Spirit in Body
Feeling and Emotion
Love and Hate
Love and Tolerance
Love and Friendship
Love and Grief
Love and Sex
Love and Sentimentality
Love and Money
Love and Truth
Love and Humility
Love in Action
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The second main level of consciousness is that which enables the body to engage in various forms of commerce with its environment. It is often called 'self-awareness' because it distinguishes between the 'self', for whose benefit the commerce takes place, and what is 'not self', from which the desired benefit must be obtained. In accounting terms, it is what distinguishes between 'debit' and 'credit': the debtor receives what the creditor gives. This is the level at which most of us operate while we are awake. Most of our conscious actions are directed towards satisfying the immediate needs and desires of the body. Although we may not always be aware of the fact, we are generally indebted to the world outside our bodies for air, water, food, and physical comfort.
Both the above levels of consciousness are concerned principally with the individual as a physical living entity. There is, however, a third level of consciousness which seems to be a property of the Spirit which animates the body. It is a level at which we become aware not only of the needs and desires of the self but also of the nature of what is not self, of the environment and the other creatures which inhabit it. It is what enables us to be truly objective, to see ourselves as others see us, and to interact with the environment in terms of its nature and not merely to satisfy our selfish desires. It is what tells us whether or not we are 'at peace with ourselves'. This is the level at which we may be said to be 'wide awake' and capable of behaving fully rationally. It is the level at which the mystic endeavours to operate.
In my present understanding, this 'higher consciousness' of the Spirit is what is meant by Love.
So my principal suggestion in this essay is that Love is that property of the Spirit which enables us to experience the essential Unity of all that exists and to respect every other creature we encounter as we respect ourselves. Love is what enables us to be objective and to accept every other creature, organic and inorganic, as a unique embodiment of the One. Love is what encourages us to expand our consciousness ever further so that we may exhibit greater understanding and intelligence in our interactions with each other and our common environment.
In this context, the word 'feeling' does not mean the physical sense of touch by which we distinguish hot from cold and rough from smooth. Although the physical sense often serves as an analogy, I intend 'feeling' to mean rather the subjective or 'Spiritual' sense of values by which we distinguish good from bad, pleasant from unpleasant, attractive from repulsive, beautiful from ugly. It is important to note that such a sense of Spiritual values is not given all at once. In any ordinary gathering, individuals will exhibit a wide measure of disagreement about what constitutes good or evil. It is only as individuals acquire better objective understanding of the essential nature of the world and acquire a firmer grasp of the Spiritual laws governing its operation that their values begin to converge and agreement breaks out among them.
Before a measure of general agreement can be reached in any community or society, every individual must work and study to achieve greater understanding. Communities are now larger and more diverse than ever before in the recorded history of the Earth. This complicates the task of achieving global agreement and makes it all the more necessary that individuals of goodwill learn to co-operate more enthusiastically in the task of achieving greater understanding of themselves and helping others to do the same.
When playing with my little grandson recently, he did something I found particularly unattractive and I made no effort to conceal my displeasure. He said, 'You don't like me, Grandpod!' in a very hurt tone of voice. I had to try to explain that I loved him, but I didn't like what he had just done.
We all like to be liked. If and when we have been blessed with fully Cosmic consciousness (which may not happen for many of us in our present incarnation) we shall know that we are loved because each of us is an unseparated manifestation of the One Spirit. We shall then be beyond any anxiety about what other manifestations think of us. But until we have reached that blessed state, we should do well to bear in mind that if we want to be liked, we must avoid doing anything that gives offence to the people we want to be liked by. We may find this a severe limitation on our freedom! And we may also come to the conclusion that courting mere popularity may not be very satisfying in the long run and that we should endeavour to rise above such considerations.
Friends like spending time in each other's company because they enjoy it. There is no sense of compulsion or obligation. They make no demands on one another. They treat each other as absolute equals, giving mutual expression to their essential Oneness. Therefore, each of them feels free to reveal himself (or herself) to the other. In the relationship between two friends, we come closer to a realisation of the ideal relationship between the individual and the Ultimate Source. It is the hope of similar mutual revelation between the Self and the Ultimate Source that motivates the mystic.
Sex is one of our few remaining bodily instincts. The sex drive is very powerful because it has a very important function to perform: it is what ensures the supply of new physical bodies for the use of reincarnating Spiritual human beings. I think it likely that its confusion with Love arises from the fact that, in one respect, sexual union transcends the self: it requires me to realise a degree of intimacy with at least one other person of the opposite sex in terms of at least one aspect of her nature which differs from my own. In this respect, sex goes some way towards a realisation of Love. But it falls far short of Love in that sex may be, and all too often is, approached from a primarily selfish point of view in search of mere physical or psychological gratification without consideration of the interests of the other party or the higher purpose of the sexual act itself. In such circumstances, 'love' is merely a euphemism for lust and the common expression 'making love' has no Spiritual reference. This may explain why so many experiences of sated lust are followed by a sense of disappointment and even depression. The 'earth' may 'move' without uplifting the Spirit.
