Given that we’ll be speaking to Sri Shankara today on An Hour with an Angel, one of the most profound analysts and synthesizers of spiritual truth that ever walked the Earth, in honor of him, I’d like to spend some time looking at what is often called the “ancient wisdom” or “perennial philosophy,” the common ground or substratum of truth that underlies all religion and spirituality.
If we are to create a spiritual fund of knowledge that is truly cross-cultural and universal, then we need to explore what the truth is below all religious and spiritual thoughts and beliefs.
I’ll be giving several statements of the perennial philosophy over the next few days, some from my own speculations and some from those of others.
The Common Ground of Spirituality
The Primacy of the Soul
The first place to start is to note that all living beings are souls that temporarily inhabit bodies or other forms. The different religions use different terms to indicate the soul: Jesus called it the Christ, the savior, the prince of peace, the treasure buried in a field, the pearl of great price, and the mustard seed that grew into a great tree.
Hindus call it the Atman or Self. Buddhists call it the Buddha nature, our original face, our essence, or Big Mind.
The Purpose of Life is to Know Our True Identity
Another matter that all the enlightened sages of all religions might be found to agree on is that the soul lives through countless lives developing the discrimination to know its true nature. Knowing that is the purpose for which all life was created. When we know our true nature, we’ve accomplished the business of life and return to the Source from which we came.
The purpose of life is the same for a human life form as for a non-human, for an inhabitant of Earth or for an inhabitant of another planet. All are engaged in a journey that spans countless lifetimes and takes us from God to God.
God is a Formless, Transcendent Being, which Christians Call the Father and Hindus Brahman
God in its original formlessness is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God is eternal and unchanging. God is a transcendent being characterized by silence and stillness, consciousness and love. Christians call the One Source and Destination of life the Father and Hindus, Brahman.
When God Descends into Matter, It is Known as the Mother and Shakti by Hindus and the Holy Spirit by Christians
When God enters the dream and builds the world of illusion, it is characterized by sound and movement, but not otherwise. The whole of the world of matter, mater, Mother is created by God with form. This is as true for the realm of the angels and elohim as it is for the realm of humans, animals, plants and minerals. Christians call God with form the Holy Spirit and Hindus call it the Divine Mother and Shakti.
All of Life Progresses Towards Knowledge of Its True Identity by a Process of Spiritual Evolution
All of life assumes form, lives temporary lives, and learns through the assistance of other spirits and the universal laws the truth of its own being. As it does, it progresses from one dimension to another, from one planet to another, and from one realm to another, until it realizes itself by a process of expanding enlightenments and finally returns home to God.
The world is a school of experience in which lessons are taught that expand the individual’s knowledge of itself, moving it from dualistic consciousness to unitive consciousness, and expanding that sense of unity until it encompasses everything that is and everything that is not.
Ultimately There are No Objects, Only One Subject
At the highest level of existence, there are no objects, only one subjective consciousness that is All there is. It is that one subjective consciousness that has individuated itself and lives in manifold forms for the purpose of self-knowledge. The individual develops from an expansion in the sense of Self or “I,” dropping each limited “I” in turn to embrace a more expansive “I” and finally ending up in a consciousness of Self that includes everything.
Enlightenment proceeds by leapfrogging from knowledge of a self to a no-self (or Self), from a Self to a No-Self, etc. The Self is nothing material and hence is not an object but a word that denotes the subject of all experience.
Everything is Constructed of and from Love
Love is the substratum from which everything is made. Love is the attractive force that holds everything together and the dissolutive agent that releases it again into the general ocean of consciousness. This is not discernible as long as separative or dualistic consciousness reigns but when it yields to unitive consciousness the truth of this statement becomes known.
Love is not the emotion we feel, but an umbrageous and immaterial force that fills, moves in, and is co-existent with the formless God.
(Continued in Part 2″.)