtues of humility, generosity, and objectivity. These virtues are not possessions of the sage but rather belong to God alone. But when the sage has become pure at heart and poor in spirit he has in fact returned to the primordial state in which he was created in the image of God. In that state the spiritual virtues shine by themselves, for it is God Himself along with His attributes that shine through the sage. The humility of the sage is the reflection of God’s transcendence and absolute detachment from the world. The generosity of the sage is the reflection of God’s immanence and infinitude, His unconditional giving through perpetual creation and constant renewal of all things. The objectivity of the sage is the reflection of God’s perfect knowledge and justice. It is not that the sage, the pure in heart and poor in spirit, becomes God or even acquires divine attributes; rather, God’s attributes shine in and through the sage because he is no more himself, and in fact he has become no-thing so that there is nothing in him and with him that can obstruct the Divine Light which is shining everywhere and at all times. The sage has become a channel of grace because he has become nothing, because he hated himself and put himself to death.

All this being said, which is by the way too much considering my present state of literary impotence, all I meant to say was that I feel I cannot say anything of spiritual life unless I am myself in it, and to be in it is to practice it. I try to do my best and pray to God to give me strength and faith so I can practice, that is, to constantly remember Him and conform to His nature. On my own, with this petty human self of mine, I have no faith, no knowledge, no love and no devotion. I am in a state of absolute spiritual poverty and all I can ask Him is to forgive my forgetfulness and minimize my distractions so that I can practice, practice, practice.

The Bugbear of Literacy

“‘Universal compulsory education, of the type introduced at the end of the 19th century, has not fulfilled expectations by producing happier and more effective citizens; on the contrary, it has created readers of the yellow press and cinema-goers’ (Karl Otten). A master who can himself not only read, but also write good classical Latin and Greek, remarks that ‘there is no doubt of the quantitative increase in literacy of a kind, and amid the general satisfaction that something is being multiplied it escapes enquiry whether the something is profit or deficit.’ He is discussing only the ‘worst effects’ of enforced literacy, and concludes: ‘Learning and wisdom have often been divided; perhaps the clearest result of modern literacy has been to maintain and enlarge the gulf.'”
An excerpt from The Bugbear of Literacy by Ananda Coomaraswamy

Click on the following link to view the full PDF version of the essay:

The_Bugbear_of_Literacy_by_Ananda_Coomaraswamy

Truth & Intelligence

We superimpose our human rigidity on God, making Him judgmental and ourselves fearful. While we must fear God, our fear of Him should be a humbling awe with utmost veneration before His infinitude rather than a childish fright before His revengeful wrath.

We, and especially we religious and spiritual people, and even more so myself, constantly judge ourselves, and that is our egos behind all judgment since ego is always concerned with my individual perfection, and then we assume this judgment to be God’s as if God expected perfection from that which is essentially non-God, namely creation. God’s infinitude projects in the plane of existence as boundless, unconditional, pure love. God loves us even when we hate ourselves, and He gives Himself to us whenever we call on Him. He forgives us and yet we punish ourselves. When we obsessively judge and slash at ourselves for our imperfections we are in fact judging God’s creation and hence Him by association.

We are by nature imperfect and yet expect perfection from ourselves; God is by nature perfect and He doesn’t expect anything from us. From God’s point of view, as if there were others, we are always already perfect, for we are nothing but the manifestations of his perfection and infinitude. We are deluded into thinking that God has given us an awareness of our imperfections; but what we perceive, due to ego’s self-obsession, as the awareness of our imperfections is in fact nothing but the awareness of God’s perfection. It is only in light of our consciousness of God that we feel small and imperfect.

The awareness of our imperfections, which is the other face of our awareness of God’s perfection, is a saving thread graced upon us to redirect our attention away from ourselves and toward God. When we are instead preoccupied with our spiritual imperfections we are not being spiritual at all, for we are distracted from the Truth and the Way by constantly diverting our consciousness from its sole purpose of absorption in God to absorption in ourselves under the name of spiritual perfection.

God, being Absolute and Infinite, is the endless source of generosity. It is our egos, especially in our spiritual paths, that is obsessed with our own perfection, and particularly with our spiritual perfection, the ego that constantly finds faults with us without ever accepting us the way we are. God, however, accepts us, always and forever, as who we are with all our imperfections and shortcomings, for He is the source of our very Being; God is our very Being itself. We forget this basic truth that our spiritual journey is never about us; it is, and always should be, about God and Him alone: Our spiritual journey begins by finding ourselves in the midst of our imperfections and it ends by losing ourselves in the midst of God’s perfection. Instead of focusing on our own imperfections we must contemplate His perfection.

We limit His infinitude with the finitude of the vessels that we are. The traditional man used to view God as the final station to which he had to ascend; but now we look at ourselves and our own level as the final station to which God must descend. We no more strive to rise up to truth but instead bring truth down to our own little and pitiful level. This is the predominant attitude of modernism and symptomatic of all modern educational systems, the insistence on bringing everything down to man instead of pushing him up to truth, the urge to dilute everything great and of high value so to make it suitable for our weak digestion, and hence making it weaker and weaker.

