Many have asked us whether or not a particular source of spiritual knowledge is reliable. Such a question reveals an interesting tendency in many spiritual seekers, which, ironically enough, can more often serve as an obstacle than a remedy. Often lacking personal experience, people go to others for spiritual guidance, animated by a genuine longing for self-improvement. However, acknowledging one's yearning for instruction is a precarious moment, one that can be marred by indiscrimination and naivety, for how does an aspirant identify when a teacher, teaching, or community truly practices what it professes? How does one determine the orientation, ethics, and qualifications of instructors and instructions? Since all spiritual traditions emphasize the necessity of experienced teachers, how does the sincere student know where to find and recognize them?
If we seriously examine our own mind, we discover with great shock that we lack stability or permanence in our psychology. Our thoughts, beliefs, identity, desires, and habits are afflictive, because such conditioned states of mind are constantly in flux. We are victims of ever-changing external stimuli and societal pressures. When we begin to look within ourselves, we discover our profound lack of personal integration, without which spiritual illumination is impossible. Our internal fragmentation is a source of abundant psychological suffering, in that the consciousness is trapped within psychological contaminants. Our soul is enmeshed within defects of pride, anger, fear, doubt, lust, envy, jealousy, and all types of inner conflicts. Rather than possessing the virtues of an awakened, unified soul, we discover that such qualities remain inert, suffocated by our polluted mind. When it comes to moments of great crises, we are often weak and ineffectual, lacking cohesion, order, and purpose.
Due to all of these terrifying realizations, and because we lack training and knowledge for cultivating a rich spiritual life, we seek out teachers. Likewise, when we discover our own inconsistencies, paradoxes, and egotistical states, we learn from hard experience how, like us, the vast majority of people suffer from this same problem, including those who profess to be enlightened and spiritual. Therefore, the serious student who possesses such disturbing revelations is not immediately willing to place their trust in the minds and beliefs of people who possess the very same deficiencies as their own. By trusting without personal verification, we risk altering our trajectory for the worse, since in our initial ignorance, we cannot foresee the consequences of our actions and the application of mistaken knowledge.
This danger does not discredit the need for authentic spiritual teachers. In fact, it highlights the rigorous, demanding, difficult, and necessary process of knowing where to look. Upon having found a teacher or teaching, we must then determine their authenticity through years of consideration. This process does not entail a morbid skepticism or denigrative suspicion of groups and traditions, although many aspirants may find such intense emotions difficult to curtail after having suffered traumas from different spiritual people. Instead, the type of inquiry we advocate is impersonal: distant, cold, equanimitous, and unbiased by neither delirious exultation nor outright rejection. One should approach a teacher or teaching in the same manner as a doctor dissects a carcass on an autopsy table.
There is no overwhelming need to win favors or impress others. It is unnecessary to merely join a community for the purpose of fending off loneliness. We no longer attend a school from fear of hell, or obey authorities because we lack inner discernment and confidence in our own intuitions. There is only the definite reality before us, beyond the need for trying to feel good through uncritical adherence or affiliation with a group.
While communities fostering respect, collaboration, and inspiration are very necessary, they are not the end goal in themselves. At most, groups can foster superior emotions to help elevate our noblest aspirations. They can also provide useful techniques by which to deepen our personal practice and overcome suffering. Yet one should not conflate participation with a group with spiritual progress. When seeking proper diagnoses, medical professionals consider a variety of different contexts, conditions, and facts to arrive at an unbiased conclusion of a person's health. Spiritual inquiry is no different. We must analyze and only confirm the facts, patiently appraising a teacher or teaching beyond saintly appearances or group conformity.
This is why we teach people to be independent, logical, methodical, and dispassionate. This does not negate compassion or superior sentiments, but affirms one's ability to consciously engage with life's mysteries. We seek to comprehend the fundamental structures of reality without flaws, conditions, and prejudices. We do not engage in politics, arguments, or debates, since these activities tend to exacerbate negative emotions. Instead, we should rely on spiritual facts: scientific, provable, repeatable, consistent, verifiable, clear, and definite, without ambiguity or supposition. If the spiritual teachings we follow lack clarity regarding how to live an ethical life, or do not align with the consensus of the prophets, then it is necessary to embody restraint and caution with our conclusions.
Rather than hoard a library of theories in our intellect, we can awaken our own consciousness and experience the truths contained within religions, so that by comparing our experiences with authentic sources, we are not fooled. But unfortunately, the predisposition of most people is to be lazy, to merely accept what other people say without testing their validity with proven methods.
Therefore, spiritual candidates should inquire into the root of diverse teachings to determine their utility. Although lineages can present alluring promises of authenticity, they must not be taken at face value. Otherwise they petrify into unbreakable and unquestioned dogmas despite their genuine worth. Even the most refined and divine principles can imprison if we approach them without vitality, practicality, and intuition. Just as Western academia demands high standards through its rigorous stipulations, likewise spiritual students must be demanding with themselves, a teaching, or a teacher. It is not enough to sit and listen to gurus, to adopt their knowledge with blind devotion and unwavering belief. Buddhist scriptures often emphasize the need for a probationary period: the careful examination of an instructor over the course of many years before deciding to become a disciple. This recommendation also comes with meticulous knowledge of established scriptures, sutras, and tantras, whereby the testimonies of a teacher can be compared, cross-examined, and evaluated.
