There is an
analog of "political correctness" that we might call
"spiritual correctness". It goes something like this:
or spiritual paths are equal; and anyone who suggests otherwise
risks seriously offending or insulting whomever they are speaking
But just as
with "political correctness", "spiritual correctness"
can be carried too far, and cause us to throw discrimination to
relative to political and social freedom, right, and respect —
should absolutely be guaranteed for all groups, religious, spiritual,
or otherwise. Never again should there be a "Crusade"
or a "religious war" that justifies killing people or
depriving them of their basic human rights, in the name of some
religion or in the name of any group or nation whatsoever.
That is the
sense in which all paths, ways, groups, sects, etc. are equal:
in their social and political and human rights.
But this in
no way implies that the religious means — for actually, tangibly
linking up with the Divine — that accompany paths, ways, groups,
or sects are all equally powerful, reliable, or revelatory. Let's
consider an analogy drawn from the world of science. (While science
has its liabilities, one of the great things about science is
its demand for genuine discrimination.)
knows that all telescopes are not created equal! In other
words, not all telescopes are equally effective for determining
the nature of stars and other distant phenomena. And even at the
same time, the full variety of telescopes are available for the
variety of purposes they serve — they are equal in the social
or political sense of availability; there are no laws prohibiting
the creation or use of a radio telescope, for instance.
examining the variety of telescopes in detail, because they provide
a useful analogy with the variety of religious means!
telescopes. Some toy stores sell toy "telescopes"
that don't actually magnify.
for safety and durability"
toy stoves that don't heat, or toy computers that only ring
bells and make clicking sounds, toy telescopes don't actually
work as real telescopes do (not even a little) -- but this
entire style of toys was never intended to actually achieve
the purposes of the real things (astronomy, cooking, or
word processing); the purpose is for kids to play by themselves
or with each other using these accessories to give them
the feeling that they are like their adult counterparts.
It's all fantasy, of course, but kids really enjoy it!
exoteric religions. In
this category are "religions" that provide social
interaction, belief systems, principles for moral living,
and so forth, but do not actually provide a tangible means
for locating and connecting with the Divine for real.
such groups may not provide such means is of course fine.
The human and civil rights of all such sects should be guaranteed
absolutely, just like the human and civil rights of our
local Lions Club, our bowling alleys, or our beautiful National
if we are truly and very specifically seeking "re-ligio"
— re-connection with the Divine — we must ask ourselves
whether a given sect provides us with "the right stuff"
for doing so. It's a serious question for those who want
more than social consolation out of religion or spirituality.
it is important to note that many such sects did indeed
have a genuine, esoteric origin at one point in their history,
and did provide working means for locating the Divine (generally
through the Transmission of the Spiritual Master who was
the source of the religion). But in many cases, the actual
Transmission and means for connecting with It got lost,
diffused, or replaced by mere rituals over the centuries.
but real telescopes, impressive to the newcomer, because
they actually work! When
I was a kid, I received a telescope as a gift: my first
real telescope! It was a wonderful gift for a 10-year old.
I think it had a magnification of 10 -- which allowed me
to see the details of the markings on the moon.
didn't help a whole lot in seeing the stars, but it sure
helped in being able to see down the block! And made me
wonder what I'd be able to see if I were looking through
an even more powerful telescope . . .
but real religious means, impressive to the newcomer, because
they actually work! Everyone experiences the
Revelation of the Divine, the "Shock of God",
in moments of their life, in some form that is tangible
(although possibly rather "diluted", or filtered
through one's own viewpoint or background): a
"near death" experience, a vision (perhaps as
the result of a "vision quest"), an extraordinarily
tangible feeling of non-separation from all —
it could take many forms.
these means are "weak", in the sense that (a)
they are a product of uncommon circumstance —
everything just happened to be exactly "right"
in order for this Revelation to occur; and (b) for this
reason, they can't be the basis for a moment-to-moment life
of communion with the Divine Being, although they can certainly
inspire one to look for such a moment-to-moment means.
powerful and steadily reliable telescopes. Let's
consider some other telescopes. These ones have magnifications
on the order of "1000 times" on up.
