Any pre-modern spirituality that does not come to terms with modernity and post-modernity has no chance of survival in tomorrow's world.
Ken Wilber – The Future of Religion
I would like at this point to share some reflections most of all with spiritual seekers and with those who are involved in teaching and exploring these themes.
Up to now we have outlined the masks of global (self) deceit as well as cognitive and practical perspectives on exploring, living and even proposing concrete directions for achieving greater awareness and perhaps, more mature choices in life.
If from a certain angle our reality appears tragic and inevitable, from another point of view all that has been achieved is in part, just the result of our individual/collective choices. It is the work of artificial conditioning aimed at creating and feeding a way of thinking that forces us inside the strict confines of a circuit of illusions: one that is so convincing that it renders our suggestion of reality totally real and insistent. And when we talk about it and we complain, not without an infantile sense of enthusiasm of presuming that we have understood what others have not, we continue in fact, to feed a catatonic and defeatist line of reality, shock-absorbed by a series of ‘venting valves’ and palliative satisfactions. Some are particularly banal (football, sexy models, summer holidays and perhaps professional gratification), others are more sophisticated (courses, seminars, New Age and others). All are perfectly delivered to intercept our higher aspirations thanks to their subtle but effective alibis which nevertheless make us feel we are on the right track, pacified and reassured.
The traps of the ego are increasingly sophisticated and yet we know that the human being will never be able to really grow if it does not liberate itself from its obsession with itself, with its own masks, fame and above all its fear of nothingness which, in order to alleviate, it is ready to sell itself for just any old illusion. The darkness of consciousness becomes the light of vanity in any context that offers a framework: health or disease, wealth or poverty, wild ideas or morality, protest or conformism. We are nevertheless kept at a distance from ourselves.
This moment in history seems to be crucial and potentially perfect for planning a redemption of consciousness, for preparing us for ‘something’ that we feel in the air: outside, but above all inside ourselves. Disenchanted by all the illusions that are administered to us, we are finally finding enchantment in the one true and authentic reference, the one that in the end we feel and recognize as the real and definitive reference of consciousness: ourselves.
In 1938, Karl Jaspers, a psychologist and philosopher of the last century was already describing a scenario which is similar in many ways to what we are experiencing now. He spoke of the need for a ‘philosophy of existence’ which would be able to ‘take the origin of reality by surprise and grasp it in the same way as I, through a process of self reflection, in the intimacy of my actions manage to catch myself out ’. And then adds: ‘Men who had the possibility of being themselves woke up in that pitiless atmosphere which had negated the individuality of the individual personality. They wanted to take themselves seriously; they searched for the reality that was hidden; they wanted to know what was knowable; and they thought that by understanding themselves they could arrive at the origins of their being. But even that movement of thought was often wrapped up in a deceptive net of levelling, transforming itself into a tumultuous and pathetic philosophy of feeling and life. The will to recognize one’s own being, perverted into the satisfaction of pure vitality; indigenous will into a craving for primitiveness, a sense of rank into the betrayal of a genuine hierarchy of values’.
National socialism was preparing to set fire to the dust and Jaspers a victim of persecution had to keep quiet. But certainly, like Orwell, he was not mistaken and with history repeating itself, his intuition is still kept alive.
Today the struggle for an authentic understanding of the self is mortified by the same levelling, though no longer inflicted by violence, it is established with more subtle and deadly social and cultural sedatives which, with implacable efficiency, really seem to be leading us to a ‘New World Order’ without even the pretence of an authentic human renaissance. Instead we have lukewarm, standardized fantasies, New Age style which, bring that same ‘old individual confusion’ in through the backdoor with a moralistic, dualistic and clerical ring.
Rebirth has to begin with each individual, from the depths of the True Self, and direct itself towards real change. It is still possible. We have to act so that it does not become just the latest fashion, the same old whim. We must not confuse the search for truth with the search for more sophisticated consumer goods and a more sophisticated ego; or true being with the need for well-being and ‘understanding’.