The result is a modern man with watered down intelligence incapable of grasping anything beyond himself, anything beyond the mental and the physical, anything that doesn’t guarantee instant gratification. Modern man, a species reduced to a mere psycho-physical phenomenon, utterly lacks the intelligence and intellectual intuition capable of perceiving eternal truths. The natural consequence, and the more profitable road, is for this modern man to define his/her own commonsense and crooked intelligence as the final and the only truth and the absolute criterion of all other truths, if at all he believes in any truth. In modern man intelligence has hit its rock bottom with a loud bang that we hear as the babbling of its militant atheists and liberals.

This modern man is confused and hopelessly disoriented; he confuses things of the high planes with things of the low grounds, the archetypes with brain chemistry: He confuses true knowledge with mere information, intuition with mere computation, intellect with reason, intelligence with memory and book knowledge, philosophy with sterile mental masturbation, science with dogma, rational judgment with sentimental prejudice, degradation with evolution, regress with progress, and above all he confuses objective truths with his own subjective preferences as a result of which we have been dragged into a new Dark Age, the Age of Dogma, an age marked with the reign of irrational beliefs, superstitious opinions, and wild sentiments, and worst of all an unprecedented treason against human intelligence, and intelligence as such.

Since this modern man, this little man of intellectual and spiritual retardation, cannot conceive of anything above himself he must look for something below himself, perhaps he must be a descendant of apes, and he really is nothing more as long as he considers himself to be that; and what is ironic about this man is that he takes so much pride in boldly standing up for these modern superstitions that pass for scientific facts!

But how can we take serious the sciences of a species which claims himself to be nothing more than a sexually repressed ape of no freewill?! How can we expect any objective knowledge from a species hopelessly conditioned by its animal drives and the purely self-interested motive for mere survival?! You see, this modern man cannot open its mouth and say something without contradicting himself: He claims that he is nothing but a “small phase of an evolution going from the amoeba to the superman,” and yet in some mysterious fashion he can at once objectively know where he stands in all this! He asserts with absolute certainty that there are not absolute truths and yet makes an irrational exception in favor of this assertion itself elevating it to the status of an absolute truth, and hence excluding himself and his sciences from the consequences of his own scientific conclusions!

Modern man performed a miracle that even God cannot perform: He made a fashionable commonsense out of the absurd! This is genius, and in fact his only genius. It is as if he secretly enjoys having come from the ape instead of the apex. His irrational insistence on being closer to chimpanzees than to transcendent archetypes, despite lack of scientific evidence, is really nothing but an adolescence rebellion of a reverse puberty that we know of as the Renaissance and its Age of Enlightenment which gave us the last kick into an irremediable darkness.

This modern man is more arrogant than ever, but this outward arrogance is nothing but the reflection of an inward ignorance and insecurity that befell upon him when he washed off the sense of the sacred from nature and himself and replaced it with the illusion of evolution and endless progress, and hence he destroyed the very ground upon which he was standing. Modern man is not standing anymore; he is crawling like a worm in his own filth made of synthetic ismisms and a whorified consumerism with the sole end of welfare and instant gratification. But we’re being too charitable here, too optimistic in our view of modern man. This modern man’s crawling is in truth a sliding backwards into a Godless oblivion.

Truth & Reality

World is not something in which we act and think. World is what we think and how we act. The habit of the modern mind, thanks to the reign of scientific worldview, is to assume that world, as a determinate structure, is there before we come to it. But isn’t this thesis itself something somehow arrived at by the mind?!

What is is what it is depending on who we are and how we look in its direction. Things are the way they are because of the way we confront them. To say that reality exists independently of our apprehension of it is itself only a way of confronting reality. What we find in the world depends on our methods of investigation. Or, truth is a function of method. And method is the fixing of values and interests serving a predetermined goal.

That modern science cannot find anything non-physical in the universe is simply because the scientific method was defined and designed from the very beginning to disregard the metaphysical and pick only the physical. When you decide to explore the world using only your hands you will discover all that is tactile but you won’t discover sound, smell, taste, etc., things which don’t lend themselves to your particular methods of investigation, in this case yours hands. To hear sound one must listen, for no amount of touching can apprehend sound; for those who refuse to listen no sound can ever be known to them.

If science cannot prove the existence of God, and won’t ever, it is simply because science is set out to discover empirical phenomena, phenomena that can be subject to control experiments and mathematical quantification. But God is defined to be that which transcends all empirical qualities and quantities. What we fail to understand about science, and hence give it superior status out of ignorance, is that science is just one among the many ways of confronting reality. Science is just one among the many human traditions that have aimed at understanding reality. Science as tradition is a mode of inquiry in which quantity and inference play the fundamental role, while religious and spiritual traditions choose the path of quality and intuition.The methods by which God is recovered are radically different from the methods of science. It is nothing but intellectual fascism to give the scientific truth absolute superiority and call everything else fiction and superstition, and hence not worthy of having a voice. Truth is the function of method.