telescopes work on the principle of the magnification
of visible light. One of the problems with using conventional
telescopes, however powerful, is the distraction from
other sources of light (cities, etc.) So the best conventional
telescopes tend to be somewhat removed from urban areas,
and located on the tops of mountains. The Mount Palomar
Observatory's "200-inch Hale telescope" is
a good example of this type, and is situated 3 hours
drive away from Los Angeles, and 2 hours drive from
via Palomar telescope
telescopes use other frequencies than visible light. The
best known are the giant radio telescopes, whose gargantuan
dishes can be several hundred feet across. The virtue
over conventional telescopes is that these telescopes
are not affected by other sources of visible light. A
well-known example is the Arecibo Telescope, located on
Puerto Rico, whose dish is a thousand feet wide.
( 1000 ft. across)
However, you can guess their liability: they are affected
by other sources of radio waves!
thought we had discovered extraterrestrial life,
but it turned out to be the local rock station."
that "transcend" all limitations. Well, here's
where our analogy breaks down, because there is no such
thing as perfection, or freedom from limitation in this
place. But we can at least point to certain other efforts
in telescopy that have some rough analogy —
for instance the Hubble Space Telescope, which, being
in orbit above the atmosphere, provides a "viewpoint"
that is free of all the ordinary limitations of trying
to see stars through an interfering (light-distorting)
the Hubble space telescope
But actually the Hubble telescope is more analogous to
a spiritual seeker who moves into a cave so he or she
can better contemplate the Divine, free of ordinary worldly
distractions. A truer analogy would be a telescope that
doesn't involve going anywhere else (e.g., into orbit),
and can obtain whatever information you are looking for
without any limitations on the type or the accuracy of
powerful and steadily reliable religious means.
In order for a religious means to truly enable a life in
the Divine, moment to moment, that "means" must
provide an unrelenting, always accessible "doorway"
to the Divine. In the world's traditions of "religious
means", the only means of this kind are the great Spiritual
Spiritual Master is a "Transmission Master", himself
or herself literally a doorway through which the Divine
Revelation is transmitted in a tangible form. Spiritual
practice is then primarily a matter of becoming better and
better at tuning into the Divine Transmission of one's Spiritual
nature and strength of that Transmission depends on the
'transparency" (the Spiritual Realization) of the one
serving as the "doorway":
Masters whose Realization of God is the fourth stage of
Masters whose Realization of God is the fifth stage of
Masters whose Realization of God is the sixth or the seventh
more about the "seven stages of life", click
final note on "spiritual correctness".
If we really think about it, to say "all spiritual paths
are equal" is basically a tip of the hat to that non-path,
materialism. Here's why that is so.
spiritual paths that come into contact with something that is
Real, can actually be assessed and compared in terms of What they
come into contact with and how well, how direct, etc. they do
isn't that obvious? To say that they cannot be so compared is
basically to imply that none of them actually come into contact
with anything Real (beyond one's own personal subjectivity). Religions,
in such a view, are merely means for feeling better using consoling
stories and belief systems about the purpose of life and what
happens after life, and, for this reason, should not be assessed
or compared, any more than I should say "my favorite color
is orange, your favorite color is blue, and my choice is better."
That's ridiculous, of course, unless we discover that there is
some other means for assessing these choices, like having orange
as your favorite color gives you an edge in the natural selection
game (because it helps me spot tigers who are about to pounce
on me, just a fraction of a second faster), or something very
specific like that.
So in general,
it is materialists who say "all spiritual paths are equal",
because the underlying assumptions are (a) there is no non-material
reality; and (b) "spiritual" paths or religions are
exclusively about belief, consolation, and the satisfaction that
comes from social groups —
and so in that sense they are all equal.
But do you
truly believe that no spiritual path comes into contact
with a dimension of Reality other than the merely material? Or,
perhaps better put, do you know this for certain about
all spiritual paths? Is it your considered opinion that religions
and spiritual paths are all merely subjective, nebulous, unverifiable,
and none of them contain any substance as a basis for comparison?
If we know
differently, or if we don't know for certain, then let
us not, in effect, imply it, by making the pronouncement
that all spiritual paths are equal.
excerpt is taken from Book
7 of The
Practical Spirituality Series.
For more information about this series, click
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