An Individual Spiritual Journey
( 2012 - a personal description of an individual Spiritual Journey)
Belief and Knowing - To even start on the spiritual journey, you need to have a belief that it is possible to find something in a non-material world. Having accepted this initial belief then, as you grow on the journey, you begin to acquire your own inner ‘knowing’ – this is no longer a believing in what someone else may have written or said, but what you know to be true in your own heart. Acquiring this ‘knowing. Is the essence of building confidence in you own spiritual path and the purpose of this life. This knowing cannot be shared with anyone else. Each of us has to find for ourselves the knowledge that is true for us.
How do we acquire our knowing ? - It has to start with reading and with other people teaching us. If we listen we seem to be prompted on how to find what it is useful for us. For me it was courses and workshops given by Ian Gordon Brown; reading the Italian psychologist Assagioli; Tara Livingston introducing me to the Alice Bailey books; reading Theosophy, Jung, and a multitude of books on mysticism and the spiritual.
It is an enormous help to understand that there is one divine Perennial Philosophy that lies behind every belief and religion. It takes various aspects depending on the communities where it manifests. It's up to us to find the aspect that resonates in our heart and works for us.
“Scientism” - There is a view held by many scientists, and indeed probably a majority of individuals, that if you cannot count it, weigh it or measure it, it does not exist. That is only partially true even in the material world, as physicists and astronomers are beginning to discover. Nonetheless, one frequently gets asked if what one believes is “true”. I don't think that there is any objective truth in the spiritual world. It can only be accessed subjectively via the intuition, and can only be understood by the individual's own personal experience.
I had a scientific education, but I believe there is sufficient evidence from the writing of wise mystics, philosophers and psychologists over the ages, and in both Western and Eastern worlds, to indicate that there is something real in the spiritual world. My own experience has entirely confirmed this.
The Spiritual World – I believe that there is another world - quite as real as the material world - that permeates the material world. Things in this spiritual world cannot be weighed, measured or touched in conventional terms – nonetheless, they are real. The spiritual world cannot be accessed by the intellect but is accessed via the intuition.
There are a host of different ways of describing this world. some of which are highly detailed and complex. Most of these methods described ‘levels’ and ‘planes’ but this is simply a device to help us focus on something which is utterly different and in some ways beyond our intellectual comprehension. A simplified way of describing the spiritual is as follows:
The Material world – this is the world in which we live, which we know, and which we can access with our intellect and conscious thoughts.
The Astral world – this is the world ‘above’ the material world, occupied by human emotions – thoughts of love, hatred, passion, envy, jealousy, mistrust despair etc. All these human thoughts are whirring about and can have an impact on us. This is the level upon which it is thought that departed souls, who have not ‘moved on’ can be found, and is usually the level which is accessed by mediums.
The Akashic world – this lies ‘above’ the Astral world – it has many descriptive words but is essentially the level of pure spiritual being – a level of calm tranquillity and love – this is the level upon which the wiser guides are to be found.
The One – above all the levels is the One – God – the Cosmos – whatever you might like to call it. This is the ineffable, indescribable, perfect world that permeates and fills the whole universe.
Religion and Spirituality – People often confuse the two - religion is the formalised shape of a belief that is defined by human beings and is based upon the inspiration of the original prophet. Spirituality is the ability for the individual to access the divine directly without an intermediary.
Dis-incarnate beings –These are in the spiritual world. There are various entities including Angels - thought of as messengers of God. There are also dis-incarnate beings – these are individuals who have lived on earth and are no longer here but are available to help us. In their various incarnations they have gained wisdom and this wisdom is accessible to us.
Accessing the spiritual world – This is done mainly by meditation. But there are many other methods such as dowsing, tarot cards etc. All these are ways of accessing the spiritual world – a world which cannot be accessed by normal conventional material means. In meditation, I have a simple method of accessing the Akashic level – I visualise a tube of light which passes through the Astral plane and I simply count up through it from 1 to 9. The tube of light protects me from the whirling chaos of the astral world.