Everything we are surrounded by was created by us, fed by us, WE ARE US. We also know that the solution, ‘the door’, is inside of us. The door to a true and immediate reality which, is completely different from what we think we perceive and know. And it also includes science, physics, history and all the kaleidoscopic scenic systems of Form, colours and shadows that make up our culture and its customs.
But I will stop there, as we now need to continue the personal and intimate character of this exploration by asking ourselves the following questions:
What style of life?
What concrete choices?
What possible conclusions?
What words and what silence, what actions and what non-action will really take us ‘beyond’?
What truth lies behind all the metaphors?
How can we fully live the meaning of our discoveries?
And then... if we want... what teachings, or better still what kind of sharing is possible? What do we know? What have we learnt?…And therefore?
How many times have we heard it said that, in being involved in spiritual research, independent information, natural well-being and inner disciplines we are part of a ‘niche’?
Whether one is a free spirit or independent researcher, or puts into practice alternative information, promotes natural health or sustainable development etc, one is easily accused of being part of a ‘niche’ that is, of belonging to a minority which is not so much original as totally without influence.
We are at the point in which, if you believe in the soul, in Nature or intelligence you are marginalized.
But now it is time to invert such logic. What about those who pollute, are they right?, Those who use drugs, who cure themselves with chemicals, who alter their own body, who corrupt, who brainwash, who waste, who are selfish towards their own kind, animals and plants, those orthodox thinkers and conformists who have been subjected to a conditioning that is passed off as ‘values’. If this is the case then roll on the fall of those values!
We, however, want to practice other values: we are searching for our eternal and cosmic soul, we love and respect life in all its forms, we want to regulate our life on the basis of intelligent and harmonious solutions; we do not put profit and convenience first, we do not consider ourselves ‘consumers’ and we do not accept that entertainment and distractions are enough in life or that superficial information is sufficient.
We are not just voters and ‘subjects’, guinea pigs or cannon fodder. We give meaning to words such as love, compassion and friendship. We have to reclaim our universal consciousness, the multi-dimensionality of the human being, of every man and woman, our liberty and our profound intelligence: our divine nature. We applaud the dignity of the human being, we search for truth. Well, if this is what it means to be part of the ‘niche’, so be it. We are in good company. We are the silent majority.
A majority that has to unite its strength, refer to serious and competent information, clarify not only research themes and recent discoveries but themes with a real social impact that are often treated with great superficiality. Let’s talk about real well-being, sustainability and avant-garde research, be it scientific or deliciously spiritual, even though such distinctions are fictitious. Clarity is needed on these fundamental themes to avoid profound misunderstandings, sensationalism, manipulation, suggestion and all those placebos aimed at repressing the real reawakening of consciousness; one that requires the presence and the responsibility of everyone.
Taking a look at these themes from the point of view of opposing fronts, we have the Vatican insisting on ‘true faith’, CICAP (the Italian Commission for the Control of Affirmations on the Paranormal) on ‘true science’ and the conformist media on ‘true life’, we already have a new world religion of superficiality, of spiritual ambitiousness, of miracle performing, with its accompanying host of new prophets and saviours.
Certain ‘New Age’ theories also need to be critically assessed, particularly conspiracy theories when they propose improbable – but fascinating – esoteric-historical reconstructions (most of which were created a couple of centuries ago by the efforts of clever Jesuits fraudsters). We need to re-examine the extra-terrestrial agenda which is not born out by historical, scientific, anthropological and metaphysical accounts; also the proposals of holistic well-being that are often exploited by unscrupulous therapists who damage not only the naive but also serious research, who are then exposed to the mediatic pillory organized by institutional detractors such as the multi-nationals who recruit politicians, professors and managers who are addicted to discrediting dissent: prisoners of the emptiness of their own souls.
We must leave all this pettiness behind, clarify everything and finally enter or better still, determine this New Era of Consciousness, wake up to the illusions, definitively abandon the old dualist paradigms and recover an authentic sense of our humanity and therefore of life.
