Explorers of the “inner world” of human consciousness – mystics, shamans, monks, prophets and students of metaphysics as well as (in more recent times) scientists in such areas as psychology and congnition – have discovered and mapped out a number of very interesting states of awareness which human beings can achieve.
These states of awareness can involve experiences like the following:
A profound experience of the essential unity of all things.
The dissolving of boundaries between self and other, object and subject.
An experience of a profound stillness underlying all things.
A sense of absolute love.
A sense of complete bliss.
A sense of great intelligence and purpose underlying all things.
I’ll keep the list short for the time being. To explorers returning from these states, the normal world, and the normal state of awareness can seem, in comparison, to be an illusion, or even an illness. With practice, the inner explorer can learn to carry some of this awareness with him back into normal life. Some people, in fact, achieve this awareness in a sudden, shocking experience and retain much of it on a semi-permanent basis.
Individuals with this altered perspective offer interesting observations about our normal human problems. Our real true, essence and identity, say these teachers, is this universal, loving, interconnected reality. Nearly all our human problems, say the teachers, arise from our seeing ourselves as separate entities, cut off from and in competition with, all the other separate, isolated entities.
To the mystic, pride makes no sense. All things are one. No imagined part of the whole is more important than any other part..
To the mystic, greed and theft makes no sense. Why take from one part of the whole to give to another part of the whole?
To the mystic, violence makes no sense. Do the branches of one tree war with each other? Why should one part of the whole hurt another part of the whole?
Now it’s true that by teaching social mores, it is possible to instill a minimum standard of behavior in most people. You can make people afraid of the law, or afraid of the wrath of God, or afraid of public ridicule. You can promise them rewards for obedience and punishments for failure. This will work to some extent (and is probably critical for society to survive at all) If you are particularly successful, you can get quite a few individuals motivated primarily by pride – by the desire to see themselves as decent, moral people and collect the psychological reward that the mores permit to such people.
But with all your mores, you are still contending against the basic limited, isolated perspective of the individual ego. Individuals will still feel great motivation to break social mores when they can get away with it if those mores conflict strongly enough with their individual desires.
The mystic, on the other hand, is in an entirely different position. The mystic is loving and generous and humble and peaceful simply because these are the only behaviors that make sense in the alternate awareness. There is no need to enforce social mores on the mystic. In fact, the mystic, in the role of prophet – is likely to be one of the first to point out the injustices and inequities associated with whatever version of the social mores you are working with.
— Ok, moving to the realm of the religious It is my belief that experience of the alternate awareness is in fact a glimpse of the reality which underlies all higher religion. Different religions use different vocabularies to describe it, and add quite a few other trappings and extras. You ask whether when I say that the guidance of the Spirit is the key, whether by “Spirit” I mean the soul of the individual, or the Holy Ghost. But the problem is that at this higher level of awareness, the two tend to merge. The higher Self IS God, and is the Spirit, which is also the Holy Ghost. So when I say the guidance of the Spirit is necessary, I mean an openness to this alternate awareness.
Now it’s quite true that many religious people aren’t operating from a knowledge of the alternate awareness. For them, Christianity is simply a divinely dictated set of social mores, enforced with eternal rewards and punishments. And this isn’t a bad thing, from one perspective. God is a more omnipresent observer and enforcer, in this system, than any policeman.
But I think there is a lot of evidence in the scripture that Jesus and the prophets before him and the apostles after him were actually calling on as many as possible to make the jump to a higher awareness perspective of morality. A few examples:
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts [as opposed to outward law]; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer 31: 33–34)
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45)
“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph 3:16–19)
Turning at last to the point on which I believe we might disagree. I expect you would probably say “All this inner awareness stuff is fine – but it’s not real. It’s just something in your own mind”.
I don’t accept that things that the things in the “inner world” are less real than the things in the outer. In fact, I think the opposite is probably true. The outer world only has reality by virtue of being present in our own minds. The experiences of the inner world are capable of systematic, repeatable observation just as the experiences of the outer world are, and are just as “real” – although they are a different order of reality.