Thoughts On Spiritual Enlightenment & Self Actualization
It has been my observation that often so called spiritually-realized people advocate a life lived in a strictly spiritual state, achieved most often by neglecting our other natural states of being. Our other states of being include our physical, emotional, and mental natures. These other stages of being support our spiritual nature, holding up the spirit like the bottom layers of a pyramid solidly build up the pyramid high into the sky. Recognizing and mastering them is, in my opinion, the key to true enlightenment and self actualization. Unfortunately, many so-called enlightened or spiritually evolved people have not actually achieved the full enlightenment that they claim to. Even they may believe they have found the full depth of their search, but it is my belief that in neglecting our other states of being robs us of the ability to discover the full potential of self actualization and enlightenment. Very often, these purely spiritually focused people cannot function well and live a normal life. They may pamper the spiritual body but neglect the physical, mental, and emotional natures. It is my contention that these natures are an intentional part of our being, necessary parts of our being that we must understand and nurture to achieve our full potential. I believe were created exactly as we were meant to be, and our natures should be accepted, understood, and mastered. These natures must be fully accepted into our lives and given their due attention. I feel part of our quest is integrating and elevating all of these states. Ideally one would seek to master all of these states of our being. All can grow at once without “sacrificing” by having a purely spiritual life. As I see it, his can be as serious an error as living a purely physical hedonistic life. How can one shun a person seeking only physical pleasure when they themselves seek only spiritual pleasure? Both would be an imbalance of one nature over another, ignoring integral parts of our selves.
As human beings, we face many struggles. Firstly, we must figure out how to merely survive and meet our most basic physiological needs of food, water, and shelter. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, sex and sleep would also be on this list. Therefore, the physical needs must be recognized and tended to first. The lowest level of functioning is engaging in the struggle to meet these needs. Secondly, we seek to nurture the emotional beingness, our love, belonging and sense of esteem. It is through our family, friendships, and community we reach out to fill this second need. Thirdly, our mental essence will seek out the meanings to create understanding of the self; the way things work, and seek education and understanding. Mastering this level will pique our curiosity and our love of knowledge may lead to seeking to understand the meaning in life itself. If we have nurtured our other natures, we may grow to embrace yet another level of functioning, one of recognizing and nurturing our spiritual nature. We then find ourselves driven to want to understand our place in the universe. Once a being recognizes the spiritual as valid and important, one may combine the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual natures to pursue the quest for spiritual understanding, experience, and enlightenment to achieve inner peace and self actualization.
So, humankind evolves through these steps:
1) Physical- We must figure out how to merely survive and meet our most basic needs of food, water, shelter, sex, and sleep. The lowest level of functioning is seeking meet these needs.
A person stuck at this level cannot meet these needs, and/or is focused on physical hedonistic pleasures. An example would be a dedicated bachelor that seeks out wealth, sex, and rich food. He is driven by the physical quests, and while he is feeling emotional, and possibly spiritual and mental needs, he is not endeavoring to meet these needs.
2) Emotional- Through our connections with others, and nature, we fulfill our desire for emotional satisfaction, esteem, belonging, and love.
This is a level many people struggle with. Gossip, tumultuous relationships, anxiety, and depression are all related to functioning primarily in this state of being to the exclusion of others. Note that the functioning and behavior of the emotional state are markedly different from functioning primarily in the mental state of being. Our emotions operate without logic and reason. For this reason, the understanding and mastery of this state is the foundation for personal wellbeing. In many spiritual traditions, the mastery of the emotions must be achieved well before attempting deeper spiritual instruction.
3) Mental- We grow and seek out meaning, education and understanding of life through logic. Our human curiosity takes root, and we begin to explore and hopefully, appreciate creation.
Academically minded scholars engage in the pursuit of the truths of the rational world. The peril of being stuck at this level of functioning is that one can become so involved with the pursuit of facts and logic that they do not function well on any other level. Functioning primarily at this state is to be logical and possibly emotionless, to become perhaps robotic or encyclopedic. This state of evolution is so overpowering and so expansive in and of itself simply because of the nearly infinite nature of the world. Care must be taken not to become too fully encompassed by factual concrete pursuits because it is nearly limitless in its scope and to focus too much on this would be to neglect other parts of our being. One could probably never master all that could be understood on the mental level, and so one would be wise to seek to master only what is relevant in their lives on their path to self actualization.
4) Spiritual- Through our connection to the divine, we know we are parts of a greater whole. We recognize our souls and understand we are more than animals because of our divine spark. We understand that there is an unseen order to the world and the universe, and realize we are all connected. We may lose ourselves in the vastness of universal consciousness or our connection with divinity. In connecting to the divine, we may loose sight of practical concerns in our everyday lives and not care for other parts of our well being.
Enlightenment- The mastery of all four levels of meaning in this existence, the integration and development of all aspects to their highest potential, the balance of all aspects of the soul’s nature.
Mastering our own experience of being on the highest level of functioning
To achieve self actualization, one experiences a threefold process of transformation:
A. Recognition: The person sees the spirit clearly, recognizing it as the product of combining the purest parts of our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual natures.
B. True Seeking: The individual, understanding the value of a spiritual life, will seek out a true spiritual understanding, experience, and enlightenment.
