Eastern Spirituality and Western Spirituality

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From lecture 13, POSITIVE THINKING: THE RIGHT AND THE WRONG KIND:

QUESTION: How far is desirelessness a necessary step toward the path of perfection? I refer especially to the differences in the teachings between East and West.

ANSWER: Desirelessness is also often misunderstood, not only by Westerners, but also by Easterners. Needless to say, some desire must remain in the human heart. And it is again the same old story: the how is important, the exact shade of it; the answer is neither a Yes or a No. In other words, in one way there must be desire; in another way, desire must gradually cease. The desire must remain to reach God, to experience Him, to serve Him, and, by serving Him, to serve our brothers and sisters. This wish must not only come from the intellect as a dutiful recognition of the right thing; this wish alone, or rather its fulfillment, will bring happiness. By spiritual growth, what one desires merely changes. However, desirelessness should set in as far as the ego is concerned. Again, this kind of detachment cannot come by forcing oneself; it is the natural result of spiritual growth; you can attain this state of being only indirectly. Here, too, it is important to be able to accept pain in a healthy way, as I have explained before. If you are so set against pain, if everything cringes in you at the thought of it, you very much desire not to have pain — and therefore you are not detached. You have to train yourself that your pain, your vanity, and your comfort do not matter an iota more than that of the next fellow. When you feel increasingly that you do not matter to yourself any more than anyone else whom you may not even know personally, and do not consider yourself more important, then you are a step nearer to detachment — and thus to happiness.

When personal success or failure does not grip you inside — and both can do that: one pleasurably, the other unpleasurably — you have attained some of this detachment, in which alone you will find real security. For otherwise the security you are seeking is always dependent on things outside your control. Everything has to go your way so that you can feel happy, satisfied, and secure. But when it does not, you are lost and in the grip of forces within you that you cannot control. In other words, you are controlled by them and you lose your serenity, or what you thought was serenity when things went well. However, being detached in the way I mean, you are independent; you do not need outside conditions to give you harmony and security. You are swimming right along with the stream and never push against it. Nothing can touch you then and throw you off.

I realize that this is difficult to understand for people who are not that far yet. I do not even like to talk too much about this state, for as development proceeds properly, it comes by itself and needs not be discussed too much. Hearing these words before you can feel their true flavor, you may even become afraid of being detached, because you will misunderstand me, my friends. You will think this kind of detachment means that you do not love any more or do not care, that you become resigned and indifferent. But this is not in the least true! Indifference means not being alive, not vibrating with vitality. And the higher you are on the path, the more alive you become. You do care and you do love, but differently, without the pangs of the ego, without the shadowy side that all good has on your plane of existence.

Your desires and the granting of them do not really make you happy; they may give you a moment’s satisfaction, but never peace of mind, serenity, steady happiness that can never be lost and that you often unconsciously fear, because you are afraid of emotions which you are not yet mature enough to sustain. So be not afraid, my friends. That state is something to look forward to, indeed. It will not happen suddenly, but you will grow into it. Like everything else, this too will develop gradually and organically if you proceed on the path, and you will not even be aware at the beginning that any transformation is taking place in you. You will just feel more and more at peace; things that go wrong will not affect you any more — first less than previously, and finally not at all. You will not be gripped by anger, anxiety, or hostility. You will live more and more constantly in a state of joy. And do not think that little joys will then give you less pleasure. On the contrary, while now your capacity of enjoyment is hindered by your own disturbed soul, by all your desires and wishes, some of which are incapable of being fulfilled, in the new state you will really enjoy.

As long as you are in the grip of your ego with its fears and anxieties, you cannot live in the present. You sometimes live in the past — and this is bad. And it is also true that you very often live in the future which, in its own way, is equally bad. This applies just as much to old people. When you believe it important to think of tomorrow or the next hour, you do not live this very moment. What does that mean? It means that there is some desire connected with the future. Anxiety comes from the wrong type of desire. If you fear something, you desire that this thing should not happen. So it is with most of you; you live almost all your life somehow in the future, and thus you let life slip by. You miss out on seeing and appreciating the most beautiful things right in front of your eyes; you do not see them because you are too busy with your desires. The now is lost for many of you because of your desires. If this kind of detachment is not reached, you constantly miss the happiness of the now. And I beg all of you, my friends, to whom the thought of desirelessness or detachment is still a little frightening, do not think about it. It will come as a byproduct, if and when you follow this path of happiness.

From lecture 6, THE HUMAN ROLE IN THE SPIRITUAL AND MATERIAL UNIVERSES:

QUESTION: I would like to ask you, what is the difference between the Indian and the Western concepts about the continuity of life after death. Which one is right? Is it true that there is nothing after death, as the Indians say, that after repeated incarnations the soul finally returns to nothingness, that the individual personality does not survive? Or does personality and individual consciousness remain in existence in some form?

