One of the most uncomfortable and overlooked ideas in the modern occult and noveau spiritual environment is the subject of illusion. Everyone seems to be searching yet no one can agree upon what the ultimate goal is to be discovered.
Today, it seems as if the mystical voice of the ancient traditions is being drowned out a by cacophony of voices. From one side we hear: “we are spiritual but not religious.” Opposing this, equally as loud, fundamentalism — religious but not spiritual — fights to drown out any voice of independence.
Perhaps no better example of this conflict and confusion in the modern world is the West’s awkward attempt to digest Islam. Hidden deep within this ancient tradition resides a taproot of mystical gnosis which the West seems unable or perhaps unwilling to perceive: The People of the Unveiling and Finding, Those Who have tasted the Divine, the Sufis.
This mysterious group of Gnostics has not been optimistic about popular acceptance or acknowledgement and has long realized the power of the illusion of the mundane realm. Yet the Sufi does not call us to turn away but rather to turn within and to move beyond doctrinal disputes and archonic ideologies and penetrate into the Desert of the Heart.
For the West to attempt to journey into this mysterious realm requires a map into a new geography of thought which must be read by eyes adjusted to the light of the Numinous. Before this cardio- vision can be unveiled there must be clear communication and transmission of gnosis and this requires a journey outside of the bounds of western rational Newtonian thought. This is not an overnight process and will require significant paradigm shifts to occur in the west but the potential nevertheless exists.
This is a delicate process and there are no guarantees that it will be successful. However it is of paramount importance for the East and the West to begin to open doorways of communication which transcend myopic religious and political realms. The West must assume the role of the student rather than the clinical scientific academic when traveling into strange Eastern realms.
The Sufi Al-Ghazzali lists ten important characteristics / duties of a student which have much to teach the Western mind:
1.) The student must keep himself inwardly calm and focused.
2.) The student is to focus on and not ignore mundane matters yet not lose sight of higher trans-mundane goals.
3.) The student must submit to the teacher.
4.) The student is not to concern himself with apparent doctrinal differences or opinions held within various traditions.
5.) The student should familiarize himself with other areas of knowledge outside his main area of study.
6.) The student should follow his course of study at a pace unconcerned with possessing a quantifiable product reflecting the fact that gnostic transmission is non-linear in nature.
7.) The student should follow his course of study by focusing on the foundations and build his further study on established realms of learning which signify a state of completion.
8.) The student must grasp the relative ranking of all the levels of his study.
9.) The student must keep self-improvement as the main goal of his study.
10.) The student must know and understand the connections between the various levels of his study.
These traits are foundational topographic considerations for any serious seeker and must be pondered deeply when pursuing any respective course of gnostic study. The Western mind seeks to avoid such considerations as the application of these aforementioned duties requires a sobering self examination. Two of the most important traits in today’s world are the trait of not ignoring mundane matters while pursing higher trans-mundane goals and the trait of not concerning oneself with apparent doctrinal differences or opinions held within various traditions.
The modern age is one of futuristic obsession which infects even spiritual systems. Various spiritual leaders implore their followers to await a coming “golden age” in some nebulous future and the everyman/woman constantly live in fear of the future while creating more and more goals to achieve some apparent future state of security, all while ignoring the present state of the body-mind and present state of the world. Our spiritual praxis should be a fire which guides our path on all levels of life and help us digest even the most mundane life experiences.
Many modern spiritual paths cry for followers to turn away from the corporeal experience and judge any physical desire along the lines of a fundamentalist pseudo-moralistic paradigm. This further reinforces the poison of transcendental illusion asking the seeker to suppress physical pleasure in the hope of a future reward.
We must seek to integrate and transform the physical rather than suppress and escape and the trait of not ignoring mundane matters while pursuing a spiritual path plays a large role in supporting this balance; every aspect of life can provide a glimpse into the Numinous, not just the “sattvic” or the “spiritual”. The more this is ignored, the more we move toward a fanatical fundamentalist paradigm.
The trait of not concerning oneself with apparent doctrinal differences or opinions held within various traditions is also vitally important for gnostic transformation. Various systems seek to claim superior viewpoints and not just in Eastern or Western Abrahamic fundamentalism. Many modern spiritual guides strive to be provocative and iconoclastic claiming revelations of ancient traditional gnosis yet upon close examination are thinly veiled fundamentalists themselves.
One does not have to adopt an ersatz New Age mindset of “all paths are one” but, instead, can grasp the fact that various systems will differ, often widely, in approach yet still provide the respective students with valid tools for spiritual transformation. It is incumbent upon spiritual seekers to focus upon their own chosen system of gnosis and how this can inform every aspect of their lives before they seek to judge or attack other systems in an apparent defense of a moralistic superiority.
Ultimately each gnostic walks his or her own path and strives to connect with the rare opportunity of finding a teacher and cultivating a state of mind which can see beyond myopic fundamentalist obfuscation. Perhaps the both the East and the West should take the time to stop and listen to the Secret Ones, the Luminous Ones, The Sufi’s and gaze upon the world with the Eyes of the Heart.
Craig Williams is the author of Tantric Physics Vol I: Cave of the Numinous. He has been a practitioner of Yoga, Ayurveda, Tantra, Jyotish and Vedanta for more than 25 years and has undergraduate degrees in Religious Studies, Philosophy and English Literature and a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine. He is also an ordained gnostic Bishop and an adept of Esoteric Voudon.
He will be hosting a webinar on gnosis on Friday, December 12, from 8:00pm to 10:00pm CST. You can find out more here.
Craig lives in Austin, Texas where he operates a busy private medical practice specializing in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Ayurveda (www.AyurvedaAustin.com). He is a licensed Acupuncturist and a Professional member of the American Herbalist Guild and the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.