Norman D. Livergood
Norman D. Livergood
Discovering the spiritual domain requires that we actually participate in that reality, not merely read about it or think about it. You must be a participant, not merely a scholar.
Music and art are "triggering mechanisms" 1 which can provide us with intimations of the spiritual world.
Contemplating the image to the left may allow you to begin to get a "sense" of this domain.
All the great adepts of mysticism have taught that discovering the spiritual domain requires us to move beyond our ordinary consciousness (thinking, feeling, worrying, planning, etc.).
Let's stop for a moment to make sure we've experienced the full impact of that teaching:
"To discover the spiritual domain requires that we move beyond our ordinary state to a different mode of consciousness."
What other modes of consciousness are we capable of? Let's take a look at the table below:
Level Modes of Consciousness Characteristics Entities Faculties 3 Spiritual Eternal, Unchanging Forms, Higher Ideas Higher Consciousness 2 Metaphysical
1-C Terrestrial: Conscious Measurable
Sensing, Feeling, Thinking, Reasoning 1-B Terrestrial: Unconscious
Trance states, Instinct 1-A Terrestrial: Pre-conscious Irrational
In our ordinary states of consciousness (1-A, 1-B, 1-C), we exist on the material or physical plane and are in touch with only our sensations and thoughts. We cannot apprehend or experience the spiritual, supersensual domain through ordinary sensing or thinking.
It's first necessary to gain some comprehension of the intermediate plane of being: the metaphysical, philosophical, or conceptual dimension. We develop an understanding of this plane through the use of our Reason or Intellect and our Intellective Imagination--higher organs of comprehension.
"There is an intermediate world, the world of Idea-Images, of archetypal figures, of subtile substances, of 'immaterial matter.' This world is as real and objective, as consistent and subsistent as the intelligible and sensible worlds; it is an intermediate universe 'where the spiritual takes body and the body becomes spiritual,' a world consisting of real matter and real extension, though by comparison to sensible, corruptible matter these are subtile and immaterial. The organ of this universe is the active Imagination"
Henry Corbin, Alone With the Alone:
Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn 'Arabi
The great teachers Hermes, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato 2 taught how to activate our Reason or Intellect, through what Plato refers to in the Phaedo as "the practice of dying." What Plato is referring to is "dying before you die" which is one of the central concepts of the Perennial Tradition. 3 Philosophia, the love of and the search for wisdom, is the actual practice of learning to leave the body and live in the soul, the spiritual body.
Perennialist savants teach initiates how to achieve a higher kind of knowledge: the direct perception of forms or ideas by the "eye of the soul." Through a specific technique of meditation, intense self-examination, and intellective contemplation, Reason or Intellect can provide a vision of eternal truth, goodness, and beauty--that is, a vision of God.
"The true procedure of spiritual advance is to envision beautiful things of this world as steps along which one mounts upwards to that Higher Beauty."We learn how to develop the ability to dwell in the spiritual or supersensual domain by activating our Higher Reason or Higher Intellect--our Higher Self. As we gain a stabilized higher consciousness it gradually develops in us a spiritual body whose inner senses reveal a spiritual world.
The lower portion of the image to the left represents sensation or thought --the organs of perception used at the material or empirical level of being.
We simply cannot go any further with these modes of consciousness to cross over to the spiritual realm (represented by the distant mountains in the image).
To reach the spiritual domain, we must enter other, higher modes of consciousness: Higher Reason and Higher Intellect. In other words, to dwell in the spiritual realm we must STOP 4 using our customary means of apprehension: sensations and thoughts. They can't get us across to where we want to go.
Now, saying we must stop using these ordinary means of cognition and learn to use other modes of consciousness is easier said than done. How do we do this?
First things first. We must WANT to experience the spiritual domain. And we can't assume that just because we have a vague curiosity about things spiritual that we possess a genuine desire to discover this realm.
Question: How many metaphysicians does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Only one metaphysician; but the bulb really has to want to change.
Five-Fold-Great Hermes, The Skeleton Key to the Universe
A genuine desire to experience the spiritual realm comes only with a deep dissatisfaction with living exclusively in the material/empirical domain. Why would we be dissatisfied with our ordinary experience?