Humanity’s current path invites us to create a future that we can choose for ourselves, founded upon a new scientific, historical and spiritual synthesis.
It is these subjects, or better still with this approach of ‘pulling things together’ that we particularly need to discuss with researchers and certainly with all those who feel involved in this process of awareness regardless of their experience, education or beliefs. The signs announce times of enormous and rapid change, whether we are ready for them or not.
If from the chaos, a potential for rebirth is also born we can but play in anticipation and ride the waves with will, love and above all courage. Riding the waves means bringing a living message through our own way of being, at home, in the family, the office, factory, school, or university, in the corridors of hospitals and in the bar rather than in art galleries or scientific laboratories.
There is turmoil. All this is turmoil. Let’s invite knowledge in with sobriety and purity, with profound honesty and above all with a sincere heart.
The thoughts that have been expressed up till now aim to contribute to an approach that is useful both to a healthy ‘search for consciousness’ (spirituality, inner search or whatever you want to call it), or ‘science’, which is nevertheless an indispensible and extremely valid instrument in the exploration of reality.
I certainly believe that these two exploratory fields of science and consciousness have to undoubtedly interact, with reciprocal respect for each others logic and aspire to a definitive (re)integration. We have to allow mysticism and sensitivity to express their perceptions, leave space for spiritual traditions and the timeless knowledge of magic, just as – and rightly so – we need to take account of the enlightened sciences of our time. We need to restore to the sensitivity and individual intuition that is born from the depths of the heart, that trust and those values that have been delegated to the pulpit, cathedrals and dogma for too long and which have taken us away from an authentic taste for things and life.
Existence is complex and made up of forever changing nuances. We need intelligence to stop faith, idealism or sentimentalism degenerating into neuroses and to understand the alchemy of all facets of existence, while maintaining the requisite maturity and forbearance.
It is time to develop further a series of considerations that in the public debate seem to have got caught up in the mesh of rather boring rhetoric.
So far we have established that:
1. It is necessary to be centred
2. To know how to think of others you need to know how to think of yourself
3. It is better to think positively
4. it is better to smile and be optimistic.
But now we need to press on and look at the contents. At knowing. At understanding.
Knowledge cannot ignore the need for study even though it goes way beyond mere studying in itself: it is about being disposed towards research and expanding one’s consciousness with regard to all aspects of life.
On our own personal path - which, rather than vaguely describing as ‘spiritual’ I would prefer to define in a more concrete and all encompassing way as ‘existential development’ – it is necessary to be aware, or informed. It is also worth saying; conscious, lucid, capable of discernment, critical, and analytical but without ever losing sight of ourselves among the infinite tides of knowledge and current events. In fact knowledgeably making it the reason for clarity and balance, thus conserving a centeredness and forbearance in the definition of ourselves and our intentions.
It is important to know or at least be sufficiently informed about the models of reality that the modern, natural, physical and medical sciences put forward; to know the basics of history, of archaeology and anthropology, just as through a more intelligent and acute capacity we need to inform ourselves with regard to social and political current affairs. We need to be conscious of the context in which to position personal research, the analysis of the self, sentiments, emotions, creativity and in particular our true nature, which is directed towards our real personal existential mission and is much higher in respect to the references of reality and ourselves supplied by our senses and the material world.
With the right approach knowledge leads to wisdom when it does not limit and confuse but supports ethical elaboration, knowledge of the self and a meditation that is able to inspire increasingly authentic values aimed at real well-being. A knowledge of current reality and an awareness of self create become power, an ethical container in which it is possible to achieve an elevated perception of things, events, life and human experience. That is when experience no longer limits itself to just the reality of the material world and a more or less restricted ego but opens up multi-dimensional scenarios of comprehension and life.
Open yourself to knowledge, to becoming aware, to conscious exploration: here are the terms of that practical and holistic existential development for which we are perhaps finally ready, the re-integration of learning with feeling to mature a new human era that is both inevitable and necessary.
