Thursday, December 29, 2011

Varying Manifestations of Union

As I look back I can see that my views on perfection in earlier years were unduly idealistic.

I would have believed at that time that human perfection in the pursuit of spiritual union was indeed possible and that many shining examples can be found in the various mystical traditions of special individuals who already realised such union to a profound degree.

Though still in a certain sense believing that the pursuit of a high degree of union is still indeed attainable for certain individuals I would no longer associate such attainment with human perfection (which does not in fact exist).

So it would now be my view that even the greatest of mystical exponents would have suffered from many human faults and imperfections (and indeed in some cases glaring imperfections). Indeed without a keen existential realisation in the personality of the existence of severe limitations and imperfections the very attainment of union would not be possible.

Not surprisingly I have been drawn over the years to the spiritual superheros of my own christian tradition. However putting it bluntly I always found a lack of true honesty in the accounts of such individuals. The standard hagiographic practice unfortunately is to start by admitting that these saints were keenly aware of their own sinfulness (as the least of humankind) and then to proceed to objectively portray them as without any blemish.

Indeed something of the same practice characterises the process of canonisation of saints in the Catholic church.
Personally I think it somewhat ridiculous to create a process whereby one is deemed a saint if found free of any severe natural failing. It is even worse as the very desire of "backers" to have their chosen hero deemed a saint creates a strong unconscious bias against honestly confronting criticism that might be deemed unacceptable of sainthood. This is not to suggest that certain individuals can indeed reach advanced levels of sanctity. However this is always in the context of human imperfection. Indeed the two are ultimately inseparable. It is only through a keen realisation of one's human imperfection with the ongoing attempt to freely accept its necessary existence that one can attain a high degree of sanctity!

I feel pretty sure that if more was truly known about what was really going in in the lives of many of the most revered saints that many would be shocked to see so much human failing. However from my perspective this would certainly make the process of recognising sanctity much more authentic!

Recently I have come to the conclusion that the process of achieving spiritual union - even when authentic - can often remain largely confined to limited areas of the personality. And the very attempt to then maintain union can in certain circumstances lead to other weaker aspects of the personality remaining largely undeveloped.

Most people grow up with specific talents as personality features (that thereby give confidence and are viewed as strengths).
The desire then to attain authentic degree of spiritual union can be built around achieving a very high degree of integration and fidelity with respect to these strengths.

For example in my case I would see the greatest asset as a willingness to follow personal convictions and to unceasingly question all conventional truth. So when this quest brings me into conflict with accepted notions, I conscientiously follow my own lights.
Attempts at achieving union have followed a unique course requiring me to constantly re-evaluate received wisdom.
In this respect I would say that I have attempted to maintain the highest standards with respect to truth (sometimes at considerable personal cost). However I can see that other areas of my life have remained relatively undeveloped e.g. in a manifest concern for the rest of humanity and a willingness to help the less fortunate where possible.

Perhaps this could be explained in terms of the analogy of fire. In other to achieve union certain materials need to be closely integrated and heated to eventually achieve a blaze that will transform them into pure energy. However meanwhile in the same fireplace other materials may be considerably separated and never achieve much heat. So these materials to a considerable extent can remain unreformed.

Now to maintain the blaze it is necessary that additional material be constantly added. However if these materials are largely in the same place where the blaze is already occurring, the fire of transformation can continue without separated materials being involved.

In a similar manner, someone who has advanced to a high level of attainment with respect to certain limited aspects of personality development may remain and even advance at this level while other important features of personality remain largely untouched.

Now there is a sense in which a blazing fire will inevitably spread so that all - initially - separated material eventually becomes consumed in the blaze. Likewise with the greatest of mystics though initially attaining union through their strongest personality characteristics a high level of integration would eventually have spread to all aspects. Such a form of union is inherently more dynamic and tends to continually accelerate transformation.

However having said this it is possible for example to reach a high degree of contemplative union (based on one's personality strengths) without this quickly affecting the rest of personality.

Nor is such union confined in any way to those who are conventionally religious but may occur where both a great motivation is present and an unusual integrity with respect to truth maintained (in the context of using one's key talents and strengths)