ANSWER: First I want to mention again that there is hardly any religious concept which does not contain a kernel of truth. And whenever you ask such a question, ask about that also, and I will help you to see where you can find this kernel of truth, whether it concerns the Bible or any other religious teaching. So, to come back to your question, I want to explain to you first how it really is. This will shed light on the contradictions.

The higher evolved an individual is, the more will the limitations of the ego fall away. It is the ego which erects the wall of blindness and separation around the soul. The higher the development, the more will the band of love which ties one soul to the other become visible — but this band is tied in freedom, in the sense that we are bound to each other by love. All who are connected with this band of love will feel the other’s pain with the same intensity as their own; the other’s joy will be like their own. The experience will be the same for you and the other. The ego, putting itself in its own separate place, elevates itself above the other by wanting something better for itself than for the other. The ego will disappear with each step that the being — human or spirit — takes on the upward path. When the highest steps are reached, the feeling of brotherhood, of love, of at-oneness with the Thou, every Thou, is so complete that each soul vibrates in an ever-growing unity with every other soul, forming a true, free bond with all its brothers and sisters and with the Heavenly Father. It is very difficult to explain this to you in words, because you lack the inner experience of such a state and therefore have no concept for it. Therefore I am asking you to try to feel into the meaning between the lines, so that you can in some way imagine what I am trying to convey.

The highest level is that which we call “the House of God.” Do not imagine this as a house, but as a vast sphere. A being who enters the House of God, who does not have to incarnate in a human body anymore, has merged so completely with the Thou that, as I said before, everything is felt and experienced equally in the self and in the other — exactly because the ego has been overcome. By the way, not everybody who no longer needs to incarnate on earth enters the House of God right away; often the development continues in other spheres first. Now, human beings often make the mistake, by confusing the basic concepts, of believing that the ego is identical with the sense of individuality the personality has. But one has nothing to do with the other. On the contrary, as I tried to explain in some of my lectures, the consciousness of the “I” is expanded and intensified with every higher level reached, and exactly because the separation of the ego has been overcome. Since this separateness is nothing but blindness and lack of understanding, it must necessarily diminish and reduce awareness, and thus the sense of individuality in the personality. One day the ego must be overcome and the merging accomplished. Then individuality will not only not be relinquished, but will come into its own in ever-increasing freedom, light, understanding, and love.

So you can see the kernel of truth in the Indian, as well as in the Jewish and Christian concept, though they seem to contradict each other. The Indian concept refers to the dissolution of the ego, while the Jewish and Christian concept deals only with the individuality of the soul, which truly and eternally exists in a heightened form. Both are true. The reason that the concept of Nirvana has spread in India is the following:

In India there have always been a number of people who, through certain meditation exercises — similar to what I will eventually teach you — and also because of their high spiritual development, have reached the capacity to free their spirit from their body without losing their consciousness. Thus they had certain spiritual experiences. Since transcending the ego, at least to a degree, is a basic requirement for a spiritual experience and for the feeling of great bliss that accompanies it, it is understandable that people who have not had such experiences distort the accounts given by those who have had them. Any feeling is difficult to express in words. The higher, the more beautiful and blissful an experience is, the less easy it is to clothe it into words for those who have not yet been able to go through the same experience, and this is especially true with a spiritual experience. Therefore, any spiritual experience relayed from one person to the other is even more prone to be misunderstood than accounts of factual events. And this is what happened here. It is thus not at all the case that the individuality is dissolved and annihilated. If it were so, the personal experience couldn’t even have been registered and brought into consciousness, nor could the attempt ever have been made to convey it, however insufficiently. From all this it is easy to understand how the concept that the individuality ceases to exist came into being. Nevertheless, it is a gross error. As a matter of fact, it is an impossibility, my friends. Nothing that God created in beauty and purity ever dissolves, especially not the spirit. And the individuality, in its pure form, that is without ego, is purely of the spirit.

When seeing a beautiful flower or a lovable little animal you believe that they exist only temporarily because the body or external shell will decay, or perhaps because the species is dying out, you are mistaken. No, my dear ones, what is beautiful and noble, what is spiritual — and whatever is beautiful and noble is always spiritual — never dissolves, it remains forever, perhaps in a somewhat different form, but fully maintained in its essence, that is, in its individuality. For what is of the spirit is alive. When you see a dead body you often say, “Life has gone out of it,” or “Life has left it.” When you say that you know that you are referring to the living spirit. Therefore whatever is good and noble in the character of a human being or any creature never dissolves, it exists forever and in its individuality. Do you understand this?