This is why the quality of study is so important (obviously it must not be a sterile accumulation of ideas but a motive for understanding, that is well planned and which avails itself of selected and effective references), just as it is necessary to be aware of current historical and geo-political events – at least the most influential ones – to be knowledgeable about the spiritual and religious traditions that have shaped the human history of philosophical, religious and cultural movements and to be up-to-date with the latest developments in science, psychology and medicine. Not forgetting to acquire the information necessary to guide life choices, take care of the physical body, the quality of relationships, one’s profession or work and the search for a creative outlet such as cultivating a form of art. It is a call to go beyond inaccuracy, superstition and losing sight of the self and, with the best of intentions, aiming for inner growth and renewal.
We need to commit ourselves to search for the truth of things in this chaos of information and counter-information, half truths and manipulation, science and pseudo-science, existential placebos and fake spirituality.
The evolution of the individual is part of an integrated process of existential development, therefore, to all effects, spiritual. The other part is made up of a knowledge of the self, an emancipation from conditioning, the full realization of our own existence at all levels and the elaboration of a life ethic that enlightens, and renders us spontaneous bearers of truth and light.
The spiritual search is not a vague and transcendental thing but infinitely practical and pragmatic. Anxiety about performance has to be decisively substituted for silence, meditation, openness and profound inner and personal reflection. The spiritual search is not something you can learn in a course or that you prefer to other hobbies. It is not something you have to ‘do’. It is also not something simple or within reach. It has something to do with your way of being, feeling and understanding. It is about Living.
It has to do with our entire existence and goes much further than the confines of time, dimensions or biology that seem to define us now. It is much broader – and more demanding – than studying for a degree, pursuing a career, healing your body and mind, being happy or perhaps following the stereotypes of the moment....
The spiritual search has to be your life priority, because it is there that all the other life values come together: if we do not assign it this role, which is what it is for, we are not conducting an authentic search at all.
Work on the spirit is achieved through research that is balanced, not competitive or anxious.
It is fashionable to discuss enlightenment and ‘self-realization’. But the truly enlightened person is someone who has achieved it with little, while the unenlightened always has need of something else to achieve it, to feel satisfied, to exist. If there is dissatisfaction it means there is still too much ego. Happiness is achieved through awareness, which is a complete satisfaction of the self.
Awareness is not found in achievement or conquest: it is found in comprehension. It does not lie in the possession of something but in the comprehension of everything, without possessing anything. It is Love.
The soul aspires to awareness while the ego aspires to achievement. Perhaps Consciousness is both: if the pointer on the scales moves to far one way or the other we descend into hypocrisy. The anxiety to achieve according to programmes that are inculcated, rather than being our own, is the true illusion. It is hypocrisy. It is non-life. Cultivating false aspirations is an alibi for not waking up and taking responsibility for ourselves. They are masks and convenient sufferings.
The alternative is not to ‘do it for yourself’ or to ‘do it for others’: in both cases, if our mission is just growth, be it egoistic or altruistic and fails to reawaken Consciousness, we are still in the circuit of the ego and the mind. It is only when we come out of the ego and stop constantly posing the problem of our enlightenment and happiness, because we are and that is enough, that we go beyond: we are ‘in the world but not of this world’.
‘Am I enlightened?’, if it is the mind that is asking, then we are in the ego, with the risk that our aspirations are fake and induced. However, if inquietude is the mover of the soul (which does not ask but ‘feels’), then we are in the Absolute Being: the soul does not even ask, it acts motivated by its own existence.
We are like divers who have passed out in their diving suits…
More often than not spiritual growth is triggered when, conscious of the increasingly obvious, unsupportable and globalized manipulation, we begin to interest ourselves in political dialogue, UFOs, meditation, hidden archaeology and holistic well-being. We take courses and seminars, read books and magazines follow up various indications, methods and perhaps some interesting, liberating and satisfying ideas, very often loosing sight of the path, our original question and the intention and needs that sent us in that particular direction in the first place . We do not realize that the search is first and foremost, a search for meaning.