Reincarnation – It is difficult to go far on a spiritual journey without coming to believe in reincarnation. That is that the individual soul has many lives on Earth. In each life a little more progress is made towards what is ultimately the fully developed spiritual being. Once you come to understand this, then the particular life in which you find yourself becomes less important and death less frightening.
Past lives I have a vivid recollection of a number of past lives – I do not think that I have necessarily been the person concerned but that I have been somehow put through the experience of being that person – I feel that there are certain classic parts such as Richard Whiting, the executed last Abbot of Glastonbury, and that in some way between lives, or somewhere else, we have been given the opportunity to play that part and understand fully what it meant. It does not mean that we were that person. I have met a number of Richard Whitings !
A Higher Self or Soul -I have mentioned the eternal soul which continues between lives. This soul can be accessed by the individual living in the material body and the wisdom that it has acquired over many lives can be contacted. This is often called the individual’s Higher Self.
Karma - I don't take the concept of Karma too literally – nonetheless it does seem that acts that you carry out can come back to haunt you. The deeds involving harm done to others can return as similar painful experiences for oneself. Similarly positive deeds can return as blessings. Deeds in a past life may return as challenges to be worked out in the present life.
What is the purpose of each individual life – We need to use each life on Earth for three things:
- To learn and improve our understanding and work out past Karma
- To serve the community, using the skills that we have brought with us and the skills that we have developed in this life
- To enjoy ourselves and have fun
How do we access the guidance that is available – I will look at this in a bit more detail later on. Here it is important to repeat the words that are found in the Bible - which are essential rules for living the spiritual life.
- Seek and you shall find.
- Knock and it shall be opened unto you.
- Ask and the answer will be given.
Divine guidance is always available, but it will not impose itself upon you. You have to ask for it and only then will it be given.
Choosing our parents – One view is that, before we are born into a new life, we discuss with the ‘Lords of Karma’ just what we are going to do with this life. It will be a question of seeing what we have to learn and where we can be of use. In order to make the most of the life, we need to choose the parents who will give us the start that is needed to enable us to flourish. It may be that we have very painful experiences in our childhood and that these are vital to our learning.
The idea of an eternal soul reincarnating over and over and choosing its parents - and the race, country and place of these parents - gives some understanding of the extraordinary difference that often appears between siblings. They share the same genes and their bodies are similar but often their temperaments, ideas, intelligence and understanding are completely different. That is because souls with very different past life experiences are choosing to incarnate in the same family - but each brings with them a wholly different set of experiences and acquired skills.
One of the difficulties of the spiritual path is that in our early days we forget why we chose to come here in the first place. Part of the journey is to rediscover our purpose and task.
Having looked at some of the background understanding of a person on a spiritual path, let us now look at this path or journey.
Virtually every religion and faith, where ever you find it, has a story of the Journey through life of the individual. This is an understanding of the spiritual nature of this path. My own view is that everyone receives a calling to remind them to follow and honour their own personal spiritual path – however this is not forced upon you and it is entirely up to the individual, whether they accept this call or not. The key stages of the journey are broadly as follows.
Early days – the child acquires experience and knowledge and some understanding of communities and living with people.
Skills in the material world – the young adult goes out into the world and finds a way of supporting themselves. They acquire experience and knowledge and in due course may marry and have children
Awakening – somewhere along the line you receive hints of the possibility of a spiritual world. You can completely ignore this, and do nothing about it, or can begin to explore. Through books and teachers, what this might mean for you. If you respond positively, then begins an awakening of the spiritual side of your nature, so that you are in a suitable frame of mind to hear a call when it comes.
Crisis – sometimes, but not always, there is a crisis which accelerates the process of making the individual more sensitive to the spiritual world. In crying out in despair, they may open a channel which allows a response from their Higher Self or other spiritual source.
The Call – when the individual is needed, a spiritual call may be put out for their services. This call will only be heard once the individual is sensitive to their spiritual life.