At unique moments--hearing a particularly transformative piece of music, viewing a phenomenal art object or scene in nature, or experiencing an overwhelming act of human kindness--you may get a clear intimation that there are higher domains--and that you'd like to experience those domains more frequently than by happenstance.
You may also reflect that in a few years--after death--you will have your being in the spiritual domain beyond the terrestrial plane. It might seem reasonable to begin now to experience that domain, to become acquainted with its features and to understand what qualities we bring to that new state of being.
You might also find that the teachings of adepts in mysticism provide new incentives for wanting to experience the higher, spiritual realm.
"As you gain control of your spiritual body, you discover that it has a wondrous creative force. Your spiritual body possesses an engine of power, dynamically creative, capable of impressing and molding your material world in direct ratio to the creative force you produce in your inner being. This force is not a mental capacity, it's a higher spiritual power. It derives, not from that mere agent of the soul, the intellect, but from the spiritual center within us."
Betty and Steward Edward White, Across the Unknown
If you gain the necessary--and appropriate--desire to experience the spiritual realm, then you become a Seeker. Your humble but unwavering aspiration for discovery of the spiritual realm provides your impetus, and the force of your desire calls forth its complement in the higher dimensions.
Teachers in the mystic way are able to use spoken and written words, symbols, stories, visual images, and exercises in ways which provide the opportunity for seekers to develop the capabilities required for spiritual experience. There is literal magic in the words and actions of advanced sages.
I use the words "provide the opportunity" above, because the only thing a master in the mystical way can do is to set up the opportunity for us to act on our own to realize the possibilities provided.
Mystical savants use objects and events which can--with the appropriate response from the seeker--eventuate in a transformation in our state of consciousness. This fact requires our full cognizance before its significance and import can be realized.
In our quest for the spiritual domain, we can study several different elements with the "triggering mechanism" just referred to. I'd suggest you reflect carefully on these teachings and poems to allow their full impact to activate the elements in you they're designed to energize.
"The disciple said to his master: 'How may I come to the supersensual life so that I can see God and hear Him speak?'
The Master said: 'When you can leap for a moment into that where no creature dwells then you can hear what God speaks.'
"Disciple: 'Is it near or far?'
Master: 'It is within you. Could you halt volition and thought for but one hour then you could hear God's inexpressible words.'
"Disciple: 'How can I hear when I stop volition and thought?'
Master: 'When you stop willing and thinking self then the eternal hearing, seeing and speaking will be revealed within you, and God will see and hear through you. Your ego-centric hearing, willing and seeing hinders you from seeing and hearing God.'"
Jacob Boehme, Of the Supersensual Life
Corpus Hermeticum XI "Unless you make yourself equal to God, you cannot understand God; for the like is not intelligible save to the like. Make yourself grow to a greatness beyond measure, by a bound free yourself from the body; raise yourself above all time, become Eternity; then you will understand God. Believe that nothing is impossible for you, think yourself immortal and capable of understanding all, all arts, all sciences, the nature of every living being. Mount higher than the highest height; descend lower than the lowest depth. Draw into yourself all sensations of everything created, fire and water, dry and moist, imagining that you are everywhere, on earth, in the sea, in the sky, that you are not yet born, in the maternal womb, adolescent, old, dead, beyond death. If you embrace in your thought all things at once, times, places, substances, qualities, quantities, you may understand God."
The Nature of the Quest
We must undergo a literal REBIRTH into a different dimension of reality.
"Believe me," Jesus said, "a man cannot even see the kingdom of God without being born again."To be born into a new state of being, we must first "die" to this present mode of consciousness.
"Rebirths are going on all about us, and we pay no attention. They are such commonplaces. . . I don't know why it should surprise me so to stick my head up into a new world, and realize that I can gradually draw myself up until I get entirely into it. It is quite natural." 5
"This exit into greater life is the crowning glory of our existence here. It means transfiguration into an electrified and eternal being. The exit is through the doors of self.
"Now stepping outside oneself actually means the practice of making one's own in imagination the conditions of the hour of death. . . .
"Suppose the day came for the Great Adventure of departing hence. Even a picnic or a vacation or a business trip demands some preparation. One is apt to take this tremendous step quite suddenly. What is it going to be like? Why turn our imaginations away from it so piously - or is it cowardly? Why not entertain ourselves with the buoyancy of anticipation? It is quite as speculative an amusement as contemplating a trip to Thibet, or reading what astronomers say about Mars, or any other pet flight of fancy. This has the advantage that we are actually dated up for it.
