By William Arkle
If we consider the relationship between human consciousness and the spiritual or divine consciousness - then mortal Man is alienated from the divine to some - very varied - degree; in the sense that there is always a sense of separation that must be overcome.
Even in the most spiritual societies, there is a need for some act of will or, more often, ritual process, in order to overcome this alienation.
Among animistic hunter gatherers, the shamans will undergo fasting, or prolonged dancing, or drumming, or something like lucid dreaming - in order to reach a state of transformed consciousness in which the spiritual realm may be contacted. In ancient Egypt, there was a prolonged and elite training, and many symbols, talismans and rituals, to bridge the gap between the mundane and the divine.
Among Hindus there is the discipline of yoga, among Zen Buddhists there is the prolonged training of sitting, and monastic disciplines.
Among Christians there are the monastic traditions, rules and supervisions of Eastern and Western Catholicism - fasting, vigils (prolonged wakefulness), sustained and repeated prayer, and other ascetic practises.
Modern man is, of course, far more alienated than any of these. Indeed, it seems that some Men are wholly alienated - and never at any times in their waking life achieve a bridging of the gap between human consciousness and the spiritual realm (and they regard dream consciousness as a mere delusional epiphenomenon).
So severe is modern alienation that I regard it as the most subjectively obvious of spiritual pathologies - modern Man's existential aloneness, his sense of being cut-off from the spiritual and the divine is probably more acutely painful than his lack of meaning and purpose in life. Modern man's alienation is, indeed, apparently so severe that he feels dead-inside.
Alienation can be solved by a fundamental change in conscious attitude - but to be effective this change must be accompanied by a new metaphysical system that regards the new consciousness as potentially real (therefore not merely a delusion, not just wishful thinking).
But the Christian needs to know that alienation is not all bad! In the sense that our aim is a relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost - and relationship entails separation.
Our goal is not an obliteration of our consciousness, not a fusion with the divine nor an absorption into the divine - not a loss of self - instead a loss of false selves and a living from our real self in a loving relationship.
What of those who do not want to retain the self, but who do want to become One with the divine? My understanding is that this is allowed by God - although it is not what he most wants for us and from us. Since it was God who (necessarily) unilaterally gifted us with consciousness, He is aware that there are some who prefer not to accept this gift - and it is a gift which must be accepted voluntarily, without coercion. So we can take back this gift and return to the primordial state of non-consciousness (in a state of eternal bliss in the present).
But for Christians we should not crave such a state, because we have Love as our primary value, which entails relationships, which entails consciousness. There is always therefore some barrier, some line between our-self and other-selves - some element which could be termed alienation.
What we need is to be able to cross this line more easily and more often - to the degree of becoming aware of, communicating with, the spiritual and divine realms.
This is a secret world - consider Arkle's businessman painting above. The man is in the loving, caring embrace of a spiritual being - is he aware of the fact, or is his awareness turned away? The picture is enigmatic, and we would have no way of knowing how the man is experiencing the situation.
But the benign divine and spiritual realm is always there, waiting for our attention, hoping for our communication, yearning for acknowledgement of the loving relationship.