Honouring the call – no one is forced to do anything - you can completely ignore the call – if however you do respond, then certainly, in my experience, there is a flow to life that was not there before and a burgeoning of fulfilment and joy in the work. My experiences is that I was asked to work in a totally different environment – Glastonbury – I was asked to do there almost exactly what I was doing as a consultant and counsellor in the conventional world – but this time on projects that were close to my heart.
Transformation – the stories of the journey say that the soul grows steadily in life after life until eventually it has achieved a state of consciousness raised to the point where it is in tune with the Other and does not have to be reborn. I'm well aware of this, as a concept, but do not think that I have got there yet !
My own journey
I have written about this and I do not intend to repeat this stage by stage – there are however some interesting things that have emerged and that I have not spoken about before - let us have a look at them
Practices - Virtually every religion and path advocates some practice, or practices, which it is necessary to carry out in a regular fashion in order to access the world of the spirit. This may be communal prayer, ceremonies, or other communal practices. The most common individual practice is meditation. For me this is the method that I have always used. Meditation is simply a question of sitting quietly and settling the mind with some form of repeated mantra or watching the breathing. Ideally, half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening is what one should practice, but this can be very difficult to do. With advancing years I am getting less consistent but I have tried to meditate every morning for at least the last 30 years.
A Journal - Most spiritual paths recommend keeping some form of journal. I have done this for years. It is a question of recording what comes to you through your intuition rather than recording what you did during the day. The fascinating thing is that it often seems rather trite at the time - whilst when we look at what we have written later, it can appear to be extraordinarily wise.
I started by channelling by voice. You have to sit quietly, listen to what you hear being said, overcome the idea that this is a ridiculous thing to be doing, and then say the very first word. As you get better at this, it starts to flow, but you always have to take the courageous step of saying the first word. I can do this privately or with others and sometimes I am asked to channel guidance for other people.
Later I started using automatic writing, i.e. the same process, but writing things down - again the difficult step is actually writing the first word. Later still I started dictating into a recording machine and transcribing the results – now I use voice recognition software which saves an enormous amount of time.
Whatever method you use it is an invaluable tool in accessing the inner wisdom that is available to you.
Guides and Guidance - On the journey one is guided to meet various individuals who are in the material world. Significant people for me have been Ian Gordon Brown, who introduced me to the Lucis Trust and Assagioli, and X, who introduced me to Alice Bailey and Theosophy.
This is all quite straight forward. What is more difficult to understand is the concept that there are dis-incarnate beings who are available to guide you on your journey. The process seems to be to start by believing that such an idea is possible, and then, in meditation, to access any guidance that may be available so that one has experienced it first hand for oneself.
The Company of Avalon - I have a very strong experience of an overshadowing entity in Glastonbury that guides all that is going on in the town. This entity has many names including the Angel of Glaston and the Goddess but for me it is the Company of Avalon. This is a group of long dead monks who care about the town reaching its full potential. Amongst them are my own guides but there are many others. Often in meetings it feels as if the room is full of the monks of the Company.
Presence of Guides -I do not have to do anything remarkable to be aware of my guides. I only have to talk about them to feel their presence. It is worth exploring just what they might be. I do not believe that they are going around in Akasha dressed as monks ! Instead I think they are spiritual beings who are capable of adopting a form that is something that I can understand. I don't think for a moment I would understand them in their full radiance. I believe our own guides adopt the appearance which the individual concerned can accept and respond to. The same guide may appear in a different guise to different people. Somehow we were all linked in this process.
Lessons learned upon the way - I have read widely many spiritual books, attended courses and workshops, attended retreats in Benedictine Abbeys and practiced meditation for years. I've also worked in tune with my own spiritual guidance. One or two things have emerged that are possibly of value and of interest.
Destiny - there seems to be a pattern to our life which is not under our own conscience control. We may have decided this before we were born but we forget this along the way. Going along with how your life wants to emerge seems to be one of the secrets.
Detachment - this is one of the hardest things to learn. In one's work and relationships one has to care and do one’s very best – at the same time one has to be detached from the outcome as we do not really know what that is supposed to be. It is often called the Razor's Edge – the impossibly narrow path between caring passionately about the project and being detached utterly from the fruits of the project. Essentially this is to love the people and care for the things which one is asked to look after, but not to think of them as being ‘owned’.
