I feel I must begin this essay by reminding you that you can believe anything you like. As comedian Ken Dodd might say: "They can't touch you for it!" So, on the one hand, nothing in these Temple essays is intended to be taken as 'gospel'. On the other hand, I hope you will at least be able to suspend disbelief long enough to give serious consideration to the hypotheses put forward herein and test them against your own experience of life. If you think they are rubbish, please feel free to say so. If you think they require modification, please put forward your own suggestions. If you find them useful as Lights on your personal path, please feel free to share them with others. The Ardue Mailing List is at your disposal.
The principal hypothesis underlying all these Temple essays is that every man, woman and child in the world is essentially a Spiritual being inhabiting a physical body. We may further speculate that the Spirit that animates all of us is One and the Same. As Spirit, we are One. It is only as physical bodies that we are discrete individuals. Our chief problem in life consists in coming to terms with this paradox and realising the Unity which underlies our apparent diversity.
As individuals, we appear to have at least two forms, or levels, of intelligent consciousness. There is the consciousness of the body, which enables it to monitor its own vital processes such as breathing, the digestion of food, the circulation of the blood, and all the other activities that keep the body serviceable. Most of this activity is carried on below the level of what we often refer to as 'conscious awareness', i.e. it is 'sub-conscious'. It is only when the body requires some form of commerce with the outside world that the sub-conscious makes us aware of hunger or thirst or makes us feel some pain, discomfort or 'disease' which indicates that all is not well within and that some rectifying action is required at a 'higher' level of consciousness. The sub-conscious continues to operate even when the body is asleep.
The second main level of consciousness is that which enables the body to engage in various forms of commerce with its environment. It is often called 'self-awareness' because it distinguishes between the 'self', for whose benefit the commerce takes place, and what is 'not self', from which the desired benefit must be obtained. In accounting terms, it is what distinguishes between 'debit' and 'credit': the debtor receives what the creditor gives. This is the level at which most of us operate while we are awake. Most of our conscious actions are directed towards satisfying the immediate needs and desires of the body. Although we may not always be aware of the fact, we are generally indebted to the world outside our bodies for air, water, food, and physical comfort.
Both the above levels of consciousness are concerned principally with the individual as a physical living entity. There is, however, a third level of consciousness which seems to be a property of the Spirit which animates the body. It is a level at which we become aware not only of the needs and desires of the self but also of the nature of what is not self, of the environment and the other creatures which inhabit it. It is what enables us to be truly objective, to see ourselves as others see us, and to interact with the environment in terms of its nature and not merely to satisfy our selfish desires. It is what tells us whether or not we are 'at peace with ourselves'. This is the level at which we may be said to be 'wide awake' and capable of behaving fully rationally. It is the level at which the mystic endeavours to operate.
In my present understanding, this 'higher consciousness' of the Spirit is what is meant by Love.
So my principal suggestion in this essay is that Love is that property of the Spirit which enables us to experience the essential Unity of all that exists and to respect every other creature we encounter as we respect ourselves. Love is what enables us to be objective and to accept every other creature, organic and inorganic, as a unique embodiment of the One. Love is what encourages us to expand our consciousness ever further so that we may exhibit greater understanding and intelligence in our interactions with each other and our common environment.
Each of us has a different part to play in the Economy of Life. As we look around us, we have reason to be astonished at the enormous variety of manifestations exhibited not only by matter and Life in general but also by human cultural, artistic, and technical achievement. Love is what inspires each of us to explore our envelopes of possibility, to strike out into the unknown and further extend the achievements of our ancestors both in variety and refinement. But I suggest that Love is also what enables us to perform the difficult balancing act of expressing our own unique personality while realising our Unity; of being individualistic without being disruptive.
Conscious awareness seems to be essentially a matter of feeling: and I suggest that feeling should be distinguished from emotion. As the name implies, emotion is what prompts us to move, to do something with our bodies, to react to a stimulus or to act of our own volition. We are aware of what we feel, but we may not always be aware of what makes us act as we do. Equally, we can enjoy a feeling for its own sake without feeling obliged to act, i.e. to change something. It is as if feeling is the language of the spirit whereas emotion is the language of the body. One of the objects of spiritual development is to make us aware of our emotions, to really feel them, so that we may bring them under the direction of higher consciousness. It is only when we have gained some skill in the mastery of our emotions that we can begin to behave in a truly loving manner.
