The ancient mariners navigated their sea route at night by the stars. These tiny twinkling bits of knowledge high in the night time sky offer useful information. The same could be said for our spiritual journey. Likewise, navigation is important for finding a path for the soul. We need higher knowledge intuitively perceived. Something that provides deeper perception than the facts of science can provide.
This deeper perception might be an insight that comes during self-reflection. Or perhaps it is an intuition we become aware of during meditation. Alternatively, it could be an idea found in sacred writing.
It can be assumed that seeing what is good and true can help us steer a course through the complexities of life. Possibly enable us to find meaning and purpose in our troubles. Even offer encouragement and hope.
But is this certain? Is deeper perception of itself sufficient for transforming our lives?
Examples of deeper perception
I may pick up on the idea that there are two realms of reality – a realm of physical objects and a realm of consciousness or spirit, not limited by space or time. As a result, I may toy with the thought. Play around with it. Bring it into conversation. Moreover, I might even use it as a working hypothesis.
An intuition may come whilst meditating. For example, the sense of the oneness of all life; everything somehow connected; an essence of reality behind outward appearance. This insight may stay or depart.
Huge variety of spiritual knowledge and awareness
The world is teeming with tiny seeds of wisdom. We wake up to them again when we hear them clearly articulated.
Another deeper perception is self-knowledge. For example, knowing about one’s own strengths and weaknesses, successes and failings, dreams and fears. One weakness might be winning arguments, gaining status and impressing people without being concerned about the consequences. Personal development means living with consideration and integrity.
In line with the notion of karma, it is said that sooner or later we get what we give – what goes round comes round.
Realising the importance of compassion for oneself and for other people is another example. This is related to the so-called Golden rule. Wilson Van Dusen (mystic and clinical psychologist) has pointed out that a form of this idea is found in various religions.
- Do to others as you would have them do to you (Christianity)
- What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man (Judaism)
- No one is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself (Islam)
- Do not do unto others what would cause you pain if done unto you (Hinduism)
- Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful (Buddhism)
- Regard your neighbours gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss (Taoism)
Our response to deeper perception
In the Bible Jesus told a story about a farmer scattering seeds. First of all some seeds fell on the path and the birds came and ate them up. A number fell on shallow soil and withered in the sun because they had no root. Some fell among thorns which choked the growing plants. Other seed fell on good soil where it produced a large crop.
Swedenborgian writer, Edward Mitchel, says our minds are like soil, which differ according to our willingness to nurture seeds of wisdom.
Some people are like the hard ground of the path. They have an outward opposition to higher principles. As a result they have no interest in spiritual ideas that casually enter into thought. Consequently, the seed of truth does not sink in.
Some of us may be like the shallow ground. We might become rapid converts to new ideas to us of writers in spirituality and religion. We may become quite emotional or argumentative in their favour. But a superficial interest, in discovering what is meaningful, is not deep enough to survive the trials of putting ideas – say about mindfulness, self-restraint or compassion – into practice. Also needed is a willingness to be more patient, less greedy and more concerned for others.
Some of us have plenty of thorns in our makeup. Thorns have the advantage in being native to the soil. They are at home in it. And so, in our natural minds, worldliness and self-centeredness finds a hospitable home and thrives. Consequently, when we allow these pleasure-seeking and self-serving thoughts to rule our life, we become indifferent to the seeds of the spiritual life which can no longer grow.
The story goes on to say some seed falls on good soil and produces a large crop. Within us an openness of heart enables us to connect with the light of what is deeply inspiring. Also, there is a willingness to put higher awareness of what is good and meaningful into practice.
Summary about deeper perception
There are many ways we can gain deeper perception. For instance, during counselling, self-reflection, meditation, contemplation, listening to ethical ideas, observing nature, reading sacred writing, hearing about religious teachings etc.
However, I believe deeper ideas and insights of themselves do not amount to enlightenment but they are a necessary precursor to it. Spiritual knowledge and awareness are merely the beginning of wisdom.
The process of enlightenment depends on how we personally respond to higher perception. Do we truly listen? Do we act on it? Or do we allow it to get drowned out by the concerns of self and materialism?
Copyright 2019 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems