You cannot become a master by remaining a follower

THE SPIRITUAL PATH

By Walter Last

The purpose of life, including our human life, is the evolution of consciousness. The aim of our human existence is to become as fully human as possible, to realise or make real the full potential inherent in the human condition. This applies to all levels of being human, to the biological, the emotional as well as the mental level.

Instead of seeing yourself as just a personality with a mind and a body, imagine yourself as part of an individualised life-stream that flows eternally towards increasingly higher levels of consciousness. This life-stream builds itself different personalities as vehicles for its flow of consciousness. You are one of these temporary vehicles. Your personality is temporary, the present cutting edge of your life-stream as perceived in our space-time.

The aim of your life-stream at this level is to develop a vehicle that allows the full expression of your soul suitable for travel beyond the human condition. When this is accomplished, no further personalities are needed. As an ascended being the life-stream can now traverse the trans-human conditions of consciousness.

SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

This evolution of consciousness normally is a slow process and most personalities are not aware that they are part of an evolutionary growth. However, as the personality comes closer to perfection, it does become aware of its purpose and it begins to long for spiritual unfoldment. Before this spiritual awakening, the personality may already have believed in God and followed a religious faith in the traditional way. But there is a difference. In the traditional religious life the believer may try to follow the doctrines of his faith the best he can, but he basically remains on the same slow evolutionary path of consciousness.

With the spiritual awakening, spiritual growth becomes the main focus of this personality. The slow evolutionary process now becomes a spiritual revolution, not only in regard to the speed of the growth of consciousness but also in regard to the overthrow of established values. This spiritual revolution may take place within the confines of an established religion or it may happen outside a religious faith. Within a religion, these awakening spirits will sooner or later come in conflict with established doctrines. They may try to revolutionise or restore their church to its highest ideals and eventually become mystics or saints or martyrs or just start their own church or sect. Most established religions had at best an uneasy relationship with their mystics and (later) saints.

In any way, whether the awakening and subsequent spiritual growth takes place within or without an established religion, the awakening personality will begin to follow the spiritual guidance that comes from within rather than the established rules and doctrines of church and society. Spirituality is no longer something that one does on Sunday mornings or other established times and according to established rules, but rather it becomes the central purpose and focus of life. With this, we may say that the personality is now on the spiritual path.

VARIETIES OF SPIRITUAL PATHS

While the real goal of the spiritual path is the same for all, there are many different roads that one can travel and one may even travel without a road. Also the goal may be described in different terms without always recognising that it is the same goal. This is so because we all have different starting points and different preferences and opportunities. Many spiritual travellers will not expect to reach their goal in their present lifetime, while others may realise that they do not really need to travel anywhere.

Some of the better-defined roads are the different forms of Yoga, the Tao, the Gnostic teachings, the Rosicrucians and various ancient and modern Mystery Schools. While the Mystics are generally regarded as a distinct group, they really travelled each on his or her own individual path. At present Ascension teachings through books and channelled guidance attract many followers. These teachings are largely individualised outgrowths from the writings of the Theosophical Society since the end of the nineteenth century.

Looked at from a different perspective, we may say that there are two different approaches that often intermingle in each individual spiritual path. One is the path of the Doer or the Magus, while the other is the path of the Knower or the Mystic. The Doer mainly works in the world as a healer, alchemist or white magician, trying to master the non-physical energies and forces. The Mystic, on the other hand, follows mainly the inner path, seeking Union with the Divine Self and in the process becomes a Knower and a teacher. However, ultimately Knower and Doer both become one.

THE PATH OF THE MYSTICS

The recorded experiences of the many mystics in all religions is of particular interest because we can learn from these what the spiritual path looks like when it is not guided by specific verbal or written teachings. Most of these individuals in past centuries did not know that there was such a thing as a spiritual path and that others had travelled the same or a similar route. They just felt a longing to come closer to God and to feel at one with Him, to melt into Divinity like a drop of water becomes one with the ocean.

Each of them had different experiences and many of them walked only part of the way, but by constructing a composite picture from a large number of their writings we can discern a distinct pattern of the typical mystical path. Few mystics seem to have travelled all of this 'typical' path, but this may be because we can see only one life-time of a multiple-life-time journey. This typical mystical path may best be described as a five-stage journey and we may easily see its relationship to contemporary spiritual practises.

1. The Awakening

The spiritual awakening is the beginning of the mystical path and also of the spiritual path in general. It may be sudden or gradual. Often it comes as an emotionally overwhelming 'mystical experience', possibly ending a period of great emotional torment and suffering. Another frequent setting is during a spiritual initiation ceremony, such as presently during water baptism for 'Born-Again Christians'.

Others may have this awakening experience during an especially intense prayer or meditation or drift gradually onto the path by attending workshops or reading spiritual books. The latter as well as others coming to the path because of philosophical considerations turn out to become like the 'mental mystics' as compared to the 'emotional mystics' who had their mystical experiences mainly at the emotional level.

This initial peak experience may last for hours or days with gradually declining intensity. Commonly it is a combination of deep feelings, such as universal love, with profound spiritual intuition or insight, although depending on the personality traits the emotional or the mental component may dominate. Also psychic phenomena are frequently involved in the form of visions and voices.

2. Purification

After the awakening the individual does not only want to repeat the mystical experience but really wants to live in a permanent state of grace close to God. However, the aspiring mystic realises that he is not yet worthy, he becomes acutely aware of his imperfections, of the impurity of his thoughts and feelings. He starts to cleanse himself of all selfish or impure desires. Commonly this is combined with periods of fasting or food denial. Medieval mystics tended to be very severe with themselves in order to 'mortify' the body and with it the unruly senses and the desires of the flesh. Worldly pursuits no longer hold any interest. Periods of prayer and meditation are greatly extended.

While this process of purification requires strong willpower and causes much self-inflicted pain, it is also increasingly interspersed with beautiful and uplifting mystical experiences that spurn the seeker on to greater sacrifices for the sake of more rapturous experiences. This purification process continues for many years. Instead of turning the spiritual energies released by the awakening experience inward to purify, it may also be directed outwards. These individuals then become religious fanatics and may remain at this level for the rest of their lives.

3. Illumination

After the Self has been sufficiently cleansed or purified and the mind remains fully focused on the presence and the qualities of the Divine, a state of illumination may unexpectedly arise. This will be similar to the experience of awakening but even more intense and longer lasting. Again, it may be predominantly emotional with feelings of indescribable Divine love, being at one with 'All That Is' and combined with visions and voices, or it may be predominantly mental with profound insights and states of pure knowing. Commonly the initial peak experience is combined with perceiving an intense or blinding inner white light.

For many months these deep feelings and insights will keep flowing in, but gradually settle into a state of a permanently raised and more intuitive consciousness. The illuminated mystic will now always remain aware of the Divine presence in everyone and everything and radiate a presence of love and goodwill. Intuitive abilities will be greatly increased. Commonly, one will receive a spiritual gift with the illumination. This may be the ability to heal or to see or to know. By developing this ability one will become a great healer, seer or spiritual teacher.

The perception of mysticism as being incomprehensible to normal, unenlightened humans is due to the fact that most mystical writings were composed by the emotional type of mystics. They focused on emotional states of being and perceived and described their visions and experiences with emotional metaphors that remained incomprehensible to the uninitiated. This is similar to the present descriptions of reality given by quantum physicists.

Life in this state of illumination is easy and full of joy, a permanent state of great happiness and contentment. It is like living in a state of grace that can never be lost again. But sometimes it is being lost.

4. The Dark Night of the Soul

There is a saying that he whom God loves most, will be given the severest tests. This certainly seems to be true of the few mystics who continue to travel further along the spiritual path even after illumination. During the long and difficult purification process the aspiring mystic gave up most of his sense attachments, the pleasure of eating, of sexual union, of bodily comfort and of pleasant company. Instead all the energies were focused only on what was perceived to be transcendental and divine.

But there was still one thing left that had not been surrendered, that is the will, the central part of the Self. To give up the will, the innate instinct for personal happiness had to be surrendered. This is called the 'mystical death' or the spiritual crucifixion. During illumination the mystic seemed to walk hand in hand with God and sunned himself in eternal Divine bliss. This makes the contrast even greater to the feeling of having lost all the former grace and glory and being totally abandoned by God to a life in abject misery.

However, gradually the Self begins to accept total surrender. It gives up itself, its personality and individuality, asks for nothing and desires nothing. Now there is total passivity and acceptance of whatever God has ordained or whatever comes. Now the mystic is finally ready for the last stage of his earthly journey.

5. The Unitive Life

Finally, by giving up everything, the mystic has gained everything. By being completely passive, he is able to be filled with the Divine Spirit. No longer does he experience the strong mood swings between divine bliss and utter desolation, he has now settled into a feeling of constant peaceful and love-filled union with the Divine. However, this is not the goal of his long journey, just a by-product. The real achievement is that the mystic is now an ideal tool or instrument of the Divine Will to be used for manifesting the Great Plan on earth.

While now the mystic still lives in the world, he is no longer of the world. He may be a great reformer, healer, inventor, statesman, educator or spiritual teacher but whatever he does is never for any small or selfish interests, instead it is always for the greater good of All That Is. He now lives a life of service. Whatever he does, he is now a spiritual master, even if that is not always apparent to the outside world. After his passing, he will be an ascended being, not needing to return to earth.

Comments on the Mystical Path

In this description it is easy to draw comparisons to the life of Jesus of Nazareth and see in it a symbolic enactment of the mystical path. The baptism symbolises the spiritual awakening, the 40 days in the desert correspond to the period of purification, followed by illumination (the transfiguration on the mountain) and selfless service in the form of a healing and teaching ministry. The experience on the cross and the events leading up to it are his dark night. While the unitive life is cut short, it is signified by the ascension and the following teaching period in ascended form.

It may also be mentioned that the described states of the mystical path do not necessarily follow one after the other but some may occur simultaneously, such as enlightenment and the dark night of the soul or purification, enlightenment and selfless work. These may coexist or alternate, causing emotional extremes over short periods. Coexistence is possible because we do not need to be perfect to reach illumination and, therefore, continue with our purification on deeper levels.

Furthermore, these extremes and the perceived sufferings are mainly the lot of the emotional type of mystics while the mental type follows a much smoother path. Both have the difficult task of giving up their attachments to gratifying the senses and surrendering their will, it is just that the emotional mystics are so much more sensitive and take things very much to heart. It also must be understood that it is not necessary to give up things, only the attachment to things but that was not always understood by those leading a life of extreme asceticism.

ASCENSION TEACHINGS

The ascension teachings are a New Age phenomenon and largely based on channelled teachings. These started with Madame Blavatsky and led to the foundation of the Theosophical Society late in the nineteenth century. The aim of these teachings is to present a greatly accelerated path to ascension.

Ascension is highlighted as the main aim and achievement of the spiritual path. Ascension means that we are no longer in need of experiences at the human level. For our continuing progress towards higher levels of consciousness we develop a spiritual light body through our ascension work. Presently ascension teachings focus mainly on guided imagery to open, balance and extend the chakra system and build a light body.

A key feature is a system of initiations as a measure of progress on the spiritual path. These initiations are to take place in our higher energy bodies and may or may not be remembered with our normal body consciousness. While there are some variations in the way of counting, the basic requirements for passing the five initiations before ascension may be described as follows.

  1. Spiritual Awakening.
  2. Purifying the body, learning to work with the energies and controlling the etheric body.
  3. Purifying and controlling the emotions as well as developing a higher emotional body.
  4. Purifying and controlling the mind as well as developing a higher mental body.
  5. Submitting the will to Divine Guidance.
  6. Selfless work for the greater good of humanity.
  7. Ascension.

While formerly initiations in the physical body took place in the form of tests and rituals within secret societies, presently they appear to be incorporated as special situations in our normal life. As an example the third initiation requires us to have good control of the mental, emotional and etheric forces. In ancient Egypt an appropriate test might have been for the disciple to demonstrate that he can control an untamed lion with his mind and the lion obeying him. At the slightest sign of fear the lion would kill him.

A modern equivalent might be a diagnosis of advanced and incurable cancer. To overcome this without much outside help, one needs to use the mind constructively to guide the emotions in a positive way, release all negativity, especially be free of the fear of death and also learn to direct the life-force energies as in guided imagery. While only a small percentage of sufferers of advanced incurable diseases may have been given their disease as an initiation test, most of those who did recover from near-terminal conditions reportedly had profound spiritual experiences.

Ascension and the Mystical Path

The relationship of the ascension initiations as portrayed above to the divisions of the mystical path are quite obvious. Starting with the spiritual awakening in both, the first three initiations are related to the mystical period of purification. In contrast to the yoga system of purification, which concentrates strongly on controlling the etheric energies, the mystical path does not address the etheric or life-force body directly. However, this level is purified indirectly by removing emotional energy blockages and by learning to control the emotional energies, which in turn direct the etheric life-force energies.

Illumination is the first major initiation and is the result of purifying and learning to control the mind and developing a higher mental body as the requirement for the third initiation. The fourth initiation will be passed after waking from the dark night of the soul and the fifth initiation is the result of the unitive life.

The ascension teachings portray largely a magical or doer path in contrast to the knower-based mystical path. A combination of both may in some ways be easier to follow than either one of them on its own. The severity of the mystical path can be greatly eased and progress speeded up by suitable guided imagery, while the present ascension teachings seem to neglect the purification and control of the emotional and mental bodies that feature so prominently in the mystical path.


AN INTEGRATED SPIRITUAL PATH

Presently travellers on the spiritual path have two important advantages as compared to those in former centuries. We now have published information on the nature and variety of spiritual pathways so that we no longer need to find our way alone in the darkness of ignorance.

Furthermore, with the information explosion in recent decades and the learning of technical skills, our capacity to understand and communicate has greatly increased. What formerly could only be expressed as incomprehensible mysticism, can now be understood and presented in rational and scientific terms. This makes it much easier for us to come to the stage of illumination instead of being bogged down for long time spans in emotional misery, which formerly was the lot of most mystics.

In the following, I want to give some helpful information on the various stages of a modern spiritual path and on the different components and tools that you may incorporate into your individualised approach. There is now so much information available on ascension, the path of yoga, working with energies, healing the emotions and the mind and so forth that your problem is not to find information, but to develop the ability to discern and know what is right for you. You can do this by keeping your highest goal in mind and asking your inner or higher guidance for help.

Beware of getting sidetracked by psychic abilities or happenings. Developing psychic abilities can be fascinating, but is no more spiritual than material, emotional or mental activities. However, psychic activities can be more deceptive than other activities. Most psychic happenings take place on the astral level or open us to astral influences. Spirit entities operating on this level commonly are less spiritually developed than someone on the spiritual path and often give misleading or mischievous information. They also love to imitate or pretend being a high spiritual entity or even God.

Churches, sects and cults commonly have astral counterparts that feed on the devotion of their followers and try to lure potential recruits just as much as commercial advertisers. But these astral entities are more dangerous because they are usually hidden from our awareness and their intentions and methods may not be clean. Already St. John of the Cross, a highly respected mystic of the sixteenth century, advised his followers to be wary of visions and voices as these commonly come from a lower level and tend to lead the spiritual seeker astray. They will disappear when moving the consciousness higher into more spiritual regions. The only thing that protects us from being used or misled by lower spirits but at the same time remaining open to contact with truly high spirit beings is the purity of our consciousness.

AWAKENINGS

Do not worry wondering whether you had already a spiritual awakening and are now on the spiritual path or not. Just start or continue searching for spiritual information, reading interesting books and visiting spiritual web sites. You will be doing the right thing. By always keeping your goal in mind, you will quite naturally be attracted to what is important and right for you.

While in the beginning it is helpful and necessary to read quite a bit from different sources to get a good overview, later it is better to read as little as possible. By continuing to read a lot you remain at the intellectual level and that hinders the development of intuitive abilities. Instead keep the subject in mind about which you want more information, ask your guidance for help and trust that the right book will fall into your hands when needed. Even then, often you may not need to read the whole book but quickly find what is important for you.

One of the early sidetracks on the spiritual path are the many interesting books now available. If you do not control yourself, you can easily become addicted to reading and spend the rest of your life reading interesting books on spiritual and related matters instead of really doing what needs to be done. Therefore, move quickly through the information phase and start the real work. Whenever you really need additional information, your spiritual guidance is likely to let you unexpectedly find it.

If you are a practising member of a religious denomination, you do not need to be concerned that the spiritual path may be incompatible with your religious beliefs. Instead, you may expect that it will increase your faith. If you discover a contradiction or incompatibility here or there, put it on the shelf for the time being. Remember, the spiritual path does not have any doctrines. Any writings about it are personal opinions that you do not need to accept. On the contrary, walking the spiritual path means finding your own insights and personal relationship with your God.

PURIFICATION OR CLEANSING

The purification period does not need to be a time of misery and suffering as it was for the mystics. Instead, it can be a time of adventure and discovery. The greatest adventure is to discover yourself. By removing biological, emotional and mental blockages, you will become healthier and happier. Life will become emotionally as well as mentally more satisfying. What could be better? The main fun of the spiritual path is not the arrival at the end, but the whole long and interesting journey of getting there.

You do not need to make a sharp distinction between working on the biological, the etheric, the emotional and the mental level. They are all closely related. It is just easier to write about one level at a time. You may concentrate on one level, say the emotional, which also affects all the other levels at the same time, although the greatest impact will be directly on the emotional level. It is also easier to start with concentrating on the body or biological level and then proceed to the etheric, emotional and mental level in turn.

In addition to purifying, we also aim to strengthen and balance each level to achieve an overall inner as well as outer harmony. We may say that we move to sanitise and spiritualise all aspects of our Self.

THE BIOLOGICAL LEVEL

While many great spiritual teachers have not placed much emphasis on the body, they nevertheless purified it just as a side effect of their spiritual quest. See for instance the 40-day fast of Jesus of Nazareth in the desert, or the Buddha fasting until the imprint in the sand where he was sitting in meditation looked like the hoof print of a camel. The Buddha is also quoted as telling his monks: "if you want to be healthy, eat only one meal a day". Of course, that was in India, in colder climates more food is required.

Furthermore, in previous centuries all food was organic, and air and water were still unpolluted. We have to work hard on purifying our bodies to get to the point where previous spiritual seekers started. Therefore, it has advantages for the later work on the higher levels if we start with sanitising the biological level. For this I recommend:

  • The Basic Cleanse. This may be repeated from time to time, especially if you want to lose weight, also any other cleanse that you may prefer.
  • Test for food allergies and chemical sensitivities at the end of the Basic Cleanse, see Allergy Testing in Healing Foods.
  • Adopt a predominantly raw-food diet with plenty of fresh green and purple juices, see the High-Quality Diet in Healing Foods.
  • Select your food according to your metabolic and blood type as explained in Healing Foods.
  • Regular physical exercises and outdoors activity, yoga, stretching, shaking, walking and swimming.
  • Sanitise your teeth, bedroom and workplace.

THE ETHERIC LEVEL

The main features of the etheric level are the etheric body, the etheric part of the chakra system and the acupuncture system. For a basic understanding of this level see the articles in the section on 'Energies' at this web site. This level determines directly the basic health of our body and how energetic we are. This is not only the energy of life and of the etheric blueprint of our body, but also the energy of healing and manifestation.

In order to manifest something, be it our own health or healing someone else or manifesting a physical or social condition, we need to do energy imagery: hold a clear visualisation or other form of guided imagery of the desired situation, fill it with etheric energy and expect it to manifest in your reality. This is the basis and the principle of all genuine magic. An important part of our work at the etheric level is learning how to accumulate and direct etheric energy.

The most important principal to understand is that energy follows thought. However, mental and etheric energies exist on vastly different density levels and do not affect each other directly. Therefore, they require the assistance of the emotional or feeling level, which is sandwiched between the two. For learning to accumulate and direct etheric energies I recommend that you practise the exercises described in Cultivating the Energy and also in The Love Cure. When you are able to feel the energy flows, you may also try using them in guided imagery for healing and other manifestations.

Furthermore, by practising The Love Cure you automatically improve any weaknesses and imbalances in your chakra system. This, in turn, will have favourable effects on your health, on healing your emotional level and building your light body. If you are so inclined, you may in addition also acquire and use any of the various guided ascension and chakra meditations available on tape or CD from New Age outlets.

For improving your acupuncture system see the article on Meridian Therapy, and use mainly mental tracing after you have learned to feel the energy flows. For more practical information on working at the etheric level you may see the various books on Kahuna Magic such as the pioneering books by Max Freedom Long ('The Secret Science Behind Miracles' and 'The Secret Science at Work') and the more recent 'Kahuna Healing' by Serge King and 'HUNA - A Beginner's Guide' by Enid Hoffman.

THE EMOTIONAL LEVEL

For most travellers this will be the most difficult and possibly painful level to sanitise but it will also be the most rewarding. To start with, I suggest that you read the articles in the section on HEALING OUR EMOTIONS, and especially the main article 'The World of Feelings and Emotions'.

The important steps in healing our emotions are:

  1. Removing emotional blockages and traumatic body memories.
  2. Overcoming addictions and cravings.
  3. Learning to freely feel and express our emotions without hurting others.
  4. Using meditation and guided imagery to develop a higher emotional body by surrounding ourselves with positive and uplifting feelings and emotions.
  5. Using appropriate beliefs and mental awareness to react positively to daily events.

1. Emotional Cleansing

Experiment with the methods described in Mind Tools, especially emotional release, regression and the Emotional Freedom Technique. These are best practised in Healing Groups as described in the article on 'Healing Social Relationships'. Also rebirthing may be used if you have the opportunity.

A relatively simple way to contact and release past emotional traumas is by using present emotional upsets. If something strongly affects you emotionally, try to feel into yourself, possibly combined with a relaxation or meditation exercise, to discover why it upsets you. Most likely some old forgotten memories come up about a similar incident in your younger years. Whatever the method, when an emotional event from the past is made conscious, it either ceases its detrimental effects on its own or can now be dealt with in a rational way.

Some of the main hidden emotions that we need to uncover and release are fear, guilt and resentments. These block the flow of life-force energies and make us susceptible to lack of energy, diseases and aging. The main remedies, after making a suppressed emotional memory conscious, are unconditional love, understanding and forgiving ourselves and all others.

On this level you do not need to clean out all hidden negative emotional memories that would probably be impossible. However, you should aim to uncover and remove all those factors that interfere strongly with the flow of life-force energies in your body, with your emotional health and enjoyment of life and also with your ability to make clear and impartial decisions.

The most important emotional event to discover and release is commonly our last death experience. This often is at the root of our present health or social problems. To discover and overcome this try regression therapy as described in Mind Tools.

2. Overcoming Addictions and Cravings

For many, overcoming their addictions and cravings may seem to be the hardest task of the spiritual path. Addictions to certain foods, drugs and stimulants are best overcome with a combination of Emotional Freedom Technique, guided imagery, prayer, affirmation and cleansing periods with a very high fluid intake. Also homoeopathic doses of the addictive agent can be helpful.

In addition, we may also be addicted to or have cravings for certain activities or objects, such as sex, gambling, entertainment, expensive dresses, jewellery or antiques. Again, the activity or object is not the problem, but rather the attachment to it, the desire for it that controls us rather than we controlling it. The most important step is in acknowledging that we have a problem in this area. Apart from prayer, meditation, guided imagery and affirmations, the most helpful approach would be to live for a sufficiently long period in a simple way in natural surroundings.

3. Free-flowing Emotions

Freely expressing our emotions for most of us is contrary to our upbringing and social conditioning. A first step is in learning to feel our emotions when they arise instead of suppressing them because the time or situation is not appropriate. Then we may decide to express them immediately in a harmless way or re-enact the situation at a later time. We can then in our imagination relive the situation and may kick or punch a pillow or do or say, possibly in front of a mirror, what we felt like doing at the earlier time. Nevertheless, it is preferable to develop the skills to react appropriately whenever the situation arises because then we can also be an example to others.

Marriages and other close relationships are ideal opportunities to learn communicating. If free expression is not always possible, then arrange a fixed time at the end of the day or once a week when you each can freely express your thoughts and feelings. It is important that only one speaks without interruption until he has said everything he wants to say and then the other replies also without interruption. See the article on Healing Social Relationships.

4. Generating Positive Feelings

After emptying ourselves of negativity and learning to acknowledge and express our feelings and emotions, it is equally important to fill and surround ourselves with positive and uplifting feelings. Ideally this will come as a naturally by-product of habitual meditation and through focusing on spiritual feelings during our daily activities. In this way we develop a higher emotional body as a precondition for the second initiation.

In addition, it will be beneficial to practise feeling exercises as explained in the article on The Love Cure or in the Love Meditation. Another possibility is to look at a beautiful or impressive object, such as a tree, a flower, a cloud or a landscape and send feelings of appreciation, admiration, joy and love to it. You can do the same by thinking of an individual whom you like or love. After sufficient practise also send feelings of forgiveness, appreciation and love to anyone whom you may have hurt or who may have hurt you in the past.

Finally, learn to carry the loving feeling that you can now generate in special situations over into your normal daily activities. You can do this by training yourself to carry this loving or joyful feeling in your heart wherever you go or whatever you do. Whenever you see or meet someone, you can embrace that individual with the warm feeling in your heart. This is especially important and effective for improving relationships with people who do not seem to like or appreciate you.

As another useful exercise you may try learning to change one feeling into another. You can start with any emotional feeling that you may experience at the time or you may just generate a warm feeling by breathing into the abdomen or you may generate an emotional feeling by imagining an appropriate situation. Intensify the feeling as much as possible, but then imagine how another emotion might feel. In this way you may experimentally convert love into anger and then back into love. This will show you that you do not need to be at the mercy of emotions arising as a reaction to outside events but that you can make a mental decision how you really want to feel.

5. Reacting Positively

After learning to remain centred in the self-generated positive feelings of our heart, we still need to learn to react positively and appropriately to the many frustrations of our daily lives. This can come only by letting ourselves be guided by a spiritual belief system. After adopting a spiritual philosophy of life it will be much easier to see everything that happens to us as a test of our progress on the spiritual path.

Every day we have many little tests. It is alright to feel a burst of anger if we break a valuable item, but we may also just laugh about our clumsiness or look for an inner or outer reason why it happened. It does not matter too much how we react, as long as it is appropriate. If we do feel a burst of anger, then it is appropriate to feel it and not try to rationalise it away. But after having felt the anger, we should not remain stuck in it but use our mind to get out of it, either by seeing the funny side of it if that is possible, or by trying to learn from it. However, it would not be appropriate to suppress any stirring of anger by quickly switching to one of the other modalities.

It is similar with our reactions in relationship to others. The basic rule is to feel and express whatever emotion comes up, but then to modify it according to our understanding of the situation from a spiritual point of view. Our emotional reactions are a reflection of our beliefs and the more spiritual these become, the more positive will be our reactions. The ideal is that we can express our feelings naturally in a way that is a positive example.

THE MENTAL LEVEL

Our mind is the most important level to heal because here we make the conscious decisions that affect all other levels. For an overview see the article ‘Healing the Mind’. As with the other levels, our aim is to free ourselves of negativity and developing positive aspects instead. A well developed higher mental body is a precondition for the third initiation. We build this higher mental body by practising abstract creative and intuitive thinking such as by thinking about the purpose of life or existence or the nature of God.

In order to free yourself of negative beliefs and thoughts, you must first recognise them when they occur. A recommended way is to develop the habit of having a small part of your awareness in the background as an observer. Whenever you have a negative thought, your observer will ring an alarm bell and you realise what you have done. Then, as a mental exercise, find the corresponding positive thought.

As an example, you may watch someone passing by and observe that she is rather overweight. If you notice having a critical thought about her weight, mentally apologise to her and either send her a mental compliment about some other aspect of her appearance or just wish her well. It is alright to observe, just refrain from uninvited judgments, especially of a negative kind. However, the habit of critically evaluating others is the opposite to an invited critical and constructive assessment in order to help someone.

Another important aspect in controlling our mind is to refrain from talking about other people, especially about common friends, relatives or acquaintances, except when exchanging some relevant factual information. Anything more is gossiping, judging or criticising and would delay progress on the spiritual path.

The Law of Manifestation

Any kind of worry is negative, whether you worry about your finances or your health or about a child or someone else. Worry or concern is a form of fear and that is the opposite of positive expectations and faith. To a large degree we shape our own future by what we expect. Our inner self tries to manifest what we expect. Our expectation acts like a magnet to attract and draw the expected event into our outer reality. If we worry about anything, we expect a negative outcome and help to make it come true.

Therefore, our key lesson to learn at the mental level is to know what we want and then without wavering expect it to manifest sometime in the future. Except where timing is essential, it is best not set a definite time limit. If we want to use magic to help our expectation to manifest, we can use energy imagery as mentioned earlier: visualise or imagine the desired result and fill it with emotional and etheric energy. The critical factor then is our unwavering faith until the expected event appears.

This brings us to the next important step, to know what to manifest. It is said that we should be very careful with our wishes because they might come true. That means that we are usually ignorant about the hidden implications of a fulfilled desire. Often there is a spiritual or karmic price to pay. We may delay our spiritual progress or even take on a karmic burden of another individual whom we try to help. We may still have certain karmic obligations to fulfil in this lifetime and it would be detrimental to our spiritual progress trying to delay or avoid their consequences.