C. Fulfillment: The individual uses the knowledge and wisdom he has gained to better humankind, and therefore himself. The individual acts on spiritual wisdom, insight and understanding and begins to grow
The most interesting part of exploring mystical traditions is to see these levels of functioning discussed and to see which is placed is what order of evolution. I support what I feel is the natural evolution of human consciousness and this is reflected in my hierarchy. This is not to say that we cannot be working on all levels at once. In fact, I would think it ideal to raise all levels of understanding and ability at once. Working hard to balance growth on multiple levels is preferable, as concurrent evolution seems to speed development.
Celibacy & Sexual Involvement
While seeking our highest potential, I do not believe celibacy is in and of itself more holy or more spiritual. I believe in the physical, emotional and spiritual beings of all lies an often latent potential to blend all of our beingness into making love. Some religions acknowledge this and see the inherent magic and connectedness this can bring. This is not to say sexual involvement always involves more than the physical, at least on casual observation. Often a person can think they are only giving on one level. I think the act itself inevitably extends farther. It is, after all, our highest biological potential, and is the act that creates new souls.
This act should be kept sacred, because creation of love, connectedness, and new life, cannot be taken lightly altogether, despite efforts to do so by the thinking mind. It can be dangerous to a being to assume otherwise. I believe that the sexual act always involves all of the bodies: spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional. Often this act does not uplift these bodies and may only please the physical, while saddening the other natures. This is the danger of casual sexual behavior. Often, casual sexual experiences can damage self esteem, dampen spiritual insight, and harm the physical and emotional bodies.
Because of this, it is no wonder that so many religions say we are better off without it! A powerful experience that can transform all of our natures should not be taken lightly or be engaged in haphazardly. This is probably good advice: Abstaining can be good for the spirits unready for all levels of involvement. Getting sexually involved without nurturing all levels of making love is a compromise of our being. We settle for the uplifting of one nature at the expense of the others. This is negative. Therefore I cannot advocate sexual involvement for the sake of only the physical release of energy & tension. Also, sexual tension can be a positive driving force. This energy can help fuel our drive and help us evolve more quickly.
Discomfort & Dissatisfaction
In this way, and in so many other situations, dissatisfaction can be seen as a positive. The discomfort keeps us seeking and not placidly accepting a lesser existence.
Opening ourselves to experience discomfort is the first step to allowing ourselves to expand our consciousness. If we can be whole and truly satisfied with a mundane half life, would we not remain as so? Therefore discomfort can be seen as a spiritual gift, and noticed and given proper attention. Should one ignore this, greater pain may be caused in order to get your attention.
Sorrow and great pain can also leave us with only the most important nature of being in mind. This is horrible, yet for many this can be the most transformative of experiences. When stripped of all worldly distractions and pleasures, to what else can the mind eventually come to rest? This is an experience that can make or break some, and is the extreme of discomfort. Often this only happens when a soul will ignore discomfort and all distractions must be removed for further growth. Therefore, this must be seen as a cleansing and a method of refocusing. This should not be confused as an excuse not to assist the downtrodden.
A compassionate heart can easily recognize that these lowly and downtrodden times leave a person more receptive to love and compassionate kindness. At these times, the act of goodness one provides to a troubled soul can amount to much, and inspire a new way of living. One should never use the excuse of karma to be indifferent and forget that our greatest capability is to serve and love one another. In service, we are humbled and less distracted by the mundane. Giving is the constant creation of love.
It is good to help wherever you can, even if you are not asked. Just be careful that this giving is out of pure selfless love. If you give with expectations, you are giving with the hopes of a certain result. This means you are not giving but acting in self interest. This is not love or true giving. Pure love is selfless, and is based on the soul opening up to give sweetness and nurturing. This begins what can be an endless cycle of loving. As one gives, so one receives, and one is then more called to give, and again this come back and so on. One benevolent act can spur a reaction that can extend farther than the originator can conceive. A simple smile to a surly looking stranger can then lead them to smile at another downtrodden stranger. If this continues throughout a day, how many people can be affected by this simple kindness? In the same way, we should conduct ourselves. The very beauty of such an act is that it is given unprompted, and is given without expectation of personal reward.
The greatest and most truly spiritual act a human being can perform is therefore an act of great kindness, not reserved for those we know, but rather given freely and often. In this way, we can share our spiritual life and our becomingness with others. This creates an uplifting of the world in general, as a result of cause and effect. Give it a try! Just acting in this fashion makes the heart swell and fills our souls as surely as it warms the souls of those we touch.
In conclusion, I endeavor to leave you with a few small truths. It is my highest hope that these will lead you to your own path of realization and provide a framework for the tapestry that can be only yours.
* Every part of our existence is a reflection of the divine. Knowing this, one can look at anything and find truth and direction
* Giving is the constant creation of love. This cannot be stressed more heavily, as it is perhaps the highest truth.
* If you are feeling pain or discomfort, look to see if you are resisting your path. Act and create your life consciously.
* Do not think yourself anything more than the beautiful being we all are. Condescension, egotism, and pride only separate us from creation.
* Seek sincerely with an open heart and you will find.