QUESTION: Yes. And of course for us it is very important to ascertain or at least get some intimation that the ties we have with our loved ones will remain in existence.

ANSWER: That’s exactly what I say. Of course. If there were no individual personality, there could also be no contact with others, whether in love or otherwise. And it is not only that the bond of love will remain between you and those who were close to you, but one day, maybe in a very long time according to your perception, this bond will expand and include other beings to whom you now may be indifferent or whom you even dislike. This loving connection will, in ever growing expansion, include more and more brothers and sisters. So that what is achieved through your spiritual development — love, understanding, and so on — can never be lost.

By the way, the erroneous concept of complete dissolution of the personality was never formulated or propagated by the Indian mystics who have had the spiritual experiences referred to as Nirvana. I can assure you that if you spoke to such a person, whether Indian or not, he would confirm that it is a misunderstanding and that the truth is exactly the way I tried to describe it to you. He would confirm that, on the contrary, the individuality, the capacity for personal experience, will only increase and in no way decrease, and that only the ego dissolves. And this is an essential difference! It would be good if you reflected and meditated about this difference. For you think that your whole personality hinges on the ego.

I would explain it in this way: The ego is a part of the lower self and the individual personality is the sum total of all that the being is in its momentary state of development, including the lower and the higher self. What passes is only the lower self, which makes you heavy and earthbound with its ego and which limits your individual capacity to experience the divine in every respect, be it a personal spiritual experience, love for your neighbor or compassion, or whatever. Imagine, then, that you have two “selves” who fight each other. This I always tell you. Once you are advanced enough to feel the difference and know how to discriminate one from the other within your soul, you will not only understand my explanations better, but you will also be much closer to the spiritual experience itself. When one clings so tightly to the ego, it is not only because it is so difficult to overcome any aspect of the lower self, but also because one has the misconception that with the ego one would also have to give up the individual personality.

From lecture 10, MALE AND FEMALE INCARNATIONS: THEIR RHYTHMS AND CAUSES:

The less purified the soul is — and I do not only refer to faults and weaknesses but also to anxieties and unhealthy currents — the more the person fears self-surrender, in spite of yearning for it. The more spiritualized the soul, the less it will stem against the surrender. Some human philosophies have actually grasped this. Through such insight, these philosophies have come to the conclusion that this state is the final destination of humanity. However, this is not true. Although there is a melting and dissolving, the individuality, the I-consciousness is not lost. Again and again, as I said before, those beings will contract the fluidal threads and from the state of pure being move into the state of doing. In the state of doing one has to become a complete and harmonious form. And since God is creator — that is, doer — this process takes place in Him, too. The active element of God that creates contracts over and over again into the purest and most perfect form. Thus the element of God that simply is and sustains, consequently also dissolves itself. These concepts are extremely difficult for you human beings to integrate into your understanding, but I hope my words can spark a flash of insight. And perhaps they might also answer a question one of my dear friends once asked me and that I did not completely answer at the time. Do you understand?

RESPONSE: Yes. In Indian philosophy, it is clearly expressed, as far as we can understand it.

ANSWER: Yes. At the same time, I am explaining a contradiction that is inherent in human understanding. It also touches on the subject of dualism and monism. People who have had a God-experience in the state of being, in the state of dissolution, suppose that that is the only and final truth. Others, however, who have experienced God in His other manifestation, as form, as creator, believe that this is the ultimate truth. Here is the origin of the contradiction, and I tell you that both God-experiences are equally true.

Each divine aspect must also contain beingness, but not always, for from time to time it can be dissolved. This does not happen arbitrarily, but in a lawful rhythm, as it is with all higher beings. These aspects of God are what you would call personalities.

QUESTION: Is this what is meant with the inbreath and outbreath of prana, that is connected with our own breathing in a certain rhythm?

ANSWER: Quite true. And your rhythm can be plugged into the cosmic rhythm.

QUESTION: And because of this the prana and the breathing are the most important life functions.

ANSWER: Right. You can find many more insights when you meditate on these words.

From lecture 14, THE HIGHER SELF, THE LOWER SELF, AND THE MASK:

QUESTION: I asked last time why Hindu philosophy does not have the fall of the angels. You promised that you would answer it tonight.

ANSWER: There are about three reasons for that, and each reason is a good one.

The first reason is that Eastern philosophy rightly puts spiritual progress above all. Everything else that has ever happened in creation is only of secondary importance, and this is very true, my friends. However, it is useful in some cases that light be shed on certain facts that occurred in the distant past, because the reason of existence on earth, the reason for evil, and answers to other questions are necessary for some people to know. The understanding of certain facts, even if they can only convey a very general and broad picture, will eliminate doubts that may stand in the way when deciding on the path of perfection and purification. For the most part, the souls incarnated in the East do not feel as strong an urge to probe and search in this respect as does the Western mind. Therefore, they say: We do not need to know anything else; the important thing is how we develop.

