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Christ, Spirituality and the West

After nearly 40 years of interest in spiritual matters it's increasingly clear to me that any genuine revival of spirituality in the West must be linked to Christ. The huge range of spiritual approaches that opened up in the 20th century, particularly since the 1960s, has led many to believe that all paths to God are more or less equally valid and it's just a matter of choosing the one that suits you best, whether that be a form of Eastern philosophy, Western esotericism, paganism, occultism, New Age mysticism or whatever it might be. All roads lead to Rome, so to speak. And it's true that most of these systems can help lift a person out of the materialistic morass humanity has fallen into over the last few hundred years, and give him or her a grounding in spiritual understanding and practice. But in all of them something important, even fundamental, is missing, and that is Christ. For the fact is that Christ really is the light of the world. He is the spiritual truth that…

No One Comes to the Father Except Through Me

This is an extraordinary saying which addresses something many people interested in esoteric or mystical forms of spirituality, contemporary or traditional, tend to shy away from. But it's something that we, especially we in the West, must always come back to. Is Jesus Christ a spiritual teacher or is he the spiritual teacher?
“No one comes to the Father except through me”. Can these words possibly be true? On the face of it they seem to be saying that Christianity is the only valid spiritual path. But do they really mean that or are they pointing to something different? Remember that at the time they were spoken there was no such thing as Christianity. There was Christ but not yet a religion based on his teachings. Let me set forth here what I think Jesus meant by these words.
To begin with, though, there is little point in even considering this matter unless you think that the words might be true, and that Jesus had (and still has) the right to say them. So let me say straightaway…

Eastern Religion For Western People

I wrote in the previous chapter that I had never seen Eastern religions particularly benefiting Westerners. I know that is a rather sweeping statement but, generally speaking, I think it is true though, as with any rule, there will always be exceptions. Before proceeding any further I should first of all say that I have learnt an enormous amount from Eastern religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, but I have learnt this as an outsider looking in. I have never been tempted to adopt an Eastern approach but I have used insights gained from studying these philosophies to deepen my own understanding of spiritual matters. So I am certainly not saying that Westerners should not study Eastern religions. I don't say they must but I think that if they do they will gain a lot thereby. However studying a religion and fully participating in it are two quite different things. It is the latter I am referring to when I say that I don't think Eastern religions particularly benefit Western…

Christianity and Immanence

One of the reasons that religion is at a low ebb in the modern Western world is that Christianity at some point lost a sense of the immanence of God. It lost the sense of spirit, leaving the divine as a remote, transcendent being far removed from this Earth. As a result Christianity came to be seen by many as a religion of dry theory and restrictive morality. Indeed, in many respects that's exactly what it became. At the same time, for people in the West nature lost the sacred quality it had had in pagan religions and was emptied of meaning because Christians, always sensitive to the problems of pantheism, did not sufficiently appreciate that, while nature is not sacred in itself, it can be regarded as such insofar as it is God's creation and imbued with his being. Then, of course, came the scientific revolution which finished what that process had begun and stripped the natural world of any remaining mystique.
So Christians lost sight of the universal spirit in nature and in t…

Spiritual But Not Religious

Today it is often claimed that spirituality and religion are two quite different things with the former deriving from an inner experience of God while the latter is just a matter of externals, of doctrines and dogmas and obedience to authority. Spirituality is the understanding of an essential oneness between Creator and created or even just of life, but with religion there is always a sense of separation between human beings and God. One is free while the other is to do with law and custom. This attitude strikes me as focusing exclusively on the virtues of one and the defects of the other, and more than a little unfair. The truth is rather subtler than such a rigid distinction between the two would imply.
It is true that real spirituality goes way beyond religion of the elementary variety, that of the believer who believes what he is told to by the priests and conventions of his faith, and doesn't make much attempt to see further than that. He is satisfied with accepting outer au…

The Truth About Suffering

God and Suffering

Why is the world such a terrible place? Anyone inclined to a belief in God must have asked themselves this question at one time or another.  It points to a problem that prevents many souls from accepting there is a spiritual reality behind outer appearance. This can lead to discouragement and the attitude that there is really little need to try to make oneself a better person. Just eat, drink and be merry and so on. But if we could understand why the world is not as ideal as we might like it to be I think that would remove one of the main obstacles to belief. It would give meaning and purpose to our existence, and what is life without meaning and a higher purpose than the satisfaction of personal aims which, even if achieved, never brings lasting content?
I was once asked this question in the following form.
Q. Why is the world such a terrible place? Why did God, if he exists, not create it perfect? Doesn’t the fact that it’s so imperfect support the materialistic thesis that it arose …