The Fool Who Persists in His Folly Will Become Wise... I Hope
In my case, for better or worse, I apparently have a somewhat unique personality style, so I hesitate in proffering general spiritual advice to all and sundry. But at the same time, I would very much like to do all I can to assist people who are genuinely motivated to grow spiritually.
Partly it is a problem of, you know, your orientation. No, not that orientation, but your spiritual orientation. For while the former is a dubious construct with much political but little scientific justification, the latter is definitely a result of heredity. Specifically, it is a reflection of your "vertical DNA."
In my case, I believe I am a "born mystic." Now importantly, this is not to say that I was a born "realized" mystic--an avatar. Nor is it to make the claim that I am some sort of "realized master" today. What it simply means is that this is my innate orientation, inclination, or "bent." It comes as naturally to me as, say, basketball came to Michael Jordan or the trumpet to Louis Armstrong. This does not mean that such individuals don't have to practice in order to realize and hone their gift. But it does mean that they have a certain "head start" in whatever area the gift lies. It also means that others will have to work much harder to attain what comes naturally to one with the gift.
This, by the way, is why great athletes are rarely good coaches. A good coach must be a teacher, but for a truly great athlete, there is a dimension of their greatness that was unlearned and cannot be taught. As a result, the great athlete who becomes a coach often fails or resigns in frustration because they don't understand why their players are not as good as they are. They think it's a just a matter of effort.
On the other hand, most great coaches and managers were mediocre players who had to work very hard to remain with a team. The only exception would be a great player who happens to have a parallel gift for teaching or for understanding and motivating different personality types.
The comparison with sports is a good one, because we are called upon to be spiritual athletes in one way or another.
Two things I can say about myself. I have always had a propensity to contemplate the infinite and to try to understand everything within the context of the whole. The born contemplative is attracted by the eternal in same way that the born musician might be attracted by a piano. To a certain extent, this state of consciousness is a point of departure for me, whereas it would be more of an acquisition--a signpost along the way--for others. For me, the "interior world" has always been very easy to apprehend, first the psychosphere, now the pneumatosphere.
I have no problem at all "doing nothing," because that is precisely when I am the most active--when I am likely engaged in a bewilderness adventure. Conversely, when I look like I am "doing something," I am often nowhere doing nothing. And this includes many things that the average person would find not only pleasurable, but perhaps the summon bonum of existence. I actually enjoy sitting in a chair in the dark at 4:00am staring at a candle illuminating the face of one of my inspirations.
But again, one's gift or predilection must be nurtured and developed. In my case, as you might imagine, my orientation was a dark secret for many years, even to myself. This is because we all have a "blueprint" inside of us, but require a model outside of ourselves to bring it into being and actualize it. Otherwise, it has the same degree of reality as the blueprint of an unbuilt house.
The problem for someone like me is that there is nothing in a conventional education that allows one to recognize and develop a gift for extreme seeking and off-road spiritual exploration. Thus, I struggled all through grade school, high school, and much of college just to maintain average grades. It was of no interest to me. Nevertheless, I was intensely curious and passionately interested in knowledge. It was just knowledge of a different order. For many years I just indulged this passionate curiosity, allowing it to take me where it led, in a completely undisciplined way.
Only through such spontaneous, unplanned and undirected rambling was the blueprint of myself gradually revealed to me. By abandoning myself to the process, with no expectation of any result, it was very much as if I was "led." I definitely wasn't pushing. Rather, it was as if I were responding solely to an inner flame that I was trying to feed and stoke. I tried to provide it with whatever would help it grow in intensity.
One thing that bothers me about our elite secular fundamentalists is that they seem to think it is easy to know Spirit--as if it simply involves believing some nice fairy tale and leaving it at that. In reality, it is almost impossible for our elite secular priesthood to know anything about Spirit. For it is not a matter of intellect per se. Rather, it is a matter of what the intellect is in service to.
As I have mentioned before, both religious and non-religious fundamentalists are still unwavering materialists, living in deadening servitude to matter. Our higher faculties are easily hijacked and enslaved by the lower, and the problem is only worse in a society as abundant as ours, with so many seductive distractions everywhere.
The trial of our age is the trial of Faust. That is to say, we live in an age in which we have unprecedented control over nature, and in which our material desires can be satisfied as never before. But each horizontal satisfaction, no matter how unprecedented and miraculous, is simply met with an increasingly jaded. "okay. What next?" Paradoxically, this "age of miracles and wonders" is the age of banality, ennui, and spiritual exhaustion.
If there were a "devil," what better way to accomplish his ends than to give people the illusion of the possibility of ultimate satisfaction in the horizontal. You might say that the "satanic mantra" is, "I'm bored. What's next."
Intellectuals struggle with this as much, if not more, than the blue collar worker who simply enjoys overeating, having a few beers, and being with his family. For the secular intellectual is haunted by the idea that there is something more, but has no idea how to go about finding it. As a matter of fact, the intellect must be "raised up" to the realm from which religions emanate. Again, this is something the typical secularist utterly fails to understand. You must work diligently to intensify your mental power and to place it in the service of higher things.
It is the difference between being a mere scholar and a sage. Who in contemporary academia would refer to himself as a sage? And yet, sages do exist--those who have successfully passed from mere intellectuality motivated by the desire for knowledge--intellect for its own sake--on to the desire for higher knowledge motivated by love, that is to say the pure love of sophia.
As I mentioned at the top, this comes naturally to me. My happily crucified intellect is willingly in the service of the "breath from above," as I am specifically trying to fuse spirituality and intellectuality in order to create a new, third thing within that transitional space. In the past, this union has been called the "philosopher's stone," but the secular world would probably regard it as the prattle of a stoned philosopher.
Since I already have a real job, I am not motivated by tenure, by popularity, by book sales, or by any other horizontal measure. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God, just as my little contributions are undoubtedly folly to the world.