Often an incarnation with the specific purpose to reach ascension in this lifetime starts already with a severe handicap and is intentionally filled with difficult and possibly tragic karmic events. These tests need to be passed before reaching the high goal. The greater the handicaps, the greater the victory if we are able to overcome them. When we are progressing on the spiritual path bad things do not just happen to us by accident. Therefore, we really do not need to worry; whatever happens to us is good in that it helps us to reach our goal.

Every adverse event, whether karmic or not, gives us a chance to proof ourselves. We need to pass tests on every step of the way to make sure that we have learned our lesson; otherwise the lesson has to be repeated over and over again. To come close to such a worthy goal as illumination or ascension, we must be able to pass the lion test in one form or another.

What all this means is that it is not advisable on the spiritual path to use magic that is our mind power, lightly to avoid obstacles and make ourselves an easy life. If we are successful, we may just have evaded a test and will have to wait for another test to be arranged. Another way of saying this is to go with the flow of your life and do the best you can, rather than always trying to make things happen according to a preconceived plan.

Pure Motive

Another thing to watch out for is the motive for our actions. While it is important that we try to do the right thing, it is even more important that we have a pure motive. Being pure at heart means having pure motives. Therefore, another job for our inner observer is to watch over our motives and warn us if there is any doubt. In case of important decisions we may meditate and contemplate about our motive and make sure that it is sufficiently pure.

A method that helps us to be fair in all situations is to see a problem from all sides, especially from the side of someone who disagrees with us. Usually everyone in a disagreement has a valid point and we have to learn to understand all these opposing views and find the common ground that is fair to all.

With all this focus on purity and doing the right thing, it is easy to fall into the old habit of suppressing what we perceive to be negative within us rather than transmuting and overcoming it. Suppressing creates new blockages and brings us back where we started. Rather we have to acknowledge and integrate all parts of our personality into a single conscious unit. Only when we are fully conscious of our negative parts can we successfully transform them.

Acting like a Master

A good way of overcoming our weaknesses and reaching spiritual mastership is by acting as if we have already reached it. With every doubtful or important decision we may ask ourselves what a spiritual master would do in this situation and then just do it.

Remember the advice given to Jonathan Livingston Seagull by his teacher? In order to be instantly in another place just imagine that you are already in that place! If you habitually act like a spiritual master, then you are a spiritual master. Never mind a few mistakes or wrong decisions. Nothing better then our own mistakes to learn from. You still have many years ahead of you to learn doing the right thing most of the time.

Actually, when you have reached a level where your motives are basically unselfish, then you do not need to be too concerned about making the right decision. Just trust your intuition or inner guidance. Whatever you choose will usually be right. It will be like going on a camping trip or bush walk and you have four choices of getting to the selected camp site: a high track over the top of the hill, a much longer level path, a shortcut across a stream through an overgrown valley or you can simply sit in a bus or car to get there. Each of these choices will give you a different experience. Depending on your preference at the time you may choose the high road or the low road, adventure or comfort, it does not matter, there is no wrong choice, only different experiences.

However, the concept of right and wrong still exists in relationship to our intentions or goals. If it is your intention to reach the camp site in the most comfortable way, then obviously the bus or car is the right choice and the other choices are wrong. Right and wrong only disappear if you look at life or your path as a fascinating adventure and do not mind what it brings you, if you are not attached to outcomes.

MIND TOOLS

Prayer, meditation and studying holy Scriptures were the basic original mind tools on the spiritual path, especially in the West, while in the East visualisation or guided imagery and mantras were commonly used in addition. All of these are still very useful now. For an introduction to some of these methods see Mind Tools. In addition you will find some of the more modern techniques very helpful, especially regression therapy, relaxation, affirmations and centring.

You may gradually develop a routine where you combine several of these methods in a daily program. This may, for instance start with prayer and/or affirmations, followed by relaxation, then guided imagery and finally meditation. During the day practise centring. A good way to remain centred is to use a silent mantra. A Hare Krishna devotee might use "Hare Krishna" as mantra while someone raised in the Christian tradition may mentally repeat "Jesus Christus" or "Your Will Be Done".

At the same time we may focus part of our consciousness on the heart or forehead chakra. We can do this whenever our mind is reasonably idle without the need for concentrated thinking. When we have to focus our attention we temporarily interrupt and afterwards start again with the mantra. After some time of practise it will be easy to do this automatically whenever the mind is idle.

In addition, you may make an effort to become and remain more and more aware of your God Presence, at first in meditation and as guided imagery, but gradually also in your daily life. Imagine your God Presence as shown in the picture of The Magic Presence in the introduction to the Spirituality Section. Instead of a figure, you may just visualise an intense white light over your head or feel or sense a protective and loving presence.

Initially imagine sending an offering of love or devotion through the top of your head straight up to your God Presence or if lying down send it up through the forehead or from the heart centre. Then imagine a strong beam of white light together with an intensified feeling of love and protection entering your top centre and proceeding through the forehead and throat centres to the heart centre. At the same time feel and possibly see your whole body surrounded by intense white or yellow, rose and purple light as depicted in The Magic Presence. Connect with your God Presence in this way especially before any prayer or healing work.

