I’m one of those people who consider themselves “Spiritual, but not Religious”. And what I mean by this is that while I am open to exploring the realms of consciousness and connectivity, I have no interest in doctrines and dogmas.
The basic difference between spirituality and religion is that spirituality is about direct personal experience, while religion is about believing and accepting someone else’s experience and all of the concepts and teachings that come along with it. When we see the way that religious people rigidly hold to their beliefs, it can sometimes be frightening, particularly when those beliefs are divisive or hostile. But if anything, it simply shows a level naivety with a willingness to suspend reason and logic in favor of fantasy.
I’m not suggesting that everything religion teaches is just empty sentimental fluff. There are a great number of practical resources to be found within these traditions. And the “Spiritual” person is well aware of this, often drawing inspiration from a wide variety of established traditions. The trick is not to fall into the trap of blindly believing and losing touch with reality. Spirituality is about applying these teachings in an empirical way. It’s about verifying those teachings by reproducing the original experiments and observing the results. If this sounds a bit like the scientific method, that’s because it is.
But what I have observed with many “spiritual” people today is that, while they may reject traditional religion, they will often fall back into the trap of blindly accepting the testimonies of others within the modern spiritual movement. As soon as you do this, you are crossing that fine line between spirituality and religion, and perhaps even venturing into delusion.
I was overhearing such a testimony recently in which this person was recounting her experience of having met and merged with her twin flame. She described a variety of interactions that she had with him, all of which took place on the astral plane, never having actually met this person in the flesh. She also went on to explain that there are only a small number of light beings on this planet today, whose ultimate purpose is the raise the vibration of humanity. She went on to say that these beings are actually from a higher dimension, incarnating here on earth for the first time. She also explained that these higher dimensional beings are spread across the globe in a small number of groups and that those groups are organized into hierarchies. And it was of little surprise to me when she further revealed that she and her twin flame were the guiding head of one such group.
Listening to this testimony I kept wondering if she was going to offer any sort of practical instruction. But I suppose that raising the frequency of humanity doesn’t require much on our part other than simply allowing it to happen. After all, it is these higher dimensional beings who are doing all of the work. We just have to be open and receptive and willing to accept this free gift. Now, why does that sound so familiar?
Ah yes, I’ve heard this before. This is essentially the same thing that Evangelical Christians will tell you. We mere humans are so fallen that we are incapable of saving ourselves, and so Jesus (a being from higher dimension) ascended to this planet in order to do the work in our favor. And all we have to do is believe in him and we are saved.
In Theology this is known as the Theory of Atonement, and while I won’t go into great detail about why this theory is problematic, I will point out that Jesus never mentioned it, as far as his recorded teachings have shown, and he never actually claimed to be anything other than a human being, while at the same time reminding us that everything he had accomplished we are capable of and more.
What is more is that, if we are to assume that the atonement theory is true, then everything Jesus taught through word and example is thereby inconsequential. In fact, many Christians make little to no effort to live up to the example of Jesus because it’s ultimately pointless. Acts of goodness cannot save us. Only by believing in Him can one be saved.
And this is what I want to focus on here in regard to some of these New Age concepts. Are they also providing us with excuses not to do the necessary inner work?
There are a lot of people who claim not to be from this world, or who claim to spend a great deal of their existence in other dimensions, and while I am open to consider that such things may be possible, I also cannot help but wonder if some of these people are simply avoiding reality in favor of fantasy.
The term for this in psychology is “Disassociation”, which is described as is a coping mechanism for dealing with things like stress or trauma by disassociating with reality. The trauma can be mild or severe, ranging from neglect or abandonment to physical or sexual abuse. Or it can simply be related to the stress of living in a high-paced, money-driven, materialistic, soul-sucking society. The point to be understood is that, regardless of the intensity of the stress or trauma, there are unresolved emotional issues which one is avoiding by creating a delusional fantasy to live in. This brings whole new meaning the phrase, “You create your own reality”.
Many people in the New Age movement claim to be “lightworkers”. A lightworker is said to be a higher dimensional being who has volunteered to incarnate onto this planet in order to help the humanity raise it’s vibration. Lightworkers are spiritually perfect. That is to say, they don’t have any personal issues to overcome. They’re sole purpose here is to help others.
Well, that’s not entirely accurate. The do often have one fairly common problem. They tend to suffer from amnesia upon entering the material form, forgetting that they are perfect divine beings. And so it is often suggested that if you feel uncomfortable or out of place in society it’s likely because you’re not from here. What is more likely, they will tell you, is that you are lightworker visiting Earth for the first time, and you’re just having trouble adjusting to the lower vibrational frequencies. But when I look at such statements what stands out to me is the part about feeling uncomfortable.
It’s all too easy to brush this off as a simple side effect of incarnating into a lower dimension, but could it possibly just be an avoidance of something deeper? Could it be that most people are deeply uncomfortable, regardless of where they may have incarnated from, and that this discomfort has more to do with how we deal with life at the personal level? In other words, might this not simply just be part of the human condition?
As far as my understanding goes, spirituality is about accepting reality as it is and doing the necessary inner work to remove the blockages that stand in the way of knowing who were really are at the deepest level of being. This can be extremely overwhelming for many of us, particularly in the beginning. When we begin to shine a light into the shadows of the subconscious mind we might see that there are all kinds of ugly things lurking in there. Our initial reaction is to turn off the light and hope they just go way.