In this context, the word 'feeling' does not mean the physical sense of touch by which we distinguish hot from cold and rough from smooth. Although the physical sense often serves as an analogy, I intend 'feeling' to mean rather the subjective or 'Spiritual' sense of values by which we distinguish good from bad, pleasant from unpleasant, attractive from repulsive, beautiful from ugly. It is important to note that such a sense of Spiritual values is not given all at once. In any ordinary gathering, individuals will exhibit a wide measure of disagreement about what constitutes good or evil. It is only as individuals acquire better objective understanding of the essential nature of the world and acquire a firmer grasp of the Spiritual laws governing its operation that their values begin to converge and agreement breaks out among them.
Before a measure of general agreement can be reached in any community or society, every individual must work and study to achieve greater understanding. Communities are now larger and more diverse than ever before in the recorded history of the Earth. This complicates the task of achieving global agreement and makes it all the more necessary that individuals of goodwill learn to co-operate more enthusiastically in the task of achieving greater understanding of themselves and helping others to do the same.
At this point, I would like to introduce another hypothesis that you may find particularly controversial. Love is often contrasted with hate. I suggest that this is to confuse Love with emotion. Love expresses itself as feeling. Feelings may arouse emotions. It is quite reasonable for Love to cause us to feel attracted to anything which is Spiritually wholesome; it is equally rational for it to make us feel repelled by whatever is Spiritually harmful or divisive. So we say we 'love' something to which we feel very strongly attracted and 'hate' something we find particularly repulsive. But we must be careful not to confuse whatever we feel attracted to or repelled by with the agents through whom they are brought to our attention.
When playing with my little grandson recently, he did something I found particularly unattractive and I made no effort to conceal my displeasure. He said, 'You don't like me, Grandpod!' in a very hurt tone of voice. I had to try to explain that I loved him, but I didn't like what he had just done.
We all like to be liked. If and when we have been blessed with fully Cosmic consciousness (which may not happen for many of us in our present incarnation) we shall know that we are loved because each of us is an unseparated manifestation of the One Spirit. We shall then be beyond any anxiety about what other manifestations think of us. But until we have reached that blessed state, we should do well to bear in mind that if we want to be liked, we must avoid doing anything that gives offence to the people we want to be liked by. We may find this a severe limitation on our freedom! And we may also come to the conclusion that courting mere popularity may not be very satisfying in the long run and that we should endeavour to rise above such considerations.
The relationship between Love and hate is complicated by Fear and I shall have more to say about it when we consider that topic. In the meantime, although people who do not know any better may perform many harmful and objectionable acts, it would help us to promote peace in the world if we could remember that, from a Spiritual point of view, these people are us. We may be justified in condemning acts which we find repellent; but we should try to refrain from condemning the agent in the same breath because to do so would be to condemn ourselves. Just as our own expanding consciousness of our Spiritual nature enables us to live more wholesome lives, so the same Spirit is capable of performing the same miracle in the life of everybody else. In that connection it may be helpful to reflect that tolerance may be a virtue when what is tolerated is another person; but it may be a vice if it is extended to harmful acts performed by that person.
In human relations, I suggest that the highest expression of Love to which most of us can aspire in incarnation is friendship. The essence of friendship is summed up in the humanitarian motto: 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'.
Friends like spending time in each other's company because they enjoy it. There is no sense of compulsion or obligation. They make no demands on one another. They treat each other as absolute equals, giving mutual expression to their essential Oneness. Therefore, each of them feels free to reveal himself (or herself) to the other. In the relationship between two friends, we come closer to a realisation of the ideal relationship between the individual and the Ultimate Source. It is the hope of similar mutual revelation between the Self and the Ultimate Source that motivates the mystic.