The classical text on the mystical path is 'Mysticism' by Evelyn Underhill, first published in 1911. In addition, it will be helpful to read the three volumes of 'Conversations with God' by Neale Donald Walsch (Hampton Roads).

The Science of Spirituality

One of the main aspects of the spiritual path is the development of a higher mental body or the capacity for abstract, creative and intuitive thinking. This is the tool for opening and developing the forehead chakra and may be seen as a precondition for the third initiation or illumination. With this, wrestling with fundamental spiritual questions in order to gain a deeper understanding not only helps to develop our higher thinking but frequently is a trigger for illumination experiences.

One of these fundamental problems is to reconcile our scientific understanding of the world with our spiritual experiences and beliefs. There must be a unity at a higher level despite the outer appearances to the contrary. Try if you can find this understanding of the unity of all that is. What is matter, energy, spirit, consciousness, time? In the The Science of Spirituality I have outlined my answers to these questions, see if you can come up with a different or better explanation. Then learn to apply these principles to interpret and understand social phenomena or your own professional or scientific area. There is a good chance that this can lead to an illumination experience if you are otherwise ready.

Remember, the real purpose of reading or studying 'The Science of Spirituality' is not to gain any knowledge or to make a judgement about believing or not believing the theory, instead it is all about developing your own ability of abstract creative and intuitive thinking in order to develop a higher mental body.

SELFLESS SERVICE

Selfless service or service to others is the practical expression of our spiritual consciousness. The degree of our inner disposition to serve is an indicator of our level of consciousness. However, just looking at the action itself may not show whether it is a service to others of to oneself. Working as a healer, or writing a self-help book, or working as a carer for a disabled person, or giving money to charities may either be done out of compassion to help others, or it may be done for a self-serving purpose, or it may be a mixture of both.

There is nothing wrong with helping others and at the same time expecting or receiving a benefit for oneself. However, the purer our motive, the more we act out of a feeling of universal love or compassion rather than for personal gain and the more is it an expression of genuine spiritual consciousness.

The importance of selfless service is highlighted in the Ra Teachings of the Law of One. According to this, the main criterion for moving from the human condition to the next higher level of consciousness is the degree of our service to others. To get to this higher or trans-human level, our interaction with others in thought, word or deed needs to result in at least 51% of our actions being selfless or in service to others. You can find a short summery of the Law of One at http://www.lawofone.info/q_and_a.php, while a longer version is at: Divine Cosmos (or http://www.divinecosmos.com/ and go to Articles & Books). A comprehensive compilation of questions and answers is at http://www.lawofone.info/.   

OUTLOOK

We know that we make good progress on the spiritual path if in our daily life and especially in difficult situations we display more and more the spiritual qualities of compassion, devotion, faith, forgiveness, harmony, high ideals, joy, kindness, openness, patience, self-responsibility, serenity, tolerance, unconditional love, understanding, wisdom and a gentle love for All That Is.

Another way of assessing our progress is by how well we are able to unite opposite characteristics within our personality and manifesting each characteristic as the situation requires. For example, are we able to be a good leader as well as a good follower, a master as well as a servant? Can we display the male characteristics of assertiveness, aggressiveness and power as well as the female qualities of gentleness, kindness and yielding? Do we know how to be strong in our beliefs but also open to change?

After years of diligently working to purify and improve yourself you may be wondering when you will have your mind-blowing illumination. However, that is counterproductive. The illumination experience is an act of grace, a gift of your spirit that will come when you least expect it. It may be during a meditation or in the middle of city traffic. Waiting for it is a sure way of postponing it because patience is one of the early virtues we have to learn. When it finally does happen, enjoy it.

The same applies to ascension. Presently it is fashionable to regard the various initiations rather like university examinations for which one has to work hard by doing plenty of guided imagery and meditation. I see this as counterproductive as well. Guided imagery and meditation are helpful but should not remain the main or only tools. I see the most important part of ascension work symbolized by the rose and the cross as used by the Rosicrucians. The rose symbolizes the opening of the heart chakra to universal love and the cross a life of service to overcome suffering. Therefore, the real ascension work is a life of loving service.

You do not need to actively look for good deeds to do or for your future field of loving selfless service. Just continue doing whatever needs to be done at each moment and especially continue purifying yourself at deeper and deeper levels. At the right time your mission will be revealed to you. By now you become increasingly competent to handle anything life throws at you or to play any role that you choose or are obliged to play.

Looking back on the path that you travelled so diligently, you may ask yourself "What Path?" and wonder if there ever was a path or only a figment of your imagination. In reality there was nowhere to go and nothing to do to get there. All you did was to change your perception and your attitude. You know now that you are a great spirit having a temporary experience in a body. Nothing really changes by gaining or losing a body. As a spirit you can always choose to be joyful or sad, peaceful or loving or anything else you want to be. That is spiritual mastership. There is a Buddhist saying: 'Before enlightenment he gathered wood and carried water; after enlightenment he gathered wood and carried water.'