Better yet, if we could somehow convince ourselves that we have no shadows and that we’re already enlightened, then we don’t have to deal with any of the dirty work. We can just float around on a cloud all day dispensing love and light to lower beings.
In fact it’s very common for most people to avert attention away from their own issues by focusing on everyone else’s. Generally this is done in a manner that comes across as snobbish and judgmental, rather than caring and altruistic, but keep in mind that “lightworkers” do consider themselves to be of a higher vibrational frequency than ordinary humans, and by contrast, divinely perfect. They may mask their judgement under the guise of compassion, while looking down upon everyone else from elevated sense of self-importance.
In psychological terms this is known as Covert Narcissism. Unlike the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist is a master of deception. In fact, they will often deceive themselves. They create the illusion of being selfless and empathetic by outwardly engaging in service to others, while inwardly gaining an exaggerated sense of self-importance. To further increase this sense of prestige, they may seek out positions as humanitarians, politicians, spiritual figures and even psychotherapists.
This needs to be understood, because although these people may appear to be helping others, in some regard they could actually be hindering them. For example, if one is delusional and charismatic he is likely to contribute to our illusions rather than helping us to see through them. After all, if one is unable to address their own personal issues, they have little qualification in helping others with theirs.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the astral plane doesn’t exist, but if you’re spending all of your time there instead of here, you might want to ask yourself if there’s something you’re avoiding. The spiritual path is about learning and growing through deep introspection. It’s about bringing awareness to every part of your being, including, and perhaps especially, those areas which make you most uncomfortable.
If we’re not willing to face our shadows it is likely because we have judgments about them. Through the influence of society, we have come to label certain thoughts and behaviors as “bad”. And when we have such thoughts and behaviors, we tend to judge ourselves as “bad”, which feels pretty shitty. So deep down we may have a low opinion of ourselves, which causes us to feel deeply uncomfortable. In order to avoid having to feel that discomfort, we may convince ourselves that we simply don’t have those kinds of thoughts and behaviors; that we’re above all of that.
We think that being spiritual means always being happy and positive. And if we’re unhappy or feeling lost, confused or overwhelmed, then we aren’t being spiritual. So in order to feel more spiritual, we might convince ourselves that we don’t have a shadow side; that we’ve already transcended or dissolved the ego.
Again, I’m not suggesting that there aren’t enlightened beings on this planet. I believe that there are, and often have been. But they didn’t become enlightened by faking it until they made it. They became self-realized by journeying deep into the inner realms of the subconscious mind and facing their own demons.
A classic example of this is Gautama the Buddha, who incidentally never claimed to be anything other than an ordinary human being, despite what others have said about him. The only claim he made which distinguished him from others was that he was awake. And it was not that he descended into this material dimension having already been fully awake. He recalls the story of how his awakening occurred over the course of many years.
In that story he tells of the final struggle in which he is tempted by his own desires and bombarded by his deepest fears. Classically, his fears and desires are represented as demons, and his ego by the devil-like figure known as Mara. The point of the story, however, is to show that he had to face these aspects of his psyche head on in order to conquer them and attain what we call “enlightenment”. By facing them, he realizes that they are in fact illusory, and have no merit other than what he has given them. And in this simple realization, they vanish.
When we look at the lives of these great self-realized masters, we find many such stories, and we are encouraged to follow their example. The true guru is there to guide you on your path, not to carry you on his shoulders. In other words, he helps direct you toward those areas within yourself that need work, and offers suggestions on how to go about it, but it’s your responsibility to do the actual work itself.
Sometimes we just try to imitate these masters by putting on an external facade. We walk like them and talk like them. Sometimes we even dress like them. But eventually our shadows will catch up with us. One way or another we will have to face them. And the more we resist them, the more ferocious they become.
Remember that the aim of spiritual life is to establish a clearer perspective of reality, not to avoid it. And the way we do this is by removing the veils of illusion. We have to be very careful that we are not adding more veils. We overcome illusion by first acknowledging it, then by examining it and thereby seeing it for what it is. Simply bringing awareness to our shadows is enough to dissolve them. But we have to be willing to look.
It’s a bit tricky, because ultimately there are no shadows. It really is all love and light. But simply saying that the shadows aren’t there doesn’t mean that you’ve dealt with them. The only thing you may be dealing with is avoidance. It’s one thing to have an intellectual understanding of these concepts. It’s a whole different thing to know truth through personal experience. If you’ve faced your shadows, like the Buddha, and seen them for what they are, you can say that there are no shadows. But if you only understand intellectually that the shadows are illusion, without actually facing them, then what we’re dealing with is not experience but belief. And the belief that one is enlightened could simply be another illusion standing in the way of true spiritual advancement.
We need to examine our beliefs, not simply to see if they are valid, but also to understand why we have adopted them in the first place. It’s easy to believe something just because it’s comforting. But if something is comforting, it suggests that we have some discomfort. And our discomfort is trying to tell us that there’s something we need to look at. We need to be willing to listen to our discomfort and try to understanding what it’s trying to tell us.
When it comes to the idea that some of us are higher vibrational beings who have forgotten our divine nature after having incarnated into this material dimension, I would say that there is some truth to this. But it is not true of some people. It is true of all people, and all living beings, and therefore we should be careful not to make distinctions between “us” and “them”. The reality is that we’re all in this together.
We are all spirit in essence, having this material experience. And part of that experience is about remembering who we are; who all of us are. And while it is true that a great part of our purpose may be in helping others to awaken, this can only be successful in relation to our own awakening, so don’t neglect the lessons that you came here to learn as well.