In my recent post, Please Don’t Call Me New Age , I spoke of the “perennial philosophy”, a shared world view of the meaning of life — found in cultures across the globe and across the ages.
This perennial philosophy has been documented in India, Ireland, Africa, China, Mexico, Japan, Egypt, pre-colonial America, Greece… In each place, it
displays individual features peculiar to that culture, as you would expect. But, remarkably, in all places from Japan in the Far East, New Mexico in the Far West and Jeruselem in between, certain core beliefs have been universally held.
So what are they?
1. There is a God/Spirit. Whether they called it Shiva, Tao, The Great ‘I Am’, Allah, the Self, Yahweh, Dharmakaya, The Source, The One, the Trinity, all the sages, saints and great writers agree: there is a dimension beyond the material world. In the Western world this is most commonly referred to as God but because of the hurt and murderous arguments committed in that name, I am going to call this dimension Spirit. (which also seems fitting for a blog about “inspiration”, the condition of being “in-spirit”).
2. Most of us are separated from Spirit by our ego. What keeps us from Spirit and its joyful, peaceful and creative awareness is ego. Ego, in this sense, is our attachment to our individual self, our thoughts, experiences and emotions. Sin and suffering is not something that happens to the ego, it is inherent to its nature, which is always thinking, seeking, grasping, pushing, doing. Gautama Buddha, the great student of suffering, wrote best about this but the same concept is found in the writings of Catholics, Quakers, Kabbalists, Islamicists and Gnostics.
3. You can (re)connect with Spirit any time you want. The commonest “message” that the sages and mystics want to share, the one that gets most of them most excited, is that at the core of your being, you are Spirit. No matter how separate – lonely, discontented, fearful, bored, restless – you might feel, you can reconnect with the deep, ever-present realms within.
4. This inner reconnection leads to a transcendence of self. You reconnect by turning your attention away from the outer world to focus within. The sages offer many ways to take this internal journey: reading, meditation, yoga, art, self-denial, contemplation, writing, good works, prayer. All of these stepping stones fall into one of two categories, knowledge or devotion. Knowledge – as opposed to information – expands the ego until it explodes. Devotion reduces the ego until it implodes. One way or the other, we go from separate, small-self to expansive, spiritual-Self.
5. As we expand spiritually in this way, we go beyond transient ups and downs, to know true joy. As small self is replaced by Spirit, sin, suffering and restlessness lessen, replaced by deep, ongoing feelings of peace, contentment and connection — regardless of what is happening in your day to day life.
6. It is possible to completely transcend the ego. Enlightenment, rebirth, resurrection, nirvana, heaven: all attempt to describe the same condition. You have let the ego die. You no longer identify with its pains or pleasures, its fears or successes. All has been subsumed into a vast, clear, open awareness within a timeless Now.
Everywhere humans have lived, they have agreed on these profound truths. The discoveries of science have not, and its seems to me, cannot disprove them. On the contrary science, particularly in the arenas of quantam physics, brain research and neurology, is in many cases confirming what the sages have long held.
Test It Yourself
What this wisdom of the ages gives you is a way out of belief in human-created gods and superstitions. It asks you to take nothing on mere belief but gives you a set of experiments you can test against your own awareness and experience.
Let the laboratory be your own mind. Experiment with your chosen pathway (I recommend meditation or, if your mind – like many Western minds – cannot settle to that, F-R-E-E-Writing). Try it over time and compare your test results with the millions of others over the milennia who have also performed the experiment.
And when you do – or if you already are – please share your experiences with us by leaving a comment below.