What is it about the 'loss' of a 'loved one' that we find so painful? I suggest that regardless of any blood relationship or the duration of any long-term relationship, the pain we feel is in proportion to the extent to which we have been able to establish 'soul communication' with the deceased. The more we have been able to reveal ourselves to each other, the more acutely we feel the loss when such communication is no longer possible in the manner to which we have become accustomed. And I suggest that the ultimate 'cure' for grief is the realisation that the closeness of the friendship we enjoyed arose out of our mutual desire to communicate our differing experiences of sharing One Spirit. This realisation helps us to drop some of the self-protecting barriers that inhibit our capacity to extend the scope of our friendships. When we take the blinkers off, we are able to see that there may be an infinite number of people in the world who are just as enthusiastic as ourselves about realising our mutual Oneness.
Perhaps the chief obstacle to our understanding of Love is the confusion that exists in our culture between Love and sex on the one hand and between Love and sentimentality on the other. Let's deal with sex first.
Sex is one of our few remaining bodily instincts. The sex drive is very powerful because it has a very important function to perform: it is what ensures the supply of new physical bodies for the use of incarnating (or, perhaps, reincarnating) Spiritual human beings. I think it likely that its confusion with Love arises from the fact that, in one respect, sexual union transcends the self: it requires me to realise a degree of intimacy with at least one other person of the opposite sex in terms of at least one aspect of her nature which differs from my own. In this respect, sex goes some way towards a realisation of Love. But it falls far short of Love in that sex may be, and all too often is, approached from a primarily selfish point of view in search of mere physical or psychological gratification without consideration of the interests of the other party or the higher purpose of the sexual act itself. In such circumstances, 'love' is merely a euphemism for lust and the common expression 'making love' has no Spiritual reference. This may explain why so many experiences of sated lust are followed by a sense of disappointment and even depression. The 'earth' may 'move' without uplifting the Spirit.
Sentimentality is susceptibility to an emotional appeal which does not stand to reason. Many of us have at some time experienced falling in love. 'Falling' accurately conveys the sense of helplessness that accompanies the experience and gives us a clue as to why many of us continue to labour under the misapprehension that love is something that 'just happens', whether we intend it or not. In one sense, this is true, because Love is a Cosmic force. However, we know that the experience of being 'in love' doesn't last. We become aware that many of the attributes of the beloved which we originally found so irresistible were mainly projections of our own romantic ideals and did not necessarily correspond very closely with the actual nature of the beloved. Subsequent disillusionment, while painful, is a valuable learning experience which may teach us to distinguish between actuality and the romantic products of our imaginations.
Another kind of love is that which naturally arises between parent and child. By comparison with the young of most other species, which become viable very quickly because of their relatively simple faculties, human infants need time to learn to master an extremely elaborate organisation. Thus at birth, they are totally helpless and will not survive by themselves until after a long period during which all their bodily needs must be attended to by an adult. These needs are communicated by various signs which gradually develop into language, and one of the lessons taught by this experience is the central importance of communication in human life. We are naturally social beings, as distinct from animals possessing a herd instinct.
But parenthood has its Spiritual dangers for both parent and child. When, at about the age of two, the child begins to show signs of wishing to become independent a trend that will develop with ever-increasing strength up to and beyond puberty the parent often finds it difficult to relinquish some of the responsibility for the child's bodily well-being. This leads to conflict between parent and child: and it is important that the child win. Any other outcome fosters a habit of dependency which will inhibit the maturation of soul personality that is essential if the child is to grow into a responsible adult capable of making a unique and satisfying contribution to community life.
The danger for the parent is two-fold. Not only does Mum or Dad become over-protective of the offspring; one or both may become addicted to 'being needed'. The resulting mind-set is liable to develop into a generalised attitude of interventionism towards society at large, the ultimate outcome of which may be the self-perpetuating 'Nanny State' governed by inadequate people sentimentally dedicated to the maintenance of a purely materialistic society whose citizens are never allowed to grow up. When the state takes control over essentially personal matters such as education and bodily welfare, it is at the expense of the Spiritual health of its citizens.
The Beatles were right when they sang, "Money can't buy me love". And the old adage that "the love of money is the root of all evil" is not far off the mark either. It is a graphic way of stating the fundamental truth that money is useful only as a medium which facilitates the exchange of material goods and services designed for the satisfaction of bodily desires. Used properly, money is obviously very useful. The health of the body requires wholesome air and water and food and shelter and care when it is unwell, and money makes it easier to distribute these benefits quickly to the point at which they are needed.
But money cannot facilitate spiritual development: it is much more likely to inhibit it. Without well-developed spiritual values, we are unable to discriminate between actual bodily needs and the wants constantly generated by our over-active imaginations. This inclines us to spend our lives pandering to illusions and seeking more money than we really need merely in order to buy imagined satisfactions for our fancied requirements. In extreme cases, we are liable to treat money as an end in itself as if possessing it in very large quantities in some way ensures that we shall be able to cope with every imaginable emergency. But do we not often observe that individuals who get locked into such a mindset become so addicted to the money itself that they refuse even to recognise emergencies in which expenditure of money might be helpful?
My contention with respect to money is that all true satisfactions are spiritual and they come free of charge if, that is, one discounts the effort that must be devoted to spiritual development if the harvest of true satisfaction is to be increased. Just as the would-be physical athlete devotes much time and energy to physical training, so the would-be mystic must devote time and energy to spiritual training. The chief difference may be that, whereas the physical athlete often seems either to overlook the importance of the Spirit or take it for granted, the true mystic never overlooks the importance of the body which is the vehicle by which the truth of spiritual insights may be verified in the physical world. The mystic must lead a balanced life guided by the values developed along the way.
What is truth? The materialist will probably attempt to answer in terms of 'the facts of the case' or the accuracy of a description of some specific thing or event. But the word is often used in a more general sense as in 'true love' or 'the search for truth', and the materialist is then at a loss. It seems to me that we must search for a spiritual meaning for truth because the Ultimate Truth must be rooted in the Oneness of All That Is. This suggests, moreover, that falsehood is a denial of that Oneness.
'Truth' and 'trust' seem to have a common root. If you trust something, it is true for you. Trust is a subjective feeling, and therefore spiritual in nature. True friends are people you can trust. Evidence given in a court of law is true if it can be trusted. So truth is at least as much a matter of subjective feeling as of logical reasoning.
Before you can discover whether or not someone is trustworthy or some statement is true, you must start by trusting at least provisionally. If you begin by being suspicious, you will find it difficult to test your assumption; people will not confide in you and you will find it impossible to make new friends. It is only by leaving yourself open to disappointment that you discover who can be relied upon and who cannot. It is only by acting on what you are told that you can discover whether it is true or false. Therefore, Love requires that you adopt an attitude of giving the benefit of the doubt until your doubt is resolved one way or the other by actual experience.
Trust breeds confidence. Is it not significant that the 'confidence trickster' usually has a material motive?
Love requires that we try to be objective not only towards other people but also towards ourselves. This becomes easier once we appreciate that all of us are manifestations of the same Spirit. We are always liable to dwell too much on our personal bodily appearance, capabilities, or accomplishments and compare them either favourably or unfavourably with those of other people. Hence the importance of being humble.
Humility is a much-misunderstood word. It derives from the Latin humus, meaning the soil. So to be humble is to be 'down to earth', i.e. objective. It does not require us to be abject or self-effacing; but it does require us to avoid being proud, i.e. indulging a false sense of superiority over other people with whom we compare ourselves.
It behoves us to remember that each of us is a highly complex organism and that no two people ever share identical experiences. It is therefore impossible for any individual to make a just comparison between one person and another. We all share the same spiritual essence. Personalities other than our own merely reflect the facility or otherwise with which their bodies have learned to give outward expression to that essence. Hence the significance of the injunction "Judge not that ye be not judged". Please note, however, that this should not inhibit our judgment of the rights or wrongs of specific actions in the light of our personal spiritual values.
Love is most fully expressed in action. How we behave in the world is a reflection of the extent to which we appreciate our Oneness with each other and with all Nature. Many moral codes have been devised to help people behave in a socially acceptable, if not entirely loving, manner. The central theme of most, if not all, such codes is 'Do as you would be done by' or 'Love your neighbour as yourself'. This will come more easily, indeed Naturally, to me once I have fully realised that my neighbour IS myself. I fear I am still a long way short of that blessed state but I know that, with the help of my friends, I am gradually making progress towards that end.