"Children play beautiful games of expanding consciousness, supposing giants and mighty superlatives. I'm getting just such a cheerful imaginative picture of when we depart hence. It is as though everything had been taken from me but the residue of me, such as would remain if I were to die now. It's all I've got to orient me in this new world in which I am just an embryonic being. Every circumstance of life is gone." 6
What are you when you experience rebirth into the spiritual dimension? A new-born, a hatchling, a being with a new, spiritual body. Like any infant having just experienced birth, you must struggle for conscious awareness and understanding. You must struggle to conquer the wilderness of lack of comprehension.
Functioning as a half-conscious newborn thing, you begin to gain a sense of reality, you begin to develop the new senses of your spiritual body. Like an earthly baby, you work at activating your new potentialities.
Awareness of the spiritual domain is at first so subtle and so unaccustomed that it seems to be a groping for the intangible and the unattainable. The first understanding of the spiritual domain grows in us from so subtle a beginning that it does not even reach our waking consciousness for some time. As we gain a stabilized wider consciousness we gradually activate the organs of our spiritual body which reveal a transcendent world.
You're then in a new reality, which has definite substance, much different from the terrestrial substances of air and earth and sealing wax and kings.
You can best get a "sense" of this new reality's substance by thinking of the "substance" of an earthly shadow or a rainbow or a sun stream in the clouds. You can't grab onto those earthly "substances" but they're real nonetheless. Just so, this new plane of being you've been born into has a different--but real--kind of substance to it. And it's this new kind of reality that you begin to explore.
Get ready for some surprises, because the spiritual domain is very different from the terrestrial world. The first marvellous surprise is the discovery of an exquisite joy through participating in a vast harmony. Your own little joy of being is joined to that of every other harmonized being in a great chorus of unity. It's all One, Here, Now; everyone and everything superimposed in one eternal moment.
You can get a "sense" of this harmony by reflecting on your earthly experiences of uniting yourself with someone or something in eagerness of admiration and affection; a process whereby you merged momentarily with the Universal.
No longer is reality a lot of separate cells--Toms's, Dick's and Harry's--all more or less attracting or repelling or self-seeking. This new reality contains us all combined, as it were, into one great spiritual entity.
You also "sense" this universal quality of life in the woods and waters, the endless variety of plants and animals, pulsing and vibrating in a universal medium. You get intimations of this harmonious unity of the spiritual domain when you contemplate higher realities such as beauty, goodness, justice, and peace, meditating on their essence, not their varied expressions.
As you become acquainted with your spiritual body and the reality in which it subsists, you discover a definite force assisting your best efforts and the efforts of all. You find you can count on its unfailing help. You become aware that this force is positive and constructive, directive in a forward movement of spiritual evolution.
The underlying feeling of your life in the spiritual realm is one of eternity; continuous being extending far beyond your present earth span of years, continual development and progress through progressively higher modes of being to an ultimate goal.
"Since thou canst not bear the unveiled Light, drink the Word of Wisdom, for its light is veiled,
"To the end that thou mayst become able to receive the Light, and behold without veils that which now is hidden,
"And traverse the sky like a star; nay, journey unconditioned without a sky.
"Twas thus thou camest into being from non-existence.
"How didst thou come? Thou camest insensibly.
"The ways of thy coming thou rememberest not, but I will give thee an indication.
"Let thy mind go, then be mindful! Close thine ear, then listen!"
1 These triggering mechanisms are explored in a recently published book: Portals to Higher Consciousness.
2 See this essay on Plato's Contemporary Relevance.
3 See the author's recently published book The Perennial Tradition
4 "As we try to gain cognizance of the highest faculty we possess, our eternal spirit, the more developed intellect constantly interferes, insisting on translating every experience into its own language and limiting us to its own comprehension. The muscle-bound intellect insists that we go no farther than the facile ready-made symbols its social conditioning sanctions. In activating our spiritual faculties, we have to keep the mind quiet by systematically baffling its efforts at restriction. Meanwhile, we work directly to stimulate the enduring part, developing spiritual awareness." (Betty and Steward Edward White, Across the Unknown) 5 Betty and Steward Edward White, Across the Unknown