Introduction: Awakening the World
When one is changing,
How does one know a change is taking place?
When one is not changing,
How does one know that a change hasn’t already occurred?
Maybe you and I are still
in a dream and have not yet awakened.
Fundamental changes are taking place in the inner and outer worlds. We are a part of these changes, and yet these changes also depend upon us. Our spiritual practice, our aspiration and awareness, are part of the lifeblood of the planet. There is an urgency now, a primal need, that we live the depths of our longing, our desire for Truth. Life is calling to us to realize our true nature and life’s wholeness. We are needed to help life to awaken from a dream that is destroying it.
But if we are to live the real potential of our spiritual practice, we need to break free from the focus on our own individual journey. We need to reclaim the simple truth that spiritual life is “not about us,” and open to a larger, all-embracing vision. If spiritual life is not about the whole, it has lost its true nature; it has instead been subverted by the ego and its patterns of self-concern. Everything that has been created is in service to life, to the real purpose of creation. We are not separate from life, and we need to recognize how our individual spiritual journey is part of life’s sacred purpose, and how it can nourish life in different ways.
Just as the individual can forget her true nature and real purpose, as many of us have painfully experienced, so can life itself forget. Life is an interdependent living organism that reflects the collective consciousness of humanity. As humanity has become obsessed with materialism and forgotten the sacred nature of life, so has life forgotten its own sacred nature, its primal purpose of divine revelation. We need to redeem this desecration, give back to the world an awareness of its divine nature. This is the work of the mystic. The mystic, the spiritual seeker, belongs to the core of life, to the mystery of life’s revelation. We carry within our spiritual centers the secrets of life, and we know the deep joy in recognizing life’s need for what is real, what has been hidden within the heart. Part of our purpose is to give these secrets back to life: to help life become aware of its true nature.
Our individual inner journey is part of the world’s journey. To deny this is to live inside the veil of separation. A simple awareness of oneness unites us with all of life, with every stone, every insect, every soda can crumpled in the garbage. We are life itself, breathing, suffering, rejoicing. We are the pain of the sick and the laughter of the child. We are neither better nor worse than any particle of creation. Our hunger for the source, our search for the divine, is life’s hunger, life’s search. We need to give our journey back to life and acknowledge the oneness that unites everything. Nothing is separate. All is He.
To take this step is to renounce many of our spiritual expectations. How often have we hoped that our journey would free us from life’s difficulties, hoped to be something special, to be other than the ordinary, to become “enlightened?” The ego tries to claim everything for itself, even subverting the soul’s longing for Truth into another illusion. Do we have the courage to give up these illusions, our spiritual dreams, to step into the arena of real spiritual service? Can we leave behind this seductive but limited imagined spirituality and embrace the real unknown? Do we dare to know what life and love really want from us, the vulnerability and complete participation that are needed? Here there is no bargaining, no safe place, but a giving of oneself without expectations: a response to a need that is present in every breath. Life needs our spiritual commitment; otherwise it will die, destroyed by greed and materialism, by a culture that thinks only of itself.
Every breath is a remembrance of God and an opportunity to be fully present in life. He is one and we are a part of this oneness. We are present in His world for His sake. And life is calling to us to remember our commitment, our pledge to honor what is real. Our remembrance of God is what is most precious in the world. The breath that remembers Him is His breath of life. Life needs this as a drowning man needs air.
And yet centuries of spiritual history tell us to turn away from life, to seek only the inner journey and renounce the outer. We are told of the darkness and dangers of our instinctual nature, of how we can become so easily seduced and corrupted by the world. These are stories of our forefathers who have given themselves to the eternal search for Truth. Their wisdom is real, and yet it belongs to a time that has passed. We cannot escape from the demands of the present. We cannot be deaf to life’s pressing need. To be awake is to respond to the need of the moment, and in this moment the world needs us. Can we deny the call of the soul of the world?
When we respond to life’s call for our spiritual commitment, we will discover that the ancient spiritual truths are also alive and changing, revealing a new face. The journey Home is not a text written in an old book, but is part of the divine mystery of life. Our longing for God and the journey Home are at the core of creation. They are part of the heartblood of life. Without the stream of souls turning towards God, life would lose its music and sacred meaning. But as the oneness of life changes and evolves, so does the way the journey presents itself. It is always the same journey, the eternal cry of the soul for its source, the lament of the reed torn from the reed-bed. But now the journey needs to acknowledge life’s oneness and the interdependence of all of creation. Oneness needs to be stamped into the cells of the wayfarer, so that from the very beginning of the journey, from the moment the soul turns towards God, we honor the whole. We need to bring our turning towards God into the cells of our body, into the breath that connects us with all of life. We can no longer afford to separate the inner from the outer, the one from the many.
The path is changing. Doors in the inner worlds that used to open us to mystical secrets are being closed, while other doorways, often in the midst of life, are being opened. The path is also revealing deeper truths that until now have been kept hidden. There are spiritual teachings, ancient traditions, that have always connect-ed the inner journey to the whole of life, that have kept the balance between the inner and outer worlds and used spiritual practices as a way of nourishing the whole. Some of these practices will gradually be revealed, their esoteric dimension adapted to the present time. Part of the purpose of this book is to point to this dimension of spiritual practice—to show, for example, how the axis of love functions at the center of the world, and how the heart connects together different levels of reality.
For centuries these have been closely guarded secrets, passed from initiate to initiate. But it is time for humanity to take more responsibility for its spiritual heritage; work that used to be done by only a select few can now be practiced by many. Times of transition are always dangerous, and maybe these truths will be misused. But humanity needs to be given the knowledge that is needed to transform the world.
This book takes the reader into the arena of spiritual service that belongs to the future. It is not a detailed map or exact description of spiritual practices. This is a time of transition in which the new ways are not yet fully formed. Instead this book outlines some of the foundations, the patterns that are developing in the inner and outer worlds, and the part we have to play in their development. It points to some of the spiritual attitudes we have to leave behind and to others that we should cultivate. It also describes some of the dangers and difficulties of this time of transition, the fault lines of our culture and the vast forces colliding beneath them. Its intent is to expand our perception of what is spiritual life, and to align the reader with the work that needs to be done.
At this time little is definite or sure. But something is alive that is changing both us and our planet, and our participation is essential. We are being asked to be present in a new way, to give ourselves in service more completely. These chapters are footsteps to a future that is already present—if we dare to open our eyes. Our Beloved is revealing Himself in a new way, and we are here to witness it, to say, “Yes. Yes. Yes!”