Another kind of love is that which naturally arises between parent and child. Human infants, lacking the instincts which enable the young of most other species to become viable very quickly, are totally helpless and will not survive by themselves until after a long period during which all their bodily needs must be attended to by an adult. These needs are communicated by various signs which gradually develop into language, and one of the lessons taught by this experience is the central importance of communication in human life. We are naturally social beings, as distinct from animals possessing a herd instinct.
But parenthood has its Spiritual dangers for both parent and child. When, at about the age of two, the child begins to show signs of wishing to become independent — a trend that will develop with ever-increasing strength up to and beyond puberty — the parent often finds it difficult to relinquish some of the responsibility for the child's bodily well-being. This leads to conflict between parent and child: and it is important that the child win. Any other outcome fosters a habit of dependency which will inhibit the maturation of soul personality that is essential if the child is to grow into a responsible adult capable of making a unique and satisfying contribution to community life.
The danger for the parent is two-fold. Not only does Mum or Dad become over-protective of the offspring; one or both may become addicted to 'being needed'. The resulting mind-set is liable to develop into a generalised attitude of interventionism towards society at large, the ultimate outcome of which may be the self-perpetuating 'Nanny State' governed by inadequate people sentimentally dedicated to the maintenance of a purely materialistic society whose citizens are never allowed to grow up. When the state takes control over essentially personal matters such as education and bodily welfare, it is at the expense of the Spiritual health of its citizens.
But money cannot facilitate spiritual development: it is much more likely to inhibit it. Without well-developed spiritual values, we are unable to discriminate between actual bodily needs and the wants constantly generated by our over-active imaginations. This inclines us to spend our lives pandering to illusions and seeking more money than we really need merely in order to buy imagined satisfactions for our fancied requirements. In extreme cases, we are liable to treat money as an end in itself — as if possessing it in very large quantities in some way ensures that we shall be able to cope with every imaginable emergency. But do we not often observe that individuals who get locked into such a mindset become so addicted to the money itself that they refuse even to recognise emergencies in which expenditure of money might be helpful?
My contention with respect to money is that all true satisfactions are spiritual and they come free of charge — if, that is, one discounts the effort that must be devoted to spiritual development if the harvest of true satisfaction is to be increased. Just as the would-be physical athlete devotes much time and energy to physical training, so the would-be mystic must devote time and energy to spiritual training. The chief difference may be that, whereas the physical athlete often seems either to overlook the importance of the Spirit or take it for granted, the true mystic never overlooks the importance of the body which is the vehicle by which the truth of spiritual insights may be verified in the physical world. The mystic must lead a balanced life guided by the values developed along the way.
'Truth' and 'trust' seem to have a common root. If you trust something, it is true for you. Trust is a subjective feeling, and therefore spiritual in nature. True friends are people you can trust. Evidence given in a court of law is true if it can be trusted. So truth is at least as much a matter of subjective feeling as of logical reasoning.
Before you can discover whether or not someone is trustworthy or some statement is true, you must start by trusting — at least provisionally. If you begin by being suspicious, you will find it difficult to test your assumption; people will not confide in you and you will find it impossible to make new friends. It is only by leaving yourself open to disappointment that you discover who can be relied upon and who cannot. It is only by acting on what you are told that you can discover whether it is true or false. Therefore, Love requires that you adopt an attitude of giving the benefit of the doubt until your doubt is resolved one way or the other by actual experience.
Trust breeds confidence. Is it not significant that the 'confidence trickster' usually has a material motive?
Humility is a much-misunderstood word. It derives from the Latin humus, meaning the soil. So to be humble is to be 'down to earth', i.e. objective. It does not require us to be abject or self-effacing; but it does require us to avoid being proud, i.e. indulging a false sense of superiority over other people with whom we compare ourselves.
It behoves us to remember that each of us is a highly complex organism and that no two people ever share identical experiences. It is therefore impossible for any individual to make a just comparison between one person and another. We all share the same spiritual essence. Personalities other than our own merely reflect the facility or otherwise with which their bodies have learned to give outward expression to that essence. Hence the significance of the injunction "Judge not that ye be not judged". Please note, however, that this should not inhibit our judgment of the rights or wrongs of specific actions in the light of our personal spiritual values.