Spiritual DevelopmentThe Science of Spirituality
17a – Spiritual Development
We come into the world with nothing and we leave it with nothing, so it is pointless trying to acquire a hoard of material possessions while we are here, because there can be no net gain. Our material balance sheet is always zero at the start of our life and it is always zero at the end of our life, and no one is ever going to change that! But it is a different story with our spiritual balance sheet… If we finish our life with a higher level of consciousness than we started with, we have lived a successful life. Adding to our spiritual balance sheet by developing our consciousness is the one common purpose we all have in each and every life.
All living beings possess an inherent drive to evolve – to fully realise themselves and become the highest possible expression of life. Personal development is the wilful co-operation with this natural evolutionary process, but understanding the processes involved makes them more efficient and effective. We only learn lessons and develop new faculties through direct experience; theoretical learning does not develop consciousness. For example, seeing the word “fear” in print is not the same as experiencing it firsthand – that is why we incarnate.
Knowledge is stored in our mental body, which dissolves after each incarnation, so that knowledge is lost. Experience, on the other hand, is stored in our causal body (or soul), which is our only permanent body. So knowledge is useful, but it is so much more useful when it is applied in our life, because then we develop the wisdom of experience, which remains part of us forever.
During the lower stages of human development, materialistic ambitions and an egotistical nature are justified because they drive us onwards and upwards. But once we have progressed beyond the lower stages, those motives no longer serve us, so they are gradually eliminated from our being. Eventually we come to realise that nothing outside of ourself can bring lasting peace, happiness or fulfilment, and that the only way we can achieve these is to develop our consciousness.
Rapid development is possible for those who are determined, and those individuals can accomplish more in a single lifetime than others will accomplish in tens or hundreds of lifetimes. Actively working on the development our consciousness can expedite our progress by a factor of ten or more. Or to put it another way, by not actively developing of our consciousness, we are subjecting ourself to ten times more incarnations, ten times more karma and ten times more suffering than are necessary. So, actively developing our consciousness is a no-brainer!
Methods of Personal Development
There are two main methods of self-development:
- Active: “The way of the student” involves actively working on our own development. Our level of consciousness is directly related to what we choose to focus our attention on. For example, someone who is nearing the end of the developed stage (high 400s) naturally invests a lot of attention on their intellectual interests, but if they limit their attention to only intellectual matters they won’t progress much further. They also need to study abstract and non-conceptual material, such as esoterics, metaphysics or philosophy, if they want to progress into the 500s because this will attract the higher vibrations of causal matter that are required to begin developing subjective causal consciousness. But “the way of the student” isn’t just about developing the mind, it is also about developing the soul. So experiential practices such as meditation, contemplation, self-inquiry and living in the “now” (with conscious awareness) are also required.
- Passive: “The way of the saint” involves forgetting about ourself entirely and dedicating our life completely to serving others. Serving others means helping and protecting those who are less developed, less experienced, less knowledgeable or less capable than we are. All developing monads are dependent on energies and assistance from the next higher kingdom, but the condition of receiving this help is service to others. Life is “give and take” – we give to those who are less developed than we are, and we receive from those who are more developed than we are.
More often than not, people use a combination of the two methods, or alternate between them in different incarnations. Personality types (rays) 1, 3, 5 and 7 are generally more inclined to the active method and types 2, 4 and 6 are usually attracted to the passive method. There are many different paths, but they all lead to the same destination; some are more winding than others, but they all eventually get there.
To become whole we must integrate the subtle bodies of our persona by learning to control their energies and consciousness. Emotional consciousness can only be controlled by mental consciousness, and mental consciousness can only be controlled by causal consciousness, etc. The main challenge facing most people is for the mind to gain control over the emotions and desires of the emotional body. This does not mean ignoring our emotions or killing them off altogether; it simply means us controlling them, rather than them controlling us. An integrated and balanced persona is the natural result of breaking down the automated behavioural patterns and reactions in our subtle bodies.
The automated responses of our emotional body give rise to all sorts of feelings and emotional thoughts about our self and others. Learning to disregard these emotional thoughts and reactions is a very difficult but incredibly important aspect of human development, because if we don’t disregard them and end up giving them attention we inadvertently reinforce them. Ridding ourself of old patterns of behaviour is a prerequisite for acquiring higher levels of consciousness. We are not free unless we determine the content of our own heart and mind, so we must learn how to control our attention so that it doesn’t wander aimlessly and reinforce every thought or feeling that passes through our subtle bodies.
