In ‘Spirituality Without God’ I describe a process of the complete humanization of our being freed from dependence on the God-paradigm which generally supports the notion of perfected life of enlightenment. One of the pivotal insights of ‘Spiritual Humanism’ is that once the inquiry into integral humane living has abandoned the notion of God as the ultimate destiny of our spiritual search, the idea of the perfection of human life also falls away.
The religious and spiritual traditions, on the other hand, propose that a state of perfected living, immersed in the total embrace of God, is possible and desirable as a result of spiritual practice. In fact, human perfection has become identified with the truly enlightened condition. The reason for this is that the deepest enquiry into human life has always been associated with some or other religious, mystical or esoteric path which has as its ultimate goal the unification with God as transcendental Being. And as all the spiritual traditions project God as the perfect state prior to both dilemma and all forms of human’ weakness’, unification with God (which implied total identification with God in any of its many forms) became identified with the presumed perfection which is God.
Founded in the notion of a perfect God, humans who became enlightened assumed the disposition of a certain holiness – a kind of other-worldliness – which sets them apart from other ‘lesser’ beings. This turned them into objects of desire, praise, imitation, worship, authority and so on, simply because they were regarded as holy – being whole in God – and therefore perfected. These ones we call saints, avatars, God-incarnates. Onto such folks we then project and transfer all our hopes of perfected life, and tend to see in them the living embodiment of human perfection. The fact that our saints are merely human beings who exhibit extraordinary qualities of human development, be these siddhis (powers); signs of genuine compassion and love for humanity; insight into life and living; esoteric knowledge; freedom from much of that which confounds our ordinary lives, and so on, does not turn them into perfected human beings. They are highly talented people who, either through coincidence or hard inner work in certain specialized fields, experience aspects of human potential, not generally available to those of us who do not involve ourselves in such specialized training or inner enquiry.
Once we remove the God-concept from these extraordinary experiences, nothing about the experiences of these extraordinary people change. God or no God, if the experience they have is non-conceptually based (i.e. not created and sustained by thought alone) these could point to a reality within the potential of human experience which need not be called saintly. These will immediately be recognized as aspects of such a person’s human potential and nothing else. And because these experiences are not associated with God, the question of whether such folks are perfected or not, would not arise. This would then set their followers and students free to co-explore with them their own inhibitions and forms of self-enslavement without having to live under the traditional dominance of the authority of the ‘perfected’ enlightened ones. The living truth of their own falsehood could then be investigated and transcended in a purely human context where the guru is no longer the holy one, the God-perfected one, but rather just one of us – albeit with more clarity about the matters their students are still struggling with. The guru then becomes a teacher and facilitator, not a dispeller of darkness, leading the student back to God or to the realization of their own primordial unity with God.
In this way the spiritualization of our being becomes most primarily the humanization of our being. The true guru could then be regarded as the most human and humane creature: not God-like or God-filled. The true guru is mostly empty of themselves and therefore full of true, deep and profound humaneness which manifests naturally as love, compassion, availability and freedom from the implications of thought.
But the guru need not be perfect as a human being. What ‘Spiritual Humanism’ proposes is that perfection within the human context is a myth. Human life is always circumstantially bound and therefore never entirely free from conditional challenges and limitations. The traditional ‘God-realized’ person may appear to be perfected as human being within the sphere of their Ashram, while surrounded with loving and devoted students. However, place such a person in the disturbing atmosphere of modern city life, having to deal with all the challenges facing our ordinary folks every day, and it is not clear how psychologically and emotionally stable such a person will remain. Circumstances play a profound role in the way we conduct ourselves, inwardly and outwardly. And this is true also of the traditional teachers we generally believe to be God-perfected ones.
From this perspective it is clear that all of us, including our teachers and guru’s could learn from one another and that this learning process never ends. Whatever we practice as gestures toward sanity, wholeness, spirituality, humanization, openness of mind and heart, will always remain subject to the necessity for us to function within this world as husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, employees, employers and so on. Our roles determine certain necessary functions. Yet, our roles need not define us. This why ‘Spiritual Humanism’ places such high regard on the humanization of our being so that we develop a line of emotional and mental equilibrium which is carried through as a continuum of sanity to everything we are forced by circumstances to engage ourselves in.
‘Spiritual Humanism’ does not project perfection as a goal of human life. It makes the very realistic proposition that there is considerable scope for each of us to improve the quality of our lives, even radically and categorically, by opening ourselves up to the obscured potential for integral living within our being. To be human is to make mistakes, but to be human is also to live in freedom from that which we impose upon ourselves as determined by the separate self-sense. To be free from the limiting self-definitions of the ego, is not to be free from circumstances: rather it is free to approach circumstances from a disposition of intelligence and free emotional participation. We cannot deny our present human condition which includes the circumstance in which the body/mind has to function. What can and needs to be explored and investigated is how to proceed with living a humane existence as far as our human condition allows for.
Much will depend on how we view our human condition. If we see ourselves as ego bound morsels of life, for ever dependent on our Gods and their representatives for our salvation, no doubt, will we continue needing them to help us to become as ‘perfect’ as they are. But if we see human life as a continuum of the expression of our human potential, from utter confusion to great clarity and integral living, no such elaborations would be necessary to bring order, sanity and love to our world. All we need would be to self-reflect upon that which we bring to our own lives that binds our being into complex structures of self-limitation always manifesting as less than the simplicity of our true humaneness.
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