Materialising – all spiritual paths teach the basic practice of materialisation – of magic - and we all learn how to do this. Essentially, it is simple –
- have a clear vision of what is to be achieved;
- hold the vision with passion;
- do everything that you can to bring the vision into being;
- keep going through all adversity and allow the vision to follow its own course.
The key thing that is usually left out of books on materialising is that, certainly on the spiritual path, it is vital that you materialise the right thing. It's not about generating mountains of money for your own use but about trying to bring into being that which you are inspired to create – that which your intuition and guidance is prompting you to do.
a clear vision is particularly important in group work and any not-for-profit project where volunteers are involved. It is essential that at the centre there is an absolutely clear vision of what the object of the exercise is, and what you are trying to create. If this is completely clear then others can respond either by saying ‘I want to be part of it’ or by saying ‘I don't want to be part of it’.
It also appears that a clear vision can usually only be held by a very small group of people who share it completely. Trying to get a clear objective from a large group of people almost never works – we see this over and over again in Glastonbury
Success and failure – I have learned in Glastonbury that there is no such thing as failure. If one really cares about the work one is asked to do, then you find that sometimes it appears to flourish whilst at others it appears to fail. But in fact the so-called failures have almost invariably been laying the foundations for growth in the future when new energies come along. Also, it is often a question of aiming for a specific target that gets you in the right place at the right time to meet some totally new project coming in from the side. If you had not been on the original course you would not have met the new opportunity.
Discrimination – it is important to have wise discrimination when getting involved in new projects or with new people. One needs to look calmly at the situation and not get over influenced by the excitement and glamour of the new idea.
Humility – along the way on the spiritual journey, sooner or later one is brought face to face with some sort of humbling process. This is usually a failure in an area in which one's pride had been invested. For me this was the failure of my businesses. However it comes about, humility is a great asset in one's spiritual work.In gaining humility, you no longer care what people think about your actions. This is vital if you are initiating something new which many people around you think is completely mad.
You also have to be able to be completely detached from fame and repute. I have found that nearly all the things that I have done most effectively have been done in the background when virtually no one knows anything about it – but I know that I helped the process and that I honoured the call.
Prosperity – when I was in my 30s I felt that prosperity was a question of having plenty of money and being able to buy everything that my heart desired in the way of houses, boats, etc. With advancing years I have learned that prosperity is in your own heart. If you're doing the work you are called to do, the work that you love, with people you love, then your material needs become of only secondary importance and you can live perfectly happily in a relatively modest way.
Healing – we all have a healing ability but we have to learn how to hone it and perfect fit so that we can use it usefully both for ourselves and for others. There are many excellent courses available on spiritual healing
Sub- Personalities – we are all inhabited by a small army of different ‘people’. This paper has mainly been written by my soul – the calm, detached, Observer of what is going on. But there are many others - the ruthless, aggressive, manipulative person who gets things done and doesn't care two hoots about how others are hurt – the compassionate, caring, loving person – the frightened little person – the shy person – and dozens of others. A little research into one’s own sub personalities and getting to know them better, is an enormous help in understanding one's own life.
Is it all worth it ?
In some ways, the spiritual path that I have talked about may appear to be complicated, painful and not very comfortable. And doesn’t giving up one's independence to honour a vague spiritual call, from some vague spiritual entity, lead to hardship and sacrifice ? This is not the case. The sense of being in harmony with your true calling and using your gifts, talents and skills in what, to you at least, is a highly creative manner, is the most wonderful experience that you can have.
I feel that I have been blessed with marvellous opportunities in this life and that I have been blessed with my children, my lovers, my good friends and the very large number of splendid colleagues I have worked with over the years. In particular I feel blessed with having been able to make contact with my own guidance, having been given a clear task to perform and having brought at least part of this task to completion.
If you can find your true calling and honour it you are indeed blessed.