Our sub-conscious continually feeds our waking conscious with thoughts, feelings and impulses that our waking consciousness assumes are its own. Our waking consciousness continually feeds our sub-conscious with bad habits, illusions and fictions. So negative thoughts and fictitious beliefs are continually recycled between our conscious and sub-conscious minds, which reinforces them. This vicious cycle can only be broken through persistent awareness of our thoughts and feelings to ensure that we only give attention to (and reinforce) positive influences, and quickly discard the negative ones. Eventually the negative stimuli will become too “quiet” for their messages to be heard by the waking consciousness.
Consciousness develops by moving our awareness towards our soul or higher self. Freeing ourself from identification with our bodies is a particularly difficult and time-consuming aspect of our evolution. It can only be achieved by refusing to pay attention to the lowest impulses of our subtle bodies, i.e. negative feelings, emotions and thoughts. This causes the lowest molecular types within our subtle bodies to gradually lose their vitality and become redundant; only then can they be replaced by higher molecular types.
In order to progress, we must free ourself from the automated patterns of our sub-conscious (by continually “watching” our consciousness) and align ourself more with our super-conscious through meditation and “living in the now”. We must also dedicate our development towards the service of humanity, and not do it just for personal gain. Caring less about our own development and putting the needs of humanity first, is one way of overcoming our inherent egotistical nature. We shouldn’t ponder how far we have come or how many incarnations remain, because these things don’t matter. What is important is to make the best of the incarnation we are in now. If we rush to achieve enlightenment, we will never get there because we won’t have learnt the most important lesson of all: We need to forget about ourself in order to free ourself. By helping ourself we help no one, but by helping others we also help ourself.
As we progress we must be careful not to develop a “spiritual ego” or believe we are special because we are more advanced than others. A spiritual ego is no better than a regular ego but it’s a trap that we all fall into at times. It’s not possible to overcome the ego by fighting it head on, because whilst our monad is centred in the first triad we are the ego, so that would be like punching ourself in the face. The only way to overcome the ego is to transcend it; to move up to the second triad and become our soul. In order to achieve this (enlightenment) we must:
- Disassociate from our ego (first triad or lower self) by actively putting the needs of others ahead of our own.
- Identify with our soul (second triad or higher self) by mediation, contemplation, self-inquiry, aspiration to unity, and the development of virtuous qualities.
This two-pronged approach gradually tips the balance of power in favour of our higher self and helps it gain control over the egotistical lower self.
Rapid development is the reward of unselfishness – we develop the fastest by helping others to realise the meaning of life and live in accordance with the laws of life. In order to help others understand we must first have an understanding of life and the stages of human development. We must understand the difficulties that they face at each stage, their motivations and what they are capable of grasping. Trying to force people into accepting a particular belief system is a violation of their freedom, so those who are content with their current beliefs and world view must be met with loving understanding, even if they are wrong. They will have plenty of opportunities in future incarnations to correct their views. In the meantime, we must respect the fact that their current beliefs are appropriate for their current level of development. Everyone who reflects on the meaning of life gradually develops their own belief system. Initially it will be flawed but over time, perhaps many incarnations, it will gradually build into a system of knowledge and description of reality that matches that of those in the fifth kingdom – the ones who gave us esoterics.
Two other factors contribute to rapid development – awareness and will-power. Maintaining constant awareness of our desires, emotions and thoughts is of prime importance, because we can’t address our weaknesses unless we are aware of them. Once we become aware of a particular issue we will obviously need will-power to overcome it. Will-power is also necessary to sustain our dedication over an entire lifetime or series of lifetimes.
Every new effort gives rise to resistance from the personality. It may seem that when we first start out on the path that things are conspiring to make it difficult for us. Don’t be discouraged by this – it is just a test to see if we are up to the task ahead. The path of the aspirant is the one straight up the mountain whereas the path of the normal person is the one that meanders around the mountain. The first is much more difficult but the rewards are far greater. Many set out on the steep path but lack the commitment to follow it through to the end. They put in a concerted effort at the start but give up quickly and slip back down again. It is better to proceed at a steady and sustainable pace because a lifetime of commitment is required if you truly want to succeed. Don’t necessarily expect immediate results or you may become demoralised and slip back down again. So the tests that confront us as we begin our journey are for our own protection; they stop us from proceeding unless we are truly ready.