Spiritual Indigestion and the Gastronomics of Eternity
Now we get to the heart of the subject: that is, what's in it for me? Remember, the whole point of Self and Spirit is to disclose the cosmic significance of the personal self. It's pretty easy to prove that there is an abstract subject shared by all human beings, and which survives our death, since it was never "alive" in the biological sense.
In this regard, we have the empirical testimony of countless sages and mystics of the East who have achieved moksha, nirvana, or samadhi, i.e., liberation. In those approaches, it's not quite correct to say that one is liberated, since it is specifically one's personal identity that must be effaced in order to achieve the liberation. Indeed, you become "the face before you were born."
But what if you want to be there after you die?
Bolton writes that "immortality can be real in a true but trivial way which confounds it with the immortality of the essence of any consciousness." But unlike the Eastern approaches, a Christian gnosis can never be anti-somatic. Rather, in order to be kosher, it requires "both poles of consciousness," by which he means a unification and harmonization of the infinite and finite, form and substance, abstract principle and phenomenological content. In short, "belief in the Incarnation does not allow that the manifest personality is only a ladder to be kicked away when some unspecified entity has identified with the Nous or Atman." Otherwise, who is saved? And for what purpose?
Again, the Incarnation represents the union of finite and infinite -- it is the pouring out of the Infinite, the total self-abandonment of the Infinite into the finite. Indeed, you could say that God "surrenders" to man -- which is why it is for us to return the favor. After all, it is the finite part of us that requires salvation. The infinite part can take care of itself. The reduction of man to only the impassive and unchanging infinite, i.e., Brahman, "is really a denial of the idea of salvation in any meaningful form."
Truly, God "crucifies" himself in order to be -- and to be here -- at all; in other words, to become "limited" and contained within existence. Just so, man must crucify his horizontally enclosed self in order to unite it with the eternal. Bolton: "This lies at the heart of the cosmic function of spirituality. It is the realization of the function of uniting the worlds of spirit and matter, by which man is the uniquely necessary bond of union between God and nature" (emphasis mine).
Here is where freedom comes in, including the freedom to reject eternity: "Although this mediating function is a potentiality of the rational soul, it is one which it is under no necessity to realize" (emphasis mine). Rather, it can obviously confine itself to the horizontal, although, in my experience, such beings typically do so in a sort of compulsive manner that ends up further entangling themselves in appearances and dissipating the soul.
In other words, the soul isn't static; it is always either moving "toward" or "away" from God. It is as if -- no, we are situated between two attractors, "world" and "spirit." Again your mission, should you choose to accept it, is not to plunge yourself one way or the other, but to harmonize them at their innersection, AKA, the cross.
As Bolton observes, "when this truth is ignored... the result can only be a reduction of religion to forms of social behavior... the opposite of which is the purely soul-centered perspective of the New Age religion." People tend to be inclined in one direction or the other, but our task is to resolve these oppositions "in the light of the assimilative principle." I don't know about you, but when I think of the "assimilative principle," I immediately think of the theophagy of Holy Communion. But maybe it's just because I haven't had breakfast yet.
Take, eat. This is my body. This is my blood. Wo, dude. You're freaking me out. No, it's true. This esoteric coonibalism is the transformative principle through which "the naturally unspiritual becomes spiritual by collaboration with a divine inspiration which involves the whole being, acting between soul and spirit and between body and spirit by means of the soul." In short, you must feed your soul and eat a lot of truth and beauty in order to grow the thing that unites time and eternity.
Regarding free will, "if the whole person is 'converted' voluntarily to his inner principle, and the not-necessarily immortal participates in the necessarily immortal, the effect is one of regeneration," AKA, salvation, or "eternal life."
Conversely, you can spend your life slowly killing your soul by eating a lot of junk food and blowing the uppertunity of a lifetome. And to paraphrase Clint, "dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy."
On a less lofty plane, Bolton quotes Plato, who spoke of how, "if a man is entirely dedicated to appetites and ambitions and devotes all his energies to these, all his thoughts must needs be mortal, and he cannot help but become altogether mortal (so far as that is possible) since he has fostered the growth of his mortality." Hence the various paradoxables of Jesus, to the effect that dying to this kind of dispersive and ultimately meaningless activity is when the real living begins.