Then, when we acknowledge the chaos we have ended up in, a certain natural refusal is aroused, a sort of cynicism, or else we go in the opposite direction, into excess becoming prey to one of the many cults or sects in which gurus or novel preachers, as on the threshold of the year one thousand, crawl out of the woodwork waving bibles and gospels for 2012.
Basically we pass from one illusion to another, from one suggestion to another, from one dream to another, one which more often than not transforms into a living nightmare. Well-intentioned references, masters, healers, speakers of all kinds can be valid stimuli: formative points of reference and fonts of inspiration but we must ineludibly drag ourselves away and leave them all behind. And, it will be they themselves – If they are authentic – who will be the first to applaud our decision, our step forward, our liberation from them and their teachings.
What have you learnt? Where is your mastery? Do you want to be a student forever? An eternal course-goer?
Discipline, rules and devotion are the paths to discovering ourselves, for getting closer to our centre, our intelligence and learning to take responsibility. We do not need to believe in eternal schools, unrenounceable references, dogmas and saviours, or a population of enlightened ones. We need to believe in individuals who are free and aware. We need to believe in the people of the world.
Schools, because they are just that, have a limited time span, otherwise they are not schools but sects and cults. It is fine to share a specific project but only on the condition that the project is also yours, one that is persevered with and has time dedicated to it: in fact the realization of your own Personal Project.
But watch out: the wrong means cannot lead to the right ends. Spiritual victory is not measured by having reached the goal but by what you used to get there.
If you do not comprehend that you are Buddha,
What sense is there in looking for wealth outside of yourself?
If you cannot spontaneously meditate
What will you gain by distancing your thoughts?
If you do not know how to harmonize the practice of meditation with your life,
are you not, probably, just a confused imbecile?
If you do not intuitively acquire the vision of enlightenment,
what use is a systematic search?
If you live thanks to an energy and a time that you do not belong to,
if you waste your life, who will pay your debts in the future?
Dressed just in cotton rags
what does the ascetic gain by searching for the cold of winter down here?
The novice who doubles in strength but does not receive a complete education
is like an ant who tries to climb a mountain of sand:
he does not achieve anything!
Accumulating education without managing to grasp the true nature of the mind,
Is like dying of hunger in front of an overflowing larder.
Finally, comprehend, the essence of the teaching in this life,
and practice it!
You are accustomed to authority or the atmosphere of authority which you think will lead you to spirituality. You think and hope that another can, by his extraordinary powers – a miracle – transport you to this realm of eternal freedom which is Happiness.
We can only get to know the criteria that guide us when an overbearing need to create order is born inside of us.
However before pursuing a ‘spiritual’ life or exploring alternative themes, cultures and esoteric techniques, or even experiences that are more or less esoteric, we need to define our real objective. There is no point in losing ourselves in labels such as ‘inner path’, ‘spiritual search’, ‘reawakening consciousness’ or ‘enlightenment’ if they lack content. Before we do anything else we have to clarify:
1. What needs we are responding to
2. The role of the personal ego
3. Our mission.
The result is certainly a concrete cosmic broadening of knowledge, of the awareness and consciousness of the Self and of our own role as individuals in the world, as expressions of the All. But in the end, the goal is to be happy in a reality that we render happy, to which we give the truest, broadest and most beautiful meaning possible.
The key to the most authentic happiness is awareness, which is true realization, knowledge, wisdom and love. Recovering a sense of faith in ourselves, discovering our talents, recovering a sense of friendship, of a love for Nature. Recovering the meaning of life, but also that of pain and death.
And all of this in everyday life, considering and comprehending all the circumstances in which we find ourselves and for whatever reason are called upon to live. For such realization we can work in a thousand ways, even by renouncing the magic and esoteric because spiritual realization is a real and practical process.
It is enough to have a sense of ethics: of being and not of having, of how to live of how to do things, independent of the contingency of choices. Spirituality is not the automatic fruit of meditation, esotericism or healing magic. Perhaps we are already spiritual and if we like, also a little magic, if we work in an intelligent and constructive way, animated by the will, common sense and sincere love. When we live, work, raise a family, educate children or create better existential conditions for ourselves and the reality we are a part of, we are creating for the development of our consciousness whether we are aware of it or not.
