Friday 15 January 2021

Crossing the threshold, spiritually... Is it a helpful metaphor?

The idea of crossing the spiritual threshold seems to be associated with such ideas as initiation, enlightenment; and the attainment of higher levels of consciousness. 

Much spiritual teaching of recent generations has been about the satisfactoriness of  typical modern consciousness; and the need, therefore, for us to cross a threshold to a higher level. This need has often been regarded as urgent, and related to the millennium. Failure to attain such a transformation has been linked to many undesirable personal and societal outcomes. 

I broadly accept this analysis. However, while these concepts (threshold, initiation, enlightenment) have value; they can also be misleading: creating false expectations, disappointment and disillusionment. 

Such ideas seem to imply a once-for-all personal spiritual attainment - that by crossing a threshold/ being initiated and becoming enlightened - a person moves into a new way of being. Having attained these; a person is expected to be lastingly-transformed - he (presumably) 'will never be the same again'.  

And yet it is seldom (or never) the case - at least not nowadays, with modern-developed consciousness - that someone has an experience by which he is transformed - qualitatively and permanently - to a higher spiritual state. 

By contrast; in the past (at various times and places), it seems clear that permanently-transforming initiation was a Real Thing; and that a cadre of such persons could be prepared and assembled (i.e. a 'magical' priesthood). 

This was possible when Men's individuality was less and his capacity to immerse into the group was greater; when Men were already half-in (and therefore only half out-of) the spiritual world. 

Under such circumstances; it seems that a suitably sustained effort, prayer and meditation, rituals, learned-symbolism, and extreme physical experiences etc. - could indeed lead to a threshold-crossing that lasted the rest of that persons' life.  

But modern Man has developed such that (from adolescence) he is completely detached from the spiritual, and he experiences himself as an 'alienated' individual - cut-off from the group-mind. 

Such Men as us cannot attain lifelong 'enlightenment' from a single spiritual experience. 


Nonetheless; many modern people do have experiences during which (or after which) they believe themselves to have attained a higher state of spiritual being. Those who value such experiences, and are open to them; may have many such - perhaps daily. 

Yet typically, and often very quickly, such states wear-off, and the person reverts to something very similar to what they were before. 

The profound experience becomes just-a-memory (and that memory may be indistinct, and may fade). 

So, if permanent-lifelong higher spirituality/ initiation/ enlightenment is being sought - failure is apparently certain. 

If crossing the threshold is to be judged by remarkable spiritual consequences - then it begins to look as if the whole idea is bogus! 

Are such spiritual experiences - then - illusory, or even delusional? Are such claims mere wishful thinking, or an attempt to manipulate or exploit others? 

My understanding is that such spiritual experiences are potentially valid and indeed vital to modern Man: they ought to be a focus of our lifelong striving. Also that such experiences may be quite usual, even common, among those who value them, are open to them, and consciously seek to live in such a way that they happen. 

The problem lies with the expectation of 'permanent' spiritual transformation. 

This mortal life is characterized by change, and that change is often 'entropic' in nature: a matter of decay, degeneration, disease - and eventually there will be death. 

So it is a mistake to expect the consequences of spiritual experiences to be 'permanent' within mortal life

When someone crosses a threshold and attains a higher level of consciousness, the expectation should be that this will not last, and - since human memory is biologically-based - we should not be surprised if memories of such events are insecure. 

I find it valuable to recall that our actual, lived mortal lives are set-up by God for our personal benefit. From which I infer that - overall - we our-selves and this earthly world are such that higher levels of consciousness are not, and should not be, a constant and life-long way of living. 

The inevitable times in-between spiritual experiences (which is most of life) are necessary and of equivalent (albeit different) eternal value... If, that is, we do indeed learn from them those lessons what God intends us to learn.

In sum - we should learn one kind of thing from spiritual experiences; and other kinds of things from our (long!) periods in-between living at a higher level of consciousness. 

This puts the discussion into another framework. We may acknowledge the truth and validity of spiritual experiences - but we should not look for their significance within this mortal life. We should instead look for their significance in the life-to-come: specifically in resurrected, eternal, Heavenly life. 

(This carries the implication that if one has Not chosen to accept Jesus's offer of resurrected, eternal life - if one rejects Christianity; then spiritual experiences are Not of lasting significance: they are merely more or less pleasant, but transient, psychological events.)

To me this is an altogether healthier and more optimistic way of regarding qualitatively-enhanced spiritual experience. 

We need not worry about remembering them, need not worry about communicating them to others (which usually proves impossible anyway) - the thing is to have such experiences: to live in such a way that we value higher spiritual states, and know when we have had such an experience...

And then leave it at that

Because: the value is the experience, the value is located beyond death.

Therefore we have done our work by living such as to have a spiritual experiences; after noting which, we move on to living well henceforth in hopes of more of the same. 


agraves said...

Moments or minutes of what I call "clarity" often come when we least expect them. They may be a result of previous efforts not panning out only to show us that somehow the "conditions" for the experience must be right. So I think the best we can do in this modern life is to accept the experience when it comes and at the same time have in our background awareness a receptivity for it to come. So when you are in clarity you feel enlightened and when you are not in clarity you are not!

a_probst said...

"But modern Man has developed such that (from adolescence) he is completely detached from the spiritual, and he experiences himself as an 'alienated' individual - cut-off from the group-mind."

I think it can start earlier than adolescence, in single-digit ages, especially to children who feel 'picked-on' by their peers.