Many scientists validate research through triangulation: the utilization and convergence of multiple methods, theories, or qualitative data sources to comprehensively prove an understanding of a phenomenon. Likewise, the spiritual student learns to validate a teacher's qualifications through multiple areas of study and practice. If an instructor contradicts the divine law stipulated throughout the religious writings, then students can be certain that he or she is sincere but mistaken.
Considering these points, some definitive questions become: "How effective are the practices of a given tradition in understanding and eliminating the causes of suffering? How far on the spiritual path can these instructions take me? How do I know if I've reached the goal, and whether or not the knowledge I have learned is complete? How do I rely on spiritual facts to determine my trajectory and the expediency of what I have learned?"
Investigation and personal analysis is the essential precondition for developing spiritual competency, for just as artists long to develop and master their art, aspirants must rely on qualified individuals who have already demonstrated spiritual proficiency. Demonstrated by Christ's injunction to "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7), students should adopt a pragmatic approach, since practices, not theories, are the key to unlock hidden potential. However, the Western proclivity towards intellectualization presents a giant hurtle, for exclusively relying on the mind to resolve the issues of the heart more often leads to problems than solutions.
This is why, in our spiritual school, we learn and master the science of meditation. Meditation is the means of experiencing the truth for ourselves, and therefore constitutes the bread and butter of genuine Gnostic institutions. With internal meditation, we suspend the afflictions of thought, the disturbances of emotion, and the agitation of the body, thereby deepening concentration upon one object of inquiry. This is with the purpose of extracting its essential meaning. When the mind is translucent like an unperturbed lake, the heart is alert, awakened, and inspired by the penetrative insights it receives.
The mind believes, the mind that does not believe, the mind that doubts, is an ignorant mind. The path of wisdom does not rely on believing, not believing, or doubting. The path of wisdom consists of inquiring, analyzing, meditating, and experiencing. ―Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education
We reap the joys of our meditations as we develop comprehension. Understanding is a creative act, whereby consciousness is awakened and developed. The consciousness is the only capacity within a human being that can intuit knowledge inaccessible to the physical senses. Since the realities professed throughout world scriptures are beyond physicality, it is logical that meditation is the door to accessing a deeper understanding of that knowledge. Through abandoning distractions, the consciousness can introspect within its own clarified perception to experience the reality of any given thing. This is realized through senses that are atrophied in most people, but are developed through meditative discipline. Comprehension, facilitated through meditation, is the spark of inspiration that inflames our being and drives us to seek greater union with divinity.
While some mistaken individuals have taken meditation at face value―adopting its principles as a system of belief without experience―this is not the goal of any genuine spiritual mystery school. What its founders demand is personal testimony born through the application of expedient techniques. Witnessing the divine is the state of meditation itself: cognizance of reality without the need to rationalize, speculate, doubt, believe, or assume.
Through meditation, we demonstrate our capacities for knowing the metaphysical realities informing the inception and deliverance of scripture. Since much of the knowledge presented in religious writings is abstract―transcending socio-political, cultural, and historical contexts―it is impossible to comprehend their deepest significance without learning how to activate the spiritual senses that inform their foundations. It also requires that we abandon our own suppositions, beliefs, and theories about a given tradition. When we no longer interpret through our own prejudices, we access their essential mysteries with the heart and mind of a child.
Meditation is the universal state of being whereby we apprehend the intuitive grammar of divine allegories, metaphors, symbols, and prophecies. This occurs through mystical visions within meditation and the multidimensionality of dreams. Through these internal experiences, the abstract takes on concrete forms so as to convey messages of the deepest social bearing and the greatest practical import. These dream symbols constitute the moral compass for navigating our daily lives with greater rectitude and conscious love. When the self, the mind, ego, or defects are absent, we experience the plenitude of spiritual creativity and divine fullness, which are born through the daily discipline of meditative practice.
Therefore, learn to rely on your own experiences in conjunction with the knowledge of established sources, i.e. the great religious scriptures of the world. It is not enough to place our trust in popular, contemporary authors whom we have not fully investigated nor personally experienced, primarily when much of their teachings contradict millennia of objective, proven testimonies. Much modern literature does not align with the basic ethical conduct of the prophets, evidenced by a lack of critical engagement with the fundamental notion of chastity. Without sexual purity, transmutation, or sublimation, there is no progress according to the consensus of humanity's greatest luminaries. Alchemy is the science of transforming base metals (desires) into spiritual gold (the virtues of an awakened consciousness). Through this delicate art, we transform lust into love, pollution into purity, and passion into compassion. If you wish to understand this unifying element at the heart of all authentic scriptures, you can study The Perfect Matrimony by Samael Aun Weor.
Understanding how our sexual conduct orients our spiritual life is the basis for accessing transcendent, revolutionary knowledge. This is how we manifest divinity through our works, beyond the shackles of ideation and belief.
I do not want henchmen nor followers, only imitators of my example. I have not come to form any sect, or one more belief, nor am I interested in the schools of today, or the particular beliefs of anyone! ―Samael Aun Weor, Practical Astrology: Zodiacal Course
Resources for Further Study
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
Gnostic articles on practical spirituality: the science, mysticism, art, and philosophy of conscious living.