The second reason is a little bit more complicated to convey to you. I once gave a lecture about the two main aspects of God: the active or male aspect and the passive or female aspect. I explained that in the active aspect God is personality: active, thinking, planning — the Creator. In the female aspect God is in a state of being. From the explanation in that lecture it will be easy for you to recognize that Eastern teachers and philosophers have experienced God in the female and passive manifestation. That is a partial answer to this question. The fall of the angels shows the events in creation where God manifested as Creator and therefore in his male aspect. In this tragedy God was enacting and creating new conditions whereby the return to Him would be assured eventually to all creatures. It is, therefore, understandable that a philosophy experiencing God in the female aspect would be less likely to receive enlightenment regarding God’s male aspect; while Western philosophy, open to the experience of God’s personality aspect that is active, would be blind to the experience of the female side of God and enlightenment in the Eastern sense.

The third reason refers to the fall of the angels as having a great deal to do with the spirit of Jesus Christ. He plays a major part in the fall of the angels. Eastern religion, having received a number of emissaries of its own — often very great, very exalted, and very highly developed spirits — is reluctant to recognize that others, in many respects not as spiritually advanced as themselves, may have received an even greater one: in fact, the greatest of all created beings. This is understandable and typical of human nature. Your logical conclusions can be very limited, and then you miss the complete picture.

These three reasons together give the main explanation, or at least answer your question best. I do not doubt that other explanations may be found too, but these are undoubtedly the most important ones. Is that clear?

QUESTION: I still do not understand. I understand that one of the reasons has to do with Jesus Christ, who played this important role in the Fall, but why don’t they have something similar to it?

ANSWER: This is so because, as I said, the other reasons count too; because they do not consider it very important to know about these things; because they have experienced God differently and not in His active aspect. One reason plays into the other, one supports the other, and all three make a whole.

QUESTION: Is that perhaps the reason why the female aspect of God is recognized more there and the male aspect of God more in the West and that is why East and West ought to get together?

ANSWER: Certainly. It also explains that in the East spiritual development is much farther advanced, and it is usually the woman who is spiritually more awake or easier to guide. In the West, technique and material progress are farther advanced because this, in turn, is typically a male aspect. It is again the creating, the doing, that are manifested. And the two should unite, because they complement each other and it would create a wonderful wholeness if they could exchange the knowledge each has in advance of the other.

QUESTION: Does that mean in general that the Eastern teachings have lived through a different phase of Brahman and want to go into finding the Brahman where all these things are one?

ANSWER: Yes. And it should be. Again in this respect, as far as spiritual and religious teachings are concerned, the Western and the Eastern side should unite, because both sides will furnish the complete picture only when put together. Each has only a half now, and when they unite and “marry,” then humanity will have a great deal more understanding about spiritual truth, and more enlightenment is bound to follow.

From lecture 74, CONFUSIONS AND HAZY MOTIVATIONS:

Your conflicts, your images, and your misconceptions are contagious and affect the other person immediately. However, the person who works on the path of self-purification becomes more and more immune to being affected in this way. You not only begin to dissolve such images and conflicts, but you also become acutely aware of the law of contagion, and this very awareness will immunize you. Thus you are increasingly less affected by the other person’s negative influence on your unconscious. At the same time you will, by solving your own problems, increasingly affect the healthy and positive part of the other’s personality. This work increases awareness, and awareness is the only real weapon against the ills of the world. In unawareness, two people will set up a vicious circle operating from one to the other, and steadily worsening as time goes on. Yet it suffices for one person to do the work of self-recognition, and so to grow inwardly to his or her optimum, to establish a benign circle between the two people involved.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that this work affects your entire surroundings. Anyone around you must benefit from it. If you analyze the sayings of all great spirits who ever lived on this earth — Jesus Christ, the Buddha, or any other of the great masters — you will find that the need for awareness is embodied in their teachings, though perhaps expressed at times in different ways. To know that your emanations have a direct effect on the other person is very important for the entire universe. When there is conflict between people, strong energies clash. In this particular respect, each person’s energy is the expression of self-will. Each is convinced that what he or she wants is right and for the good. But you all live in your closed-up world in which you do not see the other, only your own obvious motivations, which may even be good in themselves but do not represent the entire picture.

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To my teacher Marieke Mars who taught me self-honesty. To my courageous and loving pathwork helper Dottie Titus.

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