Many of us already put this into practice despite all the limits and conditioning supplied by our ailing society. We are spiritual when we are not selfish and egoistical.
From this basis can a different need be triggered? A thirst for greater consciousness and awareness? For a higher ‘healing and ‘evolution’? For a more comprehensive ‘realization’? Certainly.
In general this drive is born out of profound difficulty (shock, trauma, pain, crisis, illness, breakdown…), or from a more subtle and general sense of unease about life for which we search for a cure. It also comes from searching for the answers to the new questions that our life experience gives birth to. From that disquiet the need for some kind of reference is born, perhaps a pathway, even though it is better that everyone always traces their own, original, unique and unrepeatable existential path.
That personal path cannot help but be therapeutic: knowledge of the true Self leads to the healing of our defects and identification. Such defects – according to holistic and traditional disciplines – lie behind all successive diseases and impede the attainment of a healthy life ethic. Being in balance means that we can more easily move aside the limits that restrict us, just as we can also rid ourselves of phantoms from the past. These are the conditions that have to be confronted first before we attempt to explore those that lie deeper and require more effort.
From there a further yearning for discovery can be born, a thirst for knowledge, for a greater consciousness of all that is and of the reality in which we live. We can begin with the ethical duty of achieving happiness and well-being, progressively arriving at a true knowledge consisting of awareness and, perhaps, nostalgia.
We want to ‘understand’, and in understanding truly ‘be’. But the commitment can prove arduous; we need to bear in mind that what we discover along the way might not be easy or pleasant: we could perhaps compare it to taking the ‘red pill’ in the film Matrix!
We then move from a cultural, ethical or therapeutic drive, to an existential need, or if we prefer, therapeutic in the most radical sense. The search for a deeper meaning is born and therefore an awareness not only of our identity but also a sense of direction and eventually, a sense of the direction of all human beings, of our essential ‘humanity’.
We enter into a process linked to spirituality as a search for identity and above all as a deep search for wisdom, that inspires the daily choices of life with the values of our own consciousness, one that has been progressively awakened. Nothing could be more concrete and pragmatic!
Through meditation, which transcends therapy by containing it, we enter into a state of communion: into a current that naturally carries us on a path of comprehension, of evolution and, if we allow it to, of happiness. In virtue of the fact that it is being progressively realized, our daily life becomes extraordinary in its simplicity. Through its earthly vicissitudes, though problematic and difficult, a taste for life is rediscovered in its ordinary and intrinsic worth.
We begin to desire a certain syntony with nature and all the expressions of life and begin to understand aspects which at first we had judged hastily or superficially. As a result of this new found harmony we relate in a more active way with the laws and forces of existence inside and outside of ourselves. We accesses new horizons of the Self, or better still of Being and of the possible. We progressively mature the idea of what can only be called ‘Magic’: or we harmoniously allow the reality around us to tune in with our renewed inner state. Acting through non-action on the real and on the nature of things, moving within ourselves. It is ‘power’ in a shamanic sense.
It is no longer ‘only’ a path that aims at a therapeutic, ethical, meditative or mystical search but one that transforms itself into a magic or even sacred one: We enter into relationship with the ‘sacred’, that is with the projections of reality as a manifestation of the Absolute, that we intend to rediscover as such, beginning with ourselves.
Therefore it is important to reflect and distinguish between the assertions: ‘I want to go and do a course to feel better and resolve my neuroses or become rich and socially successful’ and ‘I intend to follow a path of Knowledge’.
1) Whether you want to remain in a cultural setting and perhaps equip yourself with ready to use techniques (a bit for yourself and a bit to ‘help others’ and a bit to soothe the afflictions of an ego that is never satisfied – or badly satisfied) or instead...
2) Whether you intend to explore the Magic sense of Life.
They are completely different planes and levels of responsibility: on the first, you search to improve your performance; on the second, you are the scenery maker, producer and director.