What happens in science must stay in science. We should not mix up science and our spiritual intuitions. To use science to justify spiritual truths is like using your hand as a means of listening to music. In order to avoid this fatal trap we must remind ourselves that modern science is just a story we keep repeating to ourselves as if it were the only story. Surely science works and has its own truth, but by no means are its truths superior to spiritual truths, let alone absolute. After all, science is itself only a spiritual possibility for mankind. We found science and made it what it is; how stupid of us is it to let science tell us who we are.

Truth and Tradition

In the face of truth everything is mere opinion. To face the truth is to face away from opinions, and above all to face away from opinions about truth. What stands between man and truth is the baggage of his convictions. In the path toward the source our ideas and symbols are only to play the role of a ladder, for they are designed to be transcended rather than dwelled upon, and that until we are ready to face the Sun. And facing It is not an instance of looking upon it or an intellectual or rational grasping but rather becoming one with it, for truth being infinite and total cannot be looked upon; it contains all that there is. Knowledge of truth is a matter of self-knowledge. To experience truth is to self-experience oneself in one’s infinite glory. There is nothing more dangerous than the irresponsible New Age spirituality which tries to offer salvation without purging the individual from the malaise of the modern point of view, a point of view essentially Spiritless and utterly false.

A man or woman who looks upon him/herself as a psycho-physical entity lacking a sense of sacred can never truly become spiritual. Spirituality has two indispensable dimensions: Doctrine and method. One without the other can only make life hell for this rotten meatball that man has become. Doctrine is metaphysical and never physical, scientific, or philosophical; thus it must come from revealed traditions which were yet at a safe distance from a series of damnations known as Renaissance, Reformation, and The Age of Enlightenment.

If the traditional man was a sinner it was only relative to God, something infinitely above himself. If the modern man is free and rational it is only relative to the beast, something finitely below himself. Thus, if modernism seems to have made a better humanity it is only because it lowered the ideal from the infinitely above to something below; it never made a better man but a worse ideal: Modern man looks great but feels terrible, for he has no place in the new cosmos. The existential nausea of Sartre speaks to this unfortunate occasion more than we can say about it.

Science As Dogma

That modern science is dogmatic both in its foundations and method, and also in its self-assessment and self-understanding, is a matter of fact that is not very well known to the public, and particularly to the fans, or perhaps fanatics, of science. To object to science nowadays, even by an objective objection, is almost as shocking and offensive to its fans as it is to violate the sanctity of their mothers’ wombs. This fanaticism is even more violent in people who are of lesser intelligence, for it belongs to the very essence of intelligence to be impartial and objective rather partial and subjective. Thus, a fanatic, whatever creed feeds his/her obsessions, does not in principle enjoy the same degree of intelligence allotted to mankind. He/she is yet to become human, maybe in some other life.

The point here is that science and its nature, its scope and limits, its prides and scandals, are known best to scientists themselves rather than any outsider who might have felt it looks cooler and less objectionable to stand on the side of science and perversion rather than religion and tradition. And the fanatics fans of science, like those of religion or else, are generally so stupid that it is impossible to convey to them why and how this modern science is not about the Real.

As usual the correction of the path, the excellence of the way, is left not to the self-interested fans who mass produce jokes and opinions but to those few who still carry the light of Truth within their pure hearts; it is only up to the future bright scientists to discern between the Real and the unreal, and hence proclaim the ancient truth which is really always staring into our numb and dumb faces. It suffices to say that there is only one world in which we live. The world of the mystic and the world of the scientist must be one and the same; if not, it is always the scientist who must find recourse to the origin, for the mystic has never ever left the origin to begin with.

In his celebrated anthology The Perennial Philosophy Aldous Huxley reminds us of the subsisting corruption of modern science and its unworthy representative, the dogmatic scientist, when they face the wisdom of ancient traditions:

“Promoting their methodological ineptitude to the rank of a criterion of truth, dogmatic scientists have often branded everything beyond the pale of their limited competence as unreal and even impossible” 

Science as a method of inquiry based on certain presuppositions is perfectly a fine enterprise. It is like a branch of engineering, at least modern science which is far from the Greek conception of the idea of science. It has never been the business of science to discover reality as it is, let alone the truth; this becomes evident for a serious mind who bothers to look into the origin of science and its modern idea and practice. Thus, the world picture provided by science, including its understanding of human, is as unreal and fictional as ancient mythologies and demigods. This fictional character of the world-picture of modern science is just beginning to show itself, first emerged at the advent of Quantum Physics. It is ironic how our farthest and most recent probes into the nature of reality tells us only of ourselves, as if we see nothing in its but the reflection of our own pale faces in search of truth. Quantum Physics which is the highest creation of Realism concludes that Realism cannot be true, and it cannot be so in principle.

Appearance, the world of phenomena, has its roots in consciousness and not the other way around. This is only recently understood by a few physicists but will be factually established and then communicated into the mass in about a few centuries. Then people will understand that the Dark Age never really ended in 15th century but only peaked in the 21st century.