ALL SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY is self-illuminating.
Even when we make mistakes in life, this holds true, for the simple reason that all activity is “spiritual” whether we consider it so or not. What is important, though, is that we learn from our mistakes and the wise among us stop at nothing in order to glean life’s deeper lessons.
There are a myriad of disciplines for expanding consciousness. One should pursue the method that best suits. One may, of course, practice any spiritual art within the context of a specific religious orientation, but the option exists for operating in a completely independent way as a “free soul”, one who is without affiliation and practices his or her discipline in private.
The private practitioner pays a price for daring to go his or her own way, however, becoming essentially an “outsider” to all of the various groups and organizations that have become entrenched in this world.
As we know, organized religious institutions look after their own and promote their own. Members are sometimes intolerant of those who are not their own and sometimes they even denigrate or harm those who are not members of their religious body.
Nevertheless, the soul that seeks genuine liberation essentially has to throw off the yoke of institutionalism and go his or her own way eventually. The reason for this is simple enough. If someone remains unyieldingly immersed in a certain stream of thought, he or she cannot transcend it.
To go beyond that in which one is immersed is the way of transcendence.
For example, I only learned what it really means to be an American by leaving the country of my birth and going abroad. The longer I traveled abroad, the clearer it became to me how Americans are viewed elsewhere in the world and the easier it became for me to recognize the common denominators of what makes someone an “American”. Accent, attitude, manner of speaking, the recurring expressions that are used, the perceptual responses to events, the clothing worn, the food, the drink, the entertainment preferred, all conjoined in my mind, at last, to “make” someone an American in my eyes. I had no idea how culturally idiosyncratic my life actually was until I was able to look at it from a distance.
The same process occurred regarding the religion of my birth. I grew up as a Roman Catholic and for the first twelve years or so of my life, Catholicism was the only religious viewpoint that I experienced. As a teenager, however, I began slowly but surely to discover that Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists thought somewhat, or very, differently on matters of the spirit. Instead of being disturbed by that reality as time went on, I actually found it quite captivating and, strangely enough, didn’t feel threatened or challenged at all by these alternative viewpoints. In fact, the more I looked into religion as a phenomenon, the more extraordinarily fascinating the whole subject became to me.
To this day, I continue to study virtually all of the religious traditions that exist in the world and will doubtless never cease pondering what our faith-based religions have in common and that their differences are invariably culturally based.
Scientific materialists and atheists may find the subject of spirituality without credibility, but I find it spectacularly valid and relevant to human existence, especially in the realms of morality and ethics, and in the possibility of life continuing on after one has physically passed from this world.
Along the way, I realized that to make an unbiased study or investigation of spirituality, what was required of me was that I step completely outside of the religion into which I was born.
Many saw this as an act of rebellion or worse.
That didn’t bother me though. I intuitively understood that appearances are deceiving and that to be seen as an angel, a devil or a spiritual rebel in the eyes of another is beyond one’s control. What matters is being true to yourself. Besides, I reasoned, how else will I free myself from the innate biases that come from being “indoctrinated” into a certain religion during childhood, except by disassociating myself from that religion and taking many a step back from it in order to see it from a distance?
It was not a repudiation. It was a step toward liberation, which I think is laudable.
The free soul is often viewed as a rebel for doing this sort of thing, but he or she has to rebel against all of the religious, social and cultural forces that, either wittingly or unwittingly, conspire to keep one in check and toeing the proverbial party line or there is no way to attain a genuinely liberated and universal viewpoint.
Which is why transcendence is ultimately only about